Traditional psychodynamic therapy is often caricatured as endless, with a complacent therapist silently growing cobwebs, listening to a patient who never plans to leave.  This isn’t completely unfounded: There are therapeutic advantages to losing track of time, “swimming in the material,” and letting one’s therapeutic focus be broad.  The patient’s chief complaint, i.e., the ostensible reason for coming, often gives way to more troubling underlying conflicts and concerns that might never appear in ...

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The discharge process has now been recognized as one of the most crucial points at which the actions of doctors and hospitals can have a huge impact on immediate health outcomes for our patients. At a time when 30-day readmission rates are still touching almost 20% for Medicare patients, there is an increasingly urgent need to focus on this transition of care point. Discharging a patient is, by its very ...

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One of the hardest things about being a surgeon is the inevitability of complications. It's true for any doctor; but with surgery, it's as if they are lit in neon and given a soundtrack. At least to me. Aiming for perfection (as do we all) and beating myself up (more than healthier people) when I miss the mark, I found bad outcomes of nearly any magnitude deeply disturbing. The big ...

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I felt a little sad when I read a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine about the introduction of point-of-care ultrasound in medical education. In it, two cardiologists from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital review the promise and some of the challenges of incorporating hand held ultrasonography into medical education and, more broadly, into medical practice. For those of you unfamiliar with the technology, this is not ...

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Can narrative medicine inform quality of care? As characterized by Dr. Rita Charon in her JAMA article almost 15 years ago, narrative medicine is “the ability to acknowledge, absorb, interpret, and act on the stories and plights of others.” It is the recognition that scientific knowledge alone is not enough -- not enough for our patients, for ourselves, and for society. It stresses the importance of not only hearing what our ...

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Our privacy is eroding. Some of this erosion is our own fault -- we post to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media with reckless abandon. Some is the nature of modern communication -- electronic trails are just as easy to find as paper trails (if not easier). Some of the privacy erosion really doesn’t bother me so much -- if Target knows that I buy a lot of Cheerios, I’m ...

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On March 10, I found myself at the front gate of the Florida State Prison, stethoscope and blood pressure cuff in hand, to examine Robert Henry at the request of his public defender. Henry is scheduled to be executed Thursday evening by lethal injection. His crime was the murder of two people during a robbery more than 30 years ago. He's a 55-year-old African-American man with hypertension, elevated cholesterol, and a history ...

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When they’d first entered their medical practice, some of my clients had asked an instructor or mentor to review their prospective employment agreement for them. Although these people may have been excellent physicians or teachers, they weren't acting in the best interests of their charges. When it comes to your livelihood, it's important to have an attorney, especially one who’s experienced in health law and has drafted hundreds of these ...

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My third year of medical school cemented the passion for primary care I developed as a volunteer in a clinic for undocumented immigrants in San Francisco. Relationship building, continuity of care, and seeing the impact a primary care physician can have on a patient's health all ignited my passion more than any angioplasty or neurosurgery ever could. But one question continued to nag me as I filled in the bubbles ...

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She looked at me, eyes pleading, telling me without needing to say a word: I am not lying to you. I am not crazy. I am not making this up. I sighed. "We've done the work-up and know this is not your heart. I don't think there are a lot more tests that can be run." I studied her expression, trying to discern what she wanted to hear from me. I've come ...

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