To close out my first week of medical school, the class was treated to a talk by a stuffy but soft-spoken lecturer on the relationship between poverty, education, and poor population health. "Social determinants of health," he labeled them, a clunky and unwieldy term if ever I'd heard one. In those days, audiovisual aids consisted of an overhead projector for black-and-white transparencies. And boy did that talk have transparencies. Chart ...

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Author.  President.  Teacher.  Doctor.  These are all gender-neutral words which happen to relate to a person’s profession.  However, I find it particularly interesting that while “doctor” is a gender-neutral word, the field of medicine is riddled with institutional sexism. Let me begin by explaining that I am a military physician currently training to become a gastroenterologist.  If being the only woman in any room bothered me, my journey would imply that ...

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After rotating in the ICU, I began to wonder about the limitations of modern medicine. In a short time, we have come a long way with the discovery of antibiotics, high-resolution imaging, and the development of advanced surgical procedures. The medical field saves millions of lives. Nowadays, people do not go to a hospital to die; they go to be healed. As physicians, we are very skilled at extending life. Heart ...

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We are standing at a crossroads in health care. Behind us lies a long-lost, nostalgia-tinged world of unfettered provider autonomy, sacred doctor-patient relationships, and a laser-like focus on the art and humanity of medicine. This was the world of my father, an immigrant and primary care physician in rural California. The world of Health 1.0. While many still pine for these “good old days” of medicine, we shouldn’t forget that those days weren’t really ...

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As a long-distance truck driver, he did not have time to visit a doctor. In fact, the last time a doctor ever examined him was decades ago. When his leg started hurting, he ignored the pain for months before it got too severe and started interfering with his ability to drive.  He showed up in my office in severe pain and limping. And while he tried to joke it off, ...

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Recently a measure was proposed to allow APRNs full practice authority in the VA health care system.  With this measure, the embattled VA hopes to help optimize access to health care for our veterans. A measure to help with the firestorm of problems we witnessed unravel at the Phoenix VA system two years ago. Sounds great, right? Nothing is ever that simple in American medicine. The professional organizations are, once again, ...

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Dear medical student, resident, or fellow, You will one day forget something. We are currently in a systematic plot to have everyone forget something important. We are quietly unaware it is happening. We are asked to forget how we got here. I want to remind you. I want us all to remember. You undoubtably were more mature than your peers. You undoubtably sacrificed to develop the persona that one day would impress ...

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Summer is heating up, and so is the election rhetoric. In this year's campaign for the White House, when it comes to verbally attacking each other, neither candidate seems to recognize any limits. Personally, I think this behavior reflects poorly on both candidates. In heath care, it's almost impossible to escape this negativity. The media devours and thrives upon it. In our hospitals, televisions in the doctor's lounge, cafeteria and in ...

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My eyes open. The blackness of the call room envelopes me. Consciousness sets in with a lingering disorientation. A small green light, is speaking … ringing. “Are you standing up?” The resident on the other end knows her attending too well. She’s right not to risk my falling asleep mid-conversation. A woman has arrived laboring at 24 weeks gestation. Records aren't available, but she reports her fetus has a diaphragmatic hernia. ...

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Dear Dad, I often think about the night you passed away.  I was caring for you while you were dying from metastatic colon cancer.  Every hour I woke up to give you Dilaudid so you wouldn't feel pain and Ativan so you wouldn't be scared.  You had only just been diagnosed eight months before.  Despite aggressive chemo, radiation, abdominal surgeries, and all the hope and prayer in the world, the cancer ...

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