She was sick.  Not sick like a high fever, body aches and a runny nose.  Sick like she had spent the last half a decade in nursing homes as most of her internal organs failed.  There was oxygen, and dialysis, and a colostomy.  She propelled herself vigorously through the crowded halls in the custodial wing of the nursing home, her wheelchair a natural extension of her body thoroughly unhampered by ...

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We were intimate. As intimate as a doctor and patient can become.  He had long outlived his wife and there were no children, no family, just friends.  When he first came to me he was lively and active, but the years took their toll.  Our visits became more regular.  Every six months.  Then every three. His memory started to slip.  Occasionally he would look at me suspiciously when something went wrong.  His ...

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On the face of it, the phone call was relatively innocent.  A family member was confused about the test I scheduled.  Apparently the lab refused to draw the blood.  When I inquired why, I was informed that the patient hadn't been fasting.  I calmly explained to the daughter that fasting was not necessary.  Recent studies had shown little effect on lipid panel results and I was using the glycosylated hemoglobin ...

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She was having excruciating pain in her pelvic area.  I pulled the sheets down cautiously and noted the bruising encircling the waist and inching towards the thighs.  I finished my exam and retreated to the nursing station of the skilled nursing facility to comb through the chart.  ER records, floor notes, consultations, but no x-ray of the pelvis. There was no mention of pelvic pain. The emergency room physician had dutifully ...

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Sometimes my day is like a book.  The first chapter may begin in the darkness of a self imposed corner as a phone call is made.  A voice, full with the thickness of slumber, answers unexpectedly. "I think today is the day." No matter how many years I have been discussing death I still find myself using poor euphemisms.  The bane of medical school teaching, I often struggle with the directness.  "Your mother ...

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William was doing great.  His C. Diff  was finally gone after a month taper of vancomycin.  He was stronger.  The nursing home staff reveled in how much progress was being made over such little time.  It seemed every one was ecstatic, except for, of course his family.  Every step this octogenarian took forward was accompanied by a litany of concerns and complaints from his daughter. If he was not gaining weight, ...

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Why do physicians behave badly? Maybe because theyre scared. A dozen set of eyes stared upwards.  The nurses ate their pizza and glanced back and forth between me and the dry erase board that I had recently filled with incomprehensible scrawl.  I had given this lecture many times and said the words over and over again.  And yet the response was always surprising. "Why do you think physicians get angry and ...

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The house was getting cold.  My wife and kids snuggled in their blankets as I crept out of bed and checked the thermostat.  The subzero winter air howled as a blustery morning took shape outside our windows.   I looked at the digital display with disbelief and manually tapped the screen with my finger, hoping that the jarring motion would loosen the exact faulty screw leading to our frigid state. ...

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If you put ten physicians in a room, you will get nine different opinions.  It doesn't matter if you are discussing policy, diagnostics, or politics.  Indeed, medical training develops deep independent thinking. We often feel alone in the care of our patients, we picture ourselves the sole barrier between illness and well being.   We battle our fellow physicians, administrators, and insurers.  You can argue the pros and cons of ...

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I have a confession to make.  The purpose of a recent blog post was to set up this one.  What I questioned, at that time, is whether the future of primary care will come from outside change (business, politics, or even specialist physicians and administrators) or internally, hence creative destruction versus internal combustion. When I entered my first primary care practice in 2002, I had great doubts that the traditional ...

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