The most valuable lesson about teaching that I ever learned occurred in high school. I took my first algebra test. The questions were easy, and I wrote down the answers. All my answers were correct, but I got a B. After each answer, she wrote “show your work.” She explained that while algebra questions start out easy, they become more complex over time. Only through careful understanding of ones thought ...

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We all want to practice evidence-based medicine.  Yet that phrase is so overused that one must always question the true meaning underlying the use of the phrase. The first assumption that many make is that evidence is a solid structure without nuance.  Yet we can have different experts look at the same evidence and develop different conclusions!  Why else would we have competing guidelines. Consider this quote from Nietzsche: "There are no facts, ...

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While driving to work, I listened to Mike and Mike (a radio sports talk show). Mike Greenberg made a wonderful point about his job. He described what they do as “professional over-reactors.” They take every game and extrapolate, sometimes irrationally, about the implications of that game. Does this remind you of health reporting? A study appears in a serious medical journal, and the press “blows it up” as the next great advance. ...

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This New York Times article stimulated thoughts about teaching internal medicine: "Better Ways to Learn":

In the new book, “How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens” (Random House), Benedict Carey, a science reporter for The New York Times, challenges the notion that a high test score equals true learning. He argues that although a good grade may be achieved in the short term ...

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Dr. Danielle Ofri has an important piece in the New York Times: "The Physical Exam as Refuge." As an outpatient physician, she makes the case that the physical examination provides a special time for the physician to focus entirely on the patient. Is examination time the refuge for the harried physician, and the opportunity to engage the patient in extended conversation about their condition? While I did outpatient medicine for ...

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Want to become a doctor? 5 criteria you should consider. While running several times over the past week, I have thought carefully about our profession. I cannot imagine having chosen any other profession than medicine, nor any specialty other than internal medicine. But that is me, is it you? A medical tweeter than everyone should follow @medicalaxioms had these tweets recently:

If you become a doctor for wealth or prestige, you are going ...

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Internal medicine requires knowledge, deduction, and many skills: history taking, physical examination, analyzing diagnosis tests. When confronting a new patient problem, we use our brains to work on finding a diagnosis. Much like police detectives, we would like to have brilliant diagnostic epiphanies, but often we make our diagnoses by painstakingly collecting all the clues and doing the necessary boots on the ground work. We had a woman admitted to our ...

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After 12 years of blogging, I wonder if I should have titled my blog “unintended consequences.” So many rants focus on the unintended consequences that follow from health care policies. The aphorism (falsely attributed to Samuel Johnson) states, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Too often our policy makers, be they bureaucrats in government, insurance company managers or guideline creators, think like a chess beginner. They see the ...

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Sandeep Jauhar has this wonderful sentence in his New York Times op-ed, "Busy Doctors, Wasteful Spending": "There is no more wasteful entity in medicine than a rushed doctor." And yet physicians are rushed. Dr. Jauhar writes about the payment system driving shorter visits. That problem represents an important component of undesirably short visits, but it is not the only problem. The electronic health record adds documentation time, as do the billing documentation requirements. ...

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FiveThirtyEight had a provocative article: "Patients Can Face Grave Risks When Doctors Stick to the Rules Too Much." The subsequent comments have debates over the value of guidelines. Guidelines are like a box of chocolate, you never know what you are going to get. Many clinical questions yield competing guidelines. We all know the controversies over breast cancer screening and prostate cancer screening. Recently blood pressure targets and lipid management have ...

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