We have heard ad nauseum that the data collection mandated by Medicare and Medicaid is to improve quality of care. Significant taxpayer dollars have been expended as bonuses in the name of PQRS (Physician Quality Reporting System). With all this investment and mandating, one would assume that the PQRS must be highly indicative of better quality of patient care, right? Not so fast. Two recent reports demonstrate how ineffective this program is and how much ...

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Since the first day of medical school, I was in breathless anticipation of my third year. I came to Harvard with a background in creative writing and the big draw of medicine for me lay in its compendium of human stories. In college, I volunteered at local hospitals where my primary responsibility was to go knock on patients’ doors and keep them company for a little while. This was awesome. Few ...

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“To help other people overcome their injuries.” This mantra was accompanied by flushed faces, hidden trembling hands, and nervous chuckles as the majority of my peers told the class why they decided to pursue physical therapy as a career. Soon thereafter, this adage was lost as we dived into our studies, learning every bone, muscle, and organ. Focusing on the human body is a must for all healthcare professionals, and PTs ...

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When it comes to advocacy, some doctors dont have anything left to give We like to say good things; we try to make normative to our profession to do the things that should be done. Many of us are saying that physicians should be advocates for their patients and communities outside of the clinic. Sounds good right? Unfortunately, what sounds good is not always a reality on the ground. I think most physicians agree that ...

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Watching my first below-the-knee amputation on my surgery rotation, I felt a curious mix of revulsion and detachment. The woman on the operating table had a gangrenous infection that had spread across her foot. Her long history of smoking and her delay in seeking medical care meant that she had stiff, black toes by the time a surgeon first saw her. The only treatment was amputation. In the operating room, the ...

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Mrs. C was used to my quiet knock every morning at 6 a.m. She smiled as I turned on the overhead lights, but began to grimace when she realized that today was dressing-change day. The rustling packages of bandages in my overstuffed coat pockets had given it away. Mrs. C had stage four metastatic endometrial cancer; a malignancy of her uterus that was not responding well to chemotherapy and had ...

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I didn't think much of it at the time. Most physicians can trace back and recall their first patient.  For some, it is a clinical encounter the third or fourth year of medical school.  The more creative may point to their cadaver during first year anatomy and nod knowingly.  My first patient was a mouse.   Or shall I say a group of them? My freshman year of college, I volunteered in ...

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Students undergo a conversion in the third year of medical school: not “pre-clinical” to “clinical,” but “pre-cynical” to “cynical.” — Abraham Verghese, MD The scalpel hovered over the swollen, red and inflamed mass peeking through the opening in the sterile drapes. The patient lay on her side facing away from us, clutching the stiff emergency room pillow against her face and moaning as she rocked back-and-forth. Whenever the surgeon manipulated the mass, ...

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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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Money has always been and will always be a big part of medicine Medicine is not about money, except when it is. When I was in my residency training, pharmaceutical reps still roamed the land. Vast herds of gorgeous young women in tight skirts and stilettos traveled through doctor's offices, clinics, hospitals and residencies all over creation. Their appearance was always a thing of joy, especially for sleepy, hungry physicians-in-training. Someone would run to the ...

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