One of the most revolting pleasures in life is to read learned opinions and in-depth analyses of consumers’ behavior written by beautiful people clad in designer clothing, dining at eclectic chic trattorias or enjoying the occasional canapé under crystal candelabra at their favorite charity gala. These wondrous creatures, having pored over a few disjointed numbers selectively allowed to escape from our struggle with health care, are informing us that there ...

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As the Affordable Care Act continues to impact millions of Americans through its second year of implementation, many things have become clear to both patients and health care providers alike: nothing is as it seems. While the ACA has provided health care to millions of previously uninsured Americans, it has also robbed many patients of their doctors and has forced others into higher premium, lower service plans.  Even those with ...

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It came out of nowhere. One of those life lessons that I didn’t know I needed to learn. Until I did. There I was, at a weekend business retreat, hobnobbing with a group of women executives. Feeling only slightly out of my element. Trying to blend in. There was a break in the meeting. And what happened next made me rethink how I approached everything. Several of us walked to the ladies’ ...

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Behind every doctor is a little boy or girl who once watched helplessly. Maybe it was her father or grandfather who suffered under the weight of a disease that was deemed all but incurable. Perhaps her own skin was battered and bruised by the repeated trauma of an unrelenting tourniquet.  She swore that when (if) she got older she would protect the innocent from such things.  Her vow was the ...

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I recently had an interesting conversation with several co-residents about how our health care system should evaluate physician performance. If nothing else, the discussion highlighted how challenging this issue has been for almost all medical specialties, including internal medicine, where the controversy has been punctuated by debates about maintenance of certification (MOC) and licensure. It remains to be seen what will develop after the American Board of Internal Medicine recently ...

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Over the course of pre-professional and professional education, my colleagues and I have had numerous moments of self-doubt.  Would the next organic chemistry exam eliminate my 3.99 GPA?  Would the MCAT decide what medical schools would immediately ignore me without ever meeting me?  Would the sheer volume of material weed out the persons sitting next to me in medical school or would it weed me out instead?  Would being yelled ...

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Medicine is obsessed with numbers.  Or rather, journalists and medical administrators are.  Here are two related examples of how large a grain of salt one must put on numbers. Cardiac surgical procedures, like everything else in medicine, have quality indicators.  One of these is what we doctors call “30-day mortality.”  What this term means is that surgeons are evaluated in part on how many of the patients they operated on died ...

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Several years ago, a few colleagues and I performed a systematic evidence review to help update the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's recommendations on screening for prostate cancer. One of our key questions asked about the harms associated with prostate cancer screening, other than the overdiagnosis (and resulting unnecessary treatment) of clinically insignificant tumors. Since routine prostate-specific antigen screening had been going on for nearly two decades by then, we expected to ...

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Question: My family (including two small children) and I are relocating this summer for my husband’s new job after seven years of living in the same area for residency and fellowship to a city where I know no one. I am scared about leaving our support network of friends and family nearby. Can you offer advice on starting over in a new place? Answer: I would guess that almost every physician family has ...

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The country is in a state of health care denial. Politicians, pundits, and executives proudly declare America’s medical care is the best in the world. But it isn’t. The U.S. lags behind other industrialized nations in many important health measures -- partly because citizens of certain races, ethnicities and incomes experience poorer versions of U.S. health care than others. The disparities are glaring. The solutions aren’t nearly as obvious -- but we’ll explore some ...

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