I spent my early and mid-career years working in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at a large academic center. We did almost everything except for a few things esoteric at the time — small bowel transplants, a few kinds of experimental surgery. I’m now in my late career (but have no plans to quit anytime soon!) and work in a smaller PICU. I am frequently confronted with the issue ...

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Imagine this scenario. Your two-year-old son has had a runny nose for a day or two and an occasional cough, but seemed no worse to you that everyone else in his preschool class. Two hours after you put him to bed you hear him coughing, only this cough is like none you have ever heard from him before. It sounds like a barking seal at the circus -- a brassy, ...

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The stethoscope. Nothings says “I’m a doctor” more than the stethoscope in a pocket or draped around the neck. Forty-five years ago when I got my first one, a gift from my physician-father, the former was more common. Then we were more likely to wear coats — white coats or suit coats — and pockets were available. I had suit coats in which the lining was worn out from the ...

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I swiped this editorial cartoon by Steve Sack from the redoubtable Dr. David Gorski’s blog, who goes by the nom-de-web of Orac. Recent epidemiology shows reducing the fraction of vaccinated children in the population rather promptly leads to a resurgence of the diseases vaccines protect against. This is the concept of community or 
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I first posted about this subject a couple of years ago but it’s so fascinating to me I’m writing about it again. I happened to run across this study containing some amazing information. It’s from a publication called The Journal of Voice. The link is to the abstract — the complete article is behind a paywall but I can get it for anybody who’s interested in reading the whole study in ...

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Computed tomography, or CT scanning, is one of the most powerful diagnostic tools to emerge during my medical career. Just look at the detail in the brain images above, taken at 90-degree angles through the brain. And I was there at the beginning. I remember well when I was a medical student taking neurology, and the first CT scanner arrived at the Mayo Clinic. By today’s standards, it was incredibly ...

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Burnout has been a descriptive term for years, but lately, psychologists and others have assigned it specific characteristics with a view toward being able actually to study and measure it. One common definition of burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism, detachment, and feelings of ineffectiveness. The PICU environment is often one of high stress, so it’s a place where this ...

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We want competent physicians, but we also want compassionate ones. How do we get them? Is it nature or is it nurture? Is it more important to search out more compassionate students, or should we instill compassion somehow in the ones we start along the training pipeline? I think the answer lies in nurturing what nature has already put there. My background is in pediatric critical care, which I have practiced ...

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Anyone who has worked in medicine for a long time well understands the power of the statement coming from an experienced person: “This kid looks sick.” That person could be a physician or nurse. Years of experience does tend to give one a sort of sixth sense for when to worry something serious is going on that just hasn’t shown itself fully yet. Seasoned parents can often provide the same ...

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The recent prominence of the #MeToo movement has shined a light at many places in our society where insidious or even obvious sexism against women has long gone unremarked. Even when noticed it’s just shrugged off as the way things are. In honor of this, #MeToo was named Person of the Year for 2017 by Time Magazine. Medicine is no exception to this pervasive problem. A very interesting recent essay in the New ...

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