I’ve written about this before, but some recent encounters with medical students have me thinking about it again. I went off to medical school thirty-eight years ago. For the era, I went to what folks regarded as a very progressive place. It had a curriculum that was quite revolutionary for the time. Among other things, we started having interactions with actual patients during our first year, rather than the third ...

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The drama surrounding the Supreme Court decision upholding the ACA as constitutional has ended. As legions of reporters and bloggers have written, the law has far-reaching effects. In my corner of medicine it will greatly help (already has, really) a small but not insignificant number of children and families. These families are those who have a child with a severe chronic medical condition.  Many of these these children spend time ...

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Does your doctor have something on the wall that starts with “American Board of ... "? The terms “board certified” and “board eligible” are confusing to people not in the medical profession. It doesn’t help that more than a few doctors blur the distinctions to their own benefit. This post gives you a brief rundown on what’s at stake in the distinctions. The first thing to understand is that anybody who has ...

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Like many of my colleagues, I teach and supervise students, residents, nurses, and respiratory therapists. I’m also the medical director of a PICU. Overall, I’ve been teaching and doing administration for over 30 years. And, like most of my colleagues, I never received any formal instruction at all in how to do these things. To some extent I got help from my own mentors, primarily by watching what they did, ...

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The principle of autonomy is one of the four guiding principles of medical ethics, the others being beneficence, nonmaleficence, and justice. It means that patients have the right to decide what is done to their own bodies. For children under eighteen, the age of majority, this means their parents decide for them. What happens when parents refuse a treatment that their child’s doctors recommend? (The right of a minor child ...

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There is a long tradition in folklore, one shared by shamans and occultists, that knowing the true name of something gives you power over it. Many years ago I had a very sick patient in the PICU who one morning, totally out of the blue, broke out in a bright, red rash all over his body. The boy had many critical problems already and, although the rash didn’t seem to be causing ...

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I’ve written before about how children from poor families have a higher chance of needing PICU care than do children from more affluent families. Eligibility for Medicaid is a good marker for this; nearly half the population of most urban PICUs is made up of children on Medicaid, even though the national average (it varies a little from state to state) for children on Medicaid is about 25%. So poor kids are ...

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I was a medical researcher for several decades, investigating an unusual, but not rare, condition called infective endocarditis. I found the disease fascinating, primarily because of how understanding it could unlock many secrets of the endothelial cell, the cells lining all our blood vessels. I chose my research subject because it interested me and I thought I could do some good studying it. This is the case for ...

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There are some important new recommendations about tonsillectomy — taking out the tonsils — as a treatment for recurrent strep throats. Some of us can recall a time when getting your tonsils out was one of the rites of passage of childhood. Usually a related procedure is added — an adenoidectomy, removing the adenoids as well. It’s called a T&A in the medical world, and it’s one of the ...

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I went off to medical school thirty-seven years ago. For the era, I went to what folks regarded as a very progressive place. It had a curriculum that was quite revolutionary for the time. Among other things, we started having interactions with actual patients during our first year, rather than the third year, as was traditional then. These days many, probably most, medical schools ...

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