On the afternoon of July 26, I opened an email from Dr. Peter Slavin, president of Massachusetts General Hospital, where I work as a primary care doctor. Dr. Slavin frequently sends messages to all MGH employees, uncontroversial broadsides announcing new hospital initiatives, grant awards, promotions and retirements that often end with: "Go Sox!" (or, depending on the season, "Patriots!" "Celtics!" "Bruins!").

So I was not expecting that ...

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This month, the literature and medicine group at my hospital met to discuss Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. The play, which first opened in 1949 with Lee J. Cobb in the leading role (clip here) and is now playing in Boston at the Lyric Stage Company, concerns Willy Loman, a man in his sixties who hauls a sample case up and down New England with "a shoeshine and a smile." ...

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I wrote a column recently about the role computers play in the doctor patient relationship, and my concern that screens shift physicians' focus away from their patients. This column is part of a large conversation going on nationally and beyond about what I'd call "distracted doctoring." A Wall Street Journal opinion piece by my colleague Dr. Victoria McEvoy addresses the issue of whether all the digital box checking now required of doctors as part ...

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Now that medical marijuana is legal in Massachusetts and licenses have been awarded for the first twenty dispensaries across the state, you'd guess that my practice is busily preparing to meet the demands of patients seeking marijuana prescriptions for several debilitating conditions including chemotherapy-related nausea and AIDS-related weight loss. You'd guess wrong. Since Massachusetts voters approved legalization of marijuana in 2012 I've received no special training (required for physicians to certify patients as eligible ...

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The doctor at the summer camp I attended as a kid believed that calamine lotion and time cured just about anything that ailed campers -- and he was right. Time still heals most wounds, but patience is a tough sell to people whose visits to my office often involve taking off work or getting a babysitter, fighting traffic, and shelling out for parking and insurance co-pays. After all that, time doesn't ...

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The exam room and hospital bedside are usually non-partisan zones. Though there have been exceptions -- anti-nuclear activists Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dr. Bernard Lown come to mind -- physicians tend not to be particularly political people. And even when they are, their politics don't usually intersect with their clinical work. When President Reagan was shot and joked with surgeons, "I hope you're all Republicans," the response from one doctor (a Democrat) ...

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How much weight do you think the average person gains over the holidays? I guessed about 5-10 pounds. I was wrong. According to a 2000 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, people overestimate how fattening the holidays are. We think we're likely to gain at least five pounds, while the actual gain is closer to one pound. Perhaps holiday weight gain has increased since 2000 -- it hasn't been formally studied ...

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MariaKang Until a few days ago, the most unpopular person on the Internet was the woman who posted the image above. That woman has now been replaced as Most Hated in Cyberspace by the North Dakota woman who planned to withhold Snickers and KitKats from trick or treaters she deems overweight and, instead, hand them this note: letter This ...

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Mark Twain once quipped: "Everyone talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it." Is the same true of exercise? Despite a growing, multibillion dollar fitness industry, despite an increase in sales of treadmills, weights, and other home exercise equipment, despite public education campaigns like Let's Move, eighty percent of Americans -- four out of five of us--do not get the recommended amount of cardiovascular and strength training. 41 million Americans belong to ...

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study by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Dana Farber Cancer Institute published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology confirms what primary care doctors already know: marriage is often, but not always, good for your health. The study found that among more than a million people with common cancers such as colon, lung, breast and prostate, those who were married were more likely to be diagnosed early and stick ...

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The word "doctor" derives from the Latin verb docere: to teach and, as a doctor, I do often offer instruction. But when a woman in her eighties comes in for her annual physical and tells me she's still dancing, mowing her own lawn, and helping out herolder neighbors, I have no illusions about which of the two of us should be doing the teaching. Particularly since reading this lovely feature story about Ethel Weiss, ...

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In my practice, as in most medical practices, we accommodate patients' particular needs in all kinds of ways: wheelchair accessible rooms and hallways, interpreters of virtually all languages including American Sign Language, gowns and instruments in a wide range of sizes, information sheets and videos suitable for patients with a variety of educational backgrounds. No one questions the appropriateness of these accommodations. But what about when the doctor or nurse requires an ...

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In the past few years, I've observed an epidemic of sorts: patient after patient suffering from the same condition. The symptoms of this condition include fatigue, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, headaches, heartburn, bowel disturbances, back pain, and weight gain. There are no blood tests or x-rays diagnostic of this condition, and yet it's easy to recognize. The condition is excessive busyness. It's one with which, as a fellow sufferer, I empathize ...

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During a recent visit to Dublin I was saw a neon sign in a pharmacy which read: "Doctor present." I was, first, amused by the wording. Dublin, home of George Bernard Shaw and Yeats and Joyce (and storytellers and bards in every pub) is a city with a deep and natural love of language--where even pharmacy signs are poetry. But, next, I got to thinking. Am I "present" in my practice, even ...

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A few years ago, while I was teaching in the hospital, a medical student presented the case of a man with coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia. When we entered the man's room I was surprised that the student had omitted a certain fact from his presentation: the man weighed well over 400 pounds. No one argues that diabetes and blocked coronary arteries are diseases. And nobody argues that obesity, ...

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A fascinating op-ed piece by Brigham and Women's physician and Harvard Medical School professor Jerry Avorn appeared on June 11th in the New York Times. It's called "Healing the Overwhelmed Physician." What the 'overwhelmed physician" about whom Dr. Avorn writes is overwhelmed by may surprise you. It surprised me. Looking at the title of the piece, I thought it might be about the emotional toll of practicing medicine, which may contribute ...

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Several years ago I cut my hand badly on a broken glass and required surgery to reattach a tendon. For a few weeks after the operation, I attended regular sessions in a physical therapy department devoted to people with hand injuries. There were no closed curtains in the large therapy room — we bared only our hands, after all. As I had my fingers warmed, splinted, or stretched, I observed ...

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A moving van pulled up to my house the other day. It contained the last of my mother’s belongings, a few pieces of furniture that neither my brothers nor I nor our children had wanted. It’s been over four years since Mom died and we finally gave up trying to sell the things down in Florida, where they’d been sitting in storage. Among the items was a china cabinet fashioned from ...

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michael_douglas I've invented a new medical term. The Michael Douglas Factor: When a celebrity, even one with good intentions, uses his or her own condition to disseminate incomplete, misleading, or incorrect medical information. I could have called this phenomenon "The Gilda Radner Factor," in recollection of efforts by Radner's husband Gene Wilder to encourage women to ask their doctors for the CA 125 blood ...

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Betty_Ford,_official_White_House_photo_color,_1974_(cropped) When Angelina Jolie announced that she'd undergone a bilateral mastectomy to prevent the breast cancer for which a genetic mutation puts her at high risk, I found myself, as a doctor and as a woman, full of admiration and gratitude for her... and also, in retrospect, for Betty Ford. In a single New York Times op-ed piece, Ms. Jolie used her celebrity ...

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