An interesting phenomenon is occurring in media circles these days.  No doubt others have seen it, too. Lately, doctors are being schooled by the media. From how to learn empathy, to improving communication with patients, the breadth and depth of what we should do for our patients is endless.  Why, some even have our own colleague experts tell us how we should really do things. These efforts, while probably well-intentioned, are patronizing.  ...

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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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If you’ve read my reviews of the new medical TV show Monday Mornings, you’ll know I’ve been critical of many things about it. I was particularly disappointed with the way the show handled one of its central themes: the morbidity and mortality (M&M) conference. I thought it might be useful to tell you how most real M&M conferences are run. M&M conferences generally take place at hospitals with residency training ...

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choose better er You get a terrible headache. What do you do next? Take ibuprofen and try to sleep it off? Call your primary care physician (PCP) for an appointment? Dial 911 for an ambulance to take you to the emergency department (ED)? What if that headache comes with a cough and shaking chills? Would an ad influence your decision? I came across this image ...

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I’m well aware that a good fraction of the people in this country spend their lives furious at the New York Times. I am not one of them. I love the Grey Lady; it would be high on my list of things to bring to a desert island. But every now and then, the paper screws up, and it did so in a big way in its ...

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I should be encouraged.  I was asked to talk on public radio last week about my new practice, then I was on a panel of “experts” in Washington DC on Monday.  Everywhere I talk about what I am doing I get positive reactions.  I get very positive reactions, actually.  I was approached by someone wanting to work with me “when I get ...

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When Newtown children returned to area elementary schools less than a week after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary, the cameras were watching, a reality that may slow healing in the Connecticut community. Although there's no literature that's specific to the effects of a media frenzy after a school shooting on children's psychological recovery, there's plenty of other applicable evidence, according ...

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Waking before dawn, I scurry into the study.  Sitting in front of the computer, I wiggle the mouse, bringing the screen to life.  Hesitantly, I call up the site for the major local newspaper.  Since being notified by my attorneys one week prior that a reporter was hunting me down for comment, I am on heightened alert.  Every day spent awaiting a story that could potentially decimate my life. The home ...

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In my hospital’s preoperative area, upright on her bed, sat an unhappy middle-aged lady who needed an operation to treat complications from her previous bariatric surgery.  She hadn't lost weight and clearly was feeling discouraged about practically everything.  She was physically uncomfortable, couldn't even keep down her own saliva because her lower esophagus was obstructed, and was in tears. As her anesthesiologist, ...

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Aspire to decency. Practice civility toward one another. Admire and emulate ethical behavior wherever you find it. Apply a rigid standard of morality to your lives; and if, periodically, you fail ­ as you surely will,  ­ adjust your lives, not the standards. -Ted Koppel This week started out ordinary enough but took a quick turn when I got a message from the media director at my university that a 14 month ...

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I recently followed a brief spat on Twitter between a journalist and a doctor.  It did not go further than a few irritable tweets, but I had to agree with the doctor’s point of view. The journalist had written an article about the death of a South African shack fire victim, admitted to hospital with 100% burns, and the contrast in perceived care he received compared to that of a ...

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"The plural of anecdote is not data." A recent lead editorial in the Sunday edition of the New York Times was entitled "A Formula for Cutting Health Costs" and contained the byline "Alaska natives have something to teach doctors and patients in the rest of the world." I read the editorial with interest, hoping that a new perspective, vision, idea, or insight would be mentioned that would provide a sustainable cost solution ...

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The ACA passed and is already in trouble. The Republicans are up in arms, calling the ACA an overreach of a totalitarian governmental regime. The Democrats are defending it, promoting its cost-saving measures as a progressive step forward for America. To say the rhetoric has heated would be an understatement. I’m not here to debate politics though. In the run up to the Supreme Court’s ruling on the ACA and the recent aftermath, ...

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On the surface, two Wall Street Journal articles painted a gloomy and depressing picture of US healthcare, now and beyond. That wasn’t my take. I felt a rush of optimism. Let me explain. In, ObamaCare’s Lost Tribe: Doctors, deputy WSJ editor, Daniel Henninger wrote about the (forgotten) plight of doctors in the Affordable Care Act. He critiqued the mainstream media coverage of the Supreme Court decision because it left out mention of ...

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Does it really make sense for a neurosurgeon to be quoted in a news story about a new treatment for diabetes or prevention of obesity? Some news reporters think so, leaving primary care physicians frustrated at the media’s lack of understanding about the wide range of expertise they practice on a daily basis. In both news and entertainment media, seeking out and representing primary care expertise seems to be the ...

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The mass media has a long history of covering medical dramas and rarely doing so with any realism.  We’ve gone from Marcus Welby, MD to a host of shows dedicated to portraying medical personnel in the most salacious ways possible.  But at least with all these dramas it is understood that they are fictional.  There are now though a host of shows which pretend to show real life medical stories ...

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You may have noticed the rash of medical news spewing from your favorite news outlets with greater frequency. As a medical professional you probably cringe as you envision the calls that are about to flood your office, “Doctor Smith, I heard a report on the news that this drug you prescribed to help me quit smoking is bad for my health!” or,  “I want a referral to The Hoffenheimer Institute ...

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As a patient who was asked to speak at the Association of Health Care Journalists 2012 conference, I felt a bit covert. I wasn't in a "backless gown," rolling my IV pole down the hall of some hospital's cardiac care unit. I wore an official lanyard and badge and mixed among health care journalists, yet I felt more like a dugout mom than savvy reporter. My goal was to present the ...

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A version of this column was published on April 24, 2012 in USA Today. There has been a recent uptick of elderly men in my primary care clinic asking about prostate cancer, perhaps because they heard of Warren Buffett’s recent prostate cancer diagnosis and his proposed treatment. Patients are wondering if they should also be screened. Other patients who already have been ...

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Recently, I passed my friend and colleague, Dr. Ekaterini Tsiapali, in the stairwell. We rarely get to catch up these days, so it was really quite a nice surprise to see her. "What did you do this weekend?" I asked. "I watched Wit, you know, the movie where Emma Thompson plays Dr. Vivian Bearing, a 50-year-old woman with terminal ovarian cancer? She's such ...

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