I recently had a conversation with a new patient who was referred for surgery. As it happens, she discussed me with people she knew before her appointment. I like patients to look me up, talk to friends, find out who I am, and come with an expectation of what they will get in my clinic. We had a normal new patient visit, and per my typical workflow, I explained the agenda: ...

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The younger you are when you are exposed to opioids, the higher the likelihood of addiction later in life. The prefrontal cortex is not fully formed until the age of 25. This means that alterations in the “feel-good” neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine (released by opioids), can have an effect that predisposes the person towards future opioid use. Because teenagers have an overactive impulse to seek pleasure and less ability to consider the ...

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Just before I induced anesthesia, he said, “Doc, I want to apologize beforehand. I am incontinent due to a previous surgery so I might wet the sheets." I told him not to worry and that we understood and that "these things do happen." His response has stuck with me: "Doc, but there is still some shame." I nodded, told him not to worry since he was going to get a catheter anyway, ...

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One of my favorite scenes in the recent Apollo 11 IMAX film was a dramatic panning shot of mission control moments before lift-off. Row after row of mission specialists, engineers, astronauts, communications technicians — all looking ahead in silent, unbreakable focus. All 100 percent dedicated to the three men about to lift-off into history. It was a truly mesmerizing portrait of teamwork. While astronaut safety is the focus of every individual ...

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Head and neck cancer surgeons know when “the questions” are coming. A casual conversation eventually turns to, “What do you do for a career?” The pleasant exchange is replaced with talk of disfigurement and life-threatening illness. The person’s brow furrows. “How can you deal with that day after day? Isn’t it depressing? Why didn’t you pick something happier for a career?” These are legitimate questions. As a medical student many years ...

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I am a cardiac anesthesiologist. I meet most patients I care for minutes before I take them to the operating room and render them unconscious. I breathe for them, administer pain medicine and drugs to give them amnesia, and I keep their hearts, lungs, kidneys, and brains working. Pretty important stuff. I want to speak on behalf of physicians. I want all patients to know something: We need you to talk to us. We ...

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STAT_Logo Women who become doctors must often choose between motherhood and medicine. I’m a mother and a surgeon. I never thought of choosing between the two, even though my employers often asked me to. Today I work as a trauma surgeon in a busy practice. It’s been a long journey since the day five years ago when I ...

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An excerpt from A Mistake: A Novel. “Hello there,” Elizabeth said, leaning over the girl, smiling. “Hello. Hello Lisa.” The girl looked up at her accusingly. “My name is Elizabeth Taylor. Please call me Liz. I’m the consultant surgeon, and this is my registrar, Richard Whitehead.” Elizabeth smiled wider for her. “How are you ...

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STAT_LogoDuring the 25 years I’ve been a transplant doctor, I’ve cared for hundreds of patients who received lung transplants. I’m now worried about the growing number of people who will need this lifesaving procedure in the future but who won’t have enough transplant physicians to do it. At any given time in the U.S., about 120,000 ...

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She placed the stack neatly aside with all forms diligently signed and dated. The inbox was cleared. Being finally rested, her tasks of staying on top of duties and focusing on executions became briefly easier. A few patient callbacks, an eight-page disability form to fill out, a doctor to connect with, seven notes to complete and two test results to review and relay would round off the already pregnant day. ...

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As a profession, we’ve yet to standardize maternity leave and breastfeeding allowances for women. Given the length of medical training (seven-plus post-graduate years), timing (prime reproductive years) and slow increase in the ratio of female to male surgical residents, females choosing to start families during training are particularly afflicted. We just celebrated my son’s first birthday. I had him during one of the busiest years of my surgical residency, and it’s ...

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I lay on my side while my father probed the space between my buttocks, looking for an opening in the incision. I was in bed in the guest room of my house, which had been converted into my room for the last two weeks while I recovered. My father, a surgeon himself, had assumed his professional role and examined the wound with the gentle but firm movements of someone who ...

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The United States is a nation of laws, not of men's dictates.  The rule of law is what keeps (most) drivers from routinely running red lights, police officers from demanding bribes, and our civil servants and elected officials largely honest.  There, of course, will be violators of this code, as there are in any society, but nonetheless compared to many other nations in the US most citizens and state officials ...

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The United States has been a slow brewing cauldron of gender bias for years. With increasing tensions and an unspoken, formidable energy in most workplaces and educational institutions, women have grown restless. The culmination has and is resulting into an empowering movement for gender equality (#womensrights). And the medical profession is not immune. I wasn’t surprised to see that a recent CompHealth survey focusing on women in medicine ...

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A recent uproar in Twitterverse regarding the publication of certain images has sparked further debate after the response from publishers. The images represent scantily clad women with socially "ideal" body-types, seductively eyeing the camera and would, unfortunately, be commonplace in glossy magazines meant to sell products using these women's sexual appeal. Body positive activists in society, for some time now, have been campaigning industry to stop this damaging and exploitative ...

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After my second child was born, I realized a harsh truth: I could not be everything to everyone. It took me almost 30 years to understand this. I was working as a full-time physician with unpredictable hours. I was trying desperately to make it all work; juggling hospital burdens with the ever-demanding job of being a mother. I grew up with a mom who was everyone’s mother. As one of the few ...

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Successful and happy physician. But why stop there? What about successful businessman as well? This is my story. And I’d love to share it. Maybe it’ll inspire someone else who works in health care. I am very blessed. I am actually living out my childhood dream. When I was 15, and starting high school, I wrote down something for our class time capsule that was to be opened at our 10-year high ...

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An excerpt from Playing God: The Evolution of a Modern Surgeon. A woman, call her Betsy, comes to see me. Betsy is in her early sixties and horribly unhealthy. She walks with a cane, each step she takes slow and painful. It hurts to watch her walk. Betsy has undergone ...

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I recently told a friend that medical school is changing me fundamentally as a person. This sounds dramatic, but there's truth to it. This program and education are successfully training my brain to think in new ways, sloughing off parts of who I was, and adding new parts to who I will become. However, to my surprise, the experience has also resurfaced old parts of me that I had considered ...

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Americans and Canadians are seven times more likely to fill a prescription for opioid pain pills in the week after surgery than Swedes, says a study published Wednesday, one of the first to quantify international differences. More than 75% of patients in the U.S. and Canada filled a prescription for opioids following four common surgeries, compared with 11% of Swedes, researchers report in JAMA Network Open. Americans also ...

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