Thursday, July 31, 2014

The intersection of medicine and war

New blog on Physicians Practice:

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Just had another blog published:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

New post On Physicians Practice

Here's a link to another blog, where I hope to be regularly posting:

Monday, June 2, 2014

Survivors Day

Yesterday was National Cancer Survivors Day. There were activities nearby. But, the whole idea of survivorship is not to have disease overwhelm humaness. The person is more than the disease.

Organized activites are great to see old friends who have also made the journey, but it is also a time to celebrate life, spend time with children, in nature, reading, or whatever one's pleasures are. As it turned out, an RSVP was required and I had failed to call. The office wasn't open on Sunday.

So we went to a nearby park. The kids played softball and soccer with some newly made friends. I walked around a bit, read a bit, and just enjoyed being outside in beaustiful spring weather. In a way, just being normal is a celebration of survival as well. It is time not focused on patienthood, but rather on personhood.

As I think about patients, I have known those who focused on patienthood and some missed out on life along the way. And those who focused solely on personhood, to the extent of denial of disease, and suffered an untimely end. It is a balance that requires continued adjustment as the disease shifts the foundation on which it is made.

Similarly, physicians must learn to balance work and life. "Medicine is a demanding mistress"  accordng to Osler. For those of us who write, perhaps Chekhov's quote, "Medicine is my lawful, wedded wife, and literature is my mistress," is perhaps more apt. So where is the time for family, friends, exercise, travel. We must somehow carve it out. So there are now a plethora of work-life balance seminars for physicians.

I have spent much of my life as a workaholic physician. My illness has taught me that I can't do everything, and I can't just put things off. I must accept that I am mortal. I must live in the present. I must take the time to be with my children, to watch them grow. I must take the time to write the family stories down that I hope they will want to know. I must take time to see the places I have always wanted to see and share the experience with my children.

Illness is the ultimate seminar on work-life balance. It forces one to reevaluate priorities. I realize that I must now work even harder to achieve balance in the different spheres of my life. But, I want it to be the best life I can have. I want to do the best for my children.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Music in the OR

I don't know whether music was played in the OR for any of my surgeries. Many surgeons like music for all or part of the case. Sometimes, it can be too distracting for critical portions. But, one must be aware of the appropriateness of the music.

Years ago, when I was a resident, we were simply playing a radio. It was Halloween, so the music was macabre. I have long wondered how a patient felt going to sleep with such music. I thought that I certainly wouldn't want to hear such music as I was put to sleep.

More recently, for a dental procedure, I was asked what kind of music I liked. Of course, it was to be done with local, so it did matter to me as the patient. My tastes are quite eclectic, so I let them play Pandora with popular music. It turned out to be the ones my kids know by heart. It was good for me to get a chance to hear more of what they like.

When I am the surgeon, I have liked different genres for different procedures, "heavy metal for heavy metal" when I am doing instrumentation. For other cases, I tend to prefer other genres, classical, folk, classic rock, world, etc. A good friend likes Broadway show tunes for his cases. At times I prefer no music like when approaching or clipping an aneurysm, though I have allowed the residents to choose after the aneurysm has been secured.

Recently, a surgical colleague curated an art exhibition at a medical meeting. Scattered amongst the photographs, paintings and sculptures were pieces of sheet music from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky. This seemed so apt for the setting. I only wish it could have been playing to set the mood of those looking at the art.

I do think music does set a mood. And mostly the mood in the OR should be calm and organized. But, sometimes, the tempo should increase, and music can  help with this, too. And, allowing the residents to choose will sometimes tell me a bit about them, as well as sometimes introducing me to a new artist.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day. I returned from a class yesterday to find a bouquet of flowers that my children had picked for me sitting on the table. My son, who has struggled to deal with my illness, gave me a beautiful string art heart that he had made, together with a beautiful letter. My daughter had given me a self profile with bits about Central Asia, where she was born.

We went to a movie. Of my choosing! Wrote a short piece and am blogging again. And it has been a wonderful spring day to spend with the kids. A celebration of life.  And recently, all my checkups have been good, even though I still suffer with a complication of treatment. So, I am looking forward to my life, many years of it, to finish raising my children.

What more could a mother want?