At a time in everyone’s life, we come to find ourselves in a situation where the music stops, and we must go on. The unfortunate truth about life is that the unexpected will happen. Some of us learn from it, some of us change because of it and some of us find our life’s calling because of it. The latter was the case for me. After our dad picked us up from middle school, we spent that afternoon like we had every afternoon that month. We went to the oncology unit at the hospital, where my brother was admitted.
I remember him. I remember the man in the dark blue sarong the same way I remember the lines on back of my own hand. He was hunched over next to a column on a dirty platform at a railway station in Calcutta, India in the middle of the harsh summer sun. His hands were withered, his fingers and toes looked like tiny nubs, and he was completely malnourished and alone. He had opaque blue eyes, as if fog had taken place of his irises and pupils.
I studied insects in college; my favorite insects were the bees (I found them diligent and so helpful to humankind). One of my favorite classes was about medical diseases caused by insects. My professors noticed my interest in the medical side of things and connected me with a professor who did clinical research. Our work focused on a clinical trial for children with intractable epilepsy and exposed me early on to patient care and patients.
Like many medical students, my interest in medicine arose during high school anatomy courses. Unlike many medical students, I did not begin my collegiate studies at a university. I went to high school in a suburban town Northwest of Detroit called Clarkston. It was my junior year between 2008-
It all began with bagels and orange juice. I was seven, and my dad had promised we would go to lunch as soon as he finished making rounds in the hospital. My stomach grumbled, though, so Dad plopped me in the doctors’ lounge, snacks in hand, and promised he would be back in an hour. As I waited, I overheard the other doctors in the next room, answering pages. They spoke in hushed voices laden with what I was sure were remarkable secrets. But then, I could only hear one side of the conversation.
The back of my head lies flat as a pin board. In the orphanages of South Vietnam, darker babies carried the stigma of the war, bearing a physical resemblance to the ruthless soldiers from the north. I was one of those children. Because of my skin tone, the caregivers’ prejudice prevented them from picking me up to play. Left to lie on the wooden mats, my head never rounded, and now serves as a constant reminder to me of the human body’s malleability.
From humble beginnings as a curtained-
Compassion does not know city limits or county lines. Neither state nor international borders can contain such acts of altruism. For the last four years two surgeons and one nephrologist have travelled to Honduras to perform living donor kidney transplantation thereby expanding the art and science of transplant surgery and medicine in Central America.
Early on a cool, crisp autumn morning, Dr. Paul Kearney addresses his fellow surgeons and other volunteer medical professionals just before they embark on a busy day at the Lexington Surgery Center (LSC). Many of them have already been preparing the facility since before sunrise as a part of the monthly ritual known as Surgery on Sunday (SoS). Dr. Kearney chairs the board of directors for this organization, which is the brainchild of Dr. Andy Moore, who has served Lexington as a plastic surgeon….
As Americans most have been secure in our needs for food, housing, safety and health. Health care has become more of a right than a privilege and has become more accessible thru expanded Medicaid, Medicare and the more recent Affordable Care Act. In spite of these, many continue to fall thru the cracks and that number may again increase with proposed changes in public health policy and program coverages. The underprivileged will continue to require care often not covered by government....
Dr. Privett has practiced medicine in Lexington since 1973. After finishing his residency, he spent two years in the United States Army from 1971 to 1973 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He returned to Lexington thereafter to begin his neurology practice. He practiced clinical neurology for 15 years, from 1973 until about 1988. In 1988, he developed the Lexington Diagnostic Center shortly after MRI equipment was introduced into the United States.
As physicians, we are required to master changes on a daily basis. Very shortly, we will have to deal with changes in the Accountable Care Act. At some point, we will be required to deal with changes in our electronic health record system. Medical organizations are struggling with the demands of physicians to make changes in the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) process. Everyone wants some kind of change from us, and adaptation is the watchword.
Mentoring is an art form developed in the United States in the 1970s within large private companies and corporations and is used to support junior staff. Since the 1990s, mentoring programs have emerged in various medical professions, most frequently in the field of nursing though, rather than physician practice. Formal mentoring programs for medical students and doctors did not develop until the late 1990s (Buddeberg-
Despite the availability of other satisfying or more lucrative career opportunities for the bright and altruistic, admissions to medical schools remain desirable and competitive, thanks largely to an influx of talented and qualified female and minority applicants. Premedical and medical education has always been stressfully competitive and a financial burden. "Stress in medical school" even merits its own individual entry on Wikipedia.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to become a doctor. However, I did not realize all the challenges I would have to face in order to make my dreams come true, and I also did not know who I was going to meet along the way to help me become a successful medical student. When I was reapplying to medical school, I was told gaining more clinical experience could strengthen my application. I reached out to as many physicians as I could in order to shadow them.
Who played a significant role in your journey to becoming a physician? My senior year of high school I applied to participate in a University program for rural students. During this process I had the opportunity to converse with an amazing woman, Carol, who is passionate about helping others and dedicated to her students. She has a wonderful heart and a genuine interest in my well being. She truly cared about me as a person.
Being a Physician, you can be asked to treat symptoms effecting your patient you would not expect. Your patients that are elderly believe they have a very special relationship with you, like a beloved and trusted niece or nephew. You are the wise counsel for all that matters, the Doctor knows best. Sometimes they want you to make their family stop fighting.
It was reported in a 2015, in the US, by the Pew Research Centre that 24 percent of teens go online “almost constantly,” facilitated by the widespread availability of smartphones. With all the social media platforms out there, it is estimated there will be 2.67 billion social network users by 2018 reported by article from Katina Michael (PC World). She also noted that “Social networking already accounts for 28 percent of all media time spent online, and users aged between 15 and 19 spend at least….
The American Medical Association published in JAMA (May 15, 2017) a recent article by Dr. Dabora and Dr. Turaga, two Harvard Business School professors (MD, MBA), who are joined by Dr. Shulman (MD) of the Duke University School of Medicine. The following is a summary of this article. The distribution of US pharmaceutical products is fairly simple. The physical drug product, such as a pill or vial of drug, leaves a manufacturer and is then purchased by a distributor.
Most of us have personally experienced the impact of electronic health record (EHR) and required clinical documentation, which have resulted in decreased productivity and decreased job satisfaction. Physicians and nurses have traditionally used clinical documentation to record and convey information as well as treatment plans to other members of the care team. However, clinical documentation has evolved to justify reimbursement and serves many purposes which may not contribute….
In August 2015 in Roanoke, VA, 2 television station employees were gunned down live on the air. The attention of employers and employees nationwide focused once again on violence, and more specifically, workplace related violence. Since the 1980s, violence has been recognized as a leading cause of occupational mortality and morbidity. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an estimated 1.7 million workers are injured each year during workplace assaults….
When it comes to practice growth new faces of patients is a good thing, but not when those new faces are staff members. The constant revolving door of office and medical staff is killing more practices now than ever before. The success of today’s medical practice is not only measured in the accounts receivables and overhead, but the cost of office conflict. You cannot avoid conflict and disagreements within the office. That is human nature.
It is not often you get the chance to meet a celebrity in the emergency department, especially at 2 a.m., and when that opportunity arises you must seize it. When Iron Man strolls through the door notice is taken. As a child I was fascinated by superheroes. Superman, Batman, Iron Man, Wonder Woman; my appetite was insatiable. I felt a connection to these figures, wishing I was only a radioactive spider bite away from saving the world.
Monday mornings on the unit are always a little chaotic. Even though during pre-
“So if you don’t mind me asking, why did you make the switch?” I get that question quite often. I honestly never grow tired of answering it because that’s always when I launch into what rekindled my spark for being a physician. I still remember running down the hallway, balancing on one foot, ferociously pulling on knee high booties while trying desperately to tie on a shield mask simultaneously. I was both excited and anxious, ecstatic and scared, because I was about to deliver life.
When my dad went in for heart surgery, I never expected that he wouldn’t wake up. Not to say that I was worry-
I ran from my first fire. As a seasonal worker with the Forest Service, there were very few days between my fire boot fitting and the first time I trampled embers in them. I was trained to be part of a wildland fire hand crew. Hand crews serve a crude, but essential purpose. Forest fires often burn on difficult terrain. Machines cannot operate on the steep inclines or navigate the dense vegetation. Where machines are ineffective, hand crews hike in. With chainsaws and sharpened garden tools they…..
“That could never happen to me!” is a phrase most of us say about near death experiences, especially when you are in your twenties. However, the reality of the matter is that medical emergencies can happen to anyone, including you and me. I learned this lesson the hard way when I went into ventricular tachycardia for several hours on Thanksgiving Day last year. As a medical student, I am learning how to diagnose and treat all kinds of conditions and diseases, but studying medicine….
If you are the physician, recognizing the symptoms of Caregiver Burnout Syndrome is essential. According to A.A.R.P. it is estimated less than 50% of doctors ask caregivers if they are experiencing any burnout symptoms or high stress. Symptoms are characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion, depression, anxiety, bouts of anger, withdrawal, impaired thinking and performance, and most often a feeling of being overwhelmed and guilt.
In the immediate world of what most of us would consider "politics," there are only a select few that we actually see run for a public office. Behind the scenes in Kentucky, there are perhaps only a few thousand volunteers, office workers, and support staff who are also considered 'part of the political process' and often have very important roles in the realm of governance and development of policy. But, this is only a small percentage of our Commonwealth's overall population; and as physicians, we are....
What advice could a retired US General give a doctor, to improve healthcare? I recently read Growing Physician Leaders, by Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, US Army (Ret.). General Hertling, a recent retiree from the US Army, was at one time the commander for US Army Europe and the Seventh Army where he had over 40,000 soldiers under his command. As an Army general charged with the safekeeping of thousands of lives his post-
Tamika rushes into the clinic. She’s late. 32 minutes late, to be precise. As she arrives she meets the eyes of the Medical Receptionist, who glances at her disapprovingly. Darting into the back, she pulls off her gloves and hurriedly hangs her coat in her locker. Her manager, Kate, is suddenly there. “You’re late” she declares. “I know. The bus broke down,” she replies. “Sorry.” Her boss turns and walks out. Tamika quickly stashes her lunch in the lounge refrigerator and clips on the badge that identifies her name and title....
It is not uncommon for me to be asked “Why do you do this and do you enjoy it?” At the onset of my career in medicine, the idea of being President of the American Medical Association or Chair of Council of the World Medical Association was never a consideration. In fact in those early years, I had very little knowledge about these organizations or what they could accomplish. It was not until the AIDS epidemic and the impact it had on patients and my practice did I recognize that part of my responsibility as a....
There has been a flurry of activity in the last decade regarding neuroscience and leadership. From a brain standpoint, much of leadership is based upon the cerebral functions underlying social cognition. Social cognition has evolved to contextualize the matters and outcomes under consideration, the effects of any decisions made on others, and to guide considerations of what others might or might not think. These cognitive functions are expected to lead to sound reasoning and rational judgment.
Rising healthcare costs and demands from the public for increased coverage have led to an ever increasing presence of government in the traditional patient-
This quarterly edition of KentuckyDoc features LMS physicians and their hobbies. Two LMS members, William Wheeler M.D. and David Bensema, M.D., have chosen woodworking as a hobby. As with most physicians who choose hobbies, Bill and David came to their hobbies by different routes. When Bill Wheeler began thinking about retirement, while continuing his practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist, he decided to choose woodworking as a hobby.
What is horseback riding? Are there different types? Horseback riding is exactly what it sounds like – riding a horse. There are a many different types. The two basic horseback riding styles are English and Western, the saddle is the biggest difference between the two. I started out as a hunter jumper. Eventing, like the Kentucky Three Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park could be termed an "equestrian triathlon." It involves working with a horse both on the flat and over fences.
For many physicians, the question is not “if,” but, “when” you will experience burnout. A recent systematic review and meta-
A link between exercise and mental and physical well-
The Pain Treatment Center of the Bluegrass is the largest freestanding facility in Kentucky dedicated to the treatment of pain. It hosts 11 physicians of varying specialties and sub-
Not a day passes without some story in the media about the devastating opioid epidemic in this country. Often the item concerns the latest government statistics that show an ominous worsening of some indicator of the crisis – such as a CDC report that estimates that there were more than 42,000 drug overdose deaths in the U.S. in 2016 alone, a figure that was projected to reach 72,000 deaths in 2017, representing a deadly drug overdose about every six minutes.
I had the opportunity to interview Steven Stack, M.D. regarding opioid issues confronting emergency department physicians. Steve is well known to many of us, as he is a very recent president of the American Medical Association and currently is employed as an ED physician at St. Joseph Hospital East. Steve’s opinion of the opioid crisis currently is that it is sad, tragic, and an enormous problem. From the patient perspective, the patients that Steve sees are very hopeless and….
America’s first epidemic of opioid addiction occurred in the 1840s. Mothers dosed themselves and their children with opium tinctures and opioid containing medicines. Soldiers in the U.S. Civil War treated their injuries and diarrhea with morphine (“the Army disease”).(1) Drinkers treated their hangovers with opioids. However, the main source of the epidemic was iatrogenic morphine, which coincided with the invention of the hypodermic needles in the 1870s.
When a new amputee is tasked with getting back to their life after losing a part of their body, it involves more than simply creating a prosthetic device to surrogate what was lost. The process is a deeply personal and psychological journey that involves a lot of community, love, and support. Hi-
People frequently think that pain is a purely physical sensation. However, pain has biological, psychological and emotional factors. Pain can cause feelings such as anger, disappointment, hopelessness, sadness and fear, to name a few. “While medical treatments, such as surgical interventions, physical therapy/rehabilitation, and medications, can be helpful in treating chronic pain, psychological treatments are also very important,” says Heather Wright,….
One of the major challenges in healthcare is reconciling the tremendous gap in patients’ access to physicians. This is particularly true for our patients who reside in Eastern Kentucky. The Appalachian Regional Commission recently issued a very somber report showing that the Appalachian region has significantly higher mortality rates, increased incidence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, and more health risk factors (obesity, smoking, fewer physicians, drug use) than the rest of the country.
Due to the obvious shortages in psychiatric manpower, more and more patients requiring psychiatric care are being seen in primary care as part of a “patient-
Physicians and other medical professionals are often on the front line due to their accessibility to elderly patients. Sometimes being the only individual to see an elder other than their caregiver, the ability to recognize the signs of abuse is vital. According to the Administration on Aging in Washington, D.C., each year hundreds of thousands of older persons are abused, neglected, and exploited. Many victims are people who are older, frail, and vulnerable and cannot help themselves….
The journey a new amputee takes can be long and difficult to navigate. The staff at Hi-
Chiang Mai is Thailand’s second largest city and a peaceful alternative to Bangkok. The capital of Northern Thailand is known for its temples and its markets, and it is one of the main centres for learning traditional Thai massage. Chiang Mai is surrounded by mountains, forests and national parks that are perfect for daytrips and for trekking.
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with the new kid that was admitted last night… the 19-
I approached Dr. Tron, who’s the unit director about Christopher. “Well, you handle it Rebecca. I haven’t thought about those tests since medical school back in Vietnam.” I set up an ultrasound and went to talk to Christopher. He was sitting up in his bed still in the black pea coat. It seemed like he was wearing it like armor to help protect him from the world surrounding him that had felt too much to bear. I re-
Right before I left the unit for the day, I checked to see if Christopher’s ultrasound results had returned. I read a few of the words over and over in disbelief: CONCERNING FOR CANCER. My heart actually hurt. I distinctly remember walking to my car and literally shaking my fist at the sky.
How could it be that this young man who had his innocence stolen from him by a mother who never received proper psychiatric care, who felt so alone and hopeless that he tried to take his life, now has to deal with having testicular cancer too?
Once I reached my car, I actually cried. It just didn’t seem fair. And what could I do? At that moment I felt so helpless and powerless. I had lost my perspective.
The next day my morning on the unit started as usual: on pre-
In order to confirm his diagnosis of cancer, some blood work had to be obtained. It felt like a century waiting for the results to return. I hadn’t yet used the “C” word with Christopher. There was no point in scaring him until we knew for sure. He seemed to be having a better day than yesterday. I got a big smile when I brought him the book. That was a first.
In between, the ordering of labs and taking care of my other patients, I noticed something. I was not sad. I was feeling empowered. I was taking action. I wasn’t sitting in the corner crying, hurting because of the bad hand my patients had been dealt. I was equipped with training and knowledge to help turn that hand around. My perspective had shifted.
Eventually the results retuned, and they were, in fact, indicative of cancer. My heart sank a little, but my head was held high. I knew that he was responding well to his psychiatric treatment and would be discharged from the unit soon. But I was going to make sure that he was set up to receive all the necessary appointments and referrals. It felt like an act of Congress getting someone from urology to come and examine him in the unit, but it was done. Regrettably, psychiatry and other medicine are sometimes like oil and water.
I remember having that conversation with Christopher. I was a little worried. I was afraid that he would break down and lose all hope. The progress he had made would vanish. But then this happened. “You know, I actually feel really good. I feel like I have something to fight for. I am going to have to be strong to beat this. I have a reason,” he proclaimed.
I couldn’t believe it. This tortured soul didn’t turn into a pile of despair. He was hopeful. His perspective was that he had been given a reason to fight, to stay alive, to beat this cancer. I still get chills thinking about it.
Though it may seem a cliché, life is about perspective. I am grateful to Christopher for showing me this early in my medical career. Because of him, I chose to do my residency in Pediatrics, Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry. With this decision, I not only have the ability to bring about an acute change in someone’s mental status but also tend to their acute and chronic medical illnesses as well. I have been gifted with the responsibility of being someone’s advocate. When I keep my perspective on the positive side, I can still have the marshmallow inside that gives me the empathy and compassion they require, but I have a tough exterior to be the defender my patients so deserve.
*Names have been changed to protect privacy
Monday mornings on the unit are always a little chaotic. Even though during pre-
I didn’t have the chance to meet Christopher before the individual treatment team meetings. Sally * insisted that she share her newest poems with me. I knew I’d eventually see everyone sometime that day so I remained a captive audience. She was working with me and taking her Lithium without a fuss so the least I could do was listen.
We all gathered round the small wooden rectangular table that has 3 sides with a single empty chair all by itself on the 4th side. There were quick pleasantries among the physicians, social workers, and nurses as we waited for our first patient to be brought in to us. At times, it felt like we were the parole board, and the patients were prisoners coming to plead their cases at parole hearings. We made it through most of the patients without incidence. There were a few tears, many curse words, a couple of threats… nothing unexpected.
Then we came to our last patient. This was the one I had failed to see earlier. I did have the chance to quickly skim his file: overdose on Xanax and Zoloft in a failed suicide attempt, history of molestation by his mother, and voluntary admission. Into the room walked a gentle giant and with him an air of complete defeat and overwhelming sadness. Hunched over, he cautiously sat down in the empty chair.
The black pea coat, white t-
“Christopher, do you know why you are here?” Scared dark eyes looked up. “Yes, sir. I tried to kill myself, and I promised my father that I would get help.” The interview continued in regular fashion. An abridged version of Christopher’s story was related to the team, a medication regimen was agreed upon, and he was sent on his way to be seen again tomorrow.
Regrettably, depressed teenagers are not the rarity these days with the pressures of social media and reality television, so I wasn’t that shaken by Christopher’s sad tale. Initially, I was always worried about going into psychiatry because as a self-
After treatment team, I went to place orders and prepare discharges. The PA who performs the intake physical examinations came over for a chat. “Are you familiar
Dr. Rebecca Ba'Gah is originally from Los Angeles, CA where she attended UCLA's school of Theater, Film and Television and she spent many years in show business. She eventually found true fulfillment in medicine. She recently moved to Lexington for residency at UK in Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She hopes to one day be a part of Médecins Sans Frontières and continue to change the public perception of mental illness.