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Medical students and professionals sharing their thoughts and experiences.
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Dying to do an expedition

As a hospital doctor, surgeon or GP we encounter death frequently. We quickly learn to cope. It helps when we know that we have done everything within our power to prevent death. When death is close we have the ability, medication and specialists services to make the process as 'comfortable' as possible. In the final moments it is rare that the patient is alone; whether in the company of family, friends or health care professionals. When an individual dies on expedition it may have been avoidable, you have very little kit to prevent it, they may be alone and they probably were your friend. No one prepares you for the potential of a client dying. But it happens. First of all, I am not trying to put you off doing an expedition. I love expedition medicine and have dedicated the last five years of my life to it. But I was not prepared for my first near death experience and I want to make sure you are. AVOIDABLE DEATHS During an expedition injuries, near misses and deaths are sometimes avoidable. There may have been a faulty bit of kit, medication which wasn't packed or route marker that fell down ... Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You, the team and the organisers work within what is feasible and normal health and safety don't and can't apply. I am NOT saying it is ok to be negligent, but a degree of pragmatism is need. What you need to remember is the competitors/ clients are aware of the dangers and, as medics, we should be too. LIMITED KIT Many medics are shocked by the lack of kit taken on expedition. But you need to think about the environment you are in and then think rationally. If your nearest decompression chamber is 3 days away by boat, is there much point taking oxygen on a diving expedition? If you are on expedition in the middle of the jungle is there any point taking a defib if any client in need of a defib is unlikely to survive extrication. You have to work within the limits of your environment and with the kit you have. As the medic you need to be aware of the nearest hospital and their facilities, the nearest large hospital with surgical and ITU facilities and the casevac plan. THE CLIENTS During expeditions the clients often become good friends. You will experience their highs and lows and share incredible experiences. This makes it especially hard when unfortunate events occur. At this point our role as medic often broadens to counsellor and bereavement officer. The other clients, organisers and medics need support during this time. Try to start this process whilst you are out there. Even with near misses, the psychological effect on people can be huge. Signs and symptoms are generally easy to spot, but screen for them at clinics. Be aware during race events that grief may manifest though clients pulling out, loss of performance and increased injuries due to lack of sleep, low mood or poor concentration. No matter what happens when you are on expedition my advice is; you can only work within your skill set and with the equipment you have. As a foundation doctor, if you’re faced with an unresponsive client - you are not expected to perform RSI and intubate. Work through your ABCDE and work within your limitations. If you would like to suggest any other blog topics or have any questions please post below.  
Dr Rachel Saunders
over 3 years ago
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127

Creative Administration

Like may of you who work for a hospital, HMO or other organized medical care, I have often been frustrated by the rigidity and dullness of administrators. Many of them go by the rules and seem to be unbending. Once in awhile one comes across some one who does not fit into that category. A personal example will illustrate this. After I had retired from my academic position at the University of Miami I was doing intermittent "locums" work. I had just finished a six month assignment in Okinawa, Japan and was in my traveling mode. I needed to find my next "job" and had applied to an add from Mount Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, Alaska. That Indian Health Service Hospital was looking for an obstetrician and gynecologist. I was interested, applied and was invited for an interview. I liked the job and they must have liked me as I was offered a two year contact. However as a new hire they offered me only two weeks of vacation and one week of Continuing Medical Education leave. For someone with my seniority, I thought that that was insufficient and said so. I left Sitka in a sad mood as I really would have liked that job, but was not ready to accept their offer of only two weeks of vacation time. I was told that that was the Company's policy, and that they were not ready to start a precedent. Some days later, I received a phone call from the medical director of the hospital. She started off by apologizing again that she could not offer me more vacation, as that was the Company's policy for new hires. Right away I felt discouraged, but then she added: "We really would like to have you work for us and what I can do is give you two addition weeks of unpaid leave and raise your salary by two weeks (which, by company rules she was free to do). I was elated and accepted the offer for two years. We liked it there so much that we ended up staying seven years. I thought that this hospital administrator was using her authority to make a very creative and imaginative decision. We all benefitted. There should be more administrators like that. Those interested in reading more about my experiences can download an e book for free from Smashword at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/161522 or just Google: "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path".  
DR William LeMaire
over 3 years ago
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3
194

The Importance Of Clinical Skills

In the USA the issue of indiscriminate use of expensive, sophisticated, and time consuming test in lieu of, rather than in addition to, the clinical exam is being much discussed. The cause of this problem is of course multifactorial. One of the factors is the decline of the teaching of clinical skills to our medical students and trainees. Such problems seem to have taken hold in developing countries as well. Two personal anecdotes will illustrate this. In the early nineties I worked for two years as a faculty member in the department of ob & gyn at the Aga Khan University Medical School in Karachi, Pakistan. One day, I received a call from the resident in the emergency room about a woman who had come in because of some abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding. While the resident told me these two symptoms her next sentence was: “… and the pelvic ultrasound showed…” I stopped her right in her tracks before she could tell me the result of the ultrasound scan. I told her: “First tell me more about this patient. Does she look ill? Is she bleeding heavily? Is she in a lot of pain and where is the pain? What are her blood pressure and pulse rate? How long has she been having these symptoms? When was her last menstrual period? What are your findings when you examined her ? What is the result of the pregnancy test?”. The resident could not answer most of these basic clinical questions and findings. She had proceeded straight to a test which might or might not have been necessary or even indicated and she was not using her clinical skills or judgment. In another example, the resident, also in Karachi, called me to the emergency room about a patient with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. He told me that the patient was pale, and obviously bleeding inside her abdomen and on the verge of going into shock. The resident had accurately made the diagnosis, based on the patient’s history, examination, and a few basic laboratory tests. But when I ran down to see the patient, he was wheeling the patient into the radiology department for an ultrasound. "Why an ultrasound?" I asked. “You already have made the correct diagnosis and she needs an urgent operation not another diagnostic procedure that will take up precious time before we can stop the internal bleeding.” Instead of having the needless ultrasound, the patient was wheeled into the operating room. What I am trying to emphasize is that advances in technology are great but they need to be used judiciously and young medical students and trainees need to be taught to use their clinical skills first and then apply new technologies, if needed, to help them to come to the right diagnosis and treatment. And of course we, practicing physicians need to set the example. Or am I old fashioned and not with it? Medico legal and other issues may come to play here and I am fully aware of these. However the basic issue of clinical exam is still important. Those wanting to read more similar stories can download a free e book from Smashwords. The title is: "CROSSCULTURAL DOCTORING. ON AND OFF THE BEATEN PATH." You can access the e book here.  
DR William LeMaire
over 3 years ago
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2
91

A curious epidemic of superficial accesses in Africa

This anecdote happened many years ago when I was a brand new (read: inexperienced) physician doing my stint in the Colonial Health Service of the former Belgian Congo. I was assigned to a small hospital in the interior of the Maniema province. Soft tissue infections and abscesses were rather common in this tropical climate, but at one time there seemed to be virtual epidemic of abscesses on the buttocks or upper arms. It seemed that patients with these abscesses were all coming from one area of the territory. That seemed rather odd and we started investigating. By way of background let me say that the hospital was also serving several outlying clinics or dispensaries in the territory. Health aides were assigned to a specific dispensary on a periodic basis. Patients would know his schedule and come to the dispensary for their treatments. Now this was the era of “penicillin.” The natives were convinced that this wonder drug would cure all their ailments, from malaria and dysentery, to headaches, infertility, and impotence. You name it and penicillin was thought to be the cure-all. No wonder they would like to get an injection of penicillin for whatever their ailment was. As our investigation demonstrated, the particular health aide assigned to the dispensary from where most of the abscesses came, would swipe a vial of penicillin and a bottle of saline from the hospital’s pharmacy on his way out to his assigned dispensary. When he arrived at his dispensary there was usually already a long line of patients waiting with various ailments. He would get out his vial of the “magic” penicillin, show the label to the crowd and pour it in the liter bottle of saline; shake it up and then proceed to give anyone, who paid five Belgian Francs (at that time equivalent to .10 US $), which he pocketed, an injection of the penicillin, now much diluted in the large bottle of physiologic solution. To make matters worse, he used only one syringe and one needle. No wonder there were so many abscesses in the area of injection. Of course we quickly put a stop to that. Anyone interested in reading more about my experience in Africa and many other areas can download a free e book via Smashwords at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/161522 . The title of the book is "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path"  
DR William LeMaire
over 3 years ago
0828694fbb5560ef072dc03f3b083f0a
1
100

Email Gone Astray

An email gone astray can provide fascinating insights for an unintended recipient. Written correspondence has undoubtedly fallen into the wrong hands since homo sapiens first put pigment on bark, but never before has it been so easy to have a personal message go awry. No longer is it a matter of surreptitiously steaming open sealed letters or snooping around in wastepaper baskets. Finding out another's personal business is now just a click away. Even more conveniently, candid opinions can sometimes make an unscheduled landing in your inbox, making for intriguing reading -- as I discovered. Some time ago, I'd sent out feelers regarding possible new GP jobs and had emailed a particular practice principal a couple of times, expressing interest. When it looked likely that I was going to pursue a different path, I sent a polite email explaining the situation and telling him I wouldn't be seeking an interview for a job at his practice at present. An email bounced back saying that my not wanting to work for him may be "a relief" as I "sounded a bit intense". It was sans salutation but, based on the rest of the content, was obviously intended for one of his work colleagues. It had no doubt been a simple error of his pressing 'reply' rather than 'forward'. I was chuffed: I've never been called "intense" before, at least, not to my knowledge. Perhaps there are several references to my intensity bouncing around cyberspace but this is the only one my inbox has ever captured. I've never considered myself an intense person. To me, the term conjured up the image of a passionate yet very serious type, often committed to worthy causes. Perhaps I had the definition wrong. I looked it up. The Oxford Dictionary gave me: "having or showing strong feelings or opinions; extremely earnest or serious". Unfortunately, I couldn't reconcile my almost pathologically Pollyanna-ish outlook, enthusiasm, irreverence and light-heartedness to this description -- nor my somewhat ambivalent approach to politics, religion, sport, the environment and other "serious" issues. At least the slip-up was minor. Several years ago, I unintentionally managed to proposition one of my young, shy GP registrars by way of a wayward text message. He had the same first name as my then-husband. Scrolling through my phone contacts late one night, alone in a hotel room at an interstate medical conference, I pressed one button too many. Hence this innocent fellow received not only declarations of love but a risqué suggestion to go with it. Not the usual information imparted from medical educator to registrar! It took me several days to realise my error, but despite my profuse apologies, the poor guy couldn't look me in the eye for the rest of the term. If I was "intense", I would conclude on a ponderous note -- with a moral message that would resonate with the intellectually elite. Alas, I'm a far less serious kind of girl and, as a result, the best I can up with is: Senders of emails and texts beware -- you are but one click away from being bitten on the bottom. (This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor). Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work here.  
Dr Genevieve Yates
over 3 years ago
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140

Apple iOS 8 - A step towards omnipotent healthcare informatics.

Introduction The use of smartphones amongst health care professionals is now estimated to be in excess of 85%, with Apple's iPhone currently being the most popular platform. There is a wealth of information (from popular blogs, to formal journals) that demonstrate the potential of smartphone apps (and technology in general) to improve healthcare. However, despite widespread use of smartphones, proper application of the software at our disposal has been arguably poor. The latest mobile Apple operating system 'iOS 8', may be the start of a long-awaited overhaul of the current health apps available. The App Store - as it stands The Apple app store boasts many hundreds of what it describes as 'medical' apps. A review of the 'Top 200' medical apps conducted in 2012 by this author revealed that 49% were in fact general health or lifestyle applications aimed at the general public. The same process was repeated this year (2014) and demonstrated that this percentage has increased to 54%. This increase in apps aimed at the general public suggests that Apple do not differentiate between 'medical apps' and 'health and lifestyle' apps. This could negatively affect health care professionals' perception of the otherwise high-quality medical apps that are available. In addition, of the remaining percentage of apps aimed at healthcare professionals, only 5.56% were deemed to be of clinical benefit (an increased from 3% in 2012). The overwhelming majority of 'medical' apps aimed at medical professionals are actually educational in content and usually focus on the learning of anatomy. Current health apps Much like the 'medical' apps, only a limited selection of the health apps that are aimed at the public/patient are deemed to be high-quality. Prominent examples include the blood glucose monitors that record data in to a smartphone and similarly, the blood pressure and pain diaries. These examples focus on people with medical conditions, but it is important to note the potential of apps in preventative medicine too (i.e. promoting general health). Typical high-quality apps in this category include RunKeeper and Map My Ride. These apps allow everyone to become their own personal trainer and keep an accurate record of their physical activity. Smartphones will even send reminders to the user that a workout is due, and the option is present to share your stats and 'compete' with friends/family via social media. These features highlight the absolute vanguard of what could potentially come in terms of technology influencing healthy living. A current criticism of health apps is that most (if not all) are individual enterprises with very little information shared between them. The metaphor of 'silos' is used to represent these large vessels of information that sit adjacent to one another whilst never benefiting from the contents of one another. The iOS 8 operating system hopes to ameliorate this current issue with its new Health app and HealthKit, which will enable developers and their apps to pull data from several health related apps into one streamlined app. It is envisaged that this app will be able to feed (with the appropriate permissions of course) health related information to your family physician for health monitoring purposes. This could have impressive effects in community blood pressure management and blood glucose management (just to name the obvious ones). Problems Ahead There are scattered anecdotal reports of users being wary of centralised health information and as always Data Protection is a major concern (whether it is warranted or not). In addition, whilst a large percentage of the population may have a smartphone many may still opt not to use health related apps. Poor uptake will obviously limit the perception of this medium as a method of health monitoring. Summary Smartphone usage is high and many healthcare related apps are already available either to serve as medical tools to healthcare professionals or health monitoring devices for the public. Currently, Apple does not seem to differentiate between medical and lifestyle apps on its app store and many lower quality apps seem to appear in 'medical' searches. Also, Current apps do not share information. However, with iOS 8 it seems that Apple seems to be addressing several key issues surrounding the use of the iPhone as a health monitoring device. For the moment it seems that healthcare professionals will have to harness this patient-held approach. Perhaps direct improvements to the medical aspect of the Apple app store and the quality and originality of apps aimed at doctors is still a little way off.  
Dr. Luke Farmery
over 3 years ago
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605

Beating the Bully

I read an article recently that 90% of surgical trainees have experienced bullying of one form or other in their practice. That’s 90%. That’s shocking. Worryingly it is highly likely that this statistic is not purely isolated to surgery. This is evidence of a major problem that needs to be addressed. We don’t accept bullying in schools and in the workplace policies are in place to stop bullying and harassment– so why have 90% of trainees experienced bullying? I can relate to this from personal experience, as I am sure most of us can. Prior to intercalating I had always had the typical med student ambition of joining the big league and taking on surgery. I had a keen interest in anatomy, I had decided to intercalate in anatomy, I did an SSC on surgical robotics, presented at an undergraduate surgical conference and had a small exposure to surgery in my first couple of years that gave me enough drive to take on a competitive career path. I took it upon myself to try and arrange a brief summer attachment where I would learn as a clinical medical student what it is like to scrub in and be in theatre. At the beginning I was so excited. At the end every time someone mentioned surgery I felt sick. It became apparent very quickly that I was an inconvenience. I think medical students all get this feeling – ‘being in the way’ - but this was different. This was being made to feel deliberately uncomfortable. I asked if I could have some guidance on scrubbing in and this was met with a complete huff and annoyance because I didn’t know how to do it properly (thank goodness for a lovely team of theatre nurses!). I even got assigned a pet name for the week – the ‘limpet’ (notable for their clinging on to rocks) that was frequently used as a humiliation tactic in front of colleagues. By the end of the week I dreaded walking into the hospital and felt physically sick every morning. Now some people might say ‘man up’ and get on with it. Fair enough, but I’m a fairly resilient character and it takes a lot to make me feel like I did that week. This experience completely eradicated any ambition I had at the time to go into surgery. Since then I’ve focused elsewhere and generally dreaded surgical rotations until very recently where I managed to meet a wonderful orthopaedic team who were incredibly encouraging. Bullying can be subjective. Just because a consultant asks you a difficult question doesn’t mean they’re bullying you. By and large clinicians want to stretch you and trigger buttons that make you go and look things up. If it drives you to work and develops you as a professional then it’s not bullying, but if it makes you feel rubbish, sick or less about yourself then you should perhaps think twice about the way you’re being treated. Of course bullying doesn’t stop at professionals. Psychological bullying is rife in medical schools. We’ve all been ‘psyched out’ by our peers – how much do you know? How did you know that when I didn’t? Intimidating behaviour can be just as aggressive. Americans dub these people ‘Gunners’ although we’ve been rather nice and adopted the word ‘keen’ instead. Luckily most medical schools have a port of call for this sort of behaviour. But a word of advice – don’t let anyone shrug it off. If it’s a problem, if it’s affecting you – tell someone. Bullying individuals that are trying to learn and develop as professionals is entirely unacceptable. If you would like to share similar experiences, drop them in the comments box below.  
Lucas Brammar
over 3 years ago
0
27
1132

Confidence Building During Medical Training

My fellow medical students, interns, residents and attendings: I am not a medical student but an emeritus professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and also a voluntary faculty member at the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. I have a great deal of contact with medical students and residents. During training (as student or resident), gaining confidence in one's own abilities is a very important part of becoming a practitioner. This aspect of training does not always receive the necessary attention and emphasis. Below I describe one of the events of confidence building that has had an important and lasting influence on my career as an academic physician. I graduated from medical school in Belgium many years ago. I came to the US to do my internship in a small hospital in up state NY. I was as green as any intern could be, as medical school in Belgium at that time had very little hands on practice, as opposed to the US medical graduates. I had a lot of "book knowledge" but very little practical confidence in myself. The US graduates were way ahead of me. My fellow interns, residents and attendings were really understanding and did their best to build my confidence and never made me feel inferior. One such confidence-building episodes I remember vividly. Sometime in the middle part of the one-year internship, I was on call in the emergency room and was called to see a woman who was obviously in active labor. She was in her thirties and had already delivered several babies before. The problem was that she had had no prenatal care at all and there was no record of her in the hospital. I began by asking her some standard questions, like when her last menstrual period had been and when she thought her due date was. I did not get far with my questioning as she had one contraction after another and she was not interested in answering. Soon the bag of waters broke and she said that she had to push. The only obvious action for me at that point was to get ready for a delivery in the emergency room. There was no time to transport the woman to the labor and delivery room. There was an emergency delivery “pack” in the ER, which the nurses opened for me while I quickly washed my hands and put on gloves. Soon after, a healthy, screaming, but rather small baby was delivered and handed to the pediatric resident who had been called. At that point it became obvious that there was one more baby inside the uterus. Realizing that I was dealing with a twin pregnancy, I panicked, as in my limited experience during my obstetrical rotation some months earlier I had never performed or even seen a twin delivery. I asked the nurses to summon the chief resident, who promptly arrived to my great relief. I immediately started peeling off my gloves to make room for the resident to take my place and deliver this twin baby. However, after verifying that this baby was also a "vertex" without any obvious problem, he calmly stood by, and over my objections, bluntly told me “you can do it”, even though I kept telling him that this was a first for me. I delivered this healthy, screaming twin baby in front of a large number of nurses and doctors crowding the room, only to realize that this was not the end of it and that indeed there was a third baby. Now I was really ready to step aside and let the chief resident take over. However he remained calm and again, stood by and assured me that I could handle this situation. I am not even sure how many triplets he had delivered himself as they are not too common. Baby number three appeared quickly and also was healthy and vigorous. What a boost to my self-confidence that was! I only delivered one other set of triplets later in my career and that was by C-Section. All three babies came head first. If one of them had been a breech the situation might have been quite different. What I will never forget is the implied lesson in confidence building the chief resident gave me. I have always remembered that. In fact I have put this approach in practice numerous times when the roles were reversed later in my career as teacher. Often in a somewhat difficult situation at the bedside or in the operating room, a student or more junior doctor would refer to me to take over and finish a procedure he or she did not feel qualified to do. Many times I would reassure and encourage that person to continue while I talked him or her through it. Many of these junior doctors have told me afterwards how they appreciated this confidence building. Of course one has to be careful to balance this approach with patient safety and I have never delegated responsibility in critical situations and have often taken over when a junior doctor was having trouble. Those interested, can read more about my experiences in the US and a number of other countries, in a free e book, entitled "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path" can be downloaded at this link. Enjoy!  
DR William LeMaire
over 3 years ago
11344d32362f43bb83049b40f85f9198
7
197

Early Retirement and Career Change

This is my first blog on Meducation. I decided to tell the reader a bit about myself, so that future blogs will make sense. At age 48 and in an active and successful academic practice of OB & GYN, my best friend died from a complication of cardiac surgery. This tragic event made my wife's and me consider other things in life than just work, thus at age 55, I decided to retire from my academic position and to start working as a locum in many different cultural settings. The plan was to work somewhere in an area of need for six months and alternate this with travel for six months. It did not quite work out exactly that way, but close enough. I worked in Japan, then Pakistan, Tasmania, Australia, New Zealand, Alaska, St Lucia, and Chiapas in Mexico. Much earlier I had had a two year experience in Africa. It was a very satisfying experience and my wife and I have never looked back. Many of my friends and colleagues kept urging me to write a book about our experiences and how we accomplished them. For a long time I kept resisting, probably because I felt that no one might be interested, and because I might have been lazy, and most likely for both of these reasons. I finally gave in, started writing and published an e book. The title is "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path." the book can be down loaded for free from Smashwords at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/161522 The book is meant for medical as well as non medical people. It is written as a series of loosely connected anecdotes, some medical, some non medical, some funny, some not so funny. The book describes the immense satisfaction my wife and I experienced from our decision and I hope that reading the book might inspire others, medical or non medical people, who might be thinking about a career change or early retirement to jump of the beaten path. The book might also inspire other with similar experiences to write about them. I would love to receive some comments. William J. LeMaire JUNE 2014 Learn more about me please visit my website at: http://www.freewebs.com/wimsbook  
DR William LeMaire
over 3 years ago
7fe9c989594a7a1f4f43587765344dbf
1
248

Why we need to work to maintain a social life - A Darwinian Medical Training Programme

Book of the week (BotW) = The Darwin Economy by Prof Frank Being a medical student and wanna-be-surgeon, I am naturally very competitive. I know exactly where I want to end up in life. I want to be a surgeon at a major unit doing research, teaching and management, as well as many other things. To reach this goal in a rational way I, and many others like me, need to look at what is required and make sure that we tick the boxes. We must also out-compete every other budding surgeon with a similar interest. Medicine is also a dog-eat-dog world when it comes to getting the job you want. Luckily you can head off into almost any field you find interesting, as long as you have the points on your CV to get access to the training. In recent years, the number of med students has increased, but so has the competition for places. The number of FY1 jobs has increased but so has the competition for good rotations. The number of consultant posts has increased, but so has the competition for the jobs. To even be considered for an interview for a consultant surgeon post these days a candidate (hopefully my future self) will have to demonstrate an excellent knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pathology and demography. They will need to have competent surgical skills and have completed all of the hours and numbers of procedures. To further demonstrate this they will need to have gone on extra-curricular courses and fellowships. They will also need to show that they can teach and have been doing so regularly. They must now also have an understanding of medical leadership and have a portfolio of projects. Finally, they will have had to tick the research box, with posters, publications, oral presentations and research degrees. That’s a long list of tick boxes and guess what? It has been getting longer! I regularly attend a surgical research collaborative meeting in Birmingham. Many of those surgeons didn’t even get taught about research at medical school or publish anything until they were registrars. Now even to get onto a good Core Training post you need to have at the very least some posters in your chosen field and probably a minimum of a publication. That’s a pretty big jump in standards in just 15 years. In two generations the competition has increased exponentially. Why is that? Prof Frank explains economic competition in Darwinian terms. His insights apply equally well to the medical training programme. It’s all about your relative performance compared to your peers and the continual arms race for the best resources (training posts). However, the catch is, if everyone ups their performance by the same amount then you all work harder for no more advantage for anyone, except for the first few people who made the upgrade. The majority do not benefit but are in fact harmed by this continual arms race. I believe that this competition will only get worse as each new year of med students tries to keep up and surpass the previous cohort. This competition will inevitably lead to a greater time commitment from the students with no potential gain. Everything we do is relative to everyone else. If we up our game, we will outperform the competition, until they catch up with us and then relatively we are no better off but are working harder. Why is this relevant? I know everyone will want to select “the best” candidate, but in medicine the “best” candidate doesn’t really exist because we are all almost equally capable of doing the role, once we have had the training. So there is no point us all working ourselves into the ground for a future job, if all our hard work won’t pay off for most of us anyway. But we can’t make these choices as individuals because if one of us says that “I am not going to play the game. I am going to enjoy my free time with my friends and family”, that person won’t get the competitive job because everyone else will out-perform them. We have to tackle this issue as a cohort. How do we ensure that we don’t work ourselves into the ground for nothing? Collectively as medical students and trainees we should ask the BMA and Royal Collages to set out a strict application process that means once candidates have met the minimum requirements, there is no more points for additional effort. For instance, the application form for a surgical consultant post should only have space to include 5 peer-reviewed publications. That way it wouldn’t necessarily matter if you had 5 or 50 publications. This limit may seem counter-intuitive and will possibly work against the highly competitive high achievers, but it will have a positive effect on everyone else’s life. Imagine if you only had to write 5 papers in your career to guarantee a chance at a job, instead of having to write 25. All that extra time you would have had to invest in extra-curricular research can now be used more productively by you to achieve other life goals, like more time with your family or more patient contact or even more time in theatre perfecting your skills. If you were selecting candidates for senior clinicians, would you rather pick an all round doctor who has met all of the requirements and has a balanced work-life balance or a neurotic competitor who hasn’t slept in 8 years and is close to a breakdown? Being a doctor is more than a profession, it is a life-style choice but we should try to prevent it becoming our entire lives.  
jacob matthews
over 3 years ago
A9856429f4fa13ae814172e763bdf48d
6
322

Medical Blogging, an overview, pearl or peril

Medical blogging is blogging in the field of medicine. It is a relatively recent addition to the medical field. While its closest predecessor medical journalism; is about 300 years old, medical blogging is currently about a decade old. This blogpost aims at exploring the field of medical blogging and comparing it to related disciplines when relevant. It examines some opinions of bloggers, and reviews some medical blogs aiming to infer reasons for blogging, derive technique or outline of blog and hopefully arriving at a conclusion to the future prospects of medical blogging. Medicine is the practice of the art and science of healing 'ars medicina'. It is a branch of applied science, which started probably in the pre-historic era. The practice continued to flourish, specialise, sub-specialise and sub-sub-specialise. The word blog is most probably derived from the contraction of the words 'web log' which is a form of website that is more interactive, allowing comments, tagging,and is displayed in counter-chronological order from the most recent at the top of the page. The term 'blog' is currently used as a noun as well as a verb. The aggregation of blogs is named 'blogosphere', and the blog writer is named 'blogger'. There are single author blogs and multi-author blogs, they are as diverse in there content as the diversity of the bloggers, with regards to form they can be written text, images, videos, sounds or combination of more than one medium. The term 'blogroll' is referred to blogs followed by a person. Blogging is just more than a decade old now. However, the number of blogs have been increasing exponentially at times. The concept of blogging is considered as one of the components of the concept of web 2.0. Medical blogs refer to blogs that are primarily concerned with medical/health subjects. The name 'medical blog' is derived from content based taxonomic classification. Medical blogs can be classified by author, there are blogs by physicians, nurses, patients, medical institutions, medical journals, and anonymous blogs. They can be classified by target audience as either to other doctors, patients and carers, general public or a combination of more than one target. There are also medical blogs by patients or patient blogs that expresses their viewpoints. A study examined medical student blogs and concluded that they might be beneficial for students to reflect on their experience (Pinilla et al, 2013). The Nephrology Dialysis and Transplantation (NDT) made it own blog (El Nahas, 2012). The American Journal of Kidney Disorder (AJKD) made its own official blog (Desai et al, 2013). During the same year, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association launched their official blog (Sanossian & Merino, 2013). Pereira discussed the blogs by neurosurgeons (Pereira et al, 2012). In the BMJ doc2doc blogs, they do not have to meet certain number of word count but will have to be reviewed prior to publication. KevinMD requires blog posts to be of maximum five hundred words, Medical-Reference require a minimum of one thousand words. Meducation requires a blog post to vary between 1500-3000 word. Independent blogs may show more variation in the number of words per blog post. Some blogs are predominantly in text format, other may combine multimedia or get linked to other medical blogs. The BMJ doc2doc tentatively recommends blog posting to be in the frequency of one to two blogs/month. Chrislyn Pepper, a medical blog writer, (2013) states that medical blogging can aim to be 'three blogs of 300+ words each week and three to four short blogs of less than a hundred words five days per week.' Medical bloggers seem to have various reasons to blog, some communicate clinical data to fellow doctors, in this case some blogs seem to resemble research or review articles in content and language which can contain medical jargon. There are diagnosis blogs that were studied by Miller and Pole (2010). The comparison between the electronic predecessors of blogging including Electronic Bulletin Board, USENET, and emailing in addition to the why of blogging in general has been discussed by Mongkolwat (Mongkolwat et al, 2005). Some put their hypotheses forward, others share clinical experience or discuss a clinical matter. Some bloggers direct their attention to the general public providing information about medical topics. Some discuss issues which can be difficult to be put in research topics. Dr Rob discussed that importance of medical blogging as an equivalent to the concept of democracy in an online world. Doctor Blogger website offers 10 reasons for medical blogging including public education, correction of misconceptions and establishing a name. For the medical blogger's direct benefit Medical Rant blog offers an overview of personal benefits from medical blogging including stimulation of thought and stimulation of academic writing. Dr Wible seems to use her medical blog to promote a standard of care that seems to be a mix between the medical model and the befriending model of care. Another study examined the young adults blogging and concluded that powerlessness, loneliness, alienation, and lack of connection with others, where the primary outcomes of young adults as a result of mental health concerns (Eysenbach et al, 2012). Wolinsky (2011) enquires whether scientists should stick to popularizing science or more. Medical blogs are essentially online activity which renders them immediately accessible to any area with internet connection, they are paperless by definition which makes them more environment friendly. The medical blogs are open access by default which adds to the accessibility, and they are decentralised which decreases control over the control and seems to accentuate diversity. As compared to peer reviewed journals, medical blogs seem to be less referenced, are hardly ever taken as academic writing, the process of peer reviewed medical blogs is minimal if any, and they do not get reflected on resume or be considered as publication, though the term 'blogfolio' started to become a watch word. It seems hard to base clinical decisions on medical blogs. However, medical blogs can offer more diversity into research and non-research medical topics. They are published online with no delay or review time, they can comment on the most recent advances in the medical field or most contemporary issues instantaneously. Very recently, citing blogs seems to become a bit accepted. BMJ Journals have their dedicated blogs Some online resources give a comprehensive outline on blogging in general and medical blogging in particular including video interview with a medical blogger Michelle Guilemard in her blog makes a valid point of how medical blogging can enhance career. Medical Squid also highlighted medical blogging as a career Kovic et al (2008) conducted a research on the medical blogosphere an concluded that 'Medical bloggers are highly educated and devoted blog writers, faithful to their sources and readers'. Miller & Pole (2010) concluded that 'Blogs are an integral part of this next stage in the development '. Stanwell-Smith (2013) discussed the aspect as an important tool to communicate with patients. The blur between academia and blogging was discussed in research blogs. (Sheema et al, 2012). During the same another study discussed the impact of blogging on research (Fausto et al, 2012). While Baerlocher & Detsky (2008) warn in an article against the hazards of medical blogging due to potential breach of confidentiality. After an exhaustive study of the content of weblog written by health professional, Lagu reached the concern of breaching of confidentiality (Lagu et al, 2007). Rebecca Golden (2007) cites the perils of medical blogging she concludes her article saying 'Science has a peer-review process for a reason'. Brendan Koerner (2007) in wired magazines posted an article about the problems of giving medical advice via blogging. Dr Val Jones makes a point by concluding that social media provide the 'allure of influence'. Thomas Robey (2008) offers arguments for and against medical blogging, including confidentiality, and ruining personal reputation on the negative side, while enhancing democratization of conversation and having a creative outlet on the positive side. Brendel offers an intriguing discussion to whether it would be ethical or not to monitor patients' blog to determine their health status. (Brendel, 2012). O'Reilly voiced in 2007 the need for blogging code of conduct. The GMC published guidance on the use of social media by doctors and it included blogging as a form of social media. The Royal College of General Practitioners also published the social media high way code to offer guidance on social media including medical blogging. There is also the medblog oath online. Flaherty (2013) argues that blogging is under attack by micro-blogging, and that it is in its deathbed. Mike Myatt in his article Is Blogging Dead, discusses various views about blogging in an era of micro-blogging The Royal College of Psychiatrists recently introduced a number of blogs including the president's blog, overseas blogs and other blogs. The medical blogging seems to occupy a middle space between the quick micro-blogging and the thoughtful research article. Its diversity and freedom are its strongest tools and can have the potential to be its worst enemies. One wonders whether the emergence of guidelines for medical blogging – given the seriousness of the content – would save medical blogging and elevate it to the next level or change the essence of it. After all, the question is how much the medical field which is a top-down hierarchy accept grass-root movement. Freedom of expression is probably at the heart of blogging. It would be logistically impossible to impose rules on it. However, guidelines and code of honour may help delineating the quality of medical blogs from each other. This post is previously posted on doc2doc blogs. Bibliography & Blogiography Brendel, D. Monitoring Blogs: A New Dilemma for Psychiatrists Journal of Ethics, American Medical Association, 2012, Vol. 14(6), pp. 441-444 Desai, T., S.M.A.N.V.S.K.T.J.K.C.K.B.E.J.K.D. The State of the Blog: The First Year of eAJKD Am J Kidney Dis., 2013, Vol. 61(1), pp. 1-2 El Nahas, M. An NDT blog Nephrol Dial Transplant (2012) 27: 3377–3378, 2012, Vol. 27, pp. 3377-3378 Eysenbach, G., B.K.M.M. What Are Young Adults Saying About Mental Health? An Analysis of Internet Blogs Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2012, Vol. 14(1) Fausto, S. Machado, F.B.L.I.A.N.T.M.D. Research Blogging: Indexing and Registering the Change in Science 2.0 PLoS one, 2012, Vol. 7(12), pp. 1-10 Lagu, T, K.E.J.D.A.A.A.K. Content of Weblogs Written by Health Professionals J Gen Intern Med, 2008, Vol. 23(10), pp. 1642–6 Miller, EA., P.A. Diagnosis Blog: Checking Up on Health Blogs in the Blogosphere American Journal of Public Health, 2010, Vol. 8, pp. 1514-1518 Mongkolwat, P. Kogan, A.K.J.C.D. Blogging Your PACS Journal of Digital Imaging, 2005, Vol. 18(4), pp. 326-332 Pereira, JLB., K.P. d.A.L. d.C.G. d.S.A. Blogs for neurosurgeons Surgical Neurology International, 2012, Vol. 3:62 Pinilla, S. Weckbach, L.A.S.B.H.N.D.S.K.T.S. Blogging Medical Students: A Qualitative Analysis  
Dr Emad Sidhom
over 3 years ago
4ab7d2c63f92c331a495acef5c5378b9
5
88

Why can't we have a NICE'er EU?

The book of the week this week has been Chris Patten’s “Not quite the diplomat” – part autobiography, half recent history and a third political philosophy text. It is a fascinating insight into the international community of the last 3 decades. The book has really challenged some of my political beliefs – which I thought were pretty unshakeable – and one above all others, the EU. I read this book to help me decide who I should vote for in the upcoming MEP elections. I have to make a confession, my political views are on the right of the centre and I have always been quite a strong “Eurosceptic”. Although recently, I have found myself drifting further and further into the camp of “we must pull out of Europe at all costs” but Mr Patten’s arguments and insights have definitely made me question this stance. With the European Parliamentary elections coming up, I thought it might be an interesting time to put some ideas out there for discussion. From a young age, I have always been of the opinion that Great Britain is a world leading country, a still great power, one of the best countries in the world - democratic, tolerant, fair, sensible - and that we don’t need anyone else’s “help” or interference in how our country is run. I believe that British voters should have a democratic input on the rules that govern them. To borrow an American phrase “No taxation without representation!” I believe that democracy is not perfect but that it is the best system of government that humans have been able to develop. For all of its faults, voters normally swing back to the centre ground eventually and any silly policies can be undone. This system has inherently more checks and balances than any meritocracy, oligarchy or bureaucracy (taking it literally to mean being ruled by unelected officials). This is one of my major objections to how the European Union currently works. For all intents and purposes, it is not democratic. Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. Only one of these institutions is elected by the European demos (the parliament) and that institution doesn’t really make any changes to any policies – “the rubber stamp brigade”. The European Council is made up of the President of the European Council (Unelected), President of the European commission (Unelected) and the heads of the member states (elected) and is where quite a lot of the "major" policies come from but not all of the read tape (the European Commission and Parliament). I am happy to be proved wrong but it just seems that the EU, as a whole, is made up of unelected officials who increasing try to make rules that apply to all 28 member states without any consent from the voters in those states – it looks like the rule of “b-euro-crats” (bureaucrats – this version has far too many vowels for a dyslexic person to use). A beurocratic rule which many of us do not agree with but seemingly have to succumb to, a good example for medics is the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) which means that junior doctors only get paid for working 48h a week when they may spend many, many more hours in work. The EWTD has also made training a lot more difficult for many junior doctors and has many implications for how the health service is now run. Is it right that this law was imposed on us without our consent? If we imposed a treatment on a patient without their consent then we would be in very big trouble indeed! I cannot deny that the EU has done some good in the world and I cannot deny that Britain has benefited from being a member. I just wish that we could pay to have access to the markets, while retaining control over the laws in our lands. I want us to be in Europe, as a partner but not as a vassal. In short, I would like us to stay within the EU but with major reforms. I know that any reforms I suggest will not be read by anyone in power and I know they are probably unrealistic but I thought I would put it out there just to see what people think. I would like to see a NICE’er European Union. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB), part of the UK Department of Health but a separate organisation (http://www.nice.org.uk/aboutnice/whoweare/who_we_are.jsp). NICE’s role is to advise the UK health service and social services. It does this by assessing the available evidence for treatments/ therapies/ policies etc and then by producing guidelines outlining the evidence and the suggested best course of action. None of these guidelines are enforced by law, for example, as a doctor you do not have to follow the NICE recommendations but if you ignore them and your patient suffers as a consequence then you are likely to be in big trouble with the General Medical Council. So, here would be my recommendations for EU reform: First, we all pay pretty much the same as we do now for access to the European market. We continue with free movement and we keep the European Council but elect the President. This way all the member states can meet up and decide if they want to share any major policies. We all benefit from free movement and we all benefit from a larger free trade area. Second, we get rid of most of the rest of the EU institutions and replace them with an institute a bit like NICE. The European Institute for Policy Excellence (EIPE) would be (hopefully) quite a small department that looks at the best available evidence and then produces guidance on the policy. A shorter executive summary would hopefully also be available for everyday people to read and understand what the policy is about - just like how patients can read NICE executive summaries to understand their condition better. Then any member state could choose to adopt the policy if their parliaments think it worthwhile. This voluntary opt-in system would mean that states retain control of their laws, would probably adopt the policies voluntarily (eventually) and that the European citizens might actually grow to like the EU laws if they can be shown to be evidence based, in the public’s best interests, in the control of the public and not just a law/red tape imposed from above. The European Union should be a place where our elected officials go to debate and agree policies in the best interests of their electorates. There should therefore be an opt-out of any policy for any member state that does not think it will benefit from a policy. This looser union that I would like to see will probably not happen and I do worry that one day we will wake up in the undemocratic united federal states of Europe but this worry should not force us to make an irrational choice now. We should not be voting to "leave the EU at all costs" but we should be voting for reform and a better more co-operative international community. I would not dare suggest who any of you should vote for but I hope you use your vote for change and reform and not more of the same.  
jacob matthews
over 3 years ago
264659b01a5033e613c1f90588f2122f
8
163

Like being at your own funeral - without the inconvenience of dying

I’m sure there are times when all us GPs feel under-appreciated — by our patients, staff, specialist colleagues or society in general. You can’t blame them for sometimes taking us for granted — it’s part of the human condition. People don’t value what they have until they lose it, whether “it” is the ability to walk or a domestic fairy who makes sure there’s always spare toilet paper. It’s a common lament that we can’t be at our own funerals to hear how much we’re loved. Mind you, eulogies are rarely objective and balanced. Nonetheless, it’s a pity we’re not around to hear the praise — deserved or otherwise — that is expressed once we’re gone. The long-serving, somewhat-taken-for-granted GP has a non-fatal way of bringing out the appreciation in his or her patients and staff: moving on. After 10 years of GP-ing in the Noosa hinterland and a lifetime of living in south-east Queensland, I headed south of the border: to northern NSW. The hardest part of the move for me — harder than selling my house in a depressed market, harder than dealing with banks, builders, real estate agents, solicitors and Australia Post, harder even than trying to get rational answers out of my telecommunications company after they cut off my internet and phone prematurely — was telling my patients that I was leaving. I knew many of my patients were very attached. I knew they’d come to me expecting to receive a loyal, life-long partner kind of doctoring, rather than the one-night-stand variety. But I had no idea how difficult it would be to break the “I’m leaving you” news again and again and again. Hard as breaking up a relationship may be, at least you only have to do it once when you leave a romantic partnership. For me, telling patients I was leaving felt a bit like breaking up with hundreds of boyfriends, one after the other after the other. You may interpret this as my being too close to my patients or not close enough to my boyfriends, but the fact is I found the protracted process exhausting, emotionally draining and just plain horrible. The “it’s not you, it’s me” part goes without saying and I know I am far from irreplaceable, but seeing the tears well up in countless eyes because of the words I’ve uttered was enough to break my tender heart. Looking on the bright side, as I am wont to do, if I’d ever felt under-appreciated, I sure don’t now. I received more expressions of gratitude in those last three months than I did in the previous decade. To hear how influential I was in some of my patients’ lives put a warm glow in my battered heart. And as much as it hurt me to see my patients upset, it probably would’ve hurt me more if they’d been completely indifferent to my leaving. However, I did please someone. Mrs L had been trying for years to get her husband to agree to move interstate to be near family. His last remaining excuse was that his multiple complex medical problems meant that he couldn’t possibly leave me, his long-term GP. A grateful Mrs L rang me within hours of my informing them of my impending departure to say: “He’s finally come around. Thank you so much for deciding to leave us.” It’s nice to be appreciated! (This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor www.australiandoctor.com.au/opinions/the-last-word/the-last-word-on-moving-on- ) Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/  
Dr Genevieve Yates
over 3 years ago
8
2
142

A Modest Man

The registrar's face was taking on a testy look. So enduring was the silence our furtive glances had developed a nystagmic quality. “Galactosaemia” came her peremptory reply. Right on queue the disjointed chorus of ahs and head nods did little to hide our mental whiteboard of differentials being wiped clean. At the time conjugated bilirubinaemia in children only meant one thing: biliary atresia. A fair assumption; we were sitting in one of three specialist centres in the country equipped to treat these patients. Ironically the condition has become the unwieldy yardstick I now measure the incidence of paediatric disease. Biliary atresia is the most common surgical cause of neonatal jaundice with a reported incidence of 1 in 14-16ooo live births in the West. It is described as a progressive inflammatory obliteration of the extrahapatic bile duct. And Dr Charles West, the founder of Great Ormond Street Hospital, offers an eloquent description of the presenting triad of prolonged jaundice, pale acholic stools and dark yellow urine: ‘Case 18...It was born at full term, though small, apparently healthy. At 3 days however, it began to get yellow and at the end of 3 weeks was very yellow. Her motions at no time after the second day appeared natural on examination, but were white, like cream, and her urine was very high coloured.’ 1855 was the year of Dr West's hospital note. An almost universally fatal diagnosis and it would remain so for the next 100 years. The time's primordial classification of biliary atresia afforded children with the 'noncorrectable' type, a complete absence of patent extrahepatic bile duct, an unfortunate label; they were beyond saving. Having discovered the extent of disease at laparatomy, the surgeons would normally close the wound. The venerable Harvardian surgeon, Robert E. Gross saved an enigmatic observation: “In most instances death followed a downhill course…” K-A-S-A-I read the ward’s board. It was scrawled under half the children's names. I dismissed it as just another devilishly hard acronym to forget. The thought of an eponymous procedure had escaped me and in biliary atresia circles, it's the name everyone should know: Dr Morio Kasai. Originating from Aomori prefecture, Honshu, Japan, Dr Kasai graduated from the National Tohoku University School of Medicine in 1947. His ascension was rapid, having joined the 2nd department of Surgery as a general surgeon, he would assume the role of Assistant Professor in 1953. The department, under the tenure of Professor Shigetsugu Katsura, shared a healthy interest in research. 1955 was the landmark year. Katsura and Kasai operated on their first case: a 72 day old infant. Due to bleeding at the incised porta hepatis, Katsura is said to have 'placed' the duodenum over the site in order to staunch the flow. She made a spectacular postoperative recovery, the jaundice had faded and there was bile pigment in her stool. During the second case, Katsura elected to join the unopened duodenum to the porta hepatis. Sadly the patient's jaundice did not recover, but the post-mortem conducted by Kasai confirmed the development of a spontaneous internal biliary fistula connecting the internal hepatic ducts to the duodenum. Histological inspection of removed extrahepatic duct showed the existence of microscopic biliary channels, hundreds of microns in diameter. Kasai made a pivotal assertion: the transection of the fibrous cord of the obliterated duct must contain these channels before anastomosis with the jejunal limb Roux-en-Y loop. This would ensure communication between the porta hepatis and the intrahepatic biliary system. The operation, entitled hepatic portoenterostomy, was first performed as a planned procedure for the third case at Tohoku. Bile flow was restored and Kasai published the details of the new technique in the Japanese journal Shujutsu in 1959. However, news of this development did not dawn on the West until 1968 in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery. The success of the operation and its refined iterations were eventually recognized and adopted in the 1970s. The operation was and is not without its dangers. Cholangitis, portal hypertension, malnutrition and hepatopulmonary syndrome are the cardinal complications. While diagnosing and operating early (<8 weeks) are essential to the outcome, antibiotic prophylaxis and nutritional support are invaluable prognostic factors. Post operatively, the early clearance of jaundice (within 3 months) and absence of liver cirrhosis on biopsy, are promising signs. At UK centres the survival after a successful procedure is 80%. The concurrent development of liver transplantation boosts this percentage to 90%. Among children, biliary atresia is the commonest indication for transplantation; by five years post-Kasai, 45% will have undergone the procedure. On the 6th December 2008, Dr Kasai passed away. He was 86 years old and had been battling the complications of a stroke he suffered in 1999. His contemporaries and disciples paint a humble and colourful character. A keen skier and mountaineer, Dr Kasai lead the Tohoku University mountain-climbing team to the top of the Nyainquntanglha Mountains, the highest peaks of the Tibetan highlands. It was the first successful expedition of its kind in the world. He carried through this pioneering spirit into his professional life. Paediatric surgery was not a recognized specialty in Japan. By founding and chairing multiple associations including the Japanese Society of Pediatric Surgeons, Dr Kasai gave his specialty and biliary atresia, the attention it deserved. Despite numerous accolades of international acclaim for his contributions to paediatric surgery, Dr Kasai insisted his department refer to his operation as the hepatic portoenterostomy; the rest of the world paid its originator the respect of calling it the ‘Kasia’. Upon completion of their training, he would give each of his surgeons a hand-written form of the word ‘Soshin’ [simple mind], as he believed a modest surgeon was a good one. At 5 foot 2, Kasai cut a more diminutive figure one might expect for an Emeritus Professor and Hospital Director of a university hospital. During the course of his lifetime he had developed the procedure and lived to see its fruition. The Kasia remains the gold standard treatment for biliary atresia; it has been the shinning light for what Willis J. Potts called the darkest chapter in paediatric surgery. It earned Dr Kasai an affectionate but apt name among his peers, the small giant. References Miyano T. Morio Kasai, MD, 1922–2008. Pediatr Surg Int. 2009;25(4):307–308. Garcia A V, Cowles RA, Kato T, Hardy MA. Morio Kasai: a remarkable impact beyond the Kasai procedure. J Pediatr Surg. 2012;47(5):1023–1027. Mowat AP. Biliary atresia into the 21st century: A historical perspective. Hepatology. 1996;23(6):1693–1695. Ohi R. A history of the Kasai operation: Hepatic portoenterostomy for biliary atresia. World J Surg. 1988;12(6):871–874. Ohi R. Morio Kasai, MD 1922-2008. J Pediatr Surg. 2009;44(3):481–482. Lewis N, Millar A. Biliary atresia. Surg. 2007;25(7):291–294. This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, April 2014 issue.  
James Wong
over 3 years ago
7
2
86

Doing more with less: own Pride and Joy.

“There is nothing new under the sun” - Ecclesiastes 1:4-11. If any of you have read one of my blogs before you will have realised that I am a huge fan of books. The blog I am writing today is also about a book, but more than that, it is about an idea. The idea is simple, practical and nothing especially new. It is an idea that many call common sense but few call common practice. It is an idea that has been used in every sort of organisation for over 20 years. It is an idea that needs to be applied on a greater scale to the health service. The idea is not new. How the book is written is not new. But how the book explains the idea and applies it to healthcare is new and it will change how you view the health service. It is a revolutionary book. The book is called “Pride and Joy” by Alex Knight view here. How I came to read this book is a classic story of a Brownian motion (a chance encounter), leading to an altered life trajectory. The summer before starting medical school I was working as a labourer cleaning out a chaps guttering. During a tea break in the hot summer sun he asked me what I was going to study at Uni. As soon as I said “Medicine”, he said “then you need to come see this”. He took me into his office and showed me a presentation he had given the year before about a hospital in Ireland. He was a management consultant and had been applying a management theory he had learned while working in industry. With his help the hospital had managed to reduce waiting times by a huge amount. The management theory he was applying is called "The Theory of Constraints" (TOC). I thought that his presentation was fascinating and I could not understand why it was not more widely applied. I went away and read the books he suggested and promised that I would stay in touch. Four years later and I had been exposed to enough of the clinical environment to realise that something needs to change in how the health service is run. To this end, a couple of colleagues and myself founded the Birmingham Medical Leadership society (BMLS) with help from the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM). The aim of which is to help healthcare students and professionals understand the systems they are working in. The first thing I did after founding the society was contact that friendly management consultant and ask him for his advice on what we should cover. He immediately put me in contact with QFI consulting, @QFIConsulting. This small firm has been working with hospitals all over the world to implement this simple theory called the Theory of Constraints. They were absolutely fantastic and within 2 emails had promised to come to Birmingham to run a completely free workshop for our society’s members. The workshop was on March 8th at Birmingham Medical School. Through our society’s contacts we managed to encourage 15 local students to take a revision break to attend the workshop on a sunny Saturday. We were also able to find 11 local registrars/ consultants who wanted to improve their management knowledge. It just so happens that the chap leading this workshop was Mr Alex Knight. The workshop sparked all of our interests and when he mentioned that he had just written a book, pretty much the whole crowd asked for a copy. When I got my copy, I thought I would leave it to read for after my end of year exams. However, I got very bored a few days before the first written paper and needed a revision break – so I decided that reading a few pages here and there wouldn't hurt. Trouble was that this book was a page turner and I soon couldn't put it down. I won’t spoil the book for all of you out there, who I hope will read it. I shall just say that if you are interested in healthcare, training to work in healthcare, already work in healthcare or just want a riveting book to read by the pool then you really should read it. The basic premise is that healthcare is getting more expensive and yet there appears to be an increase in the number of healthcare crises'. So if more money isn't making healthcare better, then maybe it is time to try a different approach. “Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” – Edward Land, inventor of the Polaroid Camera. Mr Land was a wise man and I can happily say that I have no conflict of interest in writing this blog. I have not been promised anything in return for this glowing review. The only reason that I have written this is because I believe it is important for people to have a greater understanding of how the health service works and what we can do to make it even better! As a very junior healthcare professional, there is not much that we can do on a practical level but that does not mean we are impotent. We can still share best practice and show our enthusiasm for new approaches. Healthcare students and professionals, if you care about how your service works and you want to help make it better. Please find a copy of this book and read it. It won’t take you long and I promise that it will have an impact on you. NB - Note all of the folded down corners. These pages have something insightful that I want to read again... there are a lot of folded pages!  
jacob matthews
over 3 years ago
71349e910c9a4176d3777c81989ae38b
14
232

Chronic: How one word can change everything

So, I think its about time I posted another blog post! A few weeks ago I received the results from my most recent scan. I was both nervous and excited to find out my results, after months of tests and being misdiagnosed several times I just wanted to know what was wrong with me. However, as I read through the letter from my consultant I realised that my journey was just beginning. I was diagnosed with a rare stomach condition. Gastroparesis. A chronic illness. There is no known cure, just various treatments with limited success. I didn’t really know how to react to this news. Shouldn’t I be happy that I finally knew what was wrong? I had convinced myself for months that as soon as the doctors found out what was wrong, they could fix it and I’d be better in no time, but this wasn’t to be. I couldn’t understand how this could happen. Slowly the reality began to sink in, I’ll probably be fighting this battle for the rest of my life. I think the mental aspect of chronic conditions is so commonly overlooked. I’ve sat through endless lectures about the pathophysiology of illnesses but I’ve never once stopped to think what it must be like to actually have it. The way it can limit your life, from not being able to go for a drink with friends because you’re in too much pain to the countless hospital appointments that your life seems to revolve around. The thing that hit me the most is the amount of medications I have to take on a daily basis just to make my symptoms bearable. I no longer have full control of my life and that's the worst part. This experience has given me an invaluable insight into how patients with chronic illness feel. It affects almost every aspect of your life and you can never escape. It scares me to think of the future, I never know when I’m going to get my next flare up or how long its going to last. I just have to take one day at a time and hope that when I wake up tomorrow I won’t be too nauseous. After spending a few weeks feeling down about it all, I’ve realised that I just have to enjoy life when I can and be grateful that I can still live a normal-ish life. It doesn’t matter how much I complain, it's not going to go away, and I think I’ve finally accepted that fact. If anything, this experience has made me more determined to achieve my dream of becoming a doctor. I’ve been a lot more motivated to work harder so that one day I can help others like me through some of their toughest times, hopefully bringing them some comfort and relief.  
Nicole Mooney
over 3 years ago
0f330341759c47a5c52df6326ebdca7c
4
98

Wikipedia - help or hindrance?

It’s quick, it’s easy and we’ve all done it. Don’t blush, whether it’s at our leisure or behind the consultant’s back we can confess to having used the world’s sixth most popular website. You might have seen it, sitting pride of place on the podium of practically any Google result page. Of course, it’s the tell tale sign of one of Web 2.0’s speediest and most successful offspring, Wikipedia. Now for fear of patronizing a generation who have sucked on the teat of this resource since its fledgling years, the formalities will remain delightfully short. Wikipedia is the free, multilingual, online encyclopedia, which harnesses the collective intelligence of the world’s internet users to produce a collaboratively written and openly modifiable body of knowledge. The technology it runs on is a highly flexible web application called wiki. It is open-source software; hence the explosion of wiki sites all united under the banner of combined authorship. Anyone with internet access can edit the content and do so with relative anonymity. It would be unthinkable that a source, which does not prioritize the fidelity of its content, could possibly play a role in medical education. How ironic it seems that medical students can waste hours pondering which textbook to swear their allegiance for the forthcoming rotation, yet not spare a second thought typing their next medical query into Wikipedia. Evidently it has carved itself a niche and not just among medical students, but healthcare professionals as well. According to a small qualitative study published in the International Journal of Medical Informatics, 70% of their sample, which comprised of graduates from London medical schools currently at FY2 and ST1 level, used Wikipedia in a given week for ‘clinical purposes’. These ranged from general background reading to double checking a differential and looking up medications. We are so ensnared by the allure of instantaneous enlightenment; it’s somewhat comparable to relieving an itch. "Just Google it..." is common parlance. We need that quick fix. When the consultant asks about his or her favourite eponymous syndrome or you’re a little short on ammunition before a tutorial, the breadth and ease-of-use offered by a service accessible from our phones is a clandestine escape. The concept of Wikipedia, the idea that its articles are in a way living bodies because of the continual editing process, is its strength. Conversely textbooks are to a degree outmoded by the time they reach their publication date. While I commend the contributors of Wikipedia for at least trying to bolster their pages with references to high impact journals, it does not soften the fact that the authorship is unverifiable. Visitors, lay people, registered members under some less than flattering pseudonyms such as Epicgenius and Mean as custard, don’t impart the sense of credibility students (or for that matter patients)expect from an encyclopedia. Since the prestige of direct authorship if off the cards, it does beg the question of what is their motivation and I’m afraid ‘the pursuit of knowledge and improving humanity’s lot' is the quaint response. There is a distinct lack of transparency. It has become a playground where a contributor can impress his/her particular theory regarding a controversial subject unchallenged. Considering there is no direct ownership of the article, who then has the authority to curate the multiple theories on offer and portray a balanced view? Does an edit war ensue? It is not unheard of for drug representatives to tailor articles detailing their product and erase the less pleasant side-effects. Obviously Wikipedia is not unguarded, defences are in place and there is such a thing as quality control. Recent changes will come under the scrutiny of more established editors, pages that are particularly prone to vandalism are vetted and there are a special breed of editors called administrators, who uphold a custodial post, blocking and banishing rebellious editors. A study featured in the First Monday journal put Wikipedia to the test by deliberately slipping minor errors into the entries of past philosophers. Within 48 hours half of these errors had been addressed. Evidently, the service has the potential to improve over time; provided there is a pool of committed and qualified editors. Wikiproject Medicine is such a group of trusted editors composed primarily of doctors, medical students, nurses, clinical scientists and patients. Since 2004, its two hundred or so participants have graded an excess of 25,000 health-related articles according to quality parameters not dissimilar to peer review. However, the vast majority of articles are in a state of intermediate quality, somewhere between a stub and featured article. Having some degree of professional input towards a service as far reaching as Wikipedia will no doubt have an impact on global health, particularly in developing countries where internet access is considered a luxury. March this year saw the medical pages of the English Wikipedia reach a lofty 249,386,264 hits. Its ubiquity is enviable; it maintains a commanding lead over competing medical websites. The accessibility of this information has catapulted Wikipedia far beyond its scope as a humble encyclopedia and into a medical resource. Patients arrive to clinics armed with the printouts. As future doctors we will have to be just that one step ahead, to recognise the limitations of a source that does not put a premium on provenance but is nevertheless the current public health tool of choice. Illustrator Edward Wong This blog post is a reproduction of an article published in the Medical Student Newspaper, November 2013 issue.  
James Wong
over 3 years ago
E38463a676d1c7becc367032109f56bd
3
161

Monkey See, Monkey Do.

So you're sitting in a bus when you see a baby smile sunnily and gurgle at his mother. Your automatic response? You smile too. You're jogging in the park, when you see a guy trip over his shoelaces and fall while running. Your knee jerk reaction? You wince. Even though you're completely fine and unscathed yourself. Or, to give a more dramatic example; you're watching Titanic for the umpteenth time and as you witness Jack and Rose's final moments together, you automatically reach for a tissue and wipe your tears in whole hearted sympathy ( and maybe blow your nose loudly, if you're an unattractive crier like yours truly). And here the question arises- why? Why do we experience the above mentioned responses to situations that have nothing to do with us directly? As mere passive observers, what makes us respond at gut level to someone else's happiness or pain, delight or excitement, disgust or fear? In other words, where is this instinctive response to other people's feelings and actions that we call empathy coming from? Science believes it may have discovered the answer- mirror neurons. In the early 1990s, a group of scientists (I won't bore you with the details of who, when and where) were performing experiments on a bunch of macaque monkeys, using electrodes attached to their brains. Quite by accident, it was discovered that when the monkey saw a scientist holding up a peanut, it fired off the same motor neurons in its brain that would fire when the monkey held up a peanut itself. And that wasn't all. Interestingly, they also found that these motor neurons were very specific in their actions. A mirror neuron that fired when the monkey grasped a peanut would also fire only when the experimenter grasped a peanut, while a neuron that fired when the monkey put a peanut in its mouth would also fire only when the experimenter put a peanut in his own mouth. These motor neurons came to be dubbed as 'mirror neurons'. It was a small leap from monkeys to humans. And with the discovery of a similar, if not identical mirror neuron system in humans, the studies, hypotheses and theories continue to build. The strange thing is that mirror neurons seem specially designed to respond to actions with clear goals- whether these actions reach us through sight, sound, smell etc, it doesn't matter. A quick example- the same mirror neurons will fire when we hop on one leg, see someone hopping, hear someone hopping or hear or read the word 'hop'. But they will NOT respond to meaningless gestures, random or pointless sounds etc. Instead they may well be understanding the intentions behind the related action. This has led to a very important hypothesis- the 'action understanding' ability of mirror neurons. Before the discovery of mirror neurons, scientists believed our ability to understand each other, to interpret and respond to another's feeling or actions was the result of a logical thought process and deduction. However, if this 'action understanding' hypothesis is proved right, then it would mean that we respond to each other by feeling, instead of thinking. For instance, if someone smiles at you, it automatically fires up your mirror neurons for smiling. They 'understand the action' and induce the same sensation within you that is associated with smiling. You don't have to think about what the other person intends by this gesture. Your smile flows thoughtlessly and effortlessly in return. Which brings us to yet another important curve- if mirror neurons are helping us to decode facial expressions and actions, then it stands to reason that those gifted people who are better at such complex social interpretations must be having a more active mirror neuron system.(Imagine your mom's strained smile coupled with the glint in her eye after you've just thrown a temper tantrum in front of a roomful of people...it promises dire retribution my friends. Trust me.) Then does this mean that people suffering from disorders such as autism (where social interactions are difficult) have a dysfunctional or less than perfect mirror neuron system in some way? Some scientists believe it to be so. They call it the 'broken mirror hypothesis', where they claim that malfunctioning mirror neurons may be responsible for an autistic individual's inability to understand the intention behind other people's gestures or expressions. Such people may be able to correctly identify an emotion on someone's face, but they wouldn't understand it's significance. From observing other people, they don't know what it feels like to be sad, angry, surprised or scared. However, the jury is still out on this one folks. The broken mirror hypothesis has been questioned by others who are still skeptical about the very existence of these wonder neurons, or just how it is that these neurons alone suffered such a developmental hit when the rest of the autistic brain is working just dandy? Other scientists argue that while mirror neurons may help your brain to understand a concept, they may not necessarily ENCODE that concept. For instance, babies understand the meaning behind many actions without having the motor ability to perform them. If this is true, then an autistic person's mirror neurons are perfectly fine...they were just never responsible for his lack of empathy in the first place. Slightly confused? Curious to find out more about these wunderkinds of the human brain? Join the club. Whether you're an passionate believer in these little fellas with their seemingly magical properties or still skeptical, let me add to your growing interest with one parting shot- since imitation appears to be the primary function of mirror neurons, they might well be partly responsible for our cultural evolution! How, you ask? Well, since culture is passed down from one generation to another through sharing, observation followed by imitation, these neurons are at the forefront of our lifelong learning from those around us. Research has found that mirror neurons kick in at birth, with infants just a few minutes old sticking their tongues out at adults doing the same thing. So do these mirror neurons embody our humanity? Are they responsible for our ability to put ourselves in another person's shoes, to empathize and communicate our fellow human beings? That has yet to be determined. But after decades of research, one thing is for sure-these strange cells haven't yet ceased to amaze and we definitely haven't seen the last of them. To quote Alice in Wonderland, the tale keeps getting "curiouser and curiouser"!  
Huda Qadir
over 3 years ago
3fc6792963ef4dd6c580391abb625885
6
164

A Review of My Psychiatry Rotation

This field of medicine requires much more physiological and pathophysiological knowledge than most people give it credit for. Psychiatric illness DO have physical manifestations of symptoms; in fact those symptoms help form the main criteria for differential diagnoses. For example, key physical symptoms of depression, besides having a low mood for more than two weeks (yes, two weeks is all it takes to be classified as 'depressed'), include fatigue, change in appetite, unexplained aches/pains, changes in menstrual cycle if you're a female, altered bowel habits, abnormal sleep, etc. Aside from this, studies suggest that psychiatric illnesses put you at higher risk for physical conditions including heart disease, osteoarthritis, etc. (the list really does go on) Although some mental health conditions, like cognitive impairments, still do not have very effective treatment options; most psychiatric medications work very well, and are necessary for treating the patient. The stigma surrounding them by the public causes a huge problem for doctors. Many patients are reluctant to comply with medications because they are not as widely accepted as the ones for non-mental health conditions. A psychiatrist holds a huge responsibility for patient education. It can be tough to teach your patients about their medication, when many of them refuse to belief there is anything wrong with them (this is also because of stigma). Contrary to my previous beliefs, psychiatrists DO NOT sit around talking about feelings all day. The stereotypical image of someone lying down on a couch talking about their thoughts/feelings while the doctor holds up ink blots, is done more in 'cognitive behavioural therapy.' While this is a vital healthcare service, it's not really what a psychiatrist does. Taking a psychiatric history is just like taking a regular, structured medical history; except you have to ask further questions about their personal history (their relationships, professional life, significant life events, etc), forensic history, substance misuse history (if applicable), and childhood/developmental history. Taking a psychiatric history for a new patient usually takes at least an hour. The interesting thing about about treating a psychiatric patient is that the best guidelines you have for making them healthy is their personality before the symptoms started (this is called 'pre-morbid personality'). This can be difficult to establish, and can often be an ambiguous goal for a doctor to reach. Of course, there is structure/protocol for each illness, but each patient will be unique. This is a challenge because personalities constantly evolve, healthy or not, and the human mind is perpetual. On top of this, whether mental or physical, a serious illness usually significally impacts a person's personality. Most psychiatric conditions, while being very treatable, will affect the patient will struggle with for their whole life. This leaves the psychiatrist with a large portion of the responsibility for the patient's quality of life and well-being; this can be vey rewarding and challenging. The state of a person's mind is a perpetual thing, choosing the right medication is not enough. Before I had done this rotation, I was quite sure that this was a field I was not interested in. I still don't know if it is something I would pursue, but I'm definitely more open-minded to it now! PS: It has also taught me some valuable life lessons; most of the patients I met were just ordinary people who were pushed a little too far by the unfortunate combination/sequence of circumstances in their life. Even the ones who have committed crimes or were capable of doing awful things.. It could happen to anyone, and just because I have been lucky enough to not experience the things those people have, does not mean I am a better person for not behaving the same way as them.  
Mary
over 3 years ago
2
2
61

Extolling the benefits of learning plans

“You’re a boring whore! Fix it.” The barked criticism came like a slap in the face. The director of Les Miserables was right, though. I was a boring whore. Actors need to immerse themselves in their roles, shed inhibitions and squelch embarrassment. I was not managing to do this while rehearsing the Lovely Ladies prostitute scene. My performance was overly self-conscious and restrained. Three days later I found myself at a medical education conference, attending a session discussing learning plans. A popular tool in adult education generally, and a training requirement for all GP registrars, learning plans are actively disliked by many. Done purposely and thoughtfully, they can be of great benefit; completed hastily or reluctantly because they are compulsory, they are next to useless. I have to confess that, as a registrar, my own learning plans were dashed off with little thought, submitted and then promptly forgotten. I’d never thought this technique would work for me. At the conference, the attending educators were instructed to each write a learning plan that addressed an aspect of their non-medical lives. We were asked to choose something that we genuinely wanted to improve. I instantly knew what I’d write about, and completed the task with seriousness and sincerity. The facilitator randomly picked a few participants to read out their learning plans. The topics were predictable: “I want to exercise each morning”, “I want to get at least seven hours of sleep a night” and the like. Yes, you can see where this is leading ... I should have anticipated being called upon, but when the “We have time for one more, how about you?” came, along with direct eye contact and a kindly smile, I momentarily panicked. Surveying the room of mostly middle-aged, male faces, many of whom I didn’t know, I considered making something up on the spot. Instead, I stood up, took a deep breath and read out: “I want to be a more exciting whore.” I then outlined my proposed methods for achieving this objective and how I intended to measure my progress. Without explanation, I then sat down. Silence. Not a sound. Most eyes were glued to me, the others looking anywhere but. The atmosphere was thick with shock, amusement, confusion, suspense and fascination. I didn’t leave them hanging for too long. After my disclosure as to why I chose the topic and the context in which I was “whoring”, there were audible sighs of relief and a sprinkling of laughter throughout the room. It was memorable for those present. Four years later, I still get the occasional question about my “whoring” when I run into certain educators at conferences. I am pleased to report that my learning plan well and truly achieved its aim. I enacted my plan exactly as written and practised diligently. I knew I had been successful when the director instructed me to “Tone it down a bit. This is a family show, you know!” I now feel a lot more comfortable extolling the benefits of learning plans to unconvinced registrars. I tell them: “I used to think that I wasn’t a learning plan-type person either but I’ve discovered that if you choose a relevant and important objective and spend time and effort working out how to achieve it, the technique can really work.” I tend to leave out: “It didn’t do much for my medicine, but it turned me into a fabulous whore.” This blog post has been adapted from a column first published in Australian Doctor. Dr Genevieve Yates is an Australian GP, medical educator, medico-legal presenter and writer. You can read more of her work at http://genevieveyates.com/  
Dr Genevieve Yates
over 3 years ago