Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Thursday, January 29, 2009
    Too Funny

    Hat tip to Treacher for his link to this website. You can Obama-fy any picture you'd like. As follows:

    Or this one:

    Or this one!


    Wednesday, January 28, 2009
    I'm Home

    Q: How do you know when you're back in L.A.?

    A: You wake to the drone of a helicopter hovering in your neighborhood.

    Finally, I'm back. This is the longest vacation I've taken in quite some time (I got back to the US yesterday and don't go back to work till Friday). The 10 freeway is down due to fatal accident - apparently some dude driving the wrong way. It happened in my neck of the woods, so I assume traffic on city streets is going to be really bad; have not left the house yet to test this theory.

    It was one of those "herd 'em on the bus and go out to see the sights" kind of vacations, but considering we were in the Middle East this was by far the best option to choose. Specifically, my parents, my aunt and I toured Egypt and Jordan. I'm really glad we went and I would recommend both of these countries as destinations, should you be wondering whether to go. We saw Roman ruins, monasteries, mosques, Biblical sites and (of course) the Pyramids. Flat Stanley played a large part in our tour as well and I'm glad he did, as it forced me to do some actual research and learn something about the area we were touring. We will hear from Flat Stanley in a later post.

    Our Egyptian tour guide was a sharp, amusing and tall fellow by the name of Achmed, very fluent in English. He gave us tons of information about Egyptian society, politics and history. His catchphrase was "Everything started in Egypt," and by the time he got through with us this didn't seem like much of an exaggeration. He's a self-described agnostic and was quite insistent that we not cover our heads at any of the mosques we toured - this stance actually got us evicted from one site. No one was wearing low-cut shirts or anything the least bit provocative, but the moment we entered the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo we were surrounded by a group of locals (no imams or anyone with authority, just kibitzers) and after five minutes of heated argument from Achmed, we left. Interestingly, when we toured a mosque in Jordan - supposedly a more developed/Westernized country - all the women in our party had to put on hooded robes that covered everything, including our heads. We did as we were told but were not particularly happy about it.

    Achmed also had some interesting analysis for us about how Egypt views the US, particularly its presidents. They loved JFK (predictably), but interestingly Nixon is respected there as well. This is partly because of his progressive stance on foreign policy and partly because, in the Middle East, Watergate is viewed pretty much as business as usual (Achmed quote: "What's the big deal?"). Per Achmed, the Egyptians really liked Clinton and hated GWB. When asked to comment further, he explained: "Bush should never have used the word 'crusade' after 9/11. The Crusades are a very bad memory in this part of the world. Then, when he said 'You are either with us or against us', this sounds like bin Laden. The people here, they don't like bin Laden either, but a bin Laden in a cave is no problem. He can't hurt anybody. A bin Laden in the White House, this is a big problem."

    Achmed also had some cogent comments the day of Obama's inauguration. "Nothing's going to change," he said, shaking his head. "Everybody here is so happy because they think Obama is going to change everything. But that is not the way your government is set up. It's not like here, where the head of state can do anything he wants. Nothing is going to change." Give that man a cigar, I thought. He's got American politics figured out better than most Americans.

    We did all watch the inauguration at our hotel in Luxor (it was 7 pm local time). The hotel had set up chairs for us in the lounge area. I hadn't felt strongly one way or the other about watching, but decided to join the group. It isn't partisan, but I just don't have much attention span for this sort of thing. Perhaps it's a character flaw, but Big Moments generally leave me uninterested, particularly if they involve speeches. I did feel sorry for the Obama kids, though, having to sit out of doors in the freezing cold. Their noses were clearly running.

    A side comment re: the inauguration. I spent a lot of time catching up on blogs today, and if I see one more comment along the lines of "I was so happy I've been in tears all day" I'm going to hurl. Seriously, people, get a life. My thoughts were more along the lines of Went well, nice speech, let's get on with it.

    And now I've got to get on with it and go run some errands. More later.


    Monday, January 12, 2009
    Off Track

    I'm going to be off the map for a bit; back at end of January. I'm traveling with my parents. Will let you know about it upon my return.


    Thursday, January 08, 2009
    The Doctors' Lounge

    As the kid of an MD I spent quite a lot of time - on Sundays, mostly - hanging out in hospitals. I used to sit and draw at the nurses' station as Dad rounded on patients. I recall meeting a pathologist who showed me some sort of chemical trick invoving phenolphthalein, which turned a colorless solution bright pink [or perhaps vice versa] - and then, for a finale, he drank it. (I am not making this up, I swear, and I know it involved phenolphthalein, but I don't recall the exact details. Any chemists out there want to help me out?) And I ate more Sunday dinners than I care to contemplate at the hospital cafeteria. This may be the source of my affection for greasy-spoon food: Anything is a step up after that.

    But the Doctors' Lounge was Terra Incognita. We only went there with Dad. He had to be there to give us the entree. Never mind that on Sunday afternoons there was usually only a solitary surgeon or anesthesiologist there watching sports on TV: to get in we had to be with Dad. It was a manly sort of place (this was the mid-1970's we're talking about) and only Real Doctors hung out there.

    I can still see the Lounge with its walnut paneled television in the corner, harvest gold upholstered couches and relentlessly bright, upbeat recessed ceiling lighting as though it were yesterday. That Lounge and the hospital that contained it no longer exists; it was torn down years ago (they built Assisted Living housing for seniors there in its place), but no matter. Every Doctors' Lounge I have ever been in was spiritually, if not physically, the same.

    Recently I've been thinking a lot about Doctors' Lounges because I've been spending a lot of time in them - specifically in the Lounge of Tertiary Medical Care Center. This is because I spend many Thursday mornings there for meetings. (If you are on staff at a hospital you immediately get hit up to serve on one or more committees. This is not absolutely mandatory, but only in the technical sense, so you might as well say yes. Being efficient, I chose only committees that meet on Thursdays - my day out of the office.)

    At any rate, Tertiary MCC has a pretty good Doctors' Lounge as these things go. It has windows, it has two televisions (and two computers), it has its own bathrooms, and it has free bagels and coffee (and bagel schmears) on weekday mornings. These may sound like minor details but trust me, they are not. If you have to drag yourself to the hospital at crack of dawn it will mean a lot to you to have coffee and something to eat when you get there. Likewise, if you have to spend weekends/holidays/Super Bowls at your workplace you will thank God to have a clean, well-lighted place for television there.

    I don't have air conditioning in my house, but TMCC does. In the summers that's important too. Therefore I have developed the habit of going to where I know I can get a decent bagel and cup of coffee, hang out, read the paper, schmooze and get work done - in short, the DL. The TMCC's computer system links to the Firm's electronic medical record system, so I can check labs and make phone calls while I'm waiting for my meetings to start. My efficiency increases exponentially while I'm there since you can't blog or surf the Net with some rabid intern breathing down your neck waiting to use the computer.

    In the Doctors' Lounge the television is always on and is always showing either news or sports. Female MDs are welcome, but you don't seem to see that many of them (except for the house staff) - decades after my initial exposure to it the DL is still mostly a manly place... perhaps the women have better things to do? There's always at least one retired MD reading the paper, arguing politics with somebody or watching TV. In our lounge there is one extremely elderly fellow who always seems to be there, and he gets there early: I arrived just before seven a.m. today and he showed up about fifteen minutes later. Interestingly, he seems to have no sense of time as he spent the 45 minutes or so before my meeting making social calls on the phone. (I heard "Oh, did I wake you up?" twice as I was checking labs and eating my bagel.)

    He is also hard of hearing. A friend of his came over and initiated the following conversation:

    "Did you get your juice today?" (repeated three times)

    My elderly friend finally registered the inquiry, blinked and answered: "You'll have to come over here. I can't hear you."

    Question repeated, he answered triumphantly: "Yes! I got my juice already!"

    Such is life in the Doctors' Lounge.

    Oops, he just wandered back in - gotta go before he reads this!

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