What You Need to Know about the Novel Coronavirus

Unless you’ve been strictly limiting your media consumption to reviews of the midseason finale of The Walking Dead, you’ve probably heard of a novel coronavirus that is causing a bit of bother among public health officials. In this post I’ll try to summarize and explain the evolving situation and highlight the current advice for the US public. In December, a coronavirus that had never before been detected in humans began making people sick in Wuhan City, China. Since that time More

This Might Be a Great Time to Quit Vaping

People in North and South America have been smoking tobacco for millennia. The reason is simple. Tobacco contains nicotine, a highly addictive stimulant. So smoking tobacco feels good and is difficult to quit. After being introduced to Europe, smoking became very popular, because it feels good and is difficult to quit. It wasn’t until the 1950s that the association between smoking and lung cancer was confirmed. Electronic cigarettes (also called e-cigarettes, vape pens) in contrast, have ...

Raining on the Ice Bucket Parade

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a truly horrible illness. It is a progressive fatal neurodegenerative disorder that leads to worsening muscle weakness. Weakness in the limbs initially makes handwriting sloppy and makes it hard to button clothes and eventually causes paralysis. Patients also develop weakness in the muscles that control swallowing and speech, eventually requiring them to use feeding tubes and computer text-to-speech software. Ev...

Suicide Contagion in the Age of Social Media

In every life we have some trouble When you worry you make it double Don’t worry. Be happy.

It will soon pass, whatever it is. Don’t worry. Be happy. -- Bobby McFerrin

Much has already been written in reaction to Robin Williams’s untimely death, about his incandescent talent, his prolific career, his decency and kindness, his addiction and his mental illness. His death robbed his fans of many more years of his genius and...

On Medicine and Absolution

… or Reflections on Yom Kippur

“My heart is blighted like grass, and withered, for I forget to eat my bread.” -- A patient’s prayer, Psalm 102

[None of the anecdotes in this post are descriptions of any specific patient. They are amalgams of many patients. Specific details have been distorted or invented to preserve anonymity.] I diagnose and treat medical problems. I love doing it. Sometimes I make a big difference in someone’s life. More often, I just reassur...

Learning from Massachusetts

In 2006 Massachusetts passed sweeping health care reform which provided for insurance coverage for nearly all of its residents. In 2010 the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed at the federal level which will enact very similar reforms nationally. While the US Senate was debating the...