April 2011 Archives


It took me a while at first to realize that everyplace I saw a green cross, it was going to be a medical marijuana facility. After all, the green cross is some kind of an international symbol for a “druggist,” for someone who sells prescription drugs (primarily) as prescribed.  In France, as well as in Canada, I remember following such signs to get a prescription filled.medical marijuana

This one substance, this marijuana, is unique in a couple of ways. First, it is the only prescription drug that has never been required to be tested for safety or efficacy.  Second – there is no government oversight as to quality or purity.

Marijuana seems to be something that people want first, then figure out a reason for later. The results are not exactly what I consider beneficial. Read more on Medical Marijuana Can Become Big Business…

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I was commissioned a captain in the United States Army in a northern Midwest city.  The physician who examined me before I took the oath was senior and experienced and as avuncular as they come.

He said the most interesting people (and far and away the smartest) he got to meet in his life were commissioned women.  The one he had seen before me was a woman who had been a professional musician, a clarinetist I think, and was going straight to Wahington, D.C. to play in a dance band at the White House.  He told me about women rocket scientists and others. Me, I figured I was only a doctor, a half-trained neurosurgeon.  As a generalist he felt somehow he needed to show me enough respect. He really didn’t want to do a physical, so he did a cursory and discrete one, and I asked him about being a civilian physician attached to the military.  In particular, I asked him about neurological and psychiatric screening. Although he told me he knew how to do a pretty detailed neurological examination, he said he never had to do one.  Anyone with that kind of illness would, he thought, be likely to be screened out long before. After all, these were generally healthy young men.  Basically, the most important part of the examination was checking them for hernias. Read more on Military Mental Health — A Contradiction?…

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It takes a while, when you have something new, to know how bad it is going to end up being.

Marie Curie not only discovered radium – she discovered radiation poisoning.  The very work that earned her a Nobel prize killed her.

mushroom cloud

At that time, it had never happened before, so nobody knew what it was.  That was a long time before Chernobyl. And a longer time still before whatever happened in Japan.

I mean whatever happened.  We still don’t know exactly how much leaked out, and what it can cause to go wrong.  The Japanese have issued a kind apology.  They have even come up with a cute animated film to explain what is going on —  although there is no doubt in my mind that these are not the same people as those who issued the apology.

You can watch the video on the continuation page.

Read more on We Never Learn — And History Repeats Itself…

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Although I had been offered some academic scholarships after a pretty distinguished high school career, my parents had a great ritual. After formally declining them, I had to save and overlap (and trim) all of the letters and put them in a frame for the living room wall.

The idea of actually accepting one of them — they were all pretty far from the greater Boston area where we lived — never even came up.  As a precocious over-achiever, I had skipped a couple of grades and was only 15. They  told me I was too young to even think about such fantasies as going to a university.

I’m glad that I had parents that loved me so much and worried about my well-being.  But gee whiz – I don’t think Doogie Houser had over-protective parents.

Anyway, it was two against one, and I was still a minor and financially dependent upon them. There was a non-negligible scholarship, a work study program, and numerous considerations from one of Boston’s fine local universities.  My mother dropped me off at classes and picked me up, since student parking was both expensive and difficult to get.

Of course I never really “felt” like a freshman. I managed, with some difficulty, to convince my mother to either drop me off early or pick me up late.  I needed to meet colleagues.   All I really cared about academically were the necessary prerequisites for medical school, in terms of courses or grades, but I knew I was in the middle of a rich, seething subculture of the youthful.

There were some activities I would never be a part of, like dating the football team or being a member of a sorority.  Types like me did not do those things.  But I was so fascinated by large number of people whose age was somewhere near mine.  I walked up to them and shook hands and said “hello,” whether they sat on the stoop in front of the chemistry building or in the television lounge at the Student Union. Read more on Student Stresses Are Mental As Well As Financial…

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Sometimes the most accurate answer is “maybe.”

Sometimes if there is a lot of scientific data about something, and someone wants to know what is real and what is not real, what is dangerous and what is not dangerous, you can look at all of the data and come up with something complex .

Perhaps something is dangerous in some situations, not in others — watch this and not that.

This is science for adults, not Beakman’s World — as much as I love his show.  I admit, I’m out there shouting “I love science” at the top of my lungs right along with Dr. Beakman.

But this is more serious. It is also not politics, not a love-have question.  Not a “get every atom of this compound out of here” plea, nor a “it is safe and just fine so let’s stop worrying” answer, either.

The compound I’m talking about is Bisphenol A, known as BPA. Depending on who you believe, it was first synthesized in either the late 19th or early 20th century, from acetone and phenol. This makes the basis of a “thermoplastic,” one of the easy-to-work-with plastics that is used for containers you see everywhere. Read more on Pass The Bottle — But Be Careful!…

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My husband has a fondness for what I generally call “testosterone movies.”

These are usually loud and fast-moving with lots of car chases (ending in crashes and explosions), gun fire (preferably automatic weapons) and huge gouts of flame erupting just as the hero is fleeing in slow motion.

One of the features of these movies is the “mano a mano” scene – where the good guy confronts the bad guy and they duke it out.  Fisticuffs. Knuckle sandwiches.  There are so many colorful phrases these tough guys use. Read more on Ain’t That A Kick In The Head?…


I guess people have to worship something.

I certainly have seen people idolize people before.  Sometimes, to my amazement, when my parents managed to get me in the newspaper as a child for some alleged academic achievement, it was even me. Religion is something I generally avoid with patients.  I sometimes will admit that I say things like “God love you.”  As a matter of fact, I remember that my mother-in-law, Carolyn of blessed memory, said that sometimes, and I liked the feeling, and I suspect that is when I integrated it into my conversation, at least with patients who had limited time with me and wanted to discuss religion.

Read more on Celebrity Worship — The New Religion?…

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I do remember when I was a university student seeing the glassy-eyed young students selling second rate (a bit dry or petals missing) flowers on the major thoroughfares of Boston. I remember reading all the newspaper accounts and finding out these people were somehow part of a “cult,” before I understood what that meant.

I learned about Sun Myung Moon, now in his 90th year and somewhere in South Korea, who some may have thought was the Messiah of the second coming.

There are all manner of myths and confusions and business about the “moonies.” Let us say, there are at the very least serious questions raised and I would not counsel going near this group. A cult is simply an organization where those who are at a point of great transition in life, and thus prone to a great insecurity, find themselves seduced into a group membership. This is not a difficult thing to do. Read more on Being A Quitter Isn’t Always Bad — With Cults…

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My dear, remarkable father of blessed memory was no mere a musician.  He was a Harvard-trained composer and arranger, played that complicated organ at his temple for fifty years, and was very, very serious about music.

In fact, he was so serious that only “serious” music could be played in our household.  After all, he was a classmate of Leonard Bernstein, and studied under Aaron Copland and was one of the few fellowship students allowed to attend lectures by the great Stravinsky.

Now THAT’S serious!

As such, I missed out on popular music while growing up.  I was not allowed “American Bandstand” after school.  I was not give Beatles records.  We didn’t even watch Elvis on Ed Sullivan.

Record of Elvis Presley Read more on Elvis Cures The Panic Attacks…

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One of my Frequently Asked Questions is “why do you hate prescription drugs so much?”

And the answer is, I DON’T.  Not at all.  I have used, and will continue to use, prescription drugs whenever they are the best treatment for an individual.

What I DO hate is the way they are mis-used, and the way some companies push their drugs for inappropriate purposes, or in dosages that are harmful when they could be helpful in (usually lower) doses. Read more on A Remarkable Medicine And Its Champion…

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