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I was wearing my best pastel multicolor weave suit as I walked up the stairs of a drab gray Victorian mansion converted into a medical office on the outskirts of large mid-western city. It was a bit cool, early spring, and I had been through all of the other principal personalities in a fairly large and well respected neurosurgery department.  The emeritus chief of the department — older, semi-retired, wrote hunks of textbooks about 20 years before; was the last one I had to see.  Although nobody seemed wildly excited, I had “passed” the interviews to make it this far.

The Victorian mansion was the office building of the neurosurgical group that was the residency faculty.  I was ushered into a richly furnished Victorian style office with antimacassars and gigantic velvet wing-backed chairs.

The father-to-us-all type neurosurgeon spent over five minutes asking me about France and my passion for the brain before asking me if my period gave me any problems. Read more on Women In Science Sore And Soar…

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First, let us establish who Callista Gingrich is.  She is the current wife of Newt Gingrich, which news reporting at least suggests is a temporary employment. She is a former Washington intern who has created documentaries and media stuff with her husband.

He has a history of finding his next wife before finishing with the last, so if she were my buddy I would tell her that I hope she has a good prenup — or maybe she wants a postnup.

This being said, I agree with this woman on the thesis of this article — assuming she actually wrote it. Often, people in the public eye let someone else “do the paperwork” when they blog, write essays, etc. Ms. Newt says that today’s young kids have an appalling lack of knowledge about the basics of the history of this country, such as why the pilgrims came or who George Washington was. Read more on Knowledge Of History Means National Pride…

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We are in an era when all reporting — wire services, networks, whatever — looks the way tabloid reporting did when I was small.  Aggressive, emotional, mostly verbal renderings of disasters that are meant to strike terror into the heart of the reader.  Sometimes, something miraculous or near miraculous.  Once in a while in this constellation of stories there is something “inspiring.” We all need inspiration.  It is tough to define and highly individualistic.

I actually like this definition more than others: That “feeling of enthusiasm” that makes you “do” or “create” something. Read more on We All Need Inspiration — Here Is Today’s Dose…

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Can you die from a tattoo?  You betcha.

I never looked very closely at the literature since getting tattoos on your body is against Jewish law.  I remember from Jewish Religious school when I was quite young, having it reamed into y poor little noggin along with a bunch of other stuff, that when God came for the resurrection of the flesh, not only was it a really good idea that you had a little bit of earth from the land of Israel in your pocket (in Boston, tiny sacks of such alleged origin were overpriced at best) but there had to be no, absolutely no, placed-there-on-purpose marks on your body.  It would be really bad because you wanted God to know you were the right (strictly Kosher) Jewish body.

Somehow, it seemed to be possible to get by with a scar.  I figured it was because if you had an accident, an omniscient God would know about it anyway. Read more on Death By Tattoo…

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When a marijuana patient visits me for permission to use that drug, I have to ask them, gently, how long they have used it.  Most, if they are old enough, do not give me an answer that I can quantify.  Instead, they start with something like, “It seems like yesterday I used it for fun.  Now, I need it just to (fill in the blank).” Survive, live, walk, or keep from throwing up.  They wonder about how and when it changed from a form of recreation to a form of drug treatment.

They never seem to believe it has already been a drug, for thousands of years, in other cultures.  If I give them enough time, they count their own age and their own problems by how they use it.  With a few thousand papers published every year, mostly in other countries, it would be crazy at this point to try to believe it wasn’t a drug.  For an amazing number of folks, it seems to be the way they reckon the passage of their lives. Read more on The Passage of Time…

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Perusing the internet, I am overwhelmed with people doing “weird” things.  But how do we define what is weird, when it is weird, and why it is weird?

I remember seeing the movie Fiddler on the Roof when I was quite young.  I shuddered when I heard the song “Tradition,” because it was evident, even then, that descriptions of the way people should or should not be caused a whole lot of pain.  The particular tradition that drove poor Tevye to hell and back was getting three daughters married off and being Jewish, which required dowries and Jewish grooms.

My parents attempted to receive my husband — who at that time called himself “the goy next door” and was willing to wear a yamelke and articulate a few words of yiddish he had learned from Mad Magazine.  But you could tell that this was a problem for them.  An eventuality I found just excellent in my life and which I credit with an uncommon level of happiness. I can say now that my marriage is happier than theirs ever was, at least from all that I saw.  Part of this comes from my willingness to ignore a tradition they took as dogma. Read more on The Rights of Individuals to Punish Each Other…

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Topic:  Research Fraud

For someone who has been a part of many clinical trials, I will be the first to admit that I have very little training in research design or statistics.  Oh, the hours I’ve spent surreptitiously curled up on the sofa of a doctors’ lounge or my own apartment, thinking that somebody paid somebody a lot of money to write “science” so I could figure out how and why I would know things.  It pretty much worked. There were a few mentions of statistics at my delightfully thorough prep school, but there was not so much as a word at medical school.  The research types were always hanging around medical school settings — their brains rented and services bought by the medical side of things — as they did not make much money.  We did receive some wonderful instruction from clinicians as to how to evaluate research literature and decide how to apply it to our practices.

I have a vivid memory of an endearing shy and spindly instructor during a course required for incipient biologists at Boston University.  He had Jewish afro hair, coke bottle bottom glasses, and a more than passing resemblance to a young Woody Allen.  Oh, how he despaired that we were mostly going to be money-chain doctors as opposed to truth-chasing scientists. I remember that once, and only once, did he reach fiery intensity in that class. “Nothing will be published unless the probability that it actually shows what it is supposed to show is greater than 19 out of 20, that means p>.05.  But nobody wants to admit what that really means.” Oh, how silent we were, on the edge of our chairs. Read more on Research Fraud Isn’t Reported To The Public…

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I get blazing mad whenever one of those knee-jerk “patriots” cry, “You don’t support our troops!” if anyone should criticize the military, our government’s foreign policy or any specific wars, invasions or other actions we’ve taken in this brave new millennium.

I was in the peacetime United States Army. Since my honorable discharge, I’ve served several Veteran’s Administration medical facilities in several states, and in private practice, I’ve made a special study of the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – which the military routinely denies even exists and doesn’t even try to treat in many VA facilities.

Yes, I was in the Army, and No – I wasn’t in combat. Nevertheless, with the idea of war always hanging over my shoulder, my life was different. I never really understood the “grunts” — the infantry without appreciable rank — who wanted nothing more than to see “action.” Read more on Can’t We All Just Get Along?…

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The first thing you get when you “in-process” into the Army — at least the first thing I got — was dog tags.  I had to decide if I wanted my religion on my dog tags, and tell the lady at the typewriter what kind of funeral I wanted. For all my ups and downs, I decided I would die Jewish, and get a traditional funeral, and make the Army find a rabbi.  I could put that on them with no thought of guilt. I had the option of putting my faith on my dog tags.  I was warned, in the most dispassionate possible way, that some enemies of the United States of America would kill me if it said “Jewish.”  I chose a resolution some co-religionaries had chosen in World War II.  I chose “Hebrew,” feeling more in common with the ancient faith than with the heavily politicized modern tripartite (Orthodox, Conservative and Reformed) ways of filling congregations.

Then I got my “Geneva Convention” card — Lavender and black and white, it said in 22 languages, roughly the equivalent “Don’t kill me.  I’m a doctor.” 

Read more on Doctors In Danger — Real, Physical Danger…

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I am old enough to remember having briefly met then-senator from Massachusetts, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, at a synagogue breakfast in my hometown – a suburb of Boston.  He had donned a skull cap, and shook hands with my parents as well as with me.  I talked little in those days, which is a testament to how young I was. I could stand unaided, and the senator shook hands with me.

Pres. Clinton wears a yarmulke

Bill Clinton courts the Jewish vote

Years later, his was one of the first presidential elections I tried to follow.  People were very worried that he was Catholic.  In our neighborhood, anybody I knew who was not Jewish seemed to be Catholic.  It had never bothered me. I remember seeing on television some news-reporting-human asked him about his need to be obedient on the Pope, being a Catholic and all, and how that could limit his ability to serve. He gave what I thought then was a good answer, about not being obliged to do anything the Pope happened to say, but saying his service to the people of the United States came first. I had thought that a good answer at the time.

My parents had all kinds of concerns, as did many Jews of their generation, even though they habitually voted Democrat. Read more on Whose Beliefs Do You Follow? Your Own!…

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