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I wrote a piece for NPR about the patients we see in an urban ER, and how every day is a reminder that health doesn't exist in a vacuum.
Even in the time-limited setting of the ER, it's important for providers to understand where our patients live, work and play. It's these conversations that allow us to diagnose and treat the real causes of our patients' ills.
Thanks to everyone for reading, and in particular to the many people who pointed out the critical necessity of teamwork--with nurses, physician assistants, technicians, nurse practictioners, case managers, students, social workers, and many more. 
Indeed, it takes an entire team to provide true care. As people have commented on NPR's Facebook site, we in the ER rely on social workers--many of whom are overworked yet try so hard to help our patients. Whenever we as docs and nurses refer patients to social workers, they are always fantastic about helping us. It's critical for us frontline providers who see patients first to ask the tough questions and look beyond the "chief complaint" in order to know to involve the other members of our team.
I have been fortunate over the course of my training and career to learn from and work with many incredibly caring, highly compassionate, and superbly competent providers. It's also the community leaders and neighborhood organizations who provide care outside the walls of our institution, who are critical to the health of people. 
On this Thanksgiving weekend, I give them, and all of you, my unending gratitude and deep respect. Thank you.

I am thrilled that TED has picked up on Who’s My Doctor and our efforts to improve transparency in medicine. 

Click here for link to TED talk 

TED prohibits “selling from the stage” and apparently my call to action at the end was too much of a “sell”. Here is the intended conclusion of my original TEDMED talk.

"Radical transparency won’t be easy. There will be many critics, some who have ulterior motives and have something to hide, and others who are just scared of changing the status quo. But if it’s anywhere we can unlock our imaginations, any place where we dare to speak up, with anyone who can make the impossible a reality, it’s here at TEDMED, with all of you.

I call upon everyone here—anyone who will ever be a patient or family member of a patient—to sign the total transparency manifesto. I call upon doctors, nurses, physical therapists, nutritionists, and all healthcare providers to take off our white coats and show our patients who we are. 

I’m taking the leap. This, today, is my pledge. Will you join me?"

The talk is here. I'd love to hear what you think.

In last month’s Health Affairs, I wrote a personal perspective about unequal treatment for patients with disabilities. Nearly 20% of the population in the U.S. have a disability; yet, teaching about care for people with disabilities is not a mandated part of the medical curriculum.

This is a deeply personal issue to me. As someone who grew up with a speech impediment, I am acutely aware of the prejudices and disparities that result from lack of knowledge.

I’m grateful to Health Affairs for publishing this article and producing the associated podcast. This has been nearly10 years in the making—thanks to my mentors and colleagues Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan and Dr. Audrey Young, among others, for encouraging me to write about my experiences. 

And I will be forever indebted to Professor Vivian Sisskin: a friend, mentor, supporter, cheerleader, and best speech therapist ever. This essay is dedicated to all those who are fighting to ensure equitable and accessible healthcare.


My blog entries have been light over the last month in large part because of significant travel. In between clinical shifts in the ED and co-leading a fantastic cohort of GWU’s Residency Fellowship in Health Policy, I was fortunate to be invited to speak at several conferences in October. Here are some highlights:

In early October, I was honored to keynote the Centra Health Foundation annual gala in Lynchburg, VA to celebrate the work of several hundred volunteers, all of whom were either breast cancer survivors or family members of survivors. The event was moving and powerful; I thought of how proud my mother would be to hear me share her story with so many courageous and inspiring women.

Next was the 12th Annual UC Davis Pre-Health Professions Conference in Davis, CA. Ten years ago, when I was the national president of the American Medical Student Association, I was approached by a student from a community college named Joubin Afshar who told me that he had started a conference for community college students who wanted information about the health professions. I attended the conference then, and was blown away by the drive and passion of these students. Nearly all were first generation college students, and for many, this was their first and only exposure to medical professionals.

Having been such a student myself, I vowed to return whenever possible. Last year and this year, I gave a keynote and led four workshops on leadership in medicine. Nearly 8,000 students attended the conference—many took overnight buses across California and even from the East Coast. It’s remarkable to see the work done by a small group of committed students. I wonder how many health professionals are where they are now because of the work of Joubin and his colleagues. (I also had the opportunity to see a friend and colleague, Dr. Davis Liu: an exceptional leader, thinker, and physician.)

My former Rhodes colleague who is now Chief Resident at Einstein Hospital in Philadelphia, Dr. Gary Huang, invited me to give Grand Rounds to the Departments of Internal Medicine and Emergency Medicine (pictured here with fellow Chief Resident and very kind physician Dr. Carlos Davila). I received many questions on what physician trainees can do to avoid burnout and deliver true patient-centered care. 

No answer I gave could have been as telling as the actions of Dr. Huang. As we were coming down the elevator, a woman in her fifties stopped us to ask directions to a particular surgeon’s office. I watched as Gary helped her figure out the name of the surgeon, led her to identify his location, then navigate her there. So many other people would have simply said, “I don’t know” and implied that it’s not their job to know, but not Gary. He took the time to help this woman in need, going far out of his way to do so. He didn’t do it to impress her or me (and I suspect he and his equally humble and caring wife Sherry would both be embarrassed by this blog post), but because it was the right thing to do. This action speaks volumes about the type of doctor he is, and answers the question that the residents asked: there may be many factors that make us disconnected from our patients, but it is within our abilities to treat patients as people, to value each person’s humanity, and to exemplify basic dignity and respect.

At the Urgent Matters Conference during the American College of Emergency Physicians meeting in Chicago, Dr. Jesse Pines expanded upon these themes. The other presenters (including my former attending at Brigham and now MGH Vice Chair, Dr. Ali Raja) and I spoke about how patient-centeredness and better communication can reduce overtreatment, improve patient safety, and transform care. The response was much better than expected, in no little part due to the amazing tweeting capabilities of one Dr. Seth Trueger (aka @MDAware).

Then it was on to Nijmegen, the Netherlands, where Corine Jansen (pictured), Jennie Grau, and their team organized the first-ever listening conference in healthcare. Initially, when my husband heard that I was speaking at listening conference, he laughed—isn’t it an oxymoron? And I have to say that I didn’t initially understand what a listening conference was really about (though the International Listening Association has a long history of hosting these conferences, and cosponsored this one).

The moment I showed up, though, I got it. Patients, family members, doctors, nurses—they shared their stories. They were powerful and unforgettable; indeed, as one participant commented, “the shortest distance between people is a story.” I heard a doctor speak about how he and his fellow neurologists assumed that their patients with Parkinson’s disease cared most about memory and managing their tremors. But when they listened—really listened—to their patients, they heard that what mattered most to them was sleep and sex. So they changed the entire medical encounter so that it wasn’t just about medication management, but also hired a sex and sleep therapist. Corine, Jennie, your team at REShape (where I took the photo with the best message ever): hats off to you for a fantastic conference and to the tremendous individuals I had the pleasure of meeting there.

This week, it is off to Grantmakers in Health Conference in DC then American Cancer Society in San Jose, CA. I hope to contribute more substantive blog posts soon; please write if there are particular topics you would like to see.