End of Life Conversations are Becoming End of Life Confrontations

“How Dare You!”

Life can change in a heartbeat. Most of us believe that our lives, our loves and all the that things that make us who we are is a gift from a higher power. One that can be taken away as swiftly as it is given. But somewhere in the shuffle of taking kids to practice, catching up on emails, worrying about bills, and the search for the perfect barbecue, it’s all too easy to forget the truth of life. The one truth. The one single thing that life guarantees each and every one of us. From the moment we take our first breath,  life makes to us but one promise. The promise that our life will someday end.

“Who do you think you are?”

For some of us, death comes after a lifetime of achievement, for others all too soon. For many it will be feared, for others it will be welcomed as their bodies wither away. But for more and more of us in our increasingly sterile and safe society, it is simply not to be thought of at all. An unwelcome stepchild locked tightly away in the attics of our consciousness. Like a demon in waiting, we reshape it, remake it, remold it, until it becomes an ever distant sunset that bookends a romantic dream of a life full of love, accomplishment, achievement.

“You have no right to say that!”

Until finally, that inevitable day approaches. A man or woman in a white coat tells you the terrible news that your loved one is passing away. That yes,  they are alive and can be kept alive, but there is practically no chance that they could recover. They will never go back to the person they were before.

“Where’s my regular doctor?” Continue reading “End of Life Conversations are Becoming End of Life Confrontations”

5 Ways Healthcare Reform May Impact Medical Education

Guest Post by Ta’Rikah Jones

Unless Congress completely smothers the Affordable Care Act (ACA), its changes will shake healthcare to the foundations as millions of people gain access to insurance and expanded medical care.

The ACA’s goal is to move Americans toward a health insurance umbrella for everyone while striving to control costs and drastically alter the insurance industry. Potentially every facet of healthcare could be affected, from the doctor’s office to research labs. Changes could even reach into healthcare education.

The law will change the number of patients seeking care, how much doctors are paid and may make some med school students even more uneasy about school loans.

These are some ways the ACA may affect medical education:

1. More primary care

The law seeks to foster primary care and boosts Medicare payments to primary and internal medicine physicians significantly while lowering payments for subspecialty doctors. Also, payment and coverage for preventative care would rise along with primary care.

This could slow the drop in students who pursue primary care in medical school. For years students migrated into more lucrative subspecialties, leaving only a small percentage of students interested in general medicine.

The act also calls for expanding some scholarship and repayment programs for primary care doctors and expands nurse and primary care training.

Continue reading “5 Ways Healthcare Reform May Impact Medical Education”

How to Attend a Medical Conference Without Actually Being There.

Well, I’ve done it again. It seems that every time I try to make the early registration deadline for a conference, something seems to come up. One of the kids gets sick, a transmission breaks, I have a crazy week at work, you know, life.

Unlike previous years however, I’m very excited to say that I will be making it to the American College of Chest Physician’s annual scientific meeting  at the end of October.

While I wasn’t able to make it to the conference every year, it turns out that I didn’t have to miss everything because I had a new and unique tool at my disposal. A tool that allowed me to catch a surprising amount of the action and actually obtain some of the benefits of the conference without actually being there: social media. Continue reading “How to Attend a Medical Conference Without Actually Being There.”

An Open Letter to Washington, D.C. From a Physician on the Front Lines.

-by Matthew Moeller M.D.

I am writing this letter because I feel that our leaders and lawmakers do not have an accurate picture of what it actually entails to become a physician today; specifically, the financial, intellectual, social, mental, and physical demands of the profession. This is an opinion that is shared amongst many of my colleagues. Because of these concerns, I would like to personally relate my own story. My story discusses what it took to mold, educate, and train a young Midwestern boy from modest roots to become an outstanding physician, who is capable of taking care of any medical issues that may plague your own family, friends, or colleagues.

I grew up in the suburbs of southeast Michigan in a middle class family.  My father is an engineer at General Motors and my mother is a Catholic school administrator in my hometown. My family worked hard and sacrificed much to enroll me in a private Catholic elementary school in a small town in Michigan.  I thought I wanted to be a doctor in 5th grade based on my love of science and the idea of wanting to help others despite no extended family members involved in medicine.  Winning a science fair project about the circulatory system in 6th grade really piqued my interest in the field. Throughout high school, I took several science courses that again reinforced my interest and enthusiasm towards the field of medicine.  I then enrolled at Saint Louis University to advance my training for a total of eight years of intense education, including undergraduate and medical school.  The goal was to prepare myself to take care of sick patients and to save the lives of others (four years of undergraduate premedical studies and four years of medical school).  After graduation from medical school at age 26, I then pursued training in Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan, which was a three year program where I learned to manage complex problems associated with internal organs, including the heart, lungs, gastrointestinal tract, kidneys and others.  I then went on to pursue an additional 3 years of specialty medical training (fellowship) in the field of gastroenterology. The completion of that program culminated 14 years of post-high school education. It was as that point, at the tender age of 32 and searching for my first job, that I could say that my career in medicine began.

Over that 14 year time period of training, I, and many others like me, made tremendous sacrifices.  Only now as I sit with my laptop in the dead of night, with the sounds of my children sleeping, can I look back and see where my journey began.

For me, it began in college, taking rigorous pre-medical courses against a large yearly burden of tuition:  $27,000 of debt yearly for 4 years.  I was one of the fortunate ones. Because I excelled in a competitive academic environment in high school and was able to maintain a position in the top tier of my class, I obtained an academic scholarship, covering 70% of this tuition.  I was fortunate to have graduated from college with “only” $25,000 in student debt. Two weeks after finishing my undergraduate education, I began medical school.  After including books, various exams that would typically cost $1000-$3000 per test, and medical school tuition, my yearly education costs amounted to $45,000 per year. Unlike most other fields of study, the demands of medical school education, with daytime classes and night time studying, make it nearly impossible to hold down an extra source of income. I spent an additional $5000 in my final year for application fees and interview travel as I sought a residency position in Internal Medicine.  After being “matched” into a residency position in Michigan, I took out yet another $10,000 loan to relocate and pay for my final expenses in medical school, as moving expenses are not paid for by training programs.

At that point, with medical school completed, I was only halfway through my journey to becoming a doctor.  I recall a moment then, sitting with a group of students in a room with a financial adviser who was saying something about how to consolidate loans. I stared meekly at numbers on  a piece of paper listing what I owed for the 2 degrees that I had earned , knowing full well that I didn’t yet have the ability to earn a dime. I didn’t know whether to cry at the number or be happy that mine was lower than most of my friends. My number was $196,000. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Washington, D.C. From a Physician on the Front Lines.”