Doctors and the Healthcare System
Many people are frustrated with the healthcare system and rightfully so. The doctor may not always be to blame however. Many people tell me how they have had doctors who don’t have time to listen or “do anything” for them. Like with anything in life, there are different levels of professionalism, however, there are also many things that go on behind the scenes of medicine that you may not know. Read more at my article on KevinMD.com: Before visiting the doctor, consider these 5 things you may not know.
Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.
The Influenza Virus
With the flu season around the corner, many of us are trying to figure out how to stay healthy and “flu-free.” The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Common symptoms include:
– Runny nose
– Sore throat
– Body aches
Cold vs Flu
It’s important to note that the flu is different from the common cold. Both illnesses are caused by different viruses and the flu usually comes on suddenly with more severe symptoms. The flu is also more likely to cause complications such as pneumonia, ear infections and sinus infections.
Most people think that the influenza vaccine is all they need, but according to the CDC, the influenza vaccine is only 60% effective. Here are some additional ways to help you prevent the flu (and the common cold):
1. Build a healthy immune system
The most effective way to prevent the flu, and many other diseases, is with a healthy immune system. Our immune system has special cells and molecules that recognize and fight pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. While everyone is susceptible to the flu, those with weaker immune systems are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu. Children, the elderly, pregnant women and those with other medical conditions such as heart failure are at risk. A healthy balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management are simple, yet incredibly effective ways to boost the immune system and prevent many other diseases!
2. Cover your mouth
The influenza virus is transmitted through air droplets, so there is some merit to covering your mouth when sneezing or coughing, especially if you have symptoms.
3. Wash your hands
While the influenza virus is transmitted by air droplets, you can still spread the virus with your hands. Since flu symptoms may not appear for up to one day after being infected, it’s that much more important to wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face since the nasal passages are the main entry for the influenza virus.
4. Disinfect your home
This goes along with tip #3. Disinfect commonly touched places in your home, such as doorknobs and light switches.
5. Avoid contact with sick people
The influenza virus is contagious so make sure to limit your exposure to those who are infected. If you happen to be sick as well, stay home and get some rest!
6. Take vitamin D
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation in children decreased the risk of contracting the flu. Homeopathic remedies such as probiotics, vitamin C and oscillococcinum may help, but studies have not yet shown definitive evidence for their use in preventing the flu.
Take advantage of what Mother Nature has blessed you with
Despite your best efforts to prevent the flu, it’s still possible that you may come in contact with the virus. A healthy immune system, however, can stop the virus before it can spread throughout the body. The influenza vaccine is just another way to help build our immune system’s resources, but won’t be effective if our innate healing mechanisms aren’t functioning properly.
Make sure to maintain a healthy lifestyle all year round and discuss the best flu prevention options for you and your family with your healthcare provider.
Share your flu prevention methods in the comments below!
Check out How to Prevent the Flu: Tips from 30 Health and Flu Prevention Experts on the Best Way to Avoid Getting Sick with the Flu this Winter
“Oh, you’re my doctor? A woman?”
Who do you picture walking through the exam room door at your new doctor’s office? Is it the Norman Rockwell depiction of an older, jolly looking male with white hair? After residency I was alarmed at how many patients commented on my age and gender:
“<Expletive>, how old are you, 12?” or, “Oh, you’re my doctor? A woman?”
I know that I lived under a rock during my medical training but I am pretty sure Scrubs, the Mindy Project and Grey’s Anatomy were on TV then. (Scrubs is the most realistic medical TV show by the way.) This got me thinking about misconceptions people have about doctors, and I thought I could share a few things you may not know about your favorite neighborhood doc.
1. We are young
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), of the active physicians in the US in 2012, about 60% were under the age of 54. With baby boomers retiring, someone has to take over the roles of older doctors (who by the way, were at some point young too.) Physicians fresh out of residency have had several thousands of hours of experience in addition to seeing several thousands of patients. Yes, while more experience is an advantage, so is knowing about the latest health guidelines and technology. In fact, a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2005, showed that younger physicians are more likely to order necessary tests and appropriately counsel patients on preventive health than their more experienced colleagues.
2. We exist in female form (Shocking I know!!!)
While 70% of physicians in the US are male, the number of females entering the medical field continues to grow. Not only do females have to jump through the same hoops as their male colleagues when it comes to medical training, they may even have a slight edge. A study done by the University of Montreal showed that female doctors score higher on quality and care measures and are more likely to follow evidenced-based guidelines. Another study showed that female physicians tend to show more empathy and are better listeners. NOTE: This is not meant to bash male physicians. There are very talented male physicians practicing medicine. The whole point is that female physicians are also good at what they do.
3. We are not as rich as you think
It’s true that doctors make a salary that is well above the national average. However, after about 10-15 years of education and training, making little to no money, we find ourselves in hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt. It takes about double that amount of time originally invested to repay a debt, which can end up costing more than twice as much due to accrued interest. It’s no wonder why doctors are fighting health care reimbursement cuts. I tell people all the time, don’t become a doctor if you are trying to be rich. Become a doctor because you can’t see yourself doing anything else and you are willing to put in the sacrifice. Believe me, there are a lot of easier ways to become rich.
4. We know more than medical websites
It’s wonderful when people are involved in their own health and want to be informed. While there are many great medical websites out there, there is also a lot of false medical information on the Internet, and believe me, nothing replaces a formal medical education. Doctors learn the information you read about online at an advanced level and take it a step further by applying that information to each individual. A cough in Mr. A who smokes, may be related to something completely different than a cough in Mrs. C who may have other health problems and be taking different medications.
5. We are human
Believe it or not, doctors are people too. I hate getting my blood drawn and I also happen to do a mean robot dance. In all seriousness, doctors have a lot of responsibilities placed on their shoulders, which is why becoming a physician is not easy; we are dealing with human lives after all. That being said, doctors don’t always have all the answers either. It’s called the “practice” of medicine for a reason. Sometimes we have to try a few things and rule some things out, which may require a few tests, additional appointments or even referrals to other physicians.
The stone age has passed…
Regardless of our age, gender, skin color, nationality, student loan debt, USMLE, NBME, board exam, or state license, doctors have all taken an oath. An oath promising to value and respect human life, do no harm, maintain confidentiality and ultimately do what is best for patients and our community.
So the next time a young doctor walks into the room, give her the benefit of the doubt. She may be 20-something, driving a 2000 Toyota, with half of her paycheck paying off student loan debt. If you look hard enough you may see the “age lines” she and the next generation of young doctors acquired through the many sleepless nights and delayed gratification invested in taking care of you and your loved ones.
‘Tis the season and pine trees are everywhere. I watch the lights on my tree while eating an apple and find that the apple tastes bitter. In fact, everything I have eaten over the past few days has tasted bitter and the bitterness lasts for about 30 minutes after I have finished eating. I am scanning my brain for a diagnosis. I’m pretty sure if I had a toxic level of metals in my body I wouldn’t be leisurely watching my Christmas tree. I don’t have any indigestion either. Some people with acid reflux will describe a “water brash” taste in their mouth, which is basically the taste of stomach contents rising up into the throat. I have had many interesting medical complaints thrown my way from people, but nothing about a metallic taste in the mouth. None of my textbooks have an answer, so I do some further investigation on the internet (via reliable sources of course).
It turns out some people who eat pine nuts may experience the symptoms I described above. I happened to have eaten pine nuts in a salad last week, but have never experienced this before, despite having eaten pine nuts in the past. According to the article I read, it’s called “Pine Mouth”, or Pine Nut related Cacogeusia in medical terms. I had never learned about or heard about it until today. What’s interesting is that it was discovered by a physician a few years ago. Dr. Marc-David Munk of the University of New Mexico published a paper in the Journal of Medical Toxicology about his experience with pine mouth after eating pine nuts on a salad. Scientists are still stumped as to what causes it but think it may be related to a species imported from China. Thankfully it’s not dangerous and the taste disappears after a week or two.
While most of what I learned in medical school has not changed, medicine is still ever evolving. Doctors are always learning (and apparently have issues related to pine nuts). I do seriously advise against self- diagnosis especially via the internet, even as a physician, which is why I am going to run it by a colleague. I could do without the metallic tasting holiday treats this week, but I won’t be giving up pesto anytime soon. I hope you all have a wonderful, happy, healthy and safe Holiday. -Dr. A