Monday, March 24, 2014

Poop Drop

One of the fun parts of starting your own family is establishing what your own traditions will be. Spouses tend to bring to the table whatever you have done with your family at first, but gradually, you start to establish how your own household will handle things. In my view, firming up your household schedule and priorities is a sign of a maturing family.

In terms of our daily routine, we don't vary too far from the norm. Both parents work in our house, so both of us have responsibilities at home after we get off work. I will openly admit that my wife outworks me in this arena and is generally better at it than I am. I give as much effort as I can to keep up with her and help out.

One of my daily duties is bath time. Early on, I just happened to be the one that gave him his bath, and it has evolved into one of the set times after dinner in our house. While my wife does other chores around the house, I get little man washed up and teach him new ways to goof off in the tub. 

There is usually a dirty diaper involved somewhere around bath time. We use the indispensable diaper bags that will mask the smell to dispose of little man's stink bombs. It just so happened that I was busy chasing after him one day with one of these in my hand. I decided to just toss it down the stairs to save time. After I did it, an idea struck me, and a tradition was born. Check it out:

How awesome is that? Little buddy insists on disposing of his poop in this way anytime I change his diaper upstairs. In case you were wondering what happens next, we just about have him trained to pick it up and take it to the garbage can. Video to follow of course.

I know there are some "parenting experts" out there shuddering at this. Yes, I have taught my son to toss his feces over a second floor landing onto a hardwood floor. But, you have to have a little fun in life. At least he now knows that the stuff that comes out of his rear end has to make its way to the garbage can somehow, even if it does involve getting airborne. Most little boys his age just try to figure out a way to smear it in their hair. Think how far we've come!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness Uncertainty

My kid is a ham.

Yeah, we have mastered saying hi to ourselves. If only we can extend this greeting to other people. Rome wasn't built overnight...

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

So You Wanna Be A Doctor?

Interviews, particularly med school interviews, become more and more silly the further I go. I firmly believe that the vast majority of admissions decisions have already been made before an applicant shows up on campus. The interview is really just a way to see if you can walk, talk, and not do anything resembling a sociopath for at least a few hours in a row.

Despite the grandiose stories you may hear, my own interviews were relatively benign. No one made me go through virtual patient scenarios or grill me on difficult ethical situations. I was fortunate to interview fairly widely, and there were some real characters on the interview trail.

One particular school paired me up with the most introverted interviewer I had ever seen. His opening bid was telling me his name, specialty, and asking how I envisioned myself connecting with patients. I was enthusiastic because that was by far one of the most interesting questions I had been asked to that point. After my answer, though, he just stared at me. We looked at each other for about twenty seconds before he said,"OK, are going to tell me anything else about yourself?" He actually expected me to fill up the entire interview by myself while he simply listened! Needless to say, I didn't get into that school. But I did get a wonderful idea of what kind of person I wouldn't admit to medical school if the tables were turned.

This story is one of the extreme examples of ineffective interviewing, but I see it in all forms. Many people doing the interviewing for medical school are faculty that are simply volunteering their time. They are squeezing applicants into their schedule and are often unprepared to really learn anything about the person sitting in front of them.

This amateurish approach to interviewing seems particularly egregious to me. Fortune 500 companies spend large amounts of dollars and resources on making sure that they select good people to work for them. Why would selecting future physicians be less important? I realize that big corporations often have more resources to commit to this task, but that's not an excuse for cutting corners in my book.

The result of our poor interviewing is that the admissions process comes down to who can perform the best academically and then suitably pad their resume. I have no problem with making sure that future doctors can perform intellectually. I have a big problem, though, with our tacit suggestion that how you interact with people isn't just as important. Patients don't visit an encyclopedia. They visit a real, human being who can understand their problems and help them. We should make our selection process reflect that.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Loud Reader

I don't remember the first book I read. My memory is good but unfortunately not that good. I am sure, though, that my first reading experience was probably different from my son's. Like his mother and I, little buddy enjoys good literature. It's fun to watch him rifle through his collection until he finds the perfect one that he is looking for. Usually a squeal of delight follows, and he sits down to enjoy himself.

Some of you probably can harken back to the good old elementary school days and remember "that kid that read aloud." You know the one I'm talking about. The teacher gave out an in-class reading assignment. You'd settle down in your desk to get started and realize that some kid is just yammering away next to you. You turn to tell him to be quiet and realize that he's not talking, he's reading. I had several of these in my classes throughout the years. Invariably, the teacher would bring it up to the kid's parents, and they would proudly say that they taught him that! I understand that you want your kid to enjoy to read, but we have some social constraints that should at least be considered along the way.

Given my experience with these kids at an early age, you can imagine my feeling when I see my kid doing this:

Yep, my kid is a loud reader. This feels like God laughing at me right now. He is, isn't He? Needless to say, we have a few things to work on here in the HumorMD household. I must say that I suddenly feel much more sympathetic to those parents that were pulled aside by the teacher back in my day. Hey, at least the kid is reading, right?

Monday, March 10, 2014

Innovate and Palliate

If I was a pure businessman, cancer drugs would be an interesting market niche to occupy. Research and development would be a potential problem. How many people in the world have the knowledge required to develop new cancer drugs? Not many. To top it off, most of them have no understanding or passion for business. Many of these scientists work in universities so as to not be bothered by corporate executives and the like.

On the other hand, you don't really have to accomplish much to hit it big. What happens if you come up with a drug that extends life by three months in metastatic lung cancer? Currently, that would probably make you a billionaire. That's right. Billion with a capital B. We simply don't have any great treatments for this, so anything that gives people longer survival by any length of time is pure gold.

The funny part is that we actually have a product that can increase survival by a few months without any of the nasty side effects of chemo. In fact, patients that use this product have drastically improved quality of life. What is this wonder drug, you might ask? Where can I buy stock in this? Actually, you can't buy stock in it at all. It's palliative care.

You can bet that us medical folk were a wee bit surprised when we found out that palliative care extends life in advanced lung cancer. The article was published in the New England Journal of medicine in 2010 (link here). Most physicians and patients think of palliative care as a fancy way of saying "we surrender." Nothing could be further from the truth. Early involvement of palliative care generally results in symptoms that are better managed and patients with better quality of life, regardless of whether curative treatment is being offered.

In general, the medical community doesn't get palliative care involved early enough. The aforementioned "we surrender" attitude means that physicians won't consult palliative care until the very end, which doesn't allow the time necessary for palliative care's full benefits to come to fruition. If we withheld a similarly performing medication, then it would be on the front page of CNN that physicians across America were being negligent. Would they be wrong? I don't like to think about the answer to that question...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

This Just Feels Like a Circus

I know. I went back to my old blog address. I'm sorry. The confusion will stop here fairly soon. Most of you click through from Facebook to get here anyway, so it shouldn't be too big of a deal. I was thinking that I would start fresh with a brand new blog address, but I soon realized that was dumb. I already have so much chronicled on this blog. Why put similar content in a completely separate place? There's no reason for foolishness like that.

On a more fun note, we took little man to the circus this weekend. We have quickly discovered that he LOVES shows of any kind. We've seen several live performances of his favorite TV shows, and he always enjoys it. The circus was no exception. He was riveted the entire time, in between squeals of delight that is. This should give you an idea of just how fixated he was:

You will also note that the circus is entertaining for all ages, which I can attest to. His grandparents found it just as thrilling as he did. You may wonder what they're looking at that would be so astonishing...

Now, this is impressive in its own right, but you have to think about this from a toddler's perspective. He has never seen an elephant before about twenty seconds ago, and now they are dancing to techno music in front of him. Mind=blown. I think he stared at that exact same spot for about ten minutes even after the elephant act was over. 

We're really in a bind for figuring out how to top this next weekend. How do you get any better than pachyderms doing the polka? I'm thinking maybe order something from Amazon, have their fancy new drone system deliver it, and then tell him that the drone is part of Santa's new gift delivery system. Then, we can tell him drones will stop coming if he misbehaves. Move over Elf on the Shelf. That's next generation parenting for you.

Stocks 101

I've been actively watching the stock market for about a year and a half now. I like this phrase, actively watching. It means I pay close attention, but I'm not out there trading. The money that I have in the stock market is in my retirement account, and it's currently in index funds.

My realization that I was going to be throwing a significant portion of each pay check into this "retirement account" thing was what spawned my interest to know exactly what was happening with that money. It's been an eye-opening experience to say the least. The stock market is a lesson in humanity in it's most primal state. Profit, loss, fear, greed, elation, disappointment, power. Just a few things you can readily identify when looking at a basic stock chart.

With all of my reading, I've come across a few initial take home points to share. First, most of the money being made in the stock market is not being made by people actively trading stocks. Most of the money being made is going to people that have actually built these companies. If you want to hit it big on Wall Street, then build a Fortune 500 company. Surefire way to make millions. Go...

Second, online stock trading seems to be a lesson in how technology has made things easier but not necessarily better. Buying shares in companies used to be a deliberate, thoughtful act that required much thought and effort to even get your order to the trading floor. Now, you can spend millions buying stocks in seconds. Is this really better? Has using technology to chase quick profits really been a good addition to our culture? I think not.

Even more ironic is how the appeal of online stock trading has stacked the deck even further against the individual, if you fall into the trap. Ever tried to day trade against a multi-billion dollar corporation with supercomputers and countless Ivy League trained mathematicians and businessmen? Swing for the fences Average Joe. Just make sure you don't get that uniform dirty because you are going to be out of the game quick.

I'm going to be writing more about stocks in the future. It's a subject that I really enjoy. Though it may sound like I dislike the entire system, I actually support the idea of buying and selling ownership in a company. Only in America can you find a company you like and hitch your financial wagon to them. You also might be able to buy a naked put option and lose your shirt when the stock crashes, but you never get the good without the bad. Welcome to life.