National Doctors’ Day 2020- battling the COVID-19 pandemic

Doctors’ Day 2020 will be somber for not only U.S. doctors, but for physicians all over the world. This year we are all working together against the biggest medical foe any of us have ever faced- the novel coronavirus pandemic

National Doctors’ Day

Did you know there is a national day to honor physicians? In 1990, the U.S. Congress established a National Doctors’ Day, first celebrated on March 30, 1991.

The first Doctors’ Day observance was March 30, 1933, in Winder, Georgia. The idea came from a doctor’s wife, Eudora Brown Almond,  and the date was the anniversary of the first use of general anesthetic in surgery.

an electron microscope image of the coronavirus
used with permission, CDC.GOV

Doctors’ Day 2020

But Doctors’ Day 2020 will be somber for not only U.S. doctors, but for physicians all over the world. This year we are all working together against the toughest medical foe any of us have ever faced- the novel coronavirus pandemic.

March 30 is Doctors' Day

You may not have a chance to honor your doctor in person, but you can commit to doing your part to establish a trusting, respectful relationship with your doctors. It will be good for both of you.

a medical person holding a stethoscope

how to improve communication with your doctors-

Be open and honest about your medical history,lifestyle, and concerns. 

Sometimes patients leave out important information due to forgetting, thinking it’s not important, embarrassment, or fear. But that may be the very piece of data I need to pinpoint what’s wrong.

So tell the doctor

  1. If you can’t do something you’re asked to do
  2. If you can’t afford medication, tests, or treatment
  3. If you are afraid of a test or treatment
  4. If other doctors are caring for you
  5. Your social habits-alcohol use, smoking, sexual behavior

Learn more tips on talking with your doctor here-

How to talk to your doctor to improve your medical care a male doctor holding a tablet

Give details about your problem, explain what you feel

I find that patients often have difficulty describing how they feel. They may say they hurt, cough, itch or get short of breath, but give few details. Maybe because we use  text messaging with its brevity, abbreviations and emoticons. We have forgotten how to use descriptive words.

I don’t think we doctors expect our patients to always recite a rehearsed narrative  about “why I came to the doctor today.” But it does help if you come prepared to answer questions as specifically as possible.

You might try thinking about your problem using the PQRST mnemonic. It will help your doctor identify possible causes for your symptoms, and may also help you understand your problem and even suggest ways you can help yourself.

Find out what PQRST means at this post-

How to tell your doctor what’s wrong with you.

Female doctor looking at an xray
Recognize your doctors are people first

As physicians, our patients’ “social histories” help us understand factors in your life that impact your health -where you live, your job, your family, your hobbies . Besides that, we enjoy getting to know you, especially the things that make you and your life unique and interesting. That feeling can go both ways.

a woman in white coat with mask over mouth

Exchanging a few social words can make the encounter more satisfying for you and your doctor. Some of us will be more open about sharing our personal lives, and some subjects may be off limits. But I don’t think any of us will object to polite,  caring interest in our lives outside of medicine.  

You may cry when you read about a unique doctor-patient relationship in this post-

A simple way to help your doctor beat burnout

Finally, in honor of Doctors’ Day, meet some physicians with unique experiences to share, just a few of the many doctors who work tirelessly to share the HEART of health.

INTERNATIONAL HEALTHCARE

Dr. Kent Brantly awoke feeling ill- muscle aches, fever, sore throat, headache and nausea. As his condition progressively worsened to include difficulty breathing, he learned the cause of his illness- the Ebola virus. Having spent the past few weeks caring for patients caught up in the Ebola epidemic that swept Liberia in the spring of 2014, Dr. Brantly had contracted the disease himself, and would likely die, as almost all victims do.

Continue this story at-

Surviving Ebola, “Called for Life”- Dr. Kent Brantly

affiliate link

 DISASTER HEALTHCARE

When she applied for a position in New York City at the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), Dr. Judy Melinek never imagined that decision would plunge her into the nightmare of September 11, 2001. She was at the ME office that day when the Twin Towers were attacked and fell, killing thousands of people.

She and the other staff collaborated with the team of investigators who worked night and day identifying remains of the victims, a task she vividly describes in the book. This was basically their only job, since the cause of death was for the most part irrelevant, and impossible to determine. Sometimes they had only a small body part, as little as a finger, to extract DNA to identity a victim. Such identification was critical to bring closure to the families who lost loved ones, people who left for work that day, and never came home.

Read more about Dr. Melinek at this review of her book-

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and The Making of a Medical Examiner- a review of words worth sharing

Meet the 91 year old still practicing physician, whose grandfather was a slave- Melissa Freeman, M.D.

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exploring the HEART of dedicated physicians

Join me on Facebook March 30 through April 3 where I share stories about physicians past and present who share the HEART of health every day.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

                              Dr. Aletha 

Remembering and reading about September 11, 2001

When she applied for a position in New York City at the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), Dr. Judy Melinek never imagined that decision would plunge her into the nightmare of September 11, 2001. She was at the ME office that day when the Twin Towers were attacked and fell, killing thousands of people.

The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 prompted a profuse body of literature, including one by a woman physician, a forensic pathologist trainee. Here is a review of her memoir.

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner

by Judy Melinek, M.D.and T.J. Mitchell

The author, Judy Melinek, M.D., wrote this  account of her training as a forensic pathologist, a physician specialist who investigates sudden, unexpected or violent deaths. Her husband, T.J. Mitchell co-authored.

When she applied for a position in New York City at the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME), Dr. Judy Melinek never imagined that decision would plunge her into the nightmare of September 11, 2001. She was at the ME office that day when the Twin Towers were attacked and fell, killing thousands of people.

The main job of a medical examiner is to investigate death by examining a corpse- an autopsy. They look for evidence of cause of death, was it due to disease or trauma, and time of death, was it recent or remote. They hunt for signs that the death was self or other inflicted. Sometimes they may even need to establish the identity of the corpse. Such was the case after September 11.

She and the other staff collaborated with the team of investigators who worked night and day identifying remains of the victims, a task she vividly describes in the book. This was basically their only job, since the cause of death was for the most part irrelevant, and impossible to determine.

Sometimes they had only a small body part, as little as a finger, to extract DNA to identity a victim. Such identification was critical to bring closure to the families who lost loved ones, people who left for work that day, and never came home.

DNA fingerprinting is a chemical test that shows the genetic makeup of a person or other living things. It’s used as evidence in courts, to identify bodies, track down blood relatives, and to look for cures for disease.

WebMD.com
The structure of DNA and genetic information. from U.S. Government Works
 

Dr. Melinek describes not only the science of what she was doing, but also the emotion behind it; how she and the other medical examiners and staff felt about their work. She describes how it affected her relationship with her husband and young son, the problem of explaining to him what she was seeing and experiencing on a daily basis. She didn’t have the heart to tell him how many trailers full of partial bodies there were, after he saw just one and was shocked.

She also discusses other cases she worked on.  As a forensic pathologist, Dr. Melinek  understands why and how people die, and therefore also knows how people can avoid dying unexpectedly. Pathologists tend to be blunt, straightforward and to the point, as when she writes,

  • “So don’t jaywalk.
  • Wear your seat belt when you drive.
  • Better yet, stay out of your car and get some exercise.
  • Watch your weight.
  • If you’re a smoker, stop right now. If your aren’t, don’t start.
  • Guns put holes in people. Drugs are bad.
  • You know that yellow line on the subway platform? It’s there for a reason.
  • Staying alive, as it turns out, is mostly common sense.” 

Working Stiff moves at a quick pace, in a conversational style. When she uses medical jargon, she explains it in simple terms. She describes the cases she investigated in detail so those with weak stomachs (no pun) may want to skip this read.

Having experienced her father’s unexpected death when she was 13 years old, she was no stranger to it, and she learned more from the 262 autopsies she did during her training. As she says in this engaging memoir,

To confront death every day, to see it for yourself, you have to love the living.” 

Dr. Judy Melinek
Visit Dr. Melinek’s website at Forensic Pathology Forum 
Other authors have written about the medical consequences of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 in these books and articles.

City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance, and 9/11

by Anthony DePalma

“In City of Dust, Anthony DePalma offers the first full accounting of one of the gravest environmental catastrophes in United States history.

The destruction on 9/11 of two of the world’s largest buildings unleashed a vortex of dust and ash that blotted out the sun and has distorted science, medicine and public policy ever since. The likely dangers of 9/11’s massive dust cloud were evident from the beginning, yet thousands chose not to see. Why? As the sickening results of exposure became evident, many still refused to recognize them. Why? The consequences are still being tallied in the wasted bodies and disrupted lives of thousands who gave their all when the need was greatest, but whose demands for justice have been consumed by years of politics and courtroom maneuvers.

Separating reality from myth – and doing so with exceptional literary style and grace, DePalma covered Ground Zero for The New York Times for four years. DePalma introduces heroic firefighters, dedicated doctors and scientists, obsessive city officials, partisan politicians, aggressive lawyers, and compassionate judges and reveals the individual decisions that destroyed public trust, and the desperate attempts made to rebuild it.

The dust that was the World Trade Center has changed everything it touched. This is the story of that dust, the 9/11 disaster after the disaster, and what it tells us about ourselves and our future.”

(Amazon review)

mounted police officer
a New York City police officer and his horse represent the city proudly

Project Rebirth: Survival and the Strength of the Human Spirit from 9/11 Survivors

by Dr. Robin Stern and Courtney E. Martin

“Written in conjunction with the documentary Rebirth, a full decade in the making, an uplifting look at the lives of nine individuals whose lives were forever changed by the largest tragedy our nation has ever faced. 

In Project Rebirth, a psychologist and a journalist examine the lives of nine people who were directly affected by the events of September 11, 2001. Written concurrently with the filming of the documentary, it is uniquely positioned to tackle the questions raised about how people react in the face of crippling grief, how you maintain hope for a future when your life as you knew it is destroyed, and the amazing ability of humans to focus on the positive aspects of day-to-day living in the face of tragedy.”

(Amazon review)

NYFD engine
honoring the brave NYFD firefighters who rescued survivors and those who lost their lives doing so

At Morgue, Ceaselessly Sifting 9/11 Traces

“Outside the chalk-white tent, the whistle of traffic along the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive signals the forward movement of a city. But inside, 16 refrigerated trailers hum in a ceaseless chorus, giving voice to the dead whose remains are contained in their hold.

The trailers hummed as time separated the city from the 11th of September: as the smoking mountain of what had been the World Trade Center became a yawning hole; as 1.6 million tons of debris were sifted through on a Staten Island landfill; as commemorative services caused heads to bow. They hummed and they continue to hum, a mantra-like reminder that talk of closure is premature.” (excerpt from newspaper article)

Public health and medical disaster responses: The untold story of 9/11

By Kelly B. Close, MD
former National Coordinator of Disaster Volunteers for the American Red Cross

“You never know when your life is going to change.

My red business suit was almost buttoned, and I was rehearsing my presentation for the Milford, Connecticut Red Cross board of directors, even though my mind kept wandering to my wedding just nine days earlier in Walt Disney World. An urgent call from my new husband to come to the television interrupted my wedding day dreams.

As soon as I saw the images of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, I knew that my plans for the day – maybe even my life – had changed.” (excerpt from article at ems1.com)

Triumph Over Terror

by Bob Ossler with Janice Hall Heck

“What do Ossler’s insights reveal about finding meaning and purpose in the thick of chaos and personal tragedy?

Chaplain Ossler chronicles the best of humanity—acts of courage and goodness in the midst of unimaginable devastation. As terrorist attacks continue to assault humanity, Triumph Over Terror reveals how your spirit can triumph over terror’s reign, and how you can help others suffering from trauma and loss.”(Amazon review)

(This blog post contains several affiliate links, a commission is paid if used to make purchase. Thank you.)

One World Trade Center
One World Trade Center, photo taken 8/16/2013 by Dr. Aletha

exploring the HEART of health in history

I appreciate all of you who follow this blog; there are numerous other blogs to choose from so I am honored you chose to spend some time here. A special welcome to all my new followers from this past month.

Thanks for following this blog. If you’re visiting, I would love for you to start following Watercress Words : use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me. I also want you to find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram, and LinkedIn .

Dr. Aletha 

an open book with pages folded to make a heart
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