Can medical knowledge make you a better patient? Take this quiz.

Parents and educators in my state have been debating the merits of standardized testing for school children and maybe where you live also. And it’s not just a question for children, adults can be subjected to professional testing also.

After I finished my family medicine residency, I took an 8 hour paper multiple choice written exam to become certified by the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM). And every 10 years since I have taken the test to re-certify. (Originally it was every 7 years).

The purpose of board certification is to make sure you, the patient, are getting the best care possible from a physician. According to the ABFM,

We promise that board certification means that the family physician you choose for your care meets high standards. 

My certification expires at the end of 2019.

Eventually the Board transitioned to a computer based exam taken at a local testing center, still 8 hours long. This year they are trying something new- doctors can take the test on their own computer or tablet whenever and wherever they choose.

The new system is a trial and voluntary. Those of us who have chosen to do it give feedback on the process, what we like and don’t like about it. They hope this will prove to be a workable system that eventually everyone will do.

Here is another experience and opinion about the exam from Clif Knight, M.D. , who is the AAFP’s senior vice president for education.

Certification Pilot Proves Worthy Alternative

a male doctor using a tablet while working
Doctors can answer questions on a computer or tablet any time of day or night.

This exam consists of 25 questions posted quarterly over 3 years, with a 5 minute time limit for each question . Besides being able to take the exam in my pajamas, I can research the answers online if I need to-as long as I can do it in 5 minutes. The rules prohibit me from discussing the questions with another person, based on an honor system that I attest to before beginning each session. Being able to look up information is more like actual medical practice.

More aligned with adult learning principles, this approach allows for use of references and promotes greater retention of new knowledge to be applied in daily practice.

ABFM web site

You can learn more about the value of board certification at this link

American Board of Family Medicine Patient Page

While board certification is a voluntary process, many organizations prefer or require the physicians they hire or work with to be board certified.

Take an “exam” designed for patients

I thought I would give you a taste of what I am doing by creating a patient certification exam for you. The rules prohibit me from sharing actual test questions so I have written my own, in simple medical terms, but using a format similar to the questions I answer.

When I answer questions, I get immediate feedback if my answer was right or wrong, with an explanation and a reference. So I have done the same for you. In this case, the reference is from a blog post I have written.

There’s no time limit for each question and for this exam, feel free to discuss your answers with someone else, I encourage you to. Choose the single best answer. Check at the end for the correct answers.

I had fun writing these questions so I hope you have fun answering them. Good luck! I hope you pass.

Question 1

A woman came to her doctor with a skin rash soon after starting to take a new medication. The medication is most likely

  1. An Antidepressant
  2. A blood pressure lowering drug
  3. An anti-inflammatory drug
  4. An antibiotic

Question 2

A 25 year old woman notices that the skin on her face has darkened over the past several months. This condition is called

  1. Melasma
  2. Eczema
  3. Psoriasis
  4. Tinea

How common meds hurt skin

Skin: Epidermis and Dermis illustration
Line drawing showing cross-section of dermal and epidermal skin layers. National Cancer Institute Creator: Unknown Illustrator This image is in the public domain and can be freely reused. Please credit the source and, where possible, the creator listed above.

Question 3

A mother brings her 8 year old daughter to her family doctor. The child has a cough, runny nose, and mild sore throat. Her temperature is 100.2 degrees. The doctor diagnosed the illness as a cold, or upper respiratory infection and explains this is caused by a virus. She does not prescribe an antibiotic because

  1. The child is allergic to penicillin
  2. The family does not have health insurance
  3. The mother has left over antibiotic from another child at home.
  4. An antibiotic will not help an infection caused by a virus.

How to cope with winter illness

Question 4

A 30 year old woman comes to her doctor because she is losing an excessive amount of hair. She is afraid she will become bald. Most likely she

  1. Started using a cheap shampoo
  2. Delivered a baby
  3. Needs vitamins
  4. Should investigate hair implants

Effective solutions if you experience hair loss

Question 5

Dr. Oglesby believes that certain medications should be used more often because of their benefit to patients. These drugs include all except

  1. Antibiotics
  2. Vitamins
  3. Sleeping pills
  4. Stop smoking drugs

7 underused drugs

Question 6

A young man who is a computer programmer has difficulty falling asleep. His doctor may recommend

  1. Buy a new mattress
  2. Taking a sleeping pill an hour before bedtime
  3. Regular exercise and relaxation techniques
  4. Watching television until he falls asleep

Expert advice to sleep

a simple bed, window shade down, small lamp on a side table

Question 7

Author and motivational speaker Nick Vijucic was born with amelia. This term means he lacks certain parts of his body which are his

  1. Limbs
  2. Eyes
  3. Ears
  4. Teeth

Light and life without limbs

Question 8

A woman sees her doctor because she researched her symptoms online and believes she has endometriosis. She thinks this because

  1. She does not have regular periods.
  2. She had a miscarriage.
  3. She has not been able to get pregnant.
  4. Her sister has it.

Women’s health update

Question 9

The HPV (human papilloma virus) causes cancer. Vaccination against this virus decreases the risk of cancer of the

  1. Cervix
  2. Uterus
  3. Breast
  4. Ovary

Women’s health update

Question 10

Kristin Chenoweth, Tony Award winning actress and singer, suffers from Meniere’s syndrome. She was born in a small town in Oklahoma named

  1. Muskogee
  2. Broken Arrow
  3. Ada
  4. McAlester

Kristin Chenoweth– a review of her memoir

a letter jacket, bag, and shoes, belonging to Kristen Chenoweth
Kristin’s jacket from high school on display at the Performing Arts Center

ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS

  1. The most common drug that causes a skin rash is an antibiotic.
  2. Melasma
  3. Antibiotics do not help a cold or any other viral infection
  4. delivered a baby; hair loss is common after pregnancy
  5. Stop smoking drugs can be useful to help smokers quit. The other drugs listed are often overused.
  6. Exercise and relaxation can improve one’s sleep.
  7. Nick was born without limbs.
  8. Infertility is a common symptom of endometriosis.
  9. Cancer of the cervix is caused by the HPV virus.
  10. Broken Arrow. The other Oklahoma towns produced Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and Reba McIntyre.

testing the HEART of health

Thanks for testing your knowledge with this first ever Watercress Words Certification Exam. If you liked it, let me know, maybe we’ll do it again.

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.

To start following Watercress Words , use this form to get an email notification of new posts . Please find and follow me on Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, links are on the left side bar here and the Home page. Thanks so much.

                              Dr. Aletha 

(This post contains affiliate links which, by paying a commission if used for a purchase, help fund this blog. )

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From Practice to Politics-Doctors who ran for President-the Cabinet Secretary


In 2016 I wrote about the 3 physicians who ran for President of the United States that year. None of them won but in observance of National Doctors’ Day this month I’m reviewing their stories with updates on what they are doing now.

These profiles are for your “information and inspiration”, and do not imply endorsement or recommendation by me .

Benjamin Carson, M.D., pediatric neurosurgeon

Dr. Carson , a neurosurgeon, was one of the candidates for the Republican Party nomination for President in 2016. He suspended his campaign before the convention. President Donald Trump asked him to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Senate confirmed his nomination.

Here are some facts about Dr. Carson taken from his 1992 autobiography
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story which I read and enjoyed.

  1. Dr. Carson’s mother, Sonya, one of 24 children,  married at age 13 ;her husband abandoned her when Dr. Carson and his brother were young boys. An uneducated illiterate woman, she taught herself to read, and required her sons to read books weekly.
  2. While he was growing up, his family depended on food stamps to have enough to eat.
  3. At age 8, after hearing a missionary doctor speak at his church, he decided to become a physician.
  4. He had such poor vision, he was almost legally blind. His grades improved when he started wearing glasses.
  5. As a teenager, he had such a quick and fiery temper, her feared he might kill someone.
  6. Both he and his brother were in JROTC while in high school; his brother served in the Navy during the Vietnam War.
  7. In high school he played clarinet and developed a love of classical music, something he would share with his future wife Candy.
  8. He chose to attend Yale over Harvard, because Yale beat Harvard in the GE College Bowl television program.
  9. During college he worked at the Ford Auto plant and at Chrysler.
  10. He and Candy lived in Australia for one year so he could train in neurosurgery there- and his first child was born in Australia that year.
  11. His third child was born at home- and he did the unplanned, quick delivery while his mother dialed 911 for help.

The Carson Scholars Fund

Dr. Carson is president and co-founder of the Carson Scholars Fund, which recognizes young people of all backgrounds for exceptional academic and humanitarian accomplishments.

The Carson Scholars Fund, Inc. was founded in 1994 to address the education crisis in the United States. Dr. Ben and his wife, Candy were alarmed by the state of American education.

Studies showed that our nation’s students ranked #21 out of 22 countries; next to the bottom of the list in science and math. They observed that many school display cases were filled with large trophies paying tribute to their sports teams’ achievements, while honor students only received a pin or certificate.

Dr. and Mrs. Carson felt compelled to take action. They believed that if children could be taught early to excel in school, they would stay motivated and have a higher chance of educational success later in life. The Carson Scholars Fund was built on these principles.

Recognized by Great Nonprofits as a Top-Rated Nonprofit, Carson Scholars is currently operating in 50 states and the District of Columbia, having awarded more than $ 6.2 million dollars to more than 6200 scholars.

The program also establishes Carson Reading Rooms in schools across the country to encourage young students and their families to discover the pleasure of reading and to recognize the true power of learning. To date the program has established over 100 reading rooms in 14 states in the U.S. (Information found on the Carsons’ Facebook page)

Dr. Carson’s surgical career

Neurosurgery is the surgical specialty that deals with the nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Long before Dr. Carson became involved in politics, he was known for his pioneering work in brain surgery. He discusses this work in his autobiography, which was also made into a movie of the same name. In the movie, one of my favorite actors, Cuba Gooding Jr., played Dr. Carson.

Dr. Carson specialized in two difficult and dangerous types of surgeries.

In hemispherectomy  half of the brain is surgically removed as a treatment for severe, intractable seizures. It is only used as a last resort, is not always successful and can cause paralysis on one side of the body. Dr.Carson was known as an expert in this surgery.

Conjoined or Siamese twins joined at the head are rare, occurring in 1 in 2 million births.

“In 1987, Carson attracted international attention by performing a surgery to separate 7-month-old occipital craniopagus twins in Germany.

Patrick and Benjamin Binder were born joined at the head. Their parents contacted Carson, who went to Germany to consult with the family and the boys’ doctors. Because the boys were joined at the back of the head, and because they had separate brains, he felt the operation could be performed successfully.

On September 4, 1987, after months of rehearsals, Carson and a huge team of doctors, nurses and support staff joined forces for what would be a 22-hour procedure. Part of the challenge in radical neurosurgery is to prevent severe bleeding and trauma to the patients.

In the highly complex operation, Carson had applied both hypothermic and circulatory arrest. Although the twins did suffer some brain damage and post-operation bleeding, both survived the separation, allowing Carson’s surgery to be considered by the medical establishment the first successful procedure of its kind.”(from Ben Carson bio)

One Vote-Make Your Voice Heard

Dr. Carson wrote One Voice-Make Your Voice Heard with his wife Candy Carson. In it, they urge us to use the privilege and power of voting at every opportunity. Here is a link to an excerpt

YOU ARE THE PINNACLE OF POWER

This book is available from major booksellers including Tyndale Publishers, which offers readers a chance to earn FREE books through its free rewards program. I am a member and invite you to join. This is not an affiliate offer, but if you accept my invitation I get points to earn more books, some of which I may review for this blog. So it’s a win for both of us.

my Reader Rewards Club

As a member, you’ll have access to inspiring literature, Bibles, special promotional offers, and much more. Earning points is easy—you’ll receive 25 points just for signing up!

You can also earn points when you:

  • Shop at Tyndale.com or NavPress.com
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Sign up at MY READER REWARDS CLUB now.

Thanks for joining me to meet and honor 3 physicians who sought our nation’s highest office. I thank them for their service to health care and to our government.

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.

Please follow Watercress Words to meet more physicians who explore the HEART of health . And thanks for using the affiliate links in this post and on the Home page, they help me fund this blog.

                              Dr. Aletha