You Don’t Have to Be a Doctor

Says my mom. This during another lengthy debate concerning the pros and cons of becoming one. And since registration for second year isn’t a declaration of marriage, I’ve flirted a bit with various career options in the medical field.

My first go around was this spring. Lilacs a’ bloomin’ and sun a’ shinin’ and a PhD a’ smilin’. What’s so alluring about the whole gig? I pictured falling in love with…

-No STEP or shelf exams

-Making science happen

-Finding the cure for cancer

-Analyzing data from home (it’s a no-no to bring your patients home)

-Writing Dr. on checks and what not

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A New Kind Of Second Opinion — At A Price

Heard this on NPR and was really struck by:

11 minutes = average time doctors spend with patients

$250,000 = upper limit willingly spent to find a diagnosis

0 doctors = replaced by Metamed, medical intelligence of scientists/doctors/computer databases

Yesteryears of Medicine

Hi. My name’s Cassie and I’m here to take you back… At least that’s my spiel as a part-time transporter / surgical orderly. But I’d rather transport you to the 1960’s. 1963 to be exact. That was the year the Gonzaga family immigrated from the Philippines so Lolo could meet Frederick and Philip Smith. They would hire my great-grandfather at the same exact hospital that now employs me!

That was when men smoked in the OR. At the scrub in sink. There is one doctor remaining, an anesthesiologist, who can recount my great-grandfather’s hand-washing ritual. Dr. D told the story again today:

He would come at the same time every morning. And we’d say,”Dr. Gonzaga, you don’t have patients until after Dr. So and So finishes!” But he would wash his hands anyways, then sit there. In the room. Both arms up like this [as a referee announcing a fieldgoal]. All clean until the other doctor finished.

–here? [referring to the rooms behind the nurses’ station]


And I asked about the story of the fruit once more.

Oh, you know, for Grand Rounds, they would give us big baskets of fruit. And so we would see Dr. Gonzaga with a banana in one pocket here and apples in his side pockets there and oranges in his back pocket. And we would wonder what he was doing, but he was giving the fruit away to the nursing staff at his clinic!

As pictured his accounts with family stories of Lolo’s temper, Dr. D continued,

It used to be like that. We were all a family. Dr. Gonzaga lived right across from Dr. S and a couple doors down was Dr. C and, closer to the main road, was Dr. H. We would go in and out of each others’ houses all the time.

That was when we were still doing research on dogs too. We used to do a lot of that at Smith Clinic. It was here that Dr. Uddin discovered the Uddin umbrella. Do you know what the Uddin umbrella is? President Nixon got one and they are still using that procedure today. Uddin was a cardiologist, here, at Smith Clinic.

In fact, Frederic [Smith] once brought in his dog for surgery. He removed a kidney stone in the lab.

wait, how’d he know that?!?!

He found the blood in the urine and diagnosed it with a kidney stone. So I did the anesthesia. I did the anesthesia for the research lab in the afternoons… And when your great-grandfather had that ruptured aneurysm, I remember doing anesthesia for him…



I got along very well with Dr. Gonzaga. He was kind of quiet. And he wouldn’t agree that you should place a lens after removal of the cataract [what is now opthamology standard] But we got along. He was a good man. He would go every year to the Philippines, take our old equipment over, and deliver babies, do breast surgery, stomach surgery. Everything. He practiced in the mountains. He was a freedom fighter. Did you know he fought for the resistance?

I glanced at the clock and had to fetch the next patient. But my thoughts remained with my great-Lolo, who never learned to drive a car but served American soldiers in WWII. Who gave my dad terrible spankings but let his five children and their families live in his basement and sent countless nieces and nephews through college. Who left me an inheritance of family, freedom, and faith.


I can’t help but wonder, who are the practitioners in your life that left a legacy of service?


What do Detroit and I have in common? Our spreadsheets aren’t balancing. And I’m thinking that maybe we should have used something other than Excel…

I have oodles of numbers that I clumsily pecked over the last four days on a number pad (yes, a real desktop computer with a keyboard still exists!) Eyes glazed over, thumb pushing zero where there shouldn’t zeros. It was the real deal. And today was to be the day when all of that would pay off.


Excel at first glance.

Excel Confusion

Excel after an hour.

With my undergrad knowledge of Chi squares and T-tests, today’s data analysis was going to be a snap. There was a little variance here, a little correlation there. Lots of = signs. And after six hours of manipulating made-up equations to compare parent and child concordance for pediatric surveys, I thought myself finished!

The jump from my little cubicle to the office of the primary investigator (P.I.) took all but 5 seconds. She looked up and we looked into the abyss that is Excel and I looked at my options. Turns out that Microsoft Office isn’t up to academic snuff for those hoping to submit a humble abstract anywhere reputable. Thankfully, the P.I. gently and patiently introduced my data set to a very powerful behavioral science analysis program, the hallowed SPSS.

That’s when I realized how lousy of a pal Excel was. Here was SPSS who spit out a list of entry errors (At some point I didn’t add numbers where I should of and there was a 76 when the survey maxes out at 70…) and unlike a best friend who tells you when you have something stuck in your teeth or that your fly is open, Excel just sneaks in #VALUE!


Amends were eventually made and files saved. While gathering my belongings, I thanked my P.I. for affording me this crash course in research. She reiterated that I had something there– in the computer and in me.

It seems like we could all use some database straight talk, to let us know where we’ve gone wrong. But other times, we need someone to say that we’ve more than what we thought we had. So, dear Detroit, I hope we capitalize on today’s lessons, embrace good bookkeeping, and someday, make something out of our mangled numbers!

(Here’s a nice lil article on the city where I saw the Pistons play this spring!)