Dr. Social Media, MD: suggestions for practice integration

If social media were integrated into my practice: a wish list.

1. Patients could willingly sign away bits of their confidentiality so they could participate in a conversation with other folks suffering from the same problem. "What did Dr. Berger not tell you about diabetes," they could ask each other, and I - listening in - could improve. (Or get sued, too. Malpractice reform is another discussion.)

2. There are so many issues many of my patients face together, here in Baltimore: poverty, single parenthood, substance abuse, tobacco use, food deserts, obesity, etc. Couldn't we share information and experiences, without the sterility of anonymity?

3. The Perils of Procedures: talk about your history, what tests you underwent that Dr. Berger recommended (or advised against!), and share what happened.

4. Patients could recommend specialists they have seen, medications they have taken...

5. In short, it's like wrongdiagnosis.com or the innumerable disease-discussion boards, but connected to a particular doctor and his/her environment.


A quiet masterpiece set in 1920s Baltimore

It's a book about a steel worker in 1920s Baltimore. In less sure hands it might not have worked out so well. What about this self-published paperback made me, an inconstant and flightly reader, read all the way to the end? I'll let Celeste take it from here.


A poem with the word "fibrillate"

I always thought my medical vocabulary would come in handy somehow...

A poem of mine won a contest in the Forward to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. You can read it here.


Is Medicine Permitted?

In the 14 Adar issue of Simcha Lerner's Machshovos Zoros ("Outside-the-Box Thinking") there is a very interesting essay which I have excerpted below.

Toward a Halakhic Theory of Medicine

The study of medicine is an important and often enjoyable way to learn about humanity and illnesses but it is also morally dubious. Most people enjoy discovering important details about the workings of the human body, complex diseases from different times and places that inform their health and life expectancies. But because learning about the body involves discovering and repeating uncomfortable facts about bodily functions and human desires, we must ask whether Judaism permits it. Are we allowed to publicly discuss unclean biological and physiological acts merely because someone is sick? For example, Rabbi Shtraussfogel, in his work "Fees for Divine Service," points out that if we discuss sexually transmitted infections, we might come to permit mixed dancing. Also, medicine might teach us that homosexuality is not an illness to be cured and genital herpes is a communicable disease. According to Rabbi Shtraussfogel, medicine serves to inspire. "We do not need tales of death, we need stories of miraculous cures." Rabbi Shtraussfogel's son-in-law, Rabbi Zamdkopf, used to say, "If God wanted there to be Jewish doctors,  He wouldn't have made people sick on Shabbos." Indeed, Rabbi Shtraussfogel used to make sure that he would fall ill only in a town that was at least 51% non-Jewish or non-observant.


Robust God-Talk and Wimpy Moral Scruples

In his essay on Jewish identity in Jewish Ideas Daily, Yehuda Mirsky makes the following comment:
the language of "Jewish identity" is at best a pale substitute for the robust God-talk whose place it tries to fill
To be fair, he does conclude that the yearning for Jewish identity is better than nothing. (He doesn't go out of his way to ground his assertions in anything more than anecdote, but I won't go into that here.) What does "robust God-talk" mean, though? This is reminiscent of similar terms, like "maximalist," "heteronomous," and "rigorous," which are thrown around by some to show how Strong and Committed they are. Religious Jews are Robust, while Jews that care about Jewish identity (as if that issue has not preoccupied Jews for thousands of years!) are decaffeinated.

Unfortunately, a lot of Robust God-Talk is indefensible. "The sole purpose of non-Jews is to serve Jews," said Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef. This talk is certainly  robust, and delivered by someone held by many to be one of God's foremost authorities. Other God-talk, similarly robust, called for Jews not to rent their apartments to Arabs.

I am sure Mirsky finds such robust God-talk repugnant. The question is, then, what robustness means, and why it is better than serious grappling with the difficult matter of Jewish identity. Mirsky contrasts the wimpy omphalocentrism of Jewish identity with "real, durable responsibilities." Which responsibilities, exactly, and what makes them more "real" then our commitments to our own ideals and the communities we inhabit by our choice?

Undefined, rhetoric like this serves only to validate a particular type of Jewish identity to the exclusion of others. Certainly we can do better.