The Whimsy Of Serendipity

Photo: Audin

Years ago, a longtime patient of mine came to see me with an odd complaint:  he’d developed spontaneous bruising on the top of his penis.  “I honestly don’t know how this could have happened,” he said.  “I certainly didn’t bang it on anything,” he added with a nervous chuckle.

He went on to tell me that the previous week he’d been on a bus when he’d been struck with a sudden pain in his left hip so excruciating they had to stop the bus and cart him off in an ambulance to a nearby emergency room.  Continue reading…

The Problem With Being Too Persuasive

Photo: aspearing

When I was a first-year resident, I admitted a 34-year-old HIV-positive man to my inpatient general medicine service for fevers.  On physical exam, I found a large lesion on his right retina near the macula (the retina’s center).  I called up an infectious disease specialist, who confirmed what I’d suspected:  he had CMV retinitis. Continue reading…

The Neurology Of Near-Death Experiences

Photo: b1ubb

I’ve never had a patient confess to having had a near-death experience (NDE), but recently I came across a fascinating book called The Spiritual Doorway in the Brain by Kevin Nelson, M.D. that reports as many as 18 million Americans may have had one.  If true, the odds are not only that some of my patients have been among them, but also some of my friends.  Which got me wondering:  just what does science have to tell us about their cause? Continue reading…

What Justice Is

Every time I’ve written about morality, I’ve received strong, polarized reactions, and I imagine this time will be no different.  But as we’ve all been afforded an opportunity to reexamine—and perhaps redefine—our concept of justice with the recent killing of Osama bin Laden, despite my trepidation, I feel compelled to share my thoughts.

For me, the tragedy of 9/11 was perhaps slightly more personal than for many as I knew someone who was in the first plane that struck the World Trade Center. Continue reading…

Inverting Education

Photo: Tulane Public Relations

I’m no expert in education, so I may be speaking out of school with this post (pun intended), but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how and what we teach our children.  As I’ve perused the education literature, I’ve been struck by an important similarity between education and medicine:  a significant gap exists between the leading edge of research and its implementation.  That is, what we now know we should be doing is quite different from what we actually are. Continue reading…