Medical Errors and the Culture of Shame

It was probably our eighth or ninth admission that day, but my intern and I had given up counting. I was midway through my medical residency, already a master of efficiency. You had to be, or you’d never keep up. This one was a classic eye-roller: a nursing home patient with dementia, sent to the emergency room for an altered mental status. When you were juggling patients with acute heart failure and rampant infections, it was hard to get worked up over a demented nonagenarian who was looking a little more demented. More

Creativity in Medicine

“What are you doing creatively these days?” It’s not a question you hear commonly. Medicine is a field with a strong history of creativity, but its daily practice feels less and less creative More

Incidental Finding?

A small adrenal mass was “incidentally noted” on my patient’s CT. But once the incidentaloma had been given life, so to speak, it was no longer incidental. We were now obliged to run some highly complicated — and expensive — lab tests. More

Medical Check-Ups: Waste of Time?

A new report concluded that general health checkups for adults did not help patients live longer or healthier lives. So is it time to scrap the annual medical check-up? More

Lab, Interrupted

All academic medical centers rest on a tripod — patient care, education and research. The effect of Hurricane Sandy on the third leg of that tripod — research — has gotten the least attention, partly because rescuing cell cultures just isn’t as dramatic as carrying an I.C.U. patient on a ventilator down flights of stairs in the dark. But, of course, there is an incontrovertible link between those cell cultures and that patient. More

Coming Home to Bellevue

There’s no place like home. That’s not a phrase people typically utter about their hospitals, but those were the words on everyone’s lips when we returned to Bellevue last week, after the hurricane-induced evacuation. More

When the Patient is “Noncompliant”

As soon as a patient is described as noncompliant, doctor shorthand for patients who don’t take their medication or follow medical recommendations, it’s as though a black mark is branded on the chart. More

Women Still Missing from Medicine’s Top Ranks

While women make up about half of all medical students and a third of academic faculty members, they are are still vastly underrepresented in leadership roles. Is it that the medical world remains biased against women? Or is it that the culture of the workplace — built around the needs of men for generations — simply remains that way? More

Imagine a World Without AIDS

The beginning of the end of AIDS? Could it really be?For those of us who did our medical training in the late ’80s and early ’90s, AIDS saturated our lives. The whole era had a medieval feel, with visceral suffering and human decimation all around. More

Falling into the Diagnostic Trap

It’s as though our brains close ranks around our first impression, then refuse to consider anything else. With this patient, we almost missed a life-threatening diagnosis. More

Assuming the Doctor’s a “He”

A classic study of preschoolers in 1979 showed that even young children “knew” that doctors were men and nurses were women. But surely we’ve moved beyond these stereotypes, no? More

Ins and Outs of Inpatient and Outpatient Medicine

The inpatient wards and the outpatient clinic are part of the same hospital, but they are like different planets. On the inpatient side, the patients are acutely ill — malignant brain tumor, acute renal failure, heart valve infections, intestinal bleeding, and so on. Not so in the outpatient clinic, where patients get their regular medical care to manage everyday chronic illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart disease. More

Lemons for Weight Loss

The field of weight-loss pills is strewn with lemons. Why do both doctors and patients pretend that it’s lemonade, when it’s anything but! More

Doctors Have Feelings Too

Doctors should be aware of emotions that may lead them to be less than honest with patients or reluctant to admit errors. More

Who Deserves a Heart Transplant?

One of the most agonizing spots in medicine is the “transplant list.” In the United States, as in many countries, we rely on a simple system of altruism for organ donation. But other countries are trying different approaches. More

Books by Danielle Ofri