Paging Doctor Faustus

According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, nearly 62 million Americans are affected by mental illness annually. It is Mental Health Awareness Week an opportunity to remember that stigma still exists for those diagnosed with mental illness and that there is a vital need to raise awareness.

Take a few minutes and watch this short powerful film that makes the unfortunate point about psych care and veteran suicide. The film is a collaboration of Mark Pinto, a retired Marine, former Buddhist priest and social artist, and Patricia Lee Stotter. It will also serve as a pre-curtain preface for Paul Genega and Patricia Lee Stotter’s full-length theater piece “Paging Doctor Faustus.” (more…)

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TBT: Why I Fight for Change in Domestic Violence Legislation

tiffany allisonTo support Domestic Violence Awareness Month today’s TBT tells one individual’s story which led her to become an advocate for victims of domestic violence. It first ran on September 11, 2014.

In 2009 I became the victim of a violent crime, domestic assault with a weapon. The local newspaper’s front page story included the following phrases: “Felony Assault,” “Domestic Assault with a Weapon,” “False Imprisonment,” “beaten,” “hit about the head and body,” “beaten with hands, knees and feet,” “urinated on,” “beaten with a wrought iron cross,” “refused to let leave or use the telephone,” “numerous injuries,” “numerous bite marks about her body,” “lost consciousness,” “escaped.” Lucky to be alive should have been included.

What I learned in the years following my assault will scare you.  My offender was given a two and a half year sentence for felony domestic assault with a weapon. Due to the “good time policy” in Iowa, he served only 10 months. I was his fifth victim. Twelve months after his early-release, he violently re-offended.  This time, he disfigured his victim’s face, repeatedly biting her, leaving behind a permanent reminder of his violence. For this offense, his sixth, he was charged with Burglary 2nd degree (as he broke into a locked vehicle to gain access to his victim) and Willful Injury (an act that is intended to cause serious injury to another). (more…)

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What’s in Your Lipstick? Women Shouldn’t Have to Play Detective in the Makeup Aisle

swhr_icon-2-solidThe post below originally ran on HuffPost Healthy Living. It is written by Laura Meyer, a Policy Department Intern at the Society for Women’s Health Research.

Whip out your magnifying glasses and trench coats, ladies — it’s time to play detective. Not in any dark alleys or smoke-filled offices, but in the cosmetics aisle at the drug store, at the salon, and online.

You’ll need your magnifying glass to examine the ingredients lists on cosmetics and haircare products, which too often include chemicals tied to negative health effects, from rashes and burns to hormone disruption and even some cancers. Though most people assume that cosmetics on the shelf must be tested before they go on the market, the chemicals in these products are not reviewed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and companies do not have to report ingredients or the concentration of chemicals in their products. If something goes wrong, the FDA doesn’t have mandatory recall authority for dangerous products. (more…)

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  • October 5th, 2015 A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power
    By Glenna Crooks
  • In the Operating Room There Are No Politics

    Lisa-Suennen-photoThe post below first appeared on Venture Valkyerie on August 23.

    I rarely tread into the political, but during this time of extreme political rhetoric bordering on insanity, I have seen two things in the last week that brought home what is such an important and ironic point. The first was this poster, which I happened across in the lobby of the American Heart Association’s national headquarters:Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 12.04.01 PM

    It’s a poster that I suspect was created during a time of debate about the ACA, focusing as it does on lifetime limits on benefits, which were eliminated with passage of the ACA. The focus of the poster, of course, is how important it is to write policy by starting with patient needs and putting politics aside.

    The other item that got me to this particular blog post was a Huffington Post story today about candidate Rand Paul, who happens to be an opthamologist. The article talks about how, while other candidates were at the Iowa State Fair giving farm kids helicopter rides and eating meat on sticks, Dr. Paul was giving free cataract surgeries to Haitians. The quote that caught my attention was this, “In the operating room there are no politics,” according to the candidate. I’m sure his visit to Haiti was timed for political reasons, but the words still matter because they are right. (more…)

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    How Many More Annas Must Die?

    anna gunnIt’s been over a year since my older sister Anna died, so I choke up less readily while speaking about it.  The raw anger is less, but the frustration of losing someone to a preventable medical mistake will always remain with me.   Anna was five years older than me, my only sister, and the one I often turned to for advice. We were close despite living 600+ miles apart.  She was smart and insightful; she was at ease in most social situations. I, on the other hand, was the nerdy kid sister who loved science, who became a physician in my early 40’s.

    In 2012, Anna’s world turned upside down when she was diagnosed with bone marrow failure (myelodysplastic syndrome) at 58.  This disease stemmed from her previous treatment for breast cancer. At the time of diagnosis, everything else in her life seemed to be going well.  She loved being a (single) mom; she had a wonderful job; and they had just adopted an adorable Lab. She actually felt great. (more…)

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    A Patient at a Press Conference


    The following post originally ran on Gray Connections on September 6th.

    Earlier today (September 6, 2015) I gave this speech at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC)  World Conference on Lung Cancer in Denver.  I’m pleased at the reception it received.

    I appreciate IASLC including me in this press conference. They’ve been responsive to lung cancer patients and advocates, and have included the patient voice in several conferences. Patients and advocates participated in the planning process for this World Conference on Lung Cancer, as demonstrated by the number of patient and advocate presentation on the program. This is a first among major oncology conferences, and a step forward for engaged patients.

    PRC 1As the slide says, I’m alive thanks to research, precision medicine, and other patients. My lung cancer journey is a good example of the importance of research, hope, and engaged patients and advocates. (more…)

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    The Exposing the Silence Project


    Photo credit: Lindsay Askins,

    “Well, at least you have a healthy baby!” is one of the most common phrases a mother who went through a traumatic birth experiences hears. While the friend or family member may mean well and simply be trying to show optimism, he or she is often isolating the deep pain the mother may be going through. As part of my research on maternal health, I came across the photography and advocacy project Exposing the Silence: Documenting Birth Trauma and the Strength of Women across America. The project brings to light a little noticed group of women– women who experienced past sexual abuse that can be triggered during a traumatic birth; others forced into unwanted procedures; or women who felt ignored or demeaned by their care providers during birth. The purpose of the project is not in any way to try to advocate for one type of birth or type of care provider over another and it is by no means an attack on all workers in the field of maternity care. Rather, it is an opportunity to provide an outlet for women who had a birth that caused them physical and emotional pain months, years, and even decades after the fact. I interviewed the creators of the project in order to understand their mission and learned how this disruptive project is filling a vital void. (more…)

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    Pregnant in Prison: Maternity Care for Incarcerated Women

    myheadshotWhen thinking about maternal health access, one group of women are often forgotten, even silenced – incarcerated women.  According to the two part TV series “Babies Behind Bars,” the number of women in US prisons has climbed 400% over the past 30 years. It is estimated that the majority of these women are in jail for non-violent crimes. Each year, 6-10% of all incarcerated women are pregnant.

    Adequate maternal care for inmates has multiple components. Do they have access to prenatal care? Are they allowed more food? If they sleep on a top bunk can they be moved to a bottom bunk? Is access to mental health services provided to help with post-partum issues that may arise as the result of separation from their infant? Can the women breastfeed? Is shackling used?

    Restraining women during labor and delivery and post-labor poses potential harms to the health of the mother as well as the baby.  The National Commission on Correctional Health Care, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with numerous other notable organizations advise against shackling pregnant women. However, it is up to state and local jurisdictions to decide. While some states and local leaders have made great strides to prohibit shackling of pregnant women, many still have not enacted laws to protect pregnant inmates against this inhumane treatment. (more…)

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  • September 7th, 2015 An Icon of Labor: Rosie the Riveter
    By Glenna Crooks
  • Confronting Scandalous Physician Behavior: The Annals Of Internal Medicine Takes The First Step

    Val Jones, MD

    This post first appeared on Better Health.

    If you have not read the latest essay and editorial about scandalous physician behavior published in the Annals of Internal Medicine (AIM), you must do so now. They describe horrific racist and sexist remarks made about patients by senior male physicians in front of their young peers. The physicians-in-training are scarred by the experience, partially because the behavior itself was so disgusting, but also because they felt powerless to stop it.

    It is important for the medical community to come together over the sad reality that there are still some physicians and surgeons out there who are wildly inappropriate in their patient care. In my lifetime I have seen a noticeable decrease in misogyny and behaviors of the sort described in the Annals essay. I have written about racism in the Ob/Gyn arena on my blog previously (note that the perpetrators of those scandalous acts were women – so both genders are guilty). But there is one story that I always believed was too vile to tell. Not on this blog, and probably not anywhere. I will speak out now because the editors at AIM have opened the conversation. (more…)

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    The Paintings of The Medical Advocacy Mural Project: 2009-2015

    Regina Holliday

    Regina first ran the post below on August 12 on her blog (Regina Holliday’s Medical Advocacy Blog).

    I began my advocacy mission in 2009 inspired by my husband Fred Holliday II and our fight for patient data access while he was continuously hospitalized at five facilities in eleven weeks.  I started my advocacy by painting murals.  Thus began Medical Advocacy Mural Project.

    Then I started to paint studio pieces on canvas.  At this point I have painted 29 canvases in my home studio.  It is a quiet thoughtful process but sometimes quite lonely.

    In the fall of 2010, I began to live paint at conferences.  Live painting is such an amazing process.  I love the energy of the crowd and the speaker.  I love the frequent interruptions that add depth and story to the piece.  In the past five years I have painted 205 live paintings.  They vary greatly.  As I scroll through them, I can see my growth as an artist.  I thank every venue that has given me the space to paint and thereby allowed me to create hundreds of images while meeting so many amazing people.

    (I also founded a movement called The Walking Gallery.  I have painted 340 jackets in that movement in four years. You can learn more about that here. There are 43 artists painting and we have painted 394 jackets.)

    To see the paintings in The Medical Advocacy Mural Project click here.

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    ‘Why Don’t They Just Leave?’ Domestic Violence Goes Beyond Physical Abuse

    Today’s post originally ran on HuffPost Women.

    “It starts out little by little,” domestic violence expert Dr. Ludy Green said, as she described the typical pattern of financial abuse. “This is a concept that the general public is not yet familiar with, which makes it harder to recognize, treat, and study than physical abuse” said Dr. Green [1].

    After witnessing firsthand the damage caused by financial abuse, Dr. Green founded Second Chance Employment Services (SCES), a nonprofit organization that helps promote financial security for survivors of domestic violence.

    The general public’s lack of familiarity with this type of abuse severely harms its victims. While 30 percent of women experience domestic violence during their lifetime [2], approximately 94 percent of domestic violence survivors have also experienced financial abuse [3]. (more…)

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    What We Want Our Nurse to Know

    chelsyI’ve worn a few different hats in the hospital world. I’ve been the scared patient, the frustrated patient in pain in the waiting room, the family member sleeping next to the patient for weeks in the ICU, the visitor who refuses to follow the visiting hours, but I’ve never been the nurse, the doctor, the receptionist, or the orderly. I’ve cried while my nurses held my hand, I’ve yelled at nurses when I’m frustrated, I’ve been given shampoo and access to a shower when I was sleeping next to a hospital bed for months without any belongings, I’ve had procedures and information explained to me when I couldn’t understand what the doctor was saying to me, I’ve been the friend watching my peers go through the rigors of nursing school, I’ve judged nurses for not being warm and comforting, and I’ve seen tears of happiness swell under their eyelids when things get better.

    I have so many experiences as a patient or the guest of a patient, but I’ve never been in the shoes of my nurses. I don’t know what it’s like to see people die despite my efforts, to work on my feet for 14 hours, or to be yelled at by a crying family member and stay calm and understanding. There are so many things I wish I could go back and say to the nurses who have changed things for me and my loved ones during these experiences that I wish I had thought to say back then. As patients it’s hard to understand a perspective outside of our own, but here are some things we want you, our nurses, to know. (more…)

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    We couldn’t agree more..investing in nurses does save lives

    The following is an op-ed by Representative Dave Joyce (R-OH) that was published in today’s Ashtabula Star Beacon, an outlet in his home district. Joyce is the co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus, along with Representative Lois Capps (D-CA), who founded the caucus in 2003 and is retiring at the end of the Congressional term. Both have been instrumental in educating their colleagues on the value of nurses and the health policy issues that impact the nursing profession.

    The post is being published in conjunction with the American Nurses Association Lobby Day, when nurses will be meeting with members on Capitol Hill, advocating for issues important to nursing. Follow along by using the #hashtag #ANALobbyDay.


    “Investing in Nurses Saves Lives”

    DaveJoyce2By Congressman Dave Joyce

    Every day, 10,000 people turn 65 years of age. While we all want to believe that we “age with grace,” reality reminds us that we need to focus on our health, the health of our friends, family members and loved ones. More than ever, patients need clinicians of all kinds to meet the demand that comes with an aging population.

    As co-chair of the House Nursing Caucus, I am acutely aware that we are going to need more than 1 million new nurses by the year 2022—less than 10 years—in order to meet increasing patient demand. While striving to build a more quality-focused health system that prioritizes wellness, disease prevention and coordinated care, we must recognize the value that nurses bring to these efforts.  As the husband of a full-time nurse, I certainly do.  (more…)

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