Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Need a doctor? Read this book

I just finished reading and reviewing The Color of Atmosphere by Maggie Kozel, MD. The review will appear sometimes soon online at Story Circle Network.
 Dr. Kozel did her internship and pediatric training in the Navy, then served on board a ship and at a base in Japan. After ten years in the Navy, she and her husband, a neurologist, returned to New Jersey with their two daughters and went into private practices. Kozel draws a sharp contrast between military medicine, which she describes as the most socialized in the world, and private practice, which she says is essentially shaped by insurance policies, pharmaceutical advertising, and fear of malpractice suits. Morally unable to turn away uninsured patients, she found herself struggling to balance her compassion with the need to earn a decent living--no thought of the income that made doctors of previous generations wealthy. She found herself discussing toilet training, eating habits, and sleeping through the night more than doing what she was trained to do: keep children healthy. Patient expectations were a problem: parents wanted something for their money. A cold? Give us antibiotics. A backache? Do an MRI. Obesity? Fix it but don't ask us to change our eating habits. Her counsel of practical, preventive medicine fell on deaf ears.
After twenty years, Maggie Kozel, one of the brighteest and best pediatricians in the country, left medicine to teach high school chemistry. She teaches bright and receptive girls at the private school her daughters attend, she spends more time with her family, and sleeps through the night. But yes, she misses practicing medicine.
In her memoir, laced with patient stories well disguised, and just a bit of her personal life, she boldly addresses such issues as universal health care, a national electronic health database, and Medicare and Medicaid. It's an eye-opening look at today's medical care, and I recommend it to everyone interested in health care reform, from President Obama and Speaker Boehmer to the elderly and uninsured. Something's got to be fixed.
I grew up in a medical family, married a doctor, have a brother who's a retired physician--but these problems were not as acute thirty years ago when I was associated with, indeed enveloped by medicine. I am fortunate to have good insurance and good medical care, but this book, in addition to making me even more aware of the problems of our health care delivery system, has made me determined not to chat with my primary care physician. After all, he only can spare twenty minutes on me--I usually take a lot less.
The Color of Atmosphere makes no attempt to explain the complexities of the health care bill that was passed nor the current fight against it, but it will open your eyes to the problems.

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