The moment.

The incomprehensible can occur in a moment. Something unexpected, let alone unimaginable, happens, reminding all of us that all we ever have is the moment we are in. Reminding all of us how precious that moment we live in truly is. Reminding all of us that we are a heartbeat away from eternity.

There are no words or thoughts that provide comfort or bring an explanation to the inevitable question of “why?” There is no answer. There is only the reality that is faced in dealing with senseless loss, a life ended too soon, a lifetime of remembrances never formed.

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Celebrating doctors today and every day



Today is National Doctors Day. As I noted in a previous blog post, this celebration was started humbly in 1933 by the wife of a Georgia doctor. Nearly 60 years later President George H. W. Bush signed Proclamation 6253 establishing National Doctors Day to recognize physicians for “their leadership in the prevention and treatment of illness and injury…”

There are many celebrations of other professions, causes and holidays. So why single out doctors?

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Doc in the D’s favorite health care-inspired books

So you want some recommendations about books to read, but you’re not interested in the business books that I recommended in a prior blog?


I hear you and thought I would keep some of the books in the realm of medicine and health care. I may eventually provide you with a list of my casual reading. But I’m afraid this might provide too much insight into my psyche than I am comfortable to reveal.

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The Yuck Factor

All of us in health care know the importance of cleaning and washing our hands when we care for others. This simple act can prevent injury to patients and save lives.

I am going to give you another reason to wash your hands.

Take a good look at the bacterial cultures of the hands of two of our employees. Hand2You can see those areas that represent growth of bacteria. Bacteria that can be transmitted to others, including our patients, our co-workers, our friends, our spouses, our children and ourselves.

This phenomenon qualifies by a very precise scientific term, YUCK. Continue reading

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A Big Favor

To kick off the return of Doc in the D, I wanted to share something special that truly touched my heart. The journey we take in our professions is personal but also shared. Much of the shared experience is not technical; it is related to the humanity of our roles and calling.

Some among us can provide insights into this far better than others. They can describe the emotional subtleties, the push and pull on our professional and personal lives, and the fundamental thread of our connectivity with our patients.

A brilliant (and award winning) essay by one of our surgical residents, Dr. Ko Un Clara Park, captures this and needs no further introduction. Continue reading

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Doc in the D is Back!

“He’s ba-aa-a-a-ck.”

No, not Poltergeist II. Doc in the D is back.

After an almost six month hiatus, Doc in the D has returned. We all had to recharge the batteries after our centennial celebration that culminated in a magnificent Grand Ball.

Now it’s time for a new century of Henry Ford Hospital and to continue to share stories of our employees and our hospital. Continue reading

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A Detroit Bond Leads to Dr. F. Janney Smith History

As we’ve been celebrating our 100th anniversary this year, I’ve had the great opportunity to hear and read many personal stories about your history at Henry Ford, and reminisce with colleagues about the days when we were interns and residents, just beginning our medical careers.

JS med school skit

F. Janney Smith (middle, with headgear and fake mustache) participating in a skit with other medical students at Johns Hopkins in 1911, where they’ve successfully removed a football from a patient, pleasing their professor.

One personal history, however, stood out for me. It came from a shared Detroit bond, decades in the making.

In early spring, Dr. Richard Dryer forwarded an email to me. The email, from his daughter Mary Beth Dryer, included an interesting conversation between her and Dr. Steven Smith about their shared connection to Henry Ford Hospital.

Both had fathers employed at Henry Ford Hospital. But nearly 60 years separated their fathers’ medical careers.

Amazingly, Dr. Smith’s father was none other than Dr. F. Janney Smith.

As I wrote in a previous blog post, Dr. F. Janney Smith was among the first wave of physicians at the hospital. In fact, he was the first recruit of Physician-In-Chief Dr. Frank Sladen, and the first cardiologist in Michigan.

Dr. F. Janney Smith, who graduated from Johns Hopkins an unbelievable 102 years ago, was the head of cardio-respiratory diseases.

By 1919, he established the hospital’s first inpatient unit for cardio-respiratory disease and brought some new technology, the electrocardiogram, to Henry Ford Hospital. Continue reading

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Henry Ford Cardiologist was First Voice Against the Tuskegee Study

The headline in the research journal was so startling that Dr. Irwin Schatz had to read it several times before it sunk in:

“The Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis: 30 years of Observation”

The year was 1964 and Dr. Schatz was a young cardiologist at Henry Ford Hospital when he came upon the study.

Dr. Irwin Schatz (Photo courtesy of The John A. Burns School of Medicine)

Dr. Irwin Schatz (Photo courtesy of The John A. Burns School of Medicine)

Little did he know at the time that his subsequent actions and response to the study would become a lasting legacy, a point remembered and celebrated in pieces written this week in the New York Times and Washington Post to mark Dr. Schatz’s recent passing at the age of 83.

Dr. Schatz was called the “first, lonely voice” to object to the now-infamous clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in Alabama.

Only four years out of medical school and with limited resources, Dr. Schatz was truly courageous in his actions.

Objecting to the experiments on uneducated black men of the Tuskegee, Dr. Schatz wrote a scathing letter to the study authors at the U.S. Public Health Service.

While there was no treatment for syphilis when the study began in 1932, there certainly was a proven, effective treatment available to patients when the study was published – a point strongly noted in the letter Dr. Schatz wrote to the study authors in 1965.

The study had deliberately withheld treatment from the men – and in most cases, the men were not even told that they had this potentially fatal disease, passing it along to women and children. Continue reading

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“Back to the Future” Part 2

In the second part of my three-part vodcast interview with Henry Ford Health System CEO Nancy Schlichting, we continue our discussion about the history of Henry Ford by taking a closer look the first physicians and nurses at Henry Ford Hospital.

Nancy and I talk about the formation of the Henry Ford Medical Group and the evolution of physician education and training, as well as our first physicians at Henry Ford Hospital – Physician-in-Chief Dr. Frank Sladen and Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Roy McClure.

We again highlight Clara Ford’s important influence during the hospital’s formative years, and her great belief in the caring nature of nursing and its pivotal role in the medical care provided to patients.

She was a driving force in developing the School of Nursing on the hospital campus in 1925. Continue reading

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IDEAL: Advancing Surgical Innovation

Advances in health care happen in a variety of ways.

Sometimes they occur as a matter of necessity – the desperate attempt to save a life.

Sometimes they occur as a matter of luck – the “eureka” moment of discovery.


Robotic kidney surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

Most of the time they occur as a result of thoughtful innovation, development and assessment, and then tested for reliability and safety.

When you take a prescription or an over-the-counter drug, you probably don’t give very much thought as to how that particular medication came to be; you know what it does, potential side-effects and why you’re taking it.

But there’s a strong process in place for developing new drugs and making them available to the masses, to ensure quality, safety and effectiveness:

  • The drug manufacturer tests it and submits evidence through a “new drug application” to the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).
  • A team of CDER physicians, statisticians, chemists, pharmacologists, and other scientists then review the data provided in the application and propose labeling, should it be approved for use.
  • After that a clinical research process continues to test the validity of the studies and role of the medication in the treatment process.

Clear. Effective. Tested.

Ever wonder how the tracheostomy came to be a surgical method of treating an obstruction in the trachea?

The technique was clearly an innovation at the time. But it was not required to go through a randomized controlled trial or other strictures required of new prescription drugs and medical procedures.

You can take a drug “off label” for other uses – there’s a clear method for researching alternative uses and effectiveness as such.

Shouldn’t we have something similar in place for new surgical techniques? For surgical and procedural cases, the “off label” uses are not as clearly understood or often as rigorously scrutinized.

Once the “off label” procedure is proven to work, how do we ensure that it is safely performed by other surgeons and proceduralists? Continue reading

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