Category Archives: Health

I Wasn’t Planning To Read This Book

I ordered the book Slow Medicine because someone recommended it for our church library and I am the church librarian. Before I put the book on the shelves I leafed through it and found myself stopping to read an intriguing account of how the author of the book Dr. Victoria Sweet saved a man’s life on a trek through Nepal by pulling a stubborn thorn out of his leg.  

I sat down and started the book from the beginning. I was totally drawn in by one interesting story after another about Dr. Sweet’s patients.  Victoria Sweet is a great believer in modern ‘fast medicine’ and appreciates the way new medical technologies and treatments save lives. But she wants to make the point that there is also a place for more measured, holistic, thoughtful, and simpler approaches to medicine. She calls it ‘slow medicine.’ 

Victoria basically walks us through her career as a physician in Slow Medicine and introduces us to the fascinating patients who taught her the importance of slow medicine- the value of listening to patients, observing them carefully, getting to know their families, histories and living situations, and being open to “out of the box” thinking. 

For example, she tells the story of a young boy who kept coming in with one ear infection after another.  It was only when she visited his farm home and realized he was swimming regularly in a stagnant pond containing animal waste that she understood why the ear infections kept recurring.  

Only after meeting a woman’s mother and discovering she had a rare skin disease at a fairly advanced stage was Dr. Sweet able to diagnose the daughter’s similar condition. Dr. Sweet says what made all the difference was the fact she stayed late at the hospital one night and met her patient’s mother who always only came to visit her daughter after finishing work. 

In another story, a man had terrible headaches.  Victoria took many, many hours to read carefully through the man’s mountain of medical records and eventually she found a clue in a previous doctor’s notes, that helped provide a remedy for the headaches.  

When a patient’s asthma seemed uncontrollable Victoria finally asked a respected Chinese healer to see her. Sure enough, the healer’s traditional medicines worked.  

I finished reading Slow Medicine in a park last Thursday. The perfect place to slowly savor its stories.

Slow Medicine makes the point that in a doctor’s haste to diagnose and treat he or she may not take the time to try different approaches, to find out about their patient’s home environment, to carefully go through their medical history and to really ‘see’ their patients and all the factors that might influence their condition.  

Victoria Sweet is an excellent writer and her book is NOTHING like a medical textbook.  It really is very interesting and engaging. I wasn’t planning to read this book but I’m glad I did. 

Other posts……..

Dad’s Medical Bag

Writing as a Healing Art

Being Mortal

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Things Have Changed But Maybe Not Enough

Dad and his fellow interns at St. Boniface Hospital in the late 1950s

This is a photo of my Dad with the interns who worked together with him in 1959 at the St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg. There is only one woman in the photo and even her presence would have been highly unusual for the time. According to an article in Maclean’s magazine by 1970, only seven percent of physicians in Canada were women. In 1959 that percentage will have been much lower.  Presently around 40% of physicians in Canada are women.  Those numbers could change in the near future since nearly 60% of Canadian medical students are women.  

doctor-1490804643RfiAlthough approaching equality in numbers female physicians are not earning equal pay.  An article in the National Post looks at Ontario where female physicians only make 73 cents for every dollar male physicians earn. This is partly because the specialty medical fields that women tend to choose are the more poorly paid ones.  Some research shows that female physicians spend more time talking to their patients, consequently they see fewer patients and so get paid less. Also, men still assume the majority of the more highly paid leadership positions in medicine. 

It is great to see the gender gap closing when it comes to the number of female physicians in Canada. We need to continue to work at closing the wage gap too. 

Other posts……..

What a Difference

Why All These Old White Men?

What Happens When Women Take Power? 

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Good News- Part 6

It’s true. 

Other good news stories here. 

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Pro Choice and Pro Life- What Might We Have in Common?

Demonstrators, one pro-choice, the other, pro-life, hold up signs during a protest in reaction to South Dakota’s new anti-abortion law, outside the Federal Court building in downtown Sioux Falls, S.D., Thursday. March 9, 2006. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

I’ve published a number of articles about my clearly pro-choice stance on the abortion issue. So I was pleased when a woman who defines herself as pro-life asked if I’d like to meet for a conversation.  As we talked I realized there were many things we agreed on. 

We both thought it troubling that politicians would use the situations of vulnerable women as a way to win points for their particular party.  We wished politicians of every affiliation could work together instead, to create the kind of conditions in our country that would mean fewer women would be in a situation where they would consider abortion.

It didn’t seem right to either of us that it was still primarily male politicians who make decisions about women’s reproductive health services. We talked about how women can end up with complete responsibility for their children if they decide not to have an abortion because some men neglect their financial and parental responsibilities to the children they father.

We both saw a need for good sex education in schools.  The media is filled with graphic sexual material and children need factual information presented in age-appropriate ways. I talked about how pediatricians who care for pregnant teens are often shocked at the lack of accurate information their patients have about sex.  The woman I was chatting with said she and her husband had been open and honest with their kids answering questions about sex and providing appropriate reading materials. But when her adolescent daughter came home after some health classes about reproduction and intimate relationships at school, the woman realized they had left out some important things in their family conversations.

We agreed that a solution to the abortion issue wouldn’t happen overnight and that we need to take incremental steps to try to decrease the number of abortions in Canada. I talked about how the state of Colorado had provided free confidential birth control to teens and had reduced their abortion rate by 42% as a result. My companion hadn’t heard about that and was duly impressed.

We both personally knew women who’d had abortions or had needed to make the tough decision about having one.  We agreed that hearing their stories had a major impact on our views about abortion.

We also agreed the actions of the more radical fringes of both the pro-choice and pro-life movements had probably hindered the process of the two factions trying to find common ground.  My companion talked about watching over-the-top celebrations marking the protection of abortion rights. She mentioned those who advocate for allowing abortion even during the last weeks of pregnancy.  I talked about people who stand outside abortion clinics terrorizing the women going inside and those who want to prevent rape victims from having abortions.

We both agreed marches where crowds gathered as a way to support their views on abortion might not be the best use of time and energy.  So many things need to be done to help women facing unwanted pregnancies. So many things need to be done to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Shouldn’t people focus their time and energy on doing those things?

Although I call myself pro-choice, and the woman I was talking with calls herself pro-life we had numerous ideas about abortion that were actually quite similar. I wonder if other people in the two camps on the issue wouldn’t discover the same thing if they were to sit down and talk respectfully with one another? Neither of us changed our mind on where we stood on the abortion issue during our conversation but we did find common ground. 

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Good News- Part 4


mortality rate for infantsIt’s true.

Good News About Global Literacy

Good News About Global Poverty

Good News About The Environment

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Dad’s Treasures – Part 2

As I was helping my Dad do some down-sizing his old doctor’s bag was one of the treasures we found.  Just looking at the bag it is clear it was put to very good use!

My Dad’s medical school graduation photo

My father told me he got the bag shortly after he graduated from medical school at the University of Manitoba.  I was only five years old at the time but can still remember the beautiful dress my mother wore to Dad’s graduation celebrations.

Dad and his fellow interns at St. Boniface Hospital in the late 1950s- Dad is third from the right in the back row

After interning at St. Boniface Hospital and doing a year of surgical practice with Dr. Isaac in Winnipeg he joined a clinic in Steinbach.

Dad with the doctors he worked with at Bethesda Hospital in Steinbach. 

Dad practiced medicine in Steinbach for 38 years.

Dad shows me some of the equipment he kept in his bag

I remember his bag as a fixture in our home because Dad could be called away any time night or day to make housecalls for his patients and he usually took the bag stocked with basic medical supplies and equipment along with him.  I remember the bag coming along with us to our cabin at Moose Lake as well, because many people with cottages around the lake knowing my Dad was a doctor would come to our yard to have cuts and scrapes attended to, to have fish hooks removed from various body parts or to have a quick consultation to determine whether an injury was serious enough to warrant a drive to the nearest hospital. In the article written about my Dad when he became an honorary lifetime member of the Canadian Medical Association, they talked about the many medical students he mentored, the volunteer work he did as a doctor in different countries, and the various professional boards and committees he served on. 

Dad’s work-worn doctor’s bag is a symbol of his dedicated service to thousands of people during his long and respected career as a physician. 

Other posts……….

Dad’s Treasures- Part 1


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Time For Canada’s Senate To Die?

Who would want to block the passage of legislation that protects the health and well being of Canada’s children?

In 2016 former Conservative senator and Olympic skiing medalist Nancy Greene Raine was determined to do something to address the high rate of childhood obesity in Canada. So she sponsored legislation (Bill S-228) that would ban the advertising of products high in sugar, salt, and fat from children’s media programming. It would also prevent grocery stores from displaying items like sugar-coated cereals at kids’ eye level.

The bill was passed by the duly elected House of Commons but now faces a quiet death in the Senate because a group of appointed Conservative senators is being influenced by a powerful coalition of advertisers, food processors, and retailers. Even though Canada’s pediatricians, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation, the World Health Organization and the Canadian Cancer Society support the legislation, if it is not approved by the Senate before it adjourns on June 28th the legislation will die.

As much as 90% of food marketed to kids through television, movies, the Internet, video games, and giveaways in restaurants are high in sugar, fat, and salt. Quebec banned all commercial marketing to children thirty years ago. Their childhood obesity rate for 6-11-year-olds is the lowest in Canada.   Is that just a coincidence?

The legislation has already been amended to try to address some of the concerns of farmers, retailers, and the media. For example, while the initial legislation banned advertising for most of the daytime hours when children are awake, now it is only banned on programs where children make up more than 15% of the audience. The legislation has also been amended to allow food and beverage companies to continue to sponsor children’s sports’ teams and events targeted at children. 

Conservative appointed Senator Pamela Wallin says she is concerned about the impact the legislation will have on Canada’s grain and dairy producers and the baking industry but Nancy Greene Raine is quoted in a Toronto Globe and Mail article saying her bill won’t harm the sale or export of any Canadian products. They can still be sold, but can’t be marketed to children.  

Ms. Raine finds it particularly ironic that she herself is a former Conservative-appointed senator and senators from her own party are blocking the legislation because they are worried that its passage might make Liberals look too good just before an election. In a CBC interview, Ms. Raine said she was hurt that her hard work to cross party lines and obtain Liberal support for her bill is now being thwarted by members of her own party. 

As far as I’m concerned I’d like to see all commercial advertising aimed at children banned and I think it may be time to abolish Canada’s Senate.  Bill S-228 is only one of several important pieces of legislation that have been passed by the House of Commons but the current Senate is blocking.

Canada’s Senate Chamber is currently being renovated. Perhaps we should consider renovating it so it can be used for something else once the Senate is abolished.

Bills to protect victims of sexual assault and to protect the rights of Canada’s indigenous people will also likely die because of the ‘sober second thought’ of our appointed Senate. Perhaps its time to see that outdated institution die so it can no longer cause the death of legislation that protects Canada’s most vulnerable citizens. 

Other posts……

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