policy

Is This the End of 23andMe?

NPR reported this morning that the FDA is hating, big time, on 23andMe, the personal genome service founded by Anne Wojcicki. Apparently, this feud has been ongoing for several years. 23andMe provides customers with a smattering of genetic data for the low-low price of $99…and a tube of their spit. The genetic information gleaned from the report runs the gamut from fun and random qualities, like being able to smell asparagus-pee, to more serious ones, such as carrier status of many major genetic diseases. You may recall that I actually partook in 23andMe’s services earlier this year. I went in to the experience with fairly low expectations and, admittedly, did it more for fun than anything else. The information that I received, however, more or less matched up with the realities of my heritage and the diseases that run heavily in my family. I was never under the impression that these results were the be it end all of my genetic destiny; 23andMe does a pretty adequate job of making sure you’re aware, at every step of the way, that your results only represent a small fraction of the possible genetic data that could be garnered from you, and it is not representative of all possible mutations known to exist– and you know, all the ones we don’t know about. Where the FDA seems to be hitting the hardest...

So, Why Is There So Much Medical Debt in the US?

Really, why is there so much medical debt in one of the richest developed nations in the world? This infographic gives a brief overview of an embarrassing blemish on Uncle Sam’s face.     Featured image from Flickr...

ZDoggMD on MSNBC Live!

A Talking (Bald) Head Move over, Fareed Zakaria and Malcolm Gladwell…there’s a new fancy-pants policy wonk in town! One who gets a whopping 3 awkward minutes to ramble on national TV with MSNBC anchor Richard Lui…LIVE! Props were given to Turntable Health and disses to Jenny McCarthy, so I believe I can say with fair confidence: mission...

First, Do No Harm: An Oath for Patients?

Should there be a Hippocratic Oath for patients? This week NPR reported on increased violence against doctors in hospitals in China, the climax of which resulted in a fatal stabbing at a hospital in the province of Zhejiang. Nurses and doctors from the facility donned surgical masks and took to the courtyard to protest the violence. The masks were not so much a symbol of solidarity as yet another layer of protection: this time, not from their patients, but from their own government. This attack against doctors by angry patients is not the first one in China this year; there were also stabbings and beatings in Harbin and Guangdong provinces that resulted in two more dead doctors. The culture between doctor and patient is built on an unstable rift: it is hardly uncommon for patients to insult and in some cases manhandle their physician if they are unhappy with the outcomes of their treatment or diagnosis. In these Chinese hospitals, the security guards are untrained to protect the physicians, and as a result, the violence has been allowed to escalate. The Chinese Hospital Association released a survey that said patients and/or their family members have assaulted staff at more than 60% of hospitals, supporting the idea that there is some cultural basis for the growing violence. The NPR article reports that, ironically, in the last few years, several health...

Student Debt: About the Mortgage Weighing You Down

So, I feel bad that all of my posts seem to do nothing but poke holes in the bubble that protects medical students from the “real world.”  I started with the threats to GME, and then brought home the government shutdown…and now I’m about to do the same with student debt.  But talk about it or not, this hulking Goliath is going to catch up with many of you one way or another, so I figure best to be prepared. Let’s get the numbers out of the way first: 86%– the amount of graduates from 2012 who had debt $166,750– the average amount of debt for these graduates from medical school ONLY.  Let’s note that there is actually a bimodal peak here, with over 1/3 of these students having debt > $200,000 (meaning that the average is skewed down thanks to those scholarship recipients). $49,651– the average salary of a 2012 intern. This equates to under $13/hr as residents work 40-80 hours per week. 36%– the amount of these graduates who also have undergraduate debt   Briefly I want to talk to you about a cushion we used to have called “federal loan subsidies”.  There were loans called subsidized Stafford loans that did not begin accruing interest until 6 months after the student graduated medical school.  But then Section 502 of the Budget Control Act of 2011 eliminated this...

Sorry Doc, Guess You’ll Have to Find Another Job

Imagine buying tickets to your favorite concert, changing your schedule so that you can go a certain date, organizing how you’re getting there and getting pumped about it with all your friends. You get to the concert. You’re beyond excited to belt out every lyric to every song because you listen to this band constantly. You go up to will call to pick up your tickets with a stupidly huge smile on your face, and the guy standing behind the window says “I’m sorry, we over sold on tonight’s tickets, so you will not be able to go in for the show tonight. Apologies.” You are PISSED. Now, imagine that scenario and your frustration times a billion… We at The “Almost” Doctor’s Channel have been trying to help get the word out about an issue that will not only cause a great level of frustration for medical students,  but it will also prevent all patients from receiving healthcare. We’re hoping to educate those who don’t know about the proposed budget cuts to the U.S. Medicare program, which funds more that 75% of residency programs. So, this morning, I was thrilled to see an article published by Bloomberg News sharing some frightening statistics that the public needs to know. Yes, the article explains that medical school acceptances are at a record high, however, that does not mean that these students will be able to become trained...

What the Government Shutdown Means to You

It turns out that as medical students, the amount of time we sacrifice to the gods that are basic sciences and clinical rotations is so great that the world of current events can pass us by. But one event that I can’t in good conscience let you ignore is the government shutdown. It’s easy to turn your textbooks into an impenetrable Fort Kickass, but the implications of this quandary reach even into the hallowed halls we construct to insulate ourselves from the outside world. First, a little background. Our country every year must pass a budget that guides our spending. Realistically, it’s like giving an 18-month-old a paint-by-numbers and expecting a masterpiece, but it gives us a place to start. A federal budget is typically proposed by the President and then Congress takes this recommendation, passes a law, and then sends a final version back to the White House for approval. And then unicorns go dancing across the rainbows of Bubblegum Canyon. Since 1997, shockingly, this happy little agreement has failed to materialize. Because of the Antideficiency Act, in the absence of a budget, all government activities must stop (turns out it’s illegal to spend government money without it being allocated, who knew?).  To avoid this, Congress relies on the well-loved stop-gap approach, in this iteration known as a “Continuing Resolution,” that provides structure for the funds and allows...