abby-norman

Abby Norman

Abby Norman is a science writer who enjoys prodding topics that range from the mundane to the insane. She currently works as a health guide working with high risk diabetes patients. When she's not at her desk, she can usually be found in the hospital library, the OR or the morgue. When she's not researching or working, she also write part-time for BHM Healthcare Solutions.

http://popmed.co.vu

HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging for your Smartphone: Would you use it?

In a world where every 1 in 5 people owns a smartphone, it comes as no surprise that healthcare, a commodity that matters to all, is interested in staking their claim in new technology. That being said, there are many concerns that healthcare organizations have surrounding the heavy implementation of technology in their practices, hospitals and especially between physicians and patients. One major concern is security: patient information is extremely sensitive and with the rate of identity theft in healthcare increasing: last year the Identity Theft Resource Center reported that up to 43% of identity theft for 2013 was medical or healthcare theft, outranking other common institutions like banking and education. The market is rife with products that claim to be secure enough for a healthcare organization, but this can be difficult to verify. The companies responsible for creating some of the top notch EMR’s on the market have also piloting projects around “mobile health” but physicians and hospital administration remain wary. One company, though, purports a well-marketed solution: qliqSoft, founded by Krishna Kurapati, is creating mobile applications specifically designed for use in healthcare settings, by physicians and between physicians. Secured text messaging in the form of qliqConnect, is available on mobile phones, tablets and desktops on both Windows and Mac OS and has a HIPAA and HITECH compliant sticker.   The product is designed to create faster communication...

10 Females Who Made Me Want to Pursue a Career in Medicine

Virginia Apgar, M.D. — Developed the Apgar Score, the standardized system to evaluate the health of babies when they are born. This was developed in 1952 before fetal monitors existed,  and looked at the infant’s breathing, skin color, muscle tone, reflexes and pulse. She was also the first woman to earn the title of full Professor at the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia. She specifically studied obstetrical anesthesia.     Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D. — First female MD, graduated from New York’s Geneva Medical College in 1849.  Interestingly, she was initially disgusted at the prospect of studying medicine, as the body and it’s processes freaked her out.  But after a close friend died and told her that would have been spared her worst suffering had her physician been a woman, Blackwell went into medicine.     Rebecca Lee Crumpler, M.D. — First Female, African-American M.D. Graduated with a degree in 1864; after which time she moved to Virginia to take care of freed slaves who had no access to Medical Care. Selma Kaderman Dritz — Epidemiologist whose research uncovered the root cause of the then mysterious epidemic plaguing gay men in San Francisco in the 80s– which we now understand to be HIV/AIDs.  Colleagues remember her saying, “We can’t let those kids die.” Gertrude Belle Elion — Chemist who developed Purinethol- the first major drug to fight leukemia, in...

I Can Hazmat? 8 Things You Learn in Hazmat Training

* Abby Norman is certified by FEMA for Level C gear in a Hospital Setting 1. Preparedness is essential because hazards are actually everywhere, and it doesn’t take much of certain hazards to become full blown “situations”.  Our instructor gave one example of a woman who broke two small mercury thermometers inside her house and needed complete decontamination (decon) of herself and her home. Also, many hazardous chemicals can be purchased at Wal-Mart: mace and pepper spray, pesticides and lighter fluid just to name a few. And you may not realize it but the big trucks that transport large quantities of these materials to your local Wal-Mart (through your neighborhood) are unmarked even though they contain these hazards. The company stays strategically under the weight limit for labeling their trucks with warnings, but just because you have 999 lbs of a substance as opposed to the 1,000 lbs that would require the truck be labeled doesn’t mean you have less of a hazard should that truck turn over on I-95 (or worse yet, in your front yard). Those trucks, and the ones that are actually marked and carrying large amounts of hazardous materials, go through your tiny neighborhood in the middle of the night for several reasons, but mostly because should a disaster occur, the kill rate is lower because they’re in a less populated area.   2. People...

That Time I Observed a Hysterectomy in the Middle of a Snowstorm

The first thing I think as I walk into the OR for the first time is, “I wish I could get my apartment this clean.” Not only is the space immaculate and brightly lit, but I am squeaky clean in scrubs, booties, a cap and a mask, all various shades of blue. I arrived a half hour ago and was met by the OR scheduling nurse who helped to orchestrate my observations. She leads me into the locker room, which I’m surprised to see is exactly how it’s depicted on television dramas: rows of lockers adorned with pictures of children and half naked celebrities. In the attached lounge, surgeons, OR nurses and techs drink coffee while they watch the news—a huge snowstorm is hovering over us and outside it’s already starting to spit snow. It’s 7:30 am and they are already planning on all on-call surgeons staying overnight at the hospital, either in spare patient rooms or vacant gurneys. In the OR, the nurses are counting instruments; they point me toward a stool where I sit, far away from the sterile area which, I am told, would have to be completely replaced if I was to even touch a corner of it. Behind their surgical masks, their eyes are kind. They are as curious about my world as I am about theirs. For the first procedure, a laparoscopic assisted...

10 Steps to Surviving Your First Autopsy

I work in a hospital filing in the medical records department. Because I’m student-aged and am considerably curious and intelligent, I often strike up conversations with people in other departments. The short of it is, I wound up being offered an opportunity to observe an autopsy — every biology nerd’s dream, no? — and it was the most challenging experience, both academically and spiritually, of my life. Here are a few things I learned. 1. The first few minutes are going to be weird. No matter how chill you think you’re going to be upon walking into the morgue, the initial shock is going to send you into a very bizarre type of consciousness. Seeing someone in an open casket at a wake does not prepare you for the morbid imagery of the autopsy experience. You have to go into it knowing that, really, there’s no way to prepare, and you can’t be 100% sure of how you’ll react. The toughest med students often faint or puke in the first minute. 2. You very well may faint and/or puke. Don’t worry about what the pathologist thinks of you: they’ve seen it all. Part of the job is having students observe and they’ve seen everything. The best way to respect them — and the other people in the room with you (alive or not) — is to be aware of what’s going...

Self-mutilation or Scientific Innovation…or Both?

Ever think about practicing a surgical technique on yourself? What about inventing one? Werner Forrsmann was kind of a bad ass in that way. As a young medical student in Germany, he survived his preliminary medical training and went on to do his residency in Berlin in 1929. There, he became sort of fascinated with the idea of getting to the heart of the matter, you might say. He wanted to devise a way to get medicine directly to the heart of a sick patient without having to crack open their chest and probably kill them. After what we can assume included many sleepless nights, many missed opportunities for poon tang, and probably a lot of drinking that was fueled by despair rather than pleasure, the 26 year old genius went to his advisor with a proposal for an experiment that he was requesting permission to undertake. He had this “theory” that if you inserted a small tube into a vein near the elbow, you could run that tube up the vein directly into the heart, thereby creating a direct route to deliver life-saving medicine. Now, by today’s standards, that doesn’t seem ridiculous at all. In fact, it almost seems passe. But in 1929, it was nothing short of murderous (or suicidal in his case). His superior responded with complete, unwavering doubt: any treatment that interfered directly with the heart’s...

How Will I Ever Be a Doctor if I’m Terrified of Vomit?

I recently read an article in The Atlantic on Anxiety. The author, Scott Stossel, devotes several paragraphs on his fear of vomiting – called emetophobia. It stopped me in my tracks: I’m not alone. I don’t remember life without emetophobia. My status as an “emet” probably preceded my first experience actually throwing up. My mother was bulimic and she vomited multiple times a day, and not always in the bathroom. As a child it terrified me because I didn’t know that she was vomiting behind the closed bathroom door; it mostly sounded like she was being strangled or bludgeoned to death. I sat, shaking, on the other side of the door waiting for her to emerge. When I had my own vomiting experiences as a small child (so few I can recall each and every one with astounding accuracy and detail) she was not sympathetic and, at times, straight up cruel. So, unlike some folks who have this particular phobia, I know exactly where mine came from. It doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, though. It is a highly irrational fear. My reaction to even writing the above paragraph wherein I mentioned the last time I actually vomited fills me with anxiety that I might have “jinxed” myself. In fact, I could tell you the number of years since I last vomited, but sharing that sacred number feels too frightening...

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