Friday, August 28, 2009

The Hairy Vibrator

My mom said I should be on a commercial, so here goes . . .

A couple of months ago I got a bulky manila envelope in my work mail slot.  I opened it and it was a plastic baggie full of high-end, prescription lotion samples.  No note.  I was really confused, but had a lot of work to do, so I stashed it on my desk and kept going.  As I was working on my cases, I realized it must be from Dr. Styles - a courier runs between the University hospital and my hospital.  I called her later that afternoon to confirm, and she said "Yeah, I got a bunch from a trip to the dermatologist, and knew you might like to try those.  Sorry I didn't leave a note, I was really busy.  But I've been meaning to tell you about this product, the Clarisonic Pro.  You use it on your face, you can even use it in the shower.  It is amazing, but costs a lot.  Get it for your birthday."

I was curious, so I googled it.  It was around a hundred dollars, not cheap, but not over the top either.  I filed it away, and last week, when Ike asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said, "The Clarisonic Pro.  You can get it at Sephora.  Don't worry, I can get it myself."  He said, "No, I am off this week, I'll get it for you."

So on my birthday I got a giant box in a red velvet drawstring bag.  I was excited to open it, then immediately intimidated, as I get with all things technical.  There were a lot of words on the box.  There were multiple parts.  I might have to read directions to figure it out.  It reminded me of the time when I got my breast pump, and it sat in the corner of the den for a month, staring at me with evil mechanical eyes, daring me to try to figure it out.  Until my nursing mentor, Dr. Mel, finally came over and showed me how to use it.  "Betty.  It's easy.  Clean this part daily.  This tube goes here.  Screw the cap on like this.  Charge like this.  I think you can figure the rest out."  I felt like someone had just clipped a chain on my foot and released me from the giant rock that was dragging me to the bottom of the ocean.  

So when I met Dr. Styles for my birthday brunch at Vieux Carre (Ted Ludwig was playing!  He talked to me!) she said, "So, did you get the Clarisonic Pro?  Do you love it?"  I had to confess - I do not have a good poker face - I tend to play jokes on people at work over the phone, so they can't see me grinning.  "Well, I got it, but I didn't use it yet - you know, it's technical.  I haven't opened it to figure it out."  She gave me an exasperated, pitiful look that reminded me of the time I missed venous outflow obstruction in the Liver Unknown conference.  I should have known better.  I was a fellow.  I wasn't sleeping much - John kept me up all night for about 8 months.  Sorry, Dr. Styles.

Anyway, she said, "Betty.  It's just like the Sonicare toothbrush.  Open it.  Push the button.  It has a two minute timer.  Charge it when you aren't using it."  I assured her I would.  So that night, I decided I would try it in the tub.  I don't take baths often, but the idea of trying new technology in the morning rush of the shower was too much, so I had the perfect excuse for a relaxing bath.  I even lit the candle Dr. Styles gave me for my birthday at brunch.  I pulled the Clarisonic Pro out of the box and climbed in the tub.  There were three vials of potions that accompanied the tool, so I read the instructions.  One bottle said, "Do not use on your face."  What??  I could use this on places other than my face?  I filed that information, and found the face lotion.  It smelled amazing as I applied it, and when I was all soaped up, I pushed the button on the Clarisonic Pro.  It immediately started vibrating, and I giggled out loud.  Tub, candle - I felt like I was wielding a hairy vibrator.  It felt really good (on my face, of course) and I was AMAZED that although I had already washed my face, there was a light gray/brown sheen on the circular brush.  It cleaned out my pores!!  When I got out of the tub I had another surprise when using my nightly toner and lotion - my face felt as smooth as John and Sicily's baby butts.

Now I use it twice daily.  And talk about it all the time, I think my partners are gonna kill me.  But I convinced one of them to buy it yesterday at lunch.  

I think I'm going to use that body polish to attack the rough spots on the back of my arms, and see what happens.

End of commercial.  Unpaid, of course.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Drug Reaction

Last week on my birthday, I was delighted to be able to pick up the kids at afternoon carpool, for once.  Until I had to sit in line for twenty minutes.  I was thanking my lucky stars that I had morning drop-off duty, and afternoon was handled by Ike and various other family members.  Until John and Sicily saw my car, and acted like the President himself, or maybe SpongeBob would be a more age-appropriate analogy, was picking them up for school.

Sicily climbed in the back and I asked her how her day was.

"Mom, something bad happened.  I lost my apple because of Julian."

I was alarmed and confused.  Sicily doesn't eat apples.  And even though this was only day two of school, I could tell she had a yen for Julian.  Day one she couldn't stop talking about how funny he was, how weird it was that he ate sushi for lunch, and how he addressed her as "mister."

I asked her to elaborate.  She explained that all the kids have apples on the tree, and if you break a rule, you have to take down your apple and put it in the basket for the day.  I asked her what she did.

"I wasn't listening to the teacher."

"Who were you listening to?"

She sighed.  "Julian."

Tonight, after Sicily and I circled six blocks twice after dinner,  her biking and me running to keep up with her, she was getting ready for bed and I was waiting to read.  All of a sudden she turned around and said,

"Mom, my ear just popped really loud and now it hurts really bad."

Since she hasn't been able to breathe for two days, I was immediately worried.  I pulled out the otoscope, which was handy since I had just used it Sunday to locate a tiny pebble against John's eardrum that had to be surgically removed on Monday morning.  It's been a bad ear week.  I can count on one hand the number of ear infections Sicily has had in her life, and I think it has been a couple of years since her last.  But sure enough when I looked, the eardrum was cloudy and opaque and there was a rim of redness at the base.

Luckily, we had antibiotics handy at the house, and dosed her up.  She was still complaining of pain, and we were out of Tylenol, but I located some liquid Tylenol with codeine at the back of the medicine cabinet that had been prescribed for John when he had his adenoids out in February.  We had filled the prescription, but never used it.  I looked at Ike and said, "This should be OK, shouldn't it?  It'll knock her and the pain out.  I'll get someone to stay home with her tomorrow."  He agreed.

I suspected something was awry when I was trying to read her book.  She likes her reading time, and can focus easily at six, unlike John.  Instead of reading, she wanted to play "Miss Mary Mack" hand games she was learning on the playground, and I remembered most of the words, so I complied.  She kept becoming more manic and confused in her elaborate clapping and crossing gestures, and I couldn't keep up.  When I came back to sing to/with her, she wanted to talk about Julian instead of song, and started telling story after story of their daily interactions, comments, and facial expressions to each other, all the while flopping around on the bed and rolling her eyes around in her head like a possessed child.  After each story she would demand my comparison with loud, clipped speech:  "Now mom!  Which one did ya like better?  Huh?  The one where I sneaked up on him in recess or the one where he looked at me like this in Spanish class?  Which one?  Huh?  Tell me, tell me!  Now, I have another one."  After I put that to a stop, she insisted on song anyway and despite her calm choice, she thrust her foot in my face, insisted I use it as a microphone, and grabbed my foot to sing along a potty humor parody of the beautiful tune.

After I finally thought I settled her down, she started coming out of her room every 30 seconds with a complaint "My ear still hurts!  There is a bad taste in my mouth!"  It was reminiscent of John's worst three year old moments, and very uncharacteristic of her.  I told Ike, "It must have been the codeine.  I can't think of any other reason she would be acting like this.  It's my fault."  So when she collapsed in hysterics on the floor of the den after toothpaste would not cover up "the sickness in my mouth," I finally went in to read and lay down with her until she fell asleep.  As her body twitches announced her entrance into slumber, I sighed with relief.  And vowed that I would never again give her codeine.

I'm gonna have to meet this Julian.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magic Superpower Eyes

I climbed into John's bottom bunk.  He was still dancing around the room animatedly in his underwear.

"John, come on.  Bedtime.  Climb in bed.  What song do you want?"

"No mommy.  No wait.  Wait mommy."

"No waiting.  Time for song.  Which one?  Miners, Raindrops on Roses, The Dance, Rainbow Connection.  C'mon.  You pick or I will."

"Wait, mommy.  You have to watch.  Watch me.  I have magic superpower eyes.  Watch.  I have to get far away."

I was curious, so I indulged him.  He walked to the side of the room in front of the bathroom door, about six feet away from me.  The closet and bathroom light were on, but the overhead was off, so I couldn't see his face very well.  He adopted a wide stance, put his hands on his hips, and stared at me hard.

"Look.  Now there's two mommies.  Now there's one mommy.  Magic."

"What?  Do that again, John."

"Okay.  Two mommies, one mommy."

I could barely discern in the low light that he was slightly crossing his eyes.  I laughed so hard I could barely sing.

What a wonderful birthday present.  My favorite.  Me, multiplied, by magic superpower eyes.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Birthday Eve Theme Song

Wild One - Those Darlins

Or maybe I'll just read my novel and hit the hay.

Damn, I'm getting old.

This week, I have been training at the Conway Regional Hospital.  I was incredibly excited to travel to my old college town on Tuesday - I got up extra early for a run, hit Starbucks on the way for a triple espresso latte, and enjoyed relaxing to music for a half hour before getting to work.  I had never been to the hospital when I was in college, so I had to look it up on the map on my new iphone, since I have never learned to use the GPS that I requested when I bought my Toyota Forerunner 1.5 years ago.  I sure like watching that red dot travel on the map when I am driving, though.

Driving to Conway brought back so many memories:  traveling back and forth from Conway to Little Rock to do laundry after the public washing machines in the dorm ruined some of my favorite shirts.  I loved driving all the way in my black Jeep Wrangler with the top down, except for the short period of time when I borrowed my parent's Saab convertible because I burnt the engine out on the Jeep and it had to be replaced.  Who knew an engine needed oil??  I swear my very existence on the planet is a testament to my father's eternal patience.

So I felt incredibly mature going to Conway as a bona fide M.D.  As I exited the highway I searched in vain for something familiar; unfortunately, the reconstruction of the highway exit clouded memories.  After I crossed the second bridge on the way to Donaghey street, I delighted seeing the familiar school bus plant on the right and swore I saw my last apartment complex, the one I lived in by myself before moving back to Little Rock, on the left behind a Wing Shack.

After only two days in Conway, I can see the draw of working as an M.D. in a small town.  I immediately gained a sense of camaraderie with the staff in the lab, transcription, and histology - something that seemed to require constant nurturing and months to develop at the big hospital in LR.  The computer system left a lot to be desired - I am sure there is a name for an antiquated program that requires typing in a series of numbers, with alternate use of forward keys, page down keys, and various function keys demanding usage at precise intervals to reach your desired location.  It reminded me of the program at Children's hospital, when I was there at least five years ago.  But I picked it up quickly.  

The atmosphere in the Doctor's Lounge is vastly different in a smaller town.  The testosterone to estrogen ration is much the same, but I must have been such an unfamiliar face - each time I walked in the door to get free (Bottled water!  Granola bars!  Bananas!  Soup!  Pretzels!  Hot peanuts!  Coffee!) food, whoever happened to be sitting there jumped up and introduced himself, starting a friendly conversation.  Although I know a lot more doctors at the LR hospital than I did two years ago, I still feel like an alien intruder in the testosterone-laden, sports-watching, FoxNews discussing arena.

It's been a whopping 20 years since I drove into Conway to start my college experience.  I haven't yet made it into town to visit Hendrix, but once I get the swing of things at the hospital I am looking forward to resurrecting old memories.  Being back-up in a small town promises to be a refreshing change of pace.  It'll be nice to jump back and forth.  I've been looking forward to this for two years.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Mathematical Model for Surviving a Zombie Attack

My brother sent me the link to a synopsis of this article the other day:  you can read about it at Wired Science here.  If you actually click to the PDF link it gets into some pretty advanced math that easily stumps the layman, I took my brother's word on this and didn't try it out for myself.  But it started a conversation between us that got me thinking about scientific articles in general.  

So many of the titles are dry as a bone - full of transgenic this and signaling pathway that; rather than draw the reader in with anticipation and excitement, most of them are a deterrent.  For example:

Aberrations of 6q13 Mapped to the COL12A1 locus in Chondromyxoid Fibroma,

a recent Modern Pathology article by Julia Bridge.  Not that I am knocking this molecular genius, and in her defense, most scientific journals demand rigor and sparsity, in all writing.  Here's another example:

Src homology 2 domain-containing inositol-5-phosphatase and CCAAT enhancer-binding protein {beta} are targeted by miR-155 in B cells of E{micro}-miR-155 transgenic mice,

a recent article by S. Costinean et. al. in Blood.  This title reminds me of my molecular research days, when researching for a project was like wading through a massive pile of alphabet soup.  KRAS, BRAF, EGF-R, Jak-Stat, etc. etc.  The title above hardly excites you that these people may be really getting to the bottom of the molecular transformations that lead to acute lymphoblastic leukemia/high grade lymphoma.  You have to wade around in the muck of the article for a while before discovering the actual purpose.  A title should draw the reader in, not induce a brain freeze/eye glaze that makes them want to immediately skip to the next abstract.  But as I said earlier, this is the precedent to follow.  

Not all science gets it wrong.  Take this title in the recent issue of Blood:  Double Jeopardy 

by R.H. Aster.  It is a fascinating little tale about a platelet function inhibitor that, while trying to reduce the risk of heart attacks, actually can cause a life-threatening thrombocytopenia.  In other words, it can go overboard, making the platelet numbers sink so low that there is a risk of bleeding, where it was given initially to prevent clotting.  Incidentally, the inhibitor drug is derived from a protein in the venom of a pygmy southeastern rattlesnake.  I imagine a victim of this snakebite would hemorrhage to death.

Here's another catchy title:  SOS:  Too many irons in the fire!

by M. De Lima.  Another reader attracting title that describes a hypothetical link between pre-stem cell transplant elevated iron levels and post-transplant complication of hepatic sinusoidal obstruction syndrome, or veno-occlusive disease.  Now your eyes are glazing over, but I'm sure in the reader can draw parallels in his or her respective area of expertise.

So my Ph.D.-bound brother is writing articles for the field of food science, and trying to think of catchy titles.  Kudos to him!  It is time to set a new precedent for writing scientific articles.  I'll read it.  Especially if it has the word "zombies" in the title.  

Saturday, August 15, 2009


That's about all I could do, on this trip.  I ran a little, but it was so blazing hot that each attempt wiped me out.  I did manage to run/walk almost every day, which probably barely balanced my enormous food intake, but oh well.  It was a great vacation.

One night, Carrie and I were narrating Flipper for the kids during a sleepover at our condo.  Flipper requires adult narration to capture the two four and one six-year old attention spans, but boy were they hooked.  Hurricanes, funerals, spear fishing, guns, and dolphins!  Sicily can't wait to ask Santa for a copy for her very own.  After Flipper, John grabbed his bedside water glass and said, "Mommy, watch!  I'm cooking water."  I smiled at him in mild confusion, "Oh, great John, now go brush your teeth before bedtime."  He became more insistent, "No no WATCH Mommy, I'm cooking water."  I turned and gave him my full attention, and he gargled his water, modeling a behavior that I demonstrated a few months ago for him in the bathroom.  While he obviously missed the name for the behavior, he got it down and created an even better one.  I remember glowing in his rapt attention and awe of my performance.

One of the books I read on the trip, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, is a magical tale of an unlikely friendship between two nine year old boys on the opposite sides of a fence.  Because it is told from a nine-year-old's perspective, it takes a bit for the adult reading the novel to learn that one of the boys is the German son of a man in charge of a concentration camp, and the other is a boy in the camp.  Both of these nine-year olds clearly do not have adults narrating their lives for them; one's father is too busy running the camp and the mother is drowning her misery in alcohol and a sexual liaison, the other child's lack of adult attention is to be expected, in his situation.  The book is so simple, sweet, and powerful that it literally sucks your breath away.  And the magical child-like thinking that goes on to explain the horrors around them made me think back to two boys when John showed me how he "cooked water."  As I was reading the end, I shut the sliding glass door separating myself on the balcony from the three kids playing in the condo, and for a minute or two I sobbed harder than I have since I myself was a nine-year old.  I've heard it has a fantastic movie adaptation, that I can't wait to rent.

The other book is one called Blindness, a Nobel Prize winner by Jose Saramago.  This one is not for the faint at heart.  The author's description of the violence and horror that ensue when a presumed contagious virus causes everyone in a large city to lose their eyesight actually gave me pause once, on the beach, during a rape scene, and I had to take a rest watching Annika and Sicily bury Ian before I could continue.  But the beauty and poignancy that emerge through the horror brought tears to my eyes (Again!  Twice in one trip!) so on the way home in the car when Sicily noticed a tear slip down below my sunglasses as I read the last page she asked, in alarm, "Mommy, are you OK?"  And I replied, "Yes, this is just one of the most beautiful books I have ever read."  I've heard this movie adaptation is horrible, and I am not surprised.  One of the greatest aspects of the books is it's continual, long-winded sentences, punctuated with commas, making it difficult to figure out who is saying what so that the reader feels blind along with the majority of the central characters.  I don't know how he made it work so well, and I am stunned by the translator's amazing adaptation.

On the second to last day, buoyed by the verbal encouragement I received from Annie and Dave a week earlier at my mom's pool, as well as the calm, clear, Jamacain-like waters that revealed manatees, sea slugs, hermit crabs, dolphins, fish, and many other creatures, I wore the black bikini I had purchased, with explicit and excellent advice from my sister earlier this summer, in public for the first time since before I had children.  I swore I would never do that again.  Never say never.  I was secretly delighted to notice that I turned some heads, despite my stretch marks and cellulite.

On the last day I had about given up my attempts to run, but as I hit the halfway point a slow-moving storm front that had been threatening for hours finally broke, and with water pouring out of the sky, I happily sprinted all the way back to the condo.  I had deja vu - running along the same stretch of beach last year, passing the same crazy beach house that looks like what Doctor Manhattan created on Mars, it rained at that same point on my last run, and the rain gave me so much extra energy, then, too.  But this year, I was delighted to see one of the biggest rainbows I had ever seen emerge from the clouds, as I ran up to the condo.  I stopped to look at it and smiled, because when I mentally compared the state of my head last year to this one, the rainbow became a metaphor.  I am happier, now, to be slowing down a little.  Doing some walking, not always running.  I'm not looking to Christmas for more time off - I've got my birthday off next week, for the first time in many years, and three days off the next to do some work around the house, and relax.  It's nice, for a change.

Sorry, you can't borrow these books, I'm sending them off to Effie, my brother Michael's wife.  Today is her birthday (Happy Birthday!) and when I called her tonight to chat we discussed books and blogs, she too is a book-lover and new blogger.  She talked about the book I sent her last year, The Amazing Benedict Society, and I had forgotten I sent it.  I told her I was sending her two this year, and we talked about how the best books just jump out of your hands because you can't wait to share them. 

Friday, August 7, 2009

Scientist of Seasons

Once, when Sicily was about four, I was taking her to school.  She was complaining in the back seat about how cold she was.  She dressed earlier in a t-shirt and skirt, but there was a cold snap overnight.  After we finished breakfast and the nanny arrived for John, we marched out the front door, both dressed for the weather from the evening before.  Late as usual, I ran back into the house and grabbed jackets to throw over us; we didn't have time to change.

I'd like to say this was an isolated incident, but I never know the weather.  We don't even have umbrellas.  The other morning, I noticed through the kitchen window that it was pouring down rain.  We don't have a functional garage - my car is parked out front.  I pushed breakfast time to its absolute limit, but the swimming pool in our backyard kept growing and the water spilling out of the sky exhibited no signs of abating.  So I looked at John and Sicily, and said, "OK guys.  We are going to have to do a mad dash.  Are you ready for a mad dash?"  John asked curiously, "Mommy, what is a mad dash?"  I explained the term, and they both became excited at the prospect.  I warned them, "The only rule of a mad dash is that you can't dash so madly that you fall down and hurt yourself.  Splashing in puddles is allowed.  Slipping is not."  We all ended up soaking wet, but happy.  They looked like drowned rats when the umbrella wielding carpool girl, Miss Samantha, opened the car to greet them.

Instead of wallowing in frustration during the drive to school with chilly, four year old Sicily, I decided to tell her about my friend Carrie.  Carrie always knows the weather.  She loves the weather, studies the patterns, and even, if I remember correctly, spent a little time in Oklahoma at a "weather school," before getting her law degree.  I told Sicily that if she was in Carrie's family, she would always be prepared.  Carrie knows if a cold front is moving through during school hours, and packs appropriate hat and glove gear for her daughter so she won't be stuck freezing in the carpool line.  I went on and on about Carrie's knowledge of tornadoes, hurricanes, thunderstorms, etc.  I finally ended my diatribe as I was dropping her off.  Before the door opened, Sicily asked, "So mom, does that mean Carrie is a scientist of seasons?"  I was surprised and thrilled at her fantastic three word summation of my long-winded explanation.  I answered, "Yes, she is."

So I am happy to have Carrie along on our second annual "Friends Head to the Ocean" trip next week.  Last night, after book club dinner at The Pantry (I strongly recommend the Weiner Schnitzel, pate, and bratwurst), Carrie and the very statuesque, genetically unchallenged Mary and I were sitting on Mary's Hillcrest front porch chatting over a bottle of wine.  I reminded Carrie of the title Sicily had given her a couple of years ago, and we laughed at the memory.  Carrie is much more than a scientist of seasons - she has amazing taste in books and clothes, is uber-prepared in every arena, and has taken Michael Pollen's The Omnivore's Dilemma, which we both read a little while ago, into everyday practice in their household.  She started working out again a few months ago, and we plan to run together on the trip.  Her husband is a blackjack genius and an amazing cook.  We talked, a while back, about having backgammon tournaments at night, and I hope we do it, even though the backgammon board I bought in eager anticipation a few months ago died a "missing pieces from too much John attention" death.  So I need to get another one.  When I was growing up, my dad would always challenge us to backgammon on whatever ocean trip we took that year - and one of the biggest thrills of my pre- and adolescent life was beating him.  

But I digress.  Weather.  Scientist of Seasons.  I am so glad she will be there, with us.  After all, it is hurricane season.  You never know when you might need a scientist for that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Check out my new favicon!  I didn't even know these things had a name, until today.  It is short for "favorites icon."  I don't love the name, but I do love my scope.  
Thanks, bro!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Medical Blogger Interview

It finally came out!  I've yet to get my hand on a copy, although Steve Brawner, freelance journalist, promised me a good old-fashioned paper version.  I'm still waiting!

Ok, so things don't translate well from e-mail to blogs, or I can't anyway.  And this is enough about me to even make my family members nauseated.  But anyway, there it is.  I've gotten a little bump, if only brief.  Thanks a bunch Steve!  If anyone wants to have the story of their lives translated in to book form, Steve's your man.  Check it out at the link above.  I'm all copy/paste/linked out.

Here's the interview:

Hi, Dr. Schneider,
Thank you for responding.  Yes, I would still like to ask you some questions.  I think the "purely for entertainment purposes" angle is one thing I would like to explore.  So, here are my questions.

1. When did you start?

         Last fall -- November.  I was at a pathology conference in Monterey, California.  It was the day
          Obama won the election.

2. Why did you start?
            I always liked writing in high school, and won some creative writing contests.  Medicine is a different world - very exact, a world that consumed me for ten years.  All of the tests are multiple choice (monkey tests, one of my teachers called them) and science, for the most part, does not encourage imagination.  When I got my first e-mail address in residency, I started writing to friends, and really enjoyed it.  One of my best friends from residency used to call me "Lizzie of the Long E-mails" - she is now my most faithful commenter on my blog.  Another friend that I e-mailed encouraged me to start.  I was nervous at first, because I am a bit obsessive and hypercritical of myself, and I worried about my grammar and making mistakes.  But I have found blogging, so far, to be like a safe zone.  I am not submitting anything to be criticized or rejected - just having fun, and I have loosened up a lot since November.

3. Who is your audience?
            I am constantly surprised by my audience.  I know certain friends and family read it, and that really keeps me going.  My brother had surgery last month and I wrote to entertain him, while he was in the hospital.  I found out recently that my husband's uncle, who I have never met, follows my blog.  I also found out a couple of weeks ago that a good friend from UAMS gets e-mail updates.  I can follow my daily hits on google analytics - but I haven't checked since April.  I was so happy to be getting a steady 15-25 hits a day, which is good for me, that I haven't wanted to watch the numbers go down, so I am living in that happy memory.  Two of my audience members started their own blogs, and I love to follow them.  I got to enjoy the escapades of one of my good friends in college during her teaching stint in China this spring.  So blogging is contagious, I learned.

4. What do you usually write about?
              It changes.  In the beginning, I was writing medical essays, about my experiences in training and at work.  Now it has become more family oriented, but medicine is still definitely a big part.  Sometimes I write about a song or book I am enjoying that week.  I try not to have an agenda, since being a physician and mother demands constant agenda.
5. How much time do you devote to this? 
              Maybe a half hour a week, sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less.  I like getting an idea in my head, playing with it, and then sitting down to spit it out all at once.  Other times it is more spontaneous.  I usually blog about once a week.
6. How do you find the time to do it?  
I mostly do it at night after the kids go to bed.  Rarely I find time on a work break.
7. What are your goals? 

          Purely entertainment.  When you get bogged down in your work, it gets commonplace and routine.  Boring and exhausting.  This happened for me, during my fellowship years in cytology and surgical pathology, which were fun but grueling, especially when you add two small children to the mix.  I was shocked to find others interested in what I do for a living, and started having fun telling stories for an outside audience.  Pathology and medicine are truly amazing, and it is nice remind myself of that, by storytelling.
8. Does it provide you an emotional release?
            I hadn't really thought of it that way, but I guess it does, a little bit.  It definitely provides a sense of accomplishment, one that is very different from looking through a microscope and diagnosing tissue all day long.  Sometimes I feel like getting through a busy workday is like completing a marathon - a sports-like achievement.  Writing is satisfying in a much more relaxing way, probably because it isn't my job.

9. Does it fulfill a long-held desire to write? How about sparking a creative side?

             Refer to question 2.
10. Is there a simple practical reason to do this, such as helping a busy pathologist maintain contact with her friends and family?

                  Definitely.  Refer to question 3.
11. How do you avoid running afoul of HIPPA, etc.?

                 I was extremely concerned about this in the beginning.  So much so, that I sat down on two separate occasions with a mentor from my training to discuss it.  She agreed it was OK to start, and then followed it and discussed concerns with me.  I fictionalize a lot of my characters, especially the patient ones, by exaggerating or morphing two or three different experiences into one.  I changed my own name, and I changed the names of my family members and the doctors I work with and have trained with, in addition to patient names.  Most people want to be written about and seem to enjoy it - some don't.  I try to respect that, and would gladly delete a blog if anyone recognized too much of their own self in one of my characters and wasn't happy, or took it personally.  I would hope that anyone would realize that if I describe them in incredible detail, it is usually a sign that I like them a lot.  There aren't too many people I have encountered that I don't like.  If I don't like someone, and they end up getting painted in a negative light, I usually exaggerate and further fictionalize them so they no longer resemble the character they stemmed from.  

I also remove patient-based encounters that inspire writing far from the actual time/date they occur to avoid violating anyone - even anonymous, fictionalized characters.  

12. Any advice for would-be physician-bloggers?
             I am still learning as I go.  I follow some work-related pathology blogs, but they are so different from what I do that it is tough to draw comparisons.  I would hope that if someone wanted to start one they could learn a little from this interview.
Do you advertise or benefit financially?

Do you post links in your text where readers can purchase a product?
         The only links I can remember posting to a product I liked was the subject of my blog, so very disclosed.  I never just post a random link.  In fact, having trouble posting links  - due to business, laziness, and lack of knowledge, is a common self-deprecating theme in my blog.  I just learned how to post a link, and had to take mac classes at best buy to learn to do a lot of what I do on my primitive blog.
 If you do either of these, do you disclose it?  (This is an issue among some bloggers.)
                 See above. 

Thanks for anything you can do!

(an answer to an earlier question):I don't think anything you put on the internet is really anonymous.  Everyone who reads it knows who I am, and I take measures to protect the info I should.  I guess I don't mind if you disclose.  I worried a lot about doing this piece, because I enjoy where I am, in my blogging, and I don't want to rock the boat.  But I ultimately decided it might be an OK thing.

Steve Brawner
Steve Brawner Communications
(501) 847-7743
Bryant, Ark.