Spring and all

DAB What’s New Apr 6, 2018

Spring and all

3476 words

 

One.

Spring and All is a collection of work in the early writing career of William Carlos Williams, a New Jersey general practitioner in the first half of the past century. The slim volume is an odd collection of alternating prose and free verse, best known for a poem that begins, “By the road to the contagious hospital…” A recent edition of the work includes an introduction by CD Wright with a phrase comparing Williams to an earlier poet from New Jersey, Walt Whitman. “Like Whitman, he [Williams] would gradually come to a great human understanding, an apprehension that eluded most of his peers.” [Spring and All. WC Williams. New Directions Book, 2011.]

Published in 1923, Spring and All came during a time that strained human understanding, juxtaposed between WWI and the Influenza Epidemic that preceded it, and the Great Depression a decade later. Only one year before Spring and All, TS Eliot published The Waste Land, a more obscure and academic poem with complex literary references and snippets of multiple languages. The landscape that Williams presents is not quite so bleak, nor is April (spring) quite so cruel. Still, the Williams terrain is far short of a Disneyland, although some promise is held out as “sluggish dazed spring approaches…” Williams embraced the season cautiously, feeling perhaps some recovery from the recent devastations of war and epidemic, thankfully unaware of the impending economic catastrophe that ran from 1929 through most of the 1930s. In much of the work Williams conveys an ominous sense of mankind’s tendency toward self-destruction. [Above: by the path to the Frankel Cardiovascular Center; below, Williams, Wikipedia.]

Whatever constraints the world may bring to bear, spring is generally a season of optimism and refreshment. After a rough winter in much of the northern hemisphere including North America, Europe, Russia, Japan, and Korea, we are glad for spring and all it brings.

[Above: Signs of spring at home, early daffodil and tiny blue flowers sprouting with a few flecks of overnight snow. April, 1, 2018.]

 

Two.

We pursue that idea of a “great human understanding” in the practice of medicine, an understanding never fully realized, but one that grows even as challenged by the practicalities of each day and the idiosyncrasies of each patient. Physicians “take histories” and examine evidence in pursuit of authentic narratives that allow them to understand the conditions and needs of their patients.

Using the phrase, the practice of medicine, the final word medicine seems increasingly parochial and archaic. In this era of specialty healthcare, “the team” has supplanted the solo practitioner and the term medicine, implies a drug or a specific branch of learning and practice itself more than encompassing all of healthcare. Reference to the practice of medicine is parochial in that it excludes other essential practitioners or binds them up within the terminology of my branch of healthcare.

Yet, the practice of medicine has a comforting ring to it, recalling Hippocratic times when the practitioner’s responsibilities were outlined in a sacred oath and the profession of medicine was as much art as science (observation and reasoning). The historic sense of the professional calling of a doctor tending to a patient worked well up through much of the last century, exemplified by horse and buggy house calls, Norman Rockwell’s depictions, Albert Schweitzer’s humanitarian work, and Marcus Welby’s television dramatizations. The one-on-one relationship of a practitioner to a patient is still essential to excellent healthcare and it is a relationship that offers magical moments for greater human understanding. The dilemma in modern healthcare is that this special duality must find a place within the great tent of the team.

These last thoughts beg a big question – do our students and successors understand the earlier eras of healthcare that today’s healthcare is predicated upon?  Do they know who Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna, and Lister were, or what they achieved? Do our students know of Norman Rockwell, Albert Schweitzer, or Marcus Welby? Should they know these things and how would they know of them? Today’s medical education, indeed all of healthcare education, falls short of the mark in teaching the history and context of healthcare. To some degree this should have been the job of higher education (we used to call it liberal education), but the need in medical school and residency education is even more acute. Without history and context, it’s hard to find values that are so essential to human understanding.

 

Three.         

Morel quandaries. Spring is morel time in Michigan. These wild and mysterious mushrooms defy all human efforts to cultivate and industrialize them. Experienced mushroom hunters, such as our friend and neighbor Mike Hommel, are skilled at finding and accurately identifying morels, and there are few things better on the palate than the end result of his searches.

[Above & below: morels]

Mushrooms, although not morels, play a pivotal role in the current film, Phantom Thread, but no more should be said for those who have yet to see this strangely elegant period piece and psycho-drama.

The morel (genus Morchella) evolved from a yeast only as recently as 20,000 years ago, according to some authorities, although others claim it is an ancient cup fungus as old as 129 million years (at this point, science has only deepened the mystery). Many morel species exist, perhaps 60, having distinctive and highly polymorphic honeycomb configuration allowing effective camouflage as pine cones. Morels have some relationship to recent fires and decaying fruit trees, but the exact formula of conditions for them to prosper remains elusive. The morel supports a multimillion dollar industry business of hunting and gathering. Had William Carlos Williams ever experienced morels, they surely would have figured in his Spring and All landscape: “Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees…” Morels are of some spring’s mysterious marginalia, happy little surprises of the season and all.

 

Four.

Daily practicalities confront and confound everyone, navigating their lives and work, and physicians do not get a free pass from them. In the horse and buggy era, a house call was no easy matter, given the inertia to leave a comfortable home at inconvenient moments, saddle up horse and a buggy, and then set off to the patient’s home. Electronic medical records among many other systemic constraints offer newer barriers to many practitioners today, and even those facile with keyboard medicine find they have traded spontaneous interactions with patients for new formulaic work flows of check lists, drop down menus, smart sets, and the lure of cutting and pasting.

Patients as well as healthcare providers must also deal with modern daily practicalities that are impracticalities, more often than not. Matters of finding time from work, transportation, parking, insurance forms, questioning at front desks, forms to fill out, and the incessant repetition of one’s story to an array of healthcare workers dampens the spirit of the human soul. Yet, an ultimate audience with a single healthcare provider (I use this more inclusive term because there are a number of categories of us) is usually a moment of immeasurable importance for patients, who are hopeful for someone to listen carefully to their narratives and gain an authentic understanding of their stories, their histories, instead of processing them into checklists and pre-written sentences and dot-phrases.

 

Five.

Williams began Spring and All with an admission of mixed optimism and inadequacy as a writer:

“If anything of moment results – so much the better. And so much the more likely will it be that no one will want to see it.”

Writers are vulnerable to mistakes and criticism of their work (criticism of themselves as people!) comes with the territory. Writers must accept that they will make mistakes and that some readers in their audience will find their work erroneous in parts or lacking in other ways. It may sting when errors are discovered, but that is a good thing in that correction (peer review, if you will) makes the product better and sharpens the writer’s own fact-checking and proof-reading going forward.

Criticism of style, argument, or quality of thought is a more painful challenge. Good criticism can sharpen an author, although some criticism will be wrong, misdirected, or even malicious. A writer has to hear it all, in the hope of learning and fine-tuning the craft of thinking and writing. Williams, in his writings, put himself “out there” for the world to inspect, criticize, fault, or praise. Some factor in his psyche compelled this expression of art, a factor closely tied to the art of his medical practice.

Spring and All is a quirky and complex collection of prose and poetry. Williams was around 40 years old when this was published and no sensitive novice. Yet he opened the work by admitting that he was not fully up to the task of appreciating and expressing that “great human understanding.” Furthermore, he revealed his vulnerability to criticism.

“There is a constant barrier between the reader and his consciousness of immediate contact with the world. If there is an ocean it is here. Or rather, the whole world is between: Yesterday, Tomorrow, Europe, Asia, Africa, – all things removed and impossible, the tower of the church at Seville, the Parthenon.

What do they mean when they say: ‘I do not like your poems; you have no faith whatsoever. You seem never to have suffered nor, in fact, to have felt anything very deeply…’”

Williams, like other physician-writers, double dip into the conundrum of human understanding in that they are simultaneously medical practitioners and writers, allowing each craft to fuel the other. It is astonishing that we don’t embrace the study of major physician-writers like Williams during medical training with the rigor that we rightly insist upon for other relevant topics such as genetics and pharmacology.

 

Six.

Hall of corrections. Last month I did a disservice to John Hall (Nesbit 1970), misattributing his practice to the Traverse City area, when in fact he worked in Petoskey. Ward Gillett (Nesbit 1985) set me straight. On the other hand, Tom Hall (Cleveland Clinic), who passed away in 2002 practiced urology in Traverse City, and Bob Hall (Wayne State University) also practiced urology in Traverse City. None of these urologists is directly related, although they and I and you are all cousins, according to a quirky book, It’s All Relative, by AJ Jacobs, who writes that all humans go back in time 8,000 great grandparents ago to a common pair of human ancestors who “hunted, gathered, and vigorously reproduced on the plains of Africa about 200,000 years ago.” [AJ Jacobs It’s All Relative, Simon & Shuster, 2017. P. xi.]

John Hall trained here at the University of Michigan exactly at the mid-point in our urology centenary and reminds me that he is thus the “fulcrum” of the Michigan Urology story. Knowledge and technology changed urology over the course of its century, but our mission and values have been constant and will likely remain so in the next iteration of departmental leadership.

 

Seven.

Blind eye. On an April day in 1801, a few days earlier in the month than today, the Battle of Copenhagen launched an enduring metaphor. The phrase of turning a blind eye is attributed to Admiral Horatio Nelson, of the British Royal Navy who had been blinded in one eye earlier in his career. The story goes that during the April Battle in 1801 his superior admiral, the cautious Sir Hyde Parker in charge of the overall battle and sensing defeat, signaled Nelson’s forces to discontinue their action. Nelson was a subordinate but more aggressive admiral and when told of the signal flag message, lifted a telescope to his blind eye and claimed that he did not see an order to desist. [Above: Nicholas Pocock, The Battle of Copenhagen, 2 April 1801, Wikipedia.]

The metaphor took on a life of its own and today would come to be called a meme – an idea, image, or behavior that spreads in a biologic fashion like a gene, replicating and modifying itself within and across cultures and times. The meme neologism is a contribution of Richard Dawkins, worth discussing at a later time.

Blind Eye is the title of a book by James Stewart, an investigation of the true story of a young physician who, for likely psychopathic reasons, poisoned or otherwise killed hundreds of patients and others until apprehended by the FBI. The title comes from the educators in academic medicine who turned blind eyes to his aberrant behavior. That story closely mirrors an earlier true story of a physician, involving Michigan Medical School graduate Edward Mudgett of the class of 1884, who went to Chicago after getting his MD, changed his name to HH Holmes and similarly dispatched scores of people for personal gain or oddly-derived pleasure. Eric Larson told that story in bestselling book, Devil in White City. I read both cautionary tales during a dark interlude in our own Michigan Urology story 20 years ago. Since Admiral Nelson, the phrase has become ubiquitous in English, you can hear it used early in the film, Black Panther.

 

Eight.

Certainties in life, April 15 for example. The author of the phrase claiming only two things are certain in life may never be known, but this is an obvious and nearly universal belief, cynical as it is. Most of us can’t seem to get around taxes, this month most particularly, and none of us will avoid the other absolute. Mortality always trumps economics.

It’s easier to confront economic issues than the mortal one and for an economist, life is viewed from the perspective of supply and demand tensions and balance sheets. Everything else, outside the economic issues, is a matter of “externalities.” The problem with economic models is that most of what really matters to people in the real world is reduced to those externalities. One can argue that Adam Smith’s book, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, suggested that economic wealth derived from all the externalities of the people, social groups, and markets working together. Economic wealth cannot be isolated from the externalities that create it.

Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, but Smith’s more astonishing book, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, came earlier in his career, in 1759 when he was only 36 years old. Permit a repetition here of the signature thought from that work.

“Howsoever selfish man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Smith’s belief in mankind’s better nature preceded and likely superseded his ideas about the wealth of nations and the human economic model that today would be described as homo economicus, wherein human choices are primarily those of self-interest in daily life and in commercial markets, as he justifies in the following quote from the 1776 book.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our necessities but of their advantage.”

Differing ideologies can exist harmoniously in the head of one person because human life is complex and not reduced to simple models. Its daily practicalities demand both functioning markets of commerce, where self-interest can rule the day if rules and opportunities are fair, existing on a bed of humanity anchored by kindness, kinship, and other characteristics of human civilization that have defined our species and allowed it to grow.

 

Nine.

            Spring, now and then. Emerging from a challenging winter, spring brings welcome change. When the general practitioner from Patterson, New Jersey published his collection in 1923, the specialties of medicine, the specialties of all of healthcare, were just starting to express themselves. Simultaneously serving as Dean of the Medical School, Professor and Chief of Surgery, and the University of Michigan urologist, Hugh Cabot was building a 1000 bed university hospital that would define the emerging medical specialties and initiate a urology residency training program that would come into fruition three years later with Charles Huggins and Reed Nesbit as Michigan’s first urology trainees.

After Cabot was fired by the Regents in 1930, Nesbit expanded the training program and would train 77 individuals including Jack Lapides who trained an additional 64. McGuire continued the process, for another 42 residents and fellows. Intervals of Bart Grossman and Joe Oesterling followed with another 8 and 16 trainees. Jim Montie, who led Michigan Urology to departmental status, trained 47 and with our graduation this spring 41 residents and 34 fellows will have been trained here under the present era of leadership, at last count. At this point I don’t know if Cabot trained any others besides Reed Nesbit and Charles Huggins, so the count of Michigan urology trainees stands at 329 to date.

This July a new set of residents and fellows will continue the traditional of urology education in Ann Arbor.  The residents will be: Kathryn Marchetti of the University of Michigan, Kyle Johnson from University of South Carolina, Javier Santiago from Baylor Medical School, and Roberto Navarrete from Wake Forest School of Medicine. Our new fellows will be: Guilia Lane from University of Minnesota (FPMRS) and Jeffrey Tosoian from Johns Hopkins Hospital (SUO).

Our new residents will complete their program in 2023, a full century after the spring of William Carlos Williams. They will continue a path of medical service that began well before Hippocrates. In their own careers and in their own unique fashions they will follow William Carlos Williams in search of a greater human understanding to alleviate illness and suffering. Evolving therapeutic tools, as attractive and incredible as they are, will always be secondary to the human understanding that deploys or restrains them. We hope to inspire the class of 2023 and our fellows to grow their capacities for human understanding just as they grow their knowledge and skills throughout their careers. That understanding will never be complete, but it can grow experientially, patient-by-patient, and humanely without being co-opted by the formulaic encounters of electronic medical record and artificial intelligence systems.

 

Ten.

Art Can Help is the name of a short book I recently found in Washington, DC, at the National Gallery of Art. With summer and our annual Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine (Thursday, July 19) soon ahead, I couldn’t resist the purchase. The author, Robert Adams, is a well-respected photographer and a superb writer and critic (photo below, Wikipedia). Coincidentally, like Williams, he came from New Jersey. This little volume is a series of short essays on a number of photographs, but is introduced by comments on two familiar Edward Hopper paintings. The title is provocative – help what, help how? Clearly the answer is up to the reader, but as I processed the book, it seemed that Adams intended to show how art (visual art, in this case) brings us closer to that great human understanding. It is a book I’ll return to, adding more and more marginalia and end-page references. [Art Can Help. Yale University Press, 2017.]

Let me close this monthly essay with two passages from Adams, reproduced with his permission.

            “Edward Hopper’s Early Sunday Morning is a picture upon which to depend. It is affirmative but does not promise happiness. It is calm but acknowledges our failures. It is beautiful but refers to beauty beyond our making.”

These four sentences offer an astonishing take on a well-known image, offering the ideas of depending on a picture, finding affirmation and calmness, the slightly buried idea of truth (not promising happiness, acknowledging failures), and the concept of beauty. Adams reminded me of a line in Spring and All by Williams: “so much depends upon a red wheel barrow.”

Toward the end of the book Adams inspects work by American photographer Anthony Hernandez, invokes the name of another great photographer from an earlier era, and affirms the importance of our choice to care:

            “Alfred Stieglitz said that ‘all true things are equal to one another’, and in that he spoke for most artists. They are convinced, despite having to sort through daily practicalities by triage, that everything is of immeasurable consequence…

For Anthony Hernandez, everything really means everything – a chair made of broken drywall, a fishing place where one might not want to eat the catch, a platinum-colored wig, … and everything means everyone – a woman with flowers in her hair, a man with a boxer’s broken face, an officer worker alone at noon with a book…

Why on the evidence of pictures is everything important?

First, because we are part of it all … our part being to be blessed with language that enables us to stand outside ourselves and make choices. We can choose to be caring.”

 

[Window box, Tradd Street, Charleston, SC.]

Thanks for reading Matula Thoughts this April, 2018.

David A. Bloom, University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

 

Marginalia

DAB What’s New Mar 2, 2018

 

Marginalia of sorts
3732 words

 

One.

Marginalia. As a young reader I recall making casual sideline notations in margins of my books and, in time, detailed marginalia, underlining, and highlighting expanded into my college and medical school textbooks. Later, during residency I heavily personalized my pages of Campbell’s Urology trying to digest them intellectually.

The habit persists and marginal notes help make sense of what I read and leave reference points to which I can easily return. Other reading has replaced textbooks my marginalia drifted to and consolidated on end pages, creating personalized indices of page references and related comments (below “end-page marginalia” in Harari’s Sapiens).

Marginalia-making has been a human habit ever since books existed with numerous famous examples as early as amusing marginal drawings by monastic scribes alongside their serious transcriptions. A notable marginal comment unsettled the world of mathematics for nearly four centuries after French lawyer Pierre Fermat wrote in the margin of a book he was reading in 1637 that he had solved a puzzling mathematical conjecture, but claimed his solution was too large to fit the margin.

The book was a 1621 edition of Arithmetica by 3rd century mathematician Diophantus and its actual margin looks generous by my standards, although I am no mathematician. [Above: Wikipedia, public domain.] It may never be known if Fermat’s solution was correct or if he was joking, although he didn’t seem much of a jokester and his other mathematical work was accurate. Furthermore, his unsubstantiated comment was taken so seriously that it was included in later editions of Arithmetica (below: Wikipedia).

Many others tried and failed to solve Fermat’s Conjecture over the next three centuries until 1994 when British mathematician, Andrew Wiles, came up with the answer.

Scribbling in the margins of library books or books of your friends is bad form, but marginalia in personal materials conveniently identify meaningful passages or record pertinent or tangential thoughts. Some mental process pauses readers from reading long enough to acknowledge the adjacent text in some way. Marginalia are evidence of our effort to find meaning in the things we encounter.

Electronic books allow similar personalizations, although it’s not quite the same, in part because electronic screens lack the comforting tactile sense of paper. Electronic formats, however, offer new opportunities and challenges for marginalia: private marginalia can become public, aggregated, and analyzed. Audio books allow listening as we close our eyes or move physically through life, but as much as I like audio books when driving, the opportunity to make marginal notes is problematic and any spontaneous thoughts I have when hearing certain passages are usually gone from memory by the time I’ve reached my destination.

 

Two.

The compulsion to annotate or otherwise leave personal evidence of one’s presence or thought pre-existed books and is widely exercised on other cultural artifacts and the environment-at-large. Cave paintings, rock carvings, initials on tree trunks, furniture inscriptions, children’s heights on door frames, and urban graffiti are footnotes of ourselves and plant notice of us for the future. The cliché George Washington Slept Here was a 1942 play and film about a couple who moved into a run-down farmhouse (because of their dog) and they discover the first president actually stayed there during the Revolution.

The top of this posting shows a section of the Berlin Wall that faced the free part of the city, while below you see the unmarked reverse side that faced the Soviet side. These sections are on display in Washington, DC at the Newseum and were salvaged after the wall came down in 1989. The contrast is stark.

Urban graffiti, as annoying and vulgar as it can be, are an expression of personal freedom and the 45 words of the First Amendment that represents a core belief of our representational democracy.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

A video display at the Newseum displays interviews on a random street showing that people are far more likely to be able to identify all the members of Homer Simpson’s cartoon family than to know the five freedoms of the First Amendment (religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition of the government). The video references national surveys that support this unfortunate observation showing 20% of Americans can recall all Simpsons, whereas only 3% know all five freedoms.

The marginalia habit fills the strong human compulsion to seek relevance and meaning, a need played out in many ways including early forms of social media content; “Kilroy was here,” “George loves Tina,” and their equivalents have been expressed by our species since the earliest human days. Graffiti as urban social marginalia, occasionally becomes valued public art such as the works of anonymous British artist known as Banksy. [Below: a Banksy image from Wikipedia.]

Historical plaques and other public commemorations are structural marginalia, we mentioned those of the old Ann Arbor Bus Station, last month, on the Residence Inn in downtown Ann Arbor. Historical markers are marginalia of place. You can find plaques at the Michigan Union on the top front landing step and on the building wall commemorating the first occasion that John F. Kennedy publically articulated the Peace Corps idea. It was during a campaign speech October 14, 1960 at around 2 AM, a remarkable time for a presidential campaign speech that highlighted the vigor of the young presidential candidate. Arriving from New York in those early hours he went directly to the steps of the Union where a crowd of around 5000 students was waiting on State Street. Kennedy began his remarks by describing himself as “a graduate of the Michigan of the East, Harvard University.” He spoke about the importance of public service, asking for young doctors and engineers, as an example, to spend a period of time in Ghana or other places. You can find the speech on YouTube and he concluded:

“I come here tonight to go to bed, but I also come here tonight to ask you to join in the effort! This university – this is the longest short speech I’ve ever made and therefore I’ll finish it. Let me just say in conclusion that this university is not maintained by its alumni or by the state merely to help its graduates have an economic advantage in the life struggle. There is certainly a greater purpose and I’m sure you recognize it. Therefore, I do not apologize for asking for your support in this campaign, I come here asking for your support for this country in the next decade.”

It was an inspiring speech. As an aside, the official portrait of Kennedy (above: painted by Aaron Shikler, whom Jackie Kennedy selected after the assassination) is on display at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, along with all presidents up through Barack Obama (recently unveiled). The Kennedy portrait is the only image of a president looking down and away from the viewer, that having been Jackie’s choice.

Kennedy’s idea continues to tap into a compulsion for relevance and meaning that many students and others feel so acutely. The Peace Corps, finalized in law in the first months of his presidency, continues to resonate with college students across America. Since 1961 Michigan has been among the top four contributors to the Peace Corps with 2720 students volunteering since 1961 (after Berkeley, Madison, and Washington. [Mandira Banerjee. Feb 21, 2018. The University Record.]

 

Three.

Eleven years ago today, 2 March 2007, was the second day of my time as chair. Going to my computer I found digital images from that time in our department, including this early picture (above) of the board in my office. This has served as my functional marginalia for the Department of Urology for the past 11 years. Faculty are in the boxes on the sides and activities, units, and projects in the middle. The board changed over the years as we grew and became more complex. The picture below shows one of our visits to the billing center in the KMS Building south of I 94. Jack Cichon (now retired) was our stalwart Chief Department Administrator (CDA) and Malissa Eversole was then his understudy, having since then come into her own as our current CDA.

Below you see Ed McGuire in the center with 2 of his former fellows (now faculty) on the left (Anne Pelletier-Cameron and Quentin Clemens) plus Stu Wolf (faculty) and Walter Parker (resident) on the right.

Since 2007 the changes in healthcare education, research, and clinical delivery have been head spinning. Today the UM Medical School and health care system is rebranded as Michigan Medicine.

The time has flown by, in my mind, and if this present interval of stewardship of the Department of Urology is deemed successful in any measure, the success is due overwhelmingly to our faculty, our residents, our nurses, our physician assistants, our researchers, and our staff. Sister departments in the Medical School and this great University also account for our success; we flower in fertile soil.

This success should continue to grow with our next departmental leader whom I hope will help our clinical divisions and team do their jobs optimally, as I have tried to do. We want to avoid a repetition of the darker events of the 1990’s (as duly recorded in the Wall Street Journal and the Detroit Free Press), when Ed McGuire’s successful term and Bart Grossman’s interim stewardship were interrupted by a few difficult years until Jim Montie’s leadership brought us into departmental status and initiated the Dow Health Services Research Division. [Below: Khaled Hafez, Hugh Solomon, Jim Montie.]

 

Four.

March brings Spring steelhead to mind. It’s been many years since I’ve been on the Pere Marquette River thigh deep in waders feeling the rush of icy water working its way toward Lake Michigan. Migrating steelhead salmon, pressing retrograde to reconcile with their past, have few things on their minds at that stage and feeding is not high in their priorities. Lures need not be very sophisticated or authentic, as the fish are on their migration to spawn so they are as likely to bite out of anger or random habit than culinary urge. [Above: Brent Hollenbeck and steelhead. Photo credit: Jeff Montgomery.]

Steelhead rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) hatch in inland streams and then swim downstream to forage in the Great Lakes (or the ocean, on the west coast) for 2-3 years. Winter-run steelhead are sexually mature and generally have a shorter run to their spawning grounds, whereas the summer-run steelhead are sexually immature when they leave the lakes or ocean and travel deeper inland. Actual spawning for either type happens in late winter or spring. These Pacific rainbow trout were introduced as immigrants from California to the Au Sable river around 1876 and after many generations are well established residents although state-managed hatchery programs supplement the existing wild fish.

Steelhead provide a loose metaphor for medical professionalism. We train our successors in the streams of academic medical centers and on maturity they go off to do their thing in the wide world. Toward the end of their careers many of them want to reconcile with their origins and travel back upstream to check out their starting points. Forgive me for stretching this analogy, but I do want to put in a plug for our Nesbit alumni, former students, and friends of the department to come back for one of our academic events, particularly in the next two years as we gear up to celebrate the Centennial of Urology at Michigan in 2019-2020.

 

Five.

Fish and urologists. Fish have twofold purposes. Primarily they pass along their DNA to their successors and secondarily they serve the larger planetary ecosystem. The optimal life span of a steelhead allows 4-6 years for one or more foraging careers in the wide world, although some Pacific steelhead live as long as 11 years and grow to 55 pounds and 45 inches, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries website.

Medical professionals have a fundamental purpose of caring for their fellow creatures, motivated by genetically crafted mirror-imaging that produced the essential human phenotypes of kindness and empathy. Secondarily, healthcare people serve their ecosystem by educating their successors and expanding the armamentarium of knowledge and technology. The career of a urologist is 40 years, give or take a decade, foraging in the real world of clinical medicine. While steelhead must adapt to gradual warming of the oceans, urologists need to adapt to rapid changes in knowledge, technology, and regulatory matters. Technology and market forces are driving changes in urologic practice at least as much as scientific evidence, leaving practitioners and patients sometimes uncertain of what treatment fits best.

 

Six.

Urologists are skilled in techniques and technology to solve urological problems but, no less than any other physicians, urologists also offer their personalities, opinions, and reassurances to patients throughout interactions that are bundled under the unfortunate label “encounters” in today’s workplaces and medical records. The language and demeanor experienced by patients often are just as meaningful to them as any treatment or technology. Indeed, the non-technical aspects of the encounter may impact the patient more than any specific medical service. This is a prime difference between the professional and a commodity natures of health care. People, as patients, treasure the right human touch.

The essential deliverable of our department is kind and excellent patient care, thoroughly integrated with education and innovation at all levels. This is not just our priority, but the priority of Michigan Medicine. Below is another picture I found from 2007 showing a faculty member and two residents who exemplified that essential deliverable back then and do so today in their new locations: Gary Faerber, now at the University of Utah; Emilie Johnson, faculty at Lurie Children’s Hospital and Northwestern Medical School; and Kathy Kiernan on the right, faculty at the University of Washington and its children’s hospital.

The human touch is also conveyed by words. A recent Viewpoint in JAMA by Arthur Barsky of the Department of Psychiatry at Brigham and Women’s Hospital is worth reading. [Barsky. JAMA. 318:2425, 2017]. The title sums it up: The iatrogenic potential of the physician’s words. Barsky invokes viscerosomatic amplification to explain how a physician can affect through words and attitude. (As is usual on these pages, we use physician as a synonym for healthcare provider.) Techniques and technology are unquestionably at the core of urologic practice, but the art of clinical practice is far more than its tools and treatments. Kindness, words, and professional touch are no less essential.

 

Seven.

Expectation. Human brains add further dimensions to medical treatments, with the matter of expectation. Every treatment carries the possibilities of real benefit or harm, but another two-edged sword exists in our capacity for imagination, something we cannot easily turn off. We may readily imagine benefit even when no physical or physiologic benefit can be explained (the placebo effect) or we may imagine elements of harm (nocebo).

Placebo and nocebo effects confound medical treatments when a therapy (legitimate or bogus, scientifically-validated or apocryphal) has a more positive or more negative effect than it rationally should have. This reflects changes in psychobiology rather than changes in physiology, pharmacokinetics, or other factors that are directly measurable or attributable to the treatment.

Nocebo, the evil twin to the placebo, is a term coined in 1961 by WP Kennedy. [Kennedy WP. Med World. 1961; 95:203, 2013.] The evil twin metaphor came from Michael Glick in an editorial in the Journal of the American Dental Association. [Glick M. Placebo and its evil twin, nocebo. JADA.2016; 147:227.] The nocebo effect occurs when negative expectation of therapy exacerbates the negative effect that the treatment rationally would cause. For some patients a given therapy, let’s say a radical prostatectomy, in addition to successfully removing a malignancy (from which direct harm might have been years away) with minimal detriment to related anatomic structures, might produce a sense of relief that carries with it additional placebo effect. For other patients a nocebo effect negatively magnifies the overall therapeutic experience and collateral damage of any attendant detriments. Every patient responds individually and idiosyncratically to an expectation and to a treatment. These phenomena, placebo and nocebo, should be anticipated for almost everything we offer in healthcare, and to the extent that we understand these possibilities and prepare patients and their families for them, we will improve the patient experience. This is one of the myriad ways that complex health care cannot be easily managed as a commodity or by artificial intelligence.

 

Eight.

As scientific medicine emerged in the 19th century it consolidated into subspecialty medicine in the 20th century and anatomic, physiologic, and microbial determinants became the focal points of healthcare. Cognitive and social factors were “marginalia” of most patient encounters. Now, in the 21st century it is clear that cognitive and social factors are equally important parts of everyone’s healthcare needs. Our profession and its business are no longer accurately described as the matter of “medical care”, but rather the matter of health care.

A prescription for a treatment or an operative procedure may be based upon symptoms and observations as entered into checklists and databases. Emotional responses and social determinants are not so easily factored in electronic medical records, particularly within the constraints of time-constrained encounters. Watson and other artificial intelligence systems are working their way into examining rooms, bedsides, and operating theaters, but these are not as effective in sensing the co-morbidities, social determinants, and other “marginalia” of the human condition, as is an attentive and kind human being. Artificial intelligence engenders great enthusiasm, but humanity should never surrender its ultimate agency to algorithms created by a self-empowered cadre of programmers.

 

Nine.

Considering gaps last month, including astronomical gaps, calendar gaps, and geological gaps, we saved an important one to mention now. A gender gap has long been present in the field of urology, although Michigan more than most other training programs began to change that imbalance, starting with Carol Bennett, who trained under Jack Lapides and was Michigan urology’s first woman graduate. Carol is now on the faculty at UCLA. In her era of training women in urology were rare. Today the situation is quite different and at Michigan we have had residency classes where women outnumber men three to one. Other years we have returned to 100% men and some year soon we could as easily have all women. In our selection process, we don’t aim for an optical effect, but rather try to pick the best talents and fits for our department from the yearly applicant cohort. Ultimately, individuals from the candidate pool make their selections when they rank the programs. [Below: Peter Knapp, Nesbit 1985 and Carol Bennett, Nesbit 1983.]

Women graduates from the University of Michigan Medical School and women trainees from our urology training program (all are considered Nesbit Alumni) are making significant impact in the world of urology, academically and in the private sector. Below you see a dinner at the recent annual meeting of the Society of Women in Urology. From the left: Cara Cimmino UMMS and faculty at Emory, Priyanka Gupta UM urology faculty, Allison (Lake) Christie Nesbit graduate and urologist in Tennessee, Miriam Hadj-Moussa Nesbit graduate and UM urology faculty, Lindsey Herrel Nesbit graduate and UM urology faculty, Akanksha Mehta faculty at Emory, Amy Luckenbaugh UM resident, and Annie Darves-Bornoz resident at Vanderbilt.)

 

Ten.

John Hall, Nesbit Alumnus 1970, wrote recently and gave me permission to give his note wider distribution here in Matula Thoughts. I came to know John after I came to Ann Arbor, largely through his high-quality practice, a sliver of which I appreciated through his pediatric referrals, as well as his local care of people I knew in the Traverse City area where he worked. Letters like his are one of the great pleasures of mine with What’s New our monthly email and it’s sibling Matula Thoughts, the web version. As we get closer to our Centennial and to reformulating our departmental history, his recollections, and perhaps yours as well, will be important to us.
From John:

“Hi Dave, I was just reading your letter of December 21, 2017. It made me think of the 5-6 doctors who staffed Urology during my training. Your staff will be limited to how many names you can put in the letterhead margin. It’s like how many doctors can fit on the head of a pin.

I finished my training in 1970, Urology 50. By 2020, Urology 100, if I’m still kicking I will be one of the few to span the history of the department. I started my contact with Urology as a student and served as a “nurse” in the Urology dialysis center. I took the vitals as the residents stirred new electrolytes into the Kolff Twin Coil Baths. As a result, I knew many of the residents from the fifties and sixties. Also, since I was appointed to residency by Dr. Nesbit, I met many of his trainees who now directed new urology departments, when they returned to AA [as visiting professors or guests], I also once met Dr. Huggins.

Dr. Nesbit retired in 1967, six months into my residency. So my group became Lapides 1. I’m not going to measure up to your knowledge of urologic history, but I am willing to provide my perspective of Michigan Urology to the Centennial Committee. Please let me know if I could provide some value to the process. Please keep writing Matula Thoughts, the highlight of my month! … John.”

Thank you, John and yes, please continue your perspectives! Much is contained in John’s brief note: the idea of 100 years of urology in AA, the imprinting of students, the Kolff “artificial kidney”,  Nesbit alum and Nobel Prize winner Charles Huggins, and the long list of chairmen Nesbit trained. Overstated only is the disproportion of historical knowledge between me and John – he knows vastly more about that midpoint in Michigan’s urologic story and I hope we can get as much as possible in print for you and others to understand our perspectives.

Since that note, John sent me a copy of his book “I’d Rather Be Sailing” and I expect to go through it and decorate it thoroughly with my own marginalia. As we reconstruct the 100-year story of Michigan Urology it will be the personal marginalia of alumni such as John Hall that provide the context, color, and personalities to illuminate the names and dates of our narrative.

 

With a few weeks until Spring, 2018, best wishes from David Bloom and Michigan Urology.

Gaps

Matula Thoughts Feb 2, 2018

 

Gaps, stories, & authenticity

3707 words

 

(Above: MIA this February)

One.         

Minding the gap. February is a gap month, adjusting for the tiny discrepancy between solar years and calendar years by an awkward change that lengthens the month once every 4 years. The next 29-day adjustment will happen in 2020.

Missing this month is the full moon like that which happened two days ago and coincided with a super moon, a blue moon, a blood moon, and a total lunar eclipse (the picture above was taken last year). Full moons usually happen monthly, sometimes even twice a month, with the second of the full moons called a “blue moon,” although having no blueness whatsoever. The super moon refers to the optical effect of the moon being “super close” to the Earth. The blood coloring  relates to lighting effects from the lunar eclipse.

Given lunar periodicity of 29.53 days, February is the only month in which a full moon gap can happen. This last occurred in 1999 and will happen next in 2037.  A similar gap occurs in occasional Februarys with the new moon, as last in 2014 and next in 2033. [Macdonald. J. Brit. Astron. Assoc. Dec 1998. p. 324.]

February, in the Midwest, also provides a gap between the celebratory early days of winter and the promise of spring rejuvenation in March or April, before May contingent perhaps on today’s groundhog forecasts from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. If you are in Punxsutawney today and travel east along Interstate 80 near the interface between Pennsylvania and New Jersey you will encounter another type of gap, the Delaware Water Gap, where the Delaware River cuts through a ridge of the Appalachian Mountains.

Last summer I passed through a second geological gap after being stuck in traffic in the Rockies along with cars, trucks, and Greyhound buses backed west of an accident on Interstate 70 (below).

I had been returning from a continuing medical education course that Quentin Clemens, Brent Hollenbeck, and Jeff Montgomery had organized conveniently close to excellent fly fishing opportunities that would be warmly relished this cold month. This summer, by the way, will likely be a gap year for their course, but with encouragement they might reprise it in 2019, the year Michigan Urology begins its Centennial celebration.

The specific phrase, mind the gap, came into play exactly fifty years ago, in 1968, when London Underground leadership automated and standardized the warnings that drivers and local station attendants had been giving to passengers regarding the gaps between the station platforms and train doors. Because the gaps were sometimes dangerously large, an automated short announcement was planned with digital technology. The AEG Telefunken Company supplied the equipment and sound engineer Peter Lodge recorded test phrases intended to read later by an actor. After the actor demanded royalties, the thrifty London Underground deemed Lodge’s own test readings of “Mind the gap” and “Stand clear of the doors please” good enough and ultimately implemented them in stations in 1969.

Minding the gap is a useful metaphor for medical professionals and residency trainees. The gap between conjecture and truth is the workplace of the health sciences and the rapid advances of knowledge and technology create new inevitable gaps. Additionally, complex systems, health care economics, and divided loyalties create tensions that force ethical and moral challenges. An editorial in JAMA by Donald Berwick last year highlighted some of the moral choices confronting today’s doctors, explaining that the gaps between choices come in three tiers, personal, organizational, or societal. [Berwick. JAMA. 318: 2081, 2017.]

 

Two.

London Underground dates back to 1854 when the Metropolitan Railway gained permission to build a subterranean system and began to evaluate digging methods in test tunnels, but it wasn’t until January, 1863 that it opened the world’s first underground railway, which ran between Paddington and Farringdon Stations. Steam locomotives hauled wooden gas-lighted carriages. A second line, The District Line, between Kensington and Westminster, opened in December, 1868. The first underground lines were trenches that were “cut and covered,” in a manner like the setting of the Terra Cotta Army of Qin Shi Huang 2100 years earlier. Newer methodology of deeper bored circular tunnels, avoiding the need to involve surface property owners, began with electric locomotives on the City and South London Railway between King William Street and Stockwell in 1890. The deep tube system expanded and by the time of the “Mind the gap” recorded announcements, the London Underground map had become one of the iconic graphics of the 20th century. Some versions of the map noted the distances involved, vertically and horizontally, for the more egregious gaps.

Composite_Beck_and_2012_tube_map

[Wikipedia. The left side shows the 1933 Beck map and the right side the Underground map as it appeared in 2012.]

The Darkest Hour, a new film about the gap between England’s meager armed forces in 1940 and Hitler’s military advance in Europe shows a fanciful scene where Churchill takes the Underground to Westminster one day seeking to understand the “will of the people.” His imagined conversation with the working people on the train bolsters his courage to resist rather than capitulate to the overwhelming and imminent threat. Churchill goes on to deliver his first galvanizing wartime speech. In the film two political opponents grouse: “What just happened?” one asks as parliament erupts in patriotic cheers. “He [Churchill] mobilized the English language,” comes the reply, “and sent it into battle.” Creative devices of the cinema notwithstanding, it’s hard to imagine what today’s world would be like without Winston Churchill’s leadership in that precarious year.

 

Three.

Fictional views of the world help us understand it more accurately and deal with it more effectively. When fiction artfully imagines facts and relationships and renders them in coherent stories with enough historical fidelity and realism the past, present, or even the future become clearer. The Darkest Hour did this effectively for those dark days of 1940, when England found itself unprepared for a re-armed and hostile Germany. Although the Underground scene was fiction, it gave substance to the reality that Churchill was able to tap into the will of the English people, understanding that their values, hopes, and dreams were quite distinct from the views of the rarified aristocracy that surrounded him and had ruefully shaped English policy until that moment. Churchill, like his peers and advisors, had limited contact with ordinary, working people, but he had enough sense of them to gain an imagined understanding of their aggregate intent on the choice between surrender or fight. Furthermore, his inspiring speeches at the right moments tilted the scale further against appeasement and surrender. While the Underground scene might make historians grumble, the fictional device artfully illuminated Churchill’s likely state of mind.

The 1993 film, Groundhog Day, offered more outlandish fiction, giving an imaginative spin to the Punxsutawney myth. A successful musical version premiered in London at the Old Vic in 2016. This story is a fiction about a fiction. Yet, who hasn’t wished for moments like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day where time repeats itself, offering us another chance, or like “a glitch in The Matrix,” and as Yogi Berra is reputed to have said: “Déjà vu all over again.”

 

Four.

Our species, Homo sapiens, is not only defined by its stories, but stories shaped our emergence from the earlier members of our genus Homo, if you accept a Darwinian point of view. Allen Lichter, former UMMS Dean, sent me a book recently that elegantly consolidates our specific human story. Aptly named Sapiens and written by historian Yuval Harari, the account tells how our genus, Homo, evolved 2.5 million years ago from an earlier and now-extinct genus of great apes in East Africa and set out to see and change the rest of the world. Some kindred species, Homo neanderthalensis, evolved in western Eurasia of the Ice Age while others, Homo erectus appeared in Eastern Asia and survived for 2 million years. Homo soloensis evolved on the island of Java, Homo floresiensis on Flores, and Homo denisova in Siberia were also members of our category of biologic classification, the genus. Evolution also continued in East Africa with other competing species in our genus: Homo rudolfensis and Homo ergaster, along with us, Homo sapiens.

Harari gives reasonable evidence that storytelling was central to the emergence and dissemination of Homo sapiens, who eventually replaced all the other species of the Homo genus, although collecting bits of their DNA along the way. All hominoid species existed in communal groups that must have depended on some form of verbal communication, but Harari indicates the language skills of H. sapiens were superior and in time gave total competitive advantage to our species of humans: “The ability to create an imagined reality out of words enabled large numbers of strangers to cooperate effectively.” [Harari p. 32]

The earliest storytelling logically was a matter of gossiping and rumors related to clan folk, hunting, competing clans, predators, seasons, and climate. Storytelling expanded, perhaps around campfires, into durable tales of myth, history, and fantasy. Without the advantage of scientific thought and verifiable information early story tellers undoubtedly relegated competing some clans to barbarian enemies. Some of these may legitimately been other human species, although as opposed to traditional ideas that different species could not breed, evidence is clear that successful interspecies mingling occurred in the last 100,000 years before the other human species became extinct.

For the last 10,000 years Homo sapiens has been the sole human species. Historical ideas of polygenesis have been effectively debunked – there is only one human kind, although 7 billion of us have myriad ethnic origins, ideas, experiences, hopes, and dreams. Diversity is an uncontestable true fact, and equity and inclusion are mandatory to our survival as a species. John Kennedy once was reported to have said: “Our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” [Commencement Address at American University, Washington, DC. June 10, 1963]

Today’s world is cosmopolitan in fact and by necessity.

 

Five.

Today, February 2, has interesting links to the past. Notably, in 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, Groundhog Day began on this day. February 2 in 1901 was the day of Queen Victoria’s funeral. My grandfather recalled that he watched part of it from a rooftop in London, guessing that he was around seven years of age at the time. On this day in 1922, the book Ulysses by James Joyce was published, resetting the line between pornography and “acceptable” literature. In 1925, on February 2, dog sled relays carrying life-saving diphtheria antitoxin reached Nome, Alaska when all other access was impossible. This superhuman feat, a half-century later, inspired the Iditarod Race. Balto, the most celebrated of the original relay dogs, is immortalized in a statue in New York’s Central Park and his remains, preserved by taxidermy, are at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

These curious bits of information are facts that can be authenticated, for the most part. The late Don Coffey used to tell his students to learn to distinguish facts and true facts. What he intended with that admonishment was the recognition of authenticity in the pursuit of truth, authenticity being a state of worthiness of acceptance or belief by conforming to true fact.

Facts (and data) have some degree of relativity as Coffey knew well, they may change as new information is gained. Truth is something greater than fact, a higher degree perhaps of accuracy or authenticity. Something authentic is genuine, factual, truthful, or honest. As fanciful as the idea that a groundhog could predict the remaining length of winter or the notion that someone could be trapped in a repetitive time cycle, there is something authentic in the human aspiration to find easy ways to forecast the future (much like ancient uroscopists) or to have a chance to repeat a day in one’s life to achieve a better outcome.

 

Six.

Human nature seeks truth and its embodiment in personal conduct, integrity, is the basis of successful social interaction. The line between authenticity and inauthenticity can be difficult to discern and it can change. As we become informed that facts we had previously taken for “true” are found to be inaccurate, we are playing the intellectual game of science. More generally, this is the game of life as Homo sapiens. New information – observations in life – reasonably cause us to reset beliefs and values. It is no moral lapse or inauthenticity to discard facts when better facts are discovered based on new information, rather this is the natural human arbitration of the world.

Inauthenticity is another matter, being usually deliberate deception with antonyms that include counterfeit, inaccuracy, infidelity, deception, exaggeration, erroneousness, falseness, miscalculation. For a physician, nurse, PA, MA, researcher, other health care worker, or patient, the presumption of absolute authenticity is the basis of daily transactions. This is no less true for a historian, English professor, geologist, or physicist. Yet facts and stories are likely to have different interpretations or aspects to them. We arbitrate “truth” through collaboration with knowledgeable peers, or other sources of information. Such calibration is the nature of the scientific process, but it is more generally at the heart of all the social and intellectual interactions of human civilization.

A storyteller’s success is a matter of telling an authentic story. The story may be fact or fiction, but in either instance, the ability to make it ring true to a discerning ear is the hallmark of success. A successful factual writer, such as a journalist, will collect facts and study relationships in order to weave them coherently and artfully. The writer must strip away non-essential information or information perceived as inaccurate or misleading to create a story that is clear, accurate, and authentic to the reader.

The distinction between authenticity and inauthenticity is more complex for the writer of fiction, the value of which is to entertain and inform. Good fiction is authentic when it creates a story that rings true to readers in terms of realistic dialogue, details both relevant and accurate, and narrative that is clear. In the best instances, good fiction not only illuminates reality, but it distills it to capture and enhance its essence.

 

Seven.

Churchill’s language. Years ago, when the Society for Pediatric Urology was held in New York City and Bernie Churchill was president of the group, a well-known Winston Churchill authority and impersonator, James Humes, appeared as the surprise dinner speaker. When Humes described Churchill’s approach to speechwriting, the ideas resonated enough to write them down. Curiously, I’ve been unable to verify these in anything I’ve read of Churchill since then, so I can’t promise them as “true facts.”  Nonetheless, they ring true to me:

  • Start strong
  • Simple language
  • One theme
  • Paint a picture
  • End with emotion

In his own writings, Humes himself is the source of some good quotes.

  • The art of communication is the language of leadership.
  • Every time you have to speak you are auditioning for leadership.
  • Most speakers speak ten minutes too long.

If you want to explore Churchill and Humes further, a book Humes wrote in 2001, Eisenhower and Churchill: The Partnership That Saved the World, is well worthwhile.

 

Eight.

The Tet Offensive began fifty years ago and should be recalled for many reasons, but none less than it offers important lessons in leadership. Last year on these pages we told some of the story of Larry Hawkins, a young man from Detroit, who was one of the thousands injured during the Tet Offensive and how he came to the Ann Arbor Veterans Hospital paraplegic and deteriorating from urosepsis due to a neuropathic bladder. Jack Lapides saved his life by performing a vesicostomy, that also gave Larry personal independence. Larry went on to become a lawyer and influential public servant in Florida. After a distinguished career that included advocacy for the rights of the handicapped, Larry passed away a year ago and was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last summer. We had come to know of Larry through the efforts of his sister in contacting us for stomal supplies, that were becoming harder and harder to obtain for the Lapides vesicostomy, an operation that was life-saving in its day, but has been largely replaced by other management techniques.

Fifty years ago, in January 1968, when the combined forces of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese People’s Army of Vietnam launched surprise attacks on dozens of cities, towns, and hamlets throughout South Vietnam, the tide of the war began to shift. My professional education had begun amidst the Vietnam War, when we still had a national military draft, but my service was deferred via the Berry Plan until I completed my training. By then the draft and war had ended, but my service was still mandated and I was assigned to Walter Reed Army Hospital.

For the next few decades the collective American consciousness wanted to forget Vietnam and its many lessons, something that was easy to do for most people whose bodies, minds, and families had escaped the war’s sequelae. Nevertheless, occasional great memoirs gained public attention, including the Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien and Robert McNamara’s book In Retrospect. That latent period passed with the recent Ken Burns encapsulation, The Vietnam War. These books should be required reading for every American citizen. Continuing with the de facto “movie review theme” this month, we call attention to The Post, a current film that combines fact and fiction to tell an important and authentic story about The Washington Post and The Pentagon Papers.

 

Nine.

The_General_(C-1._S._Forester_novel)_book_cover

Leadership. A much older book recently came to public attention as a favorite of General F. John Kelly, Chief of Staff for the President. The General, by C.S. Forester is described as the classic example of leadership during WWI, but its lessons transcend any era. Written as fiction in 1936, its authenticity made it a best-seller and it tells the timeless tale of leaders who fail by fighting this year’s war with the tools and tactics of the last decade’s war. This book impressed Churchill, as well as Hitler according to Forester. Kelly singles The General out as an example of the importance of what he calls “Professional Reading,” a necessity for anyone aspiring to competence in their work. An article in Foreign Policy quotes Kelly:

“When I came back in the Marine Corps as an officer — close to my first days as a second lieutenant — I ran into a fellow named Capt. Ed Wells, a Harvard-educated, upper-crust guy. That first day I knew him he started talking to me about professional reading and how the real professionals read and study their professions. A doctor who doesn’t read peer articles and stay attuned to the developments in his field is not the kind of doctor you would want to go to, and the same is true for officers in the Marine Corps. He got me going on reading, specifically focused on military things, and I just never stopped. When I read a new book I wrote a notation in the front of the book what billet I was in, the date I finished reading it, and where in the world I was…

I’ve read this book [The General] every time I got promoted just to remind myself of the effect. I’ve noted where I was when I finished reading it the last time, then when I read it again I will try to remember what it meant to me as a major and, depending on as you get older and higher in rank, it’s a different book every time you read it. When a lieutenant reads that book it’s different from when a lieutenant general reads it. And I think the same is true for every book. So it’s just kind of a fun thing I’ve done over the years and with this book in particular just to remind me of the critical importance of thinking.” [Ricks. Foreign Policy. April, 2017. Reprinted, by permission, from Adm. James Stavridis, USN (Ret.) and R. Manning Ancell, The Leader’s Bookshelf (Annapolis, Md: Naval Institute Press, © 2017).]

 

Ten.

The Greyhound bus line company. Travelling through the Delaware Water Gap this winter on Interstate 80 or stalled in traffic last summer on Interstate 70 along a cut through the Dakota Hogback west of Denver I saw a number of the ubiquitous Greyhound buses. Greyhound is as synonymous for intercity travel in North America as the Underground is for intracity transportation in the United Kingdom. Greyhound’s first route traces back to 1914 in Hibbing, Minnesota when Carl Eric Wickman, a failing Hupmobile car salesman, used his last remaining 7-passenger vehicle to transport iron ore workers from Hibbing to the town of Alice, known for its saloons, at 15 cents per passenger. The next year Wickman teamed up with Ralph Bogan who had a transport service between Hibbing and Duluth. The newly named Mesaba Transportation Company had a positive margin of $8000 that first year. Through mergers and acquisitions of networks, Mesaba grew.

The Greyhound name appeared informally on the inaugural run of a segment from Superior, Wisconsin to Wausau, Wisconsin when the local operator of the affiliated Blue Goose Line run, Ed Stone, saw a reflection of his bus as it passed by a shop window and the moving image reminded him of a greyhound dog. Stone later applied the name to his entire network. By 1927 the entire Wickman system was transcontinental and by 1930 it had consolidated 100 bus lines into the Motor Transit Company, that was soon rebranded the Greyhound Corporation. In 2007 Greyhound became a subsidiary of the British FirstGroup transportation company, although Greyhound itself remains based in Dallas. While most large metropolitan subway systems have consolidated into public utilities the interurban bus lines have remained private.

Old Depot

The Bus depot in Ann Arbor serviced interurban bus lines including Blue Goose, Greyhound, and Shortway from a little building (above) until September, 1940 when it was replaced by a state-of the-art facility with 62 seats, a telegraph booth, a ticket office, a baggage room, and a 12-seat lunch counter.

Depot Story

Over the years, as Greyhound became the dominant carrier, the art deco building lost its luster through a number of renovations until 2014 when it was taken down to build the Marriott Residence Inn. The historically attuned developer, First Martin Corporation, retained the façade (below) and encapsulated the story of the bus station on the lovely visual displays, seen above.

Bus depot facade

Residence Inn

……………………………………..

It’s been a challenging winter, but spring is not far away.

David A. Bloom

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

 

January 5, 2018

DAB What’s New Jan 5, 2018

New year thoughts
3899 words

 

One.
Dripping icicles are picturesque winter images, although this week’s massive winter storm, Grayson, extending from Florida to Maine disrupted any nostalgic thoughts of snow and ice. The icicles photographed from my study window (above) echo the pendant spikes painted by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in Massacre of the Innocents circa 1565-67.

Bruegel’s icicles (above) look charming enough, until you view the grim larger work (below – original at Queens Gallery, British Royal Collection). One broken icicle is falling in response to men kicking in an adjacent door. The actual painting has a complex history of paint-overs transforming it from grisly slaughter of babies to the plundering of a village.

So, too, the larger work of today’s climate gives the icicle a chilling perspective, as it brings to mind the Greenland Glaciers, among other melting ice forms.

Although water’s origin on earth remains controversial, water is one of the key things astronomers seek when evaluating other planets that could initiate or sustain life. Water, so central to life, is a synonym in medicine for urine, amniotic fluid, ventricular fluid, lymphatic fluid, and other waters of our bodies. Frozen water in the form of sea ice and glaciers, more or less stable for the past 10,000 years, is melting at an extraordinary rate, threatening the delicate balance of planetary life.

A startling image from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) website shows how little the Earth’s water  compares to the volume of the earth itself. Paraphrasing from the USGS website:

The three blue spheres below represent relative volumes of Earth’s water in comparison to the size of the Earth. In comparison to the volume of the globe, the amount of planetary water is small; oceans account for only a thin veneer of water on the surface.

The largest blue sphere represents all of Earth’s water. Its diameter is 860 miles (the distance from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Topeka, Kansas) and has a volume of about 332,500,000 cubic miles (1,386,000,000 cubic kilometers). This includes all of the water in the oceans, ice caps, lakes, rivers, groundwater, atmospheric water, and even the water in living creatures.
The blue sphere over Kentucky represents the world’s liquid fresh water (groundwater, lakes, swamp water, and rivers). The volume comes to about 2,551,100 mi3 (10,633,450 km3), of which 99 percent is groundwater, much of which is not easily accessible. The diameter of this sphere is about 169.5 miles (272.8 kilometers).
The tiny bubble over Atlanta, Georgia represents fresh water in all the lakes and rivers on the planet. Most water that life on earth needs every day comes from these surface-water sources. The volume of this sphere is about 22,339 mi3 (93,113 km3). The diameter of this sphere is about 34.9 miles (56.2 kilometers). By comparison, Lake Michigan looks way bigger than this sphere, but you have to imagine the bubble is almost 35 miles high—whereas the average depth of Lake Michigan is less than 300 feet (91 meters). [With permission, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Credit: Howard Perlman USGS, globe illustration Jack Cook, Copyright Adam Nieman.]

 

Two.

Dividing human moments into calendar years, we “start fresh” each new year with renewed opportunities to explore the world intellectually and geographically. The globe of the Earth is a tool and metaphor for human exploration as well as a visual remonstration to the “Flat Earth Society.” The globes shown above are displayed in a hallway in the Harlan Hatcher Library. If you work here at the University of Michigan or even if you don’t, but happen to be in Ann Arbor and want to explore the campus, “check it out,” when you have time.

Interrogation of the moment has been a uniquely biologic phenomenon. A rock is not aware of its environment even though it is affected by it. The rock cannot consider the things around it nor empathize with whatever it may roll down upon. Our human predecessors well before Aristotle thought about matters like this (they called them metaphysical) and passed these thoughts to their successors. When language and technology permitted, these metaphysical considerations were made somewhat durable in writing.

Biology shows that humans are not unique in this capacity of interrogation, even microorganisms react and respond to their microenvironments and communicate among themselves. All biologic creatures interrogate their moments, but our species has learned to do this very well and pass along observations for future generations to consider. We do this unwittingly by epigenetic management of our DNA and purposefully through our ideas, our culture, our objects, our written language, and our sports, as seen below in interrogation of the moment by Michigan quarterback John O’Korn during Ohio State game. [From Sincock Suite. November 25, 2017. Sony 24-240 FE]

Standing at the threshold of coexistence with systems built around artificial intelligence, we are now affected by their ability to interrogate us and to increasing degrees we are transferring many decision-making powers of our human agency to these systems.

 

Three.
Imagined Expectations. It may seem premature in this calendar year to mention Abraham Lincoln. Most any month but January provides a good excuse to think about Lincoln. His birthday was in February, 1819 and next month it will be the 199th anniversary. He died in April, 1865. His most famous speech, The Gettysburg Address, was in November, 1863. What brings him to my mind just now, however, is the starting sentence of that speech on November 19: “Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Lincoln’s remarkable use of the phrase “fourscore and seven” converted a mundane metric of 87 into a poetic measure of time. He was referring to the age of our nation, but that measure of time also equates to one very fortunate human life span, although for Lincoln’s time, in the antebellum South of the U.S., the average life expectation for a white male was 38.3 and 40.5 for a white female. I couldn’t find equivalent data for other men and women of color until 1900 when it was 32.5 for males and 35 for women. All such data is a suspect approximation for reality, and means little to the particular story of any individual man or woman.

My point here, admittedly a bit strained, is that our limited personal solar cycles provide a single human the opportunity to interrogate one’s times and world, so as to navigate it well and possibly to improve it for successors. Borrowing from Lincoln, three score and ten is a more typical fortunate expectation for most of us, given the personal good luck of health, security, and opportunity that communities and governments should provide. Four score and seven is a very optimistic expectation, and for that the luck and security of health is essential.

An individual human’s expiration date hinges on genetics, luck, opportunity, choices, and the general randomness of events. For me, as a youngster growing up in the rhetoric of the Korean War, McCarthyism politics, nuclear war anxiety, air-raid drills at school, and the personal insecurity of one’s own potential and relevance, the mere idea of surviving into the 21st century seemed fanciful. Yet here we are in 2018.

 

Four.

Dee Fenner, the new chair of the OB GYN Department, is a perfect choice for Michigan Medicine (seen above with husband Charlie at autumn DEI reception). Dee is a world-renown gynecologist, a superb educator, and a first-rate administrator who has gained the respect of her colleagues at Michigan in her numerous administrative responsibilities. She also holds a joint appointment with Urology, along with 3 other members of her team. Since the days when Ed McGuire was Section Head of Urology, our departments have had a close relationship. I well remember my earliest days here when Ed and John DeLancey had a combined pelvic floor dysfunction clinic on Saturdays. Dee and I met shortly before she returned to Michigan. We were in Paris at a WHO Consensus Conference in 2001 and by coincidence found ourselves in a pen shop as the only Americans.

Words of praise are due for Tim Johnson, the outgoing chair of OB GYN and a friend of urology for the 24 years of his successive terms. Few figures in his field have generated equal respect for leadership in national and international OB GYN. His work in Ghana is legendary. Tim brought his department at Michigan into the 21st century with superb clinical divisions, excellent faculty, coveted educational programs, and worthy contributions to the knowledge of his field. Tim has been a stalwart force in the domain of women’s rights. His sense of the centrality of the essential deliverable of kind and excellent patient-centered care (if you permit me some repetitiveness) has made him a terrific colleague. His department consistently and superbly delivers its products (forgive the relevant pun).

Sad news on the recent passing of Rudi Ansbacher, emeritus professor of OB GYN and a remarkable colleague.

 

Five.
Matula Thoughts, recap. Throughout the millennia of human history clues to predict the future have been highly prized, especially so when a given future is related to health. Entrepreneurial “healers” utilized external cues from the heavens, weather, tea leaves, or playing cards to prognosticate outcomes, although the logic of using physical evidence from patients or their byproducts was evident to early practitioners. Like most other mammals, humans share the trait of personal interest in their urine, and are particularly attentive when it is abnormal during illness. Hippocratic writings documented uroscopy, as examination of urine came to be called 2500 years ago, and over the ensuing millennia the practice attained imaginative prognostications as healers examined the gross characteristics of urine in flasks called matulas to speculate on the course of an illness. The visual image of a “piss prophet” gazing at a matula served as a main symbol of physicians until only about 200 years ago when the stethoscope replaced the flask as medicine’s badge of office.

We began this electronic journal nearly 18 years ago with a respectful tip of the matula to the essayist Michel Eyquem de Montaigne who began his eclectic personal observations around 1572 at 39 years of age. That was a turbulent time, notable in Europe for the sieges of Sancerre and Haarlem, in South America for the fall of the last independent remnant of the Inca Empire, and in the heavens for the first observation of Supernova SN 1572, that Tycho Brahe gave as evidence that stars are changeable. Montaigne was likely unaware of most big events of that year, but he was certainly acquainted with physicians and matulas, given that his father purportedly died of urinary stone disease and Montaigne himself began to suffer from them in 1578.

What impulses compel us humans to foist our personal observations and thoughts on our fellows may someday be revealed through the matula’s diagnostic successors such as the MRI and other marvels of imagination, but there is no arguing that those impulses are strong and prevalent. This monthly newsletter started in Allen Lichter’s dean’s office in 2000 as a way to interact with those among our faculty willing to consider some thoughts from a colleague. Admittedly, I wrote this column called What’s New as much for myself as any potential readers, but it became a pleasant habit to send out the first Friday of each month. Becoming chair of the University of Michigan Urology Department in 2007 the monthly column transitioned to our faculty, residents, staff, alumni, and friends. What’s New has served us well, connecting us to many of our intended audience and beyond. Some recipients kindly forward What’s New to their friends, although the extent of that particular reach is mostly unknown except for occasional readers who have contacted or commented to me as a result.

 

Six.
We began a parallel version of What’s New in March, 2013, on a website labelled Matula Thoughts. This version allows us to archive the monthly columns, thereby minimizing duplication and providing the unexpected voyeuristic capability of showing the numbers and distribution of web-version readers. Likely only some of them read this carefully, while most probably glance or sprint through it. Nonetheless, the surprising numbers and distribution are evidence of the internet’s ability to connect the world. [Screenshot below – 2017 statistics page of Matula Thoughts.]

Matula Thoughts, had over 2,300 views last year, ranging from single viewers in 24 countries, 2 viewers in 6 countries, and 3 in 11 countries. Forty-one countries had 4-85 views and the US had 2364 views as of mid-December, the map showing stats for the readership in 11.5 months of 2017. It has been enjoyable to hear from, or run into, the occasional reader of the web version.

With a new chair of the Urology Department, presumably this calendar year, What’s New may be continued or another vehicle of departmental communication may be utilized, but in either case Matula Thoughts will remain in its online form (matulathoughts.org) as long as I’m able and a readership exists. These spaces will continue to be filled by matters that catch my attention and may interest some readers.

 

Seven.
Each year has a certain cadence, whether calendar, academic, or fiscal for each of the countless social and business organizations around the globe. The success of a particular person, novice or experienced citizen, in navigating the year is partly contingent on that person’s understanding of the rhythms of work and expectations of their relevant organizations.

In a clinical surgical department, the 24/7 expectations of stakeholders set the central cadence for our essential deliverable – kind and excellent patient care. The stakeholders are patients, families, trainees, staff, faculty, referring health care providers, colleagues in other departments, and the community. Around this we build our educational conferences, work schedules, training cycles, maintenance of professional certification, peer review cycles, promotional steps, reappointment sequences, and social events such as our Holiday Party that last month hosted 400 people and 115 children who had encounters and gifts from Santa. As our department has grown large this event seems to have become increasingly treasured and is the single occasion to aggregate the greater part of our complex team.

The cadence of the new chair search will capture our attention. In the case of Dee Fenner and the OB Gyn Department the process took around 6 months. Dee was the natural choice and had passed up a number of other prestigious offers from other institutions in order to remain at Michigan. At this point she is the only other chair here to have a joint appointment with our department.

 

Eight.
Breakthrough of the year. Science, the AAAS journal, began a feature called Molecule of the Year in 1989, following Time Magazine’s Man of the Year that had started in 1927. Wikipedia relates that Time’s cover was originally a response to its embarrassment earlier that year in failing to put Charles Lindbergh on the cover following his trans-Atlantic flight. As the Man of the Year expanded to including all persons, as well as groups (in 1960 it was U.S. Scientists), ideas, or objects, so too did the Molecule of the Year to become the Breakthrough of the Year.

Science named the observation of cosmic convergence, a violent merger of two neutron stars on 17 August as the scientific breakthrough of 2017. Runners-up included cryo-electron microscopy observations on organic molecular function, thermoluminescence dating of early human roots, pinpoint gene editing techniques, preprint sharing in life sciences, FDA approval for checkpoint inhibitors, discovery of a new living species of Hominidae (the Pongo tapanuliensis orangutan), recovery of 2.7 million-year-old ice cores that contain ancient atmosphere (with CO2 levels under 300 ppm), and successful gene therapy for spinal muscular atrophy 1. Once again, biology dominated the main scientific achievements of the year.

 

Nine.

Disclaimer. Because of a few skunks in academic medicine, speakers at nearly every medical presentation around the world declare absence, or occasionally presence, of “conflict of interests.” Mostly these are silly declarations, and effective skunks either lie or mislead audiences with their declarations. It is easy to mislead others, because all social transactions, especially those in health care and in academia, are built on trust.

The necessary velocity and fluidity in science and medicine preclude extensive authentication and verification in real time. For example, when a colleague tells you that a serum creatinine is 0.8, you accept that as fact. Mistakes may happen in our workplaces, but they should sharpen our attention to truth and not let false facts become a way of life. Once, however, deliberate lies or plagiarism are revealed trust should never easily be restored. The cutting and pasting that has become so easy, indeed almost necessary, in the modern electronic medical record allows a very seamless slip from mistake to deceit, once a clinician starts to lose the sense of individuality of patients. When a physician loses that appreciation of the uniqueness of a patient, a history and physical for, let’s say a boy with undescended testicle, can be “generalizable.” Checking off a few boxes, or even cutting and pasting an entire H&P, is certainly more efficient than asking questions, observing the patient and family, and examining the child. This is akin to Paul Simon’s cynical song, The Myth of Fingerprints.

Another associated, yet perhaps minor, gripe I have with the EHR occurs in the operating room, when at the end of a procedure in the well-intended, but tedious “time out” I am asked to describe the blood loss. My claim of “minimal” is always rejected because the computer only allows a number. In many cases a tiny bit of red can be seen, but is it 0.5 ml or 5.0 ml? It is somewhere in that range, but unmeasurable, insignificant, and inconsequential. When I am asked to fabricate a number, my mind rebels and when I do come up with a number it feels more like a lie than a guess.

Anyway, with the start of a new calendar year I thought a disclaimer would be useful. Therefore, let me state that I seem to have no conflict of interest or conflict of commitment that would steer the comments in What’s New/Matula Thoughts to any drug, product, political party, or ideology outside of belief in liberal democracy (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness under representational government), public education, planetary conservation, social justice, and The University of Michigan. The thoughts herein, unless authorship is otherwise specified, represent mine alone. I don’t necessarily speak for our Department of Urology, Michigan Medicine, The University of Michigan, the State of Michigan, the United States, or the United Nations.

Hoping you are comfortable with these statements, I invite you to peruse, delete, comment upon, or forward What’s New (the email version) or Matula Thoughts (the web-site version) this new year of 2018. What’s New is a hint that we offer some news from our academic department and health center. Matula Thoughts is a term that hinges on an ancient symbol of the medical profession that was a transparent flask used to examine urine, one of the few clues to disease that ancient caregivers had available. The matula was replaced by Laennec’s invention of the stethoscope in 1816 in Paris, but both tools reinforce the threatened idea that physicians should look at and listen to their patients.

 

Ten.

 

The new year, 2018, began with Michigan’s appearance at the Outback Bowl in Florida four days ago and many red moustaches and haircuts in support of the Chad Tough Campaign for brain tumor research.

Alon Weizer is Acting Chair of our department for the next three months. This cycling of our associate chairs has been healthy for the department and for me. During this time I’ll be working on the UMMG Bylaws, helping re-activate our Michigan PAC, laying out plans for our centennial, and continuing some development efforts, and remaining active with the Hamilton Community Health Center and its board.

Some people have queried the administrative structure of our department. Our basic backbone is the Senior Clinical Management team, composed of our division heads, our residency program director, and our peer-review quality officer. The associate chairs have responsibilities that transcend divisions, for example the research portfolio, faculty affairs, operating room distribution, in-patient clinical operations, and ambulatory care management. Our ultimate responsibility, day-in and day-out, is the essential deliverable of kind and excellent patient care. Michigan Medicine, our other departments, the community, referring physicians, and the University of Michigan depend on our ability to do this very well. This essential deliverable is also our primary financial engine, as we defend and expand our markets. It should go without saying that these markets are clinical, educational, and academic markets.

We have been fortunate over the past 2 decades of Jim Montie’s and my terms in delivering our particular essential deliverable and in defending and expanding our markets. Few could find major deficits in those regards, as our external review by Mark Litwin, Ed Sabanegh, and Bradley Leibovich pointed out recently. However, the waters ahead will be turbulent and we will need a steady and resourceful hand who enjoys the support of our faculty.

This winter, a search committee convened by our deans is in the process of finding candidates for leadership for our department. Having experienced one disastrous change of leadership for Urology after Ed McGuire left us for Texas in 1992, we are aware of the risks of change, but our deans and the search committee at hand give us confidence in a good outcome. With superb division heads and associate chairs in place we have a very strong and deep bench. If there is a better external candidate on the planet, good for us, but it would be hard to beat our bench.

I don’t think I’ve left too many administrative problems for Alon, after all we have finished our main work of the cycles of reconciliation of FY 17 and planning for FY 19, on-boarding of new faculty, academic promotions, and residency recruitment. Alon will oversee the daily operations and occasional crises inherent to any business with several hundred employees, clinics at 16 sites, surgical teams at 9 locations, training of 28 residents and fellows, six separate investigative teams, etc.

Our new relationship with West Shore Urology in Muskegon has energized us and created a new reach to the west side of the state. The growing relationship with Mid-Michigan and with Metro Hospital also offer great opportunities. Our efforts with the Hamilton Community Health Network in Flint continue as well, and I’m especially grateful to members of our urology department and a few other UM departments who have participated in this important connection.

A busy year and a half lies ahead. In February we should hear the names of the new resident trainees to join our department. Our Departmental Retreat, April 14, will take stock of where we stand and where we are headed. The Teeter Symposium, May 4, will survey our work with bladder cancer. The Nesbit Alumni Reception at the AUA will be held on Sunday May 20 in San Francisco. During the Art Fair Season the Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine July 19 will inaugurate a new residency training season. The next day Hadley Wood of the Cleveland Clinic and Rosalia Misseri of Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis will be the Duckett and Lapides Lecturers. The biennial Dow Health Services Research Symposium will take place September 13 and 14. Our own alumnus, Toby Chai of Yale University, will be Nesbit Alumni Visiting Professor September 20-22. The Montie Uro-Oncology Lecture is planned for early 2019, and later that year we will begin our Urology Centennial Celebrations to transition into the second century of urology at the University of Michigan, under improved new management, by then.

 

Thank you and Happy New Year from the Department of Urology of the University of Michigan.

 

David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Transitions.

DAB What’s New Dec 1, 2017

3818 words

 

One.

The Michigan Theater, seen above on a crisp autumn evening, is one of Ann Arbor’s many delights, making it easy to “sell” our town to medical students who interview for urology residency. Reflecting the halcyon days of motion picture palaces, the theater opened January 5, 1928 with grand lobbies, 1700 seats, a Barton theater organ, and an orchestra pit. Now, after ninety years of capital campaigns and restorations, the building has three auditoriums and is the center of the Michigan Theater Foundation, a world-class non-profit center for fine film and other cultural events. Its State Theatre, across the street, reopens this month after a well-earned renovation. Michigan Theater hosts the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, Cinetopia International Film Festival (in partnership with the Detroit Institute of Arts), organ concerts, and other live-stage events. When days in the next few months get gray, slushy, and cold, the Michigan Theater is a wonderful refuge and it’s equally delightful the rest of the year.

“I’ve seen this movie before” is a phrase in vogue for recurrent phenomena and so it seems with the autumn ritual of residency applications. Fourth-year medical students travel around the country as “sub-interns” to audition at training programs in hopes of securing 5 to 6-year residency slots. Yet, every annual cycle presents a unique array of new faces, talents, experiences, and energies of candidates visiting our Ann Arbor program. This recruiting season has been particularly good, marked by nearly 70 astonishing medical students who interviewed for four residency positions to start here on July 1, 2018, as the class of 2023.

Just as we rank the students, they rank us among the other programs they like and a computer makes the binding national match. Most applicants we see will become successful urologists and most programs they rank will train them excellently, evidence that our medical schools and professional organizations have created high standards, with narrow Gaussian distributions of quality. This is to say, the very best programs and candidates falling on the right side of the curve are not grossly dissimilar by most measures from the programs and candidates on the other side. A theoretical program variability curve (blue) and wider student applicant curve (red) illustrate my belief that some applicants are potentially “better” than any of our programs. That should be no great surprise, as it indicates Darwinian principles at work: some of our successors should, by all rights and intents, surpass those of us who teach them.

“`

 

Two.
What does it take to go from applicant to successful resident? Most people we interview will become excellent residents and urologists who will impact their communities and practices significantly, and some will advance the field of urology in major ways. Before students create their preference lists, they need to get in the door for rotations and interviews. This requires good Step One board scores and excellent medical school performance data. Since most schools are “pass-fail,” applicants must demonstrate noteworthy performance in their clinical clerkships, such as “honors” in their deans’ summaries and strong letters of endorsement. When recommendations come from colleagues we know, with good track records of producing students who become excellent residents, we pay attention. Honorary society membership, selection to AOA for academic work or the Gold Humanitarianism Society, helps demarcate successful applicants. Exemplary social behavior is an important feature and successful performance on teams, such as college sports and humanitarian efforts, is also typical of our applicants.

Test metrics, honors, and accolades are surrogates for the attributes we seek in our residents and future colleagues. We want individuals with intellect, empathy, ingenuity, resilience, and good humor. Good residents and good colleagues tolerate personal inconvenience to help their patients and teams. Particular metaphors illustrate our affinities. The people we seek have the “fire in the belly” to do the daily work and to solve meaningful problems. They “go the extra mile,” or add-on the “extra case” at the end of the day when the going gets tough. We need people who work well in teams, yet are effective leaders when the opportunity or need arises. Candidates similarly seek attributes of training programs. Surveys and “field notes” over the years identify important factors in play for applicant preferences such as program depth, established mentorships, institutional culture, geography, global opportunities, and climate.

Two new features of our program will come on line. Steve and Faith Brown of California created a scholarship for a medical student, preferably from UM, entering our urology residency each year. The Brown scholarship will help residents with research projects or unique educational experiences. An intermittent 5th residency/research position, intended for a physician-scientist and established with the NIH and AUA, will start in 2019 and last seven years.

 

Three.
The Gaussian distribution of residency programs, narrow and steep, reflects the fact that nearly all are fully capable of preparing trainees for excellent urologic careers. The wider applicant curve reflects my belief that many of our trainees have the capacity to be better than we (the faculty) are now. In fact, this is our goal. We want to train residents who will leverage the best of what they learn and see from faculty today to improve urology practice and research throughout their ultimate careers. In their own time, today’s residents and fellows will discover new knowledge, recognize new paradigms, invent better technologies, create novel operative solutions, and find ways to deliver health care more safely, efficiently, generously, equitably, and with greater kindness. If we do our work properly, our trainees will be more adaptable and creative in the environments of their tomorrows, than we could be if we cloned ourselves.

Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855), the only child of a poor family, was born and raised in the Duchy of Brunswick, now Lower Saxony, Germany. A child prodigy, he attracted the interest of the Duke of Brunswick who supported his education locally and at Göttingen University. Gauss’s doctoral thesis in 1797 offered a proof of the fundamental theorem of algebra, that every polynomial equation with real or complex coefficients has as many solutions as the highest power of its variable. The duke’s philanthropic investment paid off well, as Gauss became known as “the foremost of mathematicians” (Princeps mathematicorum) and the most influential mathematician in the past millennia, impacting numerous areas of mathematics and science in general. Many echoes from Gauss’s brain reverberate today. In addition to Gaussian distribution we have the Gauss unit, Gauss law, Gauss formula, Gauss platform, Gauss elimination, Gauss-Bonnet theorem, and even the Gauss rifle. The web reveals an astonishing array of Gauss’s quotes, revealing a humorous and humanitarian mind. (Below: Daguerreotype of Gauss on his deathbed. Wikipedia.)

 

Four.
Universities are civilization’s best bet for its future, teaching tomorrow’s citizens and builders, and expanding today’s knowledge. Universities explore “the nature of things” and public universities play a particularly important role. A quote by David Damrosch stays with me:

“A report by the Carnegie Council in 1980 began by asking how many Western institutions have shown real staying power across time. Beginning with 1530, the date of the founding of the Lutheran Church, the authors asked how many institutions that existed then can still be found now. The authors identified sixty-six in all: the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the parliaments of Iceland and of the Isle of Man – and sixty-two universities (Three Thousand Futures).” [Damrosch, D. We Scholars. Harvard University Press. 1995, p. 18.]

Purposeful building of successive generations cannot be left to chance or entirely entrusted to government, religious entities, or the private sector. Nor should this be entrusted to any single university system, whether state or private. A diversity of universities, public, private, and ecclesiastical (in collegial or sometimes sharp competition with each other) will be the best way to educate successive generations, innovate technologies, and create and test new ideas for tomorrow. Universities must accommodate the immediate milieu and stakeholders of today, while taking the long view for subsequent generations. Gauss’s university is exemplary.

The University of Göttingen was founded by King George II of England in 1734 (as Elector of Hanover) and quickly became a center for the nationalistic reawakening of the German lyric and national poetry.  Encyclopaedia Britannica credits the university with releasing Germany “from the confines of the rationalism of the Enlightenment and from social convention.” Gauss studied at Göttingen from 1795 – 1798, but around its centennial in 1837 the university took a reputational hit when seven professors were fired for political unrest. Luster was restored before its bicentennial particularly at its Mathematical Institute, that Gauss had once led. Göttingen has produced 40 Nobel prize winners including Max Born, James Franck, Werner Heisenberg, and Max von Laue. The strong mix of humanities and science at the University of Göttingen is noteworthy evidence that these two facets of creativity are inseparable, divided only by parochial and unimaginative perspectives. A century younger than Göttingen, The University of Michigan is no less rich in humanities and science. All universities need to figure out better ways to merge those two fundamental sides of knowledge.

 

Five.

Galens 91st annual Tag Days began yesterday and will run through tomorrow. Medical students and faculty at the University of Michigan created Galens Medical Society in 1914 for student advocacy and as a social bridge between students and teachers. The name choice is both obvious and obscure. Galen was one of the early great names in medical practice and study, but it remains a mystery as to why that particular name was selected for this medical society. Galens Society at Michigan created an honor system, obtained secure student lockers (theft was a problem even in those halcyon days), and established a student lounge. In 1918 Galens members held the first Smoker, a series of skits performed by Galens men. Galens shifted its focus in 1927 to raise money for children with Tag Days, wherein students solicited faculty and community members, a tradition that continues the first weekend of December in the Medical Center and the streets of Ann Arbor. The Silver Shovel Award began in 1937 to honor faculty who have shown extraordinary commitment to teaching medical students.

At some point Galens opened its doors to women medical students, reinvigorating the organization. Galens initiated the Mott 8th floor project in 1964 to house its Workshop for Children that had been ongoing since 1928, but lacked a permanent site. A chapel and student lounge were also created in that space. Galens contributed funds for the Mott Pediatric ICU in 1968 and in the 1980s made a similar contribution to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital for its Pediatric ICU. In 2006 Galens came up with $200,000 for the Child and Family Life Playrooms in the new Mott Hospital. In addition to the Mott Child and Family Life Program, Galens has supported Ozone House, Foundations Preschool, Children’s Literacy Network, The Corner Health Center, and Special Days Camp, among other worthy projects.

Galens today includes about 120 medical students and 13 honorary faculty members. During Tag Days students on street corners sell tags that raise nearly $100,000 for Mott efforts and other children’s programs in Washtenaw County. In addition to The Smoker, Galens supports a Welcome BBQ, a tailgate, and a year-end banquet. A Galens Loan Fund helps medical students for their interviewing costs, that easily can cost students $5,000 – $10,000 as they travel around the country in their fourth-year interviewing for residency. Next year’s Smoker, by the way, will be March 2 and 3 at Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre.

 

Six.
Michigan men.

Francis Collins returned to Ann Arbor last month for the M Cubed Symposium and gave an inspiring talk that he called “NIH: National Institutes of Hope.” As a faculty member here in the Department of Human Genetics, his team figured out the genetic basis of cystic fibrosis. He went on to co-direct the human genome project and is currently NIH Director. Collins spoke about the considerable footprint of UM in medical research and our relatively large portion of the NIH budget.

Dr. Collins offered three reasons for splicing “hope” into the NIH acronym. First is the role of the NIH in uncovering life’s foundations; second is the NIH intent to translate discovery into health; and third is the synergy in the socialization of science, that is the idea that collaborations are the best way for the scientific community to “move forward, together.”

The NIH origin dates back to July 16, 1798 when Congress established the Marine Hospital Service “for the relief of sick and disabled Seamen,” recognizing that their healthcare was a responsibility of the government. The Marine Hospital Service fell under the Treasury Department and a monthly tax of twenty cents was deducted from the pay of merchant seamen, making this America’s first prepaid health care system. Less than a year later, legislation extended the benefits of the Marine Hospital Service to Navy and Marine Corps personnel. In 1875 a new law directed the President to appoint a Surgeon General of the Marine Hospital Service with advice and consent from Senate. Interstate quarantine authority was granted by Congress in 1890. The name of the service was changed in 1902 to the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service, eventually growing into the NIH, now intended to improve knowledge and extend services to improve health. The current budget exceeds $32 billion.

John Park was recognized as Clinician-of-the-Year at the Michigan Medicine Awards Dinner last month. A superb pediatric urologist, quintessential teacher and mentor, and leader as Surgeon-in-Chief at Mott, John is one of the most respected and beloved clinicians of Michigan Medicine. The yearly awards celebration was instituted by former dean Allen Lichter, continued by Jim Woolliscroft, and now is fine-tuned by Marschall Runge, Carol Bradford, Bishr Omary, and David Spahlinger. (Below: Park family)

 

 

Seven.
When calendar years close out, pundits tally major events and accomplishments, as if to predict what future generations might mark as notable for that year. Some events and findings this year, unrecognized by most of us likely will rise to great significance in future times. At this moment, as of December first, some breakthroughs of the year are already acclaimed as important, although much can yet happen for good or for bad this last month of the year.

Science magazine traditionally announces its “breakthrough of the year” with 9 runners-up, as a result of a “people’s choice” poll. Likely contenders for that list will be: observation of gravitational waves by three separate observatories, thereby supporting Einstein’s general relativity theory; CRISPR gene-editing to correct the mutation causing hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in a viable human embryo (similar work was reported in China a few years ago); neutron star collision (kilonova) witnessed at LIGO; and human-pig hybrid creation at Salk.

Editors and writers of Science magazine in 2016 picked the detection of gravitational waves as the breakthrough of the year announced in the December 2016 issue [Adrian Cho. The cosmos aquiver. Science. 354:1516, 2016]. Alternatively, another poll (of readers) listed the gravitational wave by the LIGO interferometer as number two, preferring as number one the breakthrough in tissue culture techniques that allow human embryos to be sustained ex vivo for nearly 2 weeks. The “people’s choice” for number 3 was portable DNA sequencers, followed by an artificial intelligence milestone for number 4, and a finding on cell senescence and aging. My point is that human biology was central to 4 out of 5 of the 2016 breakthroughs and will likely be prominent in the 2017 choices.

 

Eight.
December first, looking back, is noteworthy for historic airplane crashes. As the methodology of aviation checklists has been imported into medical practice, most visibly in the surgical arena, it is useful to cross-examine failures and successes in both fields. Two aviation disasters occurred on this particular day in 1974. TWA 514 crashed northwest of Dulles Airport killing all 92 on board. En route from Columbus to Washington National Airport (now Reagan) the plane was diverted to Dulles due to high crosswinds and slammed into the west slope of Mount Weather. Terminology discrepancy between flight crew and controllers, heavy down drafts, and reduced visibility from snow were blamed. U.S. Congressman Andy Jacobs, scheduled on that flight, had refused to pay a $20 seat upgrade and luckily took another plane. The same day, Northwest 6231 crashed near Stony Point, NY, killing only the three crew members flying the plane from JFK airport to Buffalo as a charter to pick up the Baltimore Colts, whose planned aircraft was grounded in Detroit by a snow storm. Failure to activate the pitot tube heater, presumably a checklist item, was the root cause, resulting erroneous airspeed readings, icing, and a stall. Both planes were Boeing 727s.

On this day in 1981 Inex-Adria Aviopromet Flight 1308, a Yugoslavian charter McDonnell Douglas MD-81 from Brnik Airport in Slovenia, crashed on approach to Ajaccio on Corsica. Air traffic control believed the plane was in a holding pattern over the sea and requested it to descend, although it was actually 9 miles inland. The crew knew the plane was over the island and was surprised at the instruction to descend from their holding pattern, repeating their uncertainty to ground control. Ajaccio Airport had no radar and flight controllers insisted on descent which took the plane right into Mont San-Pietro killing all 180 people on board. On investigation, communication confusion was named as main factor.

Coincidentally a few years later, on this particular date in 1984, NASA conducted the Controlled Impact Demonstration at Edwards Air Force Base, deliberately crashing a Boeing 720 flown remotely so as to study occupant crash survivability. (Picture below, Wikipedia.) Planes seem to be made more safely, but the human factors of miscommunication and deviation from routine procedure remain our Achilles heel.

 

Nine.

As the urology chair search process unfolds many people will be engaged in trying to figure out the best fit for our department. Academic medicine seems to have convoluted the process of leadership succession, but it need not be difficult. A reasonable chair candidate should be someone who can take a team from good to great. A good candidate has a track record of excellence and national respect in his or her field, particularly in the essential deliverable of the department. Chairs who have failed nationally never passed these two bars.

The key requirement of a chair is to deliver the main functionalities of the department and enhance its essential deliverable. For us, that key deliverable is state-of-the-art clinical care in all domains of urology and with accessibility for anyone in Michigan or beyond who seeks our services. The essential deliverable is the milieu for our foundational responsibility of educating the next generation of urologists and urology health care workers trained in urology. The essential deliverable is also the stimulus and laboratory for our mission of discovery and research. A chair must retain and recruit excellent faculty and staff to build stability and depth of the department’s critical units, while helping its people develop their careers and fulfill their aspirations.

Personal traits of kindness, moral center, integrity, trustworthiness, flexibility, high emotional quotient, and humor are important. These are difficult to ascertain in external applicants, while a few minor deviations noted over decades of interactions “in the trenches” can derail internal candidates. Intellectual ability to deal with stress, complexity, and ambiguity is necessary. A successful chair needs curiosity to keep up with urology, medicine in general, and the changing world as he or she guides a department. A personal sense of cosmopolitanism builds the diversity, equity, and inclusion necessary for a great team.

A number of organizational talents are critical. The chair must understand and articulate the mission of the organization, sharing its beliefs and values. The chair must listen well and understand the department’s stakeholders. The chair must build teams, develop consensus, elicit a vision, and craft strategies with stakeholders. The chair should be a proven hands-on problem solver when necessary, yet be an excellent delegator. The chair must understand the social responsibility of the organization relative to its partners, community, region, nation, and world-at-large. A chair must steward and grow the departmental resources. I came to learn these attributes from leaders of my various career stations and particularly from dean Allen Lichter and coach David Bachrach.

 

Ten.

What lies ahead. It may seem doubtful that many people will be talking about “the halcyon days of 2017” next year or beyond, yet who knows what lies ahead to reframe our perspective? Historians viewing certain domains such as Astros baseball, might indeed think 2017 was a golden, happy, and joyful time. Turbulence in the health care markets, the uncertainties of regulations such as MACRA, changing demographics, expanding comorbidities, domestic violence, and environmental deterioration may combine to make 2017 look better from the rear-view mirror than it seems now from our perspective in December of this year.

Secular stagnation, an idea proposed by American economist Alvin Hansen in 1938, suggested that economic progress after the Great Depression was restrained as investment opportunities were held back “by closing of the frontier and collapse of immigration” [Economist Aug 16, 2014]. The idea could be expanded to the thought that any great shock to the world-at-large is followed by a period of latency. One can only guess how historians someday will define the era in which we are presently immersed. Stagnation of human progress is evident in many parts of the world, encompassing diplomacy, human rights, food security, personal safety, health care, environmental quality, as well as economic growth. If one views the world through a dystopia lens, then tomorrow’s metaphorical glass is half empty and this year may be viewed as relatively halcyon. With a more optimistic lens, if human progress ultimately wins the day, as history indicates, the year 2017 may not appear particularly halcyon.

This year ahead will be busy for the Department of Urology at the University of Michigan. A search committee for new chair begins with strong representation from our department. John Wei, Kate Kraft, and Scott Tomlins know our department well, and the other members of the committee are terrific choices as well. Our departmental retreat, April 14, will be a good time to take stock of the process. A special meeting on bladder cancer, the Teeter Symposium, is planned for May 4. Bob Teeter, a friend of our department, lost his life to bladder cancer a decade ago and since then knowledge of the biology of this disease had advanced greatly, as have surgical and medical treatments. The symposium will be an opportunity to see how far we have come and develop some paths for the future. We look forward to the Nesbit Reception at the AUA in San Francisco, Sunday, May 20. During the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, we will host the 12th Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine on July 19 and the next day will feature Hadley Wood of the Cleveland Clinic as the Duckett Lecturer and Rosalia Misseri of Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis as the Lapides Lecturer. Our Health Services Research Symposium will be September 13 and 14. The Nesbit Alumni Society meeting September 20-22 will feature our own alumnus Toby Chai, now professor of urology at Yale. The Montie Uro-oncology Lecture is planned for some time next autumn. In 2019 we begin centennial celebrations to transition into the second century of urology at the University of Michigan.

 

[Neighborhood leaves, in transition, 2017]

David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

November matters

DAB What’s New Nov 3, 2017

3742 words

One.
The matula, an historic symbol of the medical arts and title of this electronic periodical, was the transparent beaker used to examine urine in the pre-scientific days of health care, as people sought explanations for and expectations from their illnesses. Fear and uncertainty exacerbate human illnesses and our earliest prehistoric ancestors found comfort from their fellows in clans and caves to care for and sometimes heal them. The matula is a useful metaphor for the acts of looking, listening, and examining evidence to discover what really matters in clinical situations.

In ancient days what really mattered to people with illness or injury were the issues of treatment and prognosis: what can be done to help, what comes next, will I live, or will I die? The specific matter of diagnosis was most likely subsumed by the idea of what caused the problem. Gods, fates, cosmic forces, evil-doers, bad luck, or obvious injury were likely culprits before germ theory, organ-based dysfunctions, or other explanations based on a verifiable conceptual basis of health and illness. A sense of prognosis, however, was of practical value.

Uroscopists inspected urine for color, consistency, clarity, sediments, smell, and sometimes taste of urine, to find clues for treatment and prognosis. This was not illogical. Pink urine from infection or trauma might be followed by recovery. Gross blood and particulate sediments would suggest recurrent bladder stones. Scanty concentrated urine from dehydration might signal severe gastroenteritis and a grim prognosis. Uroscopy grew into a complex pseudoscience with fanciful claims of prognostic significance based on intricate characteristics of urine samples. Newer tools, such as the stethoscope and microscope superseded matulas and the future will bring better tools.

Thoughts about the future occasionally slide into dystopian visions and invite the question: what really matters to each of us? Putting aside occupational questions of healthcare professionals (making a diagnosis, ascertaining a treatment), political ideology (conservative or liberal, R or D, libertarian or socialist), or pragmatic issues (where do I live, what car do I drive, what’s for lunch?), we each have our own beliefs, although ultimately most people share similar fundamental desires for safety, comfort, and peace of mind. Family and friends matter.

We cherish personal liberty, physically and intellectually. Beauty, curiosity, and clarity matter. Social matters are important to most people; kindness, truth, integrity, respect, belonging, and sustainability are essential in a civilized world. The last item may seem a bit out of place, but as we sustain health, welfare, independence, and safety, for ourselves, our families, our communities, and our descendants, by simple logic we need to sustain our environment.

 

Two.


With Michigan’s gorgeous autumn colors fading in the rear-view mirror, November’s matula brings Thanksgiving into sight and notably the iconic holiday images of Norman Rockwell. His Four Freedoms paintings, based on Franklin Roosevelt’s State of the Union Address in 1941, illustrated the freedoms that FDR thought mattered greatly: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. These freedoms extended the sense of the liberty entrenched in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, – that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, …”

Roosevelt’s four freedoms are more specific than the liberty mentioned in The Declaration at the dawn of the Revolutionary War, although political liberty was not far from Roosevelt’s mind when he gave the speech 11 months before the U.S. entry into World War II. The speech also slyly broke with America’s non-interventionism, by advocating support for our allies already in armed conflict. The words of Roosevelt and paintings of Rockwell mattered greatly to Americans in the 1940’s and they seem to matter now in this new century. Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943 and were used in war bond posters and postage stamps.

Rockwell also painted enduring images of healthcare professionals, some modelled on his neighbor Dr. Donald E. Campbell. After this topic was discussed in previous pages of WN/MT (March 4 & May 6, 2016) the doctor’s great granddaughter, Moira Dwyer, kindly sent us information and photographs that the family kept. Dr. Campbell, born in 1906, graduated in 1939 from Middlesex Medical School and practiced in Stockbridge, Massachusetts providing nearly the full spectrum of medical care to his community. He retired at 83 and died in 2001 at 95. Like the English physician, John Sassall, detailed in John Berger’s book, A Fortunate Man, Campbell was an indelible part of his community, providing far more than clinical services for patients by going beyond the specificity of medical conditions of his patients to understand their co-morbidities, inner needs, and social constraints. [Matula Thoughts Oct, Nov, Dec. 2016 & Feb. 2017]

As a footnote to Dr. Campbell, Middlesex College of Medicine and Surgery was founded in 1914 in East Cambridge, Massachusetts and was affiliated with a hospital of the same name. The campus moved to Waltham in 1928 and by 1937, it also included schools of liberal arts, pharmacy, podiatry, and veterinary medicine in addition to its school of medicine. Accreditation by the AMA became problematic, ostensibly due to issues of funding, faculty, and facilities although many claimed the merit-based admission policy and unusually diverse student body of Middlesex grated on the far more homogeneous American medical establishment at mid-20th century. Medical schools then maintained ethnic and religious admission quotas and Middlesex was an unabashed outlier with its diverse student body. In 1946, the Middlesex trustees transferred the charter and campus, with the hope that the medical and veterinary schools would be continued, to a foundation that created Brandeis University two years later. Middlesex Medical School did not survive the transition to the new university.

 

Three.
It is a profound community asset to have a Campbell or Sassall and it is impossible to fully measure their impact as a citizen, leader, mentor, and role model. These essential anchors of society bring not just their professional skills, but also their values, leadership, and expectation of fairness to a community. They look out for the common man and particularly for the most vulnerable members of the community. It is no coincidence that a universal ploy of anarchists, revolutionaries, and authoritarian pretenders as seen widely across the planet, is assassination of these “honest brokers.” The moral example and leadership of doctors such as Campbell and Sassall is our ultimate expectation for the medical professionals we teach. These mentors and role models act as epigenetic factors for the larger “superorganism” of humanity. They are operational factors between human genetics and civilization.

Education and training of physicians changed since 1939 when Campbell graduated medical school. The 4-year curriculum deepened with the growing scientific basis of biology and disease while graduate medical education (GME) also expanded with enlarging technology and new specialties of health care. The period of residency practice and study is now the career-defining facet of a doctor’s learning. Nearly 80 years since Dr. Campbell’s graduation, medical students enter fields of GME in as many as 150 areas of focused medical practice with learning experiences that may exceed twice the years the trainees spent in medical school.

Healthcare education differs from that of lawyers, engineers, and most other career paths. Physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and dentists require an immediate educational context of patient-care. The University of Michigan recognized this fact in 1869 when it converted a faculty house into a hospital, thereby becoming the first university to own and operate a medical center. We recognized this anew when we began to create a wider health care network, in the past few years, capable of supporting our large educational mission, now educating 900 MDs and health care PhDs, 1100 residents and fellows in medicine, as well as dentists, nurses, and pharmacists. One could easily argue that universities should offer a wider coherent educational milieu. A grander educational vision to include all parts of the health care workforce (physician assistants, surgical scrub technicians, medical assistants, etc.) would have a great effect on state economy and on our workforce pipeline. It could be done with robust partnerships not only with the UM Flint and Dearborn campuses, but also with our adjacent and regional community colleges.

 

Four.
In its more rudimentary days, the UM academic health center was distinguished by its implementation of  fulltime clinical faculty, terminology indicating that physicians who practiced or taught exclusively within a teaching hospital had a fulltime salary independent of their patient care revenue at that site. In the early days of UMMS this model attracted national luminaries such as Charles de Nancrede in 1889 and Hugh Cabot in 1920. de Nancrede was an attending surgeon and clinical lecturer at Jefferson Medical College, among other Philadelphia medical institutions, and was a major name in American surgery as a clinician, teacher, and pioneer in antiseptic and aseptic technique. At Michigan he presided over the construction of the new West Hospital in 1892, established a world-class surgery department where he practiced exclusively, and wrote an influential textbook of surgery. [World J. Surg. 22:1175, 1998.] Cabot was an even more stellar addition, coming from Boston as an internationally known urologist, where he had become disillusioned by the monetary nature of medical practice.

The world of healthcare practice, education, and investigation is different in the 21st century. The few academic medical centers that will survive well in the future will be those with the best and brightest geographic fulltime faculty, the majority of whom will be busy clinicians. Their milieu may well depend upon robust clinical productivity that brings the most challenging clinical problems to them and their facilities, but this will also require a very substantial volume of more routine clinical work as the context for education of all learner groups and clinical trials, in addition to inspiring basic science investigation. This clinical milieu will require a robust array of endowed professorships to give faculty a modest disconnect from clinical practice to allow teaching and academic work.

 

Five.

Fellow professionals. Modern specialty-based health care has shifted emphasis from individual all-knowing utility-player doctors like Campbell and Sassall to large teams that deliver their parts of today’s healthcare. The knowledge base, growing list of specialties, and technology of medicine today is so great that the centrality of a single physician is a model that no longer works well for health care delivery. Furthermore, linguistic confusion arises as other terms are awkwardly deployed to indicate all healthcare providers (not just physicians) more inclusively. This matter became acute as we have been creating bylaws for our new University of Michigan Medical Group (UMMG). A good nomenclature solution arose from Gerald Hickson, a Vanderbilt pediatrician (above), speaking to the UMMG this summer about programs that build professionalism and create a culture of safety. His phrase, fellow professionals, nicely includes MDs, DOs, nurses, PAs, physical therapists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, optometrists, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, medical assistants, etc. [Hickson et al. A complementary approach. Acad. Med. 82:1040, 2007]

 

Six.
Medical professionals are under stress today from many sources, but the idea of a career in medicine still drives some of the best and brightest young people into our work, as judged by the medical school and urology residency applicants we see each year. I’ve just read applications, personal statements, and letters of recommendations from nearly 70 candidates for our 4 positions to start next July, and again I am blown away by the breadth and depth of these fourth-year medical students who will, all too soon, become our successors as urologists. They will have to resist the pressures to commoditize, corporatize, and industrialize their work as the 21st century rolls along. The electronic record is one of the pressures. A paper in Health Affairs last April surveyed primary care physicians and found they spent 3.17 hours on computers (desktop medicine) for every 3.08 hours spent with patients. [Tai-Seale et al. Electronic health record logs. Health Affairs. 36:655, 2017.]

It is impossible to predict the world that will envelop our successors. The conceptual basis they will learn and the skills they acquire are merely momentary assets. Ideas and techniques will change as long as human progress continues. The values, mores, social skills, curiosity, imagination, and ultimate kindness of our successors will be the principle assets to distinguish their careers, their effects on their communities, and their value to society in general. The influence of their ambient role models is as important as the book-learning and clinical skills imparted in graduate medical education. The epigenetic nature of values, mores, social skills, and role models show us, our colleagues, and our successors how and when to deploy the vast stores of information and skills we have accumulated. Just as importantly, some among them will be inspired to discover new knowledge and develop new skills.

 

Seven.

With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m appreciative for precarious and relative world peace, food security, respite from climactic disasters, and the happy, healthy, lives we may have. [Above: Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914, Pilgrim Hall Museum, Plymouth, Massachusetts.] The great minds who have made this world so interesting are another blessing, people who looked at the world with clarity to make observations or find patterns that escaped everyone else at their moments.

The name, Conrad H. Waddington, probably doesn’t spring to mind, but is worth consideration. Born on a tea estate in Kerala, India, around this time of year in 1905 this British developmental biologist introduced the concept and word epigenetics. At age four he was sent off to England to live with family members while the parents remained at work in India for the next 23 years. In England, a local druggist and distant relation, Dr. Doeg, took the boy under his wing and inspired his interest in sciences. At Cambridge, “Wad” took a Natural Sciences Trips (a flexible curriculum across sciences) and earned a First in geology in 1926. With a scholarship he studied moral philosophy and metaphysics at university, assumed a lectureship in zoology, and became a Fellow of Christ’s College until 1942. During WWII he was involved in operational research for the Royal Air Force, and in 1947 became Professor of Animal Genetics at the University of Edinburgh where he worked for the rest of his life except for one year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. Waddington’s landmark paper in 1942 begins with four lovely sentences.

“Of all the branches of biology it is genetics, the science of heredity, which has been most successful in finding a way of analyzing an animal into representative units so that its nature can be indicated by a formula, as we represent a chemical compound by its appropriate symbols. Genetics has been able to do this because it studies animals in their simplest form, namely as fertilized eggs, in which all the complexity of the fully developed animal is implicit but not yet present. But knowledge about the nature of the fertilized egg is not derived directly from an examination of eggs; it is deduced from a consideration of the numbers and kinds of adults into which they develop. Thus genetics has to observe the phenotypes, the adult characteristics of animals, in order to reach conclusions about the genotypes, the hereditary constitutions which are its basic subject-matter.” [Waddington. Endeavor. 1: 18-21, 1942]

Later on the first page he suggests the term epigenetics to encompass the “whole process of developmental processes” that carries genotypes into phenotypes. The influence of Dr. Doeg, whom Waddington called Grandpa, was no doubt significant. The specifics of Dr. Doeg eluded me as I read about Waddington. Too bad, because it would have been illuminating to understand the nature of the fruitful mentorship that shaped Waddington’s curiosity, lucidity, communicative skills, and sociability that left him a context to discover what he did.

 

Eight.

Black Bart, legendary stagecoach robber, committed his last robbery on this date in 1883. He specialized in Wells Fargo robbery, and it’s a bit ironic that the bank’s more recent history indicates it has internalized that larcenous bent to its own customers. Black Bart was actually Charles Earl Boles, variously known as Charley Bolton, a gentleman bandit in Northern California and Oregon. Born in Norfolk, England, he and his brothers joined the California Gold Rush in 1849. The brothers died and by 1854 Charles was married and living in Decatur, Illinois with a wife and four children. After serving in the Civil War he returned to California and gold prospecting in 1867, leaving his family behind. In 1871 Bolton wrote his wife and described an unpleasant encounter of some sort with Wells Fargo & Company agents and vowed revenge. He fulfilled the vow, adopting the name Black Bart, and robbed at least 28 coaches in California and Oregon, although never fired a weapon or harmed anybody. The last known robbery was in Calaveras County, between Copperopolis and Milton, when he was wounded in the hand while escaping. Detectives found personal items at the scene and through laundry marks traced a handkerchief to a San Francisco laundry on Bush Street. They quickly located Boles, living in nearby boarding house, and convicted him of the November 3 robbery.

Black Bart served four years at San Quentin and after release he was constantly shadowed by Wells Fargo detectives. In a letter to his wife he said he was tired of the attention, and disappeared after being last seen near Visalia on February 28, 1888. A distinctive feature of Black Bart was that he was consistently a gentleman, always polite and never using profanity. It might be said that he was a rare and exemplary professional in his business, living according to his values. His sense of mission will never be exactly known to us today, but Black Bart was somehow compelled to right some perceived wrong and, like most of us, he needed an income so Wells Fargo was a fitting opportunity.

Even in his risky occupation Black Bart remained kind and harmless, other than theft from a corporate entity of questionable kindness itself, it turns out. If he could act kindly in spite of living on the edge as he did, health care professionals such as us might consider him as a role model, although somewhat of a peculiar one. Somewhere along the line he must have had the parenting, mentorship, or experience that built his character of kindness, larcenous though it might have been. [Above book cover. Black Bart: Boulevardier Bandit. George Hoeper. Word Dancer Press, 1995]

 

Nine.

Jack Lapides. As we unearth stories of Michigan Urology, colorful anecdotes come to light and many involve Jack Lapides. The personal story of a patient who underwent a life-changing Lapides vesicostomy was told on these pages in July and that gentleman was ultimately laid to rest in a ceremony at Arlington in August. Another story from a former medical student was that of Jack teaching the students the art of cystoscopy when he would ask the students to peer over his shoulder and look through the scope to describe what they saw.

It is said that Lapides sometimes mischievously disconnected the light source cord as someone leaned in to look and occasionally an uncertain student provided a fanciful description of the dark or black field. This may have been one origin of his Black Jack moniker, although just as likely it might have been related to the fear he struck among rookies in his expectation for high standards and excellence. Dr. Lapides’s conferences were legendary. He was exacting and tough, requiring that all presentations be stripped of jargon and abbreviations. The IVP, for example, was intravenous pyelogram. Conferences today are more causal. The tradition of teaching conferences persists, but on a larger canvas since Lapides’s days with 4-5 faculty, our scale having increased by a factor of 10. Just below is Thursday morning Grand Rounds. Further below is the Friday AM Mott imaging conference that follows a formal review of operations scheduled the following week. In both instances we have outgrown our rooms.

Yet another Lapides anecdote turned up last week when I was at the American College of Surgeons (ACS) meeting and spent an evening with Lou and Ginger Argenta (below: with Tony Atala of Wake Forest, in San Diego October, 2017).

Lou had been our plastic surgery head in my early years at Michigan and innovated, with Michael Morykwas at Wake Forest, the Vacuum-Assisted Closure (VAC) device, a paradigm-changing system to manage burns and wounds. For this he won the Jacobson Innovation Award from the ACS in 2016. Lou recalled how Jack Lapides, in his retirement years, took up welding and small engine repair, learning and teaching them at Washtenaw Community College. Jack kindly performed a welding repair on the broken bicycle of young Joey Argenta, and the work held up for years of further bicycle abuse.

Lapides stories will undoubtedly continue to emerge. The man and his work had a long reach.

 

Ten.
What really matters to us, to our patients, to our colleagues, to our community, and our 7 billion global brethren is a deep question usually lost in the daily hustle of life. Most people have roughly similar ideas about what matters, although each has a particular take on things. Donald Campbell, Charles de Nancrede, Charley Bolton, Jack Lapides, Dr. Doeg, CW Waddington, FDR, and Rockwell had their particular world views that shaped their legacies. All, no doubt, shared many of the things that mattered to them, although each likely ordered and interpreted those characteristics idiosyncratically, perhaps Black Bart most peculiarly.

It is no accident that the four essential freedoms that Roosevelt identified have a strong basis in health care. Freedom from want is most obviously tied into food security, but it could just as easily be interpreted as freedom from needs that rationally include shelter and health care. Freedom from fear was illustrated by Rockwell as a fear of illness, but safety and personal security could just as easily have been the visual that Rockwell used. Liberty in the political sense is not so far from liberty in its mobility sense. An authoritarian regime may enforce curfews or travel restrictions, just as health conditions restrict people from being out and about to participate fully in society. If governments are to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the four freedoms are essential.

Human values and role models are the factors that translate human beings into the superorganism of human civilization. Those factors can go the way of apoptosis or can epigenetically build a prosperous, just, beautiful, robust, and sustainable version of itself for the next generation.

[Autumn foliage, my neighborhood 2017]

 

David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Gratuitous thoughts for October, 2017

Matula Thoughts Oct 6, 2017

3855 words, 31 pictures

 

 

One.

Every business has its seasons and the fall is primetime for academic medicine and other occupations. While we are reluctant to see summer slip away, autumn brings excitement and new energy. Entering medical students accommodate to a new learning environment, seasoned students consider career selections and their Step 1 exam, and senior students are consumed with the residency match. [Above: first year medical students at lunch in July on their first day.] Similar anxieties play out for residents although the intensity and duration of years usually exceed those of medical school. Exams don’t go away in residency, for the residents and fellows contend with yearly in-service tests and ultimate board certification processes. New faculty undertake “on-boarding” processes as they step out into the mature and most demanding phases of their careers.

Faculty teach and mentor intensely in the autumn and show their academic stuff at professional meetings, all while fulfilling the 24/7 demands of healthcare. Many faculty also have deep research commitments that bear the intellectual fruit we expect will make tomorrow’s health care better than that of today. Faculty, too, contend with promotion expectations, board recertification examinations, and the insane administrative on-line mandatory expectations required of them. Somehow our faculty get all this done, and done very well in comparison to other medical schools and academic health centers.

The 24/7 health care cycle is relentless. Our Department of Urology provides care throughout 16 clinical sites and 9 surgical locations, held together by a first-rate administrative team with Malissa Eversole, Marleah Stickler, Kandy Buckland, Tammie Leckemby, and of course Sandy Heskett. Jack Cichon, with our inaugural Urology Chair Jim Montie, set the pace for this excellence. Monica Young leads the Call Center that, with our administrative staff, coordinated 42,041 clinic visits, with 12,639 new patients and 6,426 operative procedures for our clinical faculty last year. The UM health system, Michigan Medicine, is growing and changing our regional profile as well as the local environment “on the hill.” The lovely view seen below,  over open space created at the old Kresge Laboratory site, will disappear when a new patient tower assembles on this site.

 

Autumn academic meetings and the written medical literature that springs from them display much work from the faculty and alumni of the University of Michigan Medical School. Our Urology Department provides a heavy presence at all relevant urology professional meetings this season and contributes significantly to Michigan’s “academic product,” thus furthering the mission, vision, values, and strategy of Michigan Medicine. At this time of year amidst the dense shop-talk at professional meetings in medical specialty meetings, Michigan football talk enlivens conversations.

 

Two.

A field trip to Chelsea Milling Company last month showed us how another business stays ahead in challenging times. Autumn and winter are prime baking season, according to the company president Howdy Holmes, so Chelsea Milling’s products need to be well-stocked in grocery stores throughout 50 states and 32 other countries.

Chelsea Milling has weathered many changes in its competitive markets, making Jiffy Mix since 1930 with a dominating market share in muffin mixes and entering a busy season as we do. Our tour revealed constant innovation throughout Chelsea Milling in production, employee satisfaction, quality, safety, packaging, and distribution, with lessons for our work in Michigan Medicine. A strong workforce aligned around mission, vision, and values combined with enlightened leadership creates quality products, a pleasant workplace, stakeholder satisfaction, and a durable business. We found it all comes down to the team.

[Above: DAB, Paholo Barboglio-Romo, Lindsey Herrel, Courtney Shepard, Miriam Hadj-Moussa, Howdy Holmes. Below 2 pictures: first home game from Martin family seats.]

Sports metaphors work well in business and health care discussions. Belief in teams, mutual support, practiced fundamentals, creation of plays, discovering opportunities, striving for excellence, relishing victories, learning from defeats, while educating successors, are universal attributes of successful social endeavors. Michigan’s athletic teams provide life-changing environments for thousands of students each year, and these students will bring the skills, disciplines, habits, and leadership they learn from their sports to the teams of their ultimate careers. It is a happy accident that most modern universities incorporate athletic teams along with other performance arts such as music, theater, law, engineering, nursing, pharmacy, and health care. The Schembechlarian admonition to attend to “the team, the team, the team” pertains to nearly everything we do and teach at Michigan. Michigan football, however, is probably our university’s most universally-acknowledged product and it brings a shine to everything else on our campus, especially in winning seasons.

The Nesbit Alumni Society of our Urology Department links its yearly reunion to football games, this year coinciding with the victory of Air Force. Just as every profession has its rules and standards, each sport has its mores – its customs, practices, and values. Overarching the peculiarities of each sport, a sense of fair play transcends most activities, more so in college than professional sports. Fair play pertains in academic medicine as well, where each specialty and local medical center have their own cultural rules and expectations, but overarching expectations of fairness and integrity apply, thereby restricting discrimination, plagiarism, deceit, substandard work, and self-serving behavior. Breaches of trust are naturally inevitable in human society, especially when temptations are great, but this is where character is discovered. Intercollegiate sports and graduate medical residency training are excellent crucibles to discover and build character.

 

 

Three.

Residency training and intercollegiate sports share many features of education, coaching, and team-building. Visiting professorships to openly share best practices among “competing” centers, however, are strong traditions in chiefly in health care. Michigan’s former chair of Internal Medicine, Bill Kelly, urged his faculty to bring in thought-leaders and innovators to their divisions each year to speak and challenge residents, fellows, and faculty themselves. This added expense of multiple visiting professors is offset by robust clinical productivity by faculty and philanthropic gifts that put dollars on the table for this type of education.

Carl Olsson (below), former chair at Columbia, was visiting professor for us in late August, discussing “A new prostate cancer biopsy reporting system with prognostic potential.”

The Weisbach Lectureship in Prostate Oncology brought Peter Carroll, Chair of Urology at UCSF, to Ann Arbor in September to discuss “Active Surveillance for early stage prostate cancer; should we be expanding or restricting eligibility?” This lectureship (above) was started in 2002, in memory of Jerry Weisbach, pharmaceutical innovator and friend of the University of Michigan. [Below: Arul Chinnaiyan, Peter Carroll, and Ganesh Palapattu]

 

Four.

The Nesbit Alumni Society Reunion took place in mid-September. Initiated in 1972 by John Konnak in honor of Michigan’s first Urology Section Chief, the Society met for three days including the football contest with Air Force. John Konnak was a bedrock of the Michigan Urology training program when Ed McGuire came as section chief in 1983. John had an MD with AOA distinction from the University of Wisconsin, internship at Philadelphia General Hospital, U.S. Public Health Service experience in Arizona, and a year of surgical residency at UCLA’s Harbor General Hospital. He came to Ann Arbor to train with Nesbit and completed the residency program in 1969 under Jack Lapides. Every resident who trained under John benefited from his work ethic, humor, and high expectations. John was a respected citizen of the Medical School Community and was an early participant in Ethics Committee. The photo of the first adrenalectomy for Conn Syndrome standing with Dr. Conn and looking over Nesbit’s shoulder in the operating room is one of the great images of Michigan Urology.

John’s paper with Joe Cerny, “The surgical treatment of Cushing’s Syndrome,” remains a classic. [J. Urology 102:653, 1969] John passed away in 2011, but his wife Betty (below) remains an enduring supporter of our department and a steadfast presence at Nesbit meetings.

In two years (FY 2019) the Nesbit Society meeting will kick off the Centennial Year for Michigan Urology, if we view the initiation of world-class urology practice, education, and research with the arrival of Hugh Cabot in Ann Arbor in 1920. Cabot came from Boston where he had grown up, practiced surgery, and became a world-renown specialist in urology. His two-volume text, Modern Urology, helped define the field, previously known as genitourinary surgery. After overseas duty in WWI he was unchallenged by Boston’s private practice environment at the time, and came to Ann Arbor as chief of surgery in 1920, rapidly becoming dean of the University of Michigan Medical School (UMMS). His first 2 residents were Charles Huggins and Reed Nesbit. After Cabot was fired by the Regents in 1930 (“in the interests of greater harmony”) Nesbit became inaugural head of urology in the Surgery Department. Our Medical School had no dean for the next several years and was run by the school’s executive committee, although Cabot’s name and picture mysteriously remained on the Medical School class pictures through 1932, as noted here last month. Cabot completed his career at the Mayo Clinic, then led by his friend William Mayo (UMMS class of 1883), while Nesbit went on to grow the urologic clinical, educational, and research programs of the University of Michigan for the next 38 years. [McDougal et al. Urology 50:648, 1997] Although we could have been called the Cabot Society, Konnak’s choice of the Nesbit Society is the better fit.

 

Five.

Laymen often wonder what’s the big deal about medical societies. A friend often teases me about my professional meetings he calls “boondoggles.” My introduction to medical meetings began when I was a surgical resident at UCLA and faculty propped me up for presentations to local gatherings of the American College of Surgeons in San Diego, Napa, and Palm Springs. My awkward presentations at those times are pale by comparison to the poised and self-assured presentations our Michigan students and residents give today. For a beginner, the opportunity to get one’s head around a topic, present it to the “elders” in one’s field, and respond to questions is an important step in professional development.

My friend understands that healthcare is a social business. It takes teams, and today those teams are big. The knowledge and tools of healthcare evolved socially across generations through practice, discussion, observation, reasoning, experimentation, disappointment, success, insight, new ideas, criticism, refinement, innovation, and more discussion. These are the social tools of human civilization, working through mentorship, schools, guilds, organizations, and specialty practices. Urologic societies and academic departments came on the scene in the late 1800’s and continue to be the primary marketplaces for new ideas, leadership development, and talent spotting.

The University of Michigan’s North Campus Research Complex (above, Building 18) was the venue for the Nesbit academic sessions this year. This property was the site of the Warner-Lambert Park-Davis research center, later taken over by Pfizer. Lipitor was developed here. The company announced plans to vacate the property in 2002 and eventually sold it to UM, with clinical departments of the Medical School bearing a little under 80% of the costs, which for the purchase and deployment over 10 years was around $325 million. Since we assumed occupancy in 2010 most space is occupied, including significant urology presence with Dow Health Services Research Division, and laboratories and teams of Mark Day, Evan Keller, plus Arul Chinnaiyan and Scott Tomlins, of the Pathology Department. David Canter (below) presided over the space when it was Pfizer and recently our NCRC Executive Director.

 

Six.

The Nesbit scientific program was superb, organized by President Mike Kozminski and Secretary/Treasurer John Wei and implemented by our administrative team. The large space at NCRC dwarfed our 60 plus attendees, but was an hospitable environment. Bob Uzzo (below with former Cornell co-resident John Wei) from Fox Chase Cancer Center gave two world class talks.

Alumni networked with our present departmental faculty and trainees.

Jay Hollander, above with David Harold and Len Zuckerman (Nesbit classes 1984, 1978, & 1980), donated the famed Nesbit plaster prostate models in honor of Gary Wedemeyer, who attended with his wife Nola (below). Dave, gave our department some antique cystoscopes that we hope to place in a visible time capsule for our 2020 Urology centennial, along with the Nesbit models.

Mario Labardini (Nesbit, 1967) travelled from Texas and Tom Koyanagi (Nesbit 1970) from Japan gave excellent presentations, Mario (below) on an extraordinary historical intersex case and Tom on his innovative hypospadias operation that left a great mark in pediatric urology.

Below you see Tom between Adam Walker, new clinical assistant professor with our West Shore Urology group in Muskegon, and Ted Chang (Nesbit 1996), one of his residency teachers at Albany’s urology program under Barry Kogan (Nesbit 1981).

John Allen (below), from our Gastroenterology Section of Internal Medicine spoke on health care as a generality and a current political hot-button, discussing as either a basic human right or commodity. (Below)

The Ted and Cheng-Yang Chang (Nesbit 1996, 1967) along with Mike and Michael Kozminski (Nesbit 1989, 2016) were our two father-son Nesbit urology pairs in attendance (below).

Below you see residents and students admiring Nesbit’s teaching models and considering how different their learning of prostatic surgery is today with video systems, lasers, etc.

Dinner at Barton Hills amplified social opportunities with our treasured Nesbit alumni, Nesbit lecturers, faculty, residents, and families. The Koyanagi family (below: Tom, Kiyoko, Sachi) travelled from Sapporo, Japan.

The tailgate at Nub Turner’s GTH Products preceded a win over Air Force, 29 to 13. [Above: Ghislaine deRegge, friend of Mario Labardini with Mark and Carolyn McQuiggan at Barton Hills Country Club dinner; Below Rita Jen, Olivia Hollenbeck, Mr. Hollenbeck, Amy Luckenbaugh at tailgate]

[Above: flyover by Blue Angels, captured on Sony Alpha 9, 24-240 lens, thanks to CameraMall]

 

Seven.

Nationally and globally things are not quite so tidy and progressive as seems to be true for us momentarily in Ann Arbor. Absent any superheroes to rescue the world, my personal expectations are modest. Before you tag this edition of What’s New/Matula Thoughts as cynical, let’s consider that particular attitude and its linguistics. Cynicism is a natural human protective responsive, with virtues as well as its obvious dark side. The attitude is often instigated when people feel as though their actions cannot solve immediate problems, or if their beliefs or stories are incompatible with a larger narrative or expectations, predicaments such as George Orwell described in his later works, 1984 and Animal Farm. The theater of health care discussions in Congress is a real-world example. So too is the incompatibility of the pressing environmental deterioration of climate, air, water, and land in contrast to the much political rhetoric.

A brief article in The Lancet earlier this year, “Cynicism as a protective virtue”, caught my attention. This two-page paper of 10 paragraphs took me a few readings to fully appreciate, but it was worth the effort [Rose, Duschinsky, Macnaughton. The Lancet 389:693, 2017]. The authors acknowledge rampant cynicism in the healthcare workforce is a response to the subjugation of individual agency of clinicians to care for their patients to larger forces. These externalities to the doctor-patient relationship include mandated work-flow systems, revenue generation, service metrics, and abstracted audits. Cynicism, the authors say, is “the immune response and not the disease.” As clinicians try to care for their patients they need to discover a different way to practice. “This discovery is the lived negotiation of the distance between policy and practice.” Raw and untampered cynicism, the authors note, is destructive, investing cynics in negative outcomes and leading to indifference, fatalism, and burnout. On the other hand, they suggest that tempered cynicism (e.g. wry cynicism or thoughtful cynicism, for example) can be a strategic virtue creating a protective critical distance between the cherished personal caring and professional values, that led most people into health care professions, apart from the deforming reality of healthcare organizations and public policies. Strategically “alloying” cynicism to a thoughtful attribute can carry clinicians from the dark side to the good side, if we may evoke a Star Wars metaphor. Alloyed cynicism thus can be a self-care strategy to regain composure, humor, clarity, resilience, and collegiality. This alloyed cynic can be an intellectual superhero in the daily professional struggle against corporate healthcare.

 

Eight.

Academic Medicine is a medical journal that most urologists don’t inspect routinely. An article earlier this year from the UCSF Psychiatry Department was titled “Why medical schools should embrace Wikipedia” and explains how the medical school offered fourth-year students a credit-bearing course to edit Wikipedia. [Azzam et al. Academic Medicine. 92:194, 2017] The outcome was that 43 students made 1,528 edits and the 43 articles have been viewed nearly 22 million times.

The article intrigued me as user and a believer in Wikipedia. I have always liked dictionaries and encyclopedias and treasure the authority of the great classics like Encyclopedia Britannica, Oxford English Dictionary, and Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Rapid evolution of new information, limitations of print publication cycles, as well as the cost, storage, and rapid obsolescence made a Wikipedia-like product inevitable. The democratic nature of Wikipedia’s content limits and accentuates its authority. I occasionally get soft criticism from readers of Matula Thoughts/What’s New when I reference Wikipedia. Most people assume the classic dictionaries and encyclopedias to be more authoritative, and mostly they were. However, as a former editor for Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, I am still haunted by an error of my own in one edition. We are also aware that revisionist history, propaganda, and stereotype perpetuation existed in many authoritative definitions and narratives of the past. Although inaccurate and untruthful accounts can certainly enter Wikipedia, the crowd-sourcing nature of the readership provides a healthy mechanism for ultimate corroboration, correction, or rejection. Faculty member Khurshid Ghani, when he joined us, noticed that Wikipedia had no entry for Reed Nesbit, so he set to work to create one that still stands. We should have more interaction with Wikipedia, perhaps creating a dedicated urological section that might rightfully appropriate the name WikiLeaks.

 

Nine.

Health care worldwide needs superheroes, but for now we can only turn to comic books for inspiration. Superman, the first larger-than-life figure in my memory, was introduced with the inaugural issue of Action Comics, 1938. Superman is shown above with Prankster who had no actual super powers, but used pranks and jokes to commit crimes and foil superman. [Action Comics 1 (77) October, 1944. Cover artist Wayne Boring.] This is ancient ploy was revisited in a book by Paul Woodruff called The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards [Oxford Press, 2011]. Ajax, the superman of his Greek army, legend tells, was superseded for ultimate honors by King Agamemnon in favor of Odysseus who used clever tricks (e.g. the Trojan Horse) to win the day and capture Troy. The rejection drove Ajax, “the soldier’s soldier,” to self-destructive cynicism and insanity. The actual superheroes in my adult life are more in the mold of Odysseus as a great intellect and leader; Lincoln, Churchill, Eisenhower, E.O. Wilson, and Don Coffey to name a few. The last two, as great scientists transcend science as humanistic thought-leaders. Lacking any superheroes as of today in health care, I guess it’s up to us to make things better.

Argus, a lesser-known superhero in DC Comics, first appeared in 1993. This character was named after the many-eyed giant of Greek Mythology. The “eyes of Argus” was an expression that conveyed the idea that one was always under scrutiny in the real world as in the mythological world. That is, if your integrity and character waivered at any moment, to know that society was watching you, just as Argus watched his fellow mythological superheroes. Argus Panoptes, the giant of 100 eyes, was always on the alert because he could let many of his eyes sleep at any time, but the rest were wide open. Argus was the servant of Hera and she commemorated him in the peacock’s tail. [Below, Indian peacock, Wikipedia.] Argus persists as a name in a number of reptile species with eye-like patterns and it was once a popular name for newspapers. Wiki comes from a Hawaiian term for “quick.” Perhaps the better term for Wikipedia would be Arguspedia or the Argus Compendium.

 

Ten.

Cynics might say that nothing is new under the sun, a statement discounting both the promise of innovation and the value of history. It’s hard, for example, to reconcile that statement with photography where the technology has changed drastically. For me the shift from negative and slides to digital had the greatest impact. It was midway through 2006 when I belated entered the digital world. All my pictures up to then are in boxes of negatives, slides, and prints in the office and at home, impossible to totally reconcile in terms of inspection and conversion. Innovation is relentless and the century and a half since the daguerreotype has seen innumerable changes in equipment and media. Ann Arbor has its own history of photography with the Argus Camera Company, founded here in 1936 as a subsidiary of the International Radio Corporation.

The Argus C3 rangefinder had a 27-year production run and was a best-selling camera of the time in the United States. Argus was sold to Sylvania in 1959 and then generally slipped from sight, with occasional and transient rebranded products. The Argus building complex was sold to the University of Michigan in 1963 and then again in 1983 to First Martin Corporation and the O’Neal Construction Company that reopened it in 1987 with an Argus Museum now on the second floor. The museum has been generously assembled and funded by Bill Martin and Joe O’Neal, principals of the companies.

The Argus Model A, created and introduced in Ann Arbor in 1936 is said to have been the first entirely American made 35 mm camera. Visually resembling the iconic Leica camera, the Model A cost $9.95 and 30,000 were sold in the first week according to The Argus Museum, a lovely exhibition area in the second-floor lobby of the Argus Building Complex. While there you can find some key UM entities including Michigan Radio, a research division of our Department of Radiation Therapy, and Michigan Create. The International Radio Company that made the Model A had been established here in 1931 by local businessmen under the lead of Charles Vershoor as a countermeasure to the Great Depression and the main early products were table and floor radios, the Kadette and the International, as well as the first mass-produced clock radio conversion kit for cars. With the success of the Model A the company changed its name to the International Research Corporation and in 1938 introduced the Model C camera. The C2 and C3 followed, the latter becoming known as The Brick. More than 2 million bricks were sold over the next 28 years.

A 1947 patent design for a twin-lens reflex was the basis for the Argoflex (Argoflex Seventy-five – above). The company name changed to International Industries Incorporated in 1941, Argus Incorporated in 1942, and Argus Camera in 1949. Production shifted to gunsights, tank periscopes, optical fire control devices, and electronic aircraft controls for WWII and the Korean War. A company newsletter, much like What’s New and Matula Thoughts achieved wide distribution in the 1950’s. Argus cameras were seen in movies including The Philadelphia Story (1940), Watch the Birdy (1950), Smokey and the Bandit (1977, 1980), and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), as well as TV shows such as I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, Leave it the Beaver, Gilligan’s Island, and Columbo. This rich trove of information comes from the Argus Museum, created around the Don Wallace collection by Bill Martin and Joe O’Neal, now managed by the Washtenaw County Historical Society.

 

Thanks for travelling through this month’s Matula Thoughts.  (Nesbit prostate models above)

 

David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Dancers and Michigan’s third century

Matula Thoughts Sept 1, 2017

3866 words
Dancers & Michigan’s third century

One.

Summertime play draws to an end and work comes into sharper focus this September, as the University of Michigan enters its third century. Medical education’s academic season has been well underway for 2 months as now the rest of the University of Michigan comes back on line and takes up the challenge of examining the world anew. Autumn academic meetings lie ahead and our faculty become traveling salesmen for their ideas. History has shown that many big ideas in urology have come from Michigan and we anticipate many more are ahead. Nesbit urology alumni will reconvene in Ann Arbor this month for a scientific meeting and see the Air Force Academy play Michigan in football. [Above: Jacob Lawrence. Play, 1999. © 2017 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York]

Individual views of the world are shaped by one’s lenses and frames, literally and figuratively. Bob Uzzo, our Nesbit visiting professor this month, once sent me a picture of surgical loupes belonging to legendary Michigan Urology alumni, Ralph Straffon and Bruce Stewart, who had brilliant careers at the Cleveland Clinic. Crisp block letters identify the owners so we know who owned each one, but can only guess how the world looked to either of them. These two remarkable Nesbit trainees impacted hundreds of thousands of patients, thousands of students, and hundreds of trainees. They added to the progress of urology worldwide and both men cherished their Michigan origins and wore their Block M’s proudly. I was lucky to have known Ralph, but never met Bruce. Their photographs hang on the wall outside my office [Above glasses; below Ralph in center, Bruce upper left]. David Miller profiled Ralph for the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons. [Miller DC, Resnick MI: Ralph A. Straffon, MD, FACS, 1928-2004, remembered. Bull Am Coll Surg 89:32, 2004.]

 

Two.

Block M’s. Pictures on our walls bring the past into focus on a daily basis and as you walk from the Main Hospital to the Cancer Center you can see the Block M on the Medical School diplomas, first as a font and later as a symbol. The class of 1861 (below) is the first in the lineup. No pictures of previous classes, going back to our origin in 1850, seem to exist. (A fire in 1911 destroyed the Medical School building with some of the original early pictures.) In 1864 an M-font vaguely resembling a block M is evident in the word “Michigan.” The first typical Block M (with serifs) appears in letters in the picture title, Departments of Medicine and Surgery in 1881. This occurs again in the text of 1883 and 1884, but is gone in 1885. Note that 1883 has 2 class pictures, the additional one being an informal one with the entire class sitting together. That additional picture was given by 1883 class member W.F. Mills to classmate William Mayo years later, in 1936.

The Block M became a deliberate symbol or logo in the Medical School 1923 class picture, with 29 faculty portraits contained within an M outline (below). Three other faculty (President Burton, Emeritus President Hutchins, and Hugh Cabot who was simultaneously dean, chief of surgery, and solitary urologist) share space outside the M shape and under the center.

The Block M tracing features faint extensions at the bottoms of the letter, called serifs, with squared edges as “blockish” as the M itself. Additional “side” serifs adorn the top outside portions of the vertical limbs of the letter. This style of serif is called a square or slab serif and it continued in subsequent class pictures, although 1928 and 1929 offered oblique views of the Block M. The frontal view was restored in 1930, the year Cabot was fired by the regents (February 11). The 1931 picture was significant for urology including both Cabot and his former trainee Reed Nesbit, the sudden head of urology. Curiously, Cabot’s picture remained even in the 1932 picture. His firing left the Medical School without a dean until 1935 when Albert Furstenberg was appointed. Block M with serifs continued through 1944, although with minor variations including one oblique reversion in 1935. Two 1943 class pictures feature separate classes, reflecting the intensified medical education during the war effort. The 1945 Block M has short and thin slab serifs.

 

Three.

A 22-year run of Block M’s with serifs ended in 1946 when the shape simplified to a simple, unadorned Block M outline, sans serifs, containing 33 faculty including Nesbit within the logo.

No 1947 picture is present on the wall. A Block M with serifs returns in 1948. The 1949 picture has no Block M insignia, font, or outline whatsoever. Dean Furstenberg is present and the faculty include Nesbit now with some gray hair. A variant Block M with serifs is present in 1950 and 1951, and now the dean’s name is spelled “Furstenburg.” A sans-serif Block M outline reappears in 1952 including Nesbit again. The traditional Block M outline with serifs is restored in 1953, 1954 (the dean is back to Furstenberg), and 1955. The UMMS lists Albert Carl Furstenberg as dean 1935-59, so the variable spelling is odd. Interestingly, from the urology perspective, junior faculty member Bill Baum, is present in 1953 and again in 1954 then with Jack Lapides. Narrow and tall serifs adorn the Block M outline in 1956 with “Furstenburg” again, but the 1957 picture oscillates back to a sans-serif Block M with Furstenberg and faculty again in the M-shape outline. Serifs returned in 1958. Lapides represented the Section of Urology on his own in 1957 and 1958.

The Block M outline vanished in 1959, replaced by a small filled-in Block M logo over the year. This unusual picture shows no faculty except for President Hatcher and Dean Furstenberg among the medical students. The 1960 picture has a sans-serif Block M symbol, but as in the previous year no pictures within the logo. Nesbit returned that year among 26 faculty shown with the class, plus the university president, Dean Furstenberg, emeritus dean, 2 assistant deans, and one administrator. A solid filled-in black Block M logo is present in 1961, but the picture contains no faculty. Redundantly, that year, the class officer pictures show those students a second time. The same format repeats in 1962. Faculty return to the picture in 1963 but only 42 (presumably only senior ones) plus a non-faculty administrator within a Block M sans-serif, that repeats in 1964 with faulty including Nesbit. That pattern persists in 1965 with 27 faculty including 2 “class mentors” and some chairs. Also present are President Hatcher, the hospital administrator, and an assistant administrator. Nesbit is missing again.

Since 1966 each picture features a fairly typical Block M outline with slab serifs and faculty embedded the letter. Nesbit was back in ’66 but looks older and returns in 1967 for his last picture, gone finally in 1968, the year of his retirement. Lapides appears as section head of urology in 1969, but isn’t pictured again. The picture format has remained relatively stable since then, although as faculty grew to over 2500 by now, general faculty pictures were replaced by dean’s office faculty and chairs.

With the recent expansion of Michigan Medicine’s footprint and regional affiliations the Block M has undergone tweaking and constraints, reportedly to maximize its effect. Articles in the Michigan Daily by Austen Hufford (October 20, 2014) and Tim Cohn (March 28, 2017) explain the evolution of the maize-colored Block M from an 1888 football team photo and 1891 team uniforms to its present proxy for the larger University of Michigan. Michigan’s branding blossomed under athletic director Don Canham, as reported by the late great sports writer Frank Deford in Sports Illustrated in 1975. [Deford. No death for a salesman. Sports Illustrated. July 28, 1975]

[Above: instructions on use of the University of Michigan logo]

 

Four.

West Shore Urology. The Block M will extend to Muskegon and the West Shore Urology (WSU) practice this fall. Started in 1972 by Thomas Stone (retired in 2000) the practice now consists of Kevin Stone (son of Thomas), Joe Salisz, Jennifer Phelps, Brian Stork, and Adam Walker (in Alaska at the time of picture) who join us as Clinical Assistant Professors of Urology as their practice becomes a UM ambulatory care unit. WSU is a high-level practice with philosophical commonalities to UM and strong ties, particularly through the Michigan Urological Surgical Improvement Collaborative (MUSIC) run by David Miller and now Khurshid Ghani. We will learn how to collaborate at a significant distance. Lisa Thurman is the PA at WSU.

Joe, Brian, and Kevin trained at Beaumont, and Jessica at Henry Ford, institutions populated by Nesbit alumni including Ananias Diokno, Jay Hollander, Evan Kass, and Hans Stricker. Adam Walker trained with Nesbit alumnus Barry Kogan at Albany Medical Center. Adam, a Hillsdale College and University of Minnesota Medical School graduate, comes from Elmendorf-Richardson Joint Base in Alaska where he was Chief of Urology, a position formerly held by our Nesbit alumnus David Bomalaski. Dave, by the way, remains in practice in Anchorage as the only pediatric urologist in the state and in the entire Indian Health Services system. The WSU team staffs Hackley Hospital, Mercy General Health Partners, Gerber Hospital in Fremont, North Ottawa Community Hospital, and Muskegon Surgical Center. Their diverse skills and perspectives will enlarge our Department.

 

Five.

American artist Jacob Lawrence (1917-2000) was born 100 years ago (September 7). I first saw his work at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC when in town for a meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Urology. His 60-panel Migration Series, funded by the Works Progress Administration and completed in 1941, illustrated the story of the Great African-American Migration from the rural south to the urban north, beginning around 1910. Lawrence worked on the paintings more or less simultaneously to maintain a uniform stylistic sense, he called “dynamic cubism” and considered the work a unity rather than 60 individual paintings.

Fortune Magazine in 1941 published 26 paintings from the series. Ironically, the paintings are now divided between the Phillips Collection (odd-numbered), where I first saw Lawrence’s work, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (even-numbered). In 2015 and 2016 the split collections were merged and exhibited as a complete set at each museum before returning to their previous homes. Three-dimensional reconstructions of this work form the introduction to the current Kathryn Bigelow film, Detroit. Lawrence told other stories in collections of paintings featuring Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and a set called The Builders Series.

[Photograph above: Jacob Lawrence, Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0001840. Original photograph by Geoffery Clements. Image courtesy of the American Federation of Arts records, 1895-1993 in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Below: John Brown as surveyor in The John Brown Series. © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation]

 

Six.

Throughout most of human history health care was delivered by single individuals. Presumably starting out in clans and villages our predecessors in healthcare accumulated healing skills through practice of their arts. Midwives, shamen, herbalists, and the stone doctors mentioned by Hippocrates, specialized in skills. By mid-16th century specialists such as internists, barber-surgeons, and apothecaries were assembling in guilds. Subspecialization reached full display in mid-20th century, when most physicians sought special knowledge and skills based on organ systems, technologies, age groups, or sites of service such as emergency departments and ICUs. The career-defining piece of medical education shifted from medical schools to graduate medical education (residency training) now involving over 100 areas of focused practice, often taking as much time or more than medical school years. The downside of this plethora of specialties is a complex clinical terrain in which patients shuffle among specialists, responsibility is diffuse, hand-offs incur errors, patient satisfaction sinks, and costs soar.

It is natural that arborization of medical skills is countered by nostalgia for omnipotent physicians to take complete care of patients or at least “quarterback” the specialists. This notion of primary care vs. specialty care, however, is more a political distinction than an epistemological one. The idea that everyone should have a “primary” caregiver who will identify specific needs for “specialty care” in patients and make proper referrals (administratively approved by third parties) is attractive, but the reality is that many, if not most, patients needing something specific, identify that need themselves – broken bones, eye trouble, urinary infection, chest pain, etc. – and find care through an emergency department or direct referral to specialists. The modern dilemma of coordinating health care teams, epistemologies, funding mechanisms, education, research, public policies, markets, while maintaining equity is acute. This is the arena of health services research.

Our Dow Health Services Research Symposium is in a bye year, and will hold its 4th meeting in 2018, highlighting our best faculty and resident work and bringing notable young urologists from across the country to similarly showcase their academic wares. Above you see last year’s symposium where Chad Ellimoottil, Michigan Urology Assistant Professor, highlighted Avedis Donabedian, Michigan’s great founder of health services. I first heard Donabedian’s name through Jim Montie and David Miller who gave me the classic 1966 paper. [see Berwick and Fox, Milbank Quarterly 94: 237, 2016] Health service researchers frame clinical problems one way, urologists view them another way, patients have personal points of view, and family members have their own perspectives. All those visions matter, although that of the patient usually dominates for it is on the patient’s behalf that society marshals the resources of treatment.

 

Seven.

Responding to thoughts on secularism and sectarianism in these pages last month, my friend David Featherman – Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Psychology, and Population Studies and former Director of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research – took my comments to a deeper and more significant level, writing:

“Of course, the most common antonym of secular is sacred, although partisan or sectarian appear in some thesaurus sources, as you note. As a general mental puzzle for me these days I wonder if our secular society, for all its other benefits you note, has verged, in some instances or quarters into sectarianism – in the sense of illiberal, intolerant and perhaps even partisan … Certainly, what I point to is not religious sectarianism, although one might admit to a quasi-religious sectarianism …
Those docs-to-be [referring to the White Coat Ceremony], touching patients with their stethoscopes, strike me as potentially moving beyond the non-spiritual or secular into a realm of human interaction not entirely bound by rationality and reason or lacking in the stuff of human compassion or failing to acknowledge something like a ‘mystery’ in life and death … What strikes me as I write is that the white coat might symbolize one of the larger dilemmas of our time, namely, how to draw upon the sacred and the secular as complementary resources …
If zealots … only can see opposition, in archly incommensurate terms, we shall fail to build that cosmopolitan, tolerant but at the same time spiritually, morally, and ethically grounded world. Without the latter resources, an exclusively secular world of wholly liberated individuals can easily lose its bearings to entropy. Those young docs in training have extraordinary opportunity to teach us how to achieve a more complementary cosmopolitanism, day by day, patient by patient.”

David’s point, in a nutshell, seems to be that we cannot isolate secular professionalism of health care from a notion of the sacredness of human life and morality. This veneration transcends specific religions, deities, or other schools of belief, but it is a sacredness that the secular world needs to contain, even if this seems somewhat paradoxical. Lacking this, Professor Featherman rightly professes, a secular society and its cosmopolitan world of nations, religions, markets, universities, politics, and corporations, spin out centrifugally and dissolve into entropy.

 

Eight.

The eclipse last month brought a moment of cosmic uncertainty to the uninformed, although astronomers profess that the occurrence was totally predictable and certain, occurring completely over the continental United States. [Above picture from Hinode Solar Observatory Satellite JAXA/NASA. August 21, 2017.] My colleague Philip Ransley, who has split his career between pediatric urology and chasing the moon’s shadow, gave a lovely talk on lunar eclipses when he received the Pediatric Urology Medal from the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2002:

“There is a beautiful rhythm in moonrise and rhythm in sunset. But there is nothing to compare with standing high on the Bolivian Altiplano in the center of the cone of the moon’s shadow with sunset all around and the eclipsed sun hanging in the darkness. Here, the majestic progression of time is played out before your eyes. An eclipse is quite an extraordinary coincidence. The sun is 400 times larger than the moon. By coincidence it is exactly 400 times farther away, and so the moon just covers the sun. But beware! We live in special times. The moon is moving away from us by a few centimeters each year. That is more than a meter further away than it was when I started coming to AAP meetings, and after only 2,000 million more annual meetings the moon will have moved so far away it can no longer cover the sun.” [Ransley. Chasing the moon’s shadow. J. Urol 168:1671, 2002]

This geometric coincidence is a cosmic rarity of time and space. Science writer George Musser wrote: “In all the hundreds of billions of our Milky Way galaxy, few, if any, are likely to produce total eclipses like ours.” [NYT Aug 6, 2017. The great American eclipse of 2017.] Rare moments of eclipses once terrified our ancestors, jeopardizing their routine predictability of day and night. Mark Twain’s 1889 book, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, tells of an engineer who, after a head injury, finds himself in 6th century England and convinces people he is a magician by using the tricks of modern knowledge, such as predicting the eclipse of 528. Edmund Halley in 1691 applied the name Saros, from an 11th century Byzantine lexicon, to the eclipse cycle of 6585.3211 days that predicts when nearly identical eclipses occur. Halley’s appropriation of the name may be technically inaccurate with respect to the number, but it has endured. The celestial dance of Sun and Moon, from our point of view as Earthly audience, produces spectacular moments of eclipse when the two bodies seem to become one. Knowledge transforms those coincidences from terrifying episodes of uncertainty to predictable occasions of beauty. [Above: lunar eclipse diagram, Tom Ruen. Wikimedia, public domain.]

 

Nine.

A transatlantic collaboration between Ann Arbor and Copenhagen, initiated 23 years ago by Dana Ohl and Jens Sønksen (above) culminated 2 years ago in Denmark with a conference branded as CopMich, and reconvened here in Michigan for 3 days last month with 50 excellent talks from junior and senior faculty of both institutions, plus our residents and fellows (below). Dana and Jens plan to continue this on a 2-year cycle, offset with our biennial Dow Health Services Research meeting. Our Andrology Division under Dana Ohl has grown to 4 clinicians including Jim Dupree, Miriam Hadj-Moussa, and Susanne Quallich Ph.D. (nursing). Jens spent a year working with Dana in 1994 and has maintained close ties with Michigan Urology. Our new residents room is named for Jens.

CopMich has expanded beyond andrology to include stone disease, voiding dysfunction, pelvic pain, and robotic oncology surgery with speakers from our department and the Department of Urology at Herlev and Gentofte Hospital and the University of Copenhagen, where Jens is Professor and Chair. Guest speakers were Manoj Monga, Director of the Stevan Streem Center for Endourology and Stone Disease at the Cleveland Clinic as well as the American Urological Association Secretary, and Chris Chapple of the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield UK and Secretary General of the European Association of Urology. [Below: Manoj and Chris]

Michigan’s own celebrities spoke at CopMich program as well. Ed McGuire, emeritus professor and chief of urology (1983-92) and John DeLancey Professor of OBGYN have virtually defined the intellectual and clinical terrain of female pelvic medicine and pelvic floor neuroanatomy. Dee Fenner, like John, is also a joint faculty member of Urology and esteemed throughout the world. [Below: McGuire, Fenner, DeLancey]

The meeting, offering 15.75 CME credits, was underwritten by both academic units as well as ReproUnion and the Coloplast Corporation. Stig Jørgensen (below) represented ReproUnion and gave an excellent presentation on its funding mechanisms in Europe.

The Danish contingent was superb (partial contingent below) and, after all, there is nothing like a Dane (apologies to Rogers, Hammerstein, and South Pacific).

 

Ten.

My daughter Emily is an Irish literature scholar, so any mention of WB Yeats is likely to catch my attention, especially in an administrative meeting. This happened recently when Marschall Runge brought Dr. Fionnuala Walsh, former senior vice president of global quality at Lilly, to his regular meeting with the department chairs to describe the company’s quality journey to operational excellence. Her presentation perked me up with a reference to Yeats, specifically the last 2 lines in his 1928 poem Among School Children:

“O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?”

Novices like me can hardly guess exactly what Yeats had in mind with this thought, beyond the obvious conflation of performer and performance, but that’s the beauty of art in that one’s personal experience as the viewer or reader is where meaning is ultimately ascertained. Yeats also reflected on dance in other works, notably Sweet Dancer, a poem begging the audience to let the dancer “finish her dance.” [EC Bloom. W.B. Yeats’s Radiogenic Poetry in The Wireless Past. Oxford University Press. 2016] Sweet Dancer was first published as a radio play in 1937, a time described as Yeats’ “second puberty.” Yeats’s life, like most, intersected with urology and for him the coincidence most famously was his Steinach operation in 1934. [MA Kozminski, DAB. J Urol. 187:1130, 2012]

That metaphor of unity between art and artist surfaced again recently in a JAMA article by Kimberly Myers called The Paradox of Mindfulness: Seamus Heaney’s “St Kevin and the Blackbird.” [JAMA. A Piece of My Mind. 318:427, 2017] Myers reflected on the challenging impact of fatigue on a person’s attentiveness to responsibility and compassion and links the allegory of the medieval monk to the modern health care provider.
“One might say of the physician what St Anthony says of the monk: ‘The prayer of the monk is not perfect until he no longer recognizes himself or the fact that he is praying.’ … commitment to patient-centered medicine is noble, and it is arduous. And, as is true with any other clinical skill, perhaps it is only with years of practice and continual commitment to being one’s most authentic self in the work he is called to do that it becomes second nature, part of his very body, blood, and bones. Perhaps we are indeed most mindful when we are least aware of being mindful – to borrow a beautiful phrase from another Irish Nobel laureate, W.B. Yeats, when we no longer ‘know the dancer from the dance.’”

This idea brings me back to last month’s reflection on performance and the aspiration of going beyond mere competence to achieve excellence in one’s work. As medical faculty perform the work and study of health care while educating their successors, the moments of our performances are quantum bits of education for those who learn from us. Our best clinical and academic performances can inspire a future physician for a lifetime.

When we fall short we hope our observers have compassion for our human frailty, but that they are challenged to surpass us in their work. The extraordinary emergence, when a dancer achieves unity with a dance, is the very art of medicine that glues us together and inspires those who follow, now in the third century of the University of Michigan.

 

David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Secular thoughts of summertime

DAB What’s New Aug 4, 2017

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Summertime secular thoughts

3575 words

One.              

Summertime. Summer is busy for children’s surgeons. Well in advance of the upcoming summer, as early as winter, families schedule elective surgery for their children. Aesthetically, summer began for me in May when peonies opened up in the Nichols Arboretum adjacent to Mott Children’s Hospital. Meteorologically, summer started at the northern hemisphere solstice when the Earth’s axial tilt toward the Sun peaks with its highest position in the sky at the north pole (12:24 AM EDT June 24 this year). By now we are in summer primetime having enjoyed Farmers’ Market, resident/fellow graduation at the Art Museum, Ann Arbor Summer Festival, fireflies, Top of the Park, chiefs’ roast, July 4 fireworks, Art Fair, Chang-Duckett-Lapides visiting professorships, Zingerman’s outdoors, and other seasonal pleasures counterbalancing our jobs. [Above: Art Fair – Matt Lee, Lindsey Herrel, Rita Jen. Photo by Ted Lee]

[Above: UM Peony Garden & Mott; below: Art Museum graduation dinner for chief residents and fellows.]

[Below: boating on Huron]

[Above: Summer Festival. Charles & Julie Ellis, Rhiannon Giddens; below: hotdog line in front of Human Genetics Department with Joette Goudie, Lisa Turek, Pattie Postel, Sandy Heskett, Maranda Valentine, Phoebe Hankins, Liz Daniels, Marlene Muscott, Amanda Thatcher, Shelby Chase.]

All jobs are performances, some more complex than others, but no matter what the work may be individuals can bring art and professionalism to any job. What inspires performance? Ultimately, it is a matter of internal drive, the personal motivation to go beyond mere competence to achieve one’s best, to find excellence, to bring art to tasks. In earlier agricultural and early industrial societies people either worked for themselves or had their work regulated by ancient “carrot and stick” motivations. Frederick Taylor’s influential monograph in 1911, The Principles of Scientific Management, argued that managers should coordinate workers by using data, leading to the idea of managerial accounting.

In the modern knowledge economy, internal motivation (see Daniel Pink, Drive) and lean process thinking (Johnson & Bröms, Profit Beyond Measure) seem better ways to understand, stimulate, regulate and standardize work, as well as satisfy stakeholder needs rather than using carrots and sticks. For the multi-pronged mix of clinical care, education, and discovery of academic medicine, internal motivation is the key to high performance, quality improvement, value, standardization, and job satisfaction, all with art that inspires further motivation. Carrots and sticks may have been useful motivational tools in commodity commerce, but don’t satisfy the health care market nor improve the genre of medical practice.

 

Two.

Graduating urologists step into their next career stages this month. Katy Konkle joined a practice in Pueblo, Colorado, Ian McLaren is with a 5 -person urology group in Wenatchee, Washington, Duncan Morhardt stays with us for a year of research prior to pediatric urology fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Ryan Swearingen enters a practice in Indiana.

The work of physicians changed since I took that same step in 1980, moving from residency at UCLA to a staff position at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC. My practice, like that of any urologist then, was spent mainly one on one with patients in clinics, at bedsides, or in operating room teams. Today, however, clinicians spend as much time focused on computers and keyboards as directly interacting with patients. A recent paper in Health Affairs demonstrates the tyranny of the modern electronic medical record demanding equivalent parcels of physician time spent at computers as facing patients. [Ming Tai-Seale et. al. Electronic Health Record Logs indicate that physicians split time evenly between seeing patients and desktop medicine. Health Affairs. 36:655-662, 2017] Computer interfaces proliferate in operating rooms today, but remain more tools than tyrants, although the imagery is ironic.

[Above: Alon Weizer’s OR with Joe Bloom by the patient; Below: Dr. Weizer at controls.]

 

 

Three.

Eighty years ago, this month, the head of the Section of Urology at the University of Michigan in the Department of Surgery published an important paper in the New England Journal of Medicine. This fact is doubly curious because it was a surgical paper in a journal of medicine and Michigan is hardly in New England. That journal, the “journal of record” for historical and contemporary reasons, attracted the most important medical papers internationally, a reputation still largely intact although challenged by other world journals such as The Lancet, British Medical Journal, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. Reed Nesbit’s paper had global significance, as TURP became the gold-standard solution for the common curse of benign prostatic hypertrophy. The surgical procedure was as much art as skill and Nesbit was the go-to TURP artisan of the time, attracting trainees and visitors from around the world. The centennial of urology at the University of Michigan (1920-2020) is approaching and the changes in urology, some emanating from the University of Michigan over those 100 years, are astonishing to consider. More largely, the changes in healthcare itself are enormous, and much of the change is due to massive expansion of the federal role.

 

Four.

The role of government in the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of its citizens intensified in the USA midway in the span of academic urology at University of Michigan. The expanded role affected all aspects of medical practice, education, and research. Countless factors influenced and displayed this change, but two are particularly salient. One milestone was the new national attitude expressed in the Four Freedoms speech of Franklin Roosevelt (January 6, 1941), discussed previously here in Matula Thoughts [Jan 6, 2017 matulathoughts.org]. The Social Security Act of 1965 turned attitude into public policy, immersing government deeply in the healthcare of its people. Although strongly resisted at the time, few can deny that social security is an American core belief. While admittedly imperfect, Veterans Administration and Medicaid funding of healthcare, including skilled nursing facilities for the aged, infirm, and impoverished, provide social security necessary for the stability and ultimate productivity of the country. No rational person who has worked in a VA hospital, Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), or nursing home can argue that they are overfunded, although efficiency can always be improved.

Waste occurs in all human activities, it is a natural part of biology. Inefficiencies and mistakes are parts of normal life and learning, our challenge is to attend to them and learn from them. That’s why we inspect the work of our trainees, why we use “lean processes”, why we have morbidity and mortality conferences, why we perform root-cause analyses for errors, and so forth. We pay attention to waste on a daily basis in healthcare, although we could do better, recognizing that local attention to waste by workers in workplaces is the best way to improve products, satisfy customers, and create efficiencies. Centralization of waste reduction, or for that matter centralization of national economies, is a failed experiment amply demonstrated in 20th century authoritarian and communist nations. It also didn’t work so well when authoritarian industries and unions contested for control. Optimal workplaces rely on democratic ideas of liberty and equality, but not in trivial senses. For example, physicians and other health care providers have liberty of free expression like all other citizens, but in their professional roles they are not generally free to bring political or sectarian judgments to patients and their treatment.

America’s commitment to social security, a robust experiment in progress, is threatened. Without a commitment to social security, societies aren’t very nice and don’t look good at the street level, whether rural or urban. Medicaid and the VA provide food, shelter, healthcare, and a measure of security for at least one quarter of the population of the United States, but this massive safety net still misses millions of people, 24 million at the last count I heard. Consider the effect of going back before the Four Freedoms became a national belief, and absent the Social Security Act. The effect on the national economy would be negative, and the mere optics of streets, neighborhoods, cities, and rural communities would reflect an unkind and sad society. The population would be more grossly disparate economically than today and future society would likely be a contest between the lesser nature of mankind’s stone age phenotype against a necessarily Orwellian world.

 

Five.

Hawthorne. This month has its share of notable anniversaries, but one birthday that may not spring to many minds tomorrow, August 5, is that of Henry A. Landsberger, born August 5, 1926 in Dresden, Germany. A Kindertransport refugee at age 12 to England and later a Cornell Ph.D. graduate, this distinguished academic spent his career studying industrial and labor relations. His 1958 article described the “Hawthorne Effect”, the name of a town in Illinois.

The Western Electric factory (below) in Hawthorne conducted a study circa 1930 under sociologist Elton Mayo on the effect of physical environment and work conditions (lighting, rest breaks, work hours, etc.) on worker productivity. Mayo’s group originally concluded that attention to workplace conditions improved productivity, but Landsberger later deduced that it was the novelty of attention that produced higher productivity of the workers. This so-called observer effect, which proved temporary, continues to be debated today, although it is self-evident that the fact of observation is likely to affect performance.

Prior to Hawthorne, simplistic ideas of the ancient “carrot and stick” and the “scientific management” concepts of Frederick Taylor dominated discussions of labor and productivity. Currently, Toyota’s “lean process management” coupled with Daniel Pink’s observation that internal motivation is the best driver of productivity ring true to my experience, harmonize better with democratic societies, and give superior results. Still, the take-away from Hawthorne is that the act of measurement is likely to influence performance and results, in some ways a phenomenon akin to Schrodinger’s cat, in that the act of observation can be consequential to a given reality of the subject.

Whether you are an industrial engineer or an average citizen, there is little doubt of the observer effect relevance. This explains why people get on scales every day, count their steps, time their marathons, measure their RVUs, and test their cholesterol or blood sugar. Measurement matters to the human brain and subtle or gross changes in performance are likely to result. The more you examine something, the more you see in it and the more it changes, at least in your mind and imagination. Schrodinger’s cat, thus, has far more than 9 lives.

Cat

[Not Schrodinger’s]

 

Six.

Universities are society’s best bet for creating a better tomorrow. Medical schools do their part, blending didactics and investigation in rich milieus of clinical practice to produce tomorrow’s physicians, but universities should be challenged to produce a larger part of the spectrum of healthcare workers, training medical assistants and physician assistants, for example, rather than relying on their education from a mix of proprietary schools and other facilities that lack the breadth, depth, and integration of academic medical centers in universities such as ours. A grander vision of health care education nationally would invigorate the medical work force and certain broaden the regional and societal impact of universities.

Few, if any, universities fulfill their educational missions fully. American universities evolved from colleges educating clergymen and civic leaders (Harvard 1636), to institutes training technical professionals (Rensselaer 1824), and research universities (University of Chicago 1890). Modern universities contain schools and colleges plus health systems, research institutes, technology transfer programs, athletic programs, art museums, libraries, performance schools, and a myriad of other things. However, universities need to more fully embrace their roles in educating tomorrow’s global citizens, building tomorrow’s workforces, and generally strengthening human society. As universities fail to step up to the challenge, what other entity in the world can we count on? Surely not “the market.” A controversial book, The Golden Passport: Harvard Business School, the Limits of Capitalism, and the Moral Failure of the MBA Elite by Duff McDonald, takes an iconic business school to task in this regard. Coincidentally I saw a review of this while re-reading Robert McNamara’s book, In Retrospect, wherein he described his experience in the same business school.

“After Berkeley, I attended Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration, soaking up the nuts-and-bolts skills I figured I would need to land a job. Many on the faculty appeared to believe that the purpose of business was solely to make money. But a handful of people, including Ross G. Walker, my financial controls professor and Edmund P. Learned, my marketing professor, took a broader view. They taught that business leaders had a duty to serve society as well as their shareholders, and that a company could drive for profits and at the same time meet social responsibilities. I think of this in a phrase Walker and Learned might have liked: ‘There is no contradiction between a soft heart and a hard head.’ That has been a guiding principle in my life.” [In Retrospect. P. 7]

Economic marketplaces test the principles and character of their workers, and time is the ultimate arbitrator of the testing. Many companies and individuals fail. Certain automobile companies, we have learned, systemically cheated with software programs to produce bogus favorable emissions results during testing or concealed critical safety issues. Health care is not immune to character corruption, with sad examples even in our institution and department, historically. Much like doping in sports, those who get away with cheating may win today, but the long-term consequences of discovery will likely be far more expensive than transient moments of glory, gold medals, or favorable earnings reports. Integrity and character matter. Cheaters steal from the rest of us and civilization is durable only if integrity and reasonable rules are embraced widely.

 

Seven.          

Sectarian vs. secular.  These adjectives, although similar in sound, are antonyms, having opposite meanings. Sectarianism is behavior with ideological, regional, ethnic, partisan, political, or class-based motivation. Naturally everyone has distinct individual identities that reflect these underpinnings, but global citizenship requires that personal sectarianism does not pervert thinking, behavior, and socially-oriented decision-making. Global citizenship may seem an ephemeral idea and impractical aspiration, but the future of seven billion humans inhabiting a single planet depends upon it. Society pays scant attention to the idea of global citizenship in schools, businesses, or politics. Universities attend to this partially, but too lightly. The UN tries to further global citizenship, and some forward-thinking multinational corporations recognize the importance of the idea if there is to be a viable tomorrow for the next generation of humanity, stockholders included. Fitzhugh Mullan in a recent JAMA viewpoint describes how the traditional health professional education has expanded beyond education, research, and clinical care to also include a social mission called “beyond Flexner.” [Mullan. JAMA. 318:122, 2017]

Secularism describes nonsectarian judgment and actions, free of religious, political, ideological, orthodox, or tribal points of view. Secularism is equivalent to cosmopolitanism, that is, world views open to reasoned judgments free of commitments to prior positions, beliefs, or agendas. Secularism is at the heart of the classical liberalism explicit in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The liberty to make judgments and express them freely is the essential basis of a free society. The general security, education, and equality that societies create through government should promote reasoned judgments, creativity, and general prosperity for their people. At least that is the hope of civilization.

 

Eight.            

Further events enhanced the summer. David Watts, gastroenterologist, poet, and performer (above) delivered this year’s masterful Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine, our 11th, called “Love, Words and Medicine.” Ford Auditorium was nearly filled and the spell-binding lecture fulfilled all of our aspirations for an inspiring articulation of the relation of art and medicine (video copy available).

Michael Ost (UM, MD 1993; Ross MBA 2017) from University of Pittsburgh gave a superb Duckett Lecture on pediatric stone disease and Jim Lingeman of Indiana University presented a panoramic view of his innovative findings on the origin of renal calculi in his Lapides Lecture. [Above – Chang Lecture, below – Lingeman & Ost] 

Ost & Lingeman ss

White Coat 2016

The yearly White Coat Ceremony, where entering medical students receive short white coats and stethoscopes, is opening day for the rest of their lives (above: 2016 White Coat). The symbolism of the 2 gifts is strong. White coats signify professionalism, cleanliness, identification, secularism, and protect personal clothes. Stethoscopes are practical tools as well as metaphors for listening. They connect you to patients through physical touch and your attention. After invention in 1816 by Laennec in Paris, the stethoscope replaced the matula as the symbol of medicine. New students taking this first step into their careers share the equivalent of the altruistic gene that has accompanied Homo sapiens from the start. Below: August 1, first day of medical school. M1 groups enjoying a sunny lunch hour outside dean’s Wing.

M1's

The excitement of this moment in time for medical students, may be offset by bewilderment concerning the national healthcare scene. It is a mess, few can deny that. How can politicians, policy experts, bureaucrats, technocrats, theocrats, autocrats, plutocrats, lobbyists, capitalists, or socialists, at democracy’s table build a health system that serves the public well, educates the next generation of health care workers, and advances knowledge and technology efficiently? Clearly, the various sectarian entities are not getting the job done.

 

Nine. 

JW Tour

Tour de Consult. Julian Wan started something remarkable ten years ago. Back then, in those days of competing silos of the hospital-medical school- clinical departments, the hospital financial services data told us that our department averaged only 0.8 consult billings per day. That didn’t seem quite right, because even my small division of pediatric urology seemed to have 1-3 consults on a typical day. The hospital data provided lacked experiential validity, so Julian took it on himself to create a consult database. Navigating some grumbling on the administrative side and inertia of our clinical teams, Julian gained the active engagement of the residents, the key to making the database valid. Julian’s brilliant ploy consisted of making the added work fun and rewarding for the residents by turning it into a game, The Tour de Consult. Now 10 years later we find that our department averages over 8 consults daily.

Tour

[Above: Dr. Wan listing the Double Century Club contenders. Below: Yooni Yi collecting the prize at the end of July M&M Conference.]At the start of the residency training year, chief residents pick teams of colleagues for The Tour and begin a new season. The teams select their own names – this year they are Guardians of the Glomeruli, Luck and Balls, Amir’s Dynasty, and Everything’s Bigger in Texas. Periodically at Grand Rounds Dr. Wan updates everyone on team progress. Faculty are also included in the reporting, but are not on the teams. Final results and awards are presented at the end of the year. Julian himself funds the gifts and won’t take any help or contributions for the iPads and Apple computers he gives the winners. [Above: awards at Grand Rounds] In addition to the ultimate team awards, Julian has created individual awards such as the Century Club (more than 100 consults in a year), Double Century Club, and the new Triple Century Club.

The Tour has turned consults into incremental financial benefit for the department, increased the quality of care due to better attention and documentation of each consult, maximized the educational value of consults by pulling in the faculty more consistently than before, improved our ability to predict on-call coverage for our urology department, and has also turned this “experiment” into academic products, namely scientific papers from the consult data base: Prospective tracking of pediatric urology consults: knowing is half the battle by Emilie Johnson et al (J Urol 187:1844, 2012) and Pediatric urethral catheter consultations: understanding driving factors by Nina Casanova et al (J Urol 191:1396, 2014) are 2 examples.

 

Ten.

Top of Park

Summertime.  This classic song of this season was completed by George Gershwin in February, 1934, as an aria and lullaby for his only opera, Porgy & Bess. Gershwin didn’t get the chance for another opera, as he died of brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme) 3 years later in July, 1937, at age 38. DuBose Heyward wrote the lyrics, as well as the 1925 novel Porgy, the basis for the opera. Over 25,000 different recordings of Summertime exist [J. Nocera. Variations on an explosive theme. NYT. Jan 21, 2012]. By interesting coincidence, Heyward was a descendant of Thomas Heyward, Jr. a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Porgy_(novel)

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is a wonderful community collaboration of city government, the University of Michigan, private businesses, nonprofit organizations, philanthropic donors, volunteers, artists, participants, and children. If you missed it this year, calendar an evening for it in 2018. The kids in blue and red above are those of Associate Professor and VA Chief Ted Skolarus and his wife, Lesli, Associate Professor of Neurology. I encountered them twirling hula hoops in front of Rackham one evening last month. I was surprised to see these hoops back in action. They were popular when I was a kid, although I wasn’t as successful with them as the Skolarus boys. Hoop dancing, an ancient method of Native American storytelling uses hoops made of wood, grasses, bamboo, and vines, but the plastic toy hoop made by Arthur Melin and Richard Knerr (Frisbee inventor) in 1958 was a major success for their Wham-O manufacturing company. Nowadays, people get stories from television, computer screens, or print media and hula hoop spinning persists as just plain summertime fun for kids of all ages. With another month to go, summertime 2017 has been good in Ann Arbor, reminding me often that we can bring art in many forms not just to medicine, but to all of life.

 

Thanks for reading this monthly column of mostly secular thoughts from my perspective in the Department of Urology at the University of Michigan.

 

David A. Bloom

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Matula Thoughts July 7, 2017

DAB What’s New July 7, 2017

 

The Fourth, stories, & art

3789 words

This commentary from the University of Michigan Department of Urology is sent out on the first Friday of each month in two versions, the email What’s New publication and the web posting matulathoughts.org. Matula is an ancient term for diagnostic flasks once used to inspect urine.

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One.              

July delivers a new cadre of interns/residents to hospitals around the country in the midst of divisive national controversy over healthcare. Momentary acronyms – ACA, MACRA, MIPS, AHCA, BCRA, etc. – rivet public attention, just as the next acronyms de jour will do a few years hence. Whatever paradigms and regulations spill out of Washington, the daily clinical work of healthcare, education of our next generation, and expansion of knowledge and technology will continue. New house officers leaping out of their starting gates this month may scarcely notice the regulatory nuances and social policy debates. I hardly noticed such matters at a similar time in my life in 1971, but today the impact of healthcare legislation and regulation seems increasingly important. These matters, furthermore, are deeply linked to the principles celebrated this past week, because foremost in America’s ongoing republican experiment is belief in human rights and self-determination and these are inextricable from health.

July 4th represents a pause of personal freedom and relaxation for most Americans. In addition to the general right of freedom, personal freedom requires a shared sense of social justice built on laws specific to given nations, societies and localities, such as speed limits in school zones, zoning rules, or sales taxes, yet aligned with universal human rights. Not all local laws meet the bar of social justice, examples are voting restrictions, sedition or blasphemy laws, childhood marriage, and eugenic sterilization. A book on the document that made the Fourth of July possible, Our Declaration written in 2014 by Danielle Allen, dissected The Declaration of Independence word-by-word, examined the milieu in which it was constructed, and distilled the underlying principles in its second paragraph (“We hold these truths to be self-evident …”) down to three “truths” after accounting for punctuation and syntax:

  • all people are equal in being endowed with the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, among others;
  • humans build governments to secure these rights and political legitimacy rests upon the consent of the governed;
  • when governments fail to protect these rights, people have a right to revolt. [Our Declaration. Liveright Publishing Corp. NY. 2014. 153.]

Fireworks2

[Fireworks, Barton Hills 2017]

 

Two.

The Declaration, read from a strict originalist or textualist perspective, or even interpreted from a common-sense viewpoint, places healthcare soundly within all three of those “inalienable rights.” Life speaks for itself, from birth through childhood and adulthood navigating the hazards of trauma, disease, and disability. Liberty is the matter of self-determination, a basic tenant of our nation and democracy. This is the freedom to make judgments, speak freely, pursue education, choose careers, or adopt life styles. Liberty requires personal independence and mobility, assets that logically depend upon health. The writers of The Declaration were specific in selecting pursuit of happiness as an inalienable right. The word, happiness, appears twice in the second paragraph of The Declaration. Happiness may have had a subtly different meaning 241 years ago, but it is likely that the Committee of Five charged by Congress to write The Declaration (Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston) did not intend a trivial or hedonistic sense. They recognized that people, individually and equally, shared the right to pursue happiness as they themselves determined that happiness and government was intended to be in service to its people: “…Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The Lancet last month included a relevant statement from a World Health Organization Working Group, speaking for health and human rights of women, children, and adolescents, but applying equally to all human beings and expressing the principles of The Declaration. The particular vulnerability of women, children, and adolescents throughout most of the world is a tragic reality built on countless stories, known and unknown. The Working Group comment extends beyond its particular portfolio because all human beings are vulnerable to catastrophes of climate, geology, famine, war, oppression, violence, economics, and biology.

“The powerful interplay between health and the human rights of women, children, and adolescents forms the cornerstone of the global development agenda. When their right to health is upheld, their access to all other human rights is enhanced. The corollary holds true. When their right to health is denied, the impacts inhibit their exercise of other human rights, undermining their potential …” [Halonen T, Jilani H, Gilmore K, Bustreo F. The Lancet. 389:2087-2089, 2017]

 

Three.

House officers and fellows explain their attraction to medical careers, at least in part, by belief in social justice and the opportunity to help people. Medical school debt, duty hours, documentation-compliance, RVUs, and personal well-being dampen those original attractors. Acrimonious debates on healthcare legislation center around views of healthcare as a right as opposed to healthcare as a commodity and personal responsibility. The words right and responsibility require deeper consideration, for example in a recent radio interview Tom DeLay, former U.S. Representative from Texas (1979-1983, 1985-2006) and House Majority Leader (2003-2005) stated he doesn’t believe that health is a right, but rather a responsibility. [Interview on NPR with Jeanine Herbst March 22, 2017.] His point that government has no “constitutional role in health insurance” is accurate from a textual Constitutional perspective, however to reduce the generality of healthcare to the particularity of health care insurance is neither logical nor helpful in the national debate. I use the DeLay quote only to introduce the consideration of healthcare as a right, not because of any claim to healthcare expertise or salutary wisdom regarding social justice he might offer.

Ian & Ted

[House officers Matt Lee & Ian McLaren choosing freedom over local rules.]

The truth in healthcare is close to home for most people. Health care involves each of us from antenatal days to final days of life. It is not productive to frame the national healthcare debate in the context of healthcare insurance, as insurance is only one method to fund a nation’s healthcare needs. Viewing the enormous panorama of national healthcare from only the insurance perspective makes no more sense than expecting the motor vehicle insurance sector to cover all motor vehicle costs including purchase, gasoline, cleaning, maintenance, safety inspections, collision repair, and damage from acts of nature, as well as highway safety, research and development, petrochemical sourcing, and traffic control.

The insurance industry, arguably, began at Lloyds Coffee House in 1686 of London as a source of shipping news and later marine insurance to mitigate catastrophic risks of sea commerce (above c. 1800 unknown cartoonist. Wikipedia). Insurance did not cover all expenses of sea trade, it covered true catastrophe, not operating costs, torn sails, or men overboard. The origin and evolution of American health insurance and the co-mingling of it with employment status is a story with many twists and turns, and federal involvement added further complexity. The result is an intertwined morass of funding streams and regulations, kinda looking like the Lloyd’s cartoon above. Rather than partisan ping pong, the solution to the national healthcare dilemma requires thoughtful bipartisan consideration of a framework to define rational public and private domains, responsibilities, and funding.

 

Four. 

Debate, essential to democracy, requires free speech and an open society that embraces education and cosmopolitanism. Conversations that challenge opinions, introduce ideas, and work toward consensus are fundamental to civic life as well as just and constructive public policies. This is how democracy works best, whether on national stages or in local workplaces.

Point counterpoint

We bring debate to Michigan Urology with point-counterpoint sessions at Grand Rounds when two residents square off with contrasting points of view to sway the rest of us. Our discussions are more prosaic than debates of health care as a right or commodity, because we are focused on learning urology. For example, Parth Shah recently offered the opinion that radical cystectomy should be performed by traditional open technique while Zach Koloff argued for the robotic platform (pictured above). They reinforced their positions with historical perspective and current data, deploying classic elements of argument. The impeccable characters of Zach and Parth represented ethos, their data supported logos of their claims, and considerations of pain, costs, complications, learning curves, and fiduciary responsibility bore pathos in the traditional rhetoric triad. The hospital conference room, newly refinished, was pretty much at capacity with about 45 in attendance including the usual 4-6 lurking at the back of the room with coffee and opportunity for stealthy egress.

 

Five.

The recurring biologic experiment of civilization evolved occasionally from the social networks animals depend upon to maintain each generation. A few eusocial species, if I may flip back to the writings of E.O. Wilson, create societies that successfully and become durable “megaspecies” in and of themselves. Wasp, bees, and ants are most notable, using chemicals or motions for communication. Specific signals trigger unified mass social actions such as directional movement, panic, or war. Ants, for example, manage their colonies with pheromones.

Fire_ants_01

[Above: marching fire ants, Stephen Ausmus http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/dec04/k11622-1.htm]

The human advantage with civilizations is an ability to build and change them over centuries through communications transcending many generations and even millennia, allowing learning, creativity, and innovation. Individuals apply critical thinking, reexamine assumptions, experiment, analyze methodologically, and cooperate for durable change, passing information along to successive generations. Individuals naturally have individual points of view and debate allows cooperation and learning, leading to resolution, reconciliation, and centrism.  A strong center is essential for robust civilization, but just as ants and bees, humans are subject to mass manipulation by signals that, usually for us are money, ideology, propaganda, quackery, or charisma.

 

Six.

Conspiracy theories attract and entertain.  We are drawn to them, being hardwired to favor stories that fit our predispositions or play to our anxieties. Conspiracy ideas provide lazy mental short-circuits that displace critical thinking and rational re-examination of assumptions. Some conspiracies, of course, prove authentic, although my limited experience in the military and as an amateur student of history, is that major conspiracies are unlikely to remain long-concealed. Democracy is leaky due to First Amendment protections of free speech. Rare exceptions, such as campaigns that “loose lips sink ships” or the Manhattan Project, demonstrate that free society can maintain secrecy for critical intervals on rare occasions when the need is essential and widely understood. The rarity of these exceptions preserves their exceptionalism. When a regime tilts toward authoritarian rule and censorship becomes common, democracy slides away.

It is not wrong that news sources are polarized. The left side of the political spectrum reads left-sided sources while the right reads right-sided sources, and everyone blends opinions, facts, and stories to support their myths and to ascertain facts. The middle of the political spectrum is where democracy finds its balance, but sources of news and opinion that the center trusts are uncertain and conspiracy fears can spread like viruses.

400px-RoswellDailyRecordJuly8,1947

On this day in 1947 Major Jesse Marcel, intelligence officer of the 509th Bomber Group at Roswell Army Air Field inspected a debris field where an incident was claimed to have happened. [Above: Roswell Daily Record, July 8, 1947] Stories still emanate from that incident, blending facts and myths with no commonly-held authoritative version, but only colorful conspiracy theories. Those of us who grew up with the original X-Files series (1993-2002), centered around Roswell-type mysteries, are familiar with the haunting tune and the invitation to further inquiry: “the truth is out there.” The quest for truth is humanity’s big challenge.

All living creatures discern information from ambient noise. We humans create stories out of information and from the stories invent myths, models, and theories to derive meaning and utility. Careful analysis, by verification or scientific testing, pulls truth from facts, myths, models, and theories, nonetheless, truth remains elusive. The intersection of news and entertainment risks confusion and credibility as when the radio broadcast War of the Worlds in 1938 by Orson Wells created a minor panic for listeners who tuned in after its introduction as a radio play and thought that Martians were actually invading Earth. When trusted news anchors portray their roles in TV and film fiction they diminish their credibility. Worse, deliberate fake news tilts political opinion and instigates conspiracy fears that cannibalize civilized society by devouring trust that is the currency of civilized people.

 

Seven.          

Lapides copy 3

True facts. The story of Jack Lapides, former chief of urology here at Michigan, educator, and innovator (above) was briefly told in an obituary column his sister requested after he passed away. [New York Times. Nov 19, 1995] (The published version has a single typo, introduced by the newspaper that must have thought the reference to Charles Huggins was “Charles Higgins.”)  Jack’s surgical accomplishments continue to show up in urology clinics around the world, illustrating the long reach of an innovative surgeon. Surgeons fix problems, and one of Jack’s surgical innovations was the vesicostomy, a solution for bladder and sphincteric dysfunction by making an opening on the abdominal wall.

The concept and practice of urinary diversion preceded Lapides by many decades with the standard of care for neuropathic bladder in the mid-20th century consisting of suprapubic cystotomy, ureterosigmoidostomy, ureteroileostomy, cutaneous ureterostomy or nephrostomy. Lapides favored vesicostomy to eliminate urinary stasis, high pressures, and urethral incontinence, but standard ostomy devices were unreliable: “Initially, we employed the usual types of fecal colostomy devices for collecting the urine, but soon became disenchanted with the various appliances because of bulkiness, leaking of urine, skin reaction, malodor, and difficulty in changing the apparatus.”  [Lapides J, Boyd R, Fellman SL.  A urinary ileostomy device.  J Urol. 1958. 79:353-355.] Lapides created a device utilizing a rubber ring with changeable collecting condoms, being rapidly replaceable, streamlined and more acceptable to patients. As it gained popularity it came to be known as the Lapides urinary ileostomy. [Lapides J, Ajemian EP, Lichtwardt JR. Cutaneous vesicostomy. J.Urol. 1960. 84:609-14.]

Pediatric urologists utilize vesicostomy occasionally. Keith Schneider, pediatric surgeon in New York, and John Duckett, pediatric urologist in Philadelphia, subsequently described vesicostomy techniques of their own, but these were mostly replaced by Lapides’s clean intermittent catheterization methods after 1971 and the reconstruction approaches of W. Hardy Hendren. We honor the Duckett and Lapides names with lectureships here in Ann Arbor in July, as the first academic events of the residency training season. I carry the Lapides name with my endowed professorship and Hardy (mentor to John Park) continues to be an inspiration and friend to many of us in Ann Arbor.

 

Eight.

Intersecting story. Last year our departmental office got a call from Peggy Hawkins of Chevy Chase, Maryland, who identified herself as the sister of a former Lapides patient in need of help. Her brother, we can call Larry, was living in Florida and dependent on a vesicostomy Lapides created in June, 1968, but Larry was having trouble obtaining stomal supplies. Peggy, recalling the name Lapides, contacted our office for help. I called Larry and we got him in touch with our UM stomal experts who found some solutions.

Peggy called back recently to tell me that Larry recently passed away and filled me in on Larry’s amazing story. She assures me that Larry would have been pleased to share the following details of his life, particularly the importance of his vesicostomy to him.

Born in 1943, Larry was the only son in a family with two sisters. Popular and athletic, he played football and ran track in high school. After graduation from college with a major in political science he joined the United States Army as a Second Lieutenant and married his girl-friend. Larry was sent to Vietnam with the 173rd Airborne Brigade in 1967. The Tét Offensive changed his life. Launched on January 30, 1968 by 80,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong forces during the Tét lunar new year holiday, the offensive was a coordinated series of attacks on over 100 cities and towns in South Vietnam. A mortar round that first day exploded just behind Larry causing tremendous concussive injury to his back and spinal cord with extensive shrapnel injuries, particularly to lung, liver, and upper extremities. The triage officer didn’t expect him to live, but Larry defied expectations and survived first to the field hospital, then to a general hospital in Japan, and next to Valley Forge Army Hospital in Pennsylvania, but with paraplegia and consequent lower urinary tract dysfunction that translated to sepsis and upper tract deterioration.

Bronze star

His medical condition continued to decline at Valley Forge and around this time a son was born. Larry separated from the Army in June, 1968 and was sent to the Ann Arbor VA that month where he came under the care of Jack Lapides who understood the deleterious nature of high pressures in the neurogenic bladder who explained that vesicostomy might extend Larry’s life another ten years, Peggy recalled. The procedure that June turned around Larry’s deteriorating clinical course and provided him another 48 years of independent life without urinary tract problems as long as he had access to stomal supplies.

After recovering from the operation and stabilization of his health Larry enrolled in law school in the fall of 1969, living in a nearby apartment with reasonable wheelchair access. With his Juris Doctorate he moved to Florida in 1972 mainly because of the flat terrain and more favorable climate, finding work in politics early on as an advocate for Veterans in Tallahassee. Larry received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star (above) with a “V” Device (for valor) in 1974. In 1978 he ran for public office and served 4 terms (1978-1986) in the Florida House of Representatives where he chaired the Veterans Affairs Committee and impacted a groundbreaking generic drug law. He was elected Dade County Commissioner 1988-1994 and sponsored nation’s first family leave ordinance (Miami-Dade employees 1992), helped the Miami community recover after Hurricane Andrew and found creative solutions to the influx of Haitian immigrants in Jackson Memorial Hospital and Dade County Public Schools. Larry served on the Board of Vietnam Veterans of America. His network of political friends included Bill Clinton and Senator Tom Harkin, who introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act in the Senate. Larry’s son died at age 34 in 2002, leaving Larry 2 grandchildren – a granddaughter who teaches kindergarten and a grandson currently serving in the Army. His step-son works for the U.S. Secret Service.

During his 48 years with a stoma Larry was able to engage socially and professionally. Never in those 48 years did he have a UTI, upper tract problems, or stomal problems, although access to stomal appliances, necessary for daily peace of mind, became increasingly difficult as the market for them disappeared. Larry died recently from multisystem problems, but without urinary tract issues. He will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

 

Nine.

The Tét Offensive of 1968 continued through February. Although a military defeat for the North it intensified the American public opposition to the war and created a crisis in the Johnson administration. The “credibility gap” that had become apparent in 1967 widened in 1968, the year US casualties peaked with 16,592 soldiers killed. In February that year the US Selective service called for a draft of 48,000 men and on February 28 Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara stepped down from office. McNamara had been a long-time college friend of my UCLA urology professor Willard Goodwin and coincidentally lived in Ann Arbor for a short period as president of Ford Motor Company. As early as mid-1966 McNamara, as defense secretary believed that “there was no reasonable way to bring the war to an end soon” and that we should quickly find a political solution with North Vietnam and the Viet Cong. These were marginal opinions in the Johnson administration. [McNamara. In Retrospect. 1995. P 262] Many conspiracy theories abounded about the Vietnam War and some still resonate, but McNamara’s book lays out the story clearly, explaining the mistakes of management, failures of duty, and sins of pride led to escalation of conflict and flew out of control. The Fog of War. Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara, a film by Errol Morris and a book by James Blight and Janet Lang, explains the cautionary tale.

 

Ten.

Chang Lecture.  Medicine without art is a commodity. Not to disparage commodities, we expect them to be dependable, available, and standard in quality. With health care however we prize human values of excellence, kindness, discernment, attention, discovery, innovation, and even virtuosity. For all of us as patients and families, our healthcare needs and expectations go beyond mere provision of commodities. Many services in medicine can be managed as commodities: blood pressure screenings, flu shots, blood draws, and dental hygiene are typical examples, although even these can be done artfully or not.  The routine blood pressure check requires thoughtful matching of cuff to body size and a few minutes of relaxation that puts the recipient at ease. Any human performance can be given with care, enthusiasm, and art – or not.

My aunt Evelyn Brodzinski, an artist, once said “Art is anything that is choice” after I asked her “What is art?” I quote her definition often. Art consists of the choices we make in the performances we give, whether delivery of a job, doodling on paper, whistling a tune, writing an essay, taking a picture, drawing a blood sample, or doing a surgical procedure. Any vocation can and should be performed artfully. Universities have a duty to propel this aspiration in all their fields of study, and the artful provision of healthcare should be at the top of any list of fields. The study of art is the study of choices in the world.

Gibbes

[Above: Lawrence exhibit Gibbs Museum, Charleston, SC]

We began the Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine in recognition of this obligation of our university. Such a lecture could just as easily come out of any of the 30 departments in our Medical School.  It could also have come from Michigan’s Department of Art History or School of Social Work. We brought it forward from the Department of Urology inspired by the linkage of art and medicine in the family of Dr. Cheng-Yang Chang, a urologist who trained and practiced at the University of Michigan, as well as founded a medical school in Taiwan and later practiced in Flint.  His father, Ku-Nien Chang was a famous painter in China and Dr. Chang’s oldest son is a urologist in Albany NY, trained here in Ann Arbor under Ed McGuire. Dr. Chang’s youngest son is a financial analyst in Chicago and one of UM’s best alumni supporters. This year Dr. David Watts, a prominent gastroenterologist in San Francisco and nationally-known humanist, will give the Chang Lecture July 20, 5 PM, Ford Auditorium.

AAAF 2016

[Life and the pursuit of happiness on Liberty. Art Fair. 2016]

 

Thanks for reading What’s New and Matula Thoughts.

David A. Bloom

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor