Matula Thoughts May 5, 2017

DAB What’s New May 5, 2017

Ideas, evidence, & anniversaries
3914 words


 

One.

Ideas and evidence, that is information indicating whether ideas or propositions are true, have been assembling at increasing rates over the past dozen millennia of human progress and Michelangelo’s Hand of God, Creation of Adam illustrates this concept beautifully, with the sagittal brain embodying mankind’s divine creative spark (Sistine Chapel fresco. c. 1511). [See Meshberger in JAMA. 264;1837, 1990] The University of Michigan has been a significant player for the past 2 centuries of that narrative. The university launched its bicentennial celebration last month, the Medical School had its 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) 17 years ago, and in a few years the Urology Department will have its own centennial. These are not just self-congratulatory moments, but worthy celebrations given the impact of each of these three entities.

Long preceding our particular institution, universities began in medieval Europe as ecclesiastical places of learning, teaching, and study. Mostly shedding their sectarian roots over ensuing centuries universities became, in turn, technical schools, research centers, professional schools, and now giant enterprises of academia that also aggregate sophisticated athletic teams, musical societies, technology transfer businesses, and health systems. Most fundamentally, universities teach the next generation of society and address the world’s problems, generating new ideas and finding evidence to arbitrate which facts are true facts (in the terminology, once again, of Don Coffey). Universities are humanity’s best bet as honest brokers for tomorrow to teach our successors, build better societies, and pursue truth.

The University of Michigan, Medical School, and Urology Department have much to celebrate. The university originated as a small school in Detroit in 1817, the Medical School began in 1850 in an Ann Arbor classroom for 92 students, and Michigan Urology claims the 1920 arrival of Hugh Cabot (below) for its birth. Cabots were big figures in American medicine. Older cousin Arthur Tracey Cabot was one of America’s first genitourinary specialists, a founding member of the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons, and Hugh’s brother Richard was a celebrated Boston internist. Hugh Cabot’s life was deeply impacted by military service in France during WWI. Returning to Boston in 1917 and unfulfilled in his private practice Cabot jumped at the chance to come to Michigan as fulltime surgery chair. He quickly became dean and in 1926 opened a modern hospital (1000 beds) with a multispecialty academic medical practice that defined 20th century medicine. Cabot’s first 2 urology trainees were Charles Huggins and Reed Nesbit. One would win a Nobel Prize and the other would shape the future of clinical and academic urology, in addition to succeeding Cabot as the urologist of record in Ann Arbor. [McDougal, Spence, Bloom, Uznis. Hugh Cabot. Urology. 50:648, 1997.]

 

Two.

Humans are natural historians and find it pleasing, useful, or sobering to rewind the past with anniversaries, centennials, or other markers that inform, inspire, or caution. For example, on today’s date in 1864 the Battle of the Wilderness began, a time when our Medical School was fairly new. The Civil War was much on the minds of Michigan medical students then, who would go off to fight for the north or south after graduation. Wilderness was the first battle of Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign and, although tactically inconclusive with heavy losses on both sides, it thrust Grant into a national spotlight carrying him eventually into the White House.

The disabilities and deaths of the Civil War affected most people and families in the United States. Wars, with countless traumatic crises for soldiers and civilians, perversely stimulate improvements in healthcare. Infection and antisepsis were not understood in 1864 and even minor wounds from musket balls or the more accurate Minié ball, prominent in the Crimean War and American Civil War, became lethal long after the instant of injury because of subsequent sepsis. [Above: Battle of the Wilderness; near Todd’s Tavern, Orange County, Virginia, May 6, 1864. Imagined scene in the Civil War Print Series by Louis Kurz and Alexander Allison c. 1887.] Fifty years later antiseptic technique was commonplace and the surgical repertoire has expanded greatly when the U.S entered WWI, ridiculously claimed as “the war to end all war.” That horrendous conflict, however, not only gets repeated, but is ever more horrendous as technology expands weaponry. The experiences of medical personnel like Cabot in WWI translated into new knowledge, skills, specialties, and systems that refined health care in the world that followed, until the next wars.

 

Three.

Michigan’s Medical School had been open for 11 years when the Civil War began and the 2 years of lectures needed to produce an MD hadn’t changed much. Dogma filled the curriculum with little evidence for medical practice beyond personal experiences. The educational process was two-dimensional, consisting of faculty vs. students in classrooms. The lectures included concepts as ancient as Hippocratic and Galenic theories of little use in the real world. Medical students had only simplistic understanding of trauma based on gross anatomy and lacking any sense of physiology, infectious disease, or cellular response to injury. Trauma care was  mainly a matter of bandaging and crude orthopedic management. Anesthesia was rudimentary and surgical options beyond amputation were few. Most of what was taught in medical school as facts of the time would vanish under the scrutiny of science and emerging medical disciplines enlarged the curriculum in length and content. A UM hospital in 1869 (initially a dormitory for patients undergoing surgery in the medical school – shown below) opened a third dimension of inpatient clinical experience at bedsides as medical subspecialties began to form. Laboratory instruction, in emerging biosciences, provided a fourth dimension of medical education as a verifiable conceptual basis of health care was assembling.

Successive hospital iterations offered increasingly complex clinical experiences for medical students as well as patients and by the time of the 1910 Flexner report didactic classroom and laboratory experiences were equivalent to patient care experiences in the Medical School curriculum time and budget. An outpatient building in 1953 added a fifth dimension of ambulatory care that, in its own turn over the next 50 years, would exceed the scale of inpatient experience as medical specialties required more outpatient learning than bedside education. To maintain a clinical and scientific footprint for 700 medical students, 200 Ph.D. candidates, and 1100 residents and fellows, it became evident that a new dimension of statewide clinical opportunities and affiliations would be necessary. This has been happening over the past 15 years with Livonia, East Ann Arbor, Brighton, Northville,  a growing number of professional service agreements, and regional affiliations such as MidMichigan and MetroHealth that create opportunities for “population health management”, for the University of Michigan Health System (now Michigan Medicine) representing a sixth dimension of health care education. In many respects, this new paradigm is as big a leap into the future as that first university hospital was in 1869.

Just as during the Civil War, WW1, WW2, Korea, or Vietnam (on the minds of my school cohort), national and international conflicts will affect today’s medical students who are in jeopardy, after graduation, of being thrust into action using their newfound knowledge and skills in dire circumstances of armed conflict.

 

Four.

Part – whole dilemma. One difficulty in healthcare today is the matter of deploying specialties for the care of patients, while keeping the whole of the patient in perspective. The specialties formed as 20th century ideas and evidence enriched the practice of medicine and the curriculum of medical schools. New areas of focused practice led to a new layer of education for medical students after graduation, known as residency training. Parallel and complementary subspecialties and epistemologies similarly formed in the sister healthcare sciences, such as nursing, pharmacy, sociology, psychology public health, and engineering here at Michigan and around the world. In 1933 the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) began to consolidate emerging medical specialties to assure the public of the training, qualifications, and professionalism of medical specialists. By 1984 Human Genetics was added to the specialty roster and 24 medical specialties were in play, as medical practice was becoming increasingly complex and fragmented. The ABMS then stopped adding new boards and chose to manage new areas of practice through subspecialty certification or joint certification of emerging areas of practice among specific boards. This seems to have worked out well so far with 150 areas of specialties and subspecialties now in practice. [Above: residents James Tracey, Parth Shah, and Rita Jen sorting out the work for the day after morning conference.]

No single person can successfully manage this proliferation of knowledge, skills, and technology on behalf of patients, so all parts of a given health care team must work together. The idea of a primary care gate-keeper is not working well as a coordinator of care or as a focal point to ration care. This is the “part-whole” dilemma; that is, how to reconcile the parts with the whole. We also see this socially and politically in managing a multicultural society. The same issue plays out in universities among competing and collaborating disciplines. Sociobiologist E.O. Wilson makes the case that interdisciplinarity is how the most important work for the human future is likely to take place. [EO Wilson. Consilience.] Interdisciplinarity in the Twentieth Century, the subtitle of a book by Harvey Graff, examines the part-whole relationship in universities, reviewed by Peled from McGill who concluded:

“Graff emphasizes the dynamic interdependence between knowledge, scientific epistemologies, and (inter) disciplinarity, while remaining wary of proposing any simple definitions. Instead, he stresses the importance of egalitarian exchanges and the role of history and the humanities in the study of interdisciplinarity. Although Undisciplining Knowledge provides insightful answers to largely unexplored questions, its main contribution lies in refining and reframing these questions for the benefit of historians of science and interdisciplinary researchers.” [Undisciplining Knowledge. Interdisciplinarity in the Twentieth Century. HJ Graff. Johns Hopkins University Press. 2015. Yael Peled. The domain of the disciples. Science. 350:168, 2015.]

Note the phrases “egalitarian exchanges” and “the role of history and the humanities.” Interdisciplinarity today may seem novel and groundbreaking, but it will likely transform into new fields of work and knowledge in the near future just as history shows in Michigan’s Medical School curriculum.

 

Five.

Evidence. The Stratton Brothers Trial began on this day in May, 1905, the first occasion for fingerprint evidence to obtain conviction in a murder trial. Alfred Stratton (born 1882) and his brother Albert (born 1884) were the first people convicted in for murder based on fingerprint evidence. The case, otherwise known as the Mask Murders (stocking-top masks left at the crime scene – below), the Deptford Murders (the location), or the Farrow Murders (the last name of the victims) initiated the interdisciplinarity of law and science (now, forensic science). A smudge on the empty cashbox looked suspicious to Detective Inspector Charles Collins, who wrapped up the box and took it to the newly established Fingerprinting Bureau at Scotland Yard. Alfred’s right thumb was a perfect match. The conviction ended up in execution of the brothers on May 23 at HM Prison, Wandsworth. Fingerprints are synonymous with unequivocal identification, truth for which no alternative explanation can be accepted. The truth matters for criminal law.

[Stratton masks. Courtesy of  The Line Up website. Article & image: Robert Walsh (http://www.the-line-up.com/).]

Tolerance of deliberate untruth corrodes a free society. We cherish free speech, but we cannot be indifference to deliberate falsehood. Just as evidence replaces dogma with verifiable information, deceitful claims must be challenged by testable facts.  Few have expanded on this topic with greater clarity than Harry Frankfurt, although it seems that misdirection of facts is becoming more prevalent. [Frankfurt. On Bullshit. Princeton University Press. 2005.] Propaganda, lies, and plagiarism fall are breeches of the important social norm of truth and should irritate us enough to call them out as learning opportunities so we can learn how to recognize them, understand how they corrode professionalism, use them as teaching opportunities, and reaffirm one’s own standards.

Not every crime has its fingerprints, but just as the internet offers plagiarists opportunity to harvest cyberspace, the internet gives readers strong investigative tools. Science magazine earlier this year dedicated an issue to the matter of how evidence should inform public policy and contained an introduction to the discussion called “A matter of fact” by David Malakoff [Science 355:563, 2017].

“This is a worrying time for those who believe government policies should be based on the best evidence. Pundits claim we’ve entered a postfactual era. Viral fake news stories spread alternative facts. On some issues, such as climate change and childhood vaccinations, many scientists worry that their hard-won research findings have lost sway with politicians and the public, and feel their veracity is under attack. Some are taking to the internet and even to the streets to speak up for evidence. But just how should evidence shape policy? And why does it sometimes lose out?”

What we take as facts or truth is susceptible to change or even error. In fact, evolution is built on error. Missense is the phenomenon in which a single nucleotide substitution (that is, a point mutation) changes the genetic code such that an amino acid is produced that is different than the one intended in the original genetic code. The ultimate protein built of the amino acids may be dysfunctional or nonfunctional as in the circumstance of sickle-cell disease where the hemoglobin beta change is changed from GAG to GTG. Random error, or perhaps “purposeful missense” from a creationistic point of view, is the mechanism of evolution and diversity.

 

Six.

We expect integrity in most transactions in society and we are justly offended when this expectation is not fulfilled. The privileges of professional occupations are based on their fulfillment of this public trust, and few professions are older or more essential than the health sciences. Error and imperfection represent the honest “missense”  of humanity’s work, but deliberate deceit is another story breaking a universal taboo.

Transgressions against the public trust are especially reviled in medicine and science. A spectrum of transgressions exists, from a casual moment of dishonesty all the way to fraud, theft, and other criminality. Plagiarism sits in the middle of the spectrum. Some plagiarism is merely poor scholarship, but most often plagiarism is out-right theft. Once someone falls into the plagiarism trap, it is difficult to distinguish among its variants. Self-plagiarism revolves around the repeating one’s own work, but representing it as new. Of course, we all repeat our own ideas and words over time, but if you write a book chapter the publisher may claim ownership of your words, so you must be careful not to repeat wholesale your own paragraphs or illustrations in later articles, especially if the perception is to be that the newer article is genuinely “up-to-date.” Still, this differs from the deceit of stealing someone else’s work.

Scientific misconduct with deliberate plagiarism, fabrication, and falsification of data is a big problem, not so much in scale and prevalence – for I believe we have only occasional bad actors in our midst – but more because of their effect of distorting truth and corroding the public trust as an article in Science by Jeffrey Morris last year examined. [Morris. After the fall. Science. 354:408, 2016.]

 

Seven.

Gaslighting. On May 4, 1944 MGM released a movie called Gaslight, starring Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotton, May Whitty, and Angela Lansbury. The story, based on a 1938 Patrick Hamilton play, concerns a woman whose husband manipulates her into believing she is insane in order to distract her from his criminal activities. One of his deceptions is causing gaslights to flicker, making his wife think her vision is unsteady. Fiction became reality as the gaslighting metaphor found use in everyday speech for forms of manipulation through denial, misdirection, contradiction, and outright deceit to delegitimize or destabilize a target. Florence Rush (1918-2008), an American social worker and feminist theorist, applied gaslighting in her work as a pioneer in studies on childhood sexual abuse. (She also introduced the concept of the sandwich generation.)

Plagiarism is one form of gaslighting, the deception being the authenticity of ideas, statements, or evidence. The assumption of truth is a bedrock expectation in healthcare. Once abused, trust is rightfully difficult to restore. For example, the trainee who fudges a laboratory report during rounds may momentarily escape with the untruth, but the intoxicating bad habit gets repeated and ultimately discovered. The same goes for plagiarism or overt research fraud, where the likelihood of discovery increases exponentially over time because perpetrators invariably repeat the offense and the longer the evidence sits in public space, the more likely it will be recognized for what it is.

Paul Simon’s 1986 song, All Around the World (The Myth of Fingerprints), challenged the metaphor of universal individuality with a great tune, but a cynical lyric. Steve Berlin of Los Lobos claimed that Simon never gave the band due credit for the music that they had previously created and played when helping Simon on the Graceland album. After the band saw “words and music by Paul Simon” on the album 6 months later, they contacted Simon who said “Sue me, see what happens.” They didn’t. [Chad Childers. Rock Cellar magazine. July 23, 2012.]

 

Eight.

Case reports. When I was medical student and resident, case reports were foundational parts of medical education, expanding the generalities of systemic and organ-based learning and offering personal stories of medical detective-work. Some case studies illuminated classic presentations of disease, others were exceptions that proved a rule, and some were exotic conditions that surprised and educated us. Case studies, coming from reputable sources, carried a sense of authenticity – they were accepted as true facts beginning with the earliest medical journals such as The Lancet. In time, with the emergence of technology, defined areas of study (the disciplines, departments, specialties) scientific method, and randomized controlled trials offered higher levels of rigor.

Case studies also provided many of us early chances to study an illuminating case, present at conferences, and even publish. Medical journals were once heavily dependent on case reports. Evolving technology added illuminating images to  20th century specialty journals. Whereas relatively few students and residents had access to million-dollar biologic labs or enormous data sets, any ambitious resident could find an interesting clinical story to expand upon and present.

In my early faculty years ivory towers began to sneer at case reports as journals marginalized and eliminated them. Hypothesis-driven research, sophisticated laboratory studies, clinical trials, and health services research dominate current medical journals. Electronic media by threatening the business plans of medical journals, have challenged their very purpose and identity, leading many publications to retreat to imagined core functions or pander to readership surveys that represent very weak science themselves.

A few journals have, however, maintained a place for single case stories or recently restored them. Case reports are a renewed feature in The Lancet. That journal and JAMA also embrace art, commentary, and relevant news that expand their interest for many readers. A recent paper in Academic Medicine, gives a strong argument for the educational value of case reports. [CD Packer, RB Katz, CL Iacopetti, JD Krimmel, MK Singh. A case suspended in time: the educational value of case reports. Academic Medicine. 92:152, 2017.]

I don’t think I’m so different than most of my colleagues in wanting medical journals that curate relevant facts and issues broadly. Anything related to sustenance of the human condition from our medical perspective should be fair game for our journals including new evidence, ideas, technologies, therapies, understanding of health and disease, environmental threats, controversies, health care economics, educational matters, medical humanities, and art. Focus and balance is necessary for editors and boards, but the strong journals of our times (The Lancet, JAMA, NEJM, or Science, for example) seem to get it pretty much right for their readerships.

 

Nine.

What Archie Cochrane learnt from a single case was the title of a recent article in The Lancet in its recurring section called “The art of medicine.” [Brian Hurwitz. The Lancet. 389:594-595, 2017.] The title of the article is ironic given that this Scottish physician (1919-1988) had extraordinary belief in randomized controlled trials that led to the Cochrane Library database of systematic reviews, The UK Cochrane Centre in Oxford, and the international Cochrane Collaboration. Yet, there in The Lancet, I found this article on what Archie learned from a single case. An illuminating single case can be a powerful tool, in medicine, in the broader scope of journalism, and in political speeches. Ronald Reagan was probably the first US president to use this tool in public addresses, as for example in the Pointe du Hoc speech in 40th year anniversary of D-Day at Normandy on June 6, 1944, when he alluded to stories of a leader (Lord Lovat), a bagpiper (Bill Millin), Canadians, Poles, US Army 2nd Ranger Battalion solders shooting ropes up over the cliff face, as well as Americans back home ringing the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, going to church at 4 AM in Georgia, or praying on porches in Kansas. Reagan (and speechwriter Peggy Noonan) understood the specific instance of a particular story illuminates a much larger reality.

Scientific experimentation, including the randomized controlled trial, offers a high level of rigor and verifiability in accruing new knowledge, and largely has replaced stories of individual clinical experiences, however the work-in-progress of medical education shouldn’t be so highfalutin as to deny entirely the value of carefully-presented case studies

 

Ten.

New rules. Last month we held a retreat for faculty, residents, and advanced practice providers (pictured above and below at Michigan League). We heard ideas and facts from Vice Deans David Spahlinger and Carol Bradford, along with strategic plans from our divisions and associate chairs who oversee the components of our missions. It became clear that our department is nearly the right size for our mission and obligations, although we will need about 10 more FTEs over the next 3 years to reach and maintain that size. Mission, essential deliverable, markets, professionalism, and work-life balance were discussed. My term as chair will come to a close and we expect to announce a search committee this summer. Once replaced, I hope to remain on the faculty in a meaningful way for a few years just as did my predecessors Ed McGuire and Jim Montie. Jim, by the way, was unable to join us due to grandparenting privileges keeping him in Europe at the time, but he sent a short and inspiring video that explained how “culture eats strategy.” Jim’s ten pieces of advice, slightly rephrased below, for academic medicine ring very true.

a. Faculty have a higher purpose other than personal success; academic success is not a “win at all cost” endeavor.  Academic medicine is not the Hunger Games.
b. Expert and empathetic clinical care is the highest priority.
c. Urology’s culture is embraced and preserved by faculty and inculcated in fellows, residents, and staff.
d. We share respect for colleagues, fellows & residents, and staff.
e. Academic productivity is important.
f. Referring physicians are highly valued and respected.
g. Try to make UM better, even at some sacrifice.
h. A team is necessary and one with diverse thoughts and backgrounds is always better.
i. Salary should be sufficient to that ensure faculty are not being taken advantage of (actually or perceived).
j. Innovation is the lifeblood of outstanding academic medicine.


Jim called his list “Thoughts for living in Michigan Urology.” He also added a question for the new paradigm of Michigan Medicine: “How does Michigan Urology integrate UM affiliates into the Urology Department? Don’t wait for the institution to solve it. Decide what vision you have and move to implementing it. Get to know the people at these other hospitals and practices.”


These are our thoughts for May, a month in which the redbuds have been amazing in and around Ann Arbor.

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

March Thoughts

DAB What’s New March 3, 2017

March Thoughts

3741 words

Periodic explanation: What’s New, a weekly communication from the University of Michigan Department of Urology, is distributed most Fridays internally by email to faculty, residents, and staff dealing with specific personnel and programs of the department. On the first Friday of the month What’s New is more general in scope, “a professor’s personal perspective,” and is also distributed to alumni, and friends of the department. The website (blog) version is matulathoughts.org, archived since 2013.

 

the_victors_sheet_music

One.
Winter marches to a close this month and we perk up in anticipation of more temperate days, with spring in mind. The meteorological first day of spring was March 1st in the northern hemisphere, but the astronomical start of spring this year will be Monday, March 20. That day may not look quite like spring when you come into work or go home  in Ann Arbor, even considering the start of Daylight Savings Time on March 12. Just as likely you won’t notice any seasonal change in windowless clinics or operating rooms as you attend to the work at hand, but spring is here.

or

[March in Mott,  2012 – Kate Kraft & Matt Smith]

Named for Mars, the Roman god of war, March is the only month with a musical name, if you consider the genre of John Philip Sousa and the Michigan fight song. UM student Louis Elbel (1877-1959) composed Hail to the Victors in 1898 (sheet music shown at top) and copyrighted it the following year when The March King, Sousa, and his band performed it publicly. Marches, of course have a much older provenance, as the illusion to Mars suggests.

Originally timed to drum alone, military marches set the pace for foot soldiers. Brass instruments, commonplace inclusions by the 19th century, helped marches become entertainment. Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, and other great composers wrote popular marches for the public, although marching armies still kept pace with music. Napoleon, allegedly, adopted a rapid tempo of 120 beats (steps) per minute so his armies could march faster than British and other foes. Today’s militaries no longer set operational pace to music, except in movies. Marches now include a range of musical technologies and are far more likely to be heard on college football fields than on battlefields. Marches entertain and inspire, and the Michigan Fight Song may well have echoed in quarterback Brady’s head during the Super Bowl drama last month, certainly as great an example of athletic bootstrapping as anyone can easily recall. [Below: Louis Elbel conducting in the Big House, 1958]

louis_elbel

Political marches are also part of humanity’s fabric and the recent March trilogy, a graphic memoir of John Lewis, is noteworthy. Written with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, this was published between 2013 and 2016 and is an effective way of telling history to younger audiences, where it most matters. [Below: March Book One] Civil disobedience, inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, changed India in the first half of the 20th century and Martin Luther King, John Lewis, along with many others would similarly change the United States in the second half.

march

 

Two.
Technology drives the comforts and arts of modern life. No one can deny that planes, trains, automobiles, indoor plumbing, central heating, air conditioning, and Nike sportswear make work and life more comfortable and convenient than it was for our ancestors. Visual and auditory art, no less significantly, buttresses the human condition ever since the first cave dwelling paintings, sculptures, and musical instruments. Technology over the ensuing 40 or so millennia changed those and all other human arts.

cave_painting_l

[Lascaux, France cave painting 15,000-10,000 BC]

Art has particular value for us in health care education, clinical care, and research. Brain stimulation, through artistry of one sort or another, makes us attentive, provokes curiosity, facilitates learning, and stimulates creativity. When the brain is stimulated, questions are raised, nuances perceived, conflicts understood, elegance appreciated, boundaries erased, and truths discovered. For these reasons we add art to walls, humor to lectures, magazines to waiting rooms, and music to surgical suites. Art expands the imagination that fuels the missions of academic medicine and fulfillment in our greater lives. This is the reason for our Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine, to be held this year during the Ann Arbor Art Fairs (July 20, 2017). David Watts, San Francisco gastroenterologist and author, will be our speaker.

the-she-wolf

[Jackson Pollack, The She-Wolf 1943. MOMA, NY]
Anticipating that lecture I read Eric Kandel’s latest book, Reductionism in Art and Brain Science, Bridging the Two Cultures. A review in Science caught my attention and I ordered the book at Literati, our local bookstore. [Alva Noë. Scientist’s Guide to Modern Art. Science. 353:1215, 2016] Nobel Laureate Kandel draws on neurobiological work in sea slugs to understand more complex processes of human learning and memory and concludes that our brains process abstract (modern) art very differently than we process traditional figurative art. [Eric Kandel. Columbia University Press, 2016] Interestingly, Kandel dedicated the book to Lee Bollinger, former University of Michigan president.

 

Three.

his_masters_voice
Every generation has its own music and for mine the new genre of rock and roll on 45-RPM single play records was the baseline. [Above: Francis Barraud’s painting of his brother’s dog Nipper, 1898] Music is a story of technology and its recording formats have been contested since their start. Thomas Edison’s tinfoil sheets (1877) and later wax cylinder phonographs were early technologies, but flat discs proved more practical. Emile Berliner (1851-1929), German-born American inventor, patented the Gramophone in 1887 and marketed 5-inch discs. One of his earliest recording artists was Manhattan singer George Washington Johnson (1846-1914).

george_w-_johnson_1898

[Above and below: George W. Johnson and his 1897 Berliner Gramophone recording. Source: Wikipedia]

berlinerdisc1897

Nipper achieved lasting fame when English artist Francis Barraud painted his brother’s dog listening at the horn of a Gramophone in the winter of 1898 and Berliner took the image for the logo when he formed the Victor Talking Machine Company 1901.

Cylinder recording technology, however, held on for a time and transitioned from wax to celluloid Blue Amberol cylinders in 1912 with playtimes of nearly 5 minutes. The flat disc, however, was destined to dominate with shellac and 78-RPM as the material and play speed of choice. In 1929 Victor Talking Machine Company became RCA (Radio Corporation of America) Victor and would make the first 33 1/3-RPM Long Play (LP) records. Columbia’s 12-inch vinyl 33 ⅓ LPs in June 1948 were a step forward in fidelity and durability. RCA Victor released the first 7 inch 45-RPM vinyl single record in March, 1949.

jackie_brenston-1

No single record precisely demarcates the start of rock and roll, although one contender for priority was Rocket “88”, a song recorded in Memphis around this day in March, 1951 by Jackie Brenston and Ike Turner. Brenston was the saxophonist in Turner’s band, The Delta Cats. [Above: Turner and Brenston] The tune rocketed to number one on the Billboard R&B chart and the title referred to the Oldsmobile 88. Somehow the recording identity and profits went to Jackie, rather than Ike and his band, setting off a lifetime of grievance. A second version of the song was recorded a few months later by Bill Haley and The Saddlemen. Haley’s better-known recording, Rock Around the Clock, came out in 1955.

 

Four.

1949_oldsmobile_88

Olds 88, produced by GM from 1949 to 1999 (shown above) initially paired a Rocket V8 engine with the Futuramic B-body platform (full size rear-wheel drive). Cars like this offered more than just transportation and fueled the imagination of generations throughout the 20th century in the music of the times, drive-in movies and eateries, and springtime road trips. House designs changed accordingly to include garages, highways changed cities, shopping patterns altered, and cars became offices or homes for some people. Detroit was the epicenter of the automobile industry and became a microcosm for entertainment, the labor movement, civil rights, urban collapse, and suburban sprawl. A perceptive book on this aspect of Detroit by David Maraniss was brought to my attention by our thoughtful correspondent at Emory.

“The city itself is the main character in this urban biography, though its populace includes many larger-than-life figures – from car guy Henry Ford II to labor leader Walter Reuther; from music mogul Berry Gordy Jr. to the Reverend C.L. Franklin, the spectacular Aretha’s father – who take Detroit’s stage one after another and eventually fill it.

The chronology here covers eighteen months, from the fall of 1962 to the spring of 1964. Cars were selling at a record pace. Motown was rocking. Labor was strong. People were marching for freedom. The president was calling Detroit a “herald of hope.” It was a time of uncommon possibility and freedom when Detroit created wondrous and lasting things. But life can be luminescent when it is most vulnerable. There was a precarious balance during those crucial months between composition and decomposition, what the world gained and what a great city lost. Even then, some part of Detroit was dying, and that is where the story begins.” [Author’s introduction. Once in a Great City: A Detroit Story. Simon & Schuster. NY 2015.]

 

Five.
Marching and retreating. When I became chair in 2007 I thought I had a good sense of what the job entailed, having been “schooled” under great leaders like Bill Longmire in Surgery at UCLA, Joe Kaufman (Urology at UCLA), Ray Stutzman (Walter Reed), Ed McGuire (here at UM), and of course our inaugural urology department chair, Jim Montie. Still, I had some unease, given an abrupt transition, and thus invited myself to Chicago to visit Bob Flanigan of Loyola. Our former dean Allen Lichter and my fellow chair Karin Muraszko advised me that I still needed help and linked me to an advisor with experience in practically any problem in academic medicine. That was David Bachrach who, from day one and my first faculty retreat, has been has been a stalwart adviser for our urology department.

Our team has grown since then with a full time urology faculty cadre exceeding 40, 18 joint faculty, 15 adjunct, 30 residents and fellows, 16 advanced practice providers, 22 nurses, 29 MAs, 52 research staff, and 51 administrative staff. We conduct clinics at 12 sites, operate in 7 locations, and have 8 research laboratories, including those of our joint faculty. The Nesbit Society, numbering 324, is one of our key stakeholders. This is a lot of stuff to keep in play at any moment, and anticipating a change in departmental leadership it is wise to take stock of our position and lay out plans for the future. Whoever assumes the chair position will find strong divisions that thoroughly understand their needs, aspirations, and plans within our department. The chair stands on robust shoulders; in my case, Jim Montie had tee’d up the job superbly and I have had a lucky and fairly easy swing for my turn.

A retreat is the converse of a march. As an organizational technique retreats are occasions for conversation, teambuilding, and realignment. A retreat is a purposeful opportunity to take stock of one’s position and figure out the next steps. If an organization is doing well, a retreat can be a process to figure out how to keep doing well, or to improve a team’s position, in a changing environment. If the organization, army, or unit is stuck in the mire, a retreat is a chance to bootstrap out of the situation into a better one. Historically, that 19th century term means to lift yourself up by your own bootstraps, a phenomenon that is physically impossible. This useful hyperbole, an adynaton, was a metaphor of absurdity until modern technology made it a reality in today’s computer world where rebooting (as the term has become) is something we do often.

440px-muenchhausen_herrfurth_7_500x789

[Postcard, in a series by German illustrator Oskar Herrfurth (1862-1934), depicting Baron Munchausen pulling himself out of a mire by his own hair.]

 

Six.
Movies, more than most other art forms, reflect and change our view of reality and sense of meaning. The Star Wars franchise, a powerful example of imagination surpassing any initial expectations of success, has extended recently from popular culture into economic theory. Zachary Feinstein, professor of financial engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, drew on the saga to predict that the destruction of the Death Star would have triggered a calamitous galactic financial crisis. [Feinstein. It’s a trap: the Emperor Palpatine’s poison pill. December 1, 2015. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1511.09054.pdf%5D

In response to the Feinstein paper, The Economist magazine undertook a deep analysis of the first six episodes of the saga (prior to the most recent iteration, number 7) and came up with three “important lessons for residents of the Milky Way,” that are relevant for the real world.

• Lesson one: regarding the value of trade – the freer the better.
• Lesson two: although globalization (galacticization) is an economic boon, it presents all sorts of political challenges that are not easily managed.
• Lesson three: regarding career options in the era of artificial intelligence and robots, humans will “still labor at dangerous and unpleasant tasks” because of inequities in the galactic political system.

The Economist concluded: “Humans will work for a pittance, if necessary, to scrape by. This may lead them to the dark side. Worse, it might prompt inquisitive souls to ask what forces drive such an uneven distribution of wealth, turning them [the inquisitive souls] into those most dreaded of creatures: economists.” [The Economist. December 19, 2015. Free exchange: Wikinomics]

Further pan-galactic insights are found in the book, The World According to Star Wars, by Cass Sunstein. [Sunstein. HarperCollins Books, NY. 2016] The author offers two opening quotes. The first, by Yoda, is: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” The second, by UM alumnus Lawrence Kasdan is: “It’s the biggest adventure you can have, making up your own life, and it’s true for everybody. It’s infinite possibility.” These thoughts encompass the great intersection of reality and imagination. Expressed differently, this is the intersection of the gift of human self-determination (that aspiration of democracy) and Shannon’s number of human imaginative possibilities that exceeds any galactic scale. [Claude Shannon, another Michigan alumnus, was discussed on these pages on May 3, 2013.]

 

Seven.
Helmut Stern, friend and benefactor of the University of Michigan, passed away earlier this year. He was 97 when he died on January 21. Helmut encompassed that infinite possibility of self-determination better than most of us, and did it with unusual kindness, grace, and imagination. Born in Hanover, Germany in 1919, his outspoken nature had put the Nazis on his case when he was 18 years old and he immigrated to the United States in 1938, aided in getting a visa by his Uncle Oscar. Moving to Washington D.C. he found a job working at night and attended George Washington University by day. Helmut hoped to go to medical school and moved to Ann Arbor in 1942 where he took a job at Metrical Laboratories to earn a living, but his career plans changed after he came to own the company. He then started another company, Industrial Tectonics, Inc. (ITI) manufacturing ball bearings, and soon had plants and licensees around the world. Helmut’s business acumen was unusually sharp and his manufacturing footprint expanded. In 1981 he sold ITI to devote time to another company of his, Arcanum, with the hope of making clean-burning coal. Helmut was a community builder, mentoring many younger colleagues in business and organizational management. He funded efforts to advance voting in young people and initiatives to strengthen the local safety net for those less fortunate. Helmut was kind, curious, and generous, a Renaissance Intellectual in every sense of the term. His art collection, with a focus on African work, stimulated his imagination, and he gave much of it to the UM Art Museum. The effects of his philanthropy echo throughout our University and community today. Helmut and his wife Candis (to whom I owe thanks for these biographic notes) moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico in 2009, returning to Michigan every six months until 2013 and during those visits he and I sometimes had lunch and discussed things such as the biology of morality, politics, and art. When travel became too difficult for him, Las Cruces became his permanent and final home.

sterns-2012

[Former regent Julia Darlow with Candis and Helmut Stern at inauguration of Jim Stanley’s endowed professorship 2012.]

 

Eight.

metro

Michigan Medicine is the new name for the University of Michigan Health Care System and I first saw it in prominent display in Wyoming, Michigan when I visited MetroHealth, our new partner. This new name and relationship are part of a new chapter in the story of medicine at the University of Michigan, but it has been a natural and inevitable progression that began when a faculty house became a hospital on our campus in 1869. The hospital iterations thereafter grew quickly to match the expanding conceptual basis of healthcare, medical specialties, and graduate medical education training programs that became the career-defining part of medical education. An outpatient building in 1953 was evidence of the growing importance of ambulatory healthcare not just for clinical practice, but also in education and research. Satellite clinics, surgical suites, and professional service agreements with other healthcare organizations followed the ambulatory attention as the 20th century turned into the 21st. A significant relationship with MidMichigan Health in 2013 placed the Block M prominently in the “outstate” arena.

The ultimate justification for expansion of the UM clinical footprint is the need to maintain our educational and research programs. This justification was reflected in name of the first serious A3 I produced, that having been in the winter of 2012-2013. An A3 exercise (named for the size of the sheet of paper used in the Toyota Lean Process approach to problem-solving) is a way to tell a story or to define and solve a problem. I titled my A3: “Our clinical footprint is falling short of our needs and aspirations” and it took close to 40 drafts to complete. Those needs and aspirations comprise our mission and our expectation to be leaders and best. In that earlier part of the new century’s second decade, it seemed that healthcare economics, policy changes, and consolidation of competitors threatened to make UM too small to matter and we had to find a way to bootstrap ourselves out of a position that was becoming untenable. We seem to be on the right track now.

 

Nine.
Imagination and reality go back and forth. Last month we considered the Angelman story and, as I was thinking of other examples, Baron Munchausen came to mind. This fictional character (although modeled after a real person) was created by German writer, librarian, and eccentric scientist, Rudolf Erich Raspe. Born in Hanover March 1736 he became a versatile scholar and a zoological paper of his led to membership in London’s prestigious Royal Society. Raspe fled to England in 1775 due to financial improprieties, and continued his scholarly interests including the imaginative stories in The Surprising Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a novel that he began to write in Cornwall when he was assay-master and storekeeper at the Dolcoath mine in 1785. Around that time he also wrote books on geology and the history of art. He died in 1794.

The fictional baron continues to illuminate the world far beyond Raspe’s expectations. Munchausen syndrome is a disorder in which a person feigns disease for any number of reasons. In the urology world, the drug-seeker who comes to the Emergency Department with abdominal pain and bloody urine (a finger cut dipped into their urine sample usually does the trick) is a common experience for our residents and on-call faculty. Munchausen syndrome by proxy is an odd situation we sometimes encounter in pediatric urology wherein a parent or caregiver fabricates or induces a physical or mental health problem for a child or other person in their care, the usual motivation being that of attention or sympathy. The Munchausen trilemma is a thought experiment involving a decision among three equally unsatisfying options. The Munchausen number is a perfect digit-to-digit number, a natural number equivalent to the sum of its digits each raised to the power of its digits. This is also called a perfect digit-to-digit invariant, for example, 3435 = 3 to the third, plus 4 to the fourth, plus 3 to the third again, plus 5 to the fifth. (WordPress seems unfriendly to math notation). Van Berkel coined the term because each number is “raised up” by itself, in the Baron Munchausen tradition. [van Berkel, Daan. “On a curious property of 3435.” arXiv preprint arXiv:0911.3038,2009]

 

Ten.

A perfectly satisfying national healthcare policy is a Munchausen trilemma. Everyone wants availability, quality, and affordability of healthcare, but we cannot figure out how to provide all three simultaneously. The private sector is complex, with insurance and capitated systems such as Kaiser, working in tandem with various government iterations of Medicare. The VA and other federal or community systems, such as our Hamilton Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Clinics (RHCs), serve a growing segment of the public. The FQHCs and RHCs have over 6,600 sites of care and serve 66,000,000 patients each year, while the VA has over 1,700 sites and serves nearly 9 million veterans per year. This aggregate population of 75,000,000 largely underserved patients in these publicly-funded facilities constitutes more than 23% of the United State’s population. [Thanks to Michael Giacalone, Jr. for much of this data.]

Governor Rick Snyder championed Medicaid Expansion in Michigan against the grain of his political affiliation. He must have believed that it was the right thing to do for the people of Michigan and, as an accountant at heart, he may have had an intuition that the expansion made economic sense. A paper in NEJM by our faculty colleague John Ayanian et al showed how the Healthy Michigan Plan covered over 600,000 mostly uninsured people defrayed a large economic load on the state, families, businesses, and health care providers. Additionally, the state government ended up with more than it paid out for the program, Michigan gained 30,000 jobs, giving its people $2.3 billion more to spend. Projections to 2021, even as the state cost-share increases, will continue to be positive. [Ayanian JZ, Ehrlich GM, Grimes DR, and Levy H. Economic Effects of Medicaid Expansion in Michigan. N Engl J Med 2017; 376:407-410]

ayanians
John Ayanian is the Alice Hamilton Professor of Medicine at UMMS and the Director of the UM Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, where our Urology Department Dow Health Services Research (HSR) Division is located, with David Miller as its head. Alice Hamilton (1869-1970) was one of the most important UMMS graduates (1893). She went on to being a leader in the emerging fields of occupational health and toxicology and was the first woman on the faculty at Harvard Medical School. It’s appropriate to see her name celebrated by such a worthy colleague as John Ayanian. [Below: John & Ann Ayanian with Chad Ellimoottil at our Dow HSR Division reception 2016.]

————————————————————–

Thanks for reading Matula Thoughts, this March of 2017.
David A. Bloom
University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

734-232-4943

dabloom@umich.edu

 

February, Sunday feelings, and Monday facts

DAB What’s New February 3, 2017

February lows and highs; Sunday feelings, Monday facts
3916 words

 

icicle

One.
February is the nadir of winter as well as the shortest and most variable month, with average snowfalls of 13 inches, highs of 35℉, and lows of 20℉ in Ann Arbor (U.S. Climate Data. Wikipedia). Even though not quite the coldest month February seems the wintriest, lacking the enticements of December holidays and the exhilaration of January’s new year. This February, a regular one without the extra day, allows only 20 business days to pay the challenging bills of academic urology. Educational and research expenses always exceed their funding streams and require clinical and philanthropic dollars to maintain them.

korlebu

[Michigan team and the Korle-Bu and Military Hospital staff, Accra.]

Last month 3 faculty and 2 residents escaped Michigan winter for a week of operating and teaching in Ghana. Sue and the late Carl Van Appledorn initiated this yearly trip and other generous donors help offset its draw on clinical revenue. John Park, Casey Dauw, and our former faculty member Humphrey Atiemo (now Program Director at Henry Ford Hospital) accompanied by residents Yooni Yi (UM) and Dan Pucheril (HFH) spent a productive week in Accra. Casey led the team in performing the first successful percutaneous nephrolithotomy in that part of the world. The Korle-Bu Hospital, affiliated with the University of Ghana, is one of the largest teaching hospitals in Africa. John Park will give further details in an upcoming What’s New/Matula Thoughts.

casey-perc

[Casey at bat.]

Back here in the USA the economic side of health care is ambiguous. Governmental funding, public policy, regulation, corporatization of the clinical domain, market segmentation, and escalating costs in pharmacologic/technology industries are some factors in the turmoil. Most healthcare industries maintain the public trust and behave admirably in seeking profits and market share – we certainly see this in the companies with whom we deal such as Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Storz, etc.

A few egregious actors stand out. The Mylan company’s repackaging of a natural chemical (epinephrine, for which nature holds the patent) with a syringe and needle was a mildly clever gimmick, but creating a monopoly for this lifesaving device and raising the prices for a two-pack from $100 in 2007 to $608 in 2016 is greed beyond the bounds of public acceptance. Mylan’s half price “generic,” offered recently, is a pathetic peace-offering to the public – a generic of a generic is elementary Orwellian Newspeak. [Epinephrine auto-injectors for anaphylaxis. JAMA; 317:313, 2017.] Teva Pharmaceutical was another one of the six drug makers recently sued by 20 state lawmakers on price fixing. These two companies are the largest generic drug makers by market cap. (It must have been awkward for Mylan’s CEO Heather Bresch to justify EpiPen prices because of research and development expenses in testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last October.) [M. Krey. Investor’s Business Daily. Mylan launches cheaper EpiPen generic amid drug pricing saga. 12/16/16.] Below: Table A from 10/5/16 letter from CMS Administrator Andrew Slavitt to Senator Ron Wyden regarding Medicaid and Medicare Part D Expenditures on EpiPen products.

table-epipen

 

search
Two.

Regulation for the public good is essential in a world economy of 7 billion people and GDP of $78 trillion. All businesses exist because of the public trust, going back to the early days of the limited-liability joint-stock company, a story explained in a book called The Company that Julian Wan gave me years ago [John Micklethwait & Adrian Woolridge. Modern Library, NY 2003.] Most US businesses understand their public responsibilities, but uncommon greedy actors erode public trust and diminish the standards for the rest.

Regulation is under attack. It is inevitable that government regulations dampen corporate bottom-lines and short-term economic growth, that is the nature of regulation, but few rational people can deny that serious regulation of highway traffic, airways, nuclear energy, banks, health care, etc. is in the public interest. Offensive governmental regulatory overreach is bound to happen in any complex bureaucracy and should be called out when discovered, but these instances hardly disprove the necessity for regulation by impartial public agencies and civil servants in a healthy democratic society.

By now, in February’s wintry days of cold and snow, the EpiPen story is old news, but we hope that the protective regulatory functions of governmental regulation do not get snowed over or subsumed by corporate world grudges. Like most things in life, balance is essential.

 

Three.

iran-blizzard

The world’s deadliest known snowstorm began this February day in 1972, lasting a full week and killing around 4,000 people. The blizzard centered on the city of Ardakan in southern Iran, the region of Shiraz, cultural capital of Iran and known for the eponymous grape. Storyteller Isak Dineson (Baroness Karen Blixen-Finecke, 1885-1962) linked that grape to urology in her short story, The Dreamers: “What is man when you come to think about him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine.” Blixen created coherent and compelling stories at a moment’s notice, and told her own life story in the 1934 book Out of Africa, that became a film in 1985 with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. The complete passage in The Dreamers is particularly intriguing and relevant to urologists.

“ ‘Oh, Lincoln Forstner,’ said the noseless story-teller, ‘what is man, when you come to think upon him, but a minutely set, ingenious machine for turning, with infinite artfulness, the red wine of Shiraz into urine? You may even ask which is the more intense craving and pleasure: to drink or to make water. But in the meantime, what has been done? A song has been composed, a kiss taken, a slanderer slain, a prophet begotten, a righteous judgement given, a joke made…’ ”  [Isak Dinesen. Seven Gothic Tales. The Dreamers. 1934, Random House. P. 275.]

Blixen’s choice of Lincoln for the first name of one of the three central characters in her imaginative story is curious, for although it is a well-known surname it is an uncommon given name.

karen_blixen_and_thomas_dinesen_1920s

[Karen Blixen and brother Thomas Dineson on her farm in Kenya, c. 1920s. Royal Danish Library.]

 

Four.
Imagination is the ability to form ideas, images, and sensations without direct sensory input. The practice of medicine, its instruction, and its innovation demand imagination. The imagination to think through the plausibility of things, is inseparable from critical thinking. Observation and reasoning, experience and experiment, are feats of imagination that challenge dogma with new ideas in search of the best truth possible. Such creative thinking is a necessary, but often forgotten piece of the essential skeptical analysis that good physicians and scientists practice and instill in students, residents, fellows, and colleagues.

A recent Lancet article referred to the early American physician Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), who called imagination “… the pioneer of all other faculties.”

“When Rush spoke of imagination, he wasn’t talking about dragons or unicorns, he called that mental faculty fancy, and fancy had no place in medicine. Rather, Rush was talking about how the doctor’s mind gathered observations and experiences, shifting and shaping them until new truths became clear. Memory was a component of this imagination, and understanding resulted from it.” [S. Altschuler. The medical imagination. The Lancet. 388:2230, 2016.]

I’d challenge the claim that no hard line exists between those dragons or unicorns and the new ideas, hypotheses, and truths we hope to discover. Fanciful fiction, visual art, and music enrich mental milieus and provide metaphors, symmetries, dissonances, harmonies, and analogies that make clinical work and science sharper, more multidimensional, and of greater relevance than they would be without the “fancy.” E.O. Wilson infers this in his conclusion to Consilience, a book named for and about the unity of knowledge.

“The search for consilience might seem at first to imprison creativity. The opposite is true. A united system of knowledge is the surest means of identifying the still unexplored domains of reality. It provides a clear map of what is known, and frames the most productive questions for further inquiry. Historians of science often observe that asking the right question is more important than producing the right answer. The right answer to a trivial question is also trivial, but the right question, even when insoluble in exact form, is a guide to major discovery. And so it will ever be in the future excursions of science and imaginative flights of the arts.” [EO Wilson. Consilience. Alfred A. Knopf. New York.]

Creativity can also spring from irrational thought as a song in the new film La La Land suggests. Audition (The fools who dream) sung by Emma Stone: “A bit of madness is key, to give us new colors to see. Who knows where it will lead us and that’s why they need us.” Human exploration of reality requires consilience of all the tools we can muster, including scientific knowledge, historical facts, stories, and imaginative fancy.

 

Five.

puppet
When you read a story or experience visual art you may discover something new to which your brain can connect and that will illuminate other stuff in your brain at that moment or later on in reflections, dreams, or sudden denouements. Those connections provoke imagination, test reality, and elicit wisdom that affects your world view and your work. Insight and inspiration from art provide limitless opportunities in the practice, teaching, or investigation of medical care. The story of British pediatrician Harry Angelman (1915-1966) offers a minute and excellent example of illuminating connection.

“It was purely by chance that nearly thirty years ago (e.g., circa 1964) three handicapped children were admitted at various times to my children’s ward in England. They had a variety of disabilities and although at first sight they seemed to be suffering from different conditions I felt that there was a common cause for their illness. The diagnosis was purely a clinical one because in spite of technical investigations which today are more refined I was unable to establish scientific proof that the three children all had the same handicap. In view of this I hesitated to write about them in the medical journals. However, when on holiday in Italy I happened to see an oil painting in the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona called . . . a Boy with a Puppet. The boy’s laughing face and the fact that my patients exhibited jerky movements gave me the idea of writing an article about the three children with a title of Puppet Children. It was not a name that pleased all parents but it served as a means of combining the three little patients into a single group. Later the name was changed to Angelman syndrome. This article was published in 1965 and after some initial interest lay almost forgotten until the early eighties.” [Quotation from Charles Williams. Harry Angelman and the History of AS. Stay informed. USA: Angelman Syndrome Foundation. 2011.]

Giovanni Francesco Caroto (1480-1555), the Renaissance painter in Verona, created the Portrait of a Child with a Drawing and the circumstances of the subject will probably never come to light. It may well be a coincidence that the picture resembled the patients that provoked Angelman’s curiosity.

chromosomes

[Chromosome 15]

chr-15
Deletion or inactivation of genes on maternal chromosome 15 with silencing of the corresponding normal paternal chromosome is responsible for AS. Similar genomic imprinting, but with deletion or inactivation of paternal genes and silencing on the maternal side happens in Prader-Willi syndrome, that shows up more often in our pediatric urology clinics. These two conditions along with Beckwith-Wiedemann and Silver-Russell syndromes were early reported instances of human imprinting disorders. An excellent update on these conditions appeared last month in Science. [J. Cousin-Frankel. Fateful Imprints. Science. 355:122-125, 2017]

 

Six.
New residents. We just matched our new cohort of PGY1s, a stage of medical education once called internship, that starts each July to initiate the transition of medical students into specialists. The medical student is the last universal common ancestor in the evolution of a medical specialist. About 150 areas of focused practice (per American Board of Medical Specialties) are available to freshly minted MDs and those last universal common ancestors in medicine evolve into the new species of their chosen specialties during their residencies.

This educational experience is a primary reason we exist as a Department of Urology. The UMMS was formed to produce the next generation of physicians for the State of Michigan in 1850 when this mission required 2 years of medical school lectures to achieve the MD necessary to practice medicine. The medical school then needed only 5 faculty and 2 departments (Medicine as well as Surgery and Anatomy) to provide that education. Today’s world of specialty medicine requires 4 years of medical school (with lectures, laboratory work, and clinical experience) as well as graduate medical education in one of 100 areas of specialty training offered here in Ann Arbor. Our medical school faculty numbers 2500 in 30 departments. We educate, at any moment, about twice as many residents in specialties as medical students – and the period of residency training may be more than twice as long as medical school itself.

New members of the UM Urology family are: Juan Andino with BS, MBA, and MD degrees from UM; Chris Tam with BS from UC San Diego and MD from the University of Iowa; Robert Wang with BA and MD degrees from Washington University in St. Louis; and Colton Walker with BS from Stanford and MD from Louisiana State University in New Orleans. Who knows where they will lead us?

 

Seven.
Darwin & Lincoln’s birth, on the same day in the same year, was the wonderful coincidence of February 12, 1809. Two more different circumstances for those neonates would be difficult to imagine although both families had roots in England. Both men had big imaginations that changed the world in positive ways that endure today. Darwin arrived in the center of the civilized world, Shrewsbury England, to a prosperous family. His grandfather, Dr. Erasmus Darwin, was one of the great thinkers of his time and his father Dr. Robert Darwin was a successful physician. The house where Charles Darwin was born was distinguished enough to have a name, The Mount. Abraham Lincoln was born in a small primitive cabin, now long gone, on the Sinking Spring farm on the western periphery of a nation barely 33 years in existence. The nearest town, Hodgenville, didn’t even get its name until 1826, long after the Lincoln family, short on money and education, had moved on.

400px-charles_darwin_photograph_by_herbert_rose_barraud_1881

[Above: Photo by Herbert Barraud, last known picture of Darwin. 1882. Huntington Library. Below: Last known high-quality Lincoln photo, March 6, 1865. Library of Congress.]

lincoln-warren-1865-03-06-jpeg

Darwin’s idea, The Origin of Species, contained the belief that species couldn’t breed with different species. The classic example of reproductive isolation that many of us recall from childhood was the mule, the result of a donkey and horse breaking the species barrier recreationally, but the resulting progeny was sterile and incapable of creating a further bloodline. That belief in a barrier to interbreeding, or hybridization as biologists term the process, has fallen away in the new era of genomic information. The Neanderthal and Denisovan genes in the Homo sapiens genome is a rather intimate example of species interbreeding. It turns out that hybridization has played an important role in evolution throughout most kingdoms of life.  The mule is joined by the liger (lion/tiger), Hawaiian duck (Mallard/Laysan duck), red wolf (coyote/gray wolf), and pizzly (polar/brown bear). Domestic dog and wolf interbreeding has given wolves a variant immune protein gene, β-defensin, that conveys a distinctive black pelt and improved canine distemper resistance to wolf/dog hybrids and their descendants. [Elizabeth Pennisi. Shaking up the tree of life. Science: 354:817-821, 2016.] In a practical sense for our work in healthcare, bacterial swapping of DNA presents great challenges. Darwin recognized a mighty force – nearly as mysterious and pervasive as gravity – that crops up way beyond biology. Even in social ebbs and flows of life, Darwinian forces are at play, for surely they have made markets, politics, and academia increasingly creative.

 

Eight.
LUCA. Central to the multiple facets of our interests and knowledge as clinicians, surgeons, and urologists, we are ultimately biologists. In that spirit, the mystery of how life began on Earth is an irresistible intellectual puzzle and if you align to the Darwinian line of the speculation the concept of a very simple common ancestor holds traction.

Such a single cell, bacterial-like organism would have begat the three great domains of life: archaea, bacteria, and later the eukaryotes. Of the 6 million protein-coding genes in DNA data banks, William Martin et al at Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf speculated that 355 were present in that most primitive of ancestors, called the Last Universal Common Ancestor (LUCA). These probably originated around volcanic sea vents that supplied just the right conditions. Whether or not LUCA came from sea vents, warm ponds, or other environments should become clearer as biologists dig deeper into our roots. LUCA might have looked like any of the archaea and bacteria we recognize today with stiff walled rods or cocci. More complex shapes required the flexible cell walls that came later with eukaryotes. LUCA probably existed as an anaerobe in a vent-like hydrothermal geochemical setting and was based upon 355 genes according to a paper from the Institute of Molecular Evolution at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf.

luca

[Figure from MC Weiss, FL Sousa, N Mrnjavac et al. The physiology and habitat of the last universal common ancestor. Nature Microbiology. 1, Article number 16116, 2016.]

Much has happened since LUCA. Given the Darwinian trials of variation by error in the face of minor and gross environmental challenges over millions of millennia, new species developed in fits and starts. The Cambrian explosion of new creatures was one of many responses of speciation to planetary change. We humans seem to be at the far opposite end of the phylogenic spectrum from LUCA. Our complexity is not just a matter of our biology and our cerebral skills, but no less a matter of the social nuances that elaborate the human condition.

 

Nine.
A Fortunate Man. The classic study of an English general practitioner in the 1960s, alluded to on these pages last year sharpened my perspective as a physician. [John Berger, A Fortunate Man, Random House, NY 1967.] The ancient perspective of healthcare, documented since medical recipes in ancient early Egyptian papyri and Hippocratic writings, was a matter of dualities: one patient-one physician, one problem-one solution, and one teacher-one student. This changed in the past century due to medical specialties and technology that have introduced unmeasurable complexity. Patient care and medical education are no longer two-body problems, but are now part of a multidimensional healthcare matrix.

Even that multidimensional professional matrix is dwarfed by the complexity of patients with their own multidimensional physical, mental, familial, social, economic, political, and environmental comorbidities. You might lump all these comorbidities together and simply call them “the human condition” that Berger probed in A Fortunate Man, hinting that we really have little sense of what our patients are all about. However, as we practice our art, we become better at understanding the holograms of the patients as they present themselves in our clinics even in the short time frames at hand and the insistence of electronic health records and economics that force us to default to two-body problems (augmented with a few clever comorbidities that can permit a more realistic billing code).

Berger died last month (January 2) at 90 in the Parisian suburb where he lived. I didn’t know much about him since I read his book just last year (and I wish I could remember who told me to read it). Berger (pronounced BER-jer,) was known as a “provocative art critic” in the obituary by Randy Kennedy that included this example:

“He was a champion of realism during the rise of Abstract Expressionism, and he took on giants like Jackson Pollock, whom he criticized as a talented failure for being unable to ‘see or think beyond the decadence of the culture to which he belongs.’” [Kennedy. New York Times Tuesday January 3, 2017.]

The obituary ran for three columns and mentioned a number of Berger’s books, but not A Fortunate Man.

 

Ten.
That other birthday celebrant of February 12, 1819, would also have been 198 years old this month. Human biology at its best wouldn’t have given Lincoln that chance, but it was political extremism that cut him down short of his potential fourscore and ten years. While Darwin’s ancestors provided more than a hint of greatness for their descendent, Lincoln’s ancestry offered no such clue, but his insatiable drive for education and personal distinction contrasted remarkably with the rest of his family. His improbable success in law and politics leveraged his even more unlikely ascent to the presidency of the United States. No one could have predicted that his ultimate comorbidity would have been an actor with a Philadelphia Derringer at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865.

currier-ives

wilkes_booths_deringer

rimfire-cartridge

[Top: Currier & Ives print of assassination April 14, 1865. Middle: The actual Derringer. Bottom: 0.41-caliber Rimfire cartridge.]

Lincoln’s assassin jumped to the stage and escaped on a horse waiting near the backstage door. The following day he stopped near Beantown, Maryland (now Waldorf) seeking treatment at the home of Dr. Samuel Mudd, an acquaintance, for a broken left fibula. Mudd cut off Booth’s boot, splinted the leg, provided a shoe, and arranged for a local carpenter to make a pair of crutches. After catching some sleep at the doctor’s house Booth travelled on to Virginia where he was caught and killed on April 26. Mudd was arrested, charged with conspiracy, and imprisoned at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas. He tried to escape once, but became a good prisoner and was released after pardon by President Andrew Johnson on March 8, 1869. Mudd returned home to Maryland where he lived until January 10, 1883 dying of pneumonia at 49 years of age. Mudd’s grandson, Dr. Richard Mudd, unsuccessfully petitioned a number of presidents (Carter and Reagan) and also failed in other avenues to clear the family name of the stigma of aiding Booth. The family name remains Mudd.

600px-booth_escape_route-svg

[Booth escape route. Wikimedia Commons. Courtesy, National Park Service.]

Our world has changed enormously since Lincoln’s time. The American democracy is better, healthcare  is more effective, and the Earth even when viewed from far out in our solar system looks amazingly different (below); Edison’s electrical illumination, invented in 1880, has impacted both the visible planet and environment due to the fossil fuel consumption for those lights.

earth-earth-at-night-night-lights-41949

A short book on Darwin and Lincoln, Angels and Ages by Adam Gopnik [Alfred A. Knopf, NY 2009] noted:

“What all the first modern artists, from Whitman to van Gogh, have believed is that, for whatever reason, and however it came to be, we are capable of witnessing and experiencing the world as more than the sum of our instincts and appetites. Our altruism is not simply our appetites compounded; our appetites are not simply our altruism exposed. ‘Reason … must furnish all the materials for our future support and defense,’ Lincoln said, and reason alone can point us to its limits. We can argue about anything, even about the nature and meaning of our mysticisms. [Kenneth] Clark called our liberal faith ‘heroic materialism’ and said it wouldn’t be enough. Human materialism or mystical materialism, is closer to it, and it remains the best we have. Intimations of the numinous may begin and end in us, but they are as real as descriptions of the natural; Sunday feelings are as real as Monday facts. On this point, Darwin and Lincoln, along with all the other poets of modern life, would have agreed. There is more to a man than the breath in his body, if only on the hat on his head and the hope in his heart.”

 

[Footnotes: Numinous = inspiriting spiritual or awe-inspiring emotions. Mystical = having spiritual meaning neither apparent to sense or obvious to intelligence.]

 

 

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

Castling

DAB Matula Thoughts Nov 4, 2016

 

Matula Thoughts Logo2

3975 words

Preface. This monthly communication from the University of Michigan Department of Urology & David A. Bloom is usually sent by email or posted on line at matulathoughts.org on the first Friday of each month.

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One.  

Autumn has been spectacular at Michigan Urology academically and around Ann Arbor visually. Seasonal changes on the Huron River were up to high expectations as leaves colored out and birds headed south. You don’t have to travel far outside of town to see crop harvesting has wound down, while distracting political signs along the roads are highlighting our national political schizophrenia. [Above: Huron River near Wagner Road. Below: Waterloo Road east of Chelsea, Michigan]

silo

 

Nestled in the Midwest, we were spared Hurricane Matthew that hit Haiti, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas in October. The biggest regional surprise was the overtime World Series victory of the Chicago Cubs over the Cleveland Indians, both teams having contested well. Births and other happy events also perked up this season, but we suffered losses. Madeline Horton, secretary of Jack Lapides and mother of Suzanne Van Appledorn (wife of Carl Van Appledorn, Nesbit 1972) passed away last month a few weeks short of her 100th birthday. Madeline was our urology librarian, a job largely obviated by the internet. I fondly remember her gracious welcome when I joined the University of Michigan Section of Urology in the early years of Ed McGuire’s leadership.

Final rules for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) went into effect last month, instituting the Quality Payment Program (QPP) that begins its first performance period 58 days from now, by my count. This will significantly change the basis of physician payment and the rules are entrenched so deeply in federal regulation as to be practically bullet-proof from the impending presidential election or other short-term political processes. By November, it is pretty clear that another calendar year is coming to an end and it’s time to start serious planning for next year. Of course as a department of urology specifically, and as a large academic health center more generally, our planning has been on going in earnest for considerably longer than the past few days. Emerging out of many years of restricted capital investment in facilities and regional relationships we are in an unprecedented growth mode to more optimally fulfill our mission. This has been the first year of our new organizational paradigm for the University of Michigan Health System in which Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs of the University, Marschall Runge, added the Medical School deanship to his portfolio. A Health System Board along with Health System President, David Spahlinger, will manage the growing enterprise of hospital groups, medical practice, ambulatory clinics, regional affiliations, and other entities that have evolved to carry out our mission. These are good structural changes and superb individuals for the challenges ahead.

Our mission derives from our foundation as a public medical school in 1850 and is similar to the mission of all other medical schools, although the University of Michigan has long described itself as one of the “leaders and best”, a phrase that history shows we can rightly claim, for the most part. The mission is framed around three components – education, patient care, and research – deployed in that order as our medical school grew, adding its own contained hospital in 1869 and soon thereafter some of the world’s definitive basic science departments and research laboratories.

 

 

Two.  

Silos of expertise necessarily accrued as the medical school and health care center in Ann Arbor grew more complex with the result that the overall management became increasingly disconnected from the loci of expertise at its many workplaces. The gemba, a Japanese term related to the Lean Process Methodology of the Toyota Corporation, describes where work is performed – the workplace. As Toyota, and later Detroit automotive manufacturing came to understand, microeconomic gembas understand their products, customers, and processes better than higher-level managers or accountants. Process improvement, value creation, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and employee satisfaction are best arbitrated “where the work is done” (i.e. the gemba) rather than in distant offices by managerial accounting.

Oddly, just as forward-thinking western businesses are embracing lean process thinking, large health care systems and governmental organizations are more rigidly holding on to managerial accountancy with its concomitant archipelago of cost centers. Of course any organization needs to understand and mitigate its costs, but lean process experience has shown that efficiency and value are a natural result of letting the gemba work as an organic community, rather than forcing its functions by the levers of managerial accounting. [Below: going home from work, a Diego Rivera mural detail – Detroit Institute of Arts]

dsc03595

Anyway, back to the triple mission: the University of Michigan Health System exists to educate the next generation of physicians and scientists, to expand the knowledge and technology base of health care, and to do these things in a milieu of cutting edge clinical care. The central organizing principle at play, that is the essential deliverable (and moral center) is kind and excellent patient-centered care, as we describe it in our department.

The future in healthcare will depend on our ability to weave silos together and innovate, creating new ideas, devices, and methods. In a larger sense innovation is the ability to find better solutions for the needs of a changing environment.

 

 

Three.          

Leadership.  A recurring aspiration of the University of Michigan is that it produces the “leaders and the best.” That phrase is functionally adjectival as with the leaders and the best engineers, teachers, athletes, lawyers, nurses, chemists, or physicians, for example. The leaders and best is less meaningful as a noun, for what does it really mean to be “the best” if not the best of some particular thing. The same holds true for leadership, in my opinion. The aspiration to be “a leader” as a generality carries a bit of a selfish sense with it, whereas the aspiration to lead one’s team to do its job well or otherwise fulfill its mission is more socially virtuous. The difference is perhaps one between the captain of a football team versus travelling CEO’s who jump among companies to exercise their managerial or accounting gifts. Without deep knowledge and investment in a particular organization, an itinerant leader is unlikely to inspire most organizations and its people to achieve their best social destiny. Another way to look at this is whether the leader’s primary goal is to be “the boss” by leading, managing, and controlling employees to achieve organizational targets, in contrast to a goal of helping the organization achieve an optimal state for its stakeholders.

What does a urology department need in a leader? I submit that first and foremost it needs someone who loves and practices urology robustly; former dean Allen Lichter once said  – “for such a person patient care is a moral imperative, not something that is important enough unless it interferes with research.” Second, a clinical department needs an individual who understands the organizational mission and its history – these two things are inseparable, requiring more than just lip service to be truly known. Third, we require someone whom the faculty, residents, staff, and other stakeholders trust. Fourth, the department needs a person who can read the changing environment and find opportunities within it. Other attributes may be valued according to the specifics of each department, institution and moment in time, however “celebrity leadership” by itself should not be high on the list of qualities sought.

 

 

Four.                 

bruxelles_manneken_pis        

Until it fails, people don’t appreciate the beauty of a competent urinary system. Urologists are the essential attendants at that particular service station of life, but the necessity of professional detachment renders us susceptible to underestimating the angst and vulnerability of urologic patients. Finding the right balance between empathy and detachment is a personal matter, arbitrated by daily experience to the extent that we are influenced by our medical practices, role models (real and fictional), and general observations in life. To the extent that we pay attention to the real world around us and to the creative arts, we improve our practice of medicine.

Creative arts matter to medicine. The portrait of Dr. John Sassall by Berger & Mohr in A Fortunate Man, was an artful mix of empathy and detachment. The doctor had sufficient detachment to do what he needed medically for his patients, but retained unusual empathy for their social and economic comorbidities, even to his personal detriment.

In the visual arts for hundreds of years urinalysis, depicted by uroscopy flask (the matula), was the main symbol of medicine indicating the central importance of urine examination to understand disease. After 1816, when Laennec invented the stethoscope, the matula lost its place as the popular symbol of the medical profession. The stethoscope is certainly a less indelicate and a sturdier symbol than a glass urine flask. Imagine Gray’s Anatomy with the matula.

In literature Shakespeare was precocious in recognizing the fallacy of mistaking a clinical test for the actual patient when in this scene from Henry IV Falstaff asks a messenger what the physician thought of his uroscopy specimen:

“Sirrah, What says the doctor to my water?

He said, sir, the water itself was a good healthy water;

But for the party that owned it, he might have more diseases than he knew for.”

Visual art has only rarely portrayed urinary function. One example, the statue Manneken Pis (Little Man Pee, in Dutch. Above: Wikipedia illustration) designed by Hieronymus Duquesnoy the Elder around 1618-1619 has been stolen numerous times and the current version, dating from 1965, stands in Brussels. It is dressed in costumes according to a published schedule managed by “Friends of Manneken-Pis,” but I don’t know if University of Michigan colors have adorned it yet. Other versions of the statue exist regionally and in more distant sites in the world. Notice the arching back of the confident lad making his momentary mark on the world in front of him.

Depiction of urinary tract dysfunction in art is even less common than that of normal function. As common as dysuria and stranguria are for us humans, it’s rare to find them represented in the creative world. The Wayfarer, by Bosch, shows a man with the hunched-over posture typical of urinary distress, relegated to the central background of this curious painting. The painter, who died 500 years ago, lived in the historic low countries now called the Netherlands where he no doubt observed that characteristic posture often, as we do today in restrooms around the world.

the-wayfarer-large

[Hieronymus Bosch. Above: The Wayfarer. Below: voiding detail.]

bosch-detail

The impact of nocturnal enuresis showed up in All’s Quiet on the Western Front, where a young soldier suffered with that burden.

My point is that creative arts sharpen our perception and groom our mirror neurons to make us better attendants at life’s service stations.

 

Five.              

Castling. A few months ago this column referred to Richard Feynman’s metaphor related to mankind’s persistent search for central organizing principles, namely our curiosity to discover rules that govern the universe. He noted that, as we observe the “chess game of the world” and try to figure out how it works, every now and then “something like castling” occurs and blows our minds. That particular chess move is so far out of the box with respect to the other orderly rules and procedures of the game that it is, indeed, something of a miracle in that environment. (For chess aficionados the term rook may be preferable to castle, although castling sounds more appealing than rooking.)

castmove

It is human nature to seek rules. Prehistoric tribal priests, Ionian philosophers such as Aristotle, and recent scientists such as Feynman sought central organizing principles and rules. Unlike the explanations of the village priests, today’s principles of math, physics, chemistry, and biology are testable and verifiable or refutable. We have some ideas of why and how inorganic material things need to flow or seek equilibrium – principles of physics and chemistry govern their existence and fate. It is more of a mystery why biological things need to grow and humans, in particular, need to know things. No one has figured out, without invoking magical or religious paradigms, why our particulate niche in the universe is such as exception to what we perceive as the second law of thermodynamics. Perhaps our material, biological, and intellectual exception to the expanding and entropy-seeking universe is that strange miracle of “castling.” Bob Seger and The Silver Bullet Band expressed it more poetically in the 1980 song Against the Wind.

alaska

[Cosmic castling. Copper River. Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Summer 2015]

 

 

Six.

It may seem an overstatement of human optimism to believe in the principle that the world you imagine is the world you are most likely to create, but a single person can have remarkable impact; Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and Mahatma Gandhi are just a few examples. The impact of a single person, just as likely, can be darkly retrograde and numerous examples quickly come to mind.

Scientific thinking and modern technology have given mankind unprecedented tools to change the world with Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs as two of a myriad of other players. If you imagine a kind and just world, you will likely try to live by and spread those attributes. If you imagine a dog-eat-dog world and display that vision to those around you, that may likely become the reality you experience and leave behind. The possibility that a given leader can be good or bad for humanity might appear statistically random, that is stochastic, in terms of probability. On the other hand, if we carry the theme of castling to the idiosyncratic human experiment, it may not be so far-fetched to suggest that our genetic and epigenetic construction has built in a predilection to favor good over evil, making an individual more inclined to do the “right” rather than “wrong” thing at a given moment. That is, the elements leading up to a given personal decision are built upon individual upbringing, world-view, personal needs, perceived needs of our clan, and hope for the future. Adding all these elements, our prevailing human nature favors doing good, in the stoichiometric sense, most of the time.

 

 

Seven.

Where American health care will go next is unclear, no matter how the presidential election turns out next week. Problems abound in health care. The interface between patient and provider filling up with busy work and costs that distract from quality, safety, value, or satisfaction. Third party payers, regulators, public policy (even if well-intentioned) add an immense amount of “stuff” to be done before, during, and after the so-called patient encounter. While we prize innovation and the rewards of a free society, egregious exploitation of American healthcare consumers by industry seems to be getting worse and fuels demands for significant change. The EpiPen disgrace from the Pennsylvania company Mylan is only one of the many recent examples of human elements gone bad [JAMA 316:1439, 2016]. Why call out that one bad example among so many? My reason is simply that Mylan has made themselves such an easy target because they have been so sociopathically greedy.

Our urology silo has been a good one locally and internationally, by and large. This is evident now in the midst of the residency selection process wherein we advocate for our particular training program in Ann Arbor, our specialty having attracted many of the best and brightest of this year’s senior medical students. My colleague and friend Mike Mitchell once called urology (pediatric urology, in particular) “a lovely specialty.” We practice at the cutting edge of technology, we improve patient lives, we fix things that are broken, we have the gift of long relationships with patients, and we generally get along well within our professional arena. As a medical student and resident myself, years ago, the attributes and role models of urology attracted me into the field – and these features of our profession continue to attract the superb students and residents to follow us.

Healthcare is changing and the urology of tomorrow will differ from what I experienced in my career. We have already transitioned from roles as independent urologists such as that of our predecessors Hugh Cabot, Reed Nesbit, and Jack Lapides. Our work to educate, treat patients, and expand the knowledge base of urology requires subspecialization and teams, large teams that transcend clinics, offices, department, and operating rooms. The complexity of science, technology, and healthcare delivery made this change inevitable, with marketplace pressures and regulatory actions accelerating change. The fee-for-service that largely defined health care over the past century is being rapidly displaced by alternate payment methodology, with a sharp focus on value and performance in play today. These were vague terms in health care until recently. Value and performance metrics in other endeavors have achieved growing visibility, so we shouldn’t be surprised to find them crossing over into health care. Michael Lewis’s Moneyball brought these terms to popular attention for baseball in 2014, with the movie in 2011, and healthcare was bound to follow. No doubt some sense of player value governed Theo Epstein in breaking the curses of the Red Sock and Chicago Cubs with their World Series droughts of 86 and 108 years, although it’s unlikely he discovered a novel set of useful metrics.

 

 

Eight.

Value & performance. A paper in JAMA last month demands attention. Vivian Lee et al from the University of Utah offered an original investigation with the lengthy title “Implementation of a value-driven outcomes program to identify high variability in clinical costs and outcomes and association with reduced cost and improved quality.” [JAMA 2016; 316(10): 1061-1072] A matching opinion piece in the same issue by Michael Porter and Thomas Lee offered glowing support: “From volume to value in health care”. [JAMA 2016; 316 (10): 1047-1048] While it is clear that value and performance measures will be tools to replace the American fee-for-service paradigm, the details in the Utah study are important, in particular the idea of an “opportunity index” that allows healthcare teams to understand their costs and develop lean processes that improve not just costs, but also quality, safety, and that once-vague attribute value. If leading health care centers believe in a world of value-based healthcare, such a world surely can be created. That world, however, will largely be built on the special skills of specialties and the complex teams of future medicine, wherein urologists with their singular skill sets that will likely always be prized.

 

 

Nine.

Stainless steel, eggs, & sperm. Innovation is a fundamental characteristic of biology, and randomness is always in play. At the cellular level we see innovation from the random errors of genetic transcription and the utilitarian retention of the changes in these DNA sequences when they provide a particular advantage, so one could argue that random chance lies behind all things that happen. Choice, however, somehow slips into play with life. Even low levels of cellular organization make choices and, by extension purposefully innovate in their lives. Nematodes (round worms) and flatworms, such as C. elegans and planaria, seek comfort and food as they move above their microcosms to discover opportunities or deterrents. Their actions are purposeful with deliberate directional choices as opposed to random Brownian motion. Each move is original in its own way, exploring new territory or retreating from threats. In the larger animal kingdom we see choice in behaviors of vertebrates, and hominids have taken choice and innovation to entirely new levels.

One hundred years ago Harry Brearley figured out a way to improve the quality and value of gun barrels. Gun performance deteriorated quickly after use because of barrel corrosion from moisture and gases after combustion, so Brearley considered variety of additives to create steel alloys with better resistance and found chromium most effective. This was already being used in the manufacture of steel for airplane engines, but one particular variant alloy had been difficult to examine microscopically because the etching processes used to prepare the samples for examination were far less effective than usual. The corrosion resistance problem for engine manufacturing proved to be a solution for gunsmiths.

Human innovation continues to advance even more remarkably. At our recent Nesbit meeting, Sherman Silber (Nesbit 1973) presented innovative work in reproductive medicine showing how pluripotent stem cells derived from skin cells can create eggs and sperm with full reproductive potential in normal mice.

 

 

Ten.              

jiffy-silos

Silos. Silos are disparaged glibly in modern organizational discourse, but we owe them better appreciation. Some silos are storage vaults for coal, cement, or salt while others are biologic factories. Grain elevators, for example, store and ferment grain to produce silage for animal feed. Early farmers figured this out, probably noticing it by accident. After harvesting, clover, alfalfa, oats, rye, maize, or ordinary grasses are compressed in a closed space and after a brief aerobic phase, when trapped oxygen is consumed, anaerobic fermentation by desirable lactic acid bacteria begins to convert sugars to acids. Volatile fatty acids (acetic, lactic, butyric) are natural preservatives, lowering pH and creating a hostile environment for competing bacteria. Some microorganisms in the process produce vitamins such as folic acid or B12. Ever since the early days of farming indigenous microorganisms conducted successful fermentation, although modern farms utilize select strains of lactic acid bacteria or other microorganisms more efficiently. Because fermentation produces products that bacteria consume silage has less caloric content than the original forage, but the tradeoff is worthwhile due to the preservation and improved digestibility.

Thinking about silos, it seemed natural to take a trip to Chelsea, Michigan where the family-operated Chelsea Milling Company has been making baking mixes since 1930. Mabel White Holmes created the first prepared baking mix in the United States and her grandson, Howdy Holmes, presently runs this company of 300 employees producing 1.6 million boxes of products daily. Mabel White Holmes originally marketed her biscuit mix as “so easy even a man could do it” and Jiffy Mix with its memorable blue logo became one of America’s classic brands. Chelsea Milling makes and markets 19 mixes distributed to all 50 states and 32 countries. The Jiffy Mix corporate philosophy is employee-centric, much like Zingerman’s Community of Businesses and (we believe) the Department of Urology at the University of Michigan in the recognition of how silos build a community. The Jiffy Mix silos provide dry storage for wheat, while the people that work at the company provide the fermentation that makes and innovates superior products within a lean culture of thoughtful communication and collaborative decision-making. This is biologic castling.

wh-balcony

[Next occupant?]

Whether for storage of salt or biofactories for silage, silos are ultimately useful only when working together as parts of farms and communities. This an analogy holds true in the political arena, where consensus is as important as victory. Our national and international communities suffer from self-righteous siloism. Current political rhetoric lacks dignity and respect to the point of ugliness, although the most corrosive disrespect is the a priori claim that the American political system is rigged, whether by one party, the media, or another nation. It is nonsense to be outraged that other countries are into our emails and elections – that’s exactly what we do as a nation and indeed it is the business of large nations to gather intelligence on competitors and get a thumb on the scales when possible. If our candidates say foolish things and our firewalls are weak then we should own the blame. With 4 days to our next national elections, this incivility of discourse is a short slippery slope to civil instability, which will not be good for anyone. The effect on healthcare will consequential and international scientific media as influential as The Lancet have taken the unprecedented step of hosting a US Election 2016 website: www.thelancet.com/USElection2016.  Aside from parochial concerns such as healthcare, ultimately what will matter most for all of us on the planet after November 8 will be financial market and geopolitical stability – all other concerns pale in comparison.

leaves

[October driveway]

 

David A. Bloom

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Matula Thoughts June 3, 2016

DAB What’s New/Matula Thoughts June 3, 2016

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 3659 words

Periodic explanation: What’s New is a weekly email communication from the University of Michigan Department of Urology. Most Fridays it is distributed internally to faculty, residents, and staff, dealing with operational specifics, personnel, and programs of the department, but on the first Friday of the month it is general in scope as “a chair’s perspectives” and is distributed more widely to alumni and friends of the department. The website (blog) version is matulathoughts.org.

 

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One.          Springtime & Montie. Spring declared itself in Ann Arbor early last month when flowers, shrubs, and trees began to wake up from the winter, while many Michigan urologists headed out to San Diego for the national meeting of the American Urological Association. There Jim Montie received the Lifetime Achievement Award, a distinguished honor for a great career.

[Picture above: NCRC trees waking up near the Keller Laboratory; below: kudos to Jim Montie]

JM Award

Michigan Urology owes much to Jim who took the helm during a turbulent era of our Section of Urology in the Department of Surgery in 1997. He stabilized our unit without disturbing its essential deliverable of kind and excellent patient-centered care while standing solidly for the other key parts of our academic mission, education, and research. Jim led our Section of Urology to departmental status and became inaugural chair in 2001. As a world-class clinician and surgeon his reputation is unsurpassed. Jim’s foresight in recognizing the potential for health services research in urology and his courage in “betting the farm” on it within our new department led to our key position in academic urology today. This is a good year for Montie awards, as Jim will also be receiving the UM 2016 MICHR Distinguished Clinical and Translational Research Mentor Award.

Montie, Straffon

Above you see Jim in an older picture with his own mentor, Ralph Straffon (Nesbit 1959), another great Michigan Urologist. Ralph, also honored by the AUA during his lifetime, became President of the American College of Surgeons and led the Cleveland Clinic to its excellence.

 

 

Two.          AUA & Nesbit. The national meeting of the American Urological Association is an annual ritual that mixes science, technology, networking, and reunions to the general advantage of our field of urology and to the public it serves. Our Department of Urology figured prominently at the meeting this year with over 120 presentations by faculty, residents, and fellows. Additional work produced by our Nesbit alumni at large and former students nearly doubled that number. The MUSIC reception on Saturday highlighted productive collaborations of urologists throughout Michigan and regionally that have measurably improved urologic practice. Envisioned by Montie and led in turn by John Wei, Brent Hollenbeck, David Miller, and now Khurshid Ghani, the collaborative is an international model for medical practice improvement, centered where it should be centered – at the professional level. This lean process approach has been generously funded by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan.

MUSIC 16

[MUSIC Collaborators: Khurshid Guru of Roswell Park, DAB, Jim Peabody of Henry Ford, Ahmed Aly of Roswell Park]

Our Nesbit Reception on Sunday evening hosted 130 alumni, faculty, residents, and friends of Michigan Urology from Sapporo, Japan to Copenhagen, Denmark. We additionally were pleased to see chairs from other departments of urology in this country including Joel Nelson from Pittsburgh, Mani Menon from Henry Ford Hospital, Marty Sanda from Emory, and Tom Stringer from Gainesville, Florida (former chair). Three father-son urology pairs attended our event – Ian & Robert McLaren, Len (Nesbit 1980) & Jack Zuckerman (currently at Portsmouth Naval Hospital), and Mike and Michael Kozminski (Nesbit 1989, 2016). In spirit we thought of Carl Van Appledorn (Nesbit 1972 who passed away last month) and his son Scott, a urologist in practice in Kirkland, Washington. Another urology family attended the Nesbit reception – Kate Kraft and her uncle Kersten Kraft (a urologist trained at Stanford and in practice in the San Jose area). Kersten coincidentally is a relative of Norm Hodgson (Nesbit 1958), a great pediatric urology pioneer who practiced in Milwaukee. Other UM Michigan urology pairs, not in San Diego this year, include Cheng-Yang and Ted Chang (Nesbit 1967 & 1996), Marc & David Taub (Nesbit 1971 & 2006),  the late L. Paul Sonda II & his son Paul Sonda III (Paul II finished urology under Lapides at Wayne County Hospital in 1962, Paul III Nesbit 1978), and of course Reed Nesbit and son-in-law Roy Correa (Nesbit 1965).

McLarens

[Above: Bob & Ian McLaren, below: Len & Jack Zuckerman]

Zuckermans


Jens, Dana

[Above: Tim Miller (London, UK), Jens Sönksen (Nesbit 1996), Jim Dupree (faculty), Dana Ohl (Nesbit 1987).

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Below: Miriam Hadj-Moussa (Nesbit 2016), Quentin Clemens (Nesbit 2000), Lindsey Cox (Nesbit 2015), Irene Makovey (Cleveland Clinic), Yahir Santiago-Lastra (fellow, Nesbit 2016)]

 

 

Three.    Corrections & kudos. Like me, you are likely deluged by email, electronic feeds, newsletters, and blogs so you necessarily pick and choose what you attend to with the slow thinking part of your brain (to use terminology of Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2011). I am thankful that this monthly column, What’s New/Matula Thoughts, has found a loyal readership to inspect these words in detail and catch me up for inaccurate claims. My friend John Barry is one of those who keep me on my toes. After my mention of Joe Murray in our March edition (with reference to the history of human renal transplantation and my old teacher Will Goodwin), John referred me to a historical paper in the Journal of Urology he authored with Joe Murray in 2006 [Barry & Murray. The first renal transplants. J. Urol. 176:888, 2006]

Reading this paper I learned that the first human kidney transplantation was performed in 1933 by Yu Yu Voronoy in the Ukraine, although the outcome was not good. Other attempts followed in Boston, Chicago, and Paris, but the first long term success was achieved by Joe Murray along with Hartwell Harrison and their team in Boston in 1954. Total body irradiation improved subsequent results, followed by pharmacological immunosuppression. Goodwin was the first to use glucocorticoids to reverse rejection. The transplantation story is clearly more complicated than I thought.

Barry & Parry

[Two notable urologists: Parry & Barry]

John Barry (R) is shown above with Bill Parry (L), one of the great statesmen and historians of urology. Bill Parry had a distinguished urologic career in Oklahoma. Many paths in the history of worldwide urology trace back to Michigan and accordingly Bill credits William Valk (Nesbit 1943) for significant mentorship. Valk went on from Michigan to become Chair of Urology at the University of Kansas and served as President of the American Board of Urology. I recall Valk’s name from correspondence at the time I was getting my board certification. Valk spent six years in Ann Arbor amidst the heyday of BPH as the index disease of urology and TURP was its signature procedure.  Reed Nesbit and Ann Arbor were the international epicenter of prostate expertise. Things change in medicine and the TURP is giving way to other modalities (including the histotripsy method of Will Roberts and his team). Renal transplantation, once a core part of urology’s domain, remains so only at a few centers today including UCLA and Portland, Oregon where John Barry, former chair, is a rare urologist with a strong presence in that realm.

 

 

Four.

Pythagoras

[Pythagoras, contemplating his idea: by Peter Fischli & David Weiss, Swiss artists recently exhibited at the Guggenheim]

History. Written history is ultimately a matter of finding clarity from evidence and out of critical analysis of anecdotal stories. New information improves the historical interpretation of events and is an important part of ongoing scholarly investigation that sharpens the rigor and truth of any field. Knowing the past adds meaning to today and gives perspective to the challenges of tomorrow.

Mathematics, for example, is best understood from the perspective of the stories of people, from Pythagoras, to Euclid, to Newton, to Fermat, etc. Whether Newton’s apple was a real event, a thought experiment, or a wild speculation may never be known unless some evidence turns up from a discovered letter, a diary, genetic evidence of an apple orchard at the site of Newton’s garden, or a time machine. The story of urology is also incomplete, but is rapidly evolving from the days of Hippocrates’ admonition against cutting for stone to the latest chapter of robotic prostatectomy. All stories bear re-inspection and who, after all, is better equipped to do the scholarly inspection than those participants with knowledge of each story? Historical inquiry is a fundamental part of the scholarship of all disciplines.

 

 

Five.          Change is in the air. A recent paper called Injurious Inequalities, by David Rosner of Columbia University, caught my attention with the statement: The close relationship between a nation’s physical health and its economic and political health has been a central tenant of statecraft since the rise of the mercantile economy in the 18th century. [D. Rosner. Milbank Quarterly 94:47, 2016] On more levels than easily counted, politics and health are closely linked. Today’s public is uneasy and change is in the air. Of course change is what elections are about, but this time the issues and consequences of their resolution seem more substantive. Change was in the air around the time of the Arab Spring, yet humanity doesn’t seem to have benefited from the resulting change. Certainly the sum total of human happiness is no greater since that springtime. Stability may not be relished by the populace, but it seems preferable to unbounded terrorism, genocide, massive waves of immigration, and erosion of national borders.

When I was a youngster, learning to spell, the rumor on the streets of my pre-adolescent peers was that the longest word in the English language was antidisestablishmentarianism. Being a nerd back then, it was somewhat of a rite of passage to know that fact and to be able to spell the word. Probably our language has longer words and, anyway, nerds today define themselves digitally. Antidisestablishmentarians seem to be a rare breed currently, or perhaps disestablishmentarians are barking louder today in political conversation directed at taking down establishments, an ambition that seems rather anti- conservative.

Antidisestablishmentarianism has roots in 19th century Britain, developing as a political position opposing liberal proposals to disestablish the Church of England as state church for England, Ireland, and Wales. The word now refers to any general opposition to those who would disestablish government, public programs, or other established parts of society.

 

 

Six.       Germinal ideas. Sometimes disestablishmentarianism is the right thing. Recently these pages discussed Holmes, Semmelweis, and Lister with reference to the germ theory, an essential building block in the modern conceptual basis of health care. Many authorities of the time not only were nonbelievers, but  became vehement antisepsis-deniers.  Amazingly, incomplete appreciation of the reality of germ theory is still evident in the under-utilization of genuine handwashing, covering coughs, or sneezing into handkerchiefs. The setting for Semmelweis, at the University of Vienna, is an illuminating case study. The late Sherwin Nuland, surgeon and faculty member at Yale and friend to many here at the University of Michigan wrote about this in his introduction to a modern translation of Semmelweis’s book.

“The University of Vienna, most particularly its medical school, was a hotbed of revolutionary activity. The uprisings of 1848 were strongly supported by the younger faculty members, largely because the university was under stifling control of government ministries. Some of the major positions at the school were held by professors who were old in years and who owed their power to close connections with those very same bureaucrats. They became arrayed against the younger faculty whose liberal policies and new ideas in research and pathophysiology they opposed.” [Nuland in Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever by Semmelweis. Classics of Medicine Library. Birmingham, 1981. P. xvi.]

The ideas of Semmelweis, embraced by only a few of his mentors and colleagues, were perceived by the establishment as threatening. Nuland frames this as a conflict between “the flow of true understanding of pathophysiology versus the fuzzy theoretics of nonscientific medicine.” The younger crowd in Vienna embraced the new idea that puerperal fever was transmissible. Semmelweis made the proper and seminal distinction that childbed fever is a transmissible but not a contagious disease.

Semmelweis had been an upstart outsider in the eyes of established senior colleagues who controlled appointments and when his appointment as assistant in obstetrics expired in March of 1849 it was not renewed. Younger colleagues (Rokitansky, Skoda, and Hebra) spoke on for his idea and ultimately coaxed the authorities to allow Semmelweis to speak about his work and urged Semmelweis to give a talk at the Vienna Medical Society. This happened on 15 May 1850, although Semmelweis didn’t submit written remarks. Accordingly the speech, first public record of his idea, was only recorded as an abstract in the minutes of the society. Nonetheless Semmelweis must have been somewhat persuasive and he was offered a minor clinical appointment. This must have offended him, however, and he abandoned Vienna and his supporters abruptly in October of 1850. The Etiology was not published until 1860 and Semmelweis died in 1865.

 

 

Seven.

Poppy field

Poppy fields. One free afternoon during a recent meeting in Texas, Martha, Linda Shortliffe, and I visited the LBJ Ranch north of San Antonio and west of Austin. Remembering the LBJ presidency, but hardly a student of the era, I was surprised to realize the shortness of LBJ’s terms, somewhat over 400 days in total, and equally surprised to learn that Johnson spent a quarter of that time at his ranch, requiring a large entourage of support. A poppy field nearby (shown above) caught our “fast-brain attentions” and we pulled over for slow-brain inspection. I recalled two other poppy fields. One, you too might remember, was  in The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. The original text in 1900 portrayed the vapors from the poppy field as enticing fatal sleep – and only narrowly did Dorothy and her companions escape.

WizardofOz_poppies

In the 1939 film the 5 travelers were lulled into temporary sleep that allowed nasty flying monkeys to carry them off to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Poppies 2010

The other poppy field I recalled was real in Normandy, France in 2010. Intending to visit the famous beaches and other sites of WWII, we came across a large poppy field on the mainland from which I first viewed Mont Sainte-Michel, floating a short distance offshore. The Normandy poppies although sparser than we would see in Texas 6 years later were equally stunning. [I took the picture, below, with my Blackberry camera phone, which could hold little more than a few dozen pictures].

Field notes: The poppy is a flowering plant in the Papaveraceae family according to the binomial system of Linneaus, who was far better known for his botanic studies than for his short career as a proto-urologist in early 18th century Stockholm .

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 5.05.23 PM

[Robert Berks sculpture of Linnaeus, Chicago Botanic Garden. Taken May 23, 2009]

The species, aptly named Papaver somniferous, is the source for well-known medicinal and “recreational” alkaloids, in particular opium and morphine. Poppy seeds, edible and tasty, lack the narcotic factor and are also a source of poppy seed oil. The poppy fields of Flanders became terrible places of trench warfare during WWI and perhaps for that reason poppies, like rosemary, are a symbol of remembrance around Memorial Day.

 

 

Eight.        Memorial Day & sad transitions.

Earlier this week (May 30) we paused at Memorial Day. You may recall that Memorial Day was first celebrated in 1868 as Decoration Day in memory of soldiers who died in the Civil War, although it was only celebrated in the north until 1890. After WWI the holiday honored the memory of all Americans who died in wars, and in a cosmopolitan sense it also reminds me of anyone who dies in service to their fellow man or those who die from the disservice of their fellows. Memorial Day reminds me, too, of the waste of war, some wars being sadly virtuous while others are failures of diplomacy and excesses of greed, tribalism, and stupidity.

The federal holiday was traditionally celebrated on May 30, whatever day of the week that happened to be. In 1968 the Uniform Holidays Bill created 3-day holiday weekends, with the last Monday of May assigned to Memorial Day.

Most acutely, Memorial Day reminds me of friends gone by such as Carl Van Appledorn (Nesbit 1972) last month, and last year Gordon McLorie, Tom Shumaker, Bill Steers, and Adrian Wheat, a career Army surgeon and expert on Civil War medicine.

cerny

[Above: Joe Cerny, Carl, Cheng-Yang Chang. Below Gordon, Tom & Sharon Shumaker, Bill Steers, Adrian Wheat]

Gordon

Tom & Sharon 2013 copy

Steers

Adrian

 

 

Nine.         Good transitions. This year 4 anchors of the Urology Department are moving on to great new phases of their careers.

Gary F

Gary Faerber is in Salt Lake City with a terrific urology team at the University of Utah where his wife Kathy Cooney is the new chair of internal medicine at the University of Utah. Gary will be returning to us for quarterly clinics at our Hamilton FQHC in Flint.

Lee, Cheryl

Cheryl Lee will become chair of urology at Ohio State, an opportunity not only for a new challenge, but also a chance to get her family in the same city as her husband’s twin and his family. She will be a loss not only for us in the Urology Department, but also for our Dean’s Office where she has been managing the Office of Career Development for the Medical School.

Oldendorf

Our irreplaceable Ann Oldendorf is retiring. No one can sort out a complex UTI or deal with complex neurourological dysfunction such as seen with interstitial cystitis with more expertise, patience, and kindness than Ann. Our PA Gayle Adams will be picking up some of that work, but Ann was a unique talent.

Wolfs

Stuart Wolf will be moving to Austin, Texas, and we have had a long “heads-up’, as this has been a planned family transition. He will be in on the organizational stages of a new medical school as Associate Chair for Clinical Integration and Operations of the Department of Surgery and Perioperative Care at the Dell Medical School of the University of Texas at Austin.

Austin, Columbus, and Salt Lake City are lucky to get these extraordinary medical talents and superb Michigan people. We will be honoring all 4 faculty at the autumn Nesbit Society Dinner here in Ann Arbor, and hope for a large turnout of alumni and friends.

 

 

Ten.       Graduation, JOW, & predictions.

JOW

Medical school graduation last month in Ann Arbor featured our former dean, Jim Woolliscroft as speaker. You can see a video clip of the lovely event. Jim’s speech offered 7 lessons for the graduates that are well-worth repeating:

  • Recognize and respect your good fortune that medicine is an inherently meaningful profession.
  • Patients are not clients – you are not service providers but professionals who share an ancient responsibility to those you serve.
  • Yours is a healing profession, not primarily a curing profession. Cure is not always possible, but your presence can be valued just as much.
  • Recognize the individuality of patients. The experiences, comorbidities, and expectations of each is unique. (Jim recalled a patient who taught him that no single patient has, for example, a 20% chance of an outcome or complication – for that patient the chance is zero or 100%).
  • Making the correct diagnosis is important – don’t jump to conclusions based on what you are familiar with or what’s in your toolkit.
  • Maintain curiosity and awe of the infinite variety of the human condition. From here on, your patients and your colleagues will be your teachers.
  • Take care of yourself and your relationships. Make time to reflect.

I especially liked Jim’s fourth lesson and the predictive bearing of statistics on the individual patient. Yogi Berra, in better words than mine, said that predictions are unpredictable. Four years ago, when we were in the midst of another presidential election season, change was also in the air and predictions were no better then than they are today. Jim’s next three points, culminating with reflection, will help your inquiry and critical thinking lead you out of the poppy fields to the right choices of antidisestablishment or disestablishment.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 8.52.34 AM

[Taken from my TV October 22, 2012]

If anyone had asked a year ago for predictions of probable high profile medical topics one year hence (i.e., now) Flint, Michigan and the Zika virus would not been at the top of any lists. Yet these topics figure prominently today’s nightly news, daily papers, and top medical journals. Zika, a Flavivirus that injects a single RNA strand into the host cells, was recently discovered to cause acute myelitis, Guillain-Barre, macular atrophy, and microcephaly, for a start. A bite from an infected mosquito (daytime active Aedes aegypti or A. albopictus) gives you a one in five chance of getting the viral infection with headaches, maculopapular rash, fever, malaise, conjunctivitis, and joint or back pains. (Yes, that’s only a 20% chance, but when it’s you that gets the bite it’s all or nothing.) Vaccines are on the way, but until then all you can prescribe is rest and symptomatic treatment. Zika is also spread from mother to fetus, as well as sexually.

As for water security – a single April issue of The Lancet contained articles on toxic water in Flint [The Lancet 387:1499, 2016] and Bangladesh [The Lancet 387:1484, 2016]. These stories are neither random nor coincidental, but part of the growing collective evidence of environmental deterioration and climatic instability. Such issues occupy some of our attention today, but will likely dominate much of the attention of our successors.

So what might we predict for the hot topics one year hence? I would put a major bet down that climatic heat will be a key feature of some of them.

Meanwhile, to help cope with daily change and challenges, good advice  comes from the display labeled HOW TO WORK BETTER at the Guggenheim Museum in the exhibit mentioned above by Swiss Artists Peter Fischli & David Weiss.

DO ONE THING AT A TIME

KNOW THE PROBLEM

LEARN TO LISTEN

LEARN TO ASK QUESTIONS

DISTINGUISH SENSE FROM NONSENSE

ACCEPT CHANGE AS INEVITABLE

ADMIT MISTAKES

SAY IT SIMPLE

BE CALM

SMILE

Shortliffe poppies

[Texas Hill Country poppy field. Linda Shortliffe, 2016]

 

Postscript: July 21 (Thursday at 5PM) Chang lecture on Art & Medicine: Don Nakayama, pediatric surgeon, will speak about his unexpected discovery in the Diego Rivera Murals. July 22 9 AM Duckett Lecture in pediatric urology – Caleb Nelson and Lapides Lecture – Bart Grossman.

David A. Bloom

University of Michigan, Department of Urology, Ann Arbor

Matula Thoughts May 6, 2016

DAB What’s New May 6, 2016

Matula Thoughts Logo2

(3948 words)

 

Carl

Carl Van Appledorn, friend, Nesbit alumnus, and colleague, passed away last week. Carl trained under Jack Lapides and fulfilled an illustrious career as a superb urologist and beloved physician at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. He spent a mini sabbatical in pediatric urology in Cambridge, England working with Bob Whitaker and when I came to Ann Arbor, Carl welcomed me most generously although I was “the competition.” We talked periodically about patients and I admired his work and gracious manner. As a University of Michigan and Nesbit alumnus, he supported his alma mater to the hilt. Later in his career Carl and his wife Sue developed an interest in international health for the underserved and they focused their attention in Ghana. Among other efforts, they facilitated care for a youngster with bladder exstrophy whom they brought to Ann Arbor and Mott Children’s Hospital with his mom for reconstructive surgery by John Park. The Van Appledorns generously created an endowment between the departments of Urology and OB/GYN for clinical and educational links to Ghana and the program is ongoing and growing. Carl’s passing is sad news indeed, but his name will carry on with his global program.

 

 

One.           May, at last.

May 2015

Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan Campus are especially lovely just now (shown above from the west side of the Cardiovascular Center last year). Cold days and wintry mixes are over and we are primed for spring. May brings, among other things, academic commencements, watershed moments when change is in the air. Last month in this column we referred to a commencement address by President John F. Kennedy at American University in 1963, for its relevance to environmental stewardship.
With Cuba “back” in the news recently, Kennedy’s speech is also relevant at a geopolitical level. In the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, when a showdown with the Soviet Union took us very close to the brink of nuclear war, Kennedy knew that world security was precariously dependent on constructive dialogue with our adversaries and his commencement address, called Strategy for Peace, helped turn the tide of the escalating confrontation and ushered in an improved era of diplomacy. A cautionary phrase from the speech is worth repeating again this month: “For in the final analysis, 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 futures. And we are all mortal.”                             Thanks to the Internet, you can scour the world for notable commencement speeches, that while typically forgotten in the momentary excitement of most graduates and families, are retained the collective human memory of newspapers, libraries, and YouTube clips. An NPR web site (npr.org) lists 354 of The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever.

 

 

Two.           Significant speeches.
Even when unconnected to graduations, speeches may open opportunity for commencement of a new idea, if an audience picks up on it.
Around this time of year in 1850, May 15 to be exact, a young physician Ignaz Semmelweis gave a talk to the Imperial Viennese Society of Physicians urging physicians at Vienna General Hospital to clean their hands when they went to the delivery room. Animal experiments and clinical observation, coupled with a mentor’s death after an autopsy wound in 1847, convinced him that childbed fever was due to contaminating agents. His clinical experiment showed that the simple act of hand rinsing in chlorine markedly decreased the high incidence and fatality of childbirth sepsis in his hospital. While not a commencement speech, his talk might have commenced a new era in health care, but few in Semmelweis’s audience accepted the idea. (Our colleague at Michigan and current editor of Milbank Quarterly, Howard Markel, presented a discussion of this on PBS News Hour last year and John Park recently referred to it in his Mott Children’s Hospital blog.)
The same opportunity had been missed seven years before the Semmelweis speech when Oliver Wendell Holmes advanced the contagiousness concept at an evening scientific meeting of the Boston Society for Medical Improvement, yet the idea gained no traction. In 1867 Joseph Lister working in Glasgow wrote 2 papers in The Lancet that conclusively showed how antiseptic techniques converted the universal fatality of open fractures into probable survival, yet colleagues again failed to accept the idea. Listerian antiseptic methods were first only appreciated by German physicians and the idea diffused slowly back to England and the rest of the world over the next 20-30 years. Even today, we could do a better job of regular handwashing (actual washing, rather than “Purell” propaganda, in vogue today).
Failure of commencement of the ideas of Holmes, Semmelweis, and Lister is another cautionary tale for us today. A quote on a cover of The Lancet several years ago sums it up well: “The most entrenched conflict of interest in medicine today is a disinclination to reverse a previous opinion.” [Yudkin, Richter, Gale. Lancet 377:1220-1221, 2011.] While academic health centers have self-righteously implemented stern conflict of interest policies, we seem oblivious to the proven fact that it is not the ballpoint pen with drug company logos or the pizza from surgical suppliers at grand rounds that we have to fear, rather it is our own prejudices that close our minds to new ideas.

 

 

Three.           UMMS graduation.

Cropsey copy

[Above: University of Michigan Medical School. c. 1850. Cropsey painting.]

This month the UMMS will graduate its 166th class of medical students. Back in 1850, when Semmelweis spoke to an unreceptive audience in Vienna and cattle grazed in front of the Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s first M.D.s were about to go out to independent general practices in a world quite different than today. What inspired those students to study medicine then is a matter of conjecture for us now, but it is likely that role models, the ability to help people, the respectability of the occupation, and perhaps some attraction to body of knowledge of human disease, were motivational factors.
Those same motivational factors are at play for our class of 2016 about to graduate, but newer attractions such as the magic of health care science and technology, cures for cancer, and surgical wizardry including robotics, lure many of young people to medicine now. Some students are also inspired by deep personal and family health care experiences.
What is also different now from the 19th century is that after graduation nearly the entire class of 2016 will continue further formal education in residency training for 3-10 additional years before they are ready for independent work in one of nearly 150 areas of focused practice.
While the curriculum and conceptual basis of medical practice have changed enormously, the spirit of professionalism and necessity of continuous learning through experience, reason, and study have remained constant. Medical school and residency training are now just a start. Even back in 1850 medical societies and professional journals played key parts in what we now call professional development. Students and physicians, even more readily today, travel to distant sites of expertise to improve knowledge and skills. In today’s world, conferences, visiting professorships, and web-based educational programs intensify learning experiences as knowledge and technology accrue with dizzying speed.

UMHS

[UM Health System 2016]

 

 

Four.           Role models.

JOW & MJ

This picture shows former Dean, Jim Woolliscroft and former Interim EVPMA, Michael Johns, at Medical School Commencement several years ago. As of January 1 this year those two jobs have been rolled into one, namely Marschall Runge (seen below), an equally great role model for students, residents, and faculty.

MR

[Marschall at the Urology Retreat March, 2016 Michigan Union]
Jim will be our Medical School commencement speaker later this month and I’m sure he is focusing intensely on his remarks right around now. Our rich history at Michigan and the changing world of medical practice, education, and research may enter his speech, and I bet he will also have something to say about professionalism and the lifelong learning required of physicians today.
Role models often conflate into ideas and images of idealized doctors. Last month we contrasted Norman Rockwell’s idealization (shown below) to the crayon artistry of a 7-year old girl illustrating a clinic visit: the family is looking at the viewer while the physician is turned away facing the computer while dutifully documenting the encounter. In our brave new world of technology, computerized documentation is a poor surrogate for the essential transaction of the doctor-patient relationship. The classic role model of the attentive, kind, and expert physician will become only more highly prized and that should be the Michigan Difference in our medical graduates, trainees, and faculty.

Family Doc

It turns out that Rockwell’s idealized physician was an actual doctor named Donald Campbell and I learned this through Maria Muller of our development office, who wrote me after she read Matula Thoughts in March, that Dr. Campbell was the grandfather of a friend of hers.

1989 -- Stockbridge, MA: Dr. Donald E. Campbell, model for artist Norman Rockwell's illustrations, smiling, walking arm in arm with his daughters (L) Jeanie Campbell Jones and (R) Bonny Campbell Flower, who holds her daughter Hana. (Photo by Steve Liss/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)

[1989 — Stockbridge, MA: Dr. Donald E. Campbell, model for artist Norman Rockwell’s illustrations, smiling, walking arm in arm with his daughters (L) Jeanie Campbell Jones and (R) Bonny Campbell Flower, who holds her daughter Hana. (Photo by Steve Liss/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images)]

         Campbell was Rockwell’s neighbor in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and for many years the sole regional physician, charging $2 for an office visit and $3 for a house call. Born in 1906, Campbell was educated as a physician and married, in time fathering 4 daughters. He retired at 83 just after making his last house call in 1989 and died in Stockbridge at 95 on May 14, 2001. [New York Times article May 16, 2001. Photo via Getty Images for a payment of $150]

 

 

Five.           Three stories.
After residency training at UCLA I went on to obligated military service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center under Ray Stutzman and David McLeod, enjoying my time so much that I stayed for an additional 2 years, leaving when Ray retired from the Army to join Patrick Walsh at Johns Hopkins. Dave is still in uniform in Washington.

Stutzman, DAB, McLeod

[McLeod, Bloom, Stutzman at USUHS]
At Walter Reed I re-encountered an older friend of my family who was working at its Institute of Research (WRAIR). This distinguished physician became my patient, in fact his was the last radical prostatectomy that I performed in an adult. Long gone now, he told me at the time that it had been his idea to create the weekly section in JAMA called A Piece of My Mind. How accurate this claim is I have no way to know, but without reason to doubt him I’ve been regularly attached to this column and frequently refer to its essays. Three recent ones are of particular interest.
  What Now? What Next? was written by a pulmonologist and medical intensivist at the University of Pennsylvania who became a patient in his own ICU and discovered, in the experience, that the current idea of shared decision making with acutely ill patients, especially on an a-la-carte basis (formal consents for central lines, transfusion, hyperalimentation, etc.) may be ill-advised: “I think we should bundle consent for the acute phase of intensive rescue. … Whether on a ski slope or battlefield, or in an emergency department, operating room, or intensive care unit, the foundation of respect for patient autonomy lies not in multiple permissions and consents, but rather in mutual understanding and trust. In the context of acute critical care – once the goals of care are clearly defined – we clinicians (thankfully, I am one of ‘us’ again) should not substitute asking permission at every step for the hard and time-consuming effort of earning trust.” [J. Hansen-Flaschen. JAMA 315:755-756, 2016]
The second essay, The Unreasonable Patient, came from a palliative care physician at the University of Pittsburgh and discusses a man in his early 50s with metastatic prostate cancer. At a terminal point in his life the patient, Walt, was viewed by the health care team as “unreasonable.” The author writes: It turned out that Walt wasn’t ‘unreasonable’ – he just wasn’t completely understood. After getting to know him better – after sitting and taking the time to explore his emotions and concerns – it was clear that Walt knew what he wanted, but he needed information in a certain way. He needed a recommendation without ambiguity, and he needed someone to speak to him as Walt the Husband and the Mechanic, not Walt the Man with Prostate Cancer. [A. Thurston. JAMA. 315:657-658, 2016]
I had initially missed the third essay, until it was sent to me by an extraordinary applicant to our OB/GYN residency. Caiyun Liao is an MD/ MPH doing research at Johns Hopkins and I got to know her through our Nesbit alumnus Sherman Silber. The article is called A Place to Stay and was written by Yale physician Bennett Clark. [JAMA 315:871, 2016] Clark shows how a patient taught him that what makes the hospital a hospitable place to live and die is “having people,” meaning having genuine human connections around him. This thought, expressed so much better by Clark than by me, circles back to Paul Kalanithi’s observation (last month’s Matula Thoughts) that, for many people, life’s meaning is found in their relationships and connections. These externalities bring meaning to our individuality.

 

 

Six.           Electronic journal club.
When I began this periodic essay for our Department of Urology, alumni, and friends in 2007 I thought it might serve as a sort of electronic journal club and I still harbor hopes that some readers will guest-edit a paragraph or entire issue to join me in this process. (What have you read that you want to tell the rest of us about?) These three articles from A Piece of My Mind are linked and offer much to consider.
Hansen-Flaschen’s observation as a patient in the ICU reflects a very particulate level of concern: My visual world reduced to the confines of a small room. The space was both familiar and foreign to me as I looked outward for the first time from the head of a hospital bed. There was both little and much to see. The clock showed the wrong date and time. The sink faucet dripped. Two ceiling tiles were stained by previous water leaks. The harsh overhead lighting cast yawning shadows that provoked my imagination. By comparison to Ebola wards in West Africa last year, the annoyances of inaccurate clocks, ceiling tiles, and dripping faucet are less compelling than the very matter of survival. Yet, in the industrialized world and most expensive health care system on the planet, I wonder why we can’t address these simple matters of hospitality. Our basic “hotel management” is too often inhospitable to patients. Even our newest hospitals can’t coordinate the clocks – why bother to have them if they’re correct only twice a day? Little things are important to patients and visitors, such as working elevator lights, paper towels in clean bathrooms, and general orderliness.
Another point to make comes from Thurston’s paper, when he said … after sitting and taking the time to explore his emotions and concerns… We use this phrase a lot – sitting down to talk and listen. Posture in space is not the point, this expression of speech conveys the idea that we are taking time (more time than might be usual or expected) by sitting down to listen and respond.

 

 

Seven.          Big questions.
Last month I asked you to consider what might be the big questions in health care and offered a short list with thoughts regarding the first question.
a.) What is health care?
b.) How should it be provided?
c.) How is it improved and how does innovation occur?
d.) How is it taught?
e.) How is it funded and how are escalating costs managed?
The second question follows naturally; if you consider all the things that comprise health care and then imagine the various avenues society can use to provide those things, you need to decide what health care goods every human in a society should have by right. Few could argue that clean air and water, food safety, prevention of communicable disease, along with maternal and pediatric care, are mandatory for everyone in a modern just society. So, too, is care for trauma or other general hazards of life.
At the other extreme, some services are purely discretionary – such as Botox for wrinkles or plastic surgery for facelifts. However, things get complicated because Botox for neurogenic bladder is sometimes very necessary, as is plastic surgery for craniofacial reconstruction. No insurance system or single payer system can reasonably satisfy the overall demand for health care – from the fetus to the end of life, the demand curve for health care and the therapeutic possibilities in our toolkit are growing relentlessly. A variety of systems and avenues are necessary, but wise choices need to be made and agreed upon as to what services are mandatory public goods, what services are discretionary, and what robust systems can provide these facets of health care.

 

 

Eight.           Harvey & hearts.

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Four hundred years ago William Harvey, the English physician we referred to last month, began a series of anatomy talks as Lumleian Lecturer at the Royal College of Physicians in London. By coincidence William Shakespeare died just the following week at Stratford-on-Avon. [JAMA 315:1524, 2016] Harvey continued to study and learn while he taught and practiced medicine and 12 years later, in 1628, published some extraordinary findings, cleverly introduced at the annual book fair in Frankfurt, Germany, to ensure wide publicity and dispersion. He offered a novel explanation for the systemic circulation based on the pumping of blood from the heart to the body and brain. The short title of the book was De Motu Cordis, but you will find it on Amazon as On the Motion of the Heart and Blood.
Harvey was on my mind last month since his birthday was on that entertaining first day of April, back in 1578. Those were dark times in Europe with civil wars, witchcraft persecution, and sectarian violence, but the spirit of inquiry and discovery was not quiescent. Francis Drake was circumnavigating the globe and European universities were holding their own, for the most part, nurturing ideas and preparing for the next generation that would include Harvey and other bright lights.
Harvey came to mind again when I read a review of a new novel called The Heart, by Maylis de Kerangal, a French writer. Being on the road at the time (visiting professor in Houston at Baylor) and intrigued by the review, I succumbed to the temptations of Amazon and ordered the book (apologies to local booksellers Literati and Nicola’s Books). The story takes place in a single 24-hour period, much like the Homeric Odyssey, but it happens in France when a 19-year old dies after a motor vehicle accident. The book runs from the instant the young man wakes up to join friends for morning surfing to the moment the team that transplanted his heart to an older woman leaves a Parisian operating room. The accident and subsequent transplantation of the heart involved many individuals, including the boy, parents, girlfriend, doctors and nurses in the rural hospital, transplant coordinators, transplant teams, and recipient in Paris. The victim and all these people have their own metaphorical “hearts” in terms of their feelings, motivations, and hopes. The personal tragedy, families, health care teams, and hope are all knitted together around a single human heart that transcends the story. The story is compelling, although the translation and a few technical details fall short. Urologists have a place in the story as the anchor positions in the operating room sequence of the multi-organ harvest.

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A final Piece of My Mind reference: Louise Wen’s article 2 weeks ago in JAMA, called Meeting the Organ Donor [JAMA. 315:1111, 2016]

 

 

Nine.
One of the pleasures of academic medicine is the chance to visit great centers of excellence and learn from them while teaching residents. I’ve done my share of these tours, and as my career winds down. I don’t expect to be doing many more, but recently enjoyed such a chance to visit Baylor Medical School and friends at Methodist Hospital. Fannin Boulevard in Houston is one of the world’s greatest constellations of health care assets, a tribute to the life and vision of the great cardiac surgeon, Michael DeBakey (1908-2008), role model to thousands of students, trainees, and colleagues. His surgical and educational contributions are unsurpassed in world-wide medicine. DeBakey’s knitting ranged from Dacron grafts to clinical, educational, and research institutions that resulted in the combination of Baylor Medical College, Methodist Hospital, St. Luke’s Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital, superb urology training programs at Baylor and the University of Texas Houston, Ben Taub Hospital, Hermann Hospital, Texas A&M programs, etc.
The balance was sadly disrupted by governance and leadership blunders, severing the cherished Baylor-Methodist bond. As a result Methodist Hospital of Houston, oddly now, has its academic affiliation with Cornell in Manhattan. The unfortunate story, well recounted in a weblink the residents sent me, could well have been our misfortune at Michigan as one of the perpetrators had been selected by a former UM president and Board of Regents to be our EVPMA, but withdrew in favor of a better deal from Baylor. [Weblink: courtesy Michael Brooks PGY 5 at Baylor- Article in Texas Monthly, March 2005, by M. Schwartz. https://shar.es/1CUXX5 The marriage of Baylor College of Medicine and Methodist Hospital should have been made in heaven—and until recently, it was. Their nasty breakup is a bell tolling for American medicine.]
In spite of the institutional breakup, urologists and their educational programs in Houston get along very well and gave me a great 3-day visit. Edmond T. Gonzales, Jr., the founder of pediatric urology in Houston, had been the first partner of Alan Perlmutter in Detroit. Edmund is a wonderful role model as a pediatric urologist, teacher, and leader. By a rare coincidence he, Ed McGuire, and Jean DeKernion had been on the same dormitory floor as young men in college together in New Orleans.

Baylor fac & DAB

[Above Baylor faculty; Below Baylor case conference. Edmond – top right]

Res Conf


Boone & Bloom

[Above: with Tim Boone. Below: two old friends now in Houston – David Roth chief of pediatric urology and former intern with me at UCLA, Brian Miles former resident with me at Walter Reed and later colleague at Henry Ford Hospital]

Roth & Miles


Chester

[Above: Chester Koh at robot performing pyeloplasty on pancake kidney in the Edmond Gonzales operating room. Below: Residents at dinner.]

Residents dinner

[Below: Michael DeBakey, museum photo]

220px-Michael_DeBakey

Harvey, DeBakey, and thousands of physiologists and physicians who followed have extracted increasingly detailed knowledge of the heart as a living physical entity, but it takes imaginative exploration of the heart’s metaphysicality, such as Maylis de Kerangal’s penetration of this realm, for complete understanding. Fiction thus builds a better understanding of reality.

 

 

Ten.           UMMS & Department of Urology Notes.
Since Jim Montie’s era as chair transitioned to mine in 2007, our department has grown with only modest attrition consisting of Humphrey Atiemo to the Henry Ford System, Jerilyn Latini to Alaska’s Indian Health Service, Dave Wood as CMO of the Beaumont Hospital System, and Jill Macoska as endowed professor at the University of Massachusetts. In terms of joint faculty we lost Ken Pienta to Johns Hopkins. This year, however, we lose four more of our best. Nevertheless, our fulltime faculty will nonetheless grow to around 40 after the loss of Gary Faerber and his wife Kathy Cooney to Salt Lake City (Kathy, our joint faculty member, became chair of Internal Medicine and Gary joined the urology team there), Cheryl Lee to become chair of urology at Ohio State, Stu Wolf to help form a new medical school of the University of Texas at Austin, and the irreplaceable Ann Oldendorf is retiring. On the plus side, Sapan Ambani, Casey Dauw, Priyanka Gupta, Chad Ellimoottil, Arvin George, and Sam Kaffenberger will join our faculty this summer and more candidates are in play for FY 17.
Why the growth? Several reasons: A.) Our 7 clinical divisions, although already robust, need more bench depth to accommodate our growing clinical needs and future faculty turn-over; B.) Increasing sub-specialization demands more people in areas of tightly focused practice; and C.) Our newly reorganized UM Health System needs a larger clinical footprint to sustain our educational programs and to remain relevant in the new paradigm of American health care.
Residency training programs learn from each other through the recurring interchanges of visiting professorships, national meetings, research collaborations, migrating students and trainees, etc. It is nonetheless healthy for programs to undergo more formal evaluations through internal reviews and external reviewers as we have done recently with Bradley Leibovich of the Mayo Clinic, Mark Litwin of UCLA, and Ed Sabanegh of the Cleveland Clinic. They were superbly analytical and very helpful.

Bradford, Carol

Most recent news: Carol Bradford, our chair of Otolaryngology, was named by Marschall Runge and the Regents as inaugural Executive Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, as the UMMS puts a new structural paradigm in place.

Thanks for looking at our monthly commentary for May 2016.
David A. Bloom, University of Michigan, Department of Urology

April First, 2016

DAB What’s New April 1, 2016

Hearts & hoaxes, questions & bells

[matulathoughts.org]

(4073 words)

 

One.  Noteworthy births.

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The first of April  has a small share of notable birthdays for physicians, scientists, and others who impacted the human condition. A name that rings a bell is William Harvey (1578) shown above. This English physician produced the first accurate description of the function of the heart and  circulation of the blood in his book, Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus [Painting attributed to Daniel Mytens, 1627. National Portrait Gallery London] Predecessors back to the time of Galen had gotten the physiology wrong, but Harvey was forgiving in his discovery, telling students: “Not to praise or dispraise other anatomists, for all did well, and there was some excuse even for those who are in error.” French mathematician Marie-Sophie Germain (April 1, 1776) produced pioneering work in elasticity theory and Fermat’s Last Theorem. Bismarck (1815) and Rachmaninoff (1873) came along as April firsters in the 19th century. Joseph Murray (April 1, 1919 – November 26, 2012) was a plastic surgeon and close friend of my old professor at UCLA, Willard Goodwin. When I was a resident I naively thought Joe was somewhat out of his league in his yearly travel group of old friends that included Goodwin and Robert McNamara, until Joe got the Nobel Prize for his work with renal transplantation.

DAB Murray copy

[Above: Joe Murray visiting UM & young faculty member out of his league. Below: 2 legendary Michigan coaches – Steve Fisher & Bo Schembechler]

Bo & Fish copy

Bo Schembechler (April 1, 1929 – November 17, 2006) is, of course, legendary for us at the University of Michigan. More controversial is Abdul Qadeer Khan (April 1, 1936), a Pakistani physicist who disseminated nuclear weaponry to rogue nations of the world.

Unlisted so far in the Wikipedia tallies for April first birthdays is Paul Kalanithi (April 1, 1977 – March 9, 2015), author of a current best-seller When Breath Becomes Air. Finishing residency in neurosurgery at Stanford the author discovered he had metastatic lung cancer. The book has a simple structure: a prologue, Part One In perfect health I began, Part II Cease not till death, and then an epilogue by his wife Lucy.

We each quietly contemplate deeply personal questions related to what might be described as the meaning of life, but circumstances gave Kalanithi urgency to come to some resolution. He exposes his thoughts with literacy and without self-pity. The meaning of life he discovered for himself lay in what he called human relationality. The context of one’s life is what matters, he believed, and it is from relationships with others that we derive meaning. Physicians and other health care providers should have a head start in the personal search for meaning, if you accept Kalanithi’s view, although many don’t understand that advantage. A spiritual person at the end of life may derive comfort from a religious faith or from a faith in the order of the universe and, perhaps, a reassuring sense of the circle of life as the Lion King said. On the other hand a cynical person might claim that faith is only a hoax we play upon ourselves and that each of us should grab whatever we can before our individual turns at life are over. No one can genuinely tell anyone else what the truth actually might be, we each must figure it out for ourselves. That individual worldview is what makes each of us what we are, each of our presidential candidates what he or she is, what the pope is, what El Chapo is, and it made Paul Kalanithi what he was.

 

Two.              Happy New Year.

For reasons lost in the deep recesses of history, the first of April has become a day for harmless pranks and hoaxes. April was the first full month of the new calendar year until only a few centuries ago. In Europe and during the Middle Ages March 25 was considered New Year’s Day. Possibly the natural human bent for trickery consolidated around that yearly transition. Japan begins its new year on the first of April and for this reason Dr. Takahiro Osawa and his family now return to Sapporo after 2 productive years with us in Michigan. We will miss him.

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Taka tells me that April pranks are also a tradition in his country. April foolery has endured around the world since first alleged references in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in 1392.

Exactly 40 years ago (1 April 1976) during a BBC broadcast English Astronomer Patrick Moore predicted that a “Jovian-Plutonian gravitational effect” would cause a noticeable short-term reduction on Earth’s gravity. At 9:47 AM on that day (GMT), he announced, a momentary alignment of Pluto and Jupiter would decrease Earth’s gravity such that those who jumped into the air at that moment would experience a floating sensation. Soon thereafter, BBC received hundreds of calls from people who claimed to have had felt the effect. The story was revealed to be a hoax, but Moore was a believable prankster and 4 years later he co-authored a totally factual book on Pluto with Clyde Tombaugh, who had discovered the dwarf planet in 1930.

Pluto

[Pluto, NASA image. North polar region at top. Notice the large bright Tombaugh Regio, nicknamed The Heart, lower right of center.]

The idea of fluctuating gravitational fields was prominent in Kurt Vonnegut’s book Slapstick (published in 1976, the same year as Moore’s hoax) and if you notice cyclic patterns in human behavior you might find some validity in Vonnegut’s satirical hypothesis. A prediction 100 years ago along a similar line was made by Albert Einstein. Stemming from his theory of general relativity he predicted the idea of gravitational waves that could transport energy in the form of gravitational radiation. Hypothesis rather than hoax, it took a full century to prove this idea. On February 11, 2016 the LIGO and VIRGO Collaboratives announced discovery of a gravitational wave from a pair of black holes that spun into each other 1.3 billion light years away. The wave passed by the Earth this past September 14 when it was noticed initially by Marco Drago, a 33-year old Italian Physicist in his office at the Max Planck Institute in Hanover, Germany. [A. Cho. Science. 351:797, 2016] Teams and collaborations of thousands of people spent over 100 years seeking a gravitational wave, although Drago was the first to notice the anomalous signal, and even then his first thought was that it was a glitch or a trick.

Our ability to sort out truth from myth, stories, hypotheses, hoaxes, science fiction, propaganda, and blatant deceit is constantly being tested. April Fools’ Day offers a playful “reset button.”

 

Three.           The heavy human footprint.

glacier

[USGS Water Science School]

Winter is officially over and while we did have some cold days, it wasn’t quite as cold or snowy as my memory tells me it used to be. Of course all things change and many of them cycle, whether sunspots, seasons, or climate. It is no hoax, though, that the Earth is in a warming spell and that anthropomorphic effects on the planet are driving that and other detrimental changes. Curiously, large swaths of the population, including many elected leaders in our nation, deny the fact of significant environmental change due to human influence.

Earth, with a volume of 2.6 x 1011 cubic miles and a mass of 1.3 x 1025 pounds, is the densest planet in the Solar System with a mean density of 0.2 pounds/cubic inch (5.5 grams per cubic centimeter). While the origin of planetary water is still unknown and it seems so vast, its 3.3 x 109 cubic miles represents only 0.0013% of the earth’s volume, merely a thin wet veneer over part of Earth’s surface. (1 cubic mile = 1.1 trillion gallons)

global-water-volume-fresh

The image above comes from the USGS website (Water Science School). The big blue sphere represents all of earth’s water, the smaller sphere over Kentucky represents total fresh water, and the tiny bubble over Atlanta estimates the fresh surface water in lakes and rivers – this being what most of us 7 billion earthlings have available for drinking or washing. [Credit: Howard Perlman, USGS; globe illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution © Adam Nieman.] Ice caps, glaciers, and permanent snow account for 5,773,000 cubic miles or a little less than 5.8 x 107 m3, or 17.6% of the earth’s total water.

During the last ice age, when Michigan was a mile deep below the Laurentide Ice Sheet, sea level was about 400 feet lower than it is today. At the other extreme, if all land and sea ice melted the ocean level would rise 70 meters or 230 feet. However you choose to describe it, the environment is changing rapidly and dangerously due to the heavy human footprint. This is no hoax or conspiracy.

A fragment of a speech from John F. Kennedy has resonated with me throughout my adult life: “For in the final analysis, 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 futures. And we are all mortal.” I recently asked my colleague and Kennedy scholar Kevin Loughlin for the origin of the quote and he immediately referenced Kennedy’s American University speech (titled A Strategy of Peace) on June 10, 1963. The president at the time had only a little more than 5 months to live. Flawed no more or less than most presidents or the rest of us, JFK did have inspiring intellect, clarity, and a way with words.

 

Four.             Ann Arbor notes.

In April 1985 my family and I had been in Ann Arbor for less than a year. Having accepted the job here as an associate professor (without tenure) I was still getting over the sting of finding myself demoted to assistant professor by the Medical School Executive Committee after arrival, but that’s another story. The Section of Urology was a terrific environment, Ed McGuire was a great boss, pediatric urology at Michigan was going well, and I loved my colleagues here in the medical school. The community was an excellent fit for Martha and our children, and we quickly found great friends. I distinctly remember the hoopla about a local restaurant, the Pretzel Bell, closing that April. This picture below from the old Ann Arbor News (used recently in Michigan Today) shows people lined up for an auction of Pretzel Bell memorabilia, necessitated by the IRS because of fraud related to employee withholding taxes. The article in Michigan Today by James Tobin explains that the original proprietors, John and Ralph Neelands, hung an old bell, said to have dated back to Civil War times, in the tavern. The story went that Fielding Yost had come to own the bell and gave it to the Neelands, after ringing it at Ferry Field. Ann Arbor has a rich German history and German university beer gardens traditionally featured two signs of hospitality – a bell to call in neighbors and a basket of pretzels.

pretzel bell Apr 1985

New ownership and management is resurrecting the Pretzel Bell and it should reopen soon to delight a new era of aficionados as well as old timers, for whom the name will ring a bell.

The University of Michigan has two bell towers (the original and the one on North Campus). The Bell Tower Hotel, across from the original, was the first place I stayed in Ann Arbor, when Ed McGuire invited me in 1983 to look at a pediatric urology job. A key predecessor of mine in the job had been Ed Tank, and his next-door neighbor back then, Dennis Dahlmann, now owns the hotel and has turned it into quite a gem. Ed Tank has retired in Portland, Oregon after a great career in our field. His excellent surgical results, the trainees he inspired, his academic productivity, and his organizational leadership constituted an extraordinary and admirable career. Ed’s successor in Portland, Steve Skoog, had been my resident at Walter Reed and is now a close friend and colleague. The coincidences in life are often beautiful.

Tank

[Above: Bloom & Tank. Below: Skoog and Dennis Peppas, former student of mine at USUHS, now pediatric urologist University of Texas, San Antonio]

Skoog copy 2

——————————————————-

[Below: Dennis Dahlmann & Bill Martin 2015]

Martin & Dahlmann

 

Five.              Metrics & mission.

A flawed general assumption in the business world is that an organization can be run, optimally, by cost-based accounting. If, in fact, all decisions could be based on numbers (metrics, as it is often said) then a good computer could replace all managers. Businesses, however, run based on people, relationships, and their stories at least as much as any numbers. Alon Weizer referred with irony to his excellent efforts at managing the Cancer Center ambulatory care unit (the largest in the UM Health System.): “it is easier to manage by metrics, rather than digging down into the stories behind them.” Of course we cannot ignore numbers and have to pay attention to them, they are a key part of our information intake, but they are hardly the only form of our intelligence. The idea of running a business from the central organizing principle of managerial cost-based accounting, rather than managing it according to mission, customer-based deliverables, and lean-centric employee engagement has been a damaging conceit of 20th century industry. Yet, paradoxically, just as managerial accounting is phasing out of forward-thinking businesses as the central operational paradigm, it has been colonizing the brains of health care system managers.

At our Urology Department Retreat 2 days ago, we grappled a bit with the importance of financial margin and the need to defend and expand our markets on one hand, but with the central values of mission and essential deliverable (kind and excellent patient-centered care) on the other hand.

David Spahlinger got us started at noon with an overview of our health system reorganization and urgent strategies. Marschall Runge closed the program around 6:30 with a lively Q & A session. Our health system and medical school are fortunate to have great top leadership at this point in time.

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[Retreat at Michigan Union]

 

Six.                 Bellmen.

We need leadership but too often find odd characters coming forward offering their services to take charge of our governments and more immediate organizations. Having studied and experienced great and poor leadership I’ve become somewhat cynical of those who have a pressing need to lead me. The cautionary tale of the Bellman is fitting. He was the captain of a ship’s crew in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. His map of ocean (a blank paper) and contradictory navigational orders did not inspire his crew, but his rule of three (“What I tell you three times is true.”) helped lead them into strange territory. Sometimes it feels like this for those of us taking care of patients in large health care systems.

300px-Lewis_Carroll_-_Henry_Holiday_-_Hunting_of_the_Snark_-_Plate_1

[Cover of first edition Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll 1876. Hendry Holiday, the illustrator born in 1839, died 15 April 1927]

Lewis Carroll, a mathematician, delighted in nonsense and intellectual pranks and he no doubt relished that irony. The beauty of math and science is their pursuit of verifiable truth. Bellmanism may work well in primitive societies, but it fails in free, just, and scientifically-educated societies. A modern bellman can say whatever he or she wants, as many times as they want, but for the rest of us to accept a claim, verification or proof is necessary. Trust but verify, is the adage we often hear. Scientists are rigorous about this way of thinking.

Thinking about statements and proofs, a long time ago Pythagoras proved that a2 + b2 = c2 for any right-angled triangle and most of us not only remember this is true, but we can actually prove it by a few examples or tests. A French lawyer and mathematician, Pierre de Fermat (1601-1655), asked himself: if a2 + b2 = c2 then can this be true for higher integers; in other words does a3 + b3 = c3  and is this equation generalizable for all powers? Fermat thought not and his conjecture was written in the margin note of a book in 1637, but his proof was apparently not recorded although he must have convinced himself that Pythagoras’s hypothesis only holds for special cases (like the number 2). For more than 350 years other mathematicians, including Marie-Sophie Germain, tried to figure it out, but failed until Andrew Wiles successfully proved Fermat’s conjecture in 1994.

Medical practice aspires to evidence and logic over Bellmanism. Nevertheless, much of what we do has to find a balance within a Pythagorean triangle of decision choices. On one side we rely upon our personal training and individual experiences. Another side (with far fewer options) offers evidence-proven therapeutic choices. The third side entices us with cutting-edge innovations. In the fast action of clinical practice we will usually default to the hypotenuse of our training and experience. The reality of clinical practice today falls short of the math; that is present-day clinical evidence plus cutting edge innovative technology does not equate to individual training, experience, and reason. Yet while this larger side may be our first resort, we need to condition ourselves and our students to remain self-critical and vigilant for old faulty dogma and new ideas that are better.

220px-Pythagorean.svg

[a= cutting edge innovation, b= verifiable high level evidence, c= training & experience]

 

Seven.          Health care questions.

What are the big questions in health care? As health care in this country undergoes significant changes, dictated by a variety of forces, it may be useful for us to consider health care not in the context of metrics (e.g. RVUs, length of stay, and cost per case), but rather in terms of our basic expectations and values. If most citizens and practitioners can understand and agree upon the larger questions of health care, the answers and the structures to provide them may come to us more readily.

I don’t think it should be up to any one subset of “the experts” to tell us the questions, for after all, that’s a sort of Bellmanism. The key questions should be derived more broadly, they do not belong solely to universities, medical schools, or schools of public health. They do not belong to state or governmental legislative or regulatory agencies. They do not belong to the AMA, the ACS, the AUA. They belong to the public – to citizens, patients, health care providers. My first loyalty lies within the last broad categories as a citizen, patient, and physician – memberships that convey measures of authority in offering, just now, a set of basic questions for our collective consideration. Whether these are the right questions is a matter for you to consider. What among them is right, what is wrong, and what is missing?

  • What is health care?
  • How should it be provided?
  • How is it improved and how does innovation occur?
  • How is it taught?
  • How is it funded and how are escalating costs managed?

 

Eight.            Choices.

While there may be no simple solutions for these questions, and whereas the “devil is in the details” clarity can be found in their deliberate articulation and informed public discussion. The first question is deceptively simple, but what of “health care” is a public good and in the public interest? Certainly vaccination for dangerous diseases, TB surveillance and therapy, mosquito control, and Ebola management should be public goods. When is health care screening – screening for TB, hypertension, or malignancies (which malignancies) – in the public interest? What basic commodities of health care must be assured to the public (to assure the public health) and what are the discretionary choices that should be paid for by the responsible recipients of those services? And what about recipients who are incapable of such responsibility? Is not antenatal, obstetric, and well-child care in the public interest? Who should make these decisions?

The time-worn bogeyman of “socialized medicine” has seen its day; socialized medical care has a heavy footprint in today’s USA and its called Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and the Veterans Administration. Pressing questions are related to funding, equity, and scope of each of these systems. The present binary argument between a single payer system or an insurance-based model, in my opinion, is wrong.

A single payer system, while convenient from the point of funding and health policy, is fraught with many problems, among them being loss of personal choice, dependence on politically-set budgets, restriction of innovation, and lack of competition. On the other hand, the idea of building an entire national health-care system on an insurance-based paradigm is faulty since basic health care (this first question, after all) is a complex life-long responsibility extending from antenatal months to the last days of life. Insurance for rare and unexpected catastrophes like liver transplantation, motor vehicle accidents, ALS, renal failure, and serious malignancy makes sense, but not “insurance” for expected life events such as childbirth, vaccinations, dental care, routine checkups, and screening for certain diseases. The bipolar choice could be compared to asking us to choose between the Post Office or Federal Express as the single national mail delivery service. Neither one alone would be a good provider. The competition between them and other delivery services makes each one leaner, more innovative, and more customer-centric. Health care of our population needs many avenues to be universal, fair, excellent, efficient, and innovative.

 

Nine.            An epilogue.

The epilogue to Kalanithi’s book, written by his wife Lucy, included one phrase that struck me: “Although Paul accepted his limited life expectancy, neurologic decline was a new devastation, the prospect of losing meaning and agency devastating.” [p.203] Ultimately, for most of us, those two things are what life boils down to – the meaning we find in life and our agency to do things that are meaningful to us and to others. Meaning is our ability to make sense of things. Sense-making may be a matter of simple practicality, knowing for example that 1+1=2, or it may be the more existential making-sense of our lives. Kalanithi made fine sense of his shortened existence. Lucy Kalanithi ends her epilogue in the book powerfully enough to make your eyes well up: “Paul’s decision to look death in the eye was a testament not just to who he was but who he had always been. For much of his life, Paul wondered about death – and whether he could face it with integrity. In the end, the answer was yes. I was his wife and a witness.” [p.225]

The content, style, and literacy of Kalanithi’s book makes it compelling and readable. Coincidentally, the book is visually accessible because of its typeface, which is called Bell, after John Bell (1745-1831) who produced the original design, described as: “a delicate and refined rendering of Scotch Roman” at the book’s conclusion (above quotation is bold Bell MT font on my computer, although via email or the WordPress blog site, deformation is expected).

 

Ten.              Tolling bells.

Cancer, sectarian violence, motor vehicle trauma, and heart disease remain high on the list of the Grim Reaper’s tools. Nearly 400 years ago last month (March 31, 1631) the cleric and poet John Donne died, from stomach cancer it is believed. Born in 1572, 6 years before Harvey, Donne grew up and lived his 59 years through difficult times amidst terrible sectarian conflict that makes our recent western paradigm of separation of church and state so praiseworthy. During the reign of Elizabeth I (1558 -1603) the Recusancy Acts, beginning in 1593, imposed punishment on those who didn’t participate in Anglican religious activity, extending to imprisonment and capital punishment. (These laws were ultimately repealed in 1650, although restrictions against Roman Catholics lasted in England and Wales until full Catholic Emancipation in 1829.) Donne’s parents were Roman Catholics, but the father died when he was four and John’s mother married a wealthy widower, Dr. John Syminges. Donne studied in Oxford and Cambridge but never graduated with a degree as he was unwilling to take the Anglican Oath of Supremacy. He then studied law in London. Donne’s brother Henry, a university student, was arrested in 1593 for harboring Catholic priest William Harrington. Under torture Henry betrayed Harrington who was tortured, hanged, and disemboweled in 1594. Henry Donne died in Newgate Prison of bubonic plague.

John_Donne_BBC_News

[Lots on his mind. John Donne c. 1595. National Portrait Gallery, London]

John Donne became an Anglican minister, Dean of St. Paul’s, and a poet. (His interesting later years were chronicled by Izaak Walton, author of the first book on fly fishing.) What’s relevant from Donne is Meditation XVII in Devotions upon Emergent Occasions that included this familiar phrase that is linked to Kalanithi’s idea of human relationality: No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

 

Thank you for reading What’s New and Matula Thoughts for this April 1, 2016

 

Matula Thoughts March 4, 2016

DAB What’s New March 4, 2016

 

The March of time, money, & art

3923 words

 

Mozart watch 2.05.26 PM

One.         Time flies, but sometimes we have to slow it down.  Today would have been March 5, but for a corrective leap year adjustment. This necessity is proof of the slightly imperfect alignment of humans to nature – we meter out our seasons and years with great reliance on lunar and solar cycles, yet our calendars and clocks can’t quite match heavenly reality. Nevertheless, since Robert Hooke’s anchor escape device, human ingenuity has been measuring time with increasing precision. Pocket watches, developed in the 16th century, were the most common personal timekeepers until military trench watches (pocket watches with lugs for a strap) became popular around WWI, proving more practical than a watch in a soldier’s pocket. The wristwatch quickly came into fashion. Today cellphones threaten wristwatches for top position in personal timekeeping, although wrists are contesting the matter with physical activity trackers that also monitor time, pulse, and even messaging alerts. Whether by wrist, phone, or clock most people are compelled to track time at home and at work. In the health care environment time measurement has come to sharply impact patient care and residency education due to intense attention on clinical throughput and duty hour regulations. [The pocket watch shown above is a rare Donald Mozart three-wheel mechanism watch made over 150 years ago.]

 

Two.          Time is money, it is often said. If I need furnace repairs this winter, a repairman will reacquaint me with that fact. This is also true for legal services, cabs, baby sitters, or employees in your business. Ultimately, because most of us are employees for someone or some organization, we each have a personal stake in the belief that time equates to money. Healthcare used to be somewhat different, being a professional service in which the service was valued as a parcel of work rather than a unit of time. A doctor’s visit, for example, was charged as the actual “visit” with the time factor accounted for indirectly. New knowledge and technology added complex services to the toolkit of health care and the relative value unit (RVU) joined the language of medicine. Urethral catheterization, for example, takes less time and expertise than radical cystectomy, a fact now accounted for in the charges or RVUs. The physician work RVU for catheterization (CPT 51702) is 0.5 (although after facility expenses and malpractice expenses are factored in the total RVU grows to 0.87 to 2.0 depending upon whether the work is done in a hospital or an office). For open radical cystectomy with urinary diversion (CPT 51590) the physician’s work RVU will be 36.33 and the total RVU including facility and malpractice expenses will be 55.66.  The assignment of an RVU number to robotic cystectomy is under discussion. Radical cystectomy is one of the most technically difficult and risky operative procedures, with significant mortality, morbidity, complex postoperative care, and the highest postoperative readmission rates. In terms of work (preoperative, operative, postoperative, and global exposure) and liability it is easily more than the “equivalent” of 36.33 urethral catheterizations, in my opinion as someone who has performed both procedures. If it is your urethra getting catheterized, of course you want skill, kindness, and attention to the process. Yet, to equate the effort of 36 catheterizations to a single radical cystectomy is like comparing 36 bicycle rides to flying a Boeing 787 or Airbus A380 full of passengers across the Pacific Ocean. Both take skill and both carry some risk, but the differences are enormous. [Data thanks to Malissa Eversole & Irene Gundle]

Just as all procedures are not equal, neither are all clinic visits the same, although less disparity pertains. One new patient visit may be fairly straightforward with discovery of a simple problem defined as ICD-10 code X and perhaps a distinct solution proposed in the form of CPT code Y. If such simplicity had pertained for all my patients and clinics over the years, life would have been easier although less interesting. Some clinic visits are especially challenging, taking deep concentration and probing examinations and conversations that are not always easy. Occasional clinic encounters are excruciating, with unwilling kids, angry parents, painful social circumstances, and no clear solutions. Yet even these complex occasions are gifts of a sort in that they test our mettle and make the other encounters, by contrast, satisfying and sweet.

Most of us understand the need to steward resources, standardize work as much as possible, and create efficiencies to meet payrolls and manage our mission at large. However, a sharp focus on clinical throughput, with standardized 15-minute encounters and checklists that must be obeyed, runs counter to our values, counter to patient satisfaction, and counter to the excellence we espouse. Still, our eyes stray to clocks on the walls, (although it is a mystery why they are so often wrong) or watches on our wrists, the latter being easier to consult unobtrusively than cell phones and are more accurate than those wall clocks.

 

Three.

$100   Ben Franklin wrote “time is money” in Advice to a Young Tradesman, written by an old one although the idea has a far older provenance. It is fitting that Ben is featured on our largest circulating currency denomination (since 1969 when larger bills were retired). The Franklin has become the international monetary standard and is worth more than its weight in gold if you figure that the bill weighs around a half a gram and with the price of gold at $1200 per ounce that comes to about $40 per gram or $20 for a Ben Franklin. The US Bureau of Engraving and Printing says that the average C-note remains in circulation about 7.5 years before replacement due to wear and tear. The new bill, with its anti-counterfeiting technology, costs about 12.5 cents to produce, compared to 7.8 cents for the older version (shown above) before 2013. Curiously, and I think dangerously, some people are calling for eliminating this “high” currency note, as humanity seems to be placing its faith in electronic monetary transactions. [Getting rid of big currency notes. NYT Editorial Feb. 22, 2016]

In health care, the concept that time is money applies across all nations and health care systems. In corporate U.S. health care, clinic visits are set in many places at 15 minutes of “face time” with physician, nurse practitioner, or PA. In the NHS of the United Kingdom 10 minutes is a common standard. In third world countries, any such face time might be a rare occasion unless you have cash in hand. Facilities and staff cost money and health care expenses need to be covered by some source, so it seems rational to measure and ration time as well as physical commodities. Facing off against such reality, however, is the nearly universal belief that health care is a natural human right and that its best delivered at the individual level by professions (and, now, teams of professionals).

Time value of money is a financial calculation that dates back to the early days of the School of Salamanca formed by Spanish and Portuguese theologians in northwestern Spain around the first half of the 16th century. (The old city of Salamanca in Castile and León is  a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)

Martin_Azpilicueta

Martín de Azpilcueta (1491-1586), pictured above, was an early member of this important school of thought. This Basque canonist and theologian was an innovator of monetarist theory and it was he who allegedly conceptualized the time value of money in the sense that the present value (PV) of a sum of money equals its future value (FV) given a specified rate of return (r) divided by 1 plus r. That is if the Department of Urology gives the University of Michigan Clinical Enterprise $1,000,000 for new capital projects and assumes a rate of return of 7% (the typical interest rate for a savings account in days not so long past) then the FV at 10 years will be $1,700,000, assuming the original sum and the yearly interest returns remain intact. In other words, a million dollars today if invested in those circumstances could be worth 1.7 million dollars in 10 years. Of course, this is not quite as good as that historic savings account at 7% where the interest was compounded annually, in which case the future value at 10 years would be a little over $1,967,000. That is the difference between an annuity and a savings account. Darwinian forces have propelled financial markets to increasingly creative and complex devices, such as credit default swaps that gained recent attention in the film The Big Short, or the more recent contingent convertible bond (CoCo) that exchanges risk for the ability to suspend payment, convert the bond into equity, or write it off totally.

In 1748 Franklin wrote: “Remember that Time is Money. He that can earn Ten Shillings a Day by his Labour, and goes abroad or sits idle one half of that Day, tho’ he spends but Sixpence during his Diversion or Idleness, ought not to reckon That the only Expence; he has really spent, or rather, thrown away Five Shillings besides.” [Courtesy Kate Woodford at Yale University, Papers of Benjamin Franklin Project]

This is the innate paradox of academic medicine: since clinical revenue sustains the enterprise, every part of the day diverted to education, research, and administration is costly, lacking proportionate revenue. Nevertheless, education, research, and their administration are essential to our mission. For a healthy academic clinical department these other parts of the mission consume a minimum of 20% of a clinician’s effort and the ability to support those efforts comes from endowment, institutional support, and the overachievement of clinical faculty in terms of clinical productivity.

 

Four.         As scarce as face-time may be for patients and the professionals who provide it, that time and attention within those moments are polluted by the mandatory processes of electronic health record systems, third party payer requirements, and demands of “meaningful use” documentation. I call your attention once again to the crayon drawing of a doctor’s visit by an 8-year old girl featured on a JAMA cover article in 2012 by Elizabeth Toll and contrast that to any of the many other artistic renderings of this ancient professional service from Renaissance painting to Normal Rockwell. Something seems to have changed. (Interestingly, Rockwell’s family doctor doesn’t seem to be wearing a watch.)

Family Doc

[Above: detail from The Family Doctor by Norman Rockwell 1947; Below: The cost of technology. JAMA 307: 2497, 2012. Elizabeth Toll. © Thomas C. Murphy, MD]

Cost of Tech copy

 

Five.          Time piece manufacturing came to Ann Arbor 150 years ago when Donald J. Mozart moved here just after the stockholders of the MoZart Watch Company in Providence, Rhode Island fired him as superintendent. Mozart’s three-wheel watch had proven unsuccessful and the new superintendent replaced Mozart’s design with a conventional movement and renamed the firm the New York Watch Company. Mozart improved his 3-wheel design in Ann Arbor, but was able to produce only about 30 movements before closing up operations four years later in 1870.

He sold the manufacturing equipment to the Rock Island Watch Company for $40,000 cash plus $25,000 in stock and gave away the existing watches to stockholders and friends. One of these was recently sold at auction in NY [Introductory illustration & below: Bonhams Auction 21971 12 June 2014 Lot #1128 A very rare gold filled open face ‘chronometer-lever escapement’ watch Signed Don J. Mozart Patent Dec. 24, 1868. US$ 20,000-25,000].

mozart_mvmt_small

Mozart was still living in Ann Arbor as of May 14, 1873 when he filed a patent from here, but died four years later in 1877 and was buried at Forest Hill Cemetery (as was Rensis Likert, discussed last month on these pages).

 

Six.           A noteworthy and thoughtful artist, Evelyn Brodzinski, when asked her definition of what constitutes the stuff we call “art” replied, “Art is anything that is choice.” This idea stuck with me and I often quote her at our speaker introductions during the annual Chang Lecture on Art and Medicine each July during the Art Fair. This phrase came to me again when I read Hugh Solomon’s retirement letter this past December. With his retirement, urological manpower loses one of its most excellent physicians and surgeons. Retirement was a difficult decision, Hugh noted, but his timing seemed right: “I have been lucky to have interfaced with so many wonderful people who have taught me the value and sanctity of life. Everyone has a story to tell if you are prepared to listen.”

Stories, however, are getting bypassed in modern healthcare. With the systematic tendency to measure service in terms of time and time in terms of money, today’s electronic health care record systems force stories into checklists. Listening to stories is harder than filling out checklists. While these tendencies chip away at our ancient profession we can fight the trend. When we make a choice to listen, as Hugh advocates, clinical medicine becomes an art.

 

Seven.                Art & medicine. In 1936 Sir Henry Wellcome’s will established the Wellcome Trust in London to advance medical research and the understanding of its history. If you visit that city the Wellcome Trust is a wonderful place to spend a morning or afternoon perusing its collections and exhibits. An article last year in JAMA by Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, discussed the role of this organization in the world today. [Farrar. Science, medicine, and society. A view from the Wellcome Trust. JAMA. 313:2315, 2015] The trust expends more than $1 billion dollars yearly in biomedical sciences and biotechnology “interrogating the fundamental processes of life in health and in sickness and using that knowledge to develop ways to promote well-being and to diagnose, treat, or prevent disease.”

Farrar makes the point that while science is essential and wonderful, its implementation in medicine and society is not guaranteed. He references Semmelweis and Snow, who in the mid-nineteenth century provided theory and supporting evidence that certain diseases were transmitted by dirty hands, yet conventional wisdom of the time rejected the idea. Farrar writes: “…their stories reveal that scientific evidence is not enough to improve medicine: social and cultural factors are vital as well… Because the Trust appreciates the importance of the history and social contexts of medicine, it also supports research across the medical humanities, social sciences, and bioethics, as well as funding for artists and educators to engage the public with research.”

We health care professionals revel in science. Scientific ways of thinking have brought us a verifiable understanding of life, health, and illness as well as new technologies to enhance health and mitigate disease. Yet as Farrar tells it, science is not enough. History, social contexts, and values must always frame the science, as well as inspire and deploy it. In the consilience of human knowledge, as EO Wilson explains, science is but one facet of the art of Homo sapiens.

 

Eight.        Chang Lecture on Art & Medicine. In 2007 our Department of Urology began an annual lecture in honor of the family of Dr. Cheng-Yang Chang, an esteemed Nesbit Alumnus who joined our faculty when Urology was a small section of the Surgery Department. Dr. Chang was our first faculty member to focus on pediatric urology. Coincidentally, his father was a highly acclaimed artist in China during its turbulent mid-Twentieth Century years. A number of his paintings are housed in the University of Michigan Art Museum where you can also visit the Shirley Chang Wing, named in honor of Dr. Chang’s late wife. The couple had two sons. Ted Chang, a University of Michigan and Nesbit alumnus like his dad, practices urology in Albany New York. Ted is a first class urologist and educator. Hamilton Chang, a fellow UM man, is an investment banker in Chicago, a leader in Michigan’s alumni organizations and a cornerstone of our urology fundraising efforts.

This year’s Chang Lecture will be given by Don Nakayama, a pediatric surgeon and expert on the Diego Rivera Murals you can find at the Detroit Institute of Art. The Surgery Panel on the upper left hand corner of the south wall has been described by art historians as “brain surgery,” but after personal investigation Don discovered that the art historians were not quite right, anatomically. The actual panel, in fact, depicts an orchiectomy, an operative procedure far more in tune with Rivera’s theme, as a committed socialist, of the emasculated worker. Don discussed this in a paper in The Pharos, [Summer 2014, p. 8].

South Wall

[Above: south wall. Below: surgery panel]

Surgery panel

If you plan to visit the Ann Arbor Art Fairs this July, consider setting aside an hour to join us at the Chang Lecture on Tuesday, July 21 at 5 PM in the UM Hospital Ford Auditorium. You can hear Dr. Nakayama, meet him at a reception after the talk, collect some CME credits if you are a physician, and have your parking ticket stamped. Not a bad deal, I submit.

 

Nine.     The art of humanity extends from the earliest moments of assisting childbirth, caring for lacerations, splinting fractures, counseling sufferers, and painting on cave walls, to today’s robotic surgery and technological entertainments such as the new Star Wars, if you accept the proposition that art is any deliberative human action or construct. This new iteration of Star Wars successfully expands the story of a distant galaxy and the force that binds it. A business school professor at Washington University St. Louis explored the narrative and proposed that an economic force binds the distant galaxy as well, thus brightening the dismal science. [http://arxiv.org/format/1511.09054v1]

The dark side of the dismal science was evident in another current film – The Big Short. I’d read the book by Michael Lewis, who showed in lucid detail how the housing and credit bubble collapse in 2008, known also as the subprime mortgage crisis, was predicted. This catastrophe quickly expanded into a major stall of the world economy, that is still under repair. The astonishing thing is that the prediction was not made by economists, the big banks, the big accounting firms, universities, Nobel Laureates, bond rating companies, regulatory agencies, or “the market” itself. The prediction was made by an oddball physician who analyzed publicly available data and discovered the “obvious” flaw in complex mortgage securities. Astonishingly, none of the experts was so smart and the sad, sad reality is that none of them was doing their job competently. This story begs the question: how can so many smart people be so dumb? It’s an astonishing story and a very cautionary tale of reliance on experts. If course we have to trust experts, but we also have to verify that trust constantly in real time, by listening to diverse and even oddball opinions and insisting upon honest broker regulation and competition.

The physician who figured this out was Michael Burry, a UCLA economics graduate, Vanderbilt MD, and Stanford neurology resident.  His main interest, however, was investing and even as a resident had acquired a reputation for success in value investing. He left residency to invest full-time and in November 2000 he started Scion Capital. As Lewis told the story, in the first full year of Scion when the S&P 500 fell 11. 88%, Scion’s fund was up 55%. This was no Bernie Madoff effect, the Scion success was real, verifiable, and durable. Value investing is based on the idea of buying an asset that appears underpriced according to an analysis of some sort. The analysis may recognize some fundamental flaw in the current price of the asset based on historical factors, operational data related to the company, information about its market and competitors, or expectations concerning the future. In some ways this is a complex extension of the thinking of Martín de Azpilcueta. Burry extended the idea by betting against the future value of money through an insurance mechanism called the credit default swap.

Burry was not looking for “a short” rather was actually seeking good long term bets. In 2005, however, his analysis of national lending practices in 2003 and 2004 indicated to him that a subprime mortgage bubble would collapse in 2007. He persuaded Goldman Sachs to sell him credit default swaps against certain subprime deals. The rest is history, as well as excellent cinematography.

Lamro

[Illustration: Lamro, on Wikipedia, Credit Default Swap. Burry is the blue box, Goldman Sachs is the black box. The par value of the asset was its high value at the time of the credit default deal.]

 

Ten.       March, now that we are a few days into it, has its own stories. March 1 is the meteorological beginning of spring, although that may not be so apparent here in Ann Arbor. March 20/21 is the astronomical beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere or autumn in the Southern. The month is named for the Roman God of War, Mars, who was also the guardian of agriculture. This was an odd conjunction since it is not immediately apparent that the pursuits of war and of agriculture are similar. On the other hand, if you believe that the best defense is a strong offense, the idea makes some sense and in Roman times the month Martius marked a new season of farming and military campaigns. In addition to competence on the land and in battle, legend also ascribed to Mars some competence in the urological sense, as his relationship with the Vestal Virgin, Rhea Silvia, produced twin boys, Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of the city of Rome. Even beyond the reproductive outcome, Mars was generally viewed as a paragon of virility, with no issues of low testosterone. Martius was the start of the Roman yearly calendar until as late as 153 BC. Russia held on to this start date to the end of the 15th century, and Great Britain and its colonies (even us in America) used March 25 as the beginning of the calendar year until 1752 when the Gregorian calendar was adopted. March is American Red Cross Month.

March 13 marks the shift to Daylight Savings Time. Ben Franklin has been claimed as originator of daylight savings time, but in fact the solid proposal came from George Vernon Hudson who died 70 years ago (5 April 1946). Born in London he moved to New Zealand with his father and became a respected amateur entomologist and astronomer. His daytime job in Wellington as post office clerk gave him time after work to study and collect insects. It was said that this was the impetus for his idea to maximize daylight in winter times. In 1895 he gave a paper at the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a 2-hour daylight savings time shift. Hudson was a member of the 1907 Sub-Antarctic Islands Scientific Expedition. The daylight savings idea was slow to catch on and New Zealand’s Summertime Act wasn’t passed until 1927.

Hudson-RSNZ Willett

[Left: Hudson in 1907 on expedition. National Library of New Zealand. Right: Willett in 1909, J. Benjamin Stone Collection, Birmingham Central Library.]

Daylight savings occurred later to another Briton, home builder William Willett (1856-1915). Riding his horse one summer morning he observed many household’s blinds still drawn, indicating the inhabitants were still asleep and missing much of the day. He began to advocate for an official way to extend daylight and the British Summer Time became law in 1916, although Willett died just before it went into effect. (Trivia: Willett’s great-great-grandson is Chris Martin of the band Coldplay.) Today, daylight savings time methods are utilized throughout much of the world.

DaylightSaving-World-Subdivisions

[Wikipedia. Blue – DST used, Orange – formerly used, Red – never used]

If March came in like a lion we hope it exits sheepishly after a bit of collegiate athletic madness. We also will be having a departmental retreat at the end of the month. Before closing out this message, let me return briefly to Ben Franklin, printer, inventor, author, postmaster, diplomat, and urethral catheter expert. In 1752 he designed a flexible silver catheter for his brother John who was suffering from bladder calculi and it is likely that, living to age 84, Ben used it himself.

 

Thanks for reading What’s New and Matula Thoughts.

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

Matula Thoughts December 4, 2015

DAB What’s New/Matula Thoughts

December 4, 2015

Paris, Band-Aids, & the coarse emotions of mankind

3140 words

 

 

1.    Hosp corridor Dec December is at hand, although in the busy everyday world of clinical medicine days and seasons seem to blur. Nevertheless, clues abound that make it  hard to mistake this holiday month. Above you see the second floor corridor of UM Main Hospital with decorated windows on a previous early weekend December morning. The holiday season has grown from theological roots to a cosmopolitan sensibility of advancing human welfare. This is a time of year we try to think beyond ourselves and the hunger of others is especially compelling whether in front of you on downtown streets of Ann Arbor or in the news reports from the Middle East, Africa, Asia, or South America. Food security is as much, if not more, an essential part of human welfare and health as the specific morbidities that capture our attention as specialists.

Astrologic, seasonal, and meteorological explanations of illness are residues of the more superstitious days of medicine, but with nuggets of truth these links remain in play today. The seasonal and climactic influences on human welfare and health are unquestionably substantial, and as the dinosaurs discovered large extraterrestrial bodies can impact life on Earth.  Our bodies down to the cellular level pay attention to calendar, clock, and climate. Illnesses like holidays have seasonality; we know that the incidence and mortality of coronary artery disease peaks in winter and reaches a low in summer while many other conditions also have their own seasons. [Pell JP, Cobb SM. Quarterly J. Med 92:689, 1999] Then, of course, there is the “July effect,” the enduring speculation that it’s risky to be ill in the hospital when new house officers start on the job. Happily today it’s December and all our house officers are well seasoned.

A 1984 music video from the movement called Band Aid “Do they know it’s Christmas?” is a 4-minute classic that is as fresh today as it was 31 years ago – you can find it on YouTube. The supergroup, formed by Bob Geldof of the Irish band Boomtown Rats, raised over $24 million for famine relief in Ethiopia with the video. The most recent incarnation, Band Aid 30, raised funds for 2014 Ebola victims and prevention.

 Feed the world 

 

 

2.     We humans, uniquely among all species, are intensely emotional and inquisitive about our health. Healthcare in any season is a matter of attending to small and large problems, from Band Aids to urosepsis 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and each of us needs help from time to time attending to these problems. Victorian novelist George Eliot wrote: “What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?” This may not be a universal human sentiment, but it surely is a key part of a good physician’s credo and any society must have good physicians. Healthcare workers naturally prefer fixing medical problems and otherwise helping their patients rather than completing electronic medical records or collecting RVUs. Healthcare is also a matter of teaching patients (and learning ourselves) how to live healthier and manage the morbidities and comorbidities of life. We do this work individually, in teams, and across the larger geopolitical world. Tempting as it is, even as specialists in the comfort of our specialized fields, we can’t ignore that larger geopolitical realm. Our urologic cocoon is a fulfilling workspace, yet we have no choice but to also attend to the geopolitical space through curiosity about events around us, by speaking out, and leading when we can. The world is predictably disruptive and explosive, as witnessed just last month in many places from Mali to Paris, the latter more properly an epicenter for peace, as with the Treaty of Paris of 1763 (ending our French and Indian War), the Treaty of 1898 (ending the Spanish American War), and more recent attempts to restore international order.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference is now meeting in Paris (Nov 30-Dec 11), nearly coincidental in timing to the recent terrorism events. This is the 21st annual meeting of a team that aims to achieve a legally binding and universal international agreement to reduce greenhouse gases and to contain global temperature within 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial levels. Forward-looking businesses are starting to recognize the simultaneous necessity and business opportunities of global stewardship. 

 

 

3.     On this day, 4 December, in 1918 President Woodrow Wilson crossed the Atlantic for WWI peace talks in Versailles, a suburb of Paris. That made him the first US president to travel to Europe while in office. After a trip back home for 3 weeks in February he returned to Versailles for the duration of the talks until June. Wilson’s personal physician Cary Grayson accompanied him on both trips and remained with him the whole time in France. The outcome of the talks was the Versailles Treaty of Peace with its inclusion of the League of Nations. Wilson believed in the League of Nations as a hedge against future conflict and on his final return home (shown below) undertook a nationwide tour to campaign for the treaty, but suffered a stroke in October of 1919. Grayson and Mrs. Wilson masked the severity of the stroke from the government and the public, while Senate Republicans opposed the treaty. Henry Cabot Lodge proposed a compromise that Wilson refused. Ultimately the Senate rejected the treaty and the U.S. never joined the League of Nations. Wilson’s internationalism didn’t take hold in the USA, but his efforts were admired internationally with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919.

WoodrowWilson

Wilson wasn’t at his best in those days with urologic issues in addition to the stroke. Severe benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH) with urinary retention further hampered his effectiveness as a politician in that critical time. In the days when our Journal of Urology attended to matters of urologic history, an excellent paper by Fogg, Kutikov, Uzzo, and Canter addressed this interlude of Wilson’s health. [J Urol 2011, 186:1153] Historical scrutiny has also revealed Wilson’s paradoxical gaps as a humanist. His racial views and employment decisions, whether as President of Princeton or of the United States, although considered “centrist” for early 20th century America, were strongly bigoted against non-whites and non-Christians.  [Berg AS. Wilson. 2013. The case against Woodrow Wilson. New York Times. Editorial November 25, 2015]

 

 

4.     Dec Limbourg North of Paris by 24 miles sits the Musée Condé and library at the Château de Chantilly in Oise, housing the manuscript Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry with its beautifully illustrated monthly panels. The December panel is remarkable. While traditional iconography for the Christmas season would feature a more nostalgic visual, this panel shows the more visceral details of dogs dismembering a boar after a hunt with the Château de Vincennes of Charles V on the horizon and the trees curiously still in leaf (a warm winter?). The castle still stands in that Parisian suburb. The scene, as in all the Duc de Berry illuminations, depicts everyday agrarian life with people going about their daily business. Illness, disability, and intimate details of healthcare, urologic issues most particularly, were too indelicate for such public display, although such aspects of everyday life were real concerns for everyone then as they are today.           

Urology has progressed with technology and new knowledge, yet it remains focused on its genitourinary geography, staked out in ancient Egyptian times with urethral catheterization, in Hippocratic days with lithotomy, and in the nineteenth century with cystoscopy. Gone are the days of Frère Jacques Beaulieu, the itinerant lithotomist, who travelled throughout France in the early 18th century with his “certificates of cure” and removed agonizing bladder stones with his secretive technique. [JP Ganem, CC Carson. J Urol 1999;161:1067]

Nowadays, urologists work in teams and seek innovation for their own practices while freely disseminating their ideas and techniques to others. Urology, at least as much as the other core facets of medical practice, is a social business. President Wilson’s urologic issues would be treated better and more expeditiously today,  and even better tomorrow with, perhaps, the histotripsy technology pioneered here in Ann Arbor by Will Roberts and his team of biomedical engineers and radiologists. 

 

 

5.     Like many of our faculty, I’ve been on the road this autumn in that pursuit of new ideas and knowledge, in addition to dealing with the clinical and administrative work flows at home. In Irvine, California at Ralph Clayman’s festschrift I heard state of the art talks on stone disease. Ralph seems glad to be back to the real world of urology after his five years of good service as medical school dean. In Nijmegen, Netherlands I participated in the 50th anniversary of the excellent Radboud University Medical Center urology unit. Their discovery, education, and clinical work is world-class, and the visit gave me some thoughts related to our impending 100 year anniversary of Michigan Urology. The American College of Surgeons, with its annual meeting in Chicago this fall, is an important avenue of engagement for urologists from the educational, discovery, and public policy perspectives. A visiting professorship in Portland, Oregon game me a chance to see another superb department of urology, formerly headed by John Barry and currently by Chris Amling. My colleague Steve Skoog leads the pediatric urology team, our former medical student Sarah Hecht is performing well there as a resident, and some of our finest Michigan Urology graduates are leading in the regional practice of urology. Steven Steinberg was Michigan’s contribution from the McGuire days here in Ann Arbor and Rou and Jeff are more recent Nesbitonians.

Wheat & Wang

[Nesbit alumni Jeff Wheat and Rou Wang, now of Portland, during my visit]

In Baltimore the 100th anniversary of the Brady Institute coincided with the Clinical Society meeting hosted by Alan Partin and Pat Walsh. We heard superb presentations from Hopkins faculty, including Ken Pienta (formerly with us in Ann Arbor) and Nobelist Carol Greider who discussed her work on telomeres. She extolled the virtue of “curiosity-driven research” and told how her work was inspired by investigations of Tertrahymena thermophila. (In this odd single celled animal, with only 40,000 chromosomes, the telomere was recognized as tandemly repeated hexanucleotide sequences.) [EH Blackburn, JG Gall. J Molec Biol 1978;120:33] A number of Michigan names showed up in slides of other talks presented in Baltimore: Chinnaiyan, Feng, Tomlins, and Roberts, for example. Hopkins’ new clinical facilities are lovely and functional, yet they have artfully left strong structural remnants of their rich history as a storied urology department.

 Carol Greider

[Picture: Carol Greider advocating curiosity-driven research and showing slide noting that “New discoveries come from unlikely places”]

 

 

6.     Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 8.02.19 AM  Ann Arbor’s first snowfall took place this year, somewhat early, on November 21. With winter many plants go dormant and others  self-destruct, while most of us animals simply endure the cold and prepare for the next warmer seasons. What’s New, our monthly newsletter, is getting ready for a new calendar year. This communication began in the dean’s office of Allen Lichter around 2001 and morphed into a Urology Department weekly profile of individuals and teams in 2007. On the first Friday of each month we have carved out an issue for my gratuitous thoughts. Nearly 3 years ago we mounted a simultaneous version of the first Friday piece on a blog site and called it Matula Thoughts, with the idea that older pieces could be archived and that the communication could be accessed more easily than email that has become too crowded and too painful a place for most of us to linger. The blog site (wordpress) also allows us to visual the reach of this monthly habit of our Department of Urology.

World Nov 24

[Above, 2015 blog visitors, geographic distribution. Below, histogram of last 3 years.]

Histo Nov 24

For me this communication is a periodic Band-Aid for the excessive emails, endless Twitter feeds, and other electronic distractors. Matula Thoughts also provokes curiosity, for example, with the word Band-Aid, that you might consider a brand name. Invented as recently as 1920, the story goes that Earle Dickson (1892-1961), a cotton buyer at Johnson & Johnson, had a wife named Josephine who often cut or burned herself while doing housework and cooking. His handmade prototype (squares of gauze kept in place by crinoline on a roll of tape) allowed Josephine to manage her own wounds. Dickson continued to refine his product and by 1924 the company had a machine that could mass-produce sterile adhesive bandages. With trademark genericization Band-Aid lost its protective status and became a generic term for all adhesive bandages.

Band-Aid

[Thank you Wikipedia. Our annual $100 contribution is in your bank for 2015, and no doubt you’ll need another one in 2016. “The Story Behind Band-Aid Brand” Changing Times; The Kiplinger Magazine December 1964: p. 32]

 

7.     In 2016 we will begin a new iteration of administrative structure at the University of Michigan Medical School and Health System. Except for a several year interlude after February 1930 when the regents fired Hugh Cabot as dean (he was Michigan’s founding urologist-educator), the University of Michigan Medical School has always had a dean. On January 1,2016 the duties of the dean will be added directly to the job description of Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, Marschall Runge. We must thank our outgoing dean, Jim Woolliscroft, for his 8 years in associate dean positions and 9 years of service as dean. Jim has been a superb internist, educator, and statesman of medicine. We hope he will remain with us for in these tricky times and turbulent socioeconomic waters we need his good counsel and intellect. The clinical chairs established an annual lectureship on medical education in Jim’s name and a perpetual full tuition medical student scholarship. [Picture below Jim Woolliscroft and his early mentor and previous chair of Internal Medicine at Michigan, Bill Kelly at the UM vs. MSU game this autumn]

JOW Bill Kelly

Clin chairs JOW

[Picture above: Clinical chairs & Dean Woolliscroft after presentation of Woolliscroft Lectureship and Scholarship]

 

 

8.     Preview of 2016. I can’t predict much of anything for the upcoming year, other than to say we should expect the unexpected – we should anticipate surprises that may be planetary and in our ecosphere, geopolitical and terroristic, economic, healthcare related, regional, and intramural here at the University of Michigan. We can’t change the occurrence of most of these events, but we can reinforce our values and rehearse our responses. A recent article in Pediatrics by Plant, Barone, Serwint, and Butani called “Taking humanism back to the bedside” concludes with a quotation from George Eliot in Middlemarch that might help reset our humanism thermostats [Pediatrics, 2015; 136:828].

“We do not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual. That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had a keen vision and feeling of all of human life, it would be like hearing the grass grow and the squirrels’ heartbeat, and we should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.”

220px-George_Eliot_BNF_Gallica

George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) about whom much more could be said than space now permits. Her only known photograph is an albumen print from around 1865 and held in Paris at the Bibliothèque Nationale.

 

 

9.     Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 7.50.01 AM Beaches. On that recent trip to Portland, Oregon  as visiting professor, my friend Steve Skoog (former resident of mine at Walter Reed and subsequently our Duckett lecturer here in Ann Arbor) took us to Cannon Beach, where we saw Haystack Rock, shown above. Beaches like this are places to find relaxation, recreation, and inspiration among the waves, seaweed, seagulls, crabs, fish, and bivalves that are doing their daily jobs. We all need moments to unwind and walk around, although perhaps not so obtusely as Eliot believed “well wadded in our stupidity.” For us humans, the beach is expected to be a place of peace, so we are shocked when we encounter perversity there in the form of fatal riptides, tsunamis, the terrifying fiction of Jaws, or real sporadic shark attacks. The predicted rise of the oceans should give us pause as well. Perversity is a word that fits nicely here, meaning something so wrong that it is strange or offensive. Such things are wrongheaded, that is turned away from that which is right or good. Perversity is something that is obstinate in opposing what is reasonable or good. Perversity persistently intrudes on humanity, as we have seen most recently in Paris.

 

 

10.  By now most people have forgotten Aylan Kurdi the 2-year old boy who drowned with his mother and 4-year old brother in the Mediterranean off the coast of Turkey while fleeing the civil war in their native Syria. Their intended destination was the island of Kos. This was the site of the Hippocratic School of health, education, and the enduring oath 2.5 millennia earlier. Perversely, the bitter irony of the image of Aylan Kurdi lying on a beach to the east 20 miles away is less enduring in our minds than shark attacks in the recent news. Shark attacks on humans occur on an infinitesimally small scale and the Kurdi family tragedy is just one of millions this year alone. How can it be that our brains lead us to fear sharks more than ourselves?

Syrian toddler

The innocent suffer the most from mankind’s follies such as self-righteous tyrants, political and religious zealots, bigotry, corporate greed, failed national policies, and diplomatic breakdown. The staggering numbers of international refugees (60 million by last count and half of these are children) will exhaust all nations. Any solution to this crisis, if there is to be a solution, is not a matter of expanded quotas in kindly nations. Solution is beyond the ability of any sovereign nation. The solution requires strong international agency that demands national responsibility and accountability, enforces national borders, stewards human future by means of planetary sustainability, and protects the common man above all ideologies, religions, economic theories, biases, and disputes. Wilson’s League of Nations was a valiant, but failed attempt. The United Nations of today is a weak work in progress, although clearly better than nothing as we hope for a favorable outcome of the human experiment. We need some sort of vaccination against the ideological and sectarian viruses for which human brains seem so susceptible. The current crisis of 60 million refugees fleeing civil wars hasn’t been enough to galvanize international response. Greater crises are likely to come from instability of climate, geology, cosmos, and terrorism. With 2016 at hand, we have to hope our species can get its act together soon. While science will provide some tools to that end the essential political solutions will come from educated and humanistic world citizens. Art, in particular, can pull us out of the cocoons of daily life and serve as an antidote to our “well wadded stupidity” for in the words of George Eliot: “That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind.”

 

Thanks for reading What’s New and Matula Thoughts and best wishes for 2016. 

David A. Bloom

Matula Thoughts November 6, 2015

DAB Matula Thoughts November 6, 2015

Seasons, Movember, Nesbit reunion, the dimensions of academic medicine, politics, feline lives, & other disparate thoughts

3452 words

 

Nov leaves

[Self portrait with dog. Nov 8, 2013]

 1.    Shadows are longer in November, days are colder, and it gets dark noticeably sooner as 2015 winds down. Autumn foliage, so spectacular this season, is detaching from the trees and recycling on the ground. Most of us are getting ready to hunker down and bundle up for the business of winter ahead as we begin to contemplate 2016. We meter out our lives in seasons and cycles, so with November we enter a sort of fin de l’année, playing off on the French term for the end of a century. Fin de siècle most notably applies to the end of the 19th century, an era around the 1880s and 1890s that was only well understood decades later when historical perspective could account for its significance. The photo below shows Michigan medical students and the hospital in 1880 on a cloudy late autumn day much like today. Their big news would have been the election of James Garfield as president.

Old Hosp - fall  

[UM Bentley Library. Med students in front of hospital c. 1880]

This was the UM Medical School’s 31st season. The 1880 class, recently graduated, was already practicing medicine throughout the state and beyond. The medical school curriculum had transitioned from a 2-year set of lectures to a 3 and then 4-year program of graduated instruction with laboratory and patient care experience. Today when you walk from our “new” main hospital (it was new in 1986) to the Cancer Center you will pass the class of 1880 picture showing 60 students including 24 women, by my count. Only 4 of the men have moustaches or beards that became so fashionable a decade later (when you continue to view the pictures) and will be more common this month in November due to the world-wide Movember Movement.

UMMS 1880

A decade later in the 19th century fin de siècle on a similar autumn day these Ann Arbor newsboys are getting ready to hawk the morning papers. That year was midway between presidential elections of Grover Cleveland (first term) and Benjamin Harrison. Newsboys are gone, their jobs made obsolete by technology and nowadays people get their news via NPR, television, or smartphones. Urologists, however, have had Darwinian persistence in the human workforce and technology has actually expanded their reach and role.

Newsboys Pose c 1890

[AA newsboys 1890. I can’t give credit to the photographer who obtained this image without a lot more investigation, but after 135 years I figure this must be “fair use.”]

The medical school and hospital have changed much since then and now in our 167th season the signature educational product of our academic medical center has expanded from medical students alone to include residents and PhDs who collectively outnumber the students two to one. Our mission of education, clinical care, and health care discovery remains unchanged since that fin de siècle, but to fit that mission to today’s world we are re-organizing our medical school and hospital under the single aegis of an Executive President for Medical Affairs and Dean, Marschall Runge. The success of this structural change in terms of the optimization of our mission will depend upon three major variables: the operational details currently under construction, the people selected to execute those details, and the productivity (clinical, educational, and scholarly) of our health care enterprise as a whole.

Political rhetoric continues to heat up this month even though major voting is a year away. The U.S. elections are held on the Tuesday after the first Monday of November and the president is elected in even-numbered years at 4-year intervals, so November 8, 2016 will be a big decision point. The contest today looks stranger than ever with providential outsiders competing against highly seasoned and lightly seasoned professional politicians. The consequences of our elections will roll out to residency training programs, medical record systems, and payment methodologies of the not-so-distant future. More importantly, the consequences will be reflected in geopolitical stability and the international economy.

 

 

 2.     The initial urology experiences for most medical students come during third year rotations and fourth year electives when students take clerkships or subinternships at their home schools and visit other places that attract them. At Michigan we had over 350 actual applications for our 4 residency positions. The applicants are clearly the best of the best, although excellent medical school performance and test scores do not automatically equate to great residents, teammates, superb urologists, and Nesbit alumni. It is our job to transform our selected applicants through 5-6 years of residency and subsequent fellowships into extraordinary urologists, educators, and innovators.

The personal statements of our candidates are articulate, show amazing personal accomplishments, and often reflect on the attractions of urology, especially the ability to fix distinct problems with technical wizardry. Yet, I worry how this generation will do with the distractions of the mounting numbers of comorbidities of patients that complicate their “urology issues.” Will urologic detachment blind our next generation of urologists to the inevitable co-morbidities of their patients?  Conversely, will patient comorbidities distract young physicians from urologic-decision making or immobilize them to necessary action? How do we teach our successors to understand and even seek out comorbidities so as to attend to their solutions whilst doing the “urology”? Will the growing administrative burdens, including the mandates of the electronic record and duty hour restrictions, further exacerbate their detachment?

As I was reading transcripts, writing letters of recommendation, and thinking about this new season of applicants, I began to reconsider the characteristics we expect of ourselves as people, physicians, urologists, and educators. Seven key attributes seem to apply equally to residents as well as our best selves. To my list of the seven essential attributes for an excellent urology resident I added a bibliography:

A. Kindness. (P. Ferrucci: The Power of Kindness)

B. Authenticity. You are whom you seem to be. (HG Frankfurt. Two books: On Truth, On Bullshit)

C. Cosmopolitanism (KA Appiah: Cosmopolitanism)

D. Curiosity (EO Wilson: Consilience)

E. Literacy. (S Fish: How to write a sentence)

F. Teamwork & leadership. (DJ Brown: The Boys in the Boat) 

My little list may or may not prove useful for a “book club.” Although we don’t have time for this in the 80-hour weeks “allowed” for resident education, perhaps our best trainees will pursue this list or one like it, surreptitiously off the grid, for “extra credit.”

 

 

Nesbit 2015

3.    Nesbit meeting background. Reed Miller Nesbit was the first official head of urology at Michigan. His teacher, Hugh Cabot, had arrived here in late 1919 to lead the Surgery Department and in short order also became medical school dean. Cabot, a genitourinary surgeon of international stature at this time, was such a catch for the university that the regents gave him the president’s house to live in until he got settled. Nesbit and Charles Huggins were Michigan’s first 2 urology trainees, and Cabot seemed to have trained them well. Cabot’s innovative ideas and outspoken nature offended many and he was fired by the regents in 1930.

Nesbit was then named official head of urology within the Surgery Department and he soon became a pivotal figure in American surgery. Huggins focused on prostate cancer research, developed his career largely at the University of Chicago, and earned a Nobel Prize in 1966. Our Nesbit Society was created in 1972. Faculty, UM urology trainees and UMMS students who got their urology start here, but trained elsewhere, are members of the Nesbit Society.

Residency training is an intense period of work, study, and friendships that reverberate for a lifetime. It is a fact lost on lay people and many in the academe that residency training is the career-defining stage of medical education and the signature product of an academic medical center. It is where the professional knowledge base, values, and skills of the next generation of physicians are forged. Whereas UM has close to 700 medical students and 200 Ph.D.s in health sciences at any time, we have 1200 residents and fellows. [Picture above – day one of Nesbit Meeting 2015 in Sheldon Auditorium; below – day two at North Campus Research Complex]

Nesbit - NCRC

Nesbit 2015. Our Nesbit academic Thursday & Friday were among the best continuing medical education events I’ve experienced and far too much went on to be summarized here. Attendance topped 100 including Tom Koyanagi from Japan, Dave Bomalaski from Alaska, and Jens Sønksen from Copenhagen, along with many other Nesbit alums and MUSIC colleagues from around Michigan. Faculty, resident, and fellows gave superb presentations. Appropos of November, Daniela Wittmann’s talk included details of the worldwide and Ann Arbor impact of the Movember Movement, including significant scientific funding and collaborations for us in AA. Since 2003, Daniela noted, 5 million Movember participants worldwide have raised over $650 million for men’s health, targeted heavily to prostate cancer. Jerry Andriole, our visiting professor from Washington University in St. Louis, gave superb talks on prostate cancer and PSA.

 

Harden et al

Greg Harden, our featured speaker, was extraordinary. [Above from left: Gary Faerber, Mike Kozminski, Dave Burks, Greg Harden, DAB] Long-time psychologist to our Athletic Department Greg spoke about need to fine-tune our personal “critical self-assessments” and extended the idea of fitness holistically to the three domains of physical, mental, and spiritual fitness – noting  the factor of recovery time: the better fit we are, the quicker our recovery from exercise or exhaustion. During the business meeting Gary Faerber, Associate Chair for Education, announced plans for a new resident’s room. While the hospital is footing the half million dollar overall cost, Gary believed that the dinky regulation lockers and minimal amenities should be upgraded so he announced a campaign for Nesbit alums to fund lockers or computer workstations, etc. Many stepped up to the challenge and Jens Sønksen (picture below; Nesbit 1996 and close colleague of Dana Ohl) put us over the top with an amazing gift.

Jens

Julian Wan will be turning over the Nesbit presidency to Mike Kozminski next May at our Nesbit AUA Reception and John Wei will become Secretary-Treasurer. In the Big House Michigan led Michigan State until only the final few seconds when a terrible anti-climactic error cost us the game. No doubt the football team will be doing a thorough post-mortem analysis of that game to look for missed opportunities and analyze mistakes. Just like the rest of the university, the Athletic Department is ultimately an educational unit.

UM vs. MSU  

[Opening of UM vs. MSU game 2015. Lloyd Carr is honored]

 

 

M&M

4.     We too analyze our mistakes and untoward events. The Morbidity and Mortality Conference is a key ritual of academic medicine. Once a month we have a 7 AM Grand Rounds-type meeting where our residents stand up and present serious complications and deaths that occurred in our urology department. Faculty and residents discuss what might have been done differently and what factors contributed to each complication or death. Lay readers should not be surprised – every week deaths are likely to occur in UM hospitals at large and among our outpatient population; several million people a year pass through the doors of our health system, tens of thousands of operative procedures occur, and hundreds of thousands of people with serious illnesses are hospitalized. Our daily work is serious, not just the actual care of patients, but also the education of our successors with the expectation that they will be better tomorrow than we are today in this serious business of healthcare. Just as important as patient care and physician education, no less essential is the need to expand the knowledge base of urologic health and disease, in addition to improving therapies and delivery systems. These are the three dimensions of academic medicine. As specialists we hone in with great intensity on the urology issues presented to us, but must also probe efficiently for the context of the urology problem – the comorbidities of health and life.

 

 

 5.     The lives of patients are far more complex than the urologic problems that bring them to our clinics. With specialization comes our conceit of detachment. Living in an era of specialty knowledge and skills, we specialists concentrate on our specific fields and as urologists these are urologic matters. It is easiest to do this in isolation from all the other stuff around a patient’s life, but of course we also need to listen to them and recognize, for example, such things as sadness about recent loss of a parent, delaying traffic jams on the way to appointments, awful parking situations, or perhaps unusual heartburn experienced after a rushed breakfast to get to the appointment on time. These issues are not necessarily irrelevant to, for example, the small renal mass that brings a patient in to see us, although we still need to focus on that immediate issue – and the clock is running while other patients are checking in and you may shortly be called to the OR. On the other side of the coin we have all referred patients with unexplained problems to other services only to be told dismissively by a colleague: “it is not cardiac” or “it is not GI” or “it is not surgical.” We get exasperated when other doctors fail to “consider the whole patient.”

 

 

6.     Few urological problems, few medical problems of any sort, are isolated conditions. Everyone has lives and comorbidities that complicate the medical conditions under inspection in our clinic. These may be dire social situations, family matters, or other specific medical comorbidities.  A recent Perspective in The Lancet by Todd Meyers of the Department of Anthropology at Wayne State University offers a compelling view of this additional dimension of our health care paradigm.

 “Comorbidity is a clinical and conceptual problem. It is simultaneously a problem of how to describe multiple morbidities – clinically or epidemiologically – and a problem of how individuals themselves conceptualise and wrestle with their polypathia … Through the play of disorder and circumstance (and presentation and expectation), to treat is to capture, to arrest symptoms in a particular moment, but rarely is there enough time or resource to discover where these symptoms fit within the complex lattice that makes up the individual experience of comorbidity.” [Permission of Todd Meyers. The art of medicine. How is comorbidity lived? T. Meyers. The Lancet. 386:1128-1129, 2015]

You and I will never find the perfect balance between truly understanding a patient in terms of comorbidities of life and body and the immediacy of the person’s urologic condition. The art, however, is in our effort to try as we practice medicine patiently, one patient at a time.

 

 

 7.     Comorbidity, as a term and idea, is attributed to internist and epidemiologist Alvan Feinstein who spent his career at Yale School of Medicine. His reputation has been challenged due to some statements during a period of his career when he minimized the negative effects of smoking, even though he had been sponsored by the industry. [Feinstein, Alvan R. (1970). “The pre-therapeutic classification of co-morbidity in chronic disease”. Journal of Chronic Diseases 23 (7): 455–68] It is easy to pile on indignantly to this criticism now, in 2015, but the overwhelming evidence today of the destructive effects of tobacco smoke was not so apparent back then. Later in his career, particularly as editor of the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, he became more critical of tobacco. Smoking looked cool in the mid-nineteenth century, and the makers of cigarettes naturally tweaked the composition of their product to enhance the addictive features. Ironically, smoking has turned out to be a major contributor to today’s medical comorbidities.

Feinstein, born in Philadelphia December 4, 1925, died just about 15 years ago (October 25, 2001). He obtained bachelor’s, master’s, and medical degrees at the University of Chicago, where he probably interacted with former UM trainee Professor Charles Huggins. In spite of that likely intersection, Feinstein chose internal medicine for a career and trained at the Rockefeller Institute, becoming board certified in 1955.  [Picture from Yale Bulletin & Calendar Nov. 2, 2001] After a few years at what would later become the NYU Langone Medical he moved to Yale in 1962 and became founding director of its Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program in 1974.

Feinstein 

 

 

Freedom_from_Want

8.     November brings Thanksgiving to mind. The Norman Rockwell painting Freedom from Want (discussed on these pages last March) had its debut on March 6, 1943 as a Saturday Evening Post cover. This was number three in his Four Freedoms series of oil paintings inspired by Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 State of the Union Address. Rockwell started this particular painting the previous Thanksgiving in 1942, depicting actual friends and family at the table. We are too comfortable today to feel as viscerally about the four freedoms as Roosevelt, Rockwell, and most Americans did during the darkest days of WWII or as the world’s 60 million refugees must feel today, but we should beware that our comfort rests on only a thin veneer of civilization. As specialists we are also sometimes too comfortable in our professions. We enjoy not only the four freedoms of Roosevelt (freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear), but also freedom to choose one’s work, in our case the specialty of urology. Board certifications and hospital credentialing processes define our scopes of practice, while varying degrees of personal detachment allow us to focus specifically on urologic disorders and their treatment.

 

 

9.     On this particular day in history two now-obscure events left countless social and physical comorbidities reverberating still today. In 1965 Cuba and the United States agreed to an airlift for Cubans who wanted to come to the United States. When the Cuban revolution began in 1959 the U.S. government initially reacted favorably to it, but after hundreds of executions and Fidel Castro’s embrace of communism relations soured and by 1965 the Communist Party was governing Cuba. Amazingly, Castro is still around, having survived as Cuba’s leader parallel to 11 American presidents for 16 terms of office. By 1971, 250,000 Cubans had made use of this program. Only now, 50 years later, do we find signs of improvement in relations with that nation of 11 million people only 90 miles away from Key West, Florida. A second historic coincidence occurred exactly 40 years ago on the other side of the Atlantic. The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain and General Franco (ailing despite recent recovery from a serious bout of phlebitis) to hand over its colony, the disputed, autonomous Spanish Province of Sahara. Some 350,000 Moroccans advanced several miles into the Spanish Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops and met very little initial response from either Spanish forces or the Sahrawi Polisario Front, an independence movement backed by Algeria, Libya, and Cuba which was fortified by Soviet arms. The Spanish Armed Forces were asked to hold their fire so as to avoid bloodshed and they removed mines from some previously armed fields. Nevertheless, the events quickly escalated into a fully waged war between Morocco, Mauritania, and the Polisario, once Spain left the territory. The Western Sahara War, as it came to be known, lasted for 16 years. The color green was incorporated to invoke Islam. A cease-fire agreement reached in 1991 remains monitored by the UN Mission for the referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). What these two events have in common is the disruption of people’s lives when colonialism, regionalism, and independence movements collide and become playing grounds for larger international proxy conflicts. Sound familiar?

 

 

 10.    November refers to the number nine in Latin, a quantity recalling the alleged lives of a cat. Reflecting back over the shoulder of human time, you can’t help but think that our species has been testing the limits of our existence with far more numerous close calls than a cat’s. The Cuban missile crisis was just one close call, among other instabilities around the planet from Africa, to the mid-East, and in far too many other places. The feline proverb  dates back at least to Ben Johnson’s play written in 1598, Every Man in his Humor. William Shakespeare performed in that play and then used a similar phrase a year later in his own play Much Ado About Nothing: “What, courage man! What though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.” The actual intent of the word care, was worry or sorrow, but somehow over the intervening centuries curiosity became the perpetrator of the cat’s demise. Possibly the belief in 9-lives is related to the ability of cats to land on their feet. In fact their spine is more flexible than that of humans; while like most mammals cats have 7 cervical vertebrae, they have 13 thoracic, 7 lumbar, and 3 sacral vertebrae. We humans have 3-5 caudal vertebrae fused into an internal coccyx, but cats have a variable number of caudal vertebrae in their tail.

English_tabby_cat

[English tabby cat. 1890. Popular Science Monthly Vol. 37] 

 It is also curious, if we may re-employ the term without penalty, that while cats may have 9 lives and often have amazing moustaches (that remind us of Movember throughout the year), dogs unequivocally remain mankind’s best friends.

 

Thanks for considering our Matula Thoughts once again.

Best wishes for Movember, 2015.

David A. Bloom