We are afraid of Heart Disease, but what about the “Unknown Killer”?

May 1, 2008

*Note: This post is at least partially intended to infuriate doctors and those studying medicine… hehehehe : ).

Recently, my uncle was hospitalized after having a shortness of breath… they soon found that he was very, very sick. Upon seeing what goes on at hospitals, it got me to thinking. This post is the result of my (very brief and not at all scientific) studies…

We are all very aware that heart disease is published as the leading cause of death in the U.S. (652,486 deaths in 2004 according to the CDC). Cancer comes in at a close second at 553,888 deaths. Strokes are third at 150,074. This is all very eye-opening, maybe even scary (those numbers are pretty intimidating), but what kills even more people (as best anyone can tell) than heart disease? The answer is a little-known condition called Iatrogenesis… what is Iatrogenesis, you ask? It is officially defined as “a state of ill health as a result of medical treatment”. Almost unbelievably, doctors are one of the leading causes of death in the modern U.S.!!!

Estimates range from 220,000 a year to 750,000 deaths a year, depending on your source. This fact (that various sources do not agree on the exact number) is disturbing in itself. Is it really possible that 500,000 people are dieing per year as a result of seeing a medical professional?

A quick search on the internet will yield a plethora of well documented cases regarding Iatrogenesis.
I can almost hear doctors rushing to there own defense now… “Medicine is a field in which an inherent amount of danger is present as a result of the limited amount of knowledge that we have of the human body/immune system!”.

At first, I could sympathize… after all, they are doing their best, right?

This is where the story gets interesting… again, estimates vary, but a common number among a variety of sources seems to indicate that almost 100,000 people a year are hospitalized unnecessarily. On top of that, 12,000 people a year die as a result of unnecessary surgery. UNNECESSARY SURGERY?! What the heck is that? Is it possible that doctors recommend surgery as a result of economic motivations?

I used to support the concept of tort reform… I used to think that doctors had it rough due to their own insurance costs… but 500,000 people die a year after seeking their services?

This may sound harsh, but I cannot fathom any other profession in which 500,000 “errors” that result in deaths a year would be acceptable…

Before we scream for tort reform in the area of medical practice liability, maybe it is time for the doctors of the U.S. to get it together!

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The True Value of Diversity

January 28, 2008

What is diversity?

I am 25 years old, fairly young, probably still very naive, and I have lived my entire life in northern Ohio. Anyone from the area can tell you that Ohio is not exactly the capital of diversity in any sense, and if anyone tries to tell you that it is they are either very sheltered or they are fooling themselves. Having grown up in an area where everyone is essentially ‘like’ you, recognizing the value of diversity can be a very, very challenging task.

Upon starting my first ‘corporate’ job (working for a fortune 100 company) a couple of years ago, I was quickly put through a week-long ‘diversity training program’ that was supposed to be designed to help all employees recognize and appreciate the ‘value’ of a diverse workforce. After the first day of the training, I was pretty disappointed to find out that the ‘diversity training program’ was actually nothing more than a ‘try to tolerate your neighbors and don’t make fun of anyone at work’ training program.

I have to admit that prior to beginning my graduate degree last year I thought that I knew what diversity was and why it was important. While growing up, I had friends from other races and ethnic backgrounds… so I knew what diversity was, right? When I began my graduate program I saw that diversity is something entirely different…

Do we need to take another look at how we view diversity?

The standard method of teaching diversity in the U.S. has remained unchanged for quite some time, and I think that it may be time that we re-examine our methods.

In most elementary schools, children are first introduced to the concept of diversity by teaching them through various ‘holiday traditions exercises’… in other words, the first exposure to learning about the value of diversity that many American children receive is learning that diversity means ‘jewish kids celebrate Hanukkah’, or that ‘some african cultures celebrate Kwanzaa’, etc… as children continue into middle and high school, this approach changes to more of a ‘tolerance-based’ approach, essentially focusing on the idea that we all inhabit this earth together, and that we need to accept each other’s differences in order to get along… is this what diversity is? Does learning about diversity and cultural differences have no value other than tolerance? We seem to be telling our children (from a very young age) “Sure, we are all different, and it makes things tough… Get over it.”

More disturbingly, there is a strong movement in schools to eliminate these ‘holiday celebrations’ altogether. Although they are going about teaching diversity the wrong way, some mention of it is better than none. Numerous lawsuits have been brought forth in the past few years aimed at removing from classrooms any acknowledgment of the cultural differences that makes us all unique. Evidently, teaching children that their friends may celebrate other holidays because they belong to another religion is infringing upon their rights… Would they truly be better off by ignoring the fact that not everyone believes the same things they do? Evidently some socially conservative whack-jobs think so (and I must admit, I am fairly socially conservative when it comes to religion).

The Right Way to Teach Diversity

When I began my graduate studies, I was for the first time in my life surrounded by (and forced to work in close proximity with) people from numerous other cultures. In a matter of days, I went from having no concept of what diversity truly is to working face-to-face on a daily basis with people from India, Nepal, Croatia, Nigeria, Ghana, Vietnam, China, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, etc…

The experience of working with (and learning from) people from so many different cultures and backgrounds has been truly priceless. I have developed numerous technical and analytical skills and have had many experiences in my studies that will benefit me as my career progresses, but none of them compare to the insight I have gained from working and studying with the international students. It has become very apparent to me that the true value of understanding diversity is not the ability to be tolerant of those around you… the true value lies in the diversity itself and is a result of the various life experiences, outlooks, beliefs, and cultural differences that each member of society brings to the table. If we can learn to appreciate the value of each individual’s unique set of knowledge and beliefs, then tolerance will be a simple consequence of respecting and valuing the ideas and thoughts of others. Rather than teaching tolerance in our schools and workplaces, we should teach the concept that when we may not have the right answer to whatever problem we are facing, someone from a different background may have a unique and valuable perspective.