Heart of a Lion, Hands of a Woman: What Women Neurosurgeons Do
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Friday, April 30, 2010

It Doesn't Get any Better

After more than two years of soliciting contributions, writing, editing, re-writing, re-editing and then publishing, I am thrilled to announce that Heart of a Lion, Hands of a Woman: What Women Neurosurgeons Do (Donning Press) got an outstanding review in JAMA. I am including the entire review (it is short, no worries) along with the stunning painting by Dr. K. Ko (who contributed the art to the front of the book as well.
Books are still available through the AANS Marketplace.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Exercising Your Brain

If you are between the ages of 40 and 65 and sometimes wonder if your brain will make it through another day (without forgetting an important name, what you went to the basement to retrieve, etc), take heart-you are not alone! Take heart, it seems that close inspection reveals that while there may be many of these little slips, the middle age brain is doing more than fine.  In this regard, we who are "middle-aged" often feel isolated in our forgetfulness, constantly worried about the threat of dementia so I was thrilled last week to tuned into NPR and listened to Barbara Strauch (NY Times science writer) talk about her new book, The Secret Life of The Grown-up Brain. 
She relates that studies show that "in this middle span, we get higher scores on all our tests in a whole range of areas, including inductive reasoning, verbal memory, vocabulary -- we're better in that span than we were in our 20s." Middle age wisdom then is , "Because the brain sees connections, it sees the full picture."
For me this all makes perfect sense-I often feel like I "get the whole picture" and understand the solution to problems (or diagnoses with patients) in an instant but then may have to write it down so I don't forget it before I can put into action.
And the imporant lesson is that we really must keep exercising our bodies and our brains-beyond crosswords and books.  She even advocates at least a little of intellectual conflict to "juice the brain".  Maybe that explains why I am enjoying my blog so much-it does keep me on my toes.

I read the following excerpt from the book and now know I will get the book (available at all the usual palces like Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, etc):

Indeed, despite long-held beliefs to the contrary, there's mounting evidence that at middle age we may be smarter than we were in our twenties.
How can that be? How can we possibly be smarter and be putting the bananas in the laundry basket? Smarter and still unable, once we get to the hardware store, to remember why we went there in the first place? Smarter and,despite our best efforts to concentrate on one thing at a time, finding our brains bouncing about like billiard balls?
(Viking Press, copyright 2010)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Dorothy Height

This special lady died this week at the age of 98.  Her name may not roll off the tongue like Martin Luther King, Jr., Elizabeth Blackwell, M.D., or Susan B. Anthony but this diminutive woman did so much for women (and blacks and all of humanity) that women like me who have become professionals (and particularly in male dominated fields) have much to thank her for.
Dr. Height was born in 1912 and won a scholarship to Barnard College based on her oratorical skills (though she attended NYU).  After achieving her bachelor's and master degrees and advanced study in Social Work, she began her lifelong crusade for equality and equal opportunity.  She also worked tirelessly for voter registration and education.  Presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan to Bush to Obama trusted her as advisor and honored her accomplishments.  May said she had the most remarkable ability to reach across barriers-between women and men, white and those of color, rich and poor. For more details and moving photographs, see NPR's indepth coverage, the National Council of Negro Women (she was Chair and President Emerita), or read her amazing memoir Open Wide the Freedom Gates.

In "Tell Me More", Jennifer Longmire-Wright captures much of Dorothy's essence:
Dr. Height was a bridge-builder who understood that we all had something to gain from coming together.  She...said that there is strength in numbers.  It's okay to ask for help.

One of her stands particularly struck home with me so I will close this tribute with:
The younger generations, she said, are the beneficiaries of what a lot of people worked and gave their lives for. It is important for the young to get organized in how they will serve others, because when people work for something bigger than themselves, there's no way they can help but grow.

Monday, April 19, 2010

I Blushed

Can't blame the tumor
It was just an adenoma
Surgery went well and he was feisty, ready to go
Went through it all, once, twice, three times
I like to make sure they remember

Off to the computer I strolled
Notes, summary, orders all done
I was about to leave and his nurse strolled out
Dr. B, thought you might like to know
He said his doctor is cute, too

I blushed

Friday, April 16, 2010

Blogging for Fun

Have read a handful of posts lately apologizing for being "absent" from the blogosphere for one reason or another. Certainly there are individuals who blog for a living but otherwise I think our blogs should not bind us or add guilt to our lives (most of us already significantly juggle plenty of things to need that). It reminds me of all my friends and family who regularly swear they will start to keep a regular journal and start up very diligently (ofter just after January 1 or their birthday) only to see it fade away quickly because in the end, there were other things.
I have enjoyed my blog enormously and after a slow start did realize that making a commitment to regular entries was the only way to engender value and reward for me (and potentially my readers).  That strategy has worked well in providing both structure and limitation of guilt. But like the working mother who won't apologize to her children for working, I vow never to apologize for allowing other components of my life to take priority over blogging if that is necessary.
Hope you are all enjoying the remarkable spring that we are seeing here in New York (pictures to follow soon).

Monday, April 12, 2010

Loss Comes in Threes

When I was 12, my grandfather died just weeks after his wife and his sister.  During his funeral, all the "old people" (or so they seemed to me), talked about how death and bad luck always comes in threes.  Just a month ago, I wrote about two great losses to neurosurgery and now I must relate a third.  Dr. Joan Venes died this week from complications following surgery.  Dr. Venes was the third woman board certified in neurosurgery in the United States.  Her journey from first generation blue-collar America is the stuff of movies.  She was the first of her neighborhood to attend college-studying nursing.  She used her nursing career (experience and finances) to then launch her medical school studies and withstood may trials of fire before being admitting to the Yale neurosurgery training program. Her career was dedicated to pediatric neurosurgery-to which she made enormous contributions.
I only met Dr. Venes a few times and unfortunately, I can't say that I knew her well.  I had enormous respect for her accomplishments though it sometimes made me sad to think of all she had to sacrifice, being one of the FIRST! Those who followed her trail had it easier because of all she did.  There will be many tributes to this fine lady.  You can read more about her life  at SNS or at WINS. Rest in peace.
Dr. Joan Venes, 1935-2010

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Family Member

Friday, April 2, 2010 we welcomed a new addition to the family.  Zev arrived after nearly 5 1/2 hours of labor (awake at 5:15 am, left home 5:45 am, arrived back home 11:30 am).  He is just 8 weeks old, a bundle of energy and antics.  So far, the transition has been smooth.  He did cry nearly the entire car ride home but that is to be expected.  Big brother Ezra is very tolerant of his youthful energy and intrusions.  My husband and I are more tired than usual but holding up well.  As is always the case, we take far too many photos and think you all will enjoy them as much as we do...I will try not to overwhelm you with cuteness too often.

Monday, April 5, 2010

April Fools

April 1, 2010
No this is no April Fools joke...Congress recessed for Easter and once again failed to fix Medicare fees-due to drop nearly 22% in accordance with the SGR formula.  Some may remember the recessed before the March 1 deadline, Medicare fees technically dropped for a few days but then when our august congressmen (and the few women) came back, they managed to squeak by a 1 month extension.  Their excuse for all this shenanigans was they were too busy with health care reform (why assuring that doctors get paid the already appalling Medicare reimbursements instead of those with a >20% cut was not considered important component of health care legislation...just not clear)!
Fast-forward one month and...now they are too busy with...Easter???? So doctors are back in limbo.  Technically, fees have dropped again but we are assured they will once again fix this problem when they return and indeed make the fix retro to april Fools Day.  Someone once said:
Fool me once, shame on you
Fool me twice, shame on me

Congress, this is abysmal behavior.  As a physician I am appalled; as an American, I am embarrassed. I still say, bring on the cuts-it will make doctor's decision to leave Medicare easier and then all our over 65 citizens will better understand just how critical physicians are to their health.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pioneering Russian Women Neurosurgeons

Dr. Vinogradova
Dr. Baimova
In Russia, women practiced as neurosurgeons decades before their American counterparts.  Little has been written about these pioneers-political barriers discouraged exchange throughout most of the 20th century.  I share these remarkable photographs a contemporary Russian neurosurgeon provided to bring them into the spotlight.  Perhaps, some stories about them will be shared.

Dr. Artaryan
Thanks to Chris Philips for sharing the availability of a provacative interview with Dr. Artaryan available through the AANS.
Dr. Bryusova and colleagues