Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Dying of a Broken Heart

January 22, 2012

Tags: broken heart, broken heart syndrome, Circulation, takotsubo, stress cardiomyopathy, Jimmy Ruffin, Scannell

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 01/22/12

In the early 1970s, my friend's father died on stage while receiving a golden watch from his boss to mark his retirement. Grasping the watch in one hand, he reportedly clutched his chest with the other and collapsed. He could not be revived. His sudden death had been completely unexpected, and his family was devastated. His death was officially attributed to a heart attack.

Afterward, my grieving friend speculated that her father's death had been triggered by the stress and heightened emotions he'd been experiencing over the unwelcome prospect of retirement. He'd been a dedicated "company man" his entire adult life, someone who had found meaning and personal fulfillment through his job at the auto plant. He couldn't imagine living without the satisfying daily routine of his work and the companionship of co-workers.

I knew nothing at the time about cardiology, the heart's autonomic neural regulation or the body's powerful, smoldering brew of stress hormones. However, I was convinced by what had happened to my friend's father that a heart could be broken by grief and loss. That it could shatter under the unbearable weight of despair.

Years later, after becoming a physician, I often was reminded of my friend's father. (more…)

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Health and safety of patients must not get lost in e-Doctoring

January 8, 2012

Tags: eDoctoring, iPatient, iDoctor, distracted doctors, patient safety, Scannell, Angry Birds, iPad, medical devices

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 01/07/2012

Is it OK for an anesthesiologist to play Angry Birds on his iPhone while administering anesthesia during a gallbladder surgery? During your gallbladder surgery?

What do you think about a surgeon voice-dialing her colleagues or chatting with family during the operation?

Although we've inhabited the Digital Age for many years, only recently have we begun to examine how it might affect us personally as patients and doctors, and whether overall patient safety and care have actually improved.

This inquiry is long overdue, and, as recent studies suggest, urgent. (more…)

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