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Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Ode to Watson: A supercomputer, 'Jeopardy!' champion, doctor, paper-pusher, and scribe

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in Print: 09/18/2011

Sherlock Holmes famously partnered with his Doctor Watson to help solve the most baffling mysteries of his day. Soon, doctors in clinics will be partnering with another famous Watson, ostensibly to help solve diagnostic conundrums for patients.

Last week, IBM and health insurer WellPoint Inc. jointly announced that supercomputer Watson -- best known for trouncing human contestants on the TV game show "Jeopardy!" -- was being put to work as a doctor's aide. Or as an insurance agent. Maybe both. It's hard to compute just yet. Read More 

Suffering Congress in this post-9/11 era

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in Print: 09/10/2011

Ten years ago, I wrote this column about doctoring throughout the week that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most of the patients I saw had reported feeling anxious, distracted and troubled. Many were overwhelmed by anger, fear, sadness, or existential angst. Cognitive disturbances were epidemic -- trouble concentrating, thinking, and remembering.

I wrote then: "Depression's devitalizing fog cast across the lives of most patients and coworkers to varying degrees, and, on several occasions, the phrase 'Prozac nation' assumed new and prescient significance ... ."

Like many Americans, I was struggling a decade ago to find my way to "some kind of normal" through the communal haze, all the while the Twin Towers' ashes had not yet fully settled. It seemed that for days, the thick dust and debris kept falling, continually layering over what had been routine, obscuring the familiar. Everything became coated with dark surrealism.

Two days after the attack when I arrived at work, I stood hesitantly outside my office a while. I looked through the doorway at my old desk, my crammed bookshelves, my stacked medical journals, the photographs and cards from patients tacked to the walls -- and it all looked so very strange. The daily habit of my life and career felt suddenly foreign to me.

That same day, a patient told me that he felt thoroughly vindicated for not having followed my recommendation to schedule a screening colonoscopy. "After all," he said, "it could've been me in those Towers. And believe me, I would've been cursing you in my final moments knowing that I'd wasted my time having that test while an airplane took me out."
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