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Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Maintaining weight loss after dieting -- a ghost of a chance

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First published in print: 10/29/2011

You don't expect to read a Halloween story in the staid New England Journal of Medicine. But there it was this week -- a chilling tale about menacing hormones that kept taunting dieters to eat!

Dieters have long-suspected the presence of powerful adversarial forces laying "in weight" of any seemingly successful dieting effort. Lost pounds seem to return automatically, like cloying "boo!"-merangs.

Many dieters are dispirited by such frustrating experiences. They commonly convey a sense of feeling haunted by powerful internal messages that relentlessly coax them back to the snack table, scare them into believing they must -- and will -- return to their pre-diet weights.

Finally, Australian researchers have confirmed those dieters' suspicions.  Read More 

Physicians under the influence--An anatomy of addiction and the health of a nation

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First published in print: 10/23/2011

After injecting himself with cocaine, the acclaimed New York surgeon -- who would come to be known as the "Father of Modern Surgery" -- proceeded to the trauma room where he'd been summoned by hospital staff. Awaiting his arrival was a construction worker with life-threatening bone fractures who was "writhing in agony." But, rather than picking up a scalpel and treating the laborer, the surgeon, Dr William Halsted, "turned on his heels, walked out of the hospital, and hailed a cab to gallop him to his home. ... Once there, he sank into a cocaine oblivion that lasted more than seven months."

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic and 12 days after Halsted fled the hospital, the Viennese physician who would become the "Father of Psychoanalysis" began composing love letters -- about cocaine -- to his fiancée, Martha. In those letters, Sigmund Freud wrote about his self-experimentation with "this magical substance" -- the way it lifted him "to the heights in a wonderful fashion." Two months later, he would publish his legendary monograph, "Über Coca" -- a "song of praise" to cocaine.

Through compellingly told stories of these two physicians, author and medical historian Howard Markel takes us on a sometimes-cringing tour of the medical establishment during the late-19th and early-20th centuries -- and, as we discover, much of what we encounter seems hauntingly familiar today. In his new book, "An Anatomy of Addiction -- Sigmund Freud, William Halsted, and the Miracle Drug Cocaine," Markel also tells a timeless and over-arching tale about medical practice "under the influence" of commerce and happenstance.  Read More 

Doctors testing the limits of health care reform -- Excess Medical Testing

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated columnist
First Published in Print: 10/01/2011

Vince Lombardi once famously declared that, in football, "The best defense is a good offense."

I thought about the coach's words while reading a new study about doctors ordering unnecessary medical tests and procedures -- whether practicing medicine on the defense or offense. The study was eye-opening in that it surveyed views about unnecessary medical care from the unique perspectives of 627 U.S. physicians on the front-line of medical practice -- internists and family practitioners who often call the plays that determine whether tests or subspecialty referrals are ordered.

In essence, this report in last week's Archives of Internal Medicine reveals that many doctors, by their own admission, believe that too many patients get too much care. And, after analyzing the explanations proposed by the doctors, the authors offer this striking conclusion: "Physicians believe they are paid to do more, and exposed to legal punishment if they do less."  Read More