Pat McNees

Writer, editor, ghostwriter, personal historian

"You drown not by falling into the river, but by staying submerged in it." ~ Paulo Coelho

Full Reclining Sofa (Lazyboy, "Owen Power La-Z-Time," great for people who need to elevate their legs)

Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine - The First Year, ed. Paul Gross and Diane Guernsey (excellent essays, poems and short narratives from the hearts and in the voices of patients and their health care providers, from the online magazine Pulse)

Article linking autism to vaccination was fraudulent. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, Jane Smith, deputy editor, and Harvey Marcovitch, associate editor, British Medical Journal 5 Jan 2011. A 1998 Lancet paper, chiefly by Andrew Wakefield, implied a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine and a “new syndrome” of autism and bowel disease. Clear evidence of falsification of data in that article should now close the door on this damaging vaccine scare, write BMJ's top editors. In a seven-part series, journalist Brian Deer shows the extent of Wakefield's fraud and how it was perpetrated: In a seven-part series, journalist Brian Deer shows the extent of Wakefield's fraud and how it was perpetrated: How the case against the MMR vaccine was fixed.
Here's video of discussion on the Dylan Ratigan Show (MSNBC)of scientific fraud.

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Medical links for smart patients, parents, and caregivers

Health and medical guides
• MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia (National Library of Medicine) See version en espanol (Informaciσn de Salud de la Biblioteca Nacional de Medicina)
• Cochran Library (evidence-based research).
• Medical Dictionary (Web MD)
• MedTerms (

Managing a patient's medical costs

•, which "shows the average local cost for 70 common diagnoses and medical tests in most states...based on a giant database of what insurance companies actually pay." Guroo is produced by the Health Care Cost Institute. See KHN story: Attention, Shoppers: Prices For 70 Health Care Procedures Now Online! (Jay Hancock, Kaiser Health News, 2-25-15).
• 5 Tips for Handling Early-Year Medical Expenses (AP, NY Times, 2-5-15) Which refers to:
---Co-Payment Assistance Organizations (Patient Access Network Foundation)
---Partnership for Prescripton Assistance (PPA)
• Cost Conundrum: What a Texas town can teach us about health care (Atul Gawande, New Yorker, 6-1-09)
• Drug information resources you can trust (top consumer health sites, CAPHIS)
• PatientAssistance (helping patients get medication). See list of Top 50 drugs
• CountyRxCard (up to 75% discount on all FDA-approved drugs at 56,000 pharmacies nationwide)
• Be a Prepared Patient Center for Advancing Health, CFAH)
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Annual physicals and health care screening tests
Physicals, yes--just not annually. Definitely get a physical when something is wrong.
• A Check on Physicals (Jane Brody, Well, 1-21-13) A 'Danish team noted that routine exams consist of “combinations of screening tests, few of which have been adequately studied in randomized trials.” Among possible harms from health checks, they listed “overdiagnosis, overtreatment, distress or injury from invasive follow-up tests, distress due to false positive test results, false reassurance due to false negative test results, adverse psychosocial effects due to labeling, and difficulties with getting insurance.”'
• Which screening tests are worth getting? , sidebar to story Annual physical exam is probably unnecessary if you’re generally healthy (Christie Aschwanden, Washington Post, 2-8-13).

Grand Rounds at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (talks and slide shows available free online)

MyClaimSource (information about filing claims online, and a forum on which to compare notes with or get responses to questions from other claim filers)

The NNT. The Number Needed to Treat -- a tool to communicate benefit and harm that both patients and doctors can understand (traditionally, the number required to prevent one death). See also the Lancet article, Numbers needed to treat (needlessly?) by Peter Bogaty and James Brophy, suggesting that the NNT obscures the reality that many patients are treated without benefit. Figures on such questions as whether taking an aspirin prevents a heart attack (or does harm), whether beta blockers prevent myocardial infarction (or do harm), is the Mediterranean diet helpful after heart attack, do statin drugs given for five years (with or without known heart disease)help or harm health, in what ways? and so on.

New York Times:
• NY Times Health Navigator (Rich Meislin's selective guide to health and medical sites)
• NY Times Health Guide (and A-to-Z guide, with more than 3,000 topics described, illustrated, and investigated)

NIH (National Institutes of Health):
• Frequently asked questions
• Health Information (by age group, by gender, by condition/​disease, by body system, and so on, including info on health and wellness)
• NIH RePORTER (NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting), a searchable database about federally funded biomedical research projects and programs (replaced CRISP). News updates here.
• NIH Senior Health
• NIH Telephone & Services Directory, including links to the various institutes and centers
• Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR)

Pharmed Out, a university-based project that empowers physicians to identify and counter inappropriate pharmaceutical promotion practices and learn more about evidence-based practices. Interesting for consumers, too--take a good look through resources.

Suicide Prevention
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
• Warning Signs for Suicide (American Association of Suicidology -- "Suicide Prevention is Everyone's Business")
• 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention (PDF, Report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention)
• Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention . See its Resourcespage.
• Surviving Suicide: The Ones Left Behind (Lorna Simon, MD, Psychiatric Services, 12-1-03)
• Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) . See its Best Practices Registry
• Suicide Prevention (National Institute of Mental Health). See its Frequently Asked Questions.
• American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
• Online support groups

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In 1999 the Institute of Medicine published its report, To Err Is Human:Building a Safer Health System, which presented a strategy by which government, health care providers, industry, and consumers could reduce preventable medical errors. This report led to several others, which an educated consumer could use as a checklist on how not to be the victim of hospital-caused medical problems (above all, make sure whoever does a procedure on you washes their hands first).

In February 2000, the Quality Interagency Coordination Task Force (QuIC) issued a report, Doing What Counts for Patient Safety: Federal Action to Reduce Medical Errors and Their Impact, listing more than 100 activities needed to:
1. Create a national focus on reducing errors.
2. Develop a knowledge base for learning about errors' causes and effective error prevention.
3. Ensure accountability for safe health care delivery.
4. Guarantee that patient safety practices are implemented.

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) announced the 100k lives Campaign, through which healthcare organizations, by implementing one or more of six specific evidence-based practices, could join a campaign to potentially prevent 100,000 avoidable deaths. Six interventional measures were identified as crucial to improving patient safety:
* Deploying rapid response teams at the first sign of patient decline.
* Delivering reliable, evidence-based care for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) to prevent deaths from heart attack (for example, give patient an aspirin).
* Preventing adverse drug events (ADE) by implementing medication reconciliation.
* Preventing central line infections by implementing a series of scientifically grounded interdependent interventions.
* Preventing surgical site infections by reliably delivering appropriate antibiotics and other specific steps.
* Preventing ventilator-associated pneumonia by implementing a series of scientifically grounded interdependent interventions.

Following are links to websites and reports that deal with improving patient safety and hospital staff performance.

The Checklist

"Intensive care succeeds only when we hold the odds of doing harm low enough for the odds of doing good to prevail. This is hard. There are dangers simply in lying unconscious in bed for a few days. Muscles atrophy. Bones lose mass. Pressure ulcers form. Veins begin to clot off. You have to stretch and exercise patients’ flaccid limbs daily to avoid contractures, give subcutaneous injections of blood thinners at least twice a day, turn patients in bed every few hours, bathe them and change their sheets without knocking out a tube or a line, brush their teeth twice a day to avoid pneumonia from bacterial buildup in their mouths. Add a ventilator, dialysis, and open wounds to care for, and the difficulties only accumulate....

But consider: there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of things doctors do that are at least as dangerous and prone to human failure as putting central lines into I.C.U. patients. It’s true of cardiac care, stroke treatment, H.I.V. treatment, and surgery of all kinds. It’s also true of diagnosis, whether one is trying to identify cancer or infection or a heart attack. All have steps that are worth putting on a checklist and testing in routine care. The question — still unanswered — is whether medical culture will embrace the opportunity."
~ Atul Gawande, "The Checklist," in The New Yorker

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An Uncertain Inheritance: Writers on Caring for Family edited by Nell Casey. Wonderful writing, excellent insights into the complexities both of caring and of being cared for, during an illness.

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison (about manic depression).

Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance by Atul Gawande

Brain Surgeon: A Doctor's Inspiring Encounters with Mortality and Miracles by Keith Black

Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science by Atul Gawande

Emergency!: True Stories From The Nation's ERs by Mark Brown

Hot Lights, Cold Steel: Life, Death and Sleepless Nights in a Surgeon's First Years, Michael J. Collins memoir of his grueling surgical residency at the Mayo Clinic

How Doctors Think by Jerome Groopman

How We Die by Sherwin Nuland (excellent descriptions of exactly how the various body systems fail, when they fail -- a primer even for healthy readers)

Illness as Metaphor: AIDS and Its Metaphors by Susan Sontag

Intern: A Doctor's Initiation by Sandeep Jauhar

In the Country of Hearts: Journeys in the Art of Medicine by John Stone

Just Here Trying to Save a Few Lives: Tales of Life and Death in the ER by Pamela Grim

Life Disrupted: Getting Real About Chronic Illness in Your Twenties and Thirties, by Laurie Edwards

Life Support: Three Nurses on the Front Lines (The Culture and Politics of Health Care Work) by Suzanne Gordon, author of Nursing Against the Odds: How Health Care Cost Cutting, Media Stereotypes, And Medical Hubris Undermine Nurses And Patient Care.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales, by Oliver Sachs

The Measure of Our Days: New Beginnings at Life's End by Jerome Groopman

Medical Detectives, by Berton Roueche

My Own Country: A Doctor's Story , Abraham Verghese's memoir of being a doctor during the early years of AIDS.

On Call: A Doctor's Days and Nights in Residency by Emily R. Transue

Pulse: Voices From the Heart of Medicine - The First Year, ed. Paul Gross and Diane Guernsey (excellent essays, poems and short narratives from the hearts and in the voices of patients and their health care providers, from the online magazine Pulse)

Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine by Jerome Groopman

Silence Kills: Speaking Out and Saving Lives , edited by Lee Gutkind (essays about communication failures that lead to potentially lethal medical error)

Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression, ed. Nell Casey

When the Air Hits Your Brain: Tales from Neurosurgery by Frank Vertosick Jr.

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For Your Health and Medical Reference Shelf

• MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia (National Library of Medicine) See version en espanol (Informaciσn de Salud de la Biblioteca Nacional de Medicina)
• Cochran Library (evidence-based research).
• Medical Dictionary (Web MD)
• MedTerms (
Reference Books
Sometimes you can't go online. And sometimes the information is not available online. So stock at least one medical reference book. Purchases made from these links provide me a small commission.
• The Cornell Illustrated Medical Encyclopedia: The Definitive Medical Home Reference Guide (Weill Cornell Health Series) by Antonio Gotto
• The Johns Hopkins Complete Home Guide to Symptoms & Remedies by Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter Health After 50
• The Johns Hopkins Consumer Guide to Medical Tests: What You Can Expect, How You Should Prepare, What Your Results Mean by Simeon Margolis
• Know Your Body: The Atlas of Anatomy by Emmet B. Keefe
• Mayo Clinic Family Health Book, 3rd edition, by the Mayo Clinic
• The Body Clock Guide to Better Health by Michael Smolensky and Lynne Lamberg
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If We Are What We Eat, Read These Books and Articles!

This section has moved HERE:

We are what we eat? Read this, get healthy, feel better!

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ARTICLES and STORIES (Part 2, also moved ...)
• Reviving An Heirloom Corn That Packs More Flavor And Nutrition (Allison Aubrey interviews chef Dan Barber of the famed Blue Hill restaurant--this makes you want to grow heirloom corn, which packs more protein, less sugar). Barber says better flavor goes hand in hand with better nutrition; much of our food is bred to be easy to grow and have long shelf-life -- not for wholesomeness and flavor. Sources of heirloom produce: Seed Savers Exchange, High Mowing Organic Seeds , and Harry Here Farm
• Julia Child Was Wrong: Don't Wash Your Raw Chicken, Folks (Maria Godoy, NPR) Washing the chicken increases the chances that you'll spread the foodborne pathogens that are almost certainly on your bird all over the rest of your kitchen too.
• Slow Food Quickens the Pace (Mark Bittman, Opinionator, NY Times, 3-26-13). See also Slow Food USA (supporting good, clean, and fair food), which Bittman calls "probably the only international organization that integrates concerns about the environment, tradition, labor, health, animal welfare … along with real cooking, taste and pleasure."
• Curb Those Cravings (blog)
• Foods That Help Keep the Pounds Off as You Age (Amy Norton, HealthDay, 4-23-15) Keep that glycemic load in check.
• Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss? (Moises Velasquez-Manoff, Mother Jones, 4-22-13). Imbalances in the microbial community in your intestines may lead to metabolic syndrome, obesity, and diabetes. What does science say about how to reset our bodies? (Explains difference between prebiotics and probiotics.) See also Should You Take a Probiotic? (Maddie Oatman, Mother Jones). The popular supplements might be more about marketing than beneficial microbes.
• How The Food Industry Manipulates Taste Buds With 'Salt Sugar Fat' (Nell Boescheenstein, The Salt, National Public Radio, 2-26-13). "In his new book, Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, Michael Moss goes inside the world of processed and packaged foods. "Dealing Coke to customers called "heavy users." Selling to teens in an attempt to hook them for life. Scientifically tweaking ratios of salt, sugar and fat to optimize consumer bliss."
• Food Technology And How It Shaped The Western Palate (interesting Kojo Nnandi radio interview with Gabriella Petrick)
• For Three Years, Every Bite Organic (Tara Parker-Pope, NYT, reports what Dr. Alan Greene learned from his three-year experiment)
• The 11 Best Foods You Aren't Eating (Tara Parker-Pope, NY Times 6-30-08)
• Hypertension: Tips for Eating Out in Various Cuisines (Southwestern Medical Center)
• The Intolerant Gourmet: Glorious Food without Gluten and Lactose by Barbara Kafak
• Is there a link between chocolate and depression? Joanne Silberner, NPR, 4-26-10, on the connection between depression and chocolate. Chocolate-lovers, check out Joanne's favorite website, Cnocolate and Zucchini (especially the forums).
• Meatless Monday (recipes and information to help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer)
• Michael Pollan Offers 64 Ways to Eat Food (Tara Parker-Pope, NYTimes, 1-8-2010)
• Please, don't pass the salt! (blog)
• Recipes for Health (Martha Rose Shulman's articles, recipes, NY Times)
• Reduce Your Cancer Risk (recipes from the AICR Test Kitchen, which also produced a fabulous cookbook: The New American Plate Cookbook
• Snake Oil? Scientific evidence for popular health supplements (great graph showing how much scientific evidence there is to support various supplements)
• Stay Young at Heart (Cooking the Heart-Healthy way, good recipes from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute))
• Vegan Before Dinnertime (Mark Bittman on carnivores eating more fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods)
• A Year of Produce (Jane Pellicciotto)
• Stuffed: An Insider's Look at Who's (Really) Making America Fat (Hank Cardello with Doug Garr)
• Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us (Michael Moss)
• Pandora's Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal (Melanie Warner)

• The Gluten-Free Craze, transcript for Diane Rehm's radio broadcast on the topic (WAMU-FM, 88.5 NPR 2-16-12). One point made by panelist Katherine Tallmadge: a gluten-free diet may not provide many essential nutrients, so you must be careful. Try using whole grains from another culture..."that we're not used to... They're emerging in the marketplace and people are using them in recipes instead of the refined grains that create nutritional deficiencies, fiber deficiencies, B-vitamin deficiencies."
• The Food Allergy Mama's Baking Book: Great Dairy-, Egg-, and Nut-Free Treats for the Whole Family by Kelly Rudnick
• Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal
• The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen: Recipes for Noodles, Dumplings, Sauces, and More by Laura Russell
• by Annalise G. Roberts
Gluten-Free Living, a magazine aimed at people with the auto-immune disorder celiac disease
• Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: 125 Easy Recipes for Eating Well on the Cheap by Nicole Hunn
• The Gluten-Free Vegan: 150 Delicious Gluten-Free, Animal-Free Recipes by Susan O'Brien
• The Gluten-Free Vegetarian Kitchen: Delicious and Nutritious Wheat-Free, Gluten-Free Dishes by Donna Klein
• The 100 Best Gluten-Free Recipes for Your Vegan Kitchen: Delicious Smoothies, Soups, Salads, Entrees, and Desserts by Kelley E. Keough
• Flying Apron's Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book by Jennifer Katzinger
and do read
• Don't Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life by Sandra Beasley

For Three Years, Every Bite Organic
(an excerpt)

"Dr. Greene said he was inspired to go all-organic after talking to a dairy farmer who noted that livestock got sick less after a switch to organic practices. He wondered if becoming 100 percent organic might improve his own health.

"Three years later, he says he has more energy and wakes up earlier. As a pediatrician regularly exposed to sick children, he was accustomed to several illnesses a year. Now, he says, he is rarely ill. His urine is a brighter yellow, a sign that he is ingesting more vitamins and nutrients....

"In corporate cafeterias and convenience stores, he looked for stickers that began with the number 9 to signify organic; stickers on conventionally grown produce begin with 4."

~ Tara Parker-Pope, For Three Years, Every Bite Organic , Well column, The New York Times 12-1-08

Books, articles, and more

Writing or telling life stories
Everyone has a story to tell. What's keeping you from telling yours? Become a storykeeper or personal historian or find one.
Read aloud at a memorial service decades later
A loving testament, or legacy letter, sharing your life experiences and lessons with the next generation
Learn to write articles, reports, ethical wills, or life stories (memoirs and beyond).
Mom — hardworking, sassy, and full of surprises
Mutual support and discussion
Social history through the life of an ordinary Midwestern businessman.
Dancing, food, good books, and other diversions
Favorites of several book groups
What is the single lunch-bag item most hated by all children?
What heightens the caviar experience is the price of those little gray or black sturgeon eggs.
Links to dancing venues and calendars for the Washington, D.C. area.
Midlife "first dates"
Did she fall in love with the man or the waltz?
Also related: jive, hustle, hand-dancing.
All the dancing your feet can take
Choosing a school of dance
Contra, English country, international, Irish, Israeli, Scandinavian, Scottish
The big ones, with dirty stems
"A rich, varied, and highly rewarding collection," says Joyce Carol Oates
Ceilis (Irish dancing)
Medical mysteries, patient stories, and practical links
John Travolta played the boy in the movie. The real story ended far differently.
Thin little Marian had a cholesterol problem most people have never heard of.
You've probably never heard of this national research hospital and clinic. But someone you know may be able to benefit from it directly and all of us do, indirectly.
Understanding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the debate on health care reform. Avoiding medical errors
Dying, mourning, and other inevitable events
"This remarkable collection, coming from personal experience and wide reading, will help many find the potential of growth through loss." --Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement
For those dying, for caregivers, and for the bereaved
Listen to samples of popular songs and music
Girls and science
Cool science sites
Best practices for teaching science--to strengthen the science workforce.
Some links and a selection
Practical matters
Identify children's learning styles and improve their ability to learn.
Six weeks to hassle-free homework.
Why parents should be concerned.
Public speaking is a craft, not an art. It can be learned.
Can you wash it if it says "dry clean"?
Fact vs. fantasy
One woman's story.
Don't focus on the fabric.
Organizational histories
A frank history of the Young Presidents' Organization.
The little lift truck that could — a story of brilliant marketing in America's heartland.
Online Shopping
Best places to shop online