Well, that depends on who you ask. If you ask me...
Without a doubt, Dr. Mehmet Oz is the most famous doctor in the country---but we all know that he is now in the entertainment business. Therefore, he is no longer working as a real doctor. As for the most famous real doctor in America, up until now, I have been referring to Dr. Dean Ornish---for lots of well-earned reasons.
But now I have decided to award that moniker to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital and the chief medical correspondent for CNN. As if he is not busy enough already, he has also authored three books in the past four years, a novel, Monday Mornings in 2012, Cheating Death in 2010 and Chasing Lives in 2008.
I'm not sure how much time he spends as the "associate chief of neurosurgery," but it is his through his work as a journalist that he has earned my sincere respect. While I have been reading and watching Sanjay for years, it was his CNN Special, The Last Heart Attack (August 2011), where I really think he hit the ball out of the park. (See link below) And I could tell by the way he answered questions from other reporters, that he really "gets it" when it comes to knowing how to reverse heart disease.
Earlier this year, (April 2012) Sanjay did a piece called "Sugar Kills" on 60-Minutes and further secured his place as the "most famous real doctor in the America." Now, just this past week (7-31-12), he published an Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled More Treatment, More Mistakes. It was that article that inspired me to write this one. He led off thusly: (See link below for full article)
DOCTORS make mistakes. They may be mistakes of technique, judgment, ignorance or even, sometimes, recklessness. Regardless of the cause, each time a mistake happens, a patient may suffer. We fail to uphold our profession’s basic oath: “First, do no harm.”
A reasonable estimate is that medical mistakes now kill around 200,000 Americans every year. That would make them one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Why have these mistakes been so hard to prevent?
He went on to talk about the status of American medicine which features a staggering number of tests and procedures. He quotes a statistic, "Since 1996, the percentage of doctor visits leading to at least five drugs’ being prescribed has nearly tripled, and the number of M.R.I. scans quadrupled." He went on to say that:
Many procedures, tests and prescriptions are based on legitimate need. But many are not. In a recent anonymous survey, orthopedic surgeons said 24 percent of the tests they ordered were medically unnecessary. This kind of treatment is a form of defensive medicine, meant less to protect the patient than to protect the doctor or hospital against potential lawsuits.
Herein lies a stunning irony. Defensive medicine is rooted in the goal of avoiding mistakes. But each additional procedure or test, no matter how cautiously performed, injects a fresh possibility of error. CT and M.R.I. scans can lead to false positives and unnecessary operations, which carry the risk of complications like infections and bleeding. The more medications patients are prescribed, the more likely they are to accidentally overdose or suffer an allergic reaction. Even routine operations like gallbladder removals requireanesthesia, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Finally, Sanjay poses the question, "So what do we do to be safer? " In my opinion, we must begin a new era of health-promotion. The more we promote health, the less disease we will have. And the less disease we have, the fewer tests, the fewer procedures and the fewer chances for mistakes. But, since the bulk of the revenue of our current health care system is derived from disease management, our doctors have no financial incentives for us to be healthy.
It has been said that if we were starting a new health care system from scratch, that it would be easy to devise one that rewarded doctors for making their patients healthy. Unfortunately, changing what we have today from the inside is probably impossible. But changing it with a grassroots revolution of people taking charge of their own health is possible. Difficult, but possible.
And I happen to think that Dr. Sanjay Gupta would be the ideal person to lead that revolution. All he needs to change the world is a super-wealthy sponsor who would pony up a few billion dollars to get the program off the ground---and convince everyone in the world that we really don't "need" to eat ANY animal protein to be healthy. How about the guy that created his current employer, CNN? We all know that Ted loves a cause.
Here is one final quote from Sanjay's article that caught my eye:
Hospitals are supposed to take care of the sickest members of our society and uphold the highest standards of patient care. But hospitals are also charged with teaching doctors, and every doctor has a first mistake.
So why not take charge of your health today and lower your risk of being the innocent victim of one of those inevitable mistakes that humans make while doing their work? For your convenience, I have provided the source article here along with a few of my earlier blogs on this topic.
- Source article in. More Treatment, More Mistakes - NYTimes.com.
- Earlier blog. Sugar Kills! — Dr. Sanjay Gupta on “60 Minutes”
- Direct link to The Last Heart Attack CNN special (about 45 minutes)
- Earlier blog. Projected “doctor shortage” could turn into a surplus
- “60 Minutes” segment on SUGAR—with Dr. Sanjay Gupta
- Transcript and Video — 60 Minutes on Sugar
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—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation