Category Archives: medical news

Why put our children at health risk?

Albert Karam is alarmed. If what he says is true, and I have no reason to doubt what he has written, he has good reason to be alarmed.

So am I.

Karam is a Dallas pediatrician who writes in the Dallas Morning News that too many Texas children are being denied vaccinations by parents who are exercising what is commonly referred to as “non-medical exemption.”

For the life of me, I don’t understand the so-called “logic” of forbidding vaccinations of children in school.

He writes about encountering sick children at the hospital where he was working. He was just out of medical school. The kids’ illness were severe. Why were they so sick? They hadn’t been vaccinated.

As Karam writes: In today’s pediatric world this is unheard of because of one thing only: immunizations. This marvel of modern medicine is truly one of man’s greatest accomplishments. Yet, our state is moving in a disturbing direction, putting us in danger of losing this protection especially for our most vulnerable β€” babies too young to be immunized or those who are immune-suppressed because of disease or medication.

Read Karam’s full essay here.

He adds: Unfortunately, those opposed to immunization have made inroads into spreading misinformation and falsehoods about the disproven notion that vaccination causes autism and other disorders.

How can parents convey this kind of mindless demagoguery and, in the process, endanger their children’s health and well-being?

Yet they do. They deliver frightening — and false — messages that spread like contagion throughout the nation.

Disgraceful.

Let’s see how can I say this clearly and without equivocation: Our children need to be vaccinated against childhood illness. Refusing to do so on the basis of lies amounts to child abuse.

That is unforgivable.

Hoping the VA health system keeps working — well!

You know already that I am a big fan of my pre-paid medical insurance plan provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

My wife and I are venturing back to Amarillo in a few days to get ready for a trip out west in our recreational vehicle. Before we shove off, I have a routine medical examination scheduled with my health care provider at the Thomas E. Creek Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

To date, the VA med center has run like a well-oiled machine. I show up at the appointed time, I wait a few minutes, I get called back, the nurse practitioner gives me the once over, tells me I’m in good health and I’m on my way out the door.

I just received a text message from the Creek Medical Center. It asked me to confirm my scheduled appointment next week. I did.

Then it sent a message immediately after that, ordering me to report to the medical center “15 minutes before your appointment.”

Here’s the deal. My appointment is late in the morning, which means that the VA will have plenty of opportunity to get backed up. That means — at least that’s been my experience over the years with private medical providers — that the later in the day one sees a doc, the longer the wait times. Am I right about that? Yep. I am!

So, my question is this: Is the VA going to ask me to wait 15 minutes longer than I need to wait or am I going to see the health care provider at the appointed time?

I will have faith that the latter is going to happen.

Oh, I do cherish public health care.

There will always be abortions

Let’s be crystal clear about something few of us want to discuss.

If the U.S. judicial system decides to overturn a ruling that legalized abortion, does anyone really believe that abortion will come to an end? Will women across the country decide to give birth even though they have been raped by an attacker, or impregnated in an incestuous relationship?

Abortion is about to return front and center to the public debate stage as the U.S. Senate ponders the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1973 the high court ruled in the epic Roe v. Wade decision that abortion can be done legally throughout the United States. It declared that the Constitution guaranteed a woman’s right to choose to end a pregnancy.

The discussion today centers on whether the court would reverse that decision if it receives a case involving abortion.

I want to be clear. Abortion won’t end if the court hands the issue back to the states. Many states are likely to make abortion illegal. I live in one of those states: Texas. Legislators here already have enacted anti-choice legislation and Gov. Greg Abbott has signed it into law. They have decided to make obtaining an abortion quite difficult.

Does it end abortion? Not in the least. Women will continue to seek them — for whatever reason they believe compels to do so.

I get the argument from those who are fervently anti-choice. They are sincere in their belief about when life begins. Their argument, though, won’t ever stop women from making profoundly difficult choices that only they can make.

‘Men have breasts, too’

My wife and I encountered an old friend in Amarillo over the weekend and came away with a stunning realization.

Our friend, a middle-aged man, is a recovering breast cancer patient. Not only that, he has become an outspoken advocate for men who find themselves in the same predicament he confronted just recently.

He was manning a booth along Sixth Avenue on Saturday during the city’s annual Route 66 Celebration. We made eye contact simultaneously and greeted each other warmly. I hadn’t seen Kenny for many years, and I knew only a little about his diagnosis, as I read a column he had written to tell the public about it.

I have some fairly intimate knowledge of this disease. My mother was diagnosed twice with breast cancer; I have a cousin who’s been battling it for years; one of my nieces has suffered from it as well.

They’re all women.

Kenny is part of an organization called the Male Breast Cancer Coalition. It was founded by Bret Miller (pictured), who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 17. He went through a mastectomy and all the requisite post-operative therapies. Miller also vowed that “no man would feel alone when facing a breast cancer diagnosis.”

Miller’s organization has set aside one week in October as Male Breast Cancer Awareness Week; indeed, cancer awareness organizations recognize the entire month recognizes breast cancer, with media reporting extensively about women who have fought the battle successfully against the killer disease.

Miller has allies such as my friend Kenny to get the word out, that — in the words of the brochure that my friend handed out — “Men have breasts, too.”

Men often are reluctant to talk openly about this form of cancer, as it attacks women primarily. I guess is a male macho malady. My old pal Kenny is stepping up.

I am proud of my friend.

One more point about Dr. Krauthammer

I have written a couple of blog posts in recent days about Charles Krauthammer, the great columnist who died today of cancer at the age of 68.

Both pieces have omitted a reference to Krauthammer. I mentioned — until now — the fact that he lived most of his life as a paraplegic.

Why? It turns out that Dr. Krauthammer didn’t want to be defined by the accident he suffered in his early 20s. He went swimming with a friend. He dived into a pool, hit his head on the floor of the pool — and never walked again.

He went on to pursue his education. He received his medical degree. He developed a psychiatric practice. Then he went into politics and eventually into journalism. He wrote speeches for Vice President Mondale and won a Pulitzer Prize for his commentary. He did all this while sitting in a wheelchair.

Dr. Krauthammer never let his paralysis derail his ambition. Nor did he want to wallow in it.

He was a champion of the first magnitude.

St. Anthony’s Hospital campus might get new life

As much progress that has occurred in Amarillo, Texas, in recent years, there remains much work to do to restore, revive and rejuvenate historic landmarks.

To that end, a former hospital campus on Amarillo Boulevard and Polk Street just might become the next big triumph in the city’s long-term redevelopment strategy.

Or … it might not. I will hope for the best.

A newly formed non-profit group has taken possession of the old St. Anthony ‘s Hospital complex. The hospital closed many years ago when St. Anthony’s merged with High Plains Baptist Hospital to create Baptist-St. Anthony’s Hospital in the midst of the city’s growing medical complex along Coulter Street in far west Amarillo.

It has fallen, dare I say it, into serious disrepair. I got a first-hand look at it just a couple of years ago while writing a feature story for KFDA NewsChannel 10’s website. The then-owner walked us through the campus and, to point it candidly, it wasn’t a pretty sight. The place is crumbling.

The non-profit organization, St. Anthony’s Legacy and Redevelopment Corp., is led by Mary Emeny, who comes from a family with a long history of commitment and dedication to the community. Emeny issued a statement that declared, in part, β€œIt is a privilege to begin the work of bringing new opportunities and resources to the surrounding communities through this iconic property.”

That statement might need a bit of translation, given the rather broad and nebulous nature of its content. Emeny’s organization hasn’t yet revealed any details of what it intends for the old campus, or how it proposes to pay for whatever it will do.

I have known Mary Emeny for a number of years and I fully understand and appreciate her love of Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle. I am never going to doubt her ability to achieve whatever she seeks to do.

The Amarillo Globe-News named her its Woman of the Year some years back. I do not believe her energy and her commitment have abated one bit.

I wish my friend well. That old campus needs a lot of work. I have faith Mary Emeny will deliver the goods.

AEDC steps up … big time

If Amarillo manages to reel in a project being pitched by Texas Tech University, it can possibly look at its economic development arm as a big reason for the success that will follow.

Texas Tech wants to build a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo; it would be the second such school in all of Texas, the other one being run by Texas A&M University.

The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has ponied up $69 million to incentivize Tech even further to build the vet school in Amarillo. Moreover, a significant land donation made possible by the family of Mary Emeny has sweetened the pot even more for Texas Tech.

This is precisely the kind of project that AEDC has helped bring to Amarillo since its creation in 1989. Voters then approved creation of AEDC, which collects a half-cent of sales tax revenue generated in Amarillo and uses it for job-creation projects.

Without question, AEDC’s biggest success to date is the Bell/Textron aircraft assembly project next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport. In the late 1990s, AEDC came up with a $45 million inducement that lured Bell/Textron from Fort Worth to Amarillo and … the rest is history.

The Texas Tech vet school is aimed at educating Panhandle residents to learn a profession of untold value to communities throughout the region. Veterinarians could remain in the Panhandle to care for the livestock that populate our region’s ranches and which fuel the agricultural economy.

AEDC has stepped up in a major way once again for the city and the region. Its contribution will be augmented by private donations that local business, civic and political leaders are gathering.

And just as the Texas Tech School of Pharmacy has borne plenty of economic efruit for the region, so would the school of veterinary medicine, which has gone from “possibly,” to “probably” and is on its way to “likely” coming to Amarillo.

Yep, Amarillo is ready to welcome a vet school

Mary Emeny is a friend of mine with a particular interest in a plot of land that she hopes will become home to a new school of veterinary medicine.

She chairs a trust that donated the property to Texas Tech University, which is considering whether to build a vet school in Amarillo.

I, of course, have no such vested interest. I merely want to endorse my friend’s column that appeared in the Amarillo Globe-News that pitches hard for the vet school.

Read the full column here.

Texas Tech University regents have declared their intention to build a vet school. Tech is getting a lot of push back from Texas A&M University, which at the moment has the only veterinary medicine school in Texas. A&M Chancellor John Sharp wants to keep it that way, or so it appears.

My own view is that Texas is a large enough state to accommodate more than one university’s desire to educate veterinarians. We comprise 28 million residents, spread across nearly 270,000 square miles. Tech regents — and Chancellor Bob Duncan — want to establish a veterinary medicine campus in Amarillo that could help train and retain vets who come from the Texas Panhandle and who might want to stay here after they earn their DVM degrees.

As Emeny writes in the Globe-News: Even as we urbanize, our base is still ranching, and more recently dairy and hogs, with farming that supports them all. The veterinary school will bring much needed assistance to overworked veterinarians, especially those that tend to large animals in the region. Moreover, it will do so in a wonderfully elegant way. By assigning students to practicing veterinarians in the area, the vets become the mentors and the students assist the vets. Such a model bypasses the need for a separate teaching hospital, significantly reducing student tuition while giving local vets a platform for interaction and ready access to the latest knowledge and technologies.

Does any of this diminish A&M’s role in training veterinarians? Of course not! It does add to the pool of aspiring veterinarians to a community — such as the Panhandle — that can serve a region with a compelling need for them.

Well stated, Mary.

Did the doc cross a serious ethical line?

Dr. Harold Bornstein might be in some serious trouble.

I mean, he could lose his medical license over something he has acknowledged he did.

Bornstein is the personal physician to the president of the United States. This week he has revealed that Donald J. Trump, the president, dictated a letter that went public over the doctor’s signature. The letter declared that Trump, upon being examined by the doc, would be the “healthiest president in the history of the United States.”

The White House has pushed back on the doctor’s assertion.

If it’s true — and to be candid, I have every reason to believe it is — we are witnessing the ongoing fantasy where Donald Trump exists. That this individual can actually dictate a doctor’s ostensibly official report on his patient’s physical condition illustrates a reservoir of gall that Americans arguably have never witnessed in their president.

And to think that he might jeopardize his physician’s standing within the medical community.

At the very minimum Dr. Bornstein allowing his patient to dictate such a communication would be unethical on its face. Although the diagnosis the patient allegedly wrote for himself hasn’t been deemed false — it’s not hiding some deadly disease — the idea that a doctor would allow a patient to do such a thing raises serious questions about his competence.

Trump’s myriad other weird incidents appear to lend credibility to Bornstein’s assertion that the letter was all Trump.

The president, by what we’ve seen already in his pre-political life and even since he was elected to the highest office in the land, appears capable of damn near anything to boost his own self-esteem.

This matter, if it’s true, has put a doctor in serious jeopardy. I have to ask: Does the president even care — just a little bit — that he might have contributed to a doctor’s downfall?

Texas Tech, Texas A&M battle over veterinary medicine

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp came to the Panhandle the other day to announce plans to enhance West Texas A&M’s veterinary medicine education program.

Sharp wants to maintain A&M’s monopoly on veterinary medicine throughout the state. I cannot blame him for looking out for the university system he administers.

Oh, but wait. His plan for WT have the appearance of a sort of pre-emptive strike to prevent Texas Tech University from building a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which is a live option on the table for the community … and for Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

Duncan and Sharp have distinct differences of opinion on whether Texas Tech should proceed with construction of a veterinary college in Amarillo. Duncan came to town not long ago to pitch the case to community leaders, suggesting that Tech’s board of regents are committed to establishing a vet school next to Tech’s existing Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

Sharp, meanwhile, is pulling out many stops to prevent Tech from proceeding. The top Aggie is a savvy enough politician to understand what the announcement that boosts WT’s role in veterinary medicine means to any potential competition. Then again, Duncan has been around the Texas political pea patch a time or two himself, so he must be acutely aware of what Sharp might be trying to accomplish.

I happen to believe that Texas — with 268,000 square miles and 27 million residents — is big enough to accommodate two schools of veterinary medicine. Duncan has high praise for the veterinary education that A&M provides. He also believes Texas Tech can provide a top-drawer education for veterinary medicine students who want to be educated here at home and who might want to remain in the Panhandle after they receive their DVM degrees from Texas Tech.

I happen to agree with Duncan.

I also believe the A&M initiative is good for West Texas A&M, it’s good for the community … but it shouldn’t forestall Texas Tech’s efforts to establish a veterinary medicine presence in Amarillo.