Tuesday, August 31, 2010



Your task is to create a commercial touting the advantages of wearing seat belts.  You must be creative, original, compelling.

How's this?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

iPads gaining fast acceptance in Corporate America

Windows computers are for serious work, for the business and corporate types.  Macs are for kids, professors, artists.  Right?

When the Apple iPhone first came out in 2007, many companies banned their presence within their organizations.  The fear was that employees would spend all day playing games, watching tv shows, browsing the web, connecting with friends on Facebook, and wasting precious time on other diversionary activities.  But, over the past few months, more and more companies are adopting Apple iPads into their ongoing operational workflows.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mac sales in government and enterprise markets are spiking.  Chicago-based law firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP have deployed 50 iPads to attorneys and plan on issuing them to all lawyers as a less costly alternative to laptops.  Mercedes-Benz Financial are sending iPads loaded with credit application software to dealerships and Bausch & Lomb has created an iPad application for its sales people.  In health care, Kaiser Permanente has been exploring the use of iPads in its labs and for displaying medical images and accessing patient records.

Business Insider's Henry Blodget has suggested that 50 percent of all Fortune 100 companies are testing or deploying iPads.

What must the meetings at Microsoft be like these days?


Recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts named Andrew Dreyfus as their new President & CEO.  Congratulations to Andrew!

I met Mr. Dreyfus a decade ago while at the Dimock Community Health Center in Roxbury and he was head of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation.  I found him to be a terrific advocate for un/underinsured populations, deeply concerned about health disparities among minority groups and an active participant in efforts to improve cultural competency levels within the health care sector.

The entire health care industry is in a time of transition and turmoil and payers, like everyone else, are facing increasing pressure to improve quality while minimizing cost increases.  It will be a challenging time at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, no doubt... but the organization's Board have selected an excellent leader who is most certainly up to the challenge.

On behalf of the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston & Affiliates, we wish Andrew well.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Brilliance in editing

I've heard it said that a great deal of the brilliance of Ansel Adams was in post processing (i.e., what happened to the film negative to produce a final print) and authors often refer to the fact that editing first (and second and third...) drafts is the creative mainstay of the craft.

Take a look at this interesting clip.  Obviously, the original footage (shot in the 1970s) has been reworked to tell a... different story.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

VNACEO.com goes on holiday...

See you soon.

P.S.  Not my photo, but do stay tuned.

How I spent my Friday nights as a kid

But two questions:

1. Why isn't the crowd more into it?

2. Shouldn't we actually hear Shirley's voice?

In any event, this brought back some memories:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Taken with a lowly camera phone...

Dumbing Down in the Information Age

There was a time when I used to read books.  And magazines.  I would spread a newspaper across my morning table and read.  Sequentially.  My eyes would move from corner to corner... in a straight line.  It was steady and it was paced.

Now I scan.  I bounce and dart and I consume far more information per millisecond than ever before.  The internet age (replete with iPads, Google newsfeeds, smartphones, twitter bursts, etc.) has made me much, much smarter.

Or, maybe not.

A recent Wall Street Journal essay suggests that this new style of information and content consumption may actually have a negative effect.  From the piece:
The picture emerging from the research is deeply troubling, at least to anyone who values the depth, rather than just the velocity, of human thought. People who read text studded with links, the studies show, comprehend less than those who read traditional linear text. People who watch busy multimedia presentations remember less than those who take in information in a more sedate and focused manner. People who are continually distracted by emails, alerts and other messages understand less than those who are able to concentrate. And people who juggle many tasks are less creative and less productive than those who do one thing at a time.

The common thread in these disabilities is the division of attention. The richness of our thoughts, our memories and even our personalities hinges on our ability to focus the mind and sustain concentration. Only when we pay deep attention to a new piece of information are we able to associate it "meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already well established in memory," writes the Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel. Such associations are essential to mastering complex concepts.

When we're constantly distracted and interrupted, as we tend to be online, our brains are unable to forge the strong and expansive neural connections that give depth and distinctiveness to our thinking. We become mere signal-processing units, quickly shepherding disjointed bits of information into and then out of short-term memory.
There's something to this.  Future psychologists and biologists will be well versed on the long-term effect of the new consumption model.  In the mean time, I'm suddenly contemplating canceling my Boston Globe subsription which comes to me daily via the Amazon Kindle software on my Apple iPad and returning to paper. 

The entire piece is here.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Someone's brother...

Now that I'm back working in the downtown, I see them more often.  Sometimes I have felt motivated to hand over a coin or a crumpled up bill... or even talk to them when that works, which it often does not.  Macro public health trend or the sign of a decaying society?  The natural result of deinstitutionalization and mainstreaming?  No matter, they are here and among us.  And I often find myself wondering about the personal stories.  How did this happen?  How could it?  And the more foreign and far fetched the concocted reasons for it, the safer from it I feel.  It could never happen to me.  Never to someone I love.  Right?

But they are all someone's brother or sister.  Son, daughter.  Father, mother.

Here is a story of a Manhattan executive's ill-fated attempt to save her kid brother.
Like any New Yorker, I was no stranger to homeless people. I passed by them on my way to the shiny glass tower where I worked for a glossy women's magazine: the older lady perched atop a milk crate in the subway station, the man curled up in a dirty sleeping bag and clutching a stuffed animal. They were unfortunate ornaments of the city, unlucky in ways I never really considered.
Until one hot summer day in 2009 when my little brother Jay left his key on the coffee table and walked out of his house in West Texas to live on the streets instead. In the days that followed I spent hours on the phone with detectives, social workers and even the FBI, frantically trying to track him down. A friend designed a "Missing" poster using the most recent picture I had of him wearing a hoodie and a Modest Mouse T-shirt, a can of beer in his hand and a deer-in-headlights expression on his face. I created a Facebook group and contacted old acquaintances still living in our hometown of Lubbock, begging everyone I even remotely knew to help me find him. No luck. If it had been me, a pretty young white woman, chances are my face would have been all over the news -- but the sudden disappearance of a 20-year-old guy with paranoid schizophrenia didn't exactly warrant an Amber Alert.
The full piece here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Coffee with Jean

(Photo of the 2010 Sand Sculpting Festival at Revere Beach - taken this morning.)

This is community nursing.  

A month or so ago, Jean, a 30-year nursing veteran of the Visiting Nurse Association of Boston, mentioned that her morning routine frequently included a stop at the famous Kelly's on Revere Beach.  When I told her of my own Revere Beach roots, she invited me to stop by some morning for a cup of coffee.  Today was that morning.

I expected (in addition to the early morning traffic-snarled scoot up the Expressway through the City and over the Tobin toward Revere) a casual stroll along the beach, coffee in hand, talking to one of our most seasoned nurses.  I didn't expect to peer into the heart of true community nursing.

Gracie, Ralph and others were sitting under one of the seemingly ancient structures covering rows of benches and tables surrounding the beachfront.  Jean introduced me to them (and their dogs) and then we proceeded to talk about home health over the 30+ years that Jean has been at it.  We talked about the changes at the VNA of Boston and of the changes in the profession.  High tech gadgetry is replacing paper and pen, but the fundamental building blocks of compassion and clinical skill remain essential to the task.  Jean spoke fondly of her colleagues, fellow veterans of a profession that has been "the soul" of this organization for many decades.

Jean asked if I'd like to see the Jack Satter House, the nearby residence for seniors age 62 and up, where she spends time caring for the individuals who call it home.  On our way there, Jean and I passed by the table with Gracie, Ralph and the others and Jean happily dispensed advice regarding the health needs of one of their recently rescued dogs.  During the conversation, it was clear to me that Jean was not merely passing by, she was caring for the members of that community.  The familiarity and trust was apparent to me within seconds and after I had a chance to speak with them, I understood that Jean's morning routine was about much more than grabbing coffee at Kelly's and walking along the beach.  

Two gentlemen stood in front of the Satter House and welcomed us both there.  When I was introduced, one promptly told me about what Jean means to the residents.  He described her contributions.  Her caring.  We then visited Eleanor (not her real name, obviously), a woman who describes herself as the "bionic woman of Mass General".  If you heard her orthopedic surgical history, you would understand.  Eleanor was not shy about discussing her current challenges and at one point, pointed a firm and resolute index finger toward Jean and said: "this woman saved my life."  Jean, without flinching, without looking up from her tablet computer where she was pecking through the necessary documentation regimen, offered: "ok, ok, enough about me... tell me about..."

As we left Eleanor's room and advanced toward the first floor, I again had an opportunity to observe how Jean interacted with the members of her community.  Words like trust, credibility, continuity and compassion ran through my mind.

Health care is increasingly becoming fragmented and disjointed.  Economic and other pressures drive us toward what Dr. Gary Gibbons has referred to as "conveyor belt medicine".  We roll along toward increasing specialization and all our resources, even human ones, are increasingly viewed as interchangeable parts we can deploy and redeploy with the flick of a wrist.  Those economic pressures are real and we do need to work toward ever greater levels of efficiency, but we can't lose the trust, credibility, continuity and compassion in the process.

Quality of Life Under Hospice Care

Part 9...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Addicted to the iPad?

I've written about this same phenomenon here.

The Apple iPad is good.  Really good.  But is it too good?

Here's another blog post on the downside of the most successful gadget launch in history.  In short, the author is afraid his own kids have become addicted to it.
They'll use it for anything. And while one's actually using it, the other will sit there and watch the first one using it. Until, again, they start fighting over it. (And you know what that means. It means I might as well already debit my checking account for a second iPad.)

It's worse than TV ever was--because there's only one TV and because they can't subtly get up and turn on the TV and be using it for 15 minutes before you notice what they're up to. And also because, unlike TV, there's this aura of respectability around the iPad, because it is actually possible to use it for something other than mindless entertainment (not that my kids use it for that).

And it's not only the kids: My wife and my daughter have squabbled over who gets to go to bed reading a book on the iPad and who gets shafted with the limited selection on the paper-based stuff. (So let's go ahead a debit my account for a THIRD iPad.)

Again, a month after we bought it, the iPad has become so central to our household that we have to hide it. And in relatively short order, to preserve my family harmony, I'm probably going to have to buy two more of the damn things.
Read the entire piece here.

When to Choose Hospice

Part 7...