Twenty fourteen is the centennial of the first publication of Carl Sandburg’s love letter to Chicago, a city of life with all its good and bad; a place of vitality, energy, excitement and yes, the 2014 ACEP Scientific Assembly. The Committee could not have picked a better place.
Travel to medical training venues is becoming more painful. People in line to check-in at hotels want to comment openly on my column. Recently in Las Vegas at the Paris Hotel – in the private check-in lounge no less – one of the PAs registering for the emergency medicine boot camp course I was teaching at wanted to vent her spleen and give me editorial direction. Enough already.
I’m beginning to detest the casual overuse of the war metaphor for every issue coming down the pike. There was Johnson’s “War on Poverty” – how did that work out? – followed by the government’s “War on Drugs,” in which we tied up a third of our penal budget and introduced the single largest source of corruption in our border patrols, city police and judicial system.
I present to you, dear readers, a true conundrum, an intellectual Gordian knot of an unusual nature to challenge your thought processes. It will not, at first, seem as profound as the meaning of life or even what sandwich to order at Katz’s Delicatessen (“I’ll have what she’s having”). But it involves the roles of government, the basics of the First Amendment, religion and, heaven forbid, common sense.
To those would-be ACEP leaders running for election in the fall, I’d like to pose a series of questions about where our specialty is heading.
Earlier this year, I informed readers of some sad news: My 13-year-old golden retriever, Tucker, had died. He'd made an appearance in the column when I unkindly outed him as a Platonist. Tucker went downhill quickly with two cancers. As he lost strength, lost the use of his hind legs and his pain increased, I knew I had to take him to the vet. He really was a good friend to me. Useless in all ways but a great friend. The influx of letters that I received following this news was truly moving. One reader went so far as to write a poem in Tucker's memory, which we'd like to share.
In October, the ACEP Council will meet in Chicago to discuss issues of the day. Let us pledge to confront the real issues – from workforce to end-of-life care – with clarity and courage.
Old age can best be described as awakening from an interesting dream before it ends. It’s irksome. Just when you thought you would have The Answer, it’s just out of reach. We all know that everyone dies, we just have trouble believing it will actually happen to us. There must be a meaning to life. When are we going to discover it? What about all my careful study and reading?
I admit it, I’m a skeptic and proud of it. Like Harry Truman, I’m afflicted by Missouri’s “Show me” philosophy. But as a human, I’m also aware that I come equipped with a belief structure and as with all humans, beliefs carry the day. I seek plausible explanations for the beliefs I hold and therefore, like so many, fall victim to conformation bias.
We begin another calendar year, another chance at renewal and redemption, another shot at ridiculous resolutions to lose weight, cut out sweets and get more exercise. I personally have resolved to call more old friends and waste their time on the phone talking about absolutely nothing. I have come to the realization that in a 13.7 billion-year universe, in which man may be just a passing fancy, these relationships are unimaginably important.