The Gathering Place

I am again preparing for the holidays running at full speed ahead. The house has been decorated inside and out. Gifts have been purchased and wrapped and ready to place under the tree on Christmas Eve. Baking is finally finished and not without its own set of mishaps. This past Saturday I pulled my pumpkin bread out of the oven…it looked so beautiful…set the aromatic loaves on racks to cool…turned them out a few minutes later only to discover that the bottom half of the loaves were not cooked! Total panic set in as I realized that it is 8 days before Christmas, I still have baking to complete and the bottom heating element in my oven has gone out! Fortunately it was a relatively easy fix and by dinner time that evening my oven was working better than ever.

For as long as I can remember, my house has been a beehive of activity. It is the heart of all family activity. Being Italian, good food has always been the center of my life. As a child, I learned baking skills from my mother and grandmother. Many times Sundays were spent making bread and pasta. Each creation would be served to my dad and, with baited breath, await his seal of approval. As an adult, I have continued to find joy in the kitchen creating new dishes and passing learned skills on to my children and family. I never know who will show up for a meal nor how many will be served. “Strays” just tend to migrate here, whether it is dogs that follow kids home, the 2-legged human type, wondering what is for dinner or my sister calling to inform me there will be 2 more for the upcoming holiday meal. When my kids were younger, their friends would take a poll checking to see what was on the menu for dinner, trying to decide which house to eat dinner at that evening…mine won the majority of the time! I can’t count how many times kids, friends and family would just show up to eat dinner. It is a good thing I don’t know how to cook for two!

My house has always had a revolving door. This is where we gather for family and extended family meetings, in times of joy and in times of sorrow. There is where we celebrate birthdays, holidays, and the simple fact that it is Sunday. Impromptu meetings for various booster club activities occur here. Family vacations are planned here while the kids discuss who is going to ride in which car. This is where 25 TCU saxophonists gathered for a Christmas party and enjoyed a gourmet meal of ribs and grilled vegetables. This is where my youngest daughters’ best friend runs for a hug and meal, where my nephew learns how to cook, and where my son and daughter bake gingerbread men together. This is also where my kids’ friends magically appear at the kitchen table for a Thanksgiving meal. I never really thought of all this as anything unusual…it has just always been this way. It wasn’t until my sisters’ husband said one day as we discussed another impromptu family Sunday dinner and I didn’t know what I would prepare yet…“It doesn’t matter” he said.” The food is always good and this is just the place to gather.”

I am very blessed to have such a wonderful family. I’m glad we not only live close by but are also very close and have a strong bond with each other. We have shared a very busy year together; struggles and achievements. I look forward to another very busy year and a new revolving door to replace the one that is worn out.

From my Gathering Place to yours, may everyone have a safe and happy holiday!

Try this tasty twist to turkey. I made this on Thanksgiving and the flavor of the meat was fantastic!

  • 3 tablespoons light butter
  • 2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 2-3 tablespoons minced onion

Make a paste with the butter, parsley and onion. Loosen the skin from the breast, drumsticks and thighs. Rub the past under the skin. Cover turkey with foil and bake at 350 degrees according to package directions. Uncover turkey the last 45 minutes of baking so turkey will brown.

Corn Salsa with Black Beans

15 ounce can black beans drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
1 large tomato chopped
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1 fresh jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients into bowl. Makes about 4 cups. Serves 16. Serving size ½ cup.

Nutritional information

Calories 32
Total fat 0 grams
Carbohydrates 7 grams

My family loves this corn salsa. Use pita chips or fresh vegetables to dip.

Taken from Diabetic Living Online.

Surprise. It’s a…

Are you having a boy or girl? This is one of the standard questions people ask a pregnant lady. Everyone asks. It has become a kind of conversation starter. It’s not that the stranger in the grocery store really cares, but it just seems like natural thing to say. It’s part of the standard questions we ask pregnant women. How far along are you? Is there just one? When are you due? People get excited about pregnancy and want to share the experience. Read more from Texas Health Moms »

Doctor, Google Thyself

Have you ever Googled yourself or your practice? Did you know that you have an ever growing online reputation? Whether you know it or not, doctors have an online presence. When you type your name in a search engine you may be surprised by what you find. Everything you do professionally creates a digital footprint. If you are involved in social media then you are contributing to your online reputation. If not, your online reputation is being written for you. There is a conversation taking place about you online, but unfortunately you may not be included in it.

A simple Google search of your name will likely show your practice website. Your name will also appear in numerous third party review sites. Take the time to read a few. You may be surprised. You will find your name and your practice appearing on people’s Facebook and Twitter pages too. While at first this may be disturbing, I view it as an opportunity.

The Internet has revolutionized healthcare. Health information is now available to everyone with the touch of a button. Pew Internet shows that 80% of people look up information online. A patient experience goes like this. Before a patient sees you they research their symptoms to try and decide what is wrong. Next, they search online for doctors and read online reviews to decide who to see. Then, they schedule an appointment to see you. After the appointment they go back online to see if you knew what you were talking about.

Patients have moved beyond simply reading about health information. They now want an interactive experience. One of my favorite people on Twitter, Phil Baumann, likes to say “Health is social.” By interacting in social networks patients become e-patients: equipped, enabled, empowered, engaged, equals, emancipated and even experts. As doctors we can be frustrated by this and passively complain in the background or we can choose to embrace it. Like it or not, social media is here to stay in healthcare.

Embrace this excitement. Own your online reputation by providing the online information your patients are asking for. Your patients should not have to rely on Wikipedia to know what to do. They should be able to get high quality information directly from you. By getting involved in social media you can promote your area of expertise and define your image. You can create your own digital footprint. You can improve patient education, increase referrals, promote practice loyalty and increase utilization of services leading to practice growth.

This has worked well for Macarthur OB/GYN. By providing high quality health information on our website, podcasts, social media channels and innovative use of technology in the office we are helping our patients make better informed decisions. A perfect example is during the six week postpartum exam when I ask a simple question like, “What would you like to do for birth control?” In years past the answer would be “what are my options?” A brief discussion of the 32 flavors of contraception would follow. Nowadays, our patients say definitively what method they want to use. They tell me what they want. Throughout their pregnancy they have been exposed to birth control options in our waiting room power point presentation as well as through social media channels. They know the options, have thought about it and clearly communicate an educated decision. Our visits become more efficient and higher quality discussions take place. A win-win for doctors and patients.

Our journey to social media began years ago when my teenage daughter suggested I start a Myspace page as a way to reach my teenage patients and address issues such as unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. I learned how social media serves to humanize doctors in the eyes of patients – making us more accessible and improving communication. We then evolved into Facebook, Twitter, blogging and YouTube. All of this has worked well but these sites have limitations. Content created has a short half-life as postings get pushed down the wall and older content gets lost and forgotten. All are great platforms to push out information but none are great for pulling out the needs of specific patients. None overcome the problem of direct one-on-one communication. To solve this, we established a practice portal through our EHR software. This provided a secure messaging system which is a great tool to allow HIPAA compliant one-on-one online communication from doctor to patients. You can read about this here: How secure messaging helps this doctor connect with patients.

New networks are popping up to help overcome the limitations of the existing networks. Doximity is an excellent network designed to facilitate HIPAA compliant doctor to doctor communication. Another new platform called HealthTap brings doctors back into the online conversation. Users ask medical questions. Doctors answer these questions through the creation of their own virtual practice. While engaging patients, HealthTap aggregates the content created so it will stay available forever for the benefit of others. Internet users can find concise health information that they know has been written by qualified medical professionals.

I am not sitting on the sidelines and allowing my online reputation to be created for me. I am actively engaging. I choose to create my own digital footprint and encourage my patients to engage in their own health.