PamelaWibleMD

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In case you all have not heard, Rhonda Elkins, mother of MS3 Kaitlyn Elkins R.I.P., has also taken her life. She found me through an SDN thread and reached out to me. We became friends and spoke often on the phone. She wanted so much to save other medical students and their families from the grief she and her family endured.

Other threads on SDN that reference Kaitlyn & her mother:
http://forums.studentdoctor.net/search/3460480/?q=kaitlyn elkins&o=relevance

I will be speaking in Newark, Scranton, Philadelphia, and Washington DC next month on physician and medical student suicide prevention. Would love to meet up with anyone on the forum.
 
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Oh my God!!! I didn't know she had taken her life as well. I knew she had posted about her daughter here on SDN as can be seen in your search URL.
 

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Wow, I remember her posting here. This is horribly depressing.
 
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what a horrible tragedy. i cannot imagine the sorrow that her husband must be feeling now. i hope he is able to stay strong.
 
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Wasn't there a huge thread started by Mrs. Elkins last year? I have searched for it but can't find it.
 

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Wasn't there a huge thread started by Mrs. Elkins last year? I have searched for it but can't find it.
I think it was deleted or hidden at least.

Very sad situation. Can't imagine how the dad/husband is doing.
 
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This makes me so sad. I remember reading her post last year when I was a 1st year really struggling with the adjustment to medical school, and she inspired me to talk to someone about what I was going through. She had a blog where she wrote about Kaitlyn, and had published a book about her. I thought about her and her daughter a lot.

For those interested, here is her blog: http://welding81.wordpress.com/tag/kaitlyn-elkins/
 

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I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but a good start would be to make it mandatory for all med students to see a counselor once a semester (at least). Lord knows there's enough mandatory yet meaningless bs that med students have to do; at least one of them should actually be helpful. Even the most stable and well adjusted among us feel stress and pressure during training. You can't mandate that people actually open up to the counselor, but getting them in the building would be a good start and it would give the schools a reason to reach out to students who were isolated with limited support systems.

I don't know what the answer is, but it seems like a profession made up of so many brilliant and accomplished people could do better than saying "wow that sucks" every time it happens again.
 
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I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but a good start would be to make it mandatory for all med students to see a counselor once a semester (at least). Lord knows there's enough mandatory yet meaningless bs that med students have to do; at least one of them should actually be helpful. Even the most stable and well adjusted among us feel stress and pressure during training. You can't mandate that people actually open up to the counselor, but getting them in the building would be a good start and it would give the schools a reason to reach out to students who were isolated with limited support systems.

I don't know what the answer is, but it seems like a profession made up of so many brilliant and accomplished people could do better than saying "wow that sucks" every time it happens again.
This is actually a really good idea, but when something like this happens people just brush it aside and nothing is done because the school doesn't want to take the blame for the death. Not that its the schools fault totally but not addressing a problem is not something we should be doing in medicine anyway.
 

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I remember her posting here too. She was definitely in a lot of pain, but I thought maybe she would make it.
What the hell man..
Yeah I remember that big thread too...the whole situation is very sad. I looked at the blog a few times and had the feeling she was still having trouble because she was still posting about her daughter like every other day.
 
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PamelaWibleMD

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In US we put $300 million per year into preventing human rabies (only 2 deaths per year now) - Imagine if we put the same money, effort, time into suicide prevention.

This is actually a really good idea, but when something like this happens people just brush it aside and nothing is done because the school doesn't want to take the blame for the death. Not that its the schools fault totally but not addressing a problem is not something we should be doing in medicine anyway.
 
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Yeah I remember that big thread too...the whole situation is very sad. I looked at the blog a few times and had the feeling she was still having trouble because she was still posting about her daughter like every other day.
Challenging to prevent a disease that is so often swept under the carpet. Most of the time when a doc dies by suicide, there is a code of silence The victim silently suffering and then suiciding. The family hiding the facts from the public. The other physicians never telling the patients anything other than "sorry, your doctor died suddenly." And then on top of all that, nobody (absolutely nobody) in medicine is accurately tracking the numbers of suicided doctors. Hint: easy to do - we all have medical licenses, We are not hard to find. And then ---> we leave grieving mothers to take this on? Really?

Imagine if we did the same with rabies. Bury the dead kids without telling anyone they died from rabies. Hiding the diagnosis from family and friends. Then doctors hiding the diagnoses. The medical system mum. Leaving the grieving moms to handle "rabies awareness campaigns" in isolation. We'd still be losing hundreds and thousands every year to rabies.

It doesn't have to be this way. Approach physician and medical student suicide with 10% of the effort we put into human rabies prevention and let's see what happens.

Physician suicide IS a huge public health crisis. With > 400 docs dying each year of suicide (probably lots more) and with an average patient panel of 2300, then > 1,000,000 Americans will lose their doctor to suicide in 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/when-doctors-commit-suicide-its-often-hushed-up/2014/07/14/d8f6eda8-e0fb-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop

I'm presenting the solution to this crisis in Washington DC on October 24 at the AAFP conference. Please come on out! Will post talk on my blog afterwards with specific steps (simple!) that we each can take now in our medical schools to prevent these needless deaths.
 
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In US we put $300 million per year into preventing human rabies (only 2 deaths per year now) - Imagine if we put the same money, effort, time into suicide prevention.
wow you have to be joking? 300 million dollars? does that include injection for the animals?

Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure

edit: not trying to make fun of the situation, it just reminded me of that episode and it sounds just as crazy spending 300 million dollars on rabies as raising awareness for it
 
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wow you have to be joking? 300 million dollars? does that include injection for the animals?

Michael Scott’s Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure

edit: not trying to make fun of the situation, it just reminded me of that episode and it sounds just as crazy spending 300 million dollars on rabies as raising awareness for it
check out cdc website.
 

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this is horrible. God i hope if anyone here on these forums feels like that, i really hope they get help. Please for God sakes don't do something like this, medicine is not that big of a deal.
That's why we have to support one another. This is one of the highest stress professions in many ways, and yet there isn't nearly enough support for healers who need help. Admitting that you need help for any kind of mental health issue can be a disaster for a doctor or a doctor in training. We need to learn that it is okay for doctors to be human, and to have the same problems that anyone else does.
 
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Challenging to prevent a disease that is so often swept under the carpet. Most of the time when a doc dies by suicide, there is a code of silence The victim silently suffering and then suiciding. The family hiding the facts from the public. The other physicians never telling the patients anything other than "sorry, your doctor died suddenly." And then on top of all that, nobody (absolutely nobody) in medicine is accurately tracking the numbers of suicided doctors. Hint: easy to do - we all have medical licenses, We are not hard to find. And then ---> we leave grieving mothers to take this on? Really?

Imagine if we did the same with rabies. Bury the dead kids without telling anyone they died from rabies. Hiding the diagnosis from family and friends. Then doctors hiding the diagnoses. The medical system mum. Leaving the grieving moms to handle "rabies awareness campaigns" in isolation. We'd still be losing hundreds and thousands every year to rabies.

It doesn't have to be this way. Approach physician and medical student suicide with 10% of the effort we put into human rabies prevention and let's see what happens.

Physician suicide IS a huge public health crisis. With > 400 docs dying each year of suicide (probably lots more) and with an average patient panel of 2300, then > 1,000,000 Americans will lose their doctor to suicide in 2014. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/when-doctors-commit-suicide-its-often-hushed-up/2014/07/14/d8f6eda8-e0fb-11e3-9743-bb9b59cde7b9_story.html?tid=pm_national_pop

I'm presenting the solution to this crisis in Washington DC on October 24 at the AAFP conference. Please come on out! Will post talk on my blog afterwards with specific steps (simple!) that we each can take now in our medical schools to prevent these needless deaths.
#1 - I am sad to hear about this and have a lot of compassion for the families and other future people struggling through medicine.

Hmm. I'm not sure if comparing Rabies spending has much to do with this. I could make the argument that we spend over 500 billion on military in America but only ______ on whatever important cause. We spend _____ on surgical care and _____ on preventative. Etc. You're correct though, suicide prevention isn't a priority. Prevention in general isn't a priority in America. We react to big scary problems with vigor - isn't this the common theme throughout all of medicine and other areas of public policy? The money goes to the big scary problems, even if they only sound scary and are actually very small.

With that said, it's encouraging that you're providing tools for people struggling - that's to be greatly commended. I'm always encouraged to see people DOING something rather than just identifying problems.

Medicine just doesn't really care about it's doctors - not much. This is the field where you shut up and take the abuse. Never complain. Focus on the patient. Stop whining about working 14-15 hr days or 24 hr call - everyone else suffered through it, it's your turn to suffer. I'm not boasting, but I feel lucky that I have some resilience and a good support system;/faith, because med school can be very difficult at times. And yeah, I know a few who ended up committing suicide. It's sad but not shocking.
 

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@PamelaWibleMD

I find it troublesome given your interests that you use Patch Adams for a foreword to your book, since he has said that depression is not a mental disease but rather "selfishness", and recommending that physicians stop prescribing psychotropic medications.

(Patch) Adams caught the attention of Scott Rodgers, M.D., assistant dean of Students, when he labeled depression as a “selfish act” and spoke against the use of psychotropic medications as treatment.

“To me depression is a symptom of a disease called loneliness,” Adams said. “You cannot be depressed and hold someone you love in your mind at the same time — it is impossible.”

Rodgers, a psychiatrist who has seen many patients with mental illness, labeled the speaker's advice as ‘malpractice.’

“I was shocked and dismayed to hear a famous and influential physician speak in this way about mental illness,” Rodgers said.

“While I am the first to admit that we all need love in our lives, I can tell you that I have seen many patients with plenty of love and support who nevertheless succumb to such illnesses as depression. For these patients, and for others without love and support, medications may represent a lifesaving alternative and should not be avoided.”
http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/reporter/index.html?ID=5134
 
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PamelaWibleMD

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Just because I like some things that Patch believes it doesn't mean I believe in everything he does or says 100%. I do not think I agree with anyone I have ever met 100% of the time, but I still basically like most people and appreciate their opinions and would consider endorsing many of their views. And I'm sure nobody agrees with me 100% of the time, yet they endorse many (but not all) of the things I do.

I have a live and let live philosophy (as long as I am not harming anyone in MY words & deeds). We are our own harshest critics. Especially doctors.

FYI - I disagree with Patch on a number of issues, but I admire him still for his courage to be as authentic as he can be in a world and a profession that doesn't necessarily reward the outliers.
 
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#1 - I am sad to hear about this and have a lot of compassion for the families and other future people struggling through medicine.

Hmm. I'm not sure if comparing Rabies spending has much to do with this. I could make the argument that we spend over 500 billion on military in America but only ______ on whatever important cause. We spend _____ on surgical care and _____ on preventative. Etc. You're correct though, suicide prevention isn't a priority. Prevention in general isn't a priority in America. We react to big scary problems with vigor - isn't this the common theme throughout all of medicine and other areas of public policy? The money goes to the big scary problems, even if they only sound scary and are actually very small.

With that said, it's encouraging that you're providing tools for people struggling - that's to be greatly commended. I'm always encouraged to see people DOING something rather than just identifying problems.

Medicine just doesn't really care about it's doctors - not much. This is the field where you shut up and take the abuse. Never complain. Focus on the patient. Stop whining about working 14-15 hr days or 24 hr call - everyone else suffered through it, it's your turn to suffer. I'm not boasting, but I feel lucky that I have some resilience and a good support system;/faith, because med school can be very difficult at times. And yeah, I know a few who ended up committing suicide. It's sad but not shocking.
I just chose a random disease to compare the huge difference between how we handle physician suicide and human rabies in regard to primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention efforts. Huge, huge difference.
 
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Rest in peace, Rhonda. You helped more people than you knew with your story and advice.




It was deleted.
I am sad to hear it was deleted. She had some very great advice in that thread. It was very clear in it that she wanted to help medical students like her daughter so very much.
 
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SDN does have moderation, but I wouldn't say that they censor. Even really outrageous or problematic threads usually just end up being locked to further discussion.
 

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There is a specific thread which was deleted. No one is saying every post she made was deleted, but the thread we are all referencing definitely was
What did she say or reference that was so controversial that it got deleted?
 

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This makes me so sad. I remember reading her post last year when I was a 1st year really struggling with the adjustment to medical school, and she inspired me to talk to someone about what I was going through. She had a blog where she wrote about Kaitlyn, and had published a book about her. I thought about her and her daughter a lot.

For those interested, here is her blog: http://welding81.wordpress.com/tag/kaitlyn-elkins/
Wow, what a heartbreaking blog: http://welding81.wordpress.com/

Kaitlyn was so accomplished too - she graduated undergrad in 2.5 years before matriculating at Wake Forest. Her suicide turned her mother's life completely upside down. Sad that Rhonda was more willing to talk about it and try to actually solve the problem for med students more than Wake Forest was willing to.
 

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I just searched and found several of the threads she started about her daughter. Not sure why anyone is saying they are deleted.
There was a very, very long thread. It was almost pages of people expressing their condolences intermixed with Mrs. Elkins talking about Kaitlyn. If you search Amothers posts the posts in that thread are gone. It was a large thread as I recall, like 5+ pages.
 

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What did she say or reference that was so controversial that it got deleted?
I don't recall anything controversial. She might have deleted it herself, much of it was very personal as I remember.
 

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I don't recall anything controversial. She might have deleted it herself, much of it was very personal as I remember.
Except she wasn't a donor so she'd have no ability to delete it.
 
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Wow, what a heartbreaking blog: http://welding81.wordpress.com/

Kaitlyn was so accomplished too - she graduated undergrad in 2.5 years before matriculating at Wake Forest. Her suicide turned her mother's life completely upside down. Sad that Rhonda was more willing to talk about it and try to actually solve the problem for med students more than Wake Forest was willing to.
As is SO common. Another recent suicide of Greg Miday MD who I will speak in detail about in Washington DC also received much more attention and accolades from the homeless shelter where he worked (they put up a plaque and did a fundraising walk) meanwhile his hospital and residency did next to nothing (or worse). I will attach 2 quotes below. One from the homeless shelter and one from his mom that she posted on my blog. Read carefully and ask yourself, "Why is our profession unable to take this issue on in a substantive way?" or "Why are non-medical professionals more willing to grieve for us and celebrate our lost lives than our own medical institutions?"

June 26, 2012
I had the honor of being Greg's friend and a co-worker with him at Gateway180 :: Homelessness Reversed, an emergency shelter for women, children and families. Greg was member of the Board of Directors at Gateway180 and he also provided leadership to our health literacy programming under the auspices of Washington University School of Medicine, Internal Medicine. He was a person committed to providing support and attention to our families and residents. His constant encouragement and focus on many different health needs of our families and children has strengthened our overall program, empowering our families to move into housing in 30 days or less. Today, we started a project for which he was a strong proponent - adding air conditioning in our 95 year-old, "oven-like" brick building. I think he would be happy to know that this project is moving forward and will be completed in two months. He knew that the children in our building, many of whom suffer from respiratory problems, will now have a more healthy environment. I will miss my friend. I ask God to bless and strengthen Greg's family and his friends, embracing them with the Peace that passes understanding. Sincerely, Rev. Dr. Martin Rafanan, G180 Executive Director


MDKK says:
Thanks so much for calling attention to this very real, and very serious issue. I am a physician (psychiatrist, fortunately) as is my husband. Our 29 y.o. Physician son died of suicide (now the more PC term that physicians should be aware of) in June of last year. We struggle everyday to understand the “why” of this. As you point out, the causes and contributing factors are many. He struggled with depression and alcoholism and was being monitored by the Missouri physicians effectiveness program. When he relapsed 1 week before he was to begin his oncology fellowship at a high-powered academic institution, he notified the board, then got drunk and took his own life (with a scalpel). No one at the hospital claimed to have any awareness of his struggles, worse yet, they cleansed the death notice we provided them of unsavory details. They clearly see his death as an injury to their institution. They have offered little in the way of condolence to us. This matter must be brought into the light of day. The lack of data about the number of suicide deaths is appalling. The monitoring people from the Medical Board ( who were the last to speak with him that day) have provided us with scant information. They told us that they did not plan any sort of internal case review. He was seeing a psychiatrist, but they never sought collaboration with him. They thought he was a “model patient”. So this is what oversight by the Medical Board provides to impaired physicians. Well, I could go on…..and probably will…but want to hear more from others. How can we take action? I cannot bear the thought of young doctors as dedicated and talented as my son dying in such a tragic manner. Your list certainly resonates with Greg’s struggle to come to grips with allowing himself to be human and vulnerable in such a highly competitive environment and to deal with the shame he felt about his very human vulnerabilities.
From: http://www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/why-physicians-commit-suicide/
 
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As is SO common. Another recent suicide of Greg Miday MD who I will speak in detail about in Washington DC also received much more attention and accolades from the homeless shelter where he worked (they put up a plaque and did a fundraising walk) meanwhile his hospital and residency did next to nothing (or worse). I will attach 2 quotes below. One from the homeless shelter and one from his mom that she posted on my blog. Read carefully and ask yourself, "Why is our profession unable to take this issue on in a substantive way?" or "Why are non-medical professionals more willing to grieve for us and celebrate our lost lives than our own medical institutions?"

June 26, 2012
I had the honor of being Greg's friend and a co-worker with him at Gateway180 :: Homelessness Reversed, an emergency shelter for women, children and families. Greg was member of the Board of Directors at Gateway180 and he also provided leadership to our health literacy programming under the auspices of Washington University School of Medicine, Internal Medicine. He was a person committed to providing support and attention to our families and residents. His constant encouragement and focus on many different health needs of our families and children has strengthened our overall program, empowering our families to move into housing in 30 days or less. Today, we started a project for which he was a strong proponent - adding air conditioning in our 95 year-old, "oven-like" brick building. I think he would be happy to know that this project is moving forward and will be completed in two months. He knew that the children in our building, many of whom suffer from respiratory problems, will now have a more healthy environment. I will miss my friend. I ask God to bless and strengthen Greg's family and his friends, embracing them with the Peace that passes understanding. Sincerely, Rev. Dr. Martin Rafanan, G180 Executive Director

MDKK says:
Thanks so much for calling attention to this very real, and very serious issue. I am a physician (psychiatrist, fortunately) as is my husband. Our 29 y.o. Physician son died of suicide (now the more PC term that physicians should be aware of) in June of last year. We struggle everyday to understand the “why” of this. As you point out, the causes and contributing factors are many. He struggled with depression and alcoholism and was being monitored by the Missouri physicians effectiveness program. When he relapsed 1 week before he was to begin his oncology fellowship at a high-powered academic institution, he notified the board, then got drunk and took his own life (with a scalpel). No one at the hospital claimed to have any awareness of his struggles, worse yet, they cleansed the death notice we provided them of unsavory details. They clearly see his death as an injury to their institution. They have offered little in the way of condolence to us. This matter must be brought into the light of day. The lack of data about the number of suicide deaths is appalling. The monitoring people from the Medical Board ( who were the last to speak with him that day) have provided us with scant information. They told us that they did not plan any sort of internal case review. He was seeing a psychiatrist, but they never sought collaboration with him. They thought he was a “model patient”. So this is what oversight by the Medical Board provides to impaired physicians. Well, I could go on…..and probably will…but want to hear more from others. How can we take action? I cannot bear the thought of young doctors as dedicated and talented as my son dying in such a tragic manner. Your list certainly resonates with Greg’s struggle to come to grips with allowing himself to be human and vulnerable in such a highly competitive environment and to deal with the shame he felt about his very human vulnerabilities.
From: http://www.idealmedicalcare.org/blog/why-physicians-commit-suicide/
Have medical schools been more willing for you to lecture on this problem? Or is it pretty much a wall of silence on the issue? Would be very interesting to see which medical schools are willing to pretend the problem doesn't exist.
 
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Have medical schools been more willing for you to lecture on this problem? Or is it pretty much a wall of silence on the issue? Would be very interesting to see which medical schools are willing to pretend the problem doesn't exist.
Interestingly it is always the medical students (exhausted and between exams) who arrange for me to come speak at the med schools. The institutions have not formally asked me to speak. Silence. Dead silence.

Thoughts?
 

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Interestingly it is always the medical students (exhausted and between exams) who arrange for me to come speak at the med schools. The institutions have not formally asked me to speak. Silence. Dead silence.

Thoughts?
I'm not AT ALL surprised. Not one bit. Probably too busy lecturing to medical students about what is and isn't "professional". Kudos to the proactive medical students who do take the time to arrange for you to talk with them.
 
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Interestingly it is always the medical students (exhausted and between exams) who arrange for me to come speak at the med schools. The institutions have not formally asked me to speak. Silence. Dead silence.

Thoughts?
Medical schools are slow to change, they take on average about 100-1000 times longer than students. Our profession is in general very conservative and resistant to change.

Schools prioritize their school. My school is very interested in itself, whether that be promoting it's brand or it's research. I don't mean to say that they don't care about the students. Instead, they prioritize what is in their best interest. This isn't a surprise. When there are tough decision to make, the students will fall behind the school's interests.
 
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Medical schools are slow to change, they take on average about 100-1000 times longer than students. Our profession is in general very conservative and resistant to change.

Schools prioritize their school. My school is very interested in itself, whether that be promoting it's brand or it's research. I don't mean to say that they don't care about the students. Instead, they prioritize what is in their best interest. This isn't a surprise. When there are tough decision to make, the students will fall behind the school's interests.
And where would the medical schools be without students?
 

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Medical schools are slow to change, they take on average about 100-1000 times longer than students. Our profession is in general very conservative and resistant to change.

Schools prioritize their school. My school is very interested in itself, whether that be promoting it's brand or it's research. I don't mean to say that they don't care about the students. Instead, they prioritize what is in their best interest. This isn't a surprise. When there are tough decision to make, the students will fall behind the school's interests.
Yet they would have none of that without med students paying tuition.
 
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Attending Physician
Reminds me of doctors staying in paper chains at jobs they hate, when their employer knows full well they would go belly up without all their employed doctors. So they keep them scared, homogenized, and in the dungeon. The treadmill is controlled by the folks in the penthouse. Please read this to learn mind control tactics --> http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2014/09/18/how-to-discourage-a-doctor/

So, medical students, unite. The power is in your hands. The school dies without you. remember that.

If you don't stand up for yourselves now, here's the abuse you have to look forward to. And yes, this is abuse:

 
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snowflakes

5+ Year Member
Jan 27, 2013
438
321
Status
Medical Student
I haven't posted much on SDN lately, but feel compelled to respond to this thread. I remember reading about Kaitlyn's death last year when someone posted about it on SDN. I was very moved by it, and for some reason, it felt very close to me. I read her mother's posts, both on SDN and on her blog, and was deeply moved by the profound grief evident in her posts. I remember being shocked by the cold logic with which Kaitlyn had planned her death--the note to her landlord, the extra catfood, and the rent checks, and horrified at what her mother most have gone through. I came back to her blog from time to time, and felt worried by the profound grief, but also felt somehow, perhaps illogically, that if her grief was so evident even to me, she must be getting help for it, and her family must be watching over her closely. She wrote about seeing a therapist too. On Saturday, I saw a link to Dr. Wible's video on "how not to commit suicide in medical school" or something like that on the front page of pre-allo. Reading the accompanying blog post, I saw Dr. Wible mention Kaitlyn's mother Rhonda had written a book recently, and I googled Rhonda Elkins. I saw first a blog post dated Aug 28th, and then was shocked to find a result for her obituary on Aug 29th near the top of the search results. Somehow, following her posts sporadically, I felt really close to Rhonda, and was really shocked, horrified, and saddened by reading of her death. My heart really sank, reading that article. How terribly sad that things ended this way for her and Kaitlyn. What a tragedy for the family. I can't even imagine what the family must be going through.
 
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Snoopy2006

10+ Year Member
Jun 22, 2009
359
572
Status
Resident [Any Field]
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