Archive for the 'Hope' Category

Feminize Medical Care

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Feminize Medical Care—4-2010

© Richard Grossman MD, 2010

May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart;

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace;

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, starvation, war and loss, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy;

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done;

May God bless you with God’s comforting presence now and in your journeys through each day.

Franciscan blessing

Read by Reverend Ginny Brown at Dr. Leanne Jordan’s memorial service

My first year medical school class had 125 students in it; only six were women. Now half of medical students are women.

I did my specialty training at the University of New Mexico and was surprised that several other residents in obstetrics and gynecology came from medical school in Denver. The former chair of the OB-GYN department excluded women from his program. Imagine not letting women learn to care for women! Fortunately that has changed; now only two of thirty-six OB-GYN residents at the University of Colorado are male.

A friend studied the culture of operating rooms for his doctorate in sociology. He noted a huge change from the 1960s to the present. Men initially dominated—both figuratively and literally—and many OR nurses lived in terror of the behavior of surgeons. As more women became surgeons the ethos improved. The OR became a kinder, gentler place, and patients benefited as well as the staff. Worldwide, empowerment of women is one of the most important steps we can take to slow population growth.

Women in medicine often take off time to have children and to raise their family, so female doctors may take longer to finish their training. I am proud of our daughter-in-law, Dr. Stephanie Shrago, for excelling in med school and family practice residency and having two wonderful daughters. Of course, I also have to thank our son Dave who does a lot of our granddaughters’ care.

Another remarkable physician with whom I practiced for almost twelve years just died. Dr. Leanne Jordan’s memorial service was held earlier this month with an overflow crowd of admirers. Speakers at the service recalled Leanne’s talents: an amazing athlete, empathetic friend and an outstanding doctor. When we worked together in the operating room I felt as though I were energized with a second cup of coffee, because she was always so quick—but careful—during surgery.

One friend said that Leanne’s smile would light up a whole room. I knew about many of her accomplishments and numerous athletic skills that were mentioned during the service. I will never forget the story of her skinny-dipping with a friend after rowing practice when some guys moved their clothes away from the river’s bank.

Leanne died of the breast cancer that she fought valiantly for years. I admire her for being the “poster child” for cancer treatment. She did not hide the fact that she was battling the disease. This openness was a source of solace for others with serious illnesses, and an encouragement to get screened for cancer.

Early detection of breast cancer is key to its cure, as with many other diseases. Breast self exam is good, but mammograms can detect disease long before it can be felt.

Mercy has just opened its state-of-the-art Breast Care Center. It has the latest equipment for the diagnosis of breast problems. In addition, it is beautiful. Stunning art, a fireplace and the dragonfly motif help to soften the usual medical atmosphere.

In the past I heard complaints about pain caused by mammograms, but I don’t any more. That may be because the new digital machines are faster. They are safer, too, since they use less radiation.

Regrettably, not all women have health insurance to cover mammography. There are programs to help women older than 40, so finances shouldn’t be a reason to avoid this important test. The criteria are confusing for the different programs, so it is best to call B.J. Boucher at the American Cancer Society local office, 259-3527.

We have benefitted from more women participating in medical care. It is sad that we recently lost one of the finest, Dr. Leanne Jordan.

This article may be copied or published but must remain intact, with attribution to the author. I also request that the words “First published in the Durango Herald” accompany any publication. For more information, please write the author at:

Speak Out on Population

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

Speak Out on Population

© Richard Grossman MD, 2009

“I do not understand why there is very little discussion, or even acknowledgement, that unless the human population on this planet can be limited to a sustainable number, there will be wars and death over food and water.”

I agree with Rick, a fellow Bayfield resident, who wrote the above sentence several months ago in response to one of my articles. Rick started:

“I read your article in the Herald this past weekend and was encouraged to find some recognition that human population growth is the root cause of this planet’s problems. I find it nauseating to read countless articles written by supposed experts proposing band-aid fixes to the increasing numbers of problems we humans face, when in fact, that will only delay the inevitable”.

I feel rewarded to know that there are others who feel the same way as I do. Thank you, Rick, and all of the others who have written or spoken to me in response to Population Matters! articles. I even appreciate hearing from people who do not agree with me. I count as a friend a man I haven’t met, but we communicate respectfully about abortion—a subject about which we have radically different ideas.

I am amazed that people do not make the connection between environmental issues and the human effect on Earth. After all, it is our profligate consumption and our ever-increasing numbers that are causing pollution, loss of species and global climate change—amongst other crises. Fortunately there are people, like Rick, who do “get it”; they understand the relationship, and are willing to do something about it.

Concern about human population became popular after Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb was published in 1968. Shortly afterwards, Zero Population Growth (which espoused reaching a steady state of population) was founded. Interest came to a halt in 1994 when the International Conference on Population and Development shifted the focus from population to “reproductive health.” The assumption was that providing reproductive health care would allow people to have as few children as they wanted.

The other part of that assumption is that economies were improving, and that fertility would decline as peoples’ wellbeing improved. Unfortunately, economic development implies increased consumption, so development is not an unmitigated blessing. Education (especially of girls) is all-around good, since education doesn’t need to increase consumption—but definitely is associated with smaller family size.

There were several reasons that people at ICPD turned away from population and toward RH. This huge conference of the United Nations needed to reach a consensus of the 179 nations attending (including the Holy See or Vatican) and RH was an easier concept for some countries to tolerate than population stabilization. A major reason that limiting population growth went out of favor is the abuses that were perpetrated in its name. In some countries people were coerced to use contraception or to have sterilization operations. China’s one child family policy is famous for being coercive, and there is evidence that some women were even forced to have abortions. We now recognize that the most successful family planning programs are totally voluntary.

So ICPD was a turning point away from concern about population. But how successful has the focus on RH been? In the fifteen years since ICPD the world’s population has increased by more than one billion people and atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased from 358 to 386 parts per million. Furthermore, we are now using the resources of about 1.3 planet earths, whereas in 1994 we only used about 10% more than was sustainable. We have not done well! I feel that attention has been distracted from the real issue.

How could this be? Why do people not pay more attention to population? I recommend a short video by a Harvard professor of psychology. Although it focuses on the related issue of global climate change, much of what it says also pertains to population:

An additional reason that population is even more taboo than climate may be more important. Population involves the issues of sexuality and contraception that many people—and religions—feel strongly about.

John Feeney, a Colorado journalist, has created the Global Speak Out on Population at The goal of GSOP is to bring the issue of human population back into the public’s consciousness. I suggest that you check out the website, and then sign the pledge of support.

Rick, you are correct; human population growth is the root cause of many of this planet’s problems. Thank you for recognizing this!

Published in the Durango Herald 2-09

The article above may be copied or published but must remain intact, with attribution to the author. I also request that the words “First published in the Durango Herald” accompany any publication. For more information, please write the author at:

Accept the Wager

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

            Recently Dr. Roger Cohen challenged people in Durango to a bet about global warming. A well trained scientist, he earned a PhD in physics. When Dr. Cohen worked for the energy industry he was responsible for managing basic research in climate. While Dr. Cohen acknowledges that climate change is occurring, he believes that most of the change is not human induced. He does not see us headed toward an anthropogenic global catastrophe.

            Right here on the Herald Opinion pages, in order to prove his point, Dr. Cohen offered a $5000 wager that it would actually be cooler a decade from now.

            “Don’t dignify him by acknowledging the wager” was my wife’s advice. My son Dave had another viewpoint. “Five thousand dollars is insignificant compared to the future of the human race!” Dave was angry that someone would consider jeopardizing the future of his daughters for so little money. Herald readers wrote Letters to the Editor on both sides of the issue.

            I am usually up for a challenge and considered this one, despite my family’s advice. I had several concerns, including religious. As a Quaker (a member of the Religious Society of Friends), I am not supposed to bet. Nevertheless, I wrote Dr. Cohen a letter accepting his wager, with some conditions. Global climate change is a good indicator of our abuse of Earth’s resources by excess population and excess consumption.

            To my surprise, my offer was accepted. We had several conversations and ironed out the terms of the wager—which ended up different from the original. For instance, we agreed to look at the average global temperature for three years instead of relying on a single value.

            There is interesting precedent to this wager. Dr. Scott Armstrong (a professor at the Wharton School of Business) has publicly offered the “Global Warming Challenge” to Al Gore (of “Inconvenient Truth” and Nobel Prize fame).  Gore declined.

            Dr. Armstrong was a friend of another business school professor, Julian Simon. Before he died, Simon was the spokesperson for the cornucopians—people who believe that the natural world does not have limits. A definition comes from Wikipedia: “A cornucopian is someone who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by advances in technology.” Although most people don’t think of themselves as cornucopians—or even know that such a word exists—they act that way.

Some of Simon’s statements were outlandish. He wrote: “We have in our hands now… the technology to feed, clothe and supply energy to an ever-growing population for the next 7 billion years. …we would be able to go on increasing our…population forever….”

It is easy to show that with just one percent growth, at the end of just seven million years number of people would be impossibly huge. We would exceed the number of atoms in the universe!

            Paul Ehrlich, who popularized concern about population with his book The Population Bomb, had a wager with Simon about resource depletion. The bet was that the price of five metals would increase over a decade, as they got scarcer. In fact, improved mining techniques decreased their cost and Ehrlich paid up. Unfortunately, their bet was about resources of secondary importance. Air quality (a prime resource) and many other important measures of wellbeing declined during that same period.

            The Durango wager has turned out to be much friendlier. One of Dr. Cohen’s original stipulations was “My winnings will be donated to a local charitable organization promoting science education.” I am on the board of Durango Nature Studies, which fulfills these requirements. I wanted to do the same, and we agreed that all of the money would benefit DNS. The Community Foundation Serving Southwest Colorado will hold the money for the ten year period as part of DNS’s endowment.

            A large volcanic eruption could blanket the globe and cool off the climate. We agreed that the bet will be called off if this happens in the second half of the decade of the wager.

            You will have to wait ten years to find out who wins the wager. I hope that Dr. Cohen will prevail! By then Dave’s girls will be eleven and fourteen. I would like to think that any cooling would be caused by people using renewable energy sources and taking action to cut greenhouse gas production. Then the world my granddaughters inherit will be cooler, and will remain a wonderful place for them to live in.

© Richard Grossman MD, 2008 

[The article above may be copied or published but must remain intact, with attribution to the author. I also request that the words “First published in the Durango Herald” accompany any publication. For more information, please write the author at:]

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States.