Connective Tissue


Recently I got a call from a friend who listened to the episode on Crisis Leadership with George Gittleman. Amidst his effusive praise, he noted that I use the term “connective tissue” frequently on episodes of the show. We work together every day and both agree that I never use that term in regular conversation. I liked histology and pathology in medical school, but I never drop “connective tissue” in regular conversation.

A deal was struck, every time I say “connective tissue”, I owe $1. On the podcast, in a meeting, with patients, whatever. Say connective tissue, pay a buck.

This is going to get expensive.

Here’s why.

This week, Explore The Space was named Doximity’s Podcast Of The Week. This is no small deal for a number of reasons, not least of which is that Doximity is LinkedIn for physicians.

Guess what the human body uses to link things together (or Link In, not to overdo the metaphor)… you got it right in one! Connective tissue.

This same week, I hosted an old friend on the show. Eric Byrnes and I have known each other since freshman year in Rieber Hall at UCLA. He went off to play Major League baseball for a whole bunch of years, enter the UCLA Sports Hall Of Fame, then finally do something impressive by swimming, cycling, and running across the USA this summer to raise money for the Let Them Play Foundation. He also wrote a book that I was lucky enough to blurb!

His path connects so naturally to the show’s Pillar of The Mental & Physical Edge, it’s not even funny. A college friendship connects us, the podcast connects his story to you. Again not to overstate the symbolism, but…connective tissue once again!

Meanwhile, this week I’ve been much more active on Twitter (from @ETSshow) and am finding so many like-minded people with an interest in discussing the interface between healthcare and society in all sorts of creative ways. I feel like while I am connecting (wait for it), people are connecting with the show (hang on) and more and more bridges are being build across the space between healthcare and those who seek it. What will finally close that space? (brace for impact!)

In whatever form, in whatever strength, in whatever amount; connective tissue.

Thankfully we never agreed I have to pay if I write it!


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Connecting Medicine, Learning, Twitter &…Spinal Tap?


I love rankings. Top five lists, Mount Rushmore’s, pantheons. They’re all great to build, tinker with, and argue about.

On any list of what I love about Medicine is our commitment to education. Learning, teaching, sharing, innovating. We see, we do, we teach. It’s one of the 4 Pillars of Explore The Space for a reason.

Pivot to any self-respecting top five list of great comedies and you’ll find “This Is Spinal Tap, and the capo di tutti capo of this epic is lead guitarist/philosopher Nigel Tufnel. (If you haven’t seen Spinal Tap, do so. If you have seen it, watch it again.)

I’ll stop now to address 2 obvious questions:

What the hell am I talking about?

What is this doing on a healthcare themed podcast?

Aside from the fact that a spinal tap is a medical procedure, here is the answer…

Start from: Nigel at a piano. Gum being chewed. Marty Dibergi interviewing while he plays a beautiful piece of music. See image above. Nigel describes the music as “just simple lines intertwining.”

Cut to: me skimming twitter after a tough week during which I recorded and posted an episode of Explore The Space with Dr. Mary Brandt (@drmlb) wherein we touched on the subject of how gun trauma impacts physicians and healthcare providers…

Now recall Nigel The Philosopher’s words; lines intertwining to create beautiful music.

A few days after our episode went up Dr. Brandt retweeted a tweet from the American College Of Surgeons Committee On Trauma (@ACSTrauma) sent during its conference. The message was from a lecture by Dr. Ronald Stewart (@stewartr84) on PTSD in those providing care for Trauma victims.

I replied from @ETSshow to the retweet and asked if the whole slide deck might be available.

Lightning reply from @ACSTrauma:, yes @ETSshow, just download the TQIP app and you can get to the slides.

Done and done. I’ve read through the slides 3 times now…they’re brilliant. I’ve shared them and will use them going forward. That’s what makes this profession so great. We teach, we learn, we share freely so others may benefit.

Lines intertwining indeed Nigel. Even in, perhaps most importantly in medicine…lines intertwining to make beautiful music.

P.S. Here are the slides: PTSD & Trauma. Hat Tip to American College of Surgeons, Dr. Ronald Stewart and Dr. Brian Eastridge.

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Interviewing Two Professors In One Week!


I’m just paddling back into the creative writing waters, the muscles are atrophied but I trust they’ll come back with a few reps. Back in the day when I was a sportswriter at the Daily Bruin, I was writing all the time (here’s something I wrote  in 1998 about fellow Bruin and future Explore The Space show guest Eric Byrnes.

Then came med school, then residency, then life, and not so much with the writing. I did stage a brief comeback with a fun little blog called The Tipsy Historian, but the last post there is nearly 10 years old.

Now, with this shiny new website and Explore The Space closing in on episode 100, I’m once again breaking out the writing utensils (such as they are) and getting back after it. Bear with me, this might be a bumpy ride…

When I was a sophomore at UCLA, I read a book called “Letters To A Young Doctor” by Richard Selzer. He was a Professor of Surgery at Yale University, and his writing flare along with his descriptions of surgery launched an abiding fascination and admiration of those who dare to operate on another human being.

That role of Professor, I would come to learn over the course of my collegiate education and medical training, is one that is highly coveted and inherently difficult to achieve. Juxtapose that with going to medical school at Baylor College of Medicine, an institution built on a foundation of surgical prowess, and I developed a unique admiration for those who become Professors of Surgery. This is not to diminish the respect I have for any who reaches the level of Professor in any field, and I had the privilege of training under some of the greatest Professors of Medicine on the planet.
There’s just something about surgery…
So you can imagine my delight when, in the span of one week, I had the opportunity to interview not one, but 2 Professors of Surgery for episodes of Explore The Space. With each one, even reaching out in the first place was a bit scary. I’m not one to get star-struck, but again, there’s just something about a Professor of Surgery.
Dr. Nina Shapiro, Professor of Head and Neck Surgery at UCLA and Dr. Mary Brandt, Professor of Surgery, Pediatrics, and Medical Ethics at Baylor College of Medicine have both reached the pinnacle of a surgical career. They both took the time to speak with me on Explore The Space about their work, their opinions, and their impact. The could not have been more engaging, more friendly, more available. That they work at my collegiate and medical school alma maters is icing on the cake.
I love being a Hospitalist, I love Internal Medicine, but my admiration for surgeons and Professors of Surgery has never been greater.
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