Shouldn’t practice make a task easier?

When I started writing this blog 18 months ago, I did so on a whim. I enjoyed posting race reports on our bike team’s e-group. Writing in race-report vernacular, to an e-group of friends, made me laugh. There was zero pressure.

Then, I learned about this thing called blogger. They had a ‘publish’ button, which someone told me would launch my words onto the world-wide-web. One of the teenagers on the team said you could even install a site-meter to measure how many people visit your site.

That all sounded cool, adventurous even. Like riding a new trail, or using a new ablation catheter.

I liked the sensations that writing gave me. Having my own blog was cool. I wanted to continue writing, but it soon seemed that most of the interesting topics on cycling had been covered. You can only drone on so much about lactate thresholds, the benefits of eating blueberries, and having ideal tire pressure.

That’s when I thought about medical writing. Though I like riding my bike(s), I really love doctoring much more. Plus, I am a far better doctor than cyclist.

Yes…’Doctoring’ does provide a seemingly endless source of blog topics.

Great. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll share stories, a non-Ivy-league-level review of science, and a hefty dose of real-world experience. The hope goes that some may find such information helpful.

But that’s when things got more complicated. As more people read what you write about serious medical issues, the paradox is that the simple act of publishing gets harder. Harder on four fronts:

Writing:

My pride is wounded every time someone tells me of a typo–I hate typos, but they seem to have infected my genome. And, you would think that learning about using the active voice, avoiding pedantic medical words that end in -ion, and constructing short sentences would make writing easier. No, it’s the opposite. I used to sit down, type out a conversation, and hit ‘publish.’ Done. Grin. Move on, let’s go ride. Now, not so much. You see, occasionally, a smart person stumbles onto my blog, and I don’t want to look like a doctor who only knows how to move catheters in the heart.

Tone:

Your AF is indeed a problem, but when you weigh 350 pounds, can’t move because of joint problems, drink 6 beers each night, and refuse to wear an unsexy CPAP mask, no amount of burns to your heart will help. I want to help, but successful heart therapy requires that patients choose to help themselves. Talking about the role of personal responsibility in one’s own health without being perceived as an insensitive obesity-basher gets tricky.

Facts:

I’m a forest guy. The big picture always seems more clear to me than the trees. That’s both a strength and a weakness. A blog post written by a busy real-world doctor should not be confused with a New England Journal review. I’ll try my best to report precisely, but accept the disclaimer that I’m just a regular doctor–one who moves heart catheters, implants devices, and tries to convince Kentuckians that they can prevent most of their heart problems with good lifestyle choices.

Legal:

I used to flaunt my un-conflicted status. Independent. “No relationships to disclose.”

It’s just me, @drjohnm, you all.

But that was when I worked for a private practice Cardiology group. Now, like most heart specialists, I am employed by a large hospital. They are good people that are easy to like. We have a great relationship. A few years ago, as president of the medical staff, I sat on their Board of Directors for a two-year term. This experience exposed me first-hand to the pressure of running a hospital. That tension is much worse now. (Let me tell you, if you check hospital administrator on career day, you’d better have a strong heart.)

Every time I hit the ‘publish’ button, my employed status comes to mind. Like it or not, the reality is that permanently publishing medical matters on the Internet could make my employers job harder. I want to write, create and educate without harming my friends–friends that sign my paycheck. Friends that give me the chance to use my skills to help people.

….

I still amble through the day thinking how all this, or that, would make a great blog topic.

It’s just different now. Harder, but still a blast–like moving up a category in bike-racing.

Things change.

Happy Friday.

JMM

13 comments

  1. Thanks for taking the time to write the blog. I feel like I have learned many things here, as well as reading other sites you reference. You’ve influenced my behavior, after reading the kidney day reference I kicked a 10 year twice a day NSAID habit. My kidneys thank you and my heart thanks you for the posts.

    1. Allison,

      Wow. Thanks for the feedback. I am glad you are off NSAIDS. It’s cool that the blog had a part in your healthy decision.

  2. Well we just love your writing, John! Then again, we may be biased…keep thinking, keep writing, keep doctoring, keep teaching. It’s all so good!

  3. Wow, this was great! It gets tougher as a patient too, if that makes you feel any better. I started blogging in November 2009. I resisted it a bit but it was on the “to do” list if you write a book (I quickly found out the book is beside the point.) I worried about running out of things to say. No chance–but now the tone thing is confusing me. You’re trying to walk the line between tough love and information. I’m trying to walk the political/personal line. I was shocked, SHOCKED, to find breast cancer advocacy can be political. I’m happiest when I’m positive, but when I’m not in fighting mode I feel like I’m letting down some women I’m coming to care about. (This is all self-induced.)

    So–I feel your pain but for different reasons. Thank you for letting me vent! Keep on blogging–you’re a good writer!

    P.S. Pay no attention to the people who feel compelled to point out your typos. I don’t know what’s up with these grammar Nazis. Seriously.

    1. A huge thank you Jackie.

      That comment made me feel great. A big grin back to ya you.

      BTW: I watch politicians like I do athletes. They entertain me immensely. Though I try, it’s a struggle keeping the blog apolitical.

  4. Great post! As someone who just launched a cancer blog for a large hospital system, I can relate 🙂 I’m only three weeks in so I’m a little green with a long way to go, but it already consumes me! Thanks so much for the great insight. Now that I’ve found you, I’ll be looking forward to the next post!

  5. Very nice, John. Some days I have paranoid twangs but it’s usually other people’s doing. Keep going and continue to experiment with your voice. And remember that it is our obligation to create this type of content.

  6. Hello Dr. John,
    I for one am VERY happy that you’re blogging away there in Kentucky.

    I steal liberally from your insights (always with credit, of course!) and I refer my own blog readers to you frequently. When my visitors ask me questions I can’t answer (like let’s say about Afib catheter ablation), you are profoundly generous with your own personal time in responding. Your posts have also been picked up and discussed in online communities like those run by WomenHeart: The National Coalition For Women With Heart Disease (and you may not even be aware of your fans there!)

    As Jackie Fox wisely says from a patient blogger’s perspective: “I feel your pain but for different reasons”. Keep up the fantastic and highly readable work.
    Regards,
    C.
    PS I have to admit I’m one of those dreaded grammar Nazis – but never with YOU, of course…. 😉

  7. Dr.John,
    Sending you an e-bandaid (to avoid hospital acquired infections) for your oozing typo-pride wound. It is embedded with ‘e-anal retentive’ retardant to help those silly AR comments roll off the back.

    Found your blog through Carolyn Thomas’s excellent blog I found through WomenHeart.org. I intend to keep you in spite of your occassional ‘failings’….

    BTY, You live in Louisville, KY now, so it is y’all vs ‘you all’ : ). sigh Forgot to warn you to apply e-bandaid before this last comment. Consider it AR practice.

    1. Thanks. And a big heart-healthy grin back at you.

      Remember, bike racing cardiologists boast thick skin, and rapidly healing wounds.

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