Medical Files’ 15-year journey
Time flies, indeed.
Fifteen years ago this month, our column Medical Files started its weekly run in the Science/Health section of this newspaper. Its main objective was to help enlighten our readers on common medical problems, what causes them, how they could be prevented and how they could be treated.
Initially we published sample cases, many of which were based on real patients from our own clinic or from other colleagues’ clinics, hence the column’s title. Each week, the title of the column always started with “The case of the…”—giving the featured disease a more interesting description which could be better appreciated by layman readers.
An article discussing a high-risk patient with severe uncontrolled high blood pressure was titled “The case of the ticking time bomb,” suggesting that one with untreated and uncontrolled hypertension can suddenly “explode” and develop serious complications, like heart attack or hemorrhage in the brain. A story on a patient who had a massive heat stroke while playing golf was titled “The case of the triple bogey,” referring to the three potentially fatal consequences of heat stroke, which are collapse of the circulation, damage to the brain, and death.
The identities of patients involved were not given; features of the cases had to be tweaked or modified. In many instances, we asked the permission of the patients to discuss their respective medical problems in our column. In cases wherein the patients had died, the go-signal from an immediate member of those patients’ families was obtained.
This format of Medical Files went on for at least the first two years, but we had to change it eventually because of three reasons. First, after two years, it was difficult to come up with a common or prevalent and interesting case to discuss. Second, although the patients or their relatives consented to discussing their respective cases and all measures were done to hide their identity, some of them still felt they could be identifiable and thus felt uncomfortable when their friends or other family members called to inform them about the article. Third, a thorough case discussion—including the patient’s brief clinical history, diagnosis, laboratory work-up, preventive measures and treatment—requires an exhaustive discussion, which our column space simply could not accommodate.
So we shifted from case discussions to dissection of whatever current health or medical issue, scientific updates gathered from medical conventions here and abroad, and clinical insights from me or other colleagues.
Varying range of topics
The range of topics varied like a pendulum swinging from one end to the other end—from topics like medical marijuana for specified indications like pain control for terminal cancer patients to end-of-life treatment when the advances of science have been exhausted and treatment shifts from curative to palliative; from inadequately addressed health issues like undermanned provincial health facilities to medicopolitical issues like the hiring and firing of medical personnel in health facilities which have been under the management of the local government units; and from the optimum use of sin taxes for the enhancement of healthcare delivery to the physical and psychological fitness of politicians running for major positions in government.
However diverse and wide-ranging the topics may be, the main objective was to provide the readers with additional information, pros and cons of issues, and my personal and other people’s insights that can help understand health and healthcare-related issues. The bottom line is that in our small way, in this little corner of Medical Files, we aim to do our small part in equipping our readers with relevant information and insights that can empower them, so they could make individualized and adequately informed decisions on these issues and serve as advocates to make their voices heard, too.
Hopefully, this empowerment can translate to healthy lifestyle choices, positive health-seeking behaviors, needed health legislation, change in healthcare policies, or the wise choice of politicians who will consider effective healthcare delivery as a national priority and will have concrete programs to achieve it.
As the Inquirer celebrates its 30th anniversary this month, I feel blessed and privileged that Medical Files has been part of it for 15 years now. I sincerely thank our publishers, editors (especially Cesar Mangawang) and my colleagues in the Science/Health section for making it a most fulfilling journey.
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