Sunday, December 06, 2009

Beyond Begum Syndrome

As a house officer I think I was just too busy to dedicate time to selecting the attributes that would constitute my bespoke "heartsink patient". More senior colleagues had seemingly highly refined criteria for the awarding of such an accolade to a patient. Thankfully my own portfolio of heartsink stereotypes never really took off. Perhaps I became more empathic through my training, or perhaps I just became desensitised? However, one stereotype does live on and continues to baffle me: Begum Syndrome.

Read on here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A GP unable to prescribe antibiotics is like...?

A (non-medic) friend recently tweeted this story from the BBC to me. The headline commands GPs 'must cut use of antibiotics'. His additional tongue-in-cheek note was "is this your career unravelling?" peddling the longstanding myth that antibiotics form the solitary weapon in a GP's armoury.

The latest diktat is from the European Centre of Disease Prevention and Control and warns against inappropriate antibiotic use and increasing bacterial resistance. This is nothing new. Fortunately the powers that be have realised that the situation is not down to an incestuous relationship between GPs and drug companies but public (un)awareness. The government apparently launched a major advertising campaign earlier this year telling people that antibiotics do not work on coughs or colds.

Anecdotally patients I've seen seem less resistant to the idea that rest, fluids and over the counter medicines should see them through a viral illness. My family have stopped asking me for advice, safe in the knowledge that they can pre-empt my suggestion of "take some paracetamol and let's review things in a couple of weeks".

This year the picture's been complicated somewhat by the perpetual fear of swine flu that appears to be regarded by most patients as just a notch down in severity from the bubonic plague. An interesting result of the heightened swine flu awareness though does appear to be an increasing appreciation that antibiotics do not treat viruses.

What are your experiences?

Monday, August 10, 2009

On being Mr Wolf on Saturday mornings

A couple of Saturdays ago I found myself being awoken at 08:00 by an alarm I couldn’t remember setting. I lay in bed for a few moments toying with the idea of returning to sleep knowing full well that I’ve inherited my father’s inability to lie in. By 09:00 I was showered and shaved and working my way through a long list of neglected emails and admin. This was going to be a productive Saturday.

At 09:30 the phone rang. I didn’t recognise the number. Ordinarily I would have let it ring out but something compelled me to answer.

Carry on reading here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Sultans' Throne

The Imperial Toilet, Topkapi Palace, Istanbul ©Tauseef Mehrali 2009

on the iPhone and Twitter

The vast majority of the weekend so far has been unashamedly devoted to mastering the new iPhone. My heavily entrenched scepticism prevented me from riding the euphoric first waves of iPhone possession. It soon became clear that the fact I was drooling whenever I saw an iPhone within touching distance meant the time was right to become one of Steve Jobs' iChildren. Stephen Fry's panegyric in yesterday's Guardian has helped expel any remaining tinges of guilt.

On Friday I was part of a tutorial introducing us to the potential/emerging role of new media in medical education. The focus of the session was Twitter. Again something I'd given wide berth to and dismissed as a means for people to broadcast nothing more than updates on their bowel habits. The so-called Green Revolution in Iran (and its apparent Twitter dependency) however happened to coincide with tutorial lending it a surreal geopolitical air of significance. The utility of Twitter as an educational tool is actually quite exciting: the instant recording of Patients' Unmet Needs (PUNs) and Doctors' Educational Needs (DENs), the posing of concise clinical conundrums to a group of peers, to name a few.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Test Tweet

Trying to synch my blog with Twitter. Here goes...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On Meat Free Mondays

The next BMJ blog entry is now live:

My grandfather used to counsel my mother’s worries about my insatiable carnivorous tendencies as a child by suggesting that the only solution would be to ensure I gain a butcher as a father-in-law. I would frequently be teased at dinner parties when it looked like I was struggling to make it to dessert with mock incentives such as the profiteroles actually being meatballs. My meat eating was so ingrained by my teens that an aunt felt compelled to proclaim that I should stop making my stomach a graveyard for dead animals.
Read the whole post here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Light & Dark

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul ©Tauseef Mehrali 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

Hagia Sofia

Hagia Sofia, Istanbul ©Tauseef Mehrali 2009

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Dispatches from Istanbul (5)

A mid-morning ferry from Eminonu took us to Eyup this morning. Eyup, the alleged resting place of the Prophet's companion Abu Ayyub al-Ansari, lies at the head of the Golden Horn. As it technically lies outside the precincts of the city, Eyup was, and still is used as one of Istanbul's cemeteries. The added allure of being buried in the vicinity of a holy personality has pretty much transformed it into a necropolis.

It was a cooler day today which thankfully eased our treck up the hillside overlooking Eyup to the Pierre Loti cafe, offering some of the best views of the Istanbul cityscape. A frequent sight at Eyup is of mace-wielding young boys dressed in regal clothes sheepishly in tow to family and usually gorging on sweets. Surely no amount of sweet-based bribery can divert their attention from what lies ahead later that day: sunnet or circumcision.

I couldn't resist ordering a Superman Pide for dinner from a local eatery we've discovered. Who could? A pide is a boat shaped pizza not too dissimilar to a calzone. The superman variant boasts a topping of salami, Konyan cheese, fried meat and egg.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Dispatches from Istanbul (4)

This morning my previously lack lustre breakfasting experiences underwent a real renaissance by virtue of a delicious homemade fig jam. Mixed with natural yoghurt, it's difficult not to have seconds and even more difficult to resist thirds. I suppose an infinite supply of figs is a useful counterweight to the physiological consequences of a toilet in the hotel room that must have been presented to the people of Lilliput by Gulliver. Ergonomically it's a disaster. A step ladder, or for that matter even a jar of homemade jam, would be indispensible in simply reaching this mighty throne.

We ventured westwards today towards Beyezit and the university. A timely pit-stop at a local Baklava vendor meant we probably significantly overcompensated in replenishing our blood sugar levels with a selection of sweets and Turkish tea. Actually it was just enough sugar to provide the necessary fuel for an afternoon of...haggling for towels in the Grand Bazaar. Apparently we won.

The language remains totally impenetrable to us. Turkish seems designed to neuter any advantage the amateur Arabist may have in the Middle East. I feel dyslexic and dizzy when faced with the barrage of consonants, umlauts and cedillas.

We had dinner dockside in Eminonu as the sun disappeared behind the pencil like Ottoman minarets. Unsurprisingly, it consisted of freshly cooked fish placed in roughly cut bread along with a helping of salad and onions to which you can add as much rock salt and lemon juice as you desire.

I can't sign off without mentioning a snippet of conversation overheard earlier today as a middle-aged American tourist rather naively requested of her tour guide:
So, like, what's happened over here over the last century then?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dispatches from Istanbul (3)

No visit to Istanbul is complete without the requisite 'compare and contrast' tour of the Blue Mosque and its predecessor, the Aya Sofia. Which of the two great edifices you prefer tends to boil down to whether you're atracted to decoration or design. Intricate and exquisite arabesques in Iznik blue dominate the interior of the Blue Mosque whereas the architectural genius of Emperor Justinian's Aya Sofia lies in the seemingly freestanding dome and the resulting sensation of spaciousness.

We grabbed a bus and headed to Ortakoy in the afternoon. The village sits along the European shore of the Bosphorus and is feted as being one of among 'Istanbul's coolest, chic-est, most artsy neighborhoods'. Sunday is apparently the day to visit due to a bustling street market and we weren't disappointed. An eclectic Baroque mosque, the Etz Ahayim Synagogue and an Orthodox church punctuate the cafes, boutiques and bistros. Strangely, our take home memory of the village will be of the ubiquitous jacket potato. It appears as though the whole potato (rather than its multiple derivatives) as a dining experience has only just hit the shores of the Bosphorus. And it's hit hard. Almost everyone was carrying a jacket potato laden with a mountain of fillings. Those that weren't carrying, were selling.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dispatches from Istanbul (2)

Traders in the Grand Bazaar have one of the best repertoires of inane comments to be found anywhere in the world's commercial hubs. Take this for instance:
"Lady, excuse me! Are you perfect? Then you need this perfect bag!"
I can't overcome the belief in the inevitability of being ripped off in such venues. This delusion is not aided by the fact that the Istanbulites seem to have agreed amongst themselves that Mrs Africanus and I are wealthy Arab visitors who can't wait to be parted from our dirhams. Our mission to eventually pass off as fully fledged Istanbulites though has come one step closer as we are now proud possessors of an Akbil, the oyster card equivalent.

We've worked our way through the role call of kebabs in all their guises - an idea for a potential 'Guess Who?' spin off - and were pleasantly surprised to find a halal Wagamama's in Beyoglu. The quality of coffee out here is impressive. Although I can't manage the traditional kahve - coffee flavoured molten lava - the more modern coffee houses pour some fine espressos.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dispatches from Istanbul

Arriving in Istanbul this afternoon was somewhat reassuringly just as complicated as I last remember. This time however, in addition to the easily overlooked purchase of a visa on arrival, there was the added bureaucracy of Swine flu screening. The far from rigorous process consisted of fighting my travel sickness to complete a meaningless form which looked as though it was a photocopy of a fax of a scanned document and perhaps better suited to testing my appreciation for abstract art and visual acuity rather than risk of transmitting H1N1. As we touched down on Turkish soil, the Istanbulite sitting alongside me and Mrs Africanus promptly pulled out a 5TL note, flashed it before our eyes and pointed to the ageless image of Ataturk, I presume to give his bizarre welcome gesture some stately gravitas.

The city itself is thankfully as welcoming and relaxed as I remember. We took a lazy stroll through Sultanahmet, lunched whilst gazing at the Aya Sofia and spent the evening indulging in some caffeine fuelled people watching on Istiklal Street in the lively Beyoglu district. Tomorrow can't come soon enough...

Sunday, April 05, 2009

On Ladybirds and Tree-hugging

From last week's Editor's Choice over at the BMJ:
And still in London, general practitioner registrar Tauseef Mehrali watches a film depicting brutal social realism as part of a training session on child protection: "We were challenged to investigate our own triggers for initiating child safeguarding proceedings and to confront subconsciously held stereotypes: is the failing of a parent to conform to our own usually middle class social norms a justifiable trigger? Perhaps more importantly, is conforming sufficient reason to overlook? ... The UK is the worst developed nation in which to be a child, according to both UNICEF and the Good Childhood Inquiry. General practitioners are at the forefront and therefore perfectly placed to guide a redressing of the balance. Encouraging trainees to discuss these issues in novel ways can only help this process."
Read the blog entry here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

On War and Medicine

The BMJ blog marches on:
My practice recently revamped its provision of short-notice medical appointments by transforming the Emergency Surgery into the (so far so good) Rapid Access Surgery. In essence, patients can now no longer pitch up to the practice between 11 am and 12 noon and definitely see a doctor regardless of their complaint, or lack thereof. This apparent erosion of choice has in fact seen the replacement of the dichotomous old system, which offered only routine and emergency appointments, for a myriad of appointment options: 24-hour access, 48-hour access, minor ailments being addressed by the nursing team and routine appointments. There are now more ways to see the doctor than means by which senior bankers can avoid saying sorry.
Read more here.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

On Casting the Safety Net

You can bring yourself up to date with the 4th instalment of my BMJ Blog here.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Zapiro on Shoe Throwing