Friday, September 30, 2011

About Those Changes To Social Security

The debate rages on over social security, and only Heaven knows what the outcome will be. Most everyone acknowledges that some changes will have to be made in order to keep the social security system afloat for future generations.

One possibility that deserves a long look is reducing the payout to those who need it the least. Another change that seems reasonable is raising the age of eligibility by a year, or two, or three.

What is not an option; what must not even be open for discussion, is the privatization of social security, in any manner, shape, or form.

First of all, the populace does not want privatization. That became clear when George Bush tried to sell it, and found that Americans weren't buying it.

But the strongest argument for keeping the basic system of social security much the same in future as it is now, is the need for a guaranteed safety net.

With the social security system that now exists, recipients know that once a month
they will have a check or a direct deposit. They know the amount in advance, and they know that they will have their money, no matter what.

Their social security income is subject neither to the whims of Wall Street, nor the winds of change or chance.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Government Intrusion

The Republican Presidential candidates are learning which catch phrases work best--the ones that result in shouts of approval and enthusiastic applause. And when they find something that works, they repeat it over and over.

A favorite of all of the GOP contenders is the promise to get government out of our lives; to keep government away from the private sector. To argue against this popular refrain would be political suicide.

We need the media to be the voice of reason that reminds the populace that government intrusion is sometimes necessary--and sometimes a good thing.

Without government "intrusion", there would be little to nothing left of America's auto industry. The bail out of "Detroit" saved it.

Three years after the federal government stepped in, America's "big three" auto makers are back on their feet, showing profits and growth, and providing millions of jobs that would have been lost, but for government "intrusion".

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Execution Is A Chilling Word

I am one of those who is troubled by capital punishment.

There are rare occasions when I believe that the death penalty is appropriate--an especially heinous crime where evidence of guilt is indisputable. Such a crime is the Petit home invasion in Connecticut.

One man has already been convicted and sentenced to death, and his partner is now on trial for his life. The two men are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt--the only question remaining is whether one of the pair is more responsible than the other for what happened to an innocent, unsuspecting family of four.

The only survivor, the father, was beaten senseless with a baseball bat. His wife was raped and murdered. His 11-year old daughter was sexually assaulted, before she, and her 17-year old sister suffered horrible deaths when the house was set on fire.

The Petit murders are the rare case where guilt is admitted, and the perpetrators are sane, and the crimes are sickening. To most people, the death penalty is the only appropriate punishment.

Most capital cases, however, are not so clear cut, and I am then troubled by the imposition of the death penalty. For me, execution is a chilling word.

I am having difficulty with what happened last night in Georgia, when Troy Davis was put to death by lethal injection. There are a number of reasons why.

First of all, there is a question of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The most damning evidence against Troy Davis at trial was the testimony of nine people. Since the conviction 20 years ago, seven of the nine have recanted their testimony.

Then I think about the fairness of our judicial system. I question if all defendants receive equal treatment. I wonder if Troy Davis might have been acquitted if he were a man of wealth--able to hire a "dream team" of attorneys, as O.J. Simpson was able to do.

We are told that lethal injection is the most humane form of execution; but how humane is it to have someone strapped to a gurney at 7:00 PM, expecting imminent death, only to wait four hours thinking about it before a needle finally ends it all.

And then there is this. Troy Davis's final words were a softly-spoken declaration of his innocence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Future Of America's Social Security System --- Florida May Be "The Decider"

George W. Bush has a way with words. He even invented a few while he was President. My favorite is "the decider".

When Bush was finally declared the winner in the Presidential election of 2000, Florida was the decider--the state that put him in the oval office. In the Presidential sweepstakes of 2012, Florida might once again be a decider.

Republicans are working to position Florida as an early primary state--just ahead of super Tuesday--which could well give whoever wins the Florida primary a large lead, and a lot of momentum, and undisputed status as front runner and favorite for the GOP nomination.

In the general election, the Sunshine State, which went for President Obama and the Democrats by a narrow margin in 2008, will again be a key swing state--a decider.

And Florida may also prove to be the decider on an issue that will affect Americans long after the next election. The future of social security might be determined by events in Florida from now through 2012.

Democrats continue to be adamant about protecting social security as is. Republican views on social security range from making various changes, to privatizing the program, to abolishing social security altogether.

Even with all the different GOP points of view on social security, the issue was not expected to be a major topic of conversation during the Republican debates. But it is.

That's because one of the candidates, Texas Governor Rick Perry, has called social security a Ponzi scheme--a fraud; and he has openly advised our younger generations not to expect America's 75-year old safety net to be there for them if he becomes President.

Suddenly, social security is on the minds and lips of politicians and voters alike; and only "jobs, jobs, jobs" looms as a more important domestic issue.

Should President Obama win reelection, social security will likely remain unchanged for the next five years, and quite possibly well beyond.

But if the Republican nominee wins The White House, there will be change--that might even mean the end of social security as we now know it.

The furore raised by Rick Perry's remarks is actually a good thing; in that, unlike off years, a Presidential election year has voters more tuned in to where the parties, and the candidates stand on important issues.

Social security will be an especially hot topic in Florida with its millions of senior citizens. And how they react, and what side they come down on will reverberate across the country.

It is important to note, also, that some politicians could be misreading America's younger people in thinking that they don't care what happens to social security.

Just because they are many years removed from eligibility doesn't necessarily mean that they don't want the same safety net that has been there for older folks for 75 years.

Tomorrow through Saturday, the GOP candidates for President will gather in Orlando for a Republican rally. For three days they will deliver speeches; they will debate the issues; and they will press a lot of Florida flesh. The accent will be on social security.

Then for more than a year, the GOP candidates will revisit Florida--again and again--giving the state as much attention as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. Come next summer, the national political spotlight will be on Tampa, for the Republican National Convention.

No state in the nation will play a larger role than Florida in deciding on a Republican nominee. No other state will be more important as America chooses its President for the following four years. And no other state will have more influence on the future of social security.

In all cases, Florda may well be the decider.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Redistribution Of Wealth

There are some members of Congress who consider the words "redistribution of wealth" to be dirty words; fighting words; words to be feared.

They are the legislators who represent, and fight for big business and the wealthiest among us. They believe that the words redistribution of wealth hint of socialism or communism.

To them redistribution of wealth means taking away from the rich, and giving to the poor; to taking from the haves to give to the have nots. They argue that attempts to have our wealthiest citizens pay their fair share are aimed at bringing about an un-American redistribution of wealth.

The fact is--we have actually been going through a redistribution of wealth for more than a decade; but the wealth hasn't been transferred from the rich to the poor. It has been the other way around.

The last ten years have been a lost decade for middle class America, as earning power and opportunity have continued on a downward spiral. And the poorest among us have fared even worse, with 2.8 million more Americans slipping into poverty in the past year.

The facts are indisputable. Most Americans are losing ground, while the share of wealth by the super rich continues to increase; and the profits of big business continue to rise.

It all makes one wonder how any member of Congress can argue against eliminating tax breaks, and closing tax loopholes for the super rich and the major corporations who neither deserve nor need them.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Our Next Generation Of Health Care Professionals--The Future Is In Caring, Competent Hands

If you saw the blogs that were posted Monday through Thursday, you didn't have to read between the lines to know that I am impressed with the future health care professionals that I have met over the past year. It was my intent to have that fact come through loud and clear.

And now, in this last of a five-part series, I risk sounding redundant in emphasizing that the three health care profession students that I met, through the University of Florida's Interdisciplinary Family Health program, have me believing that their future patients will be in caring, competent hands.

The articles about James Medley, Feleighsha Jones, and Cynthia Moreau were all too brief--the time constraints of most blog readers dictate a need for brevity. Hopefully, the articles did provide something of interest; perhaps something you didn't know before.

Some folks might say that I was lucky (I prefer to say blessed) in that all three students were so outstanding. But while James, and Feleighsha, and Cynthia truly are outstanding, they are also typical. I have yet to meet a future health care professional who was not an outstanding individual. And I've had the good fortune to meet many.

Today at 11:00 AM, a group of students from the UF College of Nursing will be visiting the apartment complex where I live in north Florida. They will be performing community service--including blood pressure readings and help in areas such as nutrition and exercise.

I'm sure that this group of students will be the same as those who have visited before--friendly, enthusiastic, and helpful.

I live in Gainesville, a small city which is home to one of the largest universities in America, and it is part of everyday life to come in contact with some of the 50,000 students--some of whom are from Health Science Center colleges.

Much of the credit for the positive attitudes and dedication of the young people who are the future in health care must go to programs like the one I participated in with the University of Florida.

The Interdisciplinary Family Health program at the UF Health Science Center is a course for beginning health profession students designed to teach core values such as community-based family health and disease prevention, and teamwork, in the context of home visits.

This type of program is relatively new. The one at Florida goes back only to 1996, when a grant made possible a pilot course involving just 20 medical students.

Additional grants in subsequent years fueled an expansion involving other colleges, and some 600 students from the various colleges at the UF Health Science Center now participate in the program.

This type of program is assuring that the hard-working, well-rounded scholars of today, will be dedicated health care professionals in the future.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet Future Clinical Pharmacist, Cynthia Moreau

Pharmacy school is demanding, and sometimes it seems like there aren't enough hours in the day; but a rigorous curriculum is exactly why Cynthia Moreau chose to attend the University of Florida.

She realizes the importance of the requirements and expectations that the UF School of Pharmacy places on its students; and she knows that the huge knowledge base she is building will help her reach her goal--which is to become "the best pharmacist possible".

Between high school, and her enrollment in pharmacy school, Cynthia completed undergraduate coursework in Human Nutrition--graduating in May, 2010. Now, she is well into the four years more that it will take to become a clinical pharmacist.

The American College of Clinical Pharmacy--an international association of clinical pharmacists--defines clinical pharmacy as that area of pharmacy concerned with the science and practice of rational medication use.

Cynthia's first year of pharmacy school was hectic and challenging--from orientation, to learning basic skills such as blood pressure and blood glucose readings, to participating in community outreach programs for breast cancer awareness, poison prevention, and prescription medication abuse, to hours upon hours of classes and studying, to her White Coat Ceremony.

Now in her second year, Cynthia sometimes wishes that the pharmacy program provided more "real world" experience, such as interacting with patients in a community or hospital setting.

But she knows that the curriculum is designed to first provide the solid knowledge base that will prepare her for the clinical rotations later on that will have her actually interacting with patients and other health care professionals.

Cynthia knows that she has "many more classes to take, and many more hours of studying to do, and much more knowledge to acquire before becoming a properly-trained pharmacist"; but she remains "as excited about being a pharmacist today as when this crazy adventure was just beginning".

Tomorrow: My personal take on the next generation of
health care providers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Meet Future Nurse, Feleighsha Jones

In just eight more months, Feleighsha Jones will become Nurse Jones. She can hardly wait, and she even has a countdown going.

But between now and then,--before that spring day when she graduates from the University of Florida College of Nursing, Feleighsha will be fully occupied between school and work--"and loving it". She expects these final semesters to be "amazing".

Feleighsha has wanted to become a nurse since the eighth grade, but the road to her goal hasn't been easy. And when she did make it to UF, she felt like she was defying the odds of getting into one of the most competitive nursing programs in the state of Florida.

She had been placed on a waiting list, and had been told there was little hope. But then, "Lo and behold. I got the call". The "orientation was surreal". Then came the learning--"so much material". There were the clinicals, when she "shadowed a nurse". And with time came "the ability to do more and more--from morning care to doing a full head to toe assessment of patients".

The schooling and training solidified that original desire to become a nurse. Feleighsha feels now "even better than when (she) got the call".

There is one more major hurdle to get over--the HESI (Health Education Services Inc.) test. All nursing students must pass this test in order to do their practicum during the last semester. Practicum refers to a supervised period of time when students apply what they have learned while gaining actual on-the-job experience.

For Feleighsha, that eighth grade dream is about to come true. But what then? What kind of nurse will she be? Her own words say it all:

"I will strive to be the best nurse I can be, to provide the best care I possibly can, to be the best advocate I can be, and hopefully one day teach future nursing students some of the vital skills I have learned."

Tomorrow: Meet future pharmacist Cynthia Moreau.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Meet James -- On His Way To Becoming A Doctor

When the opportunity arose to participate in the University of Florida's Interdisciplinary Family Health program, I knew at the outset that spending time with health care students would be an interesting experience.

I had no idea, however, that our get-togethers would also turn out to be such an eye-opening learning experience.

One of my "teachers" was James Medley, who is now entering his second year of medical school at the University of Florida. James was in the eighth grade when he decided to pursue a career in medicine. His preference is for emergency medicine, where he may be exposed to a greater variety of patients and problems.

Innovations, and advances in technology are evoking ongoing changes in all fields of endeavor; and the field of medicine is no exception.

James became aware early on that five years after he graduates from med school, half of what he learned will be out of date. After graduation, continuing education will remain a fact of life for as long as he practices medicine. James welcomes that challenge.

He is well aware of the uncertainties regarding the future of health care, but none of that bothers him. His focus is on being an excellent health care provider--which he believes is "one who is truly caring, one who listens, one who advocates for his patients, and one that shows them the attention they deserve".

I think that a lot of folks would be pleasantly surprised to know that med students like James are now being taught how to talk to patients and elicit their stories. It's part of a humanistic approach that is taught alongside education about physical exam skills.

For me, the most surprising revelation was learning that medical schools now have "holistic admissions". James says that his "class is full of students that wouldn't have been found in a medical school ten years ago".

There are music majors, art majors, and business majors entering medical school to a point that 50 percent of his class carries a bachelor's degree in a non-biological field. Medical schools are said to believe that people who have taken time to discover themselves will know that patients are people, too.

James says that "national policy aside, medicine is changing for the better". I would add that with students like James Medley, the future is, indeed, in caring, competent hands.

Tomorrow: Meet future nurse, Feleighsha Jones.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tomorrow's Health Care Professionals

Most of us have pleasant memories of a doctor whose bedside manner included words of encouragement, or a nurse whose reassuring touch lifted our spirits, or a pharmacist whose patient explanations gave us comfort.

Some say that those days are long gone. That things are different now. That attitudes have changed. That the future of health care is bleak.

Well there is, to be sure, a lot of uncertainty about the future of health care in America; but I believe that one thing is clear. Our next generation of health care professionals will be as competent--and as caring--as those we fondly remember from days past.

I have been privileged to see the future, and it looks good. Last year at this time I became involved with the University of Florida in a program which introduced me to three beginning UF Health Science Center students.

One was studying to become a doctor. One was working to become a nurse. And one was embarking on a career in clinical pharmacy.

I met with these students on four occasions throughout the school year, and our time together also included social outings--a lunch and a dinner.

James, Feleighsha, Cynthia and I were participants in the University of Florida's Interdisciplinary Family Health Program.

For my student friends, the program was a required course, and a learning experience. For me, the program was an opportunity to pass along, through this blog, one man's take on tomorrow's health care professionals.

James, Feleighsha, Cynthia, Bill

The UF Interdisciplinary Family Health course for beginning health profession students is designed to teach core values, such as health promotion and disease prevention; and to encourage teamwork in the context of home visits.

The word interdisciplinary refers to participation from two or more fields of study. The course could also be called Interprofessional Family Health.

Early exposure to other health practitioners helps form the attitudes and behaviors that students will need for successful practice in the future; and learning the importance of communication will help safeguard patients from errors.

James, and Feleighsha, and Cynthia have written about their first year as health profession students, and their thoughts make for interesting reading. Over the next four days we will pass along their stories.

Tomorrow, meet James--a future Doctor.