Stepping Away From Podiatry And Regaining Perspective

John H. McCord, DPM

I just got home from attending the Washington State Podiatric Medical Association annual meeting and seminar. The meeting was held at a posh resort in the North Cascades Mountains. The rooms were too pricey for me so I stayed in my trailer in an RV park on the Yakima River at $25 per night. I was also able to bring my dog as long as I bagged his byproducts.

   The thing I love about these meetings is that we are introduced to a whole bunch of new crises to keep us awake at night.

   They talked about HIPAA. It is getting to the point where if the doctor opens a patient’s chart and then scratches his ear, it could be a HIPAA violation and a $25,000 fine.

   They also talked about electronic health records. You can walk in, say hello to the patient, step over to the workstation and enter some macros that spit out 20 pages of minutiae that completely support your level 3 charging code. The beauty is that you do not really have to examine the patient, establish a diagnosis or even treat the problem because you have all your bullets in their proper order.

   Medicare is going to reduce our reimbursement to negative numbers and fine you for entering the wrong code of the 93 options available for trimming a hangnail. They ought to pass out cherry flavored Maalox and Zoloft at break time instead of cold coffee and warm Cokes.

   The scientific part of the seminar was great. Smart DPMs talked about cutting-edge medical and surgical treatment for foot and ankle problems. I like hearing about this even though I don’t do it anymore.

   My way of cooling down after these meetings and after dragging my trailer back home through Seattle traffic is to cook. My kitchen is a place where the government is not going to be breathing down my neck. I recently cremated a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies by experimenting with a Korean stovetop barbecue. My smoke alarm was screaming at me as I scraped the smoldering little hockey pucks into the disposal. There were no penalties or fines.

   It is especially relaxing to bake something that tastes good but is not particularly healthy. Orange liqueur banana bread is a real catharsis after attending a stressful podiatry conference.

   I’ll just give you the recipe in case you find the need. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9X5-inch loaf pan. Mix ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of sour cream, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, a stick of butter, 1 cup sugar, three farm eggs (brown), three mashed ripe bananas, 1 cup of white flour, ¾ cup of whole wheat flour, ½ teaspoon of baking powder, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, 2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier (orange liqueur). Mix this until it is smooth. Pour the batter into the pan and pop it in the oven for 1 hour and ten minutes.

   Sit down and read something that has nothing to do with medicine, Medicare or the economy. Your house will soon take on the wonderful aroma of baking booze-laden banana bread. Use the toothpick method to determine when it is done. Take the loaf out of the pan and let it cool.

   Now the fun part of all this is to give the loaf to one of your overly heath conscious friends. Don’t give it to a person with diabetes or a recovering alcoholic.

   I have a neighbor who is a dietician, health educator and kickboxing coach. She worked with me on a childhood obesity program last year. We called her the “diet Nazi.” She screamed about the evils of cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup and anything else that tastes good to humans. Everything should be organic and taste like cardboard.

   I wrapped my warm Grand Marnier banana bread in aluminum foil and carried it to her house. I left a crack in the foil so the aroma could permeate the neighborhood.

   She met me at her door in jogging shorts, eating a raw turnip. I offered her the loaf. She had a horrified look and then smelled the bread. “Maybe I’ll try half a piece and give the other half to my husband.”

   The husband was brewing organic beer and I prayed he would not offer me a bottle. I told her to just take the whole loaf and freeze the rest after she had her half slice.

   She called that evening begging for the recipe and to confess that she and her husband had devoured the entire loaf that afternoon.

   There is more to life than worrying about what the government is going to do to podiatry.

   Dr. McCord retired in December 2008 from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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