Brain Drains

I was born in ’71 and the last manned moon landing was in December ’72. This sticks in my craw. “Missed it by that much.” Strangely, sometimes I wonder if US politics and healthcare are to blame.

In my college days, my mentor once told me he was part of the “Sputnik generation.” He was one of many bright scientists inspired by that tiny Soviet satellite to research, aim high, and eventually get people onto the moon. The US and USSR were locked in a fear-based social amplifier for many years, which led to big risks and remarkable achievements.

Our fears today have since shifted, I think shaped largely by our preferred news channels and social media bubbles. In medicine we now fear high cholesterol and hypertension in the elderly; nipple confusion and vaccines in infancy… among other things.

My physics mentor wanted me to keep going in physics. Instead I chose medicine; in part for more direct human interaction, but also to protect my family and friends from the US healthcare machine. Today I consider myself to have been part of the healthcare brain drain. Steven Brill, in his book America’s Bitter Pill, speaks of two parallel economies in the US; one that’s struggling, and another that’s thriving and expanding. The latter is healthcare. If you’re interested in personal security, while helping others and getting paid, it’s hard not getting sucked in.

That said, I don’t regret my decision. It’s led to some wonderful moments with patients, along with opportunities that never would have found me in a lab. But I’m bummed by the amount of mental energy that gets burnt in medicine doing absurd things. Thousands of hours are spent learning how best to navigate the latest EMRs. Thousands of hours are spent by bright programmers building these EMRs and responding to complaints. Thousands of hours are spent processing bills for things as simple as staple removals. How many other hamster wheels exist in healthcare that lead to revenue but not health? And what are the opportunity costs with all these lost hours?

BrainDrainIn parallel we have a political system that whips the country into opposing lathers for years before elections, where the creative beneficial output is virtually nil.

Political action machines are awake day and night thinking how best to win rather than solve.

How many bright people have wasted how many hours to chase the biggest prize of such a horribly flawed system? And knowing this, I’m still sucked in! Who can avoid watching Godzilla v. Mothra?

I’m exasperated by healthcare and nauseated by politics. I won’t get to the moon, and I wonder if Max will see a moon or Mars landing in his lifetime. Maybe Tesla will save the day. Thanks also to Wikipedia for keeping me inspired and convinced that brilliance and goodness still exist!

Guess I’ll keep typing to improve my tiny bubble while trying to win at Plinko.

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