Resident Physicians on Strike at Elmhurst Hospital in New York City

I read the news story about resident physicians at Elmhurst Hospital Center in New York City who went on strike this past Monday about low pay. The story doesn’t mention whether psychiatry residents joined the strike. The story did mention how difficult it was to work there during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

I looked up the report from the consultation-liaison psychiatry department at Elmhurst during that time. Their report and many others were submitted to the Academy of Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry (ACLP).

The Elmhurst report was submitted April 1, 2020 by Dr. Shruti Tiwari, MD, Professor Consultation-Liaison, Icahn School of Medicine at Elmhurst Hospital Center, Queens, NY.

I read the report in order to figure out what I and my colleagues at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics needed to do in order to respond to psychiatry consultation requests in the setting of the Covid-19 pandemic. In general, we followed the Elmhurst suggestions.

I remember how difficult it was to operationalize the consultation protocol in light of the need to control spread of the Covid-19 infection. We worked with our IT department to use iPad devices with video hookups to evaluate patients in the emergency room. Early on, incredible as it may seem, there was limited supply of PPE for emergency room physicians.

We could do curbside consultations sometimes. Often, when I was on service, I found it difficult to use the iPad because of glitches in the device. In order to reduce the number of consultation team members huddling together, residents and I saw patients separately. Often, delirium with agitation demanded we evaluate the patient in person. There was an adequate supply of PPE with some limitations. Psychiatric consultants didn’t have access to N95 masks because of the shortage of them at the time. We wore surgical masks and face shields as well as gowns and gloves. We were not to see patients in the ICUs other than by video assisted means.

I couldn’t tell from the news story when the residents formed a union. One them was interviewed for the story and said that their immigrant status made working conditions more difficult as well as insufficient pay. The story also mentions that the last time doctors went on strike in Manhattan was in 1990.

It would have been difficult for physicians (including psychiatrists) to go on strike during the pandemic, probably impossible. I’ve written about physician strikes before and have given my opinion about that. I hope things work out for the Elmhurst resident physicians and the patients.

Celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week!

Teacher Appreciation Week this year started on May 8, 2023. I found my old report cards from Lincoln Elementary School in Mason City, Iowa. Lincoln was torn down many years ago to make room for expanding the Post Office. But I have my memories. I rediscovered reasons to celebrate the dedication of teachers. I don’t know how many people keep their grade school report cards. My mother kept mine along with old elementary school photos, including class pictures.


Brief remarks on my grade cards remind me how supportive my teachers were—and how they expected me to buckle down. I was kind of a handful and there are indications that I had difficulty focusing my attention. My fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Cole, was instrumental in identifying my near sightedness, which helped me to get my first pair of eyeglasses.

It wasn’t a bed of roses. My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Myrton (who always smelled like cigarettes), once slapped me so hard it made my nose bleed because I bumped into her when I was running around the classroom. I don’t remember why I was doing that. She was really sorry for slapping me.

And there was the time me and another kid got caught throwing snowballs on the playground (I can’t remember what grade I was in), which led to the usual penalty levied by the school Principal, Esther Ahrens. We each had to draw really small circles (signifying snowballs) to fill a sheet of paper.

We (meaning the kids) thought Ms. Ahrens was a witch. On the other hand, on a really hot day shortly before summer break, my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Hrubes, started acting really strange and was sort of wobbling at the open window in the classroom. There was no air conditioning in the school. Ms. Ahrens happened to be walking by the room and rushed into the room just in time to catch Ms. Hrubes as she was falling backward in a dead faint from heat exhaustion.

But other than that, along with the usual physical and psychological cuts and scrapes of elementary school, I remember those years as instrumental in turning me and other kids into smarter, nicer people and better citizens. We also learned how to make really tasty homemade ice cream the old-fashioned way, using nested containers, the larger of which had a mixture of salt an ice and a hand crank.

The notes and letters with my report cards often had illuminating comments:

“Jimmy has done well in Physical Education class. He has excellent aim and can hit a moving car’s windshield with a rock (yelling ‘bombs away’) with fair accuracy.”

“During this quarter, I was able to dissuade Jimmy from trying to fly like superman from the second-floor window of the classroom.”

“Jimmy reads well. He could apply himself more carefully in science. We were finally able to remove all the exploded paint from the gymnasium. It took only a few weeks this quarter.”

“Jimmy’s command of spatial relationships has improved a great deal! He can figure out how to fill his emptied milk carton with spinach in seconds, often without attracting the attention of the lunchroom monitors.”

I’m giving a great big thank you to all the teachers! You deserve it!

Stamp Out Hunger NALC Food Drive

It’s that time of year again; the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) food drive. Learn more about it at this link.


Donors can fill a bag with non-perishable food items and place it by their mailboxes, which letter carriers will pick on the second Saturday in May, which is May 13, 2023.

Help stamp out hunger!

Racial Affinity Group Caucusing Separate But Not Equal to Segregation

I read the New England Journal of Medicine perspective article “Racial Affinity Group Caucusing in Medical Education—A Key Supplement to Antiracism Curricula.”

I did not see the word “segregation” anywhere in the paper, although the Daily Mail news item used it frequently in a manner that I suspect was intended to incite indignation over separating White and Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) medical students into Racial Affinity Group Caucuses (RAGC). This was for the purpose of ultimately integrating them with the goal of defeating racism.

Words matter. The word “segregation” used in the way some news reporters did is bound to conjure up 1960s images of the effect of Jim Crow laws and remind those old to remember it the speech of Alabama governor George Wallace pledging “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

Separating people into groups for the purpose of working out a solution to racism can be called segregation only in the strictest sense of the definition. If you can separate denotation from connotation, I think you have to question the use of the word in the news article, which was heavily freighted with negative connotations.

When I was a student at Huston-Tillotson College (now H-T University, one of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities) in the 1970s, the Greek fraternity and sorority pledges were segregated from those who chose not to pledge, including me. I was really happy to be segregated when I witnessed the hazing of the pledges.

The women and men students at H-TU who lived on campus were segregated into male and female dormitories. This did not stop certain activities like dances and fraternity events.

I recall reading news stories a year or two ago about some black college students wanting to be segregated into different dormitories at predominantly white college campuses. I don’t agree with the idea, but it sounded like some black students preferred it.

I like my socks segregated from my dress shirts. But that’s just me.

May is Mental Health Month

May is Mental Health Month. This would be a good month for me to practice giving myself and others grace. Here’s a link to a very nice article about grace. It’s really about giving each other a break from slamming one another and letting go—sort of like what you need to do in juggling. The author of the article on grace suggests a short list of ways to practice grace. They’re just the guidance I welcome for Mental Health Month and any other month for that matter.

The one about compassion and forgiving myself and others is difficult to do. I should do it anyway.

Buttoning my lip before criticizing, complaining, or venting other harsh utterances is a nice way to avoid the slamming mode I see in the news every day.

It’s tough not to expect the worst from others, especially when you read the news. Hey, let’s stop reading the news.

I don’t get much recognition, and that’s actually a good thing. Sometimes the last thing I need is attention.

I can think of many persons who have probably gently and silently helped me over the years.

While it may feel good to get my digs in on people I don’t agree with, it’s not satisfying for very long. People do remember how you made them feel.

Let’s give each other grace. We all need a break.

FDA Update on Covid-19 Annual Vaccine Strategy

On April 18, 2023 the FDA posted an update on the Covid-19 updated bivalent vaccine and the upcoming immunization strategy for this fall. According to the announcement:

“In June, the FDA will hold a meeting of its VRBPAC to discuss the strain composition of the COVID-19 vaccines for fall of 2023. Much like the FDA does yearly with the influenza vaccines, the agency will seek input from the committee on which SARS-CoV-2 variants and lineages are most likely to circulate in the upcoming year. Once the specific strains are selected for the COVID-19 vaccines, the FDA expects manufacturers to make updated formulations of the vaccines for availability this fall.”

Do Not Lie to Me!

In about an hour (a galactic standard week), I plan to watch yet another rerun of Men in Black. That’s the first one of the trilogy. I nearly always can find a connection with some quotes from the MIB movies and current events. I don’t care to specify the current events because they’re depressing.

The title of this post is actually part of quote from MIB 3, “…do not lie to me!” I can apply this one to just about every news story.

Another quote is often applicable in the daily news, and it’s from Men in Black:

Agent K: “We do not discharge our weapons in view of the public!”

Agent J: “We don’t got time for this cover-up bullshit! Look, I don’t know if you forgot, but there’s an Arquillian Battle…”

Agent K: “There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Korilian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable planet. Agent K: “There’s always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Korilian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable planet. The only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that—they do not know about it!”

Unless there is something we can do about it, I do not want to know about the Arquillian Battle Cruiser.

University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art Wins Prestigious Master Builders of Iowa Award

The University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art, won the highest Master Builders of Iowa Award. See the Russell Group Inc. website for more details about the award.

It’s a very impressive space and a must-see marvel when you visit Iowa City.

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