Here’s an updated link to how to get the updated Covid-19 vaccine booster (often called the Omicron bivalent booster). It’s sometimes faster to get this booster at local pharmacies, although there’s less urgency now.
I read a short article, “The case for pursuing a consultation-liaison psychiatry fellowship” by Samuel P. Greenstein, MD in Current Psychiatry (Vol. 1, No. 5, May 2022). After 3 years as an attending, he found his calling as a C-L psychiatrist, especially after getting teaching awards from trainees. But when he applied to academic institutions for position as a C-L academic psychiatrist, people kept advising him to complete a fellowship training program in the subspecialty first. He gave it careful thought and did so, even he called it going “backwards” in his career.
On the other hand, he believes C-L fellowships will help meet the challenges of addressing rising health care costs and improving access to what most people see as the critically important goal of providing access to integrated mental health and medical care.
I’ve been retired from consultation-liaison psychiatry for two years now. I get an enormous sense of achievement on the rare occasions when I hear from former trainees who say things like “For me you were…one of the most outstanding attendings I had at my time at Iowa.” And “I can at least take comfort that University of Iowa is still at the forefront of psychiatry.”
Several years ago, one of the residents suggested starting a Psychosomatic Medicine Interest Group (PMIG). This was before the name of the subspecialty was formally changed to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry in 2018. I know many of us were very pleased about that.
I sent a short survey (see the gallery below the slide show) to the faculty and residents in an effort gauge support for the idea and readiness to participate. I used a paper published at the time to guide the effort, (Puri NV, Azzam P, Gopalan P. Introducing a psychosomatic medicine interest group for psychiatry residents. Psychosomatics. 2015 May-Jun;56(3):268-73. doi: 10.1016/j.psym.2013.08.010. Epub 2013 Dec 18. PMID: 25886971.).
You’ll notice on slide 4 one faculty member’s comment, “I think it doesn’t matter whether faculty are certified in PM.” As Dr. Greenstein discovered, it probably does matter, at least if you want to be board certified.
I was initially certified by the American Board of Psychiatry & Neurology (ABPN), but I objected to the whole Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, as did many other psychiatrists. I eventually declined to continue participating in the MOC process. However, I notice that the Delirium Clinical Module that I and a resident put together is still accessible on the ABPN website.
Although response numbers were low, there was clearly an interest in starting the interest group. There was also an incentive to reapply to the ACGME for approval of a Psychosomatic Medicine (Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry now) fellowship.
My attempt years earlier had been frustrating. While it was approved, I couldn’t attract any fellows, forcing me to withdraw it without prejudice (meaning another application for approval could be attempted). Fortunately, that situation changed later. The Psychiatry Department at The University of Iowa now has an early career C-L psychiatrist who graduated from the reinstated C-L fellowship.
As the saying goes, “What goes around comes around.” Although the origin of that saying might have originated in the 1970s, at least one person thought his grandmother had her own version in the 1950s: “You get what you give.”
I found another old blog post, Thoughts on Munchausen’s Syndrome, which reminded me of a psychiatric disorder I saw probably more frequently than most psychiatrists unless they are consultation-liaison specialists. I wrote it in June of 2011. I still don’t understand the disorder and I doubt anyone else does either. The interesting connection to Iowa is that a patient with Factitious Disorder was admitted to the University of Iowa Hospital in the 1950s. The treating doctor published a paper about him in the Journal of the American Medical Association.:
“I ran across an old poem written by William Bennett Bean, M.D., who was a physician in the Department of Medicine at the University of Iowa. It’s called “The Munchausen Syndrome” and it was published in 1959 . Dr. Bean was Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of Iowa in 1948. Of course, he did more than write interesting poetry. He specialized in nutrition. He was named the Sir William Osler Professor of Medicine at Iowa in 1970. He was well-known as a clinician and teacher. He was also called a “masterful teller of tales”, which may explain in part why he wrote “The Munchausen Syndrome.” One quotation is “The one mark of maturity, especially in a physician, and perhaps it is even rarer in a scientist, is the capacity to deal with uncertainty.”
The poem is about a psychiatric disorder about which there is a great deal of uncertainty, formerly called Munchausen’s Syndrome, now known as Factitious Disorder. It’s based on an actual case of the disorder, an account of which was published in the medical literature . An excerpt from the beginning of the work follows:
THE MUNCHAUSEN SYNDROME
By WILLIAM B. BEAN, M.D.
IOWA CITY, IOWA
The patient who shops around from doctor to doctor, the dowager alert for some new handsome young physician to hear her flatulent and oleaginous outpourings, the bewildered neurotic who has had a dozen operations for a thousand misunderstood complaints—these we recognize as interesting patients or as nuisances we have to deal with as charitably as we may. They occupy the lower end of the spectrum of humanity with all its infinitely various people. Nearby reside the malingerer and the deadbeat, a shoplifter of medical aid who escapes just ahead of the policeman. At the frayed end of this spectrum we find a fascinating derelict, human flotsam detached from his moorings, the peripatetic medical vagrant, the itinerant fabricator of a nearly perfect facsimile of serious illness—the victim of Munchausen’s syndrome. This is the tale of such a patient. He had our medical department in an uproar off and on for forty days and forty nights. His Odyssey I outline here in verse. I find to my anguish that much of the verse does not scan, some does not rhyme, and all is obscure. I proceed.
THE MUNCHAUSEN SAGA
In the summer of Nineteen and Fifty-four At Iowa City, our hospital door,—
Mecca for hundreds every day—
A merchant seaman came our way—A part time wrestler, in denim jacket
Crashed through the door with a horrible racket,
Two hundred sixty pounds at least,
He was covered with blood like a wounded beast.
Try to excuse the tone of the piece; it was written in another era when a more intolerant attitude toward illness mimicry was viewed as malicious undermining of the physician-patient relationship. In fact, it’s virtually impossible to distinguish Factitious Disorder from Malingering. We think of the former as belonging in the category of mental illness and the latter as, well, not an illness at all, but lying in order to get something or to get out of something. Factitious Disorder is marked by lying as well and some try to make the case that the lying which patients with Factitious Disorder engage in, sometimes called “pseudologia fantastica” or pathologic lying, is somehow different from ordinary lying. According to Bean, it’s like this:
He gave us a history, in elegant diction, Which later we found was all out fiction. Carpenter, wrestler and bosun’s mate And stevedore. He could exaggerate! His body was covered with many a scar He said from surgeons near and far
His appendix went in County Cork A navel hernia in New York.
Once, he declared, in Portland, Maine,
A surgeon stripped out his saphenous vein. Surgical scars above one kidney
Came from an ectomy done in Sidney. Scarred, he was, on his abdomen
From a wreck, he said, when with women roamin.’ Another injury he wouldn’t reveal us
Messed up his left internal malleolus. From time to time, as he wove this story
He boasted of prowess and wealth and glory. By courage he ruled his fellow sailors
But he didn’t say much of his many jailors.
In fact, we understand very little about so-called pathologic lying, though the telling of tales is engaged in not just by psychiatric patients. One of the most fascinating consequences of the frustration physicians feel about Factitious Disorder was the fraudulent case report about Factitious Munchausen’s Syndrome. The paper was published by a couple of resident physicians in the New England Journal of Medicine and was a spurious account of an emergency room patient named Norman U. Senchbau, who claimed to actually have Munchausen’s Syndrome and who demanded admission to hospital for treatment . He supposedly confessed to having undergone many surgeries and to prove it, displayed many scars on his abdomen…which washed off with soap and water. Of course, the name of the patient is just an anagram of Baron Munchausen.
I occasionally get calls from internists and surgeons about patients whom they suspect of manufacturing illness for the sake of taking the role of patient (part of the definition of the disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). As often as not, I have no clear idea of how to proceed with interviewing someone who probably does deliberately produce illness, other than to do my best to listen for understanding, to avoid confronting them, and to seek some way to interrupt their self-destructive behavior. In the end I don’t believe we now know much more than Bean did:
What do we know of the pathogenesis
Of hospital vagrants and doctors menaces? Maybe the person acts unenlightened
From a real disease which has him frightened. Does part of the reason he may vex you all Lurk in dark leanings homosexual?
What is the cause, and what are the reasons He wandered pitifully through the seasons? Lonely pilgrim out of orbit
Peace and quiet lost in forfeit.
Hospital haunters, doctor deceivers
Their acting confounds even nonbelievers. Derelicts lost in a cold society
Wanderlusting, without satiety.
Social pariah or medical freak
Whence does he come and what does he seek?
I cannot relieve my brain’s congestion By unveiling an answer to this question In the age of sputniks, the fall of parity We all should try to think with clarity.
Princes and wise men of many conditions
Beautiful ladies and honored physicians
I’m sorry I cannot fasten my claws in
What causes the Syndrome named Munchausen, This off again, on again, gone again Finnegan
Comes in, than goes out and at length comes in again. Munchausen’s victims must be expected
To plague our lives unless detected.
Those we identify when we sight ’em
Should be restricted ad infinitum
So be alert for this great nonesuchman Munchausen syndrome’s flying Dutchman.
1. Bean, W.B., The Munchausen syndrome. Perspectives in biology and medicine, 1959. 2(3): p. 347-53.
2. Gurwith, M. and C. Langston, Factitious Munchausen’s syndrome. The New England journal of medicine, 1980. 302(26): p. 1483-4.
3. Chapman, J.S., Peregrinating problem patients; Munchausen’s syndrome. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1957. 165(8): p. 927-33.”
We were overall delighted with yesterday’s presentation, University of Iowa Free Webinar: “Breaking Barriers: Arts, Athletics, and Medicine (1898-1947).” It’s one in a series of 4 virtual seminars with two more scheduled this month, which you can register for at this link.
February 15: Endless Innovation: An R1 Research Institution (1948–1997)
February 22: The Next Chapter: Blazing New Trails (1998–2047)
The moderator was university archivist and storyteller, David McCartney.
- Lan Samantha Chang (93MFA), Iowa Writers’ Workshop director and acclaimed author
- Quinn Early (87BA), Hawkeye football star and film producer
- Patricia Winokur (88R, 91F), professor of internal medicine–infectious diseases
Yesterday’s presentation was recorded and will be uploaded to The University of Iowa Center for Advancement YouTube site at a later date.
McCartney did an excellent job as moderator, although got stumped from a question from a viewer about who was the first African American faculty member in the College of Medicine. He’s still working on tracking that down. It wasn’t me. I’m not that old and I am not risen from the dead, as far as I can tell; but to be absolutely clear, you should ask my wife, Sena. I was able to google who was the first African American graduate of the University of Iowa law school: Alexander Clark, Jr. McCartney thinks he might have been the first University of Iowa alumnus, although he couldn’t confirm that.
On the other hand, I could have been the first African American consulting psychiatrist (maybe the only African American psychiatrist ever) in the Department of Psychiatry at UIHC—but I can’t confirm that. Maybe McCartney could work on that, too.
There are a few words about me in the department’s own history book, “Psychiatry at Iowa: The Shaping of a Discipline: A History of Service, Science, and Education by James Bass: Chapter 5, The New Path of George Winokur, 1971-1990:
“If in Iowa’s Department of Psychiatry there is an essential example of the consultation-liaison psychiatrist, it would be Dr. James Amos. A true in-the-trenches clinician and teacher, Amos’s potential was first spotted by George Winokur and then cultivated by Winokur’s successor, Bob Robinson. Robinson initially sought a research gene in Amos, but, as Amos would be the first to state, clinical work—not research—would be Amos’s true calling. With Russell Noyes, before Noyes’ retirement in 2002, Amos ran the UIHC psychiatry consultation service and then continued on, heroically serving an 811-bed hospital. In 2010 he would edit a book with Robinson entitled Psychosomatic Medicine: An Introduction to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry.” (Bass, J. (2019). Psychiatry at Iowa: A History of Service, Science, and Education. Iowa City, Iowa, The University of Iowa Department of Psychiatry).”
And in Chapter 6 (Robert G. Robinson and the Widening of Basic Science, 1990-2011), Bass mentions my name in the context of being one of the first clinical track faculty (as distinguished from research track) in the department. In some ways, breaking ground as a clinical track faculty was probably harder than being the only African American faculty member in the department.
I had questions for Lan Samantha Chang and for Dr. Patricia Winokur (who co-staffed the UIHC Medical-Psychiatry Unit with me more years ago than I want to count.
I asked Dr. Chang what role did James Alan McPherson play in the Iowa Writers Workshop. She was finishing her presentation and had not mentioned him, so I thought I’d better bring him up. She had very warm memories of him being her teacher, the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and a long-time faculty member at the Workshop.
She didn’t mention whether McPherson had ever been a director of the Workshop, though she went through the list of directors from 1897 to when she assumed leadership in 2006. You can read this on the Workshop’s History web page. I have so far read two sources (with Wikipedia repeating the Ploughshares article item) on the web indicating McPherson had been acting director between 2005-2007 after the death of Frank Conroy. One source for this was on Black Past published in 2016 shortly after his death, and the other was a Ploughshares article published in 2008. I sent an email request for clarification to the organizers of the zoom webinar to pass along to Lan Samantha Chang.
I asked Dr. Winokur about George Winokur’s contribution to the science of psychiatric medicine. Dr. George Winokur was her father and he was the Chair of the UIHC Psychiatry Department while I was there. She mentioned his focus on research in schizophrenia and other accomplishments. I’ll quote the last paragraph from Bass’s history on the George Winokur era:
“Winokur, in terms of research, was a prototype of the new empirical psychiatrist. Though his own research was primarily in the clinical realm, he was guided by the new neurobiological paradigm (perhaps in an overbalanced way) that was solidifying psychiatry with comparative quickness. New techniques in imaging and revelations of the possibilities in genetic study and neuropsychopharmacology lay ahead. George Winokur had helped the University of Iowa’s Department of Psychiatry—and American psychiatry as a whole—turn a corner away from subjectivity and irregularity of Freudian-based therapies. And once that corner had been turned there was no going back.”
George Winokur was the department chair at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics from 1971 to 1990 and had a unique and memorable style. George also had a rough sense of humor. He had a rolling, gravelly laugh. He had strict guidelines for how residents should behave, only slightly tongue-in-cheek. They were written in the form of 10 commandments. Who knows, maybe there are stone tablets somewhere:
Winokur’s 10 Commandments
- Thou shalt not sleep with any UI Psychiatry Hospital patient unless it be thy spouse.
- Thou shalt not accept recompense for patient care in this center outside thy salary.
- Thou shalt be on time for conferences and meetings.
- Thou shalt act toward the staff attending with courtesy.
- Thou shalt write progress notes even if no progress has been made.
- Thou shalt be prompt and on time with thy letters, admissions and discharge notes.
- Thou shalt not moonlight without permission under threat of excommunication.
- Data is thy God. No graven images will be accepted in its place.
- Thou shalt speak thy mind.
- Thou shalt comport thyself with modesty, not omniscience.
Quinn Early has a lot of energy and puts it to good use. His documentary of the sacrifices of African American sports pioneers, including “On the Shoulders of Giants” (Frank Kinney Holbrook) is impressive.
There was a good discussion of the importance of the book “Invisible Hawkeyes: African Americans at the University of Iowa during the Long Civil Rights Era”, edited by former UI faculty, Lena and Michael Hill.
Sena and I thought yesterday’s presentation was excellent. We plan to attend the two upcoming webinars as well. We encourage others to join.
Yesterday somebody asked me “So what do you do now that you’re retired?” I have come to dread the question. I told him I write this blog. That seemed to surprise him a little. It sounded a little lame to me as I said it. I’m not sure it’s the right answer to this question that I still don’t know how to answer, even though I’ve been retired for a little over a year.
I remember the blog post I wrote a couple of years or so ago, “Mindfully Retiring from Psychiatry.” It sounded good. It still sounds good even as I re-read it today. Others were reading it too, judging from my blog stats. I wondered if one of them was the guy who asked me the dreaded question.
I still exercise and do mindfulness meditation, although for several months after I retired, I dropped those habits. A lot was going on. We moved. I didn’t weather that process well at all. I was bored. In fact, I still struggle with boredom. The derecho hit Iowa pretty hard. It knocked over a tree in our front yard, which I had to cut up with a hand saw. The COVID-19 pandemic and social upheaval is an ongoing burden for everyone and seems to be directly related to making everyone very angry all the time. Sena and I are fully vaccinated but I’m pretty sure that more vaccinations are on the way in the form of boosters.
I’ve had to do things I really never wanted to learn how to do. Sena handed me a hickory nut she found in the yard this morning, reminding me of walnut storms we had at a previous home. I picked up scores (maybe hundreds) of walnuts there. I don’t want to do that again. I remember being jarred awake each time a walnut hit the deck.
And for the first time, I had to replace a dryer vent duct. I’m the least handy person on the planet. Our washer and dryer pair are both 54 inches tall and I found out that when you have to drag a big dryer away from the wall, you have to do it like you really mean business.
You don’t want to look at what’s behind the dryer. Worse yet is jumping down behind it in a space barely big enough for me to turn around. Getting out of it is even harder. Jump and press to the top of the machines and watch those cords and hoses.
I tried so-called semi-flexible aluminum duct. I switched to flexible foil duct, despite the hardware store guy telling me that it’s illegal. It’s not. You want to wear gloves with either because you’ll cut up your hands if you don’t.
Who’s the genius who thought of oval vent pipe on the wall when the duct is 4-inch round? It’s not illegal but it does make life harder. And how do you attach the duct ends to the pipes? Turn key or screw type worm drive clamps. If you don’t have enough room for a screw driver, the turn key style is the best bet. Good luck finding those wire galvanized squeeze-style full clamps. I think they’re often out of stock because they’re not only older, but easier to use and cheaper.
See what I mean? I would not even have the vocabulary for that kind of job if I were still working as a psychiatrist. I would just hire a handyman to do it—like I do for a lot of other things I still don’t know how to do since I retired. It’s sort of like that Men in Black movie line from Agent K when he tells Agent J what they have to do on their first mission: “Imagine a giant cockroach, with unlimited strength, a massive inferiority complex, and a real short temper, is tear-assing around Manhattan Island in a brand-new Edgar suit. That sound like fun?”
No, it doesn’t and neither does replacing a dryer vent duct or any number of things retired guys get to learn because they have too much time on their hands.
So, I’m really glad to change the subject and talk about other people who are doing things I admire. First is a former student of mine, Dr. Paul Thisayakorn, who is a consultation-liaison (CL) psychiatrist in Bangkok, Thailand. He did his residency at The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He put together a CL fellowship program in Thailand. The photo below shows from left to right: Paul, Dr. Tippamas, the first CL Psychiatry fellow, and Dr. Yanin. Dr. Tippamas will be the first CL Psychiatry trained graduate in Thailand next year and will work at another new medical school in Bangkok. Dr. Yanin just graduated from the general psychiatry residency program last year. Paul supervised her throughout her CL Psychiatry years. Now she is the junior CL staff helping Paul run the program. Within the next few years, Paul will send her to the United States or the United Kingdom or Canada for clinical/research/observership experience so she can further her CL education. Way to go, Paul and your team!
By the way, that tie I’m wearing in the Mindfully Retiring from Psychiatry post picture (the one with white elephants; the white elephant is a symbol of royal power and fortune in Thai culture) was a going away gift from Paul upon his graduation.
The other is a heavy-hitter I met years ago, Dr. E. Wes Ely, MD, MPH, a critical care doctor who is publishing a new book, Every Deep-Drawn Breath, which well be coming out September 7, 2021. Our interests converged when it came to delirium, especially when it occurs in the intensive care unit, which is often. I met him in person at an American Delirium Society meeting in Indianapolis. He’s a high-energy guy with a lot of compassion and a genius for humanely practicing critical care medicine. I sort of made fun of one of his first books, Delirium in Critical Care, which he wrote with Dr. Valerie Page and published in 2011, the same year I started a blog called The Practical Psychosomaticist (which I dropped a few years ago as I headed into phased retirement). Shortly after I made fun of how he compared the approaches of consult psychiatrists and critical care specialists managing delirium, he sent me an email suggesting I write a few posts about the ground-breaking research he and others were doing to advance the care of delirious ICU patients—which I gladly did. I think he actually might have remembered me in 2019 when he came to present a grand round in the internal medicine department at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics (I wrote 3 posts about that visit: March 28 and April 11 and 12).
In the email Dr. Ely sent to me and many others about the book, he said, “Every penny I receive through sales of this book is being donated into a fund created to help COVID and other ICU survivors and family members lead the fullest lives possible after critical illness. This isn’t purely a COVID book, but stories of COVID and Long COVID are woven throughout. I have also shared instances of social justice issues that pervade our medical system, issues that you and I encounter daily in caring for our community members who are most vulnerable.”
I look up to these and others I had the privilege of working with or meeting back before I was not retired and struggling to come up with a good answer to the dreaded question: What do you do now that you’re retired?
Hey, what do you do now that you’re retired?