Over My Med Body: A Proactive Med Student Blog

Nicholas Genes, MD, PhD

Disclosures

November 23, 2005

Blogs, short for Web logs, are quickly becoming a force in media and communication. Medical bloggers are writing about their jobs, sharing stories, and airing their thoughts on healthcare, research, and patient encounters. Each week, a different medical blogger compiles the best of these posts and presents them as a new edition of "Grand Rounds" on their own blog. Also each week, we provide you with a link to this special post and a little background about the new host.

This week's edition is hosted by Graham Walker, a third-year medical student at Stanford. He regularly chronicles his progress through medical school at his blog, Over My Med Body.

Graham was blogging even before he started medical school, but once enrolled, his writing found a new focus and readers began to gravitate to his site. His original take on some traditional rites of passage have brought him some notoriety among his classmates and the wider blogging community. You can appreciate his uncommon sensitivity in anatomy lab, and again, coupled with a wry sense of humor, when learning to do a breast exam (his instructor had to remind the group that in front of patients, breasts can be called "normal" or "healthy," but words like "fantastic" should be avoided).

Graham reserves much of his passion for his projects on healthcare. He's motivated to improve access, lower costs, and raise awareness of conflicts of interest and corporate excesses. He blogs about when the system doesn't work, and also how it can. "I want to feel like I'm contributing something larger than just learning about medicine," Graham says. "I don't think anyone should get to pass as a do-gooder or improver-of-health just by having an MD after his or her name."

Just this month, with the introduction of Medicare Part D, Graham saw the absurdity of forcing seniors to navigate a complicated Web form for prescription drugs, so he designed a walk-through explanation of the process.

Graham wrote a free program called Medslist that lets patients store and update their medications and dosages online, from anywhere. Last year, he produced a flash video on how single-payer healthcare works.

On the subject of using his technical skills to promote access, Graham shows both realism and idealism:

"How many people are probably going to see the Medicare Part D Walkthru? Not many. But I keep doing it, hoping that it maybe helps a few people make sense of it. I think I have a particular talent with computers and technology where many of my classmates don't, and I think it would be a waste if I didn't try to use them to improve medicine or healthcare, however that may be."

His advocacy and opinions on how to treat patients have led to some memorable exchanges with fellow bloggers, from students to longtime practitioners. "I'm of the mindset that just because I'm less experienced than an attending doesn't make my opinion wrong. Now, if it's a clinical matter or data-related bickering, it may be unwise to call them out on it -- but if it's an opinion about a patient or a policy, I think it's fair game."

Both in the blogosphere and in the hospital, Graham sees the role of the medical student as a proactive one: "I think that the medical student can be one of the most important people on the team, reminding residents and attendings that the patient exists in a context outside of the medical realm. If my criticism causes someone to be reminded of that, great."

So, check out Grand Rounds this week at Over My Med Body -- the link will become "live" on November 29, 2005, when the new Grand Rounds posts. While you're there, take the time to browse through his "best of" archives to get a sense of this talented student's perspective on medicine.

And tune in next week, when Grand Rounds appears at the Examining Room of Dr. Charles.

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