John Henning Schumann

John Henning Schumann, M.D., is an internal medicine physician and writer ( He has contributed to Slate, The Atlantic, Marketplace, and National Public Radio’s health blog, Shots.

Schumann serves as guest host for Studio Tulsa on health-related themes and is also host of Medical Matters on KWGS, an occasional series about health care and the human condition.

He was appointed Interim President of the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa in January 2015. You can find him on twitter @GlassHospital.

If you follow health news, by now you may have heard about a federally funded study that was stopped early because of impressive evidence that aggressively lowering blood pressure saves lives.

Beware the mention of natural causes, as in my mother's obituary:

"Norita Wyse Berman, a writer, stockbroker and artist ... died at home Friday of natural causes. She was 60."

Sixty-year-olds don't die of natural causes anymore. The truth was too hard to admit.

Fifteen years on, I'm ashamed of my family's shame. Those attending her funeral and paying shiva calls knew the truth anyway. People talk.

Famed doctor and medical educator William Osler once said, "A physician who treats himself has a fool for a patient."

What, I wonder, does that say about us doctors who treat our own kids?

This past winter, my daughter got the flu. She was miserable: daily fevers, achiness, sore throat, stuffy head and nausea with a total loss of appetite.

We didn't run a flu test on her, which you can do with a quick nasal swab at a doctor's office. Since my wife and I are both docs, we were comfortable that her symptoms fit the diagnosis.

Oscar buzz surrounds Julianne Moore for her role as Alice Howland in the film Still Alice. Howland is a linguistics professor who develops early-onset Alzheimer's, a cruel irony for a character who makes her living with her brain.

Howland's awareness of her fate makes her decline all the more painful to watch.

Often, though, patients and their doctors can be slow to recognize dementia, which most often progresses gradually.

The holidays are here, bringing joy and, for some, wistful feelings.

Doctors are no different. Even for a profession that prides itself on scientific proof, the long nights of December afford ample opportunity for reflection and even doubt.

As we take stock of what we've accomplished and where we've failed to measure up, I find my scowling mask of medical skepticism falling away. I have to admit that there is so much wonder and mystery that science and medicine still can't explain.

Maybe you've heard about the slow food movement. Maybe you're a devotee.

The idea is that cooking, nutrition and eating should be intentional, mindful and substantive. Avoid fast food and highly processed grub. For the slow food set, the process is as important as the product.

Now I'm seeing a medical version of slow food. The concept is bubbling up in response to industrialized, hypertechnological and often unnecessary medical care that drives up costs and leaves both doctors and patients frazzled.

Back in 2003 I was a junior doctor working at a Chicago teaching hospital.

As one of the newer docs, my daily appointment schedule had lots of openings. Pretty much any assignment nobody else wanted came my way.

One morning the nurse who managed our clinic told me that my first patient for the afternoon may have been exposed to a deadly virus while he was traveling in Asia.

My job would be to dress up in a medical hazmat suit, examine him and figure out whether he should be quarantined.

Executions in this country often draw controversy. But when the headlines about them include words like botched or bungled, the debate about capital punishment enters new territory.

I pulled back the curtain, ready to meet the next patient on my hospital rounds.

"Why are you standing there?" she asked me. "Come, have a seat, let's talk."

Lenore could have been my grandmother. She was 77 years old, and all of 93 pounds. What she lacked in girth, she more than made up for in chutzpah. She was one of the patients from intern year who I'll never forget.

December is supposed to be the time of year filled with family gatherings and holiday good cheer. For medical residents, quite the opposite is true.

There are no school breaks during residency. Being a medical resident is a real job, and a stressful one at that. Residents work long shifts, even with caps that max out at 16 hours for the newbies and up to 28 hours for those beyond the first year.