Articles by Dr. Erik Steele


Making columns out of boils

By Dr. Erik Steele on April 26, 2012, at 3:55 p.m.
“How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” — E. M. Forster “No thinking — that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!” — Sean …
Erik Steele

The growing patient power to know what tests or treatments they don’t need

By Dr. Erik Steele on April 12, 2012, at 12:12 p.m.
It turns out many American women have been taking half their clothes off, climbing up on exam tables and getting Pap smears they don’t need. That should happen less and less often as they and millions of other patients are progressively more able to compare the tests and treatments their …

Math and myth of guns and safety

By Dr. Erik Steele on March 29, 2012, at 3:42 p.m.
Two weeks ago, a decorated American soldier, husband and father of young children slaughtered 17 Afghan wives, fathers and young children in their homes. In doing so, he killed the people he was supposed to protect with the gun he was supposed to use to protect them, something I am …

Dance with me

By Dr. Erik Steele on March 01, 2012, at 2:11 p.m.
If Fred Astaire had danced the way I do he would have been known as Fred Asterisk, footnoted in the history of Hollywood as an actor with four left feet. A hooked trout flopping on the shore has more rhythm than I do. However, in part to beat my ego …

Whitney Houston’s last song

By Dr. Erik Steele on Feb. 16, 2012, at 8:59 p.m.
“So goodbye. Please don’t cry. We both know I’m not what you need.” From the Whitney Houston song “I Will Always Love You” The most important song of Whitney Houston’s life would be the one I think she might sing quietly to us from her grave if she could. It …

Bear witness to Medicaid misery

By Dr. Erik Steele on Feb. 09, 2012, at 10:53 a.m.
To be poor and without health insurance in America is to walk largely out of sight in the dark alleys of health care waiting to get mugged by the thugs of ill health, inadequate care and societal indifference. So the suffering that will result when thousands of Maine’s poorest residents …

My gimpy shoulder, Part 1

By Dr. Erik Steele on Jan. 19, 2012, at 12:23 p.m.
I always get what I want, so when I wished I could be more like TR Reid (best-selling author, probably rich, bum right shoulder) I got what I asked for and now have a bum right shoulder. And it’s not just bum, but probably permanently bum unless I go see …

5 steps to shrink the state deficit without sacrificing Maine’s poorest and sickest

By Dr. Erik Steele on Jan. 05, 2012, at 1:45 p.m.
There is no problem in Maine too big to fit into a wood chipper. Got a state budget deficit to fix? No problem — put state Medicaid health insurance coverage for 60,000 people into the chipper, shred it and let those human chips fall where they may. There is a …
Erik Steele

With a house full of women again comes time to share and savor

By Dr. Erik Steele on Dec. 22, 2011, at 2:54 p.m.
If I look like I’m happily high these days, it’s because the wonderful women who are my daughters will both be home with us for Christmas. I’m thrilled with these and other signs that my house and heart are full again of the women I love most, including: • Their …

Believing the unbelievable about child sex abuse

By Dr. Erik Steele on Dec. 08, 2011, at 5:16 a.m.
The first person who wanted to have sex with me was my favorite high school teacher. He invited me to go sailing overnight on his boat, then tried to get into my bunk and shorts. At 17, I was old enough to successfully say, “No,” but young enough to be …

Top 10 health care myths to ignore, part one

By Dr. Erik Steele on Nov. 10, 2011, at 12:51 p.m.
This is the first of two articles about 10 important myths in the Great American Health Care Debate. There are sweet-sounding myths in the American odyssey to a viable health care system, siren songs of simple solutions that lure us onto the rocks of irrelevant debate. It’s time for us …

Leave my prostate alone

By Dr. Erik Steele on Oct. 26, 2011, at 1:34 p.m.
Dear Guys (and the women who love us), I’ve recently decided to let the little lobe (my prostate) do the thinking for the big lobe (my brain). As a result, I am not going to get a popular blood test for prostate cancer called Prostate Specific Antigen. My brain, of …

Protect our children from the food fight

By Dr. Erik Steele on Sept. 22, 2011, at 1:27 p.m.
Among the things that will be lost if Americans shed the billions of extra pounds we are carrying around our waists are the billions of dollars our food industry makes selling us more food than we need. If we eat less food, we will buy less food, especially the highly …

Being cheap can make us smarter

By Dr. Erik Steele on Sept. 05, 2011, at 3:55 p.m.
Like it or not, the richest country on earth has to start being cheaper than truck stop coffee. With any luck, that will force us to be a lot smarter about how we spend our money. There’s a great example of this being hashed out right now in Maine, which …

Will physicians lead us through reform?

By Dr. Erik Steele on Aug. 22, 2011, at 4:52 p.m.
The young patient was dying right before our eyes, and most of us around him in the ER that day who had a clue as to what was wrong had the wrong clue. Amongst all of the frantic chaos was one cool head belonging to a family doc in training …

Medicare cost cutting not a job for Congress

By Dr. Erik Steele on Aug. 08, 2011, at 6:02 p.m.
If you want to see elected officials in Washington act like you asked them to lick a high-voltage subway rail, ask them to cut waste out of the $450 billion we spend every year in America on Medicare. Most scatter like chickens, which is no surprise, because they get fried …

The Doc’s summer reading list

By Dr. Erik Steele on July 25, 2011, at 6:30 p.m.
Because my recent colonoscopy was normal and I can now prove where my head is not, I have renewed confidence in the value of my advice to others. So I thought I would advise you on what to read this summer — just think of me as Dr. Oprah Winfrey. …

The hospital patient’s safety checklist, part 2

By Dr. Erik Steele on July 11, 2011, at 8:16 p.m.
(This is the second in a two-part series about a patient-driven checklist for safe hospital care. The first article discussed the rationale for such a checklist.) Many hospitals now routinely use checklists to force fastidious adherence to key safety steps that must be completed to ensure safe care of patients …

Patient co-pilot checklist for safety — Part 1

By Dr. Erik Steele on June 27, 2011, at 9:03 p.m.
(This is the first in a two-part series about a patient-driven checklist for their safe hospital care. It discusses the rationale for such a checklist. The second column will be the recommended checklist.) I used to think that if my nursing staff and my colleagues and I all did our …

A path to better opioid prescribing for Maine?

By Dr. Erik Steele on June 13, 2011, at 6:59 p.m.
I would rather incise large boils for oodles of yucky pus or drive a car full of bad-ass bees than prescribe narcotic pills to patients on a chronic basis. That’s why I was hoping the Maine Legislature would pass a bill it was considering to make prescribing narcotics so burdensome …