Articles by Dr. Erik Steele

Dr. Erik Steele

Dr. Erik Steele: After 16 years and 300,000 words, a final farewell

By Dr. Erik Steele on Feb. 13, 2014, at 11:37 a.m.
If pigs could fly, none that ever winged wondrously aloft would have more fun than I have had arranging almost 300,000 words into 426 columns for the Bangor Daily News over the last 16 years. But at the bottom of this column is the last of those words, as this …
Erik Steele

The beautiful walk — don’t take it for granted

By Dr. Erik Steele on Jan. 16, 2014, at 12:32 p.m.
Olivia was five, and I could tell by the way she limped into my emergency room that, whatever else she enjoyed in life, she would never enjoy the simple, extraordinary pleasure of a normal walk. The x-ray of her pelvis confirmed what I had suspected watching her scissoring gait from …
Erik Steele

Hospitals: A special place to be for the holidays

By Dr. Erik Steele on Jan. 02, 2014, at 2:10 p.m.
For the Americans who spent them there, hospitals were a special place to be for the holidays. That sounds odd, but for the many thousands of patients and caregivers in them on Christmas or New Year’s, hospitals are a great holiday paradox. You may have missed Christmas morning and dinner …
Erik Steele

The Obamacare mess

By Dr. Erik Steele on Dec. 05, 2013, at 4:09 p.m.
Many of us who have cared for critically ill patients recognize the point America is at in its health care reform journey; it is the same place critical care teams often end up about two weeks into the care of someone who is critically ill and not improving. Initial optimism …
Erik Steele

POLST — A better way to die

By Dr. Erik Steele on Nov. 20, 2013, at 2:28 p.m.
Some day, hopefully far off, I wish to feel a gentle, final goodbye kiss on my cheek from each member of my family. I want to know those are loving kisses of my impending death, that we are of one mind about my passing, and there is peace of that …
Erik Steele

In a disaster, will your hospital be ready?

By Dr. Erik Steele on Nov. 07, 2013, at 11:23 a.m.
There were many who died at the hands of Hurricane Katrina and shouldn’t have. There was also something that should have died and did not — the inadequate readiness of many American hospitals for disasters. Years after the retreating waters of the Gulf Coast left the wreckage of inadequate disaster …
Erik Steele

The wildest time ever in American health care

By Dr. Erik Steele on Oct. 24, 2013, at 12:16 p.m.
The American health care industry has fallen down an “Alice in Wonderland” rabbit hole, and awakened in the strangest, wildest time in its history. Hospitals are spending millions of dollars trying to keep patients from being admitted to them, and health systems are becoming insurance companies. In turn, insurance companies …
Erik Steele

Being the good shepherd for my family patients

By Dr. Erik Steele on Oct. 09, 2013, at 5:03 p.m.
There are times when I think a bit of hell on earth is to be a physician sitting at the bedside of a sick family member in the hospital. You know everything that will hurt, every treatment that can harm, and everything bad that can happen if all the things …
Erik Steele

Getting radical in patient care safety — Part 2

By Dr. Erik Steele on Sept. 12, 2013, at 12:35 p.m.
I used to think I was Dr. Wizard Oz — all knowing, and all powerful. Twenty-five years in practice have hauled back the green curtain from my illusion and exposed this truth: my patients are better off if I share the power in patient care with patients, nurses and other …
Erik Steele

Getting radical in patient care safety, part 1

By Dr. Erik Steele on Aug. 15, 2013, at 10:40 a.m.
In the good old days of my medical training, when I made a mistake I was publicly flayed by my physician superiors, excoriated by guilt at the harm I had caused a patient, and then vowed never to make that mistake again. So did my nursing and physician colleagues. And …

Missing my Maine patients

By Dr. Erik Steele on Aug. 01, 2013, at 7:40 a.m.
I miss my patients, and in the two months since I left them behind for a new job in Ohio, I have thought of them every darn day. I have wondered how they were, and worried selfishly that no one would ever take care of them as well as I …
Erik Steele

Will be hard to woo Americans away from the ER

By Dr. Erik Steele on July 18, 2013, at 1:45 p.m.
If God ran a hospital department, it would be the ER. It’s a place where miracles can happen, the sick of heart and spirit are welcome, and how high you rank depends on how sick you are. His head nurse would be your mom, gladly taking you in no matter …

Am I losing my freedom to aging?

By Dr. Erik Steele on July 11, 2013, at 8:42 a.m.
When I was young, it seemed as if my mind could declare its independence over my body in order to do whatever I wanted without limits. That body was a limber, resilient, well-tuned bill of rights to do just that without apparent consequence. I could stay up for two days …

Expanding Maine Medicaid — a fact-finding mission

By Dr. Erik Steele on June 20, 2013, at 11:21 a.m.
In the debate about whether to expand Maine Medicaid to cover 50,000 largely uninsured Mainers making less than $11,500-$15,000 annually, it’s worth comparing some of the rhetoric to some of the facts. The cool breeze of reality might blow away some of the smoke and reveal a path to compromise …

More than a million thanks

By Dr. Erik Steele on June 06, 2013, at 1:35 p.m.
Over the last 38 years Maine has given me a mighty fine wife, a mighty fine life and much more. If I was a dog my tail would just about wag off every time I think about all the people of this state have done for me and my family, …

America to health care: We want our money back

By Dr. Erik Steele on May 23, 2013, at 12:34 p.m.
Last week, for the first time ever, I paid for my health insurance directly out of my bank account; I wrote a check for $1200 to cover our health insurance for the month I am between jobs. For the last 30 years, most of the cost of my family’s health …

How the 19-year-old brain can both awe and appall us

By Dr. Erik Steele on April 25, 2013, at 12:04 p.m.
Among the most mysterious things on the planet is the brain of a male in his late teens. It has been designed by evolution for purpose without much perspective, passion without much reason, reproduction without much responsibility and performance without caution. If it was a car, it would be a …

Maine needs a rockstar physician leader

By Dr. Erik Steele on April 11, 2013, at 11:30 a.m.
If there is a Mick Jagger of medicine, it is Don Berwick, M.D., America’s health care safety and reform rockstar. More than any other American physician, he has led us to improve safety in health care and led the debate about transforming the American health-care system into something that is …
Erik Steele

We are being damned: Americans losing faith in failed health care system

By Dr. Erik Steele on March 28, 2013, at 3:55 p.m.
We who lead in the American health care system — primarily physicians and hospitals — are slowly having our credibility with the public eroded. The main reason for this is our collective failure to credibly lead this country in its journey to a health care system that safely and affordably …
Erik Steele

Dr. Steele’s great adventure

By Dr. Erik Steele on March 14, 2013, at 1:08 p.m.
Last week two of my favorite patients — young sisters — stopped by my office to say goodbye, then got in their car and hit the westbound road to Nevada, and a new life. They were scared witless, thrilled, excited, and hoping the open road would lead them to the …
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