Archive for October, 2007


October 19th, 2007

Glamorous? Yep, that’s how some people see my life, glamorous. Heck, I’ve been to Bosnia, Nigeria and now, Serbia. The day started at 5:00 AM as I walked up to the ticket counter for my 6:45 flight. It was a short hop to New York, but this particular day would be very long. Typical trans-continental flights leave at around seven or so at night and land at about seven or so in the morning. Six or more hours magically disappear as you fly into the future. During that flight it is not unusual to be waited on a half dozen times with food and beverages, that fact alone keeps even those with sleep eye masks and ear plugs from sleeping for more than a few hours at a time.

Upon landing, a greeting party consisting of the physician in charge of the conference and a representative from the hotel met us at the exit door from the airplane’s walkway, they escorted us through Passport security and took us to the hotel where they informed us that lunch will be served in 20 minutes. Following lunch, we had about 20 more minutes before my presentation and then the opening ceremonies. Approximately 900 physicians were in attendance at this three and a half day event. Present at the opening were the His Royal Highness, Alexander, Prince of Serbia, the Minister of Health, the general in charge of military medicine and numerous other dignitaries and prominent physicians.

The following day was filled with lectures and workshops, but we were on a mission to visit a rehabilitation hospital and spa. It was a three and a half hour trip each way, but our driver had amazing driving skills, and we made in two and a half hours each way without being arrested or killed. (Other drivers that we had over the three days were arrested twice for speeding and one had an accident and parked the car on a streetcar track.) The visit to the spa was amazing, the physicians were amazing, and the concept was amazing, one level beyond even our current span of modalities.

We returned to the hotel in time to jump in another car and meet personally with HRH Alexander, the Crown Prince of Serbia, a friendly man who was born and raised in England and the United States. His great grandmother was one of the Queens of England. His wife was a Greek Princess and immediately began to talk to us about her knowledge of Johnstown and her visits to Pittsburgh to assist in encouraging U.S. Steel in their successful efforts to purchase a plant in Belgrade.

The next morning we met with the Minister of Health in a private meeting, spent time at the conference and toured Belgrade. Later that afternoon we returned for the major dinner of the conference. It was during that event that we experienced a truly amazing celebration of Serbian heritage. There was an ox, sheep, and pig roast (not a good day to be a vegetarian); the country’s winning ethnic, brass band and presentations and awards for everyone, including yours truly.

At 8:30 AM the following morning we had a private meeting with the general in charge of military medicine at the country’s version of Walter Reed Army Medical Center, a one-thousand bed hospital that specialized in every aspect of care including transplant surgery.

We returned to the city for lunch, went back to our rooms to pack, had a quiet dinner and left for the airport at approximately 11:30 PM Wednesday evening, 5:30 AM Belgrade time. For the next 24 hours we were in transit from Belgrade to Paris, Paris to NYC, New York to Pittsburgh and then drove from Pittsburgh to home. Truthfully, it was a nice break. Our organization’s pins are now firmly planted on lapels throughout the Balkans, and only time will tell what the future will bring. We met with several medical students who are interested in doing research with us, several physicians who have vowed to visit us from as far away as Korea and as near as the Cleveland Clinic and have made new friends from Bosnia, Slovenia, Russia, Greece, Italy, France, England, and Montenegro, to name a few.

Our work continues to be heard, discovered and embraced internationally, and our desire to make Windber an international center of excellence continues to move forward. It once again reinforces the fact that we really are all one world and that a child in Serbia has the same hopes and dreams as a child anywhere. So do his parents.


To Belgrade

October 13th, 2007

It’s about 11:30 AM on Saturday, 10/12/07, and I’m on my way to Kennedy.  That’s JFK Airport in New York City.  This will be a very long day as I wait until 7:00 PM for a connecting flight to Paris, and then run for 45 minutes through that airport to make my next fight to Belgrade. Once in Serbia, we will deplane and almost immediately make a speech to the participants of the World Health Congress on Cardiology.

I’m not exactly sure what we will be finding there, but, not unlike my trips to Nigeria and Bosnia, the one thing that I am sure that I will find will be wonderful, friendly people.  In fact, my brother, Charlie and a Serbian-born friend, Steve, will be there with me.

We will be meeting with the Minister of Health, the Head of Military Medicine and a Health Spa.  Then we will head home on Thursday.  It will be lots and lots of travel, lots and lots of talking, and not much sleep, but next weekend will give me plenty of time for that.

So, hang on to  your hats.  I’ll try to connect from Serbia, but, since getting Serbian dollars at the exchange here has not been possible, we’ll just see  how things go. 

The adventure begins.



October 5th, 2007

Nick’s note: Our dog, Brody, died today, and so, with permission from myself, here is an updated version of a blog that I wrote a few weeks ago for another website:

At our hospital, the decision to treat or not to treat will remain the same: We will treat.

The Washington Post’s Christopher Lee wrote recently that,

“If anything looked like a sure thing in the new Congress, it was that lawmakers would renew, and probably expand, the popular, decade-old State Children’s Health Insurance Program before it expires this year.”

This surely seems like a dream come true for any politician, something that creates a health care safety insurance program for children who otherwise might not have the coverage or financial wherewithal to pay for this care.  What politician would even consider vetoing an already established program that offers health insurance for kids?

Interestingly, President Bush did veto it.  It’s important to note that his veto was not because he is concerned that this program doesn’t work. He has acknowledged that S-CHIP works very well.  He has also indicated that he would not veto it because it is fiscally irresponsible. In fact, this plan is, overall, a very reasonable expenditure. Yes, he objects to any expansion of the plan, but, it appears that this was not the only reason for his veto.

It seems that Mr. Bush’s decision to take this stand is ideological.

The program is diametrically opposed to his philosophy of government.  If you take care of kids, and that plan works, then you can take care of adults, too.  Expansion of government is not something that this president embraces.  But the administration clearly continues to embrace the Iraq war, and that costs money, lots of money.

  From The New York Times, January 17, 2007 by David Leonhardt:

“…For starters, $1.2 trillion would pay for an unprecedented public health campaign” a doubling of cancer research funding, treatment for every American whose diabetes or heart disease is now going unmanaged and a global immunization campaign to save millions of children’s lives.

Combined, the cost of running those programs for a decade wouldn’t use up even half our money pot. So we could then turn to poverty and education, starting with universal preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old child across the country. The city of New Orleans could also receive a huge increase in reconstruction funds…”

It truly is all a matter of ideology?