From Busty Ballerinas to Concrete Canoes

concrete canoeI did a double take as I passed a truck pulling a trailer driving south returning from Portland, Maine. While pick-ups pulling all sorts of gear or animals frequent this stretch of highway, I literally swung my head back around to re-read the back of this one. It was proudly painted with a large U. Maine black bear logo presiding over the words “Concrete Canoe Team.”  Concrete Canoe team? At first I thought it was some sort of inside joke that characterizes road trips with a bunch of college buddies. But as I passed by (what, they were in the slow lane…) I saw Continue reading

Healthcare Value, Measured in Crayons and Chocolate


I watched the small baby lay silently sleeping, his little body propped up in a full sized hospital bed, dwarfed by monitors and machines and bags of medications that looked as benign as pure spring water and yet I knew were controlling most of his bodily functions including this induced sleep. His peaceful demeanor seemed so incongruous to the palpable intensity of everything around him. Despite the alarms, incessant beeping, murmur of voices, and general noise and hubbub of the ICU, he went on sleeping, utterly oblivious. In this environment where every organ’s function is externalized and micro-managed down to each breath and each heart beat, Continue reading

Punch Buggy Blue! and Other Lessons from Childhood Play…

My brother used to punch me every time a Volkswagen Beetle drove by. The rules of the game were simple: the first one to spot the Beetle got to call out “Punch Buggy” followed by the car color (you know, to verify authenticity, no cheap shots allowed) and throw the punch. Since my brother was older and taller, and could see out of the back window of the car more easily, the game should have been re-named Little Sister Sore Arm (the acronym of which, if spelled backward, must have been what my little sister self thought of my brother during this game). I don’t know how that game evolved, or why it had to be a Volkswagen Beetle specifically, but years later, the automative maker Volkswagen is still captivating consumer thought and play by asking an important question: can we influence people to make more positive choices by making them more fun? They used this concept to encourage people to drive more environmentally conscious cars, and propelled that idea into their “Fun Theory.” They host a competition to utilize fun ways to encourage positive outcomes ( This has important implications for health, as our population has become increasingly sedentary, and making positive choices like walking up stairs instead of taking an escalator can seem difficult to achieve. Check out this short video for this Fun Theory winner’s creative solution, and their remarkable results showing a 66% increase in healthy behavior:

I also think it has far reaching implications about play and fun in health care beyond the cardiovascular benefits. Why is fun important? Why do we play? And should we Continue reading

What the Dickens are Optimal Patient Outcomes?


hikingPicture this: a lone hiker on a windy, somewhat treacherous mountainous path strides purposefully forward, clearly at home in the woods. You watch him stop in front of a large tree overlooking a vista. He suddenly hoists himself up, scales the trunk, and settles onto a large branch to enjoy his lunch. It is only when he comes down and passes by you on the path that you realize he is blind. Totally blind. Continue reading