In a scenario possible only in the current climate of the Beltway, Kenneth Kizer, M.D., the once and future head of the Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare system, prepared last week to move back into his office on the eighth floor of the VA's Washington headquarters from temporary quarters in the same building.
Congress sent legislation to President Clinton allowing for Kizer's temporary restoration as VA's undersecretary for health. Kizer's four-year term expired at the end of September, before the White House could send up his renomination and the Senate could reconfirm him.
Since then, Kizer has been working as a consultant on medical issues from the offices of VA Secretary Togo West on the 10th floor of the VA building. Deputy Undersecretary Thomas Garthwaite stepped in as acting undersecretary in Kizer's absence.
Kizer's temporary reappointment expires June 30. The length of time for Senate deliberation makes Kizer's reconfirmation appear to be a slam-dunk. But the Senate's snail-like pace, its penchant for blocking Clinton nominations and a pending lawsuit against Kizer's renomination by the Paralyzed Veterans of America still raise questions about whether he will take office for a second full term.
UAB in space. When U.S. Sen. John Glenn lifts off into space aboard space shuttle Discovery this week, he'll be working on several experiments for the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham.
The 77-year-old Ohio Democrat will help scientists on board the shuttle work on four experiments designed by researchers at the 851-bed hospital. They will grow crystals from four proteins supplied by UAB researchers: an insulin protein, a horse virus protein, one protein that may help develop new antibiotics and a fourth that could help create drugs that would kill spore-forming bacteria.
During and after the flight, UAB's Marcus Bamman, a former NASA researcher, will be studying weightlessness and age and how Glenn is affected by his return to space.
Glenn's trip will start Oct. 29, 36 years after he became the first American to orbit the earth. The flight is expected to last nearly nine days.
Celebrate commercialism. We wonder if Walt Disney's vision of the healthcare system of the future included commercial sponsors.
Des Cummings Jr., chief executive officer of the futuristic Celebration Health System in Kissimmee, Fla., gave a rousing speech earlier this month at the annual Medical Group Management Association conference in Denver.
Cummings interrupted his sermon on "creating the healthiest city in America" to show videos loaded with promotional plugs for companies whose products are used at Celebration Health, which was opened last year by Adventist Health System and Walt Disney World. The companies included Glaxo Wellcome, Sprint, AGFA, General Electric Co. and Johnson & Johnson.
Judging from a perusal of several dozen speaker evaluation forms, the audience wasn't irked by the blatant advertising. Most listeners called the presentation inspirational, and the only complaints were about the sound system.
Medical group administrators seemed to be enthralled by Cummings' message of prevention, integration and what he called a revolutionary "circle of life" system of healthcare. Cummings' parting words: "God bless you. Live your vision."
Defining a doc. Once again, debate is brewing over whether medical residents are students or doctors.
The Federation of State Medical Boards, moving to protect patients, recently recommended that state medical boards do more to regulate postgraduate training programs. But some say the recommendations-which would require residents to obtain a "resident physician permit" and program directors to report disciplinary actions, substance-abuse referrals and absences of longer than two weeks-go too far.
Most states already have some licensing requirements for resident physicians. But according to the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine's Observer, some medical educators fear that the federation's recommendations could taint the training environment, create excessive paperwork and prevent residents from moonlighting.
"This is an uncommon problem for which a draconian solution is being proposed," Henry Schultz, president of the Association of Program Directors in Internal Medicine, told the Observer.
On the diaper front. Patricia Millner, administrative director for pediatric ambulatory care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa., got the idea for a better diaper while watching TV almost 15 years ago.
If the bathing suits she saw advertised could let people tan as though they were in the buff, why couldn't someone make a diaper that would let the sunshine in on newborns with jaundice?
Each year, nearly 400,000 newborns suffer from jaundice caused by excessive bilirubin, a byproduct from the breakdown of red blood cells that can be toxic in large amounts. Happily, simply exposing most jaundiced babies to bright light solves the problem. But diapers block a surprising amount of light, slowing babies' recoveries and adding days to discharge.
So Millner's idea for a "transparent" diaper was born. Overcoming years of technical and manufacturing challenges, Millner finally got the diapers to market earlier this year under the name BiliBottoms. About twice the price of regular diapers, she says BiliBottoms let 87% of light through, reducing jaundiced babies' length of stay by a third.
Horton Medical Center, Middletown, N.Y.; Halifax Regional Hospital in South Boston, Va.; and Flagler Hospital in Saint Augustine, Fla., are among Millner's early customers. For more information see the BiliBottoms site on the World Wide Web at www.bilibottoms.com.