Monday, January 11, 2010

Overcoming Inertia (Part II)

I allowed the question to linger in the air for a few seconds while I plotted her height and weight on the growth curve in front of me. Her height was at the 75th percentile while her weight was way above the 95th. Her BMI was 42.5 kilograms per meter squared, which is actually an improvement from last year when she was measured to have a BMI of 45. "So how about it, Amy. Any clue?"

"No...not really." She mumbles.

"Okay. Let me help you out then. Listen, and listen close, because at the end of all of this, there'll be a test...Well, no, not really, but it might change your life so you better pay attention."

I laid down her chart and began my exam as I talked.

"So, let's start with some simple concepts. Common sense physics tells us that in a closed system, like this room, or your body, whatever, energy can neither be created or destroyed. Also, you'd probably learned that energy going in must equal energy coming out. You with me so far? All of this sound familiar?"

"Yeah. I remember something like that."

"Good. This is essentially Newton's First Law which tells us that the energy you expend on something should be equal to the energy that comes out, minus a negligible portion lost to the environment because of friction, etc."

"O...kay. So what does that have to do with anything?" she asks with a condescending smirk.

"Hold on, I'm getting to that. Well, if you take Newton's first law of thermodynamics AND his first law of motion, you know, the one that says that things in motion tend to stay in motion unless acted on by another force, and apply it to a fictionalized high school setting, you'd understand one of the reasons why everyone loves Glee..."

"I...I don't get it."

"Look, what is Glee essentially? It is a club made up of what most people would label as "freaks" that somehow find a way to resist societal pressures and bond with one another to become something truly wonderful. They share a passion through their singing and dancing and are able to collectively use their talents to be much better than anyone in the school ever thought they could be. In fact, the more they are mocked and laughed at by everyone else, and the more outside circumstances try to break them up, it seems the more cohesive they become and the better friends and singers they all become. Remember Newton and his conservation of energy? Yeah this is a perfect example of its application on a societal and high school level. It seems as if they are all able to gather all the negativity thrown at them by the outside world and channel them to become better singers. It is truly amazing, and I think it's what draws people to the show and their story.

"I guess I can kinda see that. But what about the new year's resolution thing and how it affects me?"

"I'm getting to that. But you know, before each of those Glee kids found success as a group, before they knew each other, and even before they knew they could sing, they each had to do some thing, something very simple it seems but very very important; something that again points back to Newton and his physics as applied to high school."

"What is it?" she asked, thoroughly intrigued now.

"They had to solve the problem of inertia."


"Inertia, you know, the force that prevents you from moving forward. Newton's first law of motion. An object in motion will stay in motion while one at rest will tend to stay at rest, remember? Yeah, so they individually but collectively had to tackle their problem of inertia. Before they joined Glee Club, they had to decide for themselves whether they should go on with their present lives the way it is, or make a change and sign up for Glee Club. Translated to physics speak, they had to individually decide whether they will stay in motion at the same speed at the same direction, coming and going the same way everyday or whether they will apply a force and change the course of their high school lives by signing up for Glee Club. Without this first critical initial decision to overcome inertia, there'd be no singers, no songs, no club and no show! I believe this is the message behind their hit song "Defying Gravity", which is, in my opinion, their best song!"

"I like when they sang Don't Stop Believing in the first episode. That was really cool."

"Yes, that one is pretty good too. But the point is that the hardest thing to do sometimes is overcoming one's own inertia. The majority of people are so set in their ways that they reject any and every change, even when they know change may be good. This simple concept not only mirrors the attitudes of the Glee kids, but also underscores the importance of New Year's Resolutions, because you see, resolutions are nothing more than attempts by people to use the excuse of the new calendar year to overcome inertia and institute change in their lives. People who don't have resolutions are either perfectly content with their lives or are too lazy to do something about it. Since you are neither of those two things, I expect you to have some New Year's Resolutions the next time you come by to see me."


"Yes really. I want you to think about 3 things that you want to change about yourself. It could be about school, home, friends, your body, etc but it must be important enough to you that you are willing to work on it for the whole entire year. As you're thinking about it, I want you to really try hard to overcome your own inertia and answer the question for yourself...what is important to me? how can I make this one thing I don't like about me better? Whatever it is...come up with 3 things and we'll go over it next time okay?

"Okay." she says as I finished my exam. She gathers her stuff and turns toward the door. "Am I done?"

"Yes you are." I said, as I open the door for her.

"Defying gravity, that'll be me!" she says as she exits my office cheerfully. "You'll see, doc, you'll see!"

As I close the door behind her, I'm hoping she will choose her health as one of the initiatives she will improve upon this year. But honestly I have no clue. All I know is that I realized I needed to overcome my own inertia in terms of running and training to improve upon my performance and I was able to use this message to (hopefully) help out a teenager in her fight against obesity.

Maybe this running thing can make me a better doctor after all!


Jesse said...

I wish I had you as a doc when I was a young, overweight kid. Encouragement to change would work much better than handing me some unnecessary inhalers and calling the cause "exercise induced asthma" - when really we all knew it was because I ate unfathomable amounts of junk food and couldn't breathe simply because I was out of shape.

If only there were more doctors like you....

Julie said...

Good morning Laminator,
You did as I knew that you would....handled it like a Ace!! Not only are you an elete athlete but also a gentle man with intelligence and class. You write with such a class and purpose! Thank you! I always look forward to your posts:)

By the way, I read the reason that you became a doctor and I coulnd't stop the tears from falling down my cheeks. You are an amazing human being! I hope that you have an awesome Monday:)

Julie said...

Oops, I am sorry,I spelled elite wrong! It is early:)

Anonymous said...

Just awesome! You have truly made a postive impact on your patients life. I am sure she is going to remember you for a long time.

Good thing you are not only smart, but stay up to date on the latest tv shows!

You are a very special doctor Lam.

Xenia said...

You are a great doc. I have just one question for you though--when do you find time to watch tv with your schedule?! Truly amazing. :)

Psyche said...

Part II does not disappoint. You will have to update us on this girl's choices. Whatever they are, the time you spent with her made a difference in her life.

Betsy said...

That's awesome, Lam, and echoes so much of what I have come to believe over the years. In order to feel truly alive, we need to do things that are challenging.

Anonymous said...

wow this is awesome! doctors like you are the reason i want to go into medicine. i was also lucky to have a really good pediatrician who,like you, was (is?) soooo encouraging and making positive impacts on patients. if only there were more of you...

T-na said...

Did not disappoint! Thank you for taking the time to (re)tell the story to us.

monicac2 said...

Wow, you continue to show that your left brain is as developed as your right brain. You're great with physics, numbers, stats, etc., but you're also intuitive, thoughtful and a great writer. Not to mention speedy!

Ms. V. said...

Oh, man. That was a great post. I love GLEE. My son was given a lower BMI last week, and is 5 pounds away from a healthy weight.

We talk about things like food in, energy out too.

Thanks for reminding me, and he and I will have another chat today.

M2Marathon said...

Great, great post.

"The majority of people are so set in their ways that they reject any and every change, even when they know change may be good."

So abso-freakin-lutely true. Great work, Doc.

Anonymous said...

So much truth in here, Lam! If I was ever a kid again and had endocrine issues, I'd totally come see you. When so many doctors have such awful bedside manners and treat their patients like cattle it is so nice to see one that cares. I love it.

And you're right, we gotta defy gravity!

X-Country2 said...

I hope that girl blows your expectations out of the water. :o)

Jamie said...

What a doctor! I hope she remembers your awesome motivation and keeps moving throughout the year.

Julie said...

Hi Laminator,
I am shocked that you would cut out of class early:) I bet that you were one of those students who really didn't have to study...and still got all A's. I worked my ass off and got lucky with my GPA. Actually, it is pretty funny that you were talking about physics. Physics was the class that totally destroyed my 4.0 GPA. That was my first college class that I earned a B. I hated that class and was always confused:) There was to much math and I suck at math.

Anyway, thanks for visiting my lame little blog:) I appreciate your comments! Have a good night!

Adam said...

WOW! That is awesome. Well, I guess two things are awesome:

First, awesome that you were able to put that all together for her, and two, that you were able to remember it all for here!! :)

lindsay said...

gosh lam. you even broke it down to laymen's terms for me here ;) i didn't get lost once!! you are genius.

great story. i like that you don't just force her health issues on her - you saw she wasn't responding to that and acted on it. surprisingly, this is a strange concept for people. you can be my doc anyday! hope she comes back with a healthy resolution in there - keep us posted?

runner26 said...

nice work, doc!

Vava said...

Nice work Lam. Your description of the interaction with your patient is fantastic, and your approach admirable. Working beyond the chart, and really getting to know the patient, what makes them tick, is so important, and sadly (in my experience) lacking, in the medical profession. Keep it up!

And I truly hope that Amy turns the corner, believes in herself, and becomes a healthy person with your help.

The Happy Runner said...

If only all doctors were as awesome as you! Rock ON!

sRod said...

Geez, that is the best (albeit complex) pep talk I've ever heard from a doctor. If I were your patient I would have totally followed you down the rabbit hole too.

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