Dr. Germaphobe at Thanksgiving


‘Tis the season to bring on the mood,
Our calorie count to delude
What makes us so sick
Not sleeping’s the trick
And the crowding, the booze, and the food.

Synopsis: I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa. I danced back from the brink of burnout in 2010, and, honoring a one-year non-compete clause, went for adventures working in out-of-the-way locations. After jobs in Alaska, New Zealand, Iowa, and Nebraska, I returned home and took a part-time position with a Community Health Center, where I worked for 3 years. I left last month because of a troubled relationship with the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system. Now back from a road trip to visit, and take in Continuing Medical Education, I’m helping to fill in at a clinic not far from home.

At this time in November, most Americans start their annual feasting season, though a few started 3 weeks ago on Halloween.

The average American gains 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day.

We also travel to new locations with new microbes. We crowd, making microbe transmission easier. We disrupt our sleep patterns by our travel plans and our socializing. Lots of us consume much more alcohol than we’re used to. While we weaken our immune systems and confront them with strange germs, we gorge. And then we wonder why we get sick.
I get great welcome at Thanksgiving for my knife sharpening abilities and for my turkey carving skills. My ability to bring a shaving edge to most any non-serrated cutting instrument comes from years of hunting. My medical training has nothing to do with slicing white meat.
But my bacteriological knowledge, tuned to a fine paranoia by the CDC’s applied Epidemiology Course’s Food Borne Illness section, has not met with the same enthusiasm. I have even earned the nickname Dr. Germaphobe for my recommendations: keep the hot food hot, the cold food cold, and only reheat once.
People will cheerfully ask me about rashes. They express sincere gratitude when I put a razor edge on their knifes using nothing more sophisticated than the bottom of a coffee mug. But I can tell they politely suppress the eye-roll when I talk about food poisoning and room temperature.
I have stopped telling the story about how the Mars Lander program used chicken soup as a medium to detect extra-terrestrial life. I’ve inflicted it upon my family too many times.
They still invite me to make the gravy.

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