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Elizabeth Edwards: Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers

I'm live blogging from a meeting with Elizabeth Edwards on her recent book, "Saving Graces: Finding Solace and Strength from Friends and Strangers." Here are quotes from our interview with the Silicon Valley Moms Blog who Elizabeth reached out to as likeminded friends:
On health: "Women haven't been able to integrate it into our lives, I can't make an appointment for a mammogram 5 months from now, we need it:
- in public places where you visit
- in elementary schools
- make it more convenient for us. I don't know my schedule so far in advance."

The book was timed to release during Breast Cancer Awareness month, as the last chapters chronicle her battle with breast cancer. I was inspired at how she found joy after the initial devastation. Although she hardly emailed and participated online during her treatment because of the nausea and side effects, she found online community to be very supportive previously during the time of grieving when she lost her son. She's taken down all of her public emails in her communities to protect her husband's campaign, but saved printouts of almost all of her active participation.

On Politics: "I wouldn't be interested in running for office, even though my background is similar to Hillary's. John committed enormously to politics, so I made a decision to change and be the mom that does the soccer practices and brings my kids around. I wasn't going to be a partner in a big firm, and I made that choice gladly. Hillary chose power. I chose giggles and mud, I'm happy with my choices"

How do you stay grounded? "I never bought into the 'I'm on TV, I'm somebody special.' We went into this so that folks that go to Friday night football could be a part of the political process."

How did your world change? "In Washington, I'm a little bit the odd man out. They're younger, they have younger friends, they do things that I'm too old and tired to do."

You've been in the public eye, how has the media changed over the years? "We haven't been in the public eye that long. I'm very glad that citizen journalists are out there. It's not conventional wisdom, there's no filter or lens, it's not filling out the blanks for a story."

Elizabeth was so down to earth, we didn't just focus on her book. She came across as heartfelt, meeting with likeminded mothers, a few of whom similarly worked as lawyers as well as mothering. What does this have to do with technology in medicine, you ask? Well, two themes: the frustration at the overloaded health care system and inability to get prompt care, and the richness of her participation in online community and how I would hope that would grow to support patients searching for opinions about physicians they're interested getting care from.

I pointed out to Elizabeth that as more mothers blog and demand that their healthcare providers give them same day visits and prompt care, physicians will respond to the market demands. I provide Urgent Care, and see patients who come and wait to see me without an appointment, similar to an ER (emergency room). My group provides this kind of same day appointments under the moniker of "Advanced Access" where a patient calls, and gets an appointment that day at Palo Alto Medical Foundation. The idea is to do today's work today, and reduce the number of patients that fail to show up, such that in traditional practices, they double and triple book their physicians due to no-shows.

What I intend to email Elizabeth about, which I didn't have a chance to ask her in person, is around page 300 in her book, she recounts how Mrs. Heinz Kerry told her "There are plenty of good doctors out there, but don't go to XXX" who happened to be a physician who was on her team. Elizabeth shared that it knocked her off of her "razor blade balancing act" and plunged her into depression. John tried to support her and say that many people have bad experiences with physicians and don't take one person's opinion, take many. What I intend to ask is whether or not she would trust online comments in the communities she participated in, as trustworthy opinions. Many people express opinions on their physicians in online forums and email lists such as ones she participated in. I believe that as their participation grows, more and more stories, good and bad, will be posted about patient's experiences with their physician. It would be wonderful if Elizabeth had the chance to be reassured by the opinions of online friends she already trusted. I felt terribly about this particular incident.

What a wonderful afternoon to share with the potential next First Lady. It was amazing she'd reached out to our local mothers and were interested in our concerns and wanted to dialogue with us. It was more than I'd seen in any politician, and perhaps that's why she said she chose mothering rather than a political career. She connected to these women, as a likeminded mother who wanted to be friends. I'm honored to be her friend. I'm honored to be a friend of the bloggers at Silicon Valley Moms Blog. It doesn't mean I share their political views, but I'm interested in their opinions.

One husband of our group pointed out that by meeting Elizabeth, it branded the group as all Democrat. I disagree. I want to hear multiple opinions, a wealth of discourse, and find good ideas regardless of the political party it comes from. We need solutions, and those don't belong to one party, they belong to those who care about solving them.

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Elizabeth Edwards SVMBenochchoi's Elizabeth Edwards SVMB photoset

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About the Author


Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.