Ricky's Riffs:

Random Thoughts on Travel, Education, Health, and the World in General


Some Early Thoughts on a Global Pandemic

March 23rd, 2020

We have suddenly been thrust into a global pandemic. Seemingly overnight, our lives have changed. Many of us are on lockdown, prohibited from leaving our homes except to go to the grocery store, the pharmacy, or the doctor. We must now maintain “social distance” to prevent infection, staying at least six feet from others.

There were already signs, back in December 2019, of a strange viral disease originating in the filthy live animal markets of China’s Wuhan province. Then it was seen in South Korea, and Japan. Somehow it jumped to Italy, and spread throughout Europe. All the while, from our “distant” perch–despite alarms being sounded by infectious disease and public health experts–our leaders looked on, and did nothing.Read the rest of this entry »


The Democratization of Health and Healing

January 26th, 2020

I’d like to start a movement called “Humans for the Democratization of Health and Healing.” The movement will include many stakeholders: patient/consumers, healthcare practitioners, industry, and government. It will question the traditional relationships among all of these entities. And it will demand change from them all–including myself!Read the rest of this entry »


Cannabis: Medicine of the Future?

January 6th, 2020

The cultivation of cannabis is a science and an art. As medicine, it can be used for relief of pain and the enhancing of pleasure; to relax and to sleep. It can stimulate the creative mind, and the spiritual one as well.

The Emerald Cup, an annual event held at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds, is the “Academy Awards” of cannabis.  Named for Northern California’s “Emerald Triangle”–the center of the state’s cannabis cultivation industry—it is now in its sixteenth year. Awards are given in a variety of categories: from Best Tinctures, Topicals, and Edibles to Best Marijuana Plant Photography.Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: “The Digital Health Revolution” by Kevin Pereau

September 28th, 2019

In The Digital Health Revolution, Kevin Pereau describes a new world of medicine: a digitized world. He takes us from electronic health records (EHRs) to new self-monitoring devices that provide continuous feedback about blood pressure, heart rate, and how many steps we take each day.

Knowing the number and type of calories we have taken in, how active we have been (or not), and our blood sugar levels, can be very helpful.  This information provides a pathway to prevention, and often reversal, of many of the chronic diseases that plague us today.  Eighty per cent of all illnesses we suffer from fall into this category.Read the rest of this entry »


Book Review: “The United States Of Opioids” by Harry Nelson, JD

January 17th, 2019

There is a growing canon of work on the opioid epidemic. The best of these books include “Dreamland” by Sam Quinones, “Dopesick” by Beth Macy, and “Chasing the Scream” by Johann Hari. Each tells the story from a different angle.  Together, they describe the confluence of heroin, Oxycontin, and fentanyl, the complicity of Big Pharma, and the failed “war on drugs.”

There is a new book to add to the list: “The United States of Opioids,” by Harry Nelson, JD.  As a practicing health care attorney, Harry brings a legal eye—as well as a deep heart of compassion—to this very complex subject.Read the rest of this entry »


On the Opioid and Gun Violence Epidemics: Rationales in Common

September 19th, 2018

We are currently in the midst of the most lethal drug epidemic in our country’s history. One of the shocking things about this crisis is that it has been going on for the past 20 years without showing any signs of letting up.  In 2016, overdoses involving opioids killed more than 42,000 people.  Of those deaths, 40% were from prescription opioids.   (Statistics are still being finalized for 2017.)

Several recent books describe the evolution of this epidemic, each from a slightly different perspective.*  I’ll focus on just one of them here.Read the rest of this entry »


A Rationale For A Single Payer Health Care System

August 27th, 2018

Real change is coming to our health insurance system.  This is inevitable for the simple reason that the system, as it stands, is not sustainable.  Premiums and deductibles keep rising, way beyond the rate of inflation. Drug prices also rise, as do hospital and medical device costs.

In 2010 President Obama pushed through his landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which enabled millions of previously uninsured people to get health insurance for the first time. But the model was still rooted in the same private insurance system, and dominated by the usual players: Aetna, United Health Care, Cigna and the “Blues”. So there was little reason to expect the inflationary trends to slow down.Read the rest of this entry »