June 8th, 2023

Fifteen Years Later, Why I’m Still Writing This

Seems like just yesterday that my wonderful editors at NEJM Journal Watch helped me write a piece marking this site’s 10-year anniversary.

But no — that was 5 years ago. Yikes.

Let’s see, what happened since the spring of 2018 that is relevant to this place:

  • 216 posts. According to our crack research team, that’s one every 8.449074 days.
  • 2,138 comments. Most of them nice, helpful, interesting. Wonderful community here.
  • 13 polls. The one with the most votes in the past 5 years involved syphilis testing — a quintessential ID poll, isn’t it? Should doctors still be allowed to wear white coats? is still the all-time winner, from 2015.
  • No more Physician’s First Watch. I can’t begin to describe how much I miss this reliable and insightful summary of medical news, delivered daily — what a great service. Not only that, they were also kind enough to link to my posts on a regular basis, greatly increasing and diversifying the readership. I wish it were back!
  • There was a global pandemic. Oh yeah, that. Note the date on that syphilis poll, January 2020 … <<involuntary shudder>>

It’s this last item which makes the current look back so different from the first one. Something momentous and literally world-changing happened during the past 5 years — and, like it or not, we ID specialists were front and center in the response, right from the start. 15 million deaths later, that’s got to hurt.

I thought of this recently when Medscape published one of its physician polls, this one on Lifestyle, Happiness and Burnout.

The results? While all physicians experienced a decline in happiness compared to pre-pandemic times, ID physicians have dropped a ton, falling to the bottom of list.

We can quibble with the methodology. Only 90 ID doctors surveyed! How representative of the specialty can this be? And the differences between many of the specialties are marginal. But I still believe the results mean something — namely that we’ve taken a big hit.

Which brings me back to one of most common questions I still get about writing this blog, which is Why do you do it?

Some of the answers are the same as what I posted 5 years ago — namely, that it’s fun, it’s a chance to write in my own voice rather than the voice of academic medical journals, and my editors let me be alternatively serious and silly without batting an eye over the dog, baseball, or comedy videos.

But also now, after we’ve passed the worst of the pandemic (crossing fingers), it’s a chance to highlight the continued joy and excitement of the specialty of Infectious Diseases — a field which, for all its problems, remains endlessly fascinating and rewarding. Again, I’ll cite this magazine feature on the practice of ID featuring Dr. Jerome Levine. His words:

Never once in all my years of practice have I ever been bored.

I’m pretty sure this comment resonates with ID doctors everywhere. How many clinicians are lucky enough to feel this way about their specialty? Describing this dynamic world of ID is the primary reason I continue to write here, whether it’s a Link-o-Rama, a Really Rapid Review™, talking through a clinical dilemma or controversial study, ranting about a commonly held annoyance, or just getting a chance to post some ideas floating around in my head.

So as long as you keep reading it, I’ll be writing it. Hope I’ve conveyed — and continue to convey — some of that joy.

And speaking of videos, how about this catch? It just might be the most remarkable one in the history of professional baseball.

Got to love his face after the catch. Had it all the time.

13 Responses to “Fifteen Years Later, Why I’m Still Writing This”

  1. Ira Dunkel says:

    @Paul: Thank you for continuing to write this blog. I always look forward to reading it and learn a lot from you and the comments.

  2. Peter McKellar says:

    Best catch ever, and I do not even like baseball! Paul, I look forward to your sage words. Keep up the great work.

  3. Paul Zenker says:

    Dogs, baseball, and ID, all with perspective, What’s not to like? As long as you keep writing this, I’ll be reading it.

  4. I’m sorry ID specialists took an especially hard hit from this pandemic and I am grateful as a family physician for your guidance. If you truly want to avoid boredom, I would strongly recommend family medicine. From strep throat and a question of UTI in children to out patient management of new onset atrial fibrillation to treating depression, anxiety, ……, boredom is not a word in a family docs dictionary!!!!

  5. Thomas Russo says:

    This video is not random. There is an ID-baseball-minutiae connection or perhaps I am dating myself

  6. Mimi Breed says:

    That fielder was actually a gymnast! Glad you still love writing this; I still love reading it. I’m slowly learning to love baseball because of — you guessed it — baseball-obsessed grandsons.

  7. Allen Pachtman says:

    Please continue with your blog. It is the first e-mail I open when there are others…..
    It is so refreshing! I am 69 years old and still working. If you stop writing I might retire!

  8. Loretta S says:

    Thank you for writing this blog, which I have been reading for about a dozen years now. As a non-ID person, I always look forward to reading your posts and usually open them right away when they land in my In Box. Even the ones with so many acronyms that I wonder if I have wandered into a place where people only speak in code. 🙂 ID has always been endlessly fascinating to me. And oh, how I miss Physician’s First Watch. I recommended it to so many students and colleagues, and now it’s gone. Short, to-the-point, clinically-relevant summaries of important studies and findings. It was outstanding.

    • Rosalie B says:

      Loretta S has written perfectly every thought I have as a general internist each time I eagerly await Dr. Sax’s next blogpost. Could not improve on it. Hearty thanks Dr. Sax for all you do and hoping your joy only increases!

  9. Emanuel N Vergis says:

    Paul, thank you for your blog and humor! As an ID physician now working in a primary care model, I enjoy the updates and your wit. The past few years have been challenging for all of us. But, the ability to connect virtually and most recently in person at IDSA has made this all bearable. I was inspired by your in-person panel at the recent IDSA.

  10. Sarmad Waqas says:

    Great writings!

    There is probably a big number like me who have been reading and praising your blog silently for a long time without giving comments from various parts of the world!!

    Could you see how many hits or web-clicks each post received?

    Keep it up !

  11. Jason Blitz says:

    Thank you Paul. I enjoy reading this every week even though the HIV discussions are way over my head. I don’t know how you ID folks keep the treatment options straight in your head.

    Be well!


  12. Agnes says:

    Greetings from Seychelles!

    Thank you so much for the post, please keep writing it.
    I’m a big fan.

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HIV Information: Author Paul Sax, M.D.

Paul E. Sax, MD

Contributing Editor

NEJM Journal Watch
Infectious Diseases

Biography | Disclosures | Summaries

Learn more about HIV and ID Observations.