About me

My name is Mara and I’m a mommy.

Wait a minute, why does that sound like I’m admitting to alcoholism? Never mind. Anyway, I’m a mommy and I love science and medicine and I love to read and write about them. I’m also interested in issues related to parenting, so there will probably be some of that mixed in as well.

I’m married and my husband and I have two adorable children: a daughter, Yael, and a son, Barak. I’m a work-at-home mom doing editing and web content management, helping out the PTA, and occasionally writing some fiction for fun.

What qualifications do I have to write about science and medicine? No formal ones, unless you count my master’s degree in applied anthropology ::laughs:: But I’m a bit of a science/medicine geek and I try to read as much good information as I can. I’m mostly self-educated, so I’m not perfect, but thanks to a number of past jobs, I know where to find good information on just about any topic.

I’m super excited to have been finally called a pharma shill for my pro-vaccine advocacy, so I figure I should state my conflicts of interest here. I have never held a job that in any way relates to vaccines or the pharmaceutical industry. (However, if any pharmaceutical company would like to send me a check, drop me a line. My kids need a college fund!)

My husband used to, indirectly, work on vaccines for the federal government, in the sense that he ran the warehouse of a plant that created small batches of vaccines for testing. And he has worked in the past for small biotech companies that made vaccines. But since at least one of those companies went under, I’m curious where the fortunes that are apparently to be made in vaccines might be found, so my husband can find a job there.

If you’d like to reach me privately, feel free to e-mail me at mara(dot)greengrass(at)verizon(dot)net.


3 Responses to About me

  1. Peter Palmieri, M.D. says:

    Hello Mama Mara,

    Thank you for reviewing my book, Suffer the Children. I appreciate the praise, and I totally agree with the criticisms. I don’t want to go into too much detail about how it is that I ended up self-publishing the book (short story – agents didn’t think people would be interested in reading about the subject) but in the end, I did as well as I could without having a professional editor comb through the manuscript.

    I also appreciate the comment about me sounding arrogant, always coming in to save the day, so to speak, when everyone else screws up. I struggled quite a bit on how to deal with that, even creating imaginary doctors that remedied the mistakes of referring pediatricians but the vignettes sounded all wrong and were, I think, a bit dishonest. The truth is thousands of pediatricians have had experiences like my own, but I wanted to make this a personal account. Again, a professional editor might have helped me out of this conundrum.

    Finally, the issue of my own mistakes. My little mistakes are not that interesting; my big mistakes are just too painful to discuss publicly. One of my first big mistakes in residency involved a beautiful teenage girl with sickle cell disease whom I almost killed. Fortunately she recovered, but only after spending several days on a ventilator in the Intensive Care Unit. There were so many factors that were involved in my making bad decisions (the extreme charm of the young lady, thus I didn’t want to believe that she had a serious illness; the fact that she had been admitted to an adult ward on a separate floor from the rest of my patients making it hard to monitor her; the unfamiliarity I had with the nurses on that ward; the fact that the attending physician who was supposed to supervise me didn’t come to the hospital to make rounds that day and was arrogant and difficult to approach; my lack of experience in dealing with the complication the patient suffered; my reluctance to notify the attending physician once I started making back choices while the child’s condition deteriorated) that I spent weeks analyzing what had gone wrong, kind of like reconstructing the final moments of an airplane crash.

    This single experience alerted me to the mental processes that render physicians vulnerable to error; particularly myself. But that was not the worst mistake of my life. My worst error — though many assure me that I did nothing wrong and I acted appropriately, and even the family of the child was grateful for the care I provided (so why do I feel so guilty?) — weighs so heavily on my shoulders that even if I provide flawless care for the remainder of my career, I will not be able, upon my retirement, to consider my lifelong work anything but mediocre. Though this happened many years ago, the experience is just too painful for me to talk about other than in these very general terms.

    Again, thank you so much for your comments. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors.

    Peter Palmieri, M.D.

    • mamamara says:

      Thank you for your reply and thank you for this book. It really made me think about my own children’s care as well as my own. I’ve been guilty of the “are you sure he doesn’t need an antibiotic”, I’m afraid, even though I know better. (I’m happy to note that our pediatrician usually says yes, he’s sure.)

      I hear you about the difficulties in getting published. I’m always astounded by the crap that gets published, while great books sit on hard drives. I do think that self-publishing can work and I hope that this book makes it out there, because I think you’ve made a lot of points we need to be discussing.

      As an editor, I salute you for doing the job this well without an editor’s help 😀 A lot of folks simply couldn’t have managed it. (And the majority of the typos and awkward phrases are things that only an anal-retentive editor like me would notice.) I’ve been pondering how I would have suggested you solve the “arrogance” (and I know that’s not how you meant to sound) problem. I think I might have wanted to take a look at some of the vignettes written with imaginary doctors. Maybe that might have worked. Or maybe you did it exactly right and there *is* no solution. But really, it is just a quibble, honest. Each of the vignettes was great on its own.

      As for why you feel guilty…well, I hear you. I’ve got things like that and I’m not even responsible for any lives other than my two children!

      Good luck with the book!


    • Ped Doc says:

      Dear Dr Palmieri,

      I have just read your book, and wanted to say “thank you” for coming up with such an excellent publication. I felt as though you read my thoughts about several of the issues that you detailed. Specifically, antibiotic usage for conditions such as Bronchitis, Viral URIs and using Z-pack for middle ear infections. Relatively new to pediatric practice (graduated about a year ago), I have fought hard (spent a lot of time explaining pathology and etiology of these viral infections) with parents against inappropriate antibiotic use, only to receive more complaints and threats to take their kids to ER for antibiotics. My one other pet peeve is “recurrent croup” in older children. The child appears very well, without a single sign of respiratory distress and almost always parents want Steroids. Every time I was in situation, I asked these two questions: First of all, is this Croup? If the answer is “yes”, then why is this 1o year old getting recurrent croup? Even if it is croup, why do they always need steroids? Parents are so used to getting steroids and antibiotics for many self-limiting viral infections that some of them do not want see me again, because I do not give them steroids or antibiotics when they “want”.

      I am glad that there are other pediatricians who think along the same lines and do whats best for the kids. Certainly, I am not perfect, but I try to read and fill my knowledge gaps.

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