As I reflect on today’s protests against police brutality and racism, I’m reminded of a life-changing epiphany I experienced in 1999 at a medical conference. We were complaining about malpractice insurance premiums, for which some colleagues were paying more than $100,000 annually. In this discussion, one member stated that if we paid more attention to caring for our patients and less attention to our finances, everything would work out fine. After this, I became more focused on improving patient safety and reducing medical errors, especially during the birth process — and I believe the lessons I learned could help us as a society recognize racial biases and create lasting change. 


I’m using the imposed Covid break from my usual daily routine to take inventory on what truly matters and what does not. I spent time musing about big topics such as: if humanity reduces its footprint, nature will recover. I also did relatively benign things like going through my closet and lining up every T-shirt I own. It’s official: I have too many T-shirts!

Within a few weeks, the world came to a screeching halt. You would not know it if you were a farmer in India, untethered from the internet, but for most of the world the coronavirus is overshadowing the news and everybody’s daily life. The virus is not just attacking our lower respiratory system but our psyche, our values and our bank accounts. 

lastcallmarcoAccording to the MacArthur Foundation, by 2050 the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish — based on sheer tonnage. And it’s not just in the ocean: Recent reports have found microplastics in our bodies and the air we breathe. How did we get here? 

marcfIn these “modern” times, discerning the truth seems more challenging than ever. 

I analyzed why this appears to be the case and list the main facts that I believe contribute to this perception: 

DrRaymond LCoxI was in 10th grade when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. Five years later, in 1968, I was in college when Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated within two months of each other. I saw firsthand the profound unrest sweeping America as we grappled with the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and societal upheaval. 

But as a nation we were able to maintain the beliefs and values expressed so eloquently in our Constitution and Pledge of Allegiance. There was a sense that we would, eventually, find a way to accept everyone and to peacefully coexist.  

Feeling drained these days is easy. Despite a robust economy, we subliminally know there are bigger challenges that need solving and that we need to find the true American spirit again to focus our energy on positive outcomes. To this end, we asked our Last Call contributors to give us their personal takes on optimism.

There was a time when the California coast was full of sea life. 

In the 1950s, free-divers (divers not using oxygen tanks) collected generous amounts of huge lobsters off the state’s shores and routinely spear-fished big white sea bass in kelp forests. They also often caught less common blue water pelagic species such as deep Pacific wahoo, blue fin tunas larger than humans; broom-tail grouper weighing up to 207 pounds; hammerhead sharks; and black sea bass tipping the scales at more than 450 pounds. 

Not that long ago the answer was obvious. But today, with the advent of face recognition technology coupled with artificial intelligence, it’s not that clear anymore. 

Cameras can recognize our face, match it to an existing database, and then match all the personal data that has been collected about us (a lot more than we dare to admit). In the past we typically would only have given the Department of Motor Vehicles the permission to take a picture of our face in order to issue a driver’s license. But now any number of corporations will do the same without our permission in order to benefit from the data. 

marc frWe talk a lot about the value of education in the U.S. Every South Carolina governor’s commencement speech ever given contained a promise for better education, according to NPR.

But little is actually accomplished. And as a result, South Carolina still ranks 45th in the nation when it comes to education, according to the U.S. News & World Report.