What’s in a Name?


How can we know when seemingly insignificant events in our life will impact our lives in ways we do not foresee? We can never know; it is only years later, when we look back and gain perspective do we gain appreciation.  The experience I would like to share was not earth-shaking or what one might describe as particularly profound; rather, it was merely one of those light, amusing life experiences.  Nonetheless, it was an experience that I recall with a smile, and an experience that has helped my vision in naming this blog.

It was 2006. My wife, son and I stepped forth from our rented apartment on the first day of a long awaited trip to Italy. Gabe had been studying the Renaissance in his elementary school “challenge class” and Anne and I had, in the distant past, both had formative experiences in childhood or college while in Europe. It had been many years since we had been in Europe, and it was Gabe’s first time.

It was a bright beautiful morning in May. We walked down a bustling street in Rome, and looking for a place for breakfast, we spied a busy cafe and entered to sights of wonderful looking pastries and the rich smell of espresso. We pointed, smiled and attempted a word or two of very rudimentary Italian to indicate which pastries we were interested in. And then I ordered my coffee.

Anyone who knows me knows I like coffee. I drink a fair amount of coffee, but it is not as though I drink pots and pots of it.  I like it strong, I like it black,  and I like it in those tiny little espresso cups so I can savor it, nice and hot.  Upon first glance at the small espresso coffee cups in the Italian cafe that day in 2006, it was quickly apparent to me that even a “double” espresso was not going to be adequate; so I ordered a “triple.”

“Tre?! Tre?! No, doppio. ”  The Italian man said, shaking his head emphatically.

I learned right away that a “triple espresso” was not allowed. Judging by the look of surprise in his eyes, it was as if I had asked the impossible. It was single or double. I attempted to explain that I really did want a triple espresso; but no, sorry, a triple was just not an option.  I ordered a double (doppio) espresso, enjoyed it immensely, and  then went on to order another double espresso.

This experience was one of those funny little events that happen while traveling. I’ll never forget the look of surprise in the Italian man’s face as I asked for that triple espresso. I didn’t know it at the time, but the stage had been set for “Triple Espresso MD” to be born. Not long ago,  Anne and I were bouncing different names for the blog off each other, and perhaps because we were once again traveling in Europe, in a moment of inspiration she exclaimed, “Triple Espresso MD!”  It was instantly clear she had hit upon the perfect name for my blog.

I think it is safe to say that proposing a “triple” espresso that day in Rome was not exactly a brilliant insight or a think-outside-the-box new idea. I merely wanted what I thought was an adequate amount of coffee. Still, “triple espresso” symbolizes to me an attempt to look at issues a little differently, from a fresh and creative perspective. In addition, the name is imbued with a sense of humor and makes me smile. And of course, lets not forget that espressos are packed with energy; it is my hope that this blog energizes readers to live a healthy life.

“Triple Espresso MD” is a place for creative and fresh perspectives on health and medicine. I you enjoy it as much as I enjoy my espresso!

Lost Stories


img_2661Not far from the busy pedestrian streets in the center of Vienna, down a quiet narrow street, lies a small cobblestoned city square. Before World War II, this city neighborhood was the bustling, vibrant heart of Vienna’s Jewish Quarter, but today it is has a quiet, almost subdued feeling. Vienna’s current Jewish population is only a small fraction of what it was before the war, and the quiet feel of the square reflects this.

At one end of the square is a memorial to the thousands of Jewish individuals who lost their lives during the Holocaust. At first glance, the memorial looks like a huge square concrete block, oversized and awkwardly placed in an otherwise well-proportioned city square. As one approaches however, the details become more clear: the memorial is a library of books. But in contrast to how books are normally displayed, the books are turned inward such that the spines are in the center of the concrete block, hidden from view. Walking the perimeter of the memorial, the observer sees only the outer edges of the pages – no spines to reveal the titles or authors.

To view this memorial is thought provoking and very moving. The library symbolizes the lost stories of the Holocaust: humanity lost scientists, poets, artists, musicians, teachers – countless unique individuals who possessed knowledge, gifts, and skills that could have added to the diverse richness of humanity.  A library of humanity, knowledge and gifts, hidden from view and lost forever.

The image of the Jewish Memorial and the feelings it brought forth washed over me as I read about the many ways in which the medical profession – and human health – has benefited from the natural world. Many important, life saving medicines are derived from plants and animals in nature. For example, blood pressure and diabetes medications, cancer treatments, and blood thinners all are derived from chemicals discovered within plants or animals. In addition, modern medicine has looked to the natural world for inspiration and models for many significant advances.

However, this rich and diverse fund of knowledge – this library – is disappearing at an alarming rate. Biologists warn that Earth is losing species at an unprecedented rate, such that our current era has been called “the sixth extinction.” With every lost plant or animal, humanity  loses unique tools, lessons and examples that could help human health. In addition, as we lose biodiversity, we also become less able to adapt to changes in our environment, becoming handicapped in our ability to respond to new diseases.

Much of the Holocaust occurred while the world’s nations looked the other way, ignoring the unprecedented loss of life. Similarly, as species disappear on a daily basis in today’s world, most of us go about our daily life, attention turned elsewhere.  Humanity can not afford to ignore this destruction of the natural world. Human health will increasingly suffer from the loss of knowledge the natural world offers, and just as countless human stories were lost during the holocaust, we will lose the stories from nature that could help us live a healthy life.

There is not a simple solution to halt our current loss of biodiversity, but we all must do what we can. Every little bit helps; we can drive less, recycle, and support  laws, politicians, and businesses that value the environment, for example.

The time for action is now. The health of the natural world and the health of humans are intimately intertwined, and ultimately will enjoy or suffer the same fate.