Goal is just to educate patients more fully

The Nov. 19 Letter of the Day stated that "a 'government panel' has decreed that women in their 40s no longer need to bother with annual mammograms, I didn't believe in death panels. Now I do."

The writer, and others believing that the guidelines from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force will deny women access to mammograms, need to step back from the media-fueled sound bites and look at the actual recommendations.

The guideline clearly states: "The USPSTF recommends against routine screening mammography in women aged 40 to 49 years. The decision to start regular, biennial screening mammography before the age of 50 years should be an individual one and take into account patient context, including the patient's values regarding specific benefits and harms."

What does that mean? It means that a mammogram should not be ordered as a reflex when a woman turns 40. Rather, the physician should talk to the patient about the benefits and risks of screening, and make sure that an understanding of both has been reached. Then, using that information, the patient and her doctor should decide how she wants to proceed -- screen now or defer to a later date.

In short, we should be practicing medicine based on evidence, but relying on an informed patient when a choice has to be made regarding an intricate balance of risks and benefits.

Allowing the patient to choose based on evidence, rather than dictating "this is what you need to do" hardly seems like a death panel.



There was a time when they worked together

Retired Roman Catholic Archbishop Harry J. Flynn takes both me and the Star Tribune to task for "statements and actions attributed" to him in the Nov. 17 article "Gays reject church's attempts to 'cure' them." In particular, Flynn labels as "pure fabrication" the claim attributed to me that he personally approached the Catholic Pastoral Committee on Sexual Minorities (CPCSM) in the late-1990s and requested that this organization be a resource for the archdiocese.

I regret such a claim was printed but nevertheless maintain I was misquoted.

What I attempted to convey was that throughout the 1980s and up until the late 1990s, certain parishes and the archdiocesan program Catholic Education and Formation Ministries (CEFM) approached CPCSM, an independent, grass-roots coalition, and requested that it share its experience and expertise in ministry with gay people.

In the case of CEFM, Archbishop Flynn was aware that this particular archdiocesan program had approached and was working with CPCSM on a Safe Schools Initiative for gay students in Catholic high schools. This collaboration took place in the 1990s.

I empathize with Archbishop Flynn's annoyance at having statements wrongly attributed to him, but I'm also disappointed that he chose not to set the record straight and acknowledge the reality that there was a time when the archdiocese, if not the archbishop personally, collaborated with CPCSM.



It can give students a goal to work toward

Regarding the Nov. 16 article "Teachers can't post top scores," while I understand the concept of data privacy, I am concerned. I do not post student test/project scores. I do, however, have a "leader board." I simply look for a natural curve of the best of the best and post their names in alphabetical order on the day I hand back a major test or project. The names differ from time to time. There is a pure and simple goal of sparking motivation. I mention that these are students who are finding success; perhaps you might ask them how they do it, study together, etc.

Last year, I had a student with a fourth-grade reading level in ninth grade who made it her goal to be on the leader board for a test. Guess what? It happened. Please be careful with laws and rulings.