How Healthcare Might Be Like Garlic

Cheryl Clark, August 4, 2011

On vacation last week, I took a drive up the California coast to Gilroy for the famous Garlic Festival, a raucous celebration of the summer harvest of "the stinking rose."

Frankly, I wanted to get my mind away from the debt ceiling debate, healthcare reform, and the regulatory challenges facing hospitals and doctors—at least for a bit. I wanted to learn about garlic, its growing season, storage tricks, the best grating and cooking strategies, and which species have the most allicin, the ingredient aligned with its potency.

I'll get to how this all relates to healthcare quality in a second.

Yes, I tasted delicious garlic ice cream, devoured garlic scampi, garlic calamari, sampled garlic dips, consumed several pieces of garlic bread, and even sipped a garlic martini. And I talked with growers and processers, potters who design plates on which to shave the cloves for maximum flavor, and listened intently to several gourmet garlic cooks. It's only fitting that Gilroy, home of the largest supplier of California garlic, calls itself the "Garlic Capital of the World."

I do love garlic.

Despite this gastronomic paradise, I can attest now—in a way impossible before—that there is such a thing as too much garlic.

That's similar to the message we seem to be hearing in healthcare these days. Sometimes, and with increasing frequency, we learn there can be too much care, because we're finding out with chagrin that a lot of what doctors and hospitals have been doing has been unnecessary, and even sometimes harmful.


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