Demystifying Medicine One Month at a Time

Local Flavors

stuff of legends

Moving is never easy–especially leaving behind family, friends, and patients that you care about, and a workplace that provided opportunities to grow.

One of the more interesting aspects, though, is comparing and contrasting the old and new places.

People often stop me on the street and ask, “Hey, Glass–how do you like Oklahoma?”

  • “Don’t you miss Chicago?”
  • “Are there any differences between the two?”
  • “What about the health care?”

Politics aside, three things are starkly different about life in Oklahoma vs. life in Chicago.

For me, the big three are

  1. Oil
  2. Native Americans
  3. Meth

These three cultural/social/economic touchstones are woven through the fabric of everyday life here, “where the Midwest, South, and Southwest collide.”

I knew (and still know, though my learning curve is steep) nothing about oil beyond liberal pieties on fossil fuels, OPEC, and global warming. Oklahoma (and much of the continental U.S.) is felt to be newly awash in petroleum reserves due to the technological advances in drilling and extraction. Horizontal drilling and fracking have changed the game. Fracking is in play as a political issue (I imagine, in large part due to works like Jonathan Franzen’s “Freedom,” and controversy over whether or not it can pollute ground water and/or cause earthquakes…), and until I learn more, I will steer clear of editorial comment. For now.

Oklahoma has only been a state since 1907. Before that, it was known as Oklahoma Territory. The Trail of Tears gave multiple Native American tribes new homelands here, which are still present. Oklahoma is home to more Native Americans than any other state (Alaska has more per capita, 13% of its population). As such, they have important impact on the state’s culture, politics and economy.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma is also a leader in both production and use of methamphetamine. Stories about meth in local media tend to come in spurts, usually related to crimes or busts committed over the stuff. That and becoming addicted to the series “Breaking Bad” have raised this issue into my consciousness as a severe public health problem.

Regarding health care, know that the major reason we moved here was the challenge of working to improve the health of one of the least healthy states in the U.S. This topic is fodder for future posts, but I’ll leave you with one cultural difference:

Whereas in Chicago people in need of chronic pain medication would favor the opioid Vicodin, here people flatly refuse the stuff and instead demand Lortab.

I consider it strange since medicinally speaking, they’re exactly the same thing.


  1. Justine

    Great post. Can’t wait to hear more.

  2. Susan Blumberg-Kason

    Interesting contrast. I’m sure it is a challenge to change a culture, or at least alter it a bit. Your patients are lucky to have you.

  3. Aidan

    I don’t want to sound like an addict, my good friend, but isn’t Lortab the same thing as Vicodin? Or maybe my naivete will prove I am not an addict.

    One thing that is different? No cinnamon rolls.

    • glasshospital

      There are some pale imitations–but nothing like yours. 😉
      Yes indeedy–Lortab same as Vicodin–my point exactly about local culture. Why folks prefer one or the other I can’t grasp. It’s a street value thing, we guess.

  4. jen

    I found in WI a culture of alcohol where bars are open at all times of the day and kids can drink underage if their parents and waitstaff agree (seriously it is a law here still on the books!), a culture of people that rarely leave the state, a Harley motorcycle way of life, a state struggling b/w red and blue, and a patient population largely asking for percocet.

    • glasshospital

      Fascinating. Not the vision of Wisconsin often portrayed in histories of it as a cradle of progressive/socialist candidates or media portraits focused on labor and overturning that collective bargaining ban. Thanks for sharing.

  5. CMG

    Oil, Native Americans, and Meth…not a slogan the Oklahoma tourism board is especially likely to adopt, eh?

  6. Marlena Schattschneid


  7. sunetra

    So, your saying “stay in Chicago” ?

  8. jacobd

    Just found your blog. Great read. I’ll add it to my RSS feed. It’s kind of strange there are a lot of Breaking Bad fans in medicine.

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