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In The News: Political Doctors, Antibiotic Resistance, And Stem Cell Research

Medical organizations are donating heavily to doctors running for the U.S. House. Dentists, ophthalmologists, radiologists, surgeons, neurologists and ENTs have contributed heavily. The goal is to get doctors onto committees where they can have the most impact. So far, the candidates have trended heavily Republican and have, in at least one campaign, vowed to overturn healthcare reform. The stakes are high if opposing legislators succeed, because they could underfund or block portions of reform to the point that it works poorly or not at all. (Politico, New England Journal of Medicine)

Spurred by antibiotic resistance seen in almost every drug class, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, FACP, is turning the agency’s attention toward animal feed. With little to no development of new antibiotics in the pipeline, the agency is discussing regulations for animal feed and guidelines for human use. (Wall Street Journal)

Scientists should be able to use stem cells for biomedical research, according to a recent Harris Interactive/HealthDay poll. Almost three quarters of adults surveyed are in favor of using embryonic stem cells left over from in-vitro fertilization. These poll results remain consistent with a similar survey released in 2005. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Internist*

Quality Of Life And The Importance Of “Shay Days”

As a medical professional who often treats children with chronic diseases, my patients turn to me not only for treatment advice but often for advice on how to improve their quality of life. I often have difficulty addressing the latter as there is a paucity of research on quality of life outcomes as compared to biomedical outcomes.

However, preliminary data from DR Walker et al. (1) have shown that comprehensive disease management improves quality of life and thereby reduces medical costs for some common chronic illnesses. Recently, a patient shared a story with me that was written by an anonymous author which demonstrates the powerful effect of seemingly small efforts on the quality of life of a disabled child. Read more »

Synthetic Life Created: The First “Micro-Avatar”

For the first time in history, a living organism has been manufactured with the help of a computer-generated genome. Dr. Jon LaPook reports on the groundbreaking discovery’s widespread implications.


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The First Micro-Avatar

Craig Venter and his team of scientists recently announced that they had created the first “synthetic cell” — a bacterium controlled by genetic material that they had designed on a computer and concocted from four bottles of chemicals. This is the closest thing to creating life that has happened outside of a science-fiction movie. If it doesn’t fire your imagination, then you should fire your imagination.

Basically, what Venter et al did was remove the “brain” (the genetic material that runs the cell) from one species of bacteria (Mycoplasma capricolum) and inserted a new brain — one synthetically created based very closely on the known genetic makeup of a second species of bacteria (Mycoplasma mycoides). The new organism then divided just as a normal cell would and followed the instructions of the new brain. Think micro-Avatar, except that the Avatar’s body morphs into one designed by its new brain. Read more »

Why Is It Taboo For Doctors To Discuss Death With Patients?

Back in the day when I was a newspaper reporter I completed a biomedical ethics fellowship at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, VA. In addition to sitting in on the hospital’s bioethics committee discussions, I spent much of the week shadowing a nurse in the ICU.

They called her the Death Nurse because her job was to intervene with doctors, nurses, patients and families when the time came for a patient to move from the ICU to hospice. While her title was Supportive Care, she flat out told her me her job was to help people die; not actively, but from behind the scenes by helping patients and those caring for them understand when the time had come to move from curative care to supportive care (email me if you’d like a copy of the article I wrote about her). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Debra Gordon on Medical Writing (and other medical topics of interest)*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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