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Pregnant Journalist Strip Searched And X-Rayed Three Times

Like most pregnant women Lynsey Addario was cautious and conscientious. After all, this was her first pregnancy. She called the border officials in advance to make certain that she would not have to walk through an X-ray machine when she entered a country that has been besieged by war for more than 60 years. Unfortunately, Addario was wrong. Dead wrong. She was scanned, not once. Not twice. But THREE times and then made to strip down to her underwear. The soldiers laughed each time she complained. What was so funny? Her 28-week pregnant belly? Or perhaps her vulnerability.

As an American photojournalist with a Pulitzer Prize under her belt, Addario is not immune to danger. She had first-hand experience while on an assignment for The New York Times in March of 2011. At that time, she along with four other journalists went missing for four days in Libya.  They were ultimately released but not before Addario was allegedly groped and humiliated by Libyan soldiers. In May 2009 she broke her collar bone in a motor vehicle accident in Pakistan where another passenger was injured and the driver was killed. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr. Linda Burke-Galloway*

Can Medical Clowning Improve In Vitro Success?

Following from the somewhat common sense idea that women who were less stressed during in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer (IVF-ET) had better outcomes, the journal Fertility and Sterility published a study out of Israel that claims “medical clowning” improved pregnancy rates compared to a group not exposed to a clown on the day of implantation.

From the abstract:

This experimental prospective quasi-randomized study examining the impact of a medical clowning encounter after ET after IVF found that the pregnancy rate in the intervention group was 36.4%, compared with 20.2% in the control group (adjusted odds ratio, 2.67; 95% confidence interval, 1.36–5.24). Medical clowning as an adjunct to IVF-ET may have a beneficial effect on pregnancy rates and deserves further investigation.

In the methods section, the researchers describe the study design. For the intervention group (n=110) a “professional medical clown” visited the patient immediately after the procedure for about 15 minutes and performed the same routine including “jokes, tricks, and magic” while dressed as a chef.

While the study itself only uses one routine, presumably similar effects could be experienced by a patient bringing in a personal media device and watching something they know will amuse them right after their own procedure. Hopefully, no need to bring your own clown if the office won’t provide one for you. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

A New Twist On Food Allergies In Kids

The current New Yorker unfolds an engaging story on childhood food allergies. As related by Dr. Jerome Groopman, there’s a shift in how some doctors think about how these conditions  are best managed and, even better — might be prevented. The article feeds into recent discussion that medical science, and even dogma, too-often turns out to be incorrect.

Groopman interviews Dr. Hugh Sampson, director of the Jae Food Allergy Institute at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York:

…“This increase in the incidence of food allergy is real,” Sampson said when we spoke recently. He cannot say what is causing the increase, but he now thinks the conventional approach to preventing food allergies is misconceived. For most of his career, he believed, like most allergists, that children are far less likely to become allergic to problematic foods if they are not exposed to them as infants. But now Sampson and other specialists believe that early exposure may actually help prevent food allergies.”

I recommend the full read if you can get it: Groopman probes potential causes of discordant food allergy rates in children of different geographic regions. I learned a number of details on how some doctors in the U.S. use protein-breakdown methods to desensitize children to food allergies, how in Israel newly-speaking infants are said to ask eagerly for Bamba, a manufactured, peanut-containing snack (which, for the record, I don’t particularly endorse), and how in some cultures parents chew their young children’s food in a manner that might that might facilitate breakdown of complex proteins by enzymes in saliva.

All interesting. Of course it’s hard to know exactly what’s true in this, and the causes of allergies are likely to vary among children. There’s a randomized LEAP study (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) in the U.K. that may provide some hard evidence on this, one way or another.

*This blog post was originally published at Medical Lessons*

Detecting Depression In Online Text And Blogs

In a Thought Police kind of way, a new computer program can detect depression through your online writing.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, in Beer-Sheva, Israel, have developed a program that detects depression in text without obvious terms like “depression” or “suicide.” In a sample of 200 positively-identified texts out of 300,000 which were screened by the program, there was a 78 percent agreement between the program and a panel of psychologists. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

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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