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Latest Posts

Overheard From A Breast Oncologist

slimsmokes10241KFC and Komen? BucketsfortheCure.com? “Why don’t they just put a pink ribbon on a pack of cigarettes?”

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Pro-Test: Human Lives Improved By Responsible Animal Research

[On April 8th] at the University of California at Los Angeles, a rally [was] planned to raise awareness about the value of responsible animal research and to denounce acts of terrorism toward animal researchers and their families. The highlight of the “Pro-Test” rally [was] the presentation to legislators and the media a petition with nearly 12,000 signatures of scientists who support the use of animals in research.

The rally and the petition drive [was] a joint effort of Americans for Medical Progress, Pro-Test for Science, and Speaking of Research.

I stand together with my colleagues who conduct animal research in honor of their application of knowledge to advance biology and relieve human suffering, all while a growing movement of animal rights activists up the ante from protests to attacks on researchers, destruction of homes by arson, and even the vandalism of graves of researchers’ loved ones. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

From Drug Addict To Grad School: This Is Why I Blog

Last July we wrote about the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing and spoke of Buzz Aldrin’s autobiography about his battle with alcoholism in the years following. The post drew a comment from a reader who I’ve renamed “Anon.” It read:

Thank you so much for this post.

I am a recovering drug addict and am in the process of applying to graduate programs. I have a stellar GPA, have assisted as an undergraduate TA, and have been engaged in research for over a year. I also have a felony and was homeless for 3 years.

I don’t hide my recovery from people once I know them, but I sometimes, especially at school, am privy to what people think of addicts when they don’t know one is sitting next to them. It scares me to think of how to discuss my past if asked at an admissions interview. Or whether it will keep me from someday working at a university.

I’ve seen a fair amount of posts on ScienceBlogs concerning mental health issues and academia, but this is the first I’ve seen concerning humanizing addiction and reminding us that addiction strikes a certain amount of the population regardless of status, family background or intelligence.

I really appreciate this post. Thank you.

While I’m not a substance abuse researcher, many drugs of abuse come from my research area (natural products) — think cocaine, morphine and other opiates. I also have special compassion for folks with the biochemical predisposition to substance dependence, as I come from a long line of alcoholics, including my beloved father who I lost way too early. 

With that said, I’m sure you understand how Anon’s comment hit me and how grateful I was for her appreciation. So moving, in fact, that I raised her comment to its own post. Since many of you are in academia and serve on graduate admissions committees, I figured you’d have some good advice for her. Well, you did. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Potassium And Exercise: Sports Drink Or Orange Juice?

As I stutter through recovery from LungMutiny2010, I’m paying more attention to my diet. So as I try to go out for my 10-minute walk everyday, I still drink some sports drink — usually Gatorade made from the massive vat of powder you can buy at Costco.

We tend to get plenty of sodium in our diet — far too much in the U.S. actually — but I always worry about potassium when I’m sweating (Disclaimer: I am not an exercise physiologist or a cardiovascular or nephrology physician.)

I always thought that the widely-sold sports drinks were the best sources of potassium outside of eating bananas or some dried fruits. I was surprised to learn that an 8-ounce serving of orange juice contains 18-fold more potassium than an 8-ounce serving of Gatorade® (450 mg vs. 25 mg). Who knew? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

Slow Love: Job Loss, Depression, Pajamas, And Happiness

Slow Love.jpgFrom the “unsubstantiated evidence” files, I wanted to share with you a quick light that popped on in my head while reading a much-discussed article from last weekend’s New York Times Magazine.

In it, former House & Garden magazine editor Dominique Browning vividly shares her experiences following the folding of the magazine in 2007. This long-form essay is adapted from her upcoming book, Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas, and Found Happiness.

Much can be discussed about her experiences, but I was particularly struck by the account of her response to her newfound freedom:

“In this way, being unemployed is a lot like being depressed. You know how there are millions (O.K., a handful) of things you swear you would do if you only had the time? Now that I had all the time in the world — except for the hours during which I was looking for work — to read, write, watch birds, travel, play minor-key nocturnes, have lunch with friends, train a dog, get a dog, learn to cook, knit a sweater, iron the napkins and even the sheets, I had absolutely no energy for any of it. It made no difference that music and books and nature had long been the mainstays of my spirit. Just thinking about them exhausted me. I had absolutely zero experience in filling weeks — what if it became years? — with activity of my own choosing. Being unemployed meant being unoccupied, literally. I felt hollow.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Terra Sigillata*

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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