Health-related events at Cambridge, Massachusetts Science Festival #CambSciFest

A few selections. More here.


11:00am – 1:00pm

One More Cup of Coffee
MIT Museum, 265 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge

Hear MIT professor Sandy Pentland, Harvard researcher Daniel Chasman, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center physician Sanjiv Chopra spill the beans about their separate studies on the social, molecular, or physiological effects of coffee. And, awaken your senses while speaking with experts from Flour Bakery+Cafe, Darwin’s Ltd., and Aeronaut Brewery about the finer aspects of their brews. Sampling is encouraged!

Cost: Free with Museum admission


11:00am – 2:00pm

Behind the Beaker, Beyond the Machines: Cancer Research at MIT
Koch Institute at MIT, 500 Main Street, Cambridge

Meet the people who are changing the face of cancer research.Featuring highlights from MIT’s groundbreaking cancer research program, this interactive showcase offers students and adults alike the opportunity to engage with the interdisciplinary initiatives that lead to new understandings and new treatments for this deadly family of diseases. The event will include hands-on mini-lab activities led by biologists and engineers, group activities and scavenger hunts, and opportunities to talk with MIT researchers about their pioneering discoveries and inventions.

Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT

Cost: Free

12:00pm – 1:00pm
Medical Simulation @ MGH 
Paul S. Russell, MD Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital, 2 North Grove St., Boston

Learn how realistic robot simulators are transforming education and training in the health professions. In this hands-on demonstration by the MGH Learning Laboratory, participants will be introduced to high-fidelity patient simulation, an experiential learning approach that allows health care providers to “practice” medicine in a completely risk-free environment.

Cost: Free

1:00pm – 2:30pm
Tours of Spaulding National Running Center
Spaulding Outpatient Center 1575 Cambridge St. Cambridge

The Spaulding National Running Center is one of the premier sites in the country for the evaluation, treatment and prevention of running-related, musculoskeletal injuries. During the tour, you’ll hear about the studies being done by the SNRC on running biomechanics, and tour their state of the art laboratory and motion analysis equipment they use to assess running form.

Tours are approximately 45 minutes and start at 1 PM, 1:15 PM, 1:30 PM, and 1:45 PM.

More details…

Cost: Free, registration required at:

2 Boston studies: Breast cancer costs and medical records benefits

After pushing mammograms for years, breast cancer advocates have had a hard time pulling back. Still the evidence keep piling up that message about surviving breast cancer is more complicated than early detection.  What this study by Boston researchers doesn’t measure: the scores of women who say — If there’s a chance it’s cancer, I want to know.  From the AP, in the back pages of the Globe A section; buried in the web site.

Sharpening a medical debate about the costs and benefits of cancer screening, a new report estimates that the United States spends $4 billion a year on unnecessary medical costs due to mammograms that generate false alarms, and on treatment of certain breast tumors unlikely to cause problems.

On a lighter note, another study centers on the benefits of giving patients their own records. From the NYTimes.

ONC_PSA_BannerAd_300x250_Red_Button_1Some of the most advanced medical centers are starting to make medical information more available to patients. Brigham and Women’s, where Mr.  (Steven) Keating had his surgery, is part of the Partners HealthCare Group, which now has 500,000 patients with web access to some of the information in their health records including conditions, medications and test results.

Other medical groups are beginning to allow patients online access to the notes taken by physicians about them, in an initiative called OpenNotes. In a yearlong evaluation project at medical groups in three states, more than two-thirds of the patients reported having a better understanding of their health and medical conditions, adopting healthier habits and taking their medications as prescribed more regularly.

Here’s the Globe’s take.

Some patient advocates have been pushing for this for years, and having a little fun with it.

Are Facebook rankings of hospitals accurate? Two studies say yes

From Health Leaders Media:

childrens-facebookIn the era of the engaged patient, consumers shop around for healthcare services. When it comes to hospitals, they could consult several ratings programs for information on readmissions and hospital-acquired infection rates.

But data shows they don’t do so in big numbers.

One reason may be that quality measures familiar to providers may mean little to patients. Now, a study suggests that healthcare consumers may be able to find reliable data on hospitals quality in a familiar place – Facebook.

A Massachusetts General Hospital study has found that hospitals with lower 30-day readmissions rates have higher ratings on Facebook than hospitals with high readmission rates.

“The potential impact of social media ratings on healthcare consumer decision-making must not be underestimated in this changing healthcare environment,” say the authors of a study published online by the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

What is wrong with medical research? Boston health writers raise important questions


Do we need evidence-based evidence? How effective is our medical research system? What are we getting for the $30 billion that goes into university and hospital labs? Here are a couple of stories from local writers with some discouraging answers to those questions.

Carolyn Johnson’s piece on poor quality of medical research was tucked under the Globe’s Sunday editorial urging Elizabeth Warren to run for president. If only it could get as much attention:

Evidence of a quiet crisis in science is mounting. A growing chorus of researchers worry that far too many findings in the top research journals can’t be replicated. “There’s a whole groundswell of awareness that a lot of biomedical research is not as strongly predictive as you think it would be,” said Dr. Kevin Staley, an epilepsy researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. “People eventually become aware because there’s a wake of silence after a false positive result,” he added. The same is true in every field of science, from neuroscience to stem cells.

Ideally, science builds on and corrects itself. In practice, the incentives facing scientists can hamper the process. It’s more exciting and advantageous to publish a new therapeutic approach for a disease than to revisit a past discovery. Yet unless researchers point out the limitations of one another’s work, the scientific literature can end up cluttered with results that are partially or, in some cases, not at all true.

Recently, researchers and the US government alike have sought to assess how much research is irreproducible — and why — and are looking for systematic ways to retest experiments that make headlines but yield no further progress.

Her story follows a piece by another local writer on how stem cell research has not yet delivered on its promises. Karen Weintraub’s piece was in the New York Times in September.     

Stem cells broke into the public consciousness in the early 1990s, alluring for their potential to help the body beat back diseases of degeneration like Alzheimer’s, and to grow new parts to treat conditions like spinal cord injuries.

Progress has been slow. The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, an early supporter of stem cell research, pulled much of its financial backing two years ago, saying that it preferred to invest in research that was closer to providing immediate help for Parkinson’s disease patients.

But researchers have been slowly learning how to best use stem cells, what types to use and how to deliver them to the body — findings that are not singularly transformational, but progressive and pragmatic.

Finally, don’t miss this week’s Health Wonk Review, a digest of health policy blog posts.

“We punish sick people”: Doctors launch campaign to limit unnecessary care

The Boston-based Lown Institute just wrapped up it’s annual meeting, mercifully in California instead of here in the slowly melting tundra. Cheryl Clark at Health Leaders Media reports: 

It’s not that far a stretch to call the Boston-based Lown Institute’s burgeoning “Right Care, Right Now” movement a kind of 60s-style medico-political protest march against healthcare overutilization and misuse…

Indeed, during the group’s three-day conference in San Diego this week, the keynote talks were speckled with these phrases:

  • Healthcare industry “greed”
  • “A new counter culture movement”
  • “Toxic hierarchy”
  • “Medical industrial complex”
  • “Perverse incentives”

These distinguished physicians say they’ve become intolerably frustrated by a system they are part of, but desperately want to change.

More from the campaign website:

Declaration of Principles of the
Right Care Alliance


  • Modern medicine offers important benefits, yet it also has the capacity to cause harm;
  • Those harms arise from three central failings of medical systems: the overuse, underuse, and misuse of medical services. Of these, overuse – including overdiagnosis, overtreatment, and the use of ineffective, unnecessary, and unwanted medical tests and treatments – has received the least attention;
  • Overuse is common and tacitly accepted in modern health care.
  • Overuse exposes patients to harm, including the risk of serious injury or death, suffering, and financial ruin, with little or no possibility of benefit.
  • Overuse diverts resources from the provision of needed care, and crowds out investment in social services, education, nutrition, and other non-medical contributors to health;
  • The health care industry puts money before people and allows personal and commercial interests to distort clinical decisions, thus betraying patients’ trust.
  • Clinicians and health care leaders have an ethical obligation to protect patients from the harms of both underuse and overuse.

Therefore we, the signatories of this document, declare that performing unnecessary medical tests and treatments is unethical and unacceptable. We join the call for the medical profession to renew its sense of duty and commitment to patients. We call on health care leaders to recognize their ethical obligation to put patient care first. We call on civil society to advocate for a medical system that is affordable, effective, rational, personal, and just.

Gluten, hoarding and reading: Boston health and medicine events for week of 3/9

Selections from the Boston Science and Engineering calendar Please double check times.


Noon.  “Demystifying Drug Development.”   Jonathan Hurov.   BWH:  Carrie Hall Conference Room.  Details, Registration.

Noon.  “Reading and the Brain: A Workshop.”   Joanna Christodoulou.   Harvard School of Education:  Longfellow Hall 320, 13 Appian Way.   Details, RSVP.


6p.  “High-Tech Med: The newest wave of medical innovation.”   A panel discussion.   Follow events live on #HMSminimed.   HMS:  Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur.  Details, Registration.

6 – 8p.  “Is There Still Room for Gluten?  Separating Science from Supposition.”   Alessio Fasano.   Russell Museum of Medical History, 2 North Grove Street.   Details.

SOLD OUT 6p.  “Decade of Discovery.”   Celebrating 10 years of groundbreaking science on stage.   Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave.   Details, Tickets.


6p.  “High-Tech Med: The newest wave of medical innovation.”   A panel discussion.   Follow events live on #HMSminimed.   HMS:  Joseph B. Martin Conference Center, 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur.  Details, Registration.

6 – 8p.  “Is There Still Room for Gluten?  Separating Science from Supposition.”   Alessio Fasano.   Russell Museum of Medical History, 2 North Grove Street.   Details.

7 – 9p.  “The Air We Breathe: An assessment of urban air pollution“.   Jordan Wilkerson.   Harvard:  Pfizer Hall, 12 Oxford St.   Details.


Noon.  “Overflowing and Overwhelming: Treating Hoarding Disorder.”   Gail Stekette.   McLean Hospital:    Details.


10:30a.  “Spring into Health.”   Rhoda Kubrick, Arboretum Docent.   Arnold Arboretum, Hunnewell Bldg.   Details, Abstract, Registration.

If you can’t join them, beat them: BIDMC in takes over Milton hospital

When the Harvard hospitals decided to join forces as Partners, they cut BIDMC out of the deal. So, this story from the Globe  – on Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital-Milton –is worth noting:

partnersdownloadConsolidation in the health care industry has been viewed with suspicion, leaving critics worried that the state’s biggest health care networks want to leverage increased market power into higher rates. Partners HealthCare, the largest health care system in Massachusetts, recently abandoned its bid to acquire South Shore Hospital in Weymouth in the face of such criticism and a ruling from a judge who said Partners’ growth would raise costs for consumers.

…The Milton case shows how consolidation — though it often increases costs to consumers — can also offer a lifeline to a struggling hospital. The brand alone of a big Boston health care network can be a powerful force, analysts said.



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