Interested in a career in public health? Lowell Community Health Center is hiring medical assistants and nurses.

Didn’t post until after yesterday’s session, but FYI.




April 26: Boston health news round up

Health writers on both ends of 135 Morrissey Boulevard have been busy — main Globe newsrofenway__1282224095_4483 (2)om to STAT down the hall:  From Stat;  from the Globe business desk. 

Stat shared this story with the print edition of Globe today: Lam, a 22-year-old aspiring doctor, is part of the fast-growing industry of medical scribes working in hospitals and clinics across the country. These scribes, often premed college students, help doctors with a dreaded task — checking boxes and typing words into electronic health records.

And both outlet covered yesterday’s disturbing FDA meeting. This is an ongoing story — desperate patients insist on FDA approval treatments despite lack of solid evidence of efficacy.

Video up soon: What are the public health implications of terrorism? This (Harvard School of Public Health) Forum — which took place a week after the 3rd anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings — asked what makes a society resilient in the face of attacks or perceived threats. Experts in homeland security, psychological resiliency, crisis leadership, and disaster preparedness and response participated. 

 Dumb question award: Boston Magazine: Should the Media Report on Health Research?  A good topic, but a bit too much to bite off in a blog post. For a more thorough analysis, see Health News Review, which this week looks at what happens when the media doesn’t report on Research

Health Wonk Review: Lots of blog commentary and an invitation you to this afternoon’s “blab” on health policy.

JAMA and Dartmouth on Mammograms <50

Gooz News summarizes an article on the USPSTF recommendation on mammography from the evidence-based medicine group at Dartmouth.  It is part of a group of  commentaries on the topic in the Journal of the American Medical Association — you need subscription or access via a library.

  • Without screening, 3.5 of 1000 women in their 40s will die of breast cancer over the next 10 years (ie, 996.5 of 1000 will not die of the disease).
  • Screening reduces the chance of breast cancer death from 3.5 to about 3 of 1000. In other words, 2000 women between 40 and 49 must be screened annually for the following ten years to save one life.
  • For most women with cancer, screening generally does not change the ultimate outcome; the cancer usually is just as treatable or just as deadly regardless of screening.

While the Dartmouth folks support the recommendations, JAMA also features pieces that question the task force findings, including a piece from Johns Hopkins.

Book review: A coffee enema for a health writer

UMass Med School pediatrician, Darshak Sanghavi — who also writes a column for Slate –trashes a new book on junk science by a noted New Yorker health writer in tomorrow’s NY Times Book Review.    

(Note that the book was favorably reviewed by another Slate writer)

..(T)here are two ways to deal with scientific illiteracy: take a long, hard look at the forces that repel so many from science, or throw up your hands and write people off as fools.

Michael Specter, a science and public health writer for The New Yorker, shows little interest in the first approach in his pugnacious new book, “Denialism,” which carries the ominous subtitle “How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives.” He devotes chapters to anti-­vaccine zealots, purveyors of organic foods, promoters of alternative medicines and opponents of race-based medicine, accusing each group of turning “away from reality in favor of a more comfortable lie.”

Doesn’t Harvard have an entire department devoted to this? Make sure you read their listing on Source Watch for the full picture of where they might be coming from.  


H1N1 Vaccine arrives in Mass

Update 10/15

The Globe reports on a hectic scence at one clinic.

Patients swarmed a flu shot clinic yesterday at a Jamaica Plain pediatric office, overwhelming medical officials providing H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines for children.

This from the state DPH: 

Although the H1N1 vaccine became available (and orders were placed) only late last week, we were very excited to learn that MA providers had already received their first shipments of H1N1 vaccine yesterday.  This was much faster than we anticipated, and it is great news.  Last night, we were assured by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they plan to continue this accelerated delivery schedule in order to get as much vaccine to people as soon as possible.

Hmong, Khmers and East meets West Medicine

The Times has a good story on the use of traditional healing in Western hospitals. I wrote a similar piece for The Boston Phoenix a few years back.

From the Times 

At Mercy Medical Center in Merced, where roughly four patients a day are Hmong from northern Laos, healing includes more than IV drips, syringes and blood glucose monitors. Because many Hmong rely on their spiritual beliefs to get them through illnesses, the hospital’s new Hmong shaman policy, the country’s first, formally recognizes the cultural role of traditional healers like Mr. Lee, inviting them to perform nine approved ceremonies in the hospital, including “soul calling” and chanting in a voice not to exceed three decibels.

I highly recommend the book mentioned in this story — The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. It’s a great example of well-written, book-length, narrative journalism.  

I had an editor tell me always be careful when you say — the first, biggest, tallest etc….

Here’s from my 2001 story about Cambodians in Lowell , which won a NE Press Associations award:

(S)ome American doctors are beginning to appreciate the value of alternative medicine and the healing power of prayer, and recognize that many Cambodian healing traditions can be traced to Buddhist practices and ancient Chinese medicine. Medical workers who serve these Khmer communities no longer try to force Western methods on immigrants. Instead, they are trying to understand Cambodian healing traditions, and to find ways to mesh them with modern medicine. The newly opened East-meets-West Metta Health Center in Lowell, for example, offers not only acupuncture but also cupping, a form of acupressure extremely popular in Cambodia in which heated glass bottles are applied to various regions of the body. And the clinic staff includes doctors, nurses, social workers, and a Cambodian expert in traditional healing.

Since I wrote this piece, more westerners have discovered cupping, a practice mentioned in my story. Now I’m sorry I didn’t try it when I lived in Cambodia in 1996. I spent the first two month there trying to figure out why some people walked around with red circles on their foreheads.

Aid groups built this well and supplied the bicycle to a child disabled by polio

State on back-to-school flu issues

From The Boston Globe

Massachusetts health authorities took the unprecedented step yesterday of deputizing dentists, paramedics, and pharmacists to help administer vaccines against both the seasonal flu and the novel swine strain expected to make a return visit in the fall.

From Mass DPH:

We continue our busy summer of planning for the fall flu season.  This week there was a great deal of emphasis on vaccination planning for seasonal influenza and also for novel H1N1 flu.  This year, because of expedited production, Massachusetts may see its supply of seasonal influenza vaccine earlier than ever.  It is likely that health care providers across the state could start vaccinating their patients for seasonal flu as early as the end of August.  This is important because while a vaccine for seasonal influenza won’t protect you from the new H1N1 flu, it WILL protect you from the seasonal flu — which will likely be circulating at the same time that H1N1 flu is circulating…

Simple Precautions to Help Stop the Spread of Flu Include:

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your inner elbow and not into your hands.
  • If you are sick stay home from work and if your child is sick keep them home for 7 days, or 24 hours after your symptoms go away—whichever is longer.
  • Stay informed about the latest developments on the H1N1 flu, by visiting