Inaugural Humanism Day Conference – Last chance to register!

It’s the last call to register for the Inaugural NJMS Humanism Day Conference, on Wednesday, March 14 in Newark, NJ. Please join us for a day of free workshops and presentations, featuring keynote speaker Mark Nepo.

We hope to see you there! Full schedule after the jump.

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Filed under Education, Humanism, Research

Harry Potter and the Nummular Headache

In the classic tradition of diagnosing literary and historical figures, neurologists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine have examined the literary icon of the century – Harry Potter.

From the paper, “Harry Potter and the Nummular Headache,” appearing in February’s issue of Headache:

Harry’s circumscribed headache location in the distribution of his lightning bolt scar would appear to fit the proposed criteria in the appendix of the International Classification of Headache Disorders, 2nd edition6 for NH. The criteria specify pain exclusively felt in a well-circumscribed region of 2 cm to 6 cm, round or elliptical in shape, either continuous or interrupted by spontaneous remissions lasting weeks to months. We understand through Rowling’s series on Harry’s teenage years that his headaches began in his 11th year, following a traumatic head injury in childhood surrounding the murder of his parents. His headaches were characterized by several months of spontaneous remissions, and as per the epilogue in the 7th book,5 were completely remitted by the age of 18. Rowling describes searing and burning pain along the finite region around Harry’s scar as the major feature of his headache, which is not inconsistent with the NH pain character. Depictions of the scar in the artwork on the book covers, as well as in the film series, show that the area of the scar (and thus, the area of the pain) is certainly confined to an area with a maximal diameter less than 6 cm. Although a frontal location of pain in NH is less common than other regions of the head, a sizeable minority of NH patients do experience pain in that location.7

According to MSNBC‘s interview with author Matthew Robbins, MD, “It’s a good way to educate the public about a condition that can occur in children and often goes unrecognized.”

No word if the healers at St. Mungo’s had a similar diagnosis.

via mugglenet.com

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Filed under Literature, Outreach

Heard on the Floors – Quechua edition

Picture a deeply sun-bronzed woman in a wide-brimmed, straw hat. She is wearing a traditional, quilted vest decorated with red, green, and black woven designs which cover many more layers of wool and alpaca garments beneath. This woman speaks some Spanish, but she will tell you much more fluently in her own language that she is from the native Quechua people who live in the Andes throughout South America.

At the Casa Hogar del Campesino, or Peasant’s Home hospital where we are working, almost all of the patients are Quechua who hail from Cusco and its surrounding rural areas. These patients sometimes travel for many hours on crowded mini-buses to receive the free care provided by the Catholic nun-physicians, nurses, and staff at the hospital. Many of them are impoverished, and the generous medical care, food, and love provided by the nuns are much needed and appreciated.

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Filed under Education, Heard on the Floors

Playing Doctor

There’s a column over at McSweeney’s called “Playing Doctor” which breaks down the complex choreography of standardized patient encounters. In medical school, students learn history-taking and physical exam by practicing on actors who play patients. Robert Isenberg, an actor and SP, describes nervous students who stick to scripts, what it’s like to “act” cancer, and how playing pretend can seem like the real deal (from The Bad News):

My fingers are latticed, and they clench themselves white. I stare off with darting eyes, run my tongue inside my cheek. Whatever it is I’m not saying, it’s really bothering me.

“May I ask what kind of test?” the woman says. Her voice is funeral-hushed.

“Well,” I say. “I found a lump. Just over my collar bone.” I let out a gruff sigh. I nod a little, as if confirming what I’ve just said. “The thing is, I’ve been through all this before.”

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Filed under Cancer, Education

Picasso’s glimpse into humanistic medicine

“Science and Charity” Pablo Picasso (1897)

This past summer as I backpacked through Europe, I stumbled into the Museu Picasso, nestled in the tortuous La Ribera section of Barcelona, Spain. The museum, which feels more like a medieval Spanish villa, was supported by the late artist, and contains many of his early academic pieces.

Picasso first arrived in Barcelona in 1894, and his monumental painting “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” is based on a brothel on Carrer d’Avinyó, a street in Barcelona. I was quite taken back by Picasso’s early mastery of the academic style of painting. However, one painting stood out, “Science and Charity.”

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Filed under Arts, Education, Humanism

Your TEDMEDucation

If you’re a medical student not watching TED videos yet, you might want to start. TEDMED (a spin-off of TED) has phenomenal short talks “imagining the future of health and medicine.”  Below, Brian Goldman discusses, “Doctors make mistakes. Can we talk about that?”

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Pillaging, plundering and public health


In response to requests by leprosy advocacy groups, Aardman Animations, the studio behind upcoming film The Pirates!, is removing a scene which shows a character losing an arm on a “leper boat.”

“After reviewing the matter, we decided to change the scene out of respect and sensitivity for those who suffer from leprosy,” an Aardman spokesperson told Deadline. “The last thing anyone intended was to offend anyone and it is clear to us that the right way to proceed is to honour the efforts made by organisations like LEPRA and the World Health Organisation to educate the public about this disease.”

Kudos to Aardman for their sensitivity and quick response.

via The Guardian

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Filed under Chronic illness, Film, Public health

What keeps us going

In the endless throes of exams and sleep deprivation, it’s easy to forget why we came to medical school in the first place.

“So, will you all be my doctors again when I come back?”

Sometimes, you just need one line to remember.

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Improvement of the mind through extensive reading

There’s a scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Darcy states that in addition to the usual accomplishments necessary for an early 19th century young lady, one “must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” But just what are these improvements to the mind?

While perhaps not exactly what Darcy meant, in a recent Harvard Business Review post, “The Business Case for Reading  Novels,” Anne Kreamer argues that reading fiction is associated with empathy and theory-of-mind.

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Filed under Education, Literature, Storytelling

Art, Frankenstein, and a pleasant break from anatomy

“I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created.” This poignant moment, realized by Mary Shelley’s notorious Dr. Victor Frankenstein, represents the literary crux of science and medicine. Almost every physician at some stage in their education remembers the moral dilemma Dr. Frankenstein faces in the story, which would very likely not be IRB approved today. However, Daniel Gordon’s project, Still Lifes, Portraits & Parts, allows the experimentation of Dr. Frankenstein without the philosophical guilt.

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Filed under Arts, Education