Friday, July 29, 2005

Interesting news stories

NASA announced the discovery of a tenth planet in the solar system...and it's got the exciting name 2003 UB313. Since the planets are named after mythological Roman gods, I say we call this latest planet Vulcan...which would make the folks in Birmingham, Alabama proud but would probably upset Trekkers...

There have been monsoons in Mumbai (Bombay), with 26 inches of rain falling, the heaviest rainfall that has ever been recorded in India. Over 800 are dead and aid workers are on the scene to try and limit the spread of disease...

A report in the medical literature came out saying that right-sided strokes are often missed in patients because they do not present with the language/speech disturbances common to left-sided strokes. Right-sided strokes tend to affect perceptual and spatial skills and these can be harder to pick up clinically.

The FDA has banned the use of Baytril, an antibiotic used in poultry, over concerns that use of Baytril leads to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can then infect humans and become much more difficult to treat. Many people have been arguing that the routine use of antibiotics in livestock has worsened the problem of antibiotic resistance in humans, and the FDA's action is finally giving some credence to that theory.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I produce fewer allergic reactions

Apparently the word "hypoallergenic" doesn't really mean anything at all...I thought products with that description underwent some rigorous cleansing process to remove allergens or something...but I guess it doesn't have to mean much at all according to the FDA.

Friday, July 15, 2005

My body works

Yesterday I went to the Museum of Science and Industry and saw the "Body Worlds" exhibit. It is an amazing display that uses over 200 actual, preserved human bodies to reveal the inner anatomy of the human body.

Apparently the bodies are preserved, in great form and detail, using a process called "plastination". You can see muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in exquisite detail. Not only did the exhibit feature normal structures, but it also contained several specimens ravaged by disease, such as a cirrhotic liver, a cancerous lung, even examples of prosthetic hip and knee joints. The bodies were often arranged in imaginative poses and there was even one display of a person on top of a horse.

As a medical student, these displays were fascinating because they gave me a chance to see some expert dissections of the human body and to appreciate the gross anatomy of several disease processes (e.g. the cirrhotic liver) and also the sheer beauty of our inner anatomy. We always read, for example, that the brain gets 20% of the blood pumped out by the heart, but when you can actually see the tiniest of vessels preserved all over the surface of the brain, you can also picture it.

But I am somewhat troubled by the commercialization of the exhibit. It is one thing to study the body in a gross anatomy lab as a medical student and it is quite another thing to have an exhibit open to the public that you are charging people admission for (on top of the general admission to the museum). I think it diminishes some of the dignity of those who donated their bodies to science in the first place. I've often thought of gross anatomy as a necessary contingency for medical students in order to gain first-hand knowledge of how the body is put together. Is it really necessary for the general public? Is there a compelling need for the public to get this kind of education?

I don't know the answer to that question, but it isn't easy for me to answer. Intellectually I found the exhibit fascinating (I spent over an hour going through it) but emotionally there is a morbidness and a sense of disrespect to the bodies that doesn't sit well with me. Perhaps this is a Muslim sensibility, since Muslims believe in a physical and spiritual resurrection whereas Christians predominantly believe in a spiritual resurrection.

The exhibit runs through September 5th and those in medicine (except maybe pathologists) will find it well worth their time...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Evolution - or why I'm a Sox fan

My last post on the Sox evoked an interesting reflection on the dynamics of Cubs-Sox allegiance in Chicago by my younger brother, who remains conflicted as to where his loyalties truly lie. As in many cities, one is meant to be a fan of only one of the two baseball teams in town, and your choice, in many ways, defines who you are.

Imran bemoans my defection to the Sox (I was a childhood Cubs fan) as a sign of bandwagon loyalty, making me just another fairweather fan chasing the winds of fortune.

But, of course, my defection to the ChiSox, while eased by their winning record, is more profound than that. It's about whether you wake up with a cup of joe or Starbuck's Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino®. You see, once upon a time, the Cubs were the lovable losers, the guys you had to root for because their efforts always seemed foiled by some freakish accident, like a wild pitch with the bases loaded or an in-park home run. These types of mistakes were always forgiven, examples of mishaps that could happen to anyone. That they happened so consistently to the Cubs somehow added to their charm, along with a cast of characters that were hard to forget (Ryne Sandberg, Rick Sutcliffe, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace, among others).

But, somewhere along the line, the Cubs started to get good. Really good. And along with their rise to the top, they became less lovable and more corporate yuppie. The rooftop parties on neighboring buildings became the target of shameless profiteering (by both sides) and, in ways I can't define, the Cubs just seemed to become more "slick", less the lovable heroes of my youth and more the petulant Sosa and the enigmatic Dusty Baker...

Meanwhile, on the South Side, another team continued to toil away, almost unnoticed, with 11 seasons above the 500 mark since 1990 (compared to just 6 for the Cubbies), 3 division victories (just 1 for the Cubs) and players (Thomas, Konerko, Buehrle, Garland) who have risen to the occasion. This team won in spite of itself, in the face of poor management decisions, low home game turnouts, arguments between players and managers, through it all they play well. They may not have gone to the World Series, but they brought respect back to Chicago baseball.
So I may have left the Cubs behind, but for better, much better...the same reason why, despite growing up a fervent Bears fan, I eventually crossed over to the "dark side" and became a fan of the Packers...and, because, ultimately I still prefer a cup of coffee to a tall cappuccino...