Dr. Todd F. Holzman (left), a pediatric psychiatrist at Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, has been named president-elect of the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society. He is also an instructor in psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
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May 18, 2007
May 18, 2007
On Dr. Flea's blog, well, there's nobody home. The Boston-area pediatrician had been chronicling his malpractice trial in either fearless or foolish fashion, depending on your point of view, but now the site has gone dark. Kevin, M.D., thinks it's no coincidence.
On Running a Hospital, Paul Levy shares a letter he receives each year from one of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's doctors when he solicits nominations of people who advocate for the gay and lesbian community for recognition at a hospital event.
"We are again disappointed and frankly disgusted to see the leader of the medical center endorsing an inherently unhealthy, risky lifestyle" the letter says. "We remind you that this is offensive to members of the BIDMC who hold to moral principles and traditional values."
Levy does not name the writer, but gives his response and then makes this comment:
"I made it very clear that this program will continue. Yes, every now and then, the CEO gets to make a decision. This one is easy."
May 18, 2007
By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff
Maybe Al DeMaria can finally get a little rest now.
DeMaria has been holding down multiple jobs at the Department of Public Health: the state's director of communicable disease control, chief medical officer and head of the State Laboratory Institute in Jamaica Plain. DeMaria's is a well-known face at the agency and on TV, especially when viruses or bacteria go on a rampage.
Now, the lab, which analyzes blood samples and other material taken from patients, is getting a full-time director -- and DeMaria is getting a break.
In June, the veteran chief of a comparable lab in Iowa will become director of the 113-year-old Massachusetts facility, which would play a pivotal role in the event of a global influenza epidemic or amid a biological or chemical threat. Mary J.R. Gilchrist, director of the University of Iowa's Hygienic Laboratory for the last 11 years, is a nationally recognized microbiologist and author of more than 100 textbook chapters and other publications.
DeMaria will continue -- perhaps better-rested -- as disease chief and medical director at the health agency.
May 18, 2007
Today's Globe: Boston lupus, brain injury suit, office search, preemies and diabetes, generic drugs, free lunch
Residents of Roxbury and Mattapan are more likely than people in any other Boston neighborhood to suffer from the painful auto-immune disease lupus, according to a state health report released last night at a community forum.
Brain-injury patients filed a class- action lawsuit yesterday against the state and the Patrick administration alleging that the Commonwealth has failed to provide community-based care. As a result, the plaintiffs say, thousands of severely handicapped residents face a lifetime of nursing home confinement in violation of federal law.
Federal and state law enforcement officials armed with a search warrant searched the office of a Needham doctor yesterday, but gave few details why. The US Drug Enforcement Administration, along with seven other agencies, executed a search warrant at the Gould Street office of Dr. Joseph Zolot, said DEA spokesman Anthony Pettigrew.
Premature infants are more likely to develop high blood pressure and show signs of insulin resistance as young adults, a comprehensive study from Finland shows.
Growing use of generic drugs instead of the more expensive brand name medications they mimic kept the growth rate in US spending for prescription drugs to 2.8 percent in 2006, according to a report released yesterday.
Patients are the clear winners when doctors and pharmaceutical experts communicate, Scott Lassman, is the senior assistant general counsel for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, writes in an opinion piece. Any effort to quell discussion or limit the sharing of research and information is not in patients' best interests.
May 17, 2007
By Elizabeth Cooney, Globe Correspondent
About 100 faculty and staff were filing out of a UMass Medical School program to meet their new interim chancellor today when a confrontation erupted between physiology professor John Walsh and the school's deputy chancellor Richard Stanton.
Walsh objected to the lack of a competitive nationwide search for a
The selection of Dr. Michael F. Collins, who had been chancellor of UMass-Boston, was one of the moves UMass president Jack M. Wilson disclosed on Tuesday to tie the university's five campuses closely together. He said naming a permanent medical school chancellor would be evaluated next year.
Walsh said in an interview that the appointment of Collins "smacks of the same cronyism that put Billy Bulger in charge of the university, that put Marty Meehan in at Lowell and now we have an executive from Boston taking over without any input from faculty or anyone else."
He then approached Wilson, who told Walsh interim appointments do not require search committees; Wilson cited Harvard's Derek Bok as an example of someone called upon to step in on short notice. Bok has been acting president since the departure of Lawrence Summers last year. Drew Gilpin Faust takes over as president in July.
Stanton got in the middle while Walsh and Wilson spoke.
"You are offensive as a faculty member," he told Walsh. "Your tenure has outlived your usefulness."
May 17, 2007
Geisinger Health System in central Pennsylvania is offering what amounts to a 90-day warranty on elective bypass surgery, according to a story in today's New York Times.
That makes Geisinger stand out as a group that has transformed the way it delivers care, Dr. Donald M. Berwick told the Times. A professor of pediatrics and healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School, he is the chief executive of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement in Cambridge, a national nonprofit organization whose goal is better patient care.
In almost no other field would consumers tolerate the frequency of error that is common in medicine, Berwick said, and Geisinger has managed to reduce the rate significantly. "Getting everything right is really, really hard," Berwick said.
May 17, 2007
Today's Globe: abortion clinic buffers, Gulf War nerve gas, Genzyme MS drug, baldness remedy, West Nile birds, "Patient 002"
A bill that would nearly double the buffer zone around abortion clinics appears poised for passage on Beacon Hill, with Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, and dozens of legislators pledging their support.
The Food and Drug Administration will allow Genzyme Corp. to continue human tests of a new multiple sclerosis drug that caused a fatal bleeding disease in one trial patient, the company said yesterday.
Scientists working with the Department of Defense have found evidence that a low-level exposure to sarin nerve gas -- the kind experienced by more than 100,000 American troops in the Persian Gulf War in 1991 -- could have caused lasting brain deficits in former service members.
Mice with deep skin wounds can grow new hair, scientists said yesterday in a finding that offers hope for a baldness remedy for humans.
Birds that once flourished in suburban skies, including robins, bluebirds, and crows, have been devastated by West Nile virus, a study found.
"Patient 002" is a lighthearted, fast-paced, and at times absurdist medical thriller that looks askance at conventional medicine and embraces holistic healing, Globe reviewer Chuck Leddy writes. Author Floyd Skloot has a highly personal relationship with severe illness, which he described in his award-winning memoir, "In the Shadow of Memory."
May 16, 2007
Tomorrowís New England Journal of Medicine is taking a vote.
For the first time, physicians will be asked to weigh in on what they would do for a patient, based on research papers published in the current issue and what they read about a fictitious case. Their choices will be tallied online for four weeks and their comments posted in an experiment to better connect with readers, editor-in-chief Dr. Jeffrey M. Drazen (left) said in an interview.
"We dreamed it up to engage more with our audience," he said. "Weíve been in broadcast mode and now weíll be in receiving mode."
The answers to the poll may shed light on therapeutic decisions that physicians make every day, Dr. Richard Schwartzstein, associate chief of pulmonology and critical care medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, said in an interview. He was not involved in creation of the interactive poll or the studies on which this week's case is based.
"I think itís a very intriguing idea," he said. "We know that the delay between the publication of key articles or guidelines and the actual implementation of the recommendations around the country is quite long, sometime years."
One example is the wide variation in how recommendations to prescribe aspirin after people have heart attacks are applied, Schwartzstein said.
"People have always speculated whether thatís because the publications donít get out into the community as rapidly as you might think or whether there is skepticism on the part of many doctors for the recommendations and data upon which they are based," he said. "Or they just donít think it applies to their patients."
The articles that prompted the exercise have clear clinical implications for the treatment of mild asthma, Drazen said. He expects there to be three or four other occasions in the coming year when the journal will open up a forum to sample what decisions might be made at the bedside or in the doctorís office.
Clinical trials reported in scientific journals get practitioners thinking about important issues, but they donít always relate directly to the real world, he said. Articles are more likely to give a general level of direction as opposed to specific guidance.
Poll results from clinicians may add another piece of information about how clinical decisions are made.
"We hope to learn from them as well as having them learn from us," Drazen said.
May 16, 2007
By Alice Dembner, Globe Staff
For an interesting overview of Massachusetts' efforts to get nearly everyone in the state health insurance, check out the conversation with Jon Kingsdale on The Health Care Blog, a national blog run by a healthcare consultant.
Kingsdale, executive director of the Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector, focuses on some of the misconceptions about the initiative, as well as some of his hopes for the future of the effort. The connector is the quasi-public agency overseeing implementation of the healthcare law.
May 16, 2007
Harvard microbiologist Dr. Darren E. Higgins (left) wants to help your immune system in a hurry and on the cheap, a story in today's New York Times says.
The 40-year-old associate professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Harvard Medical School is a co-founder of Genocea, a Cambridge start-up working on a novel method of vaccine development. His goal is to find the quickest way to make inexpensive vaccines that fight numerous complex and aggressive viruses and bacteria, the story says.
Students in his lab are trying to determine which proteins stimulate an immune system response, the story says. The idea is to administer these proteins, or combinations of proteins, to people in order to prepare their immune systems to resist attacks by the likes of tuberculosis, HIV or malaria.
"We are mimicking the human body immune response," he told the Times.
May 16, 2007
As part of a plan to streamline the University of Massachusetts to be unveiled tomorrow, UMass-Boston chancellor Michael Collins (left), who previously headed the Caritas Christi Health Care System, will move to the medical school in Worcester, where he will oversee research and commercial development throughout the system. Collins also will serve as the medical school's interim chancellor, succeeding Aaron Lazare, who stepped down in March because of a heart arrhythmia.
Men who pop too many vitamins in the hope of improving their health may in fact be raising their risk of the deadliest forms of prostate cancer, especially men with a family history of the disease, researchers said yesterday.
A Pfizer Inc. unit failed to properly warn a New Jersey woman about the cancer risk of its hormone-replacement drug Provera and should pay $1.5 million in damages, jurors said in the first trial over the menopause treatment.
May 15, 2007
Even small amounts of physical activity can boost the fitness of postmenopausal women who are sedentary and overweight, an article in tomorrow's Journal of the American Medical Association says.
As little as 72 minutes of exercise a week showed benefits for women in a trial led by Dr. Timothy S. Church at Louisiana State University. More exercise -- up to about three hours a week -- meant higher fitness levels, as measured by the amount of oxygen they consumed while cycling or walking. But the exercise did not affect cardiovascular risk factors such as blood pressure or weight.
These findings answer a question researchers have had about what the minimum "dose" of exercise might be to deliver health benefits, I-Min Lee, an epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, writes in a related editorial. Fitness levels are strong predictors of chronic disease and premature mortality, previous studies have shown.
Lee writes: "This might be succinctly summarized for patients and clinicians as 'Even a little is good; more may be better!'"
May 15, 2007
Short White Coat is a blog written by first-year Harvard medical student Ishani Ganguli. Ishani's posts appear here, as part of White Coat Notes. E-mail Ishani at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As promised, a follow-up to the Society Olympics preparations I wrote about last week: Cannon didnít quite bring home the pink flamingo on Friday, but we trailed the winning team by a meager four points out of their 88. Despite losing our chance at the plastic bird, and our voices from cheering so loudly, the day was well worth the sleepless nights preceding it.
Pranks came to a head on game day. After the distraction of morning lectures, the five societies braved the rain to enact elaborate processions before a panel of distinguished judges at the tennis court.
Castle Society played off its David Castlehoff theme with impressive Baywatch-style lifeguarding maneuvers in a kiddie pool, while Peabodyís "P. Biddy"-themed procession had hip-hop fans swooning and throwing undergarments upon the hip hop mogulís enacted arrival. Health Sciences and Technology (HST, a society as well as a separate program) presented choreographed vignettes of television shows with chemistry-kit inspired stunts. Holmes Society showed off its school spirit (its theme was Holmescoming) with a one-man marching band and crowned homecoming nobility, while our similar high school theme (Cannon High, to be specific) had us recreating the awkward hilarity of teenage dances.
The pie-eating competition was messy, though regurgitation was kept to a minimum. The same could be said, thankfully, for Dean Joe Martin when he judged the Iron Chef competition. After the dance-off, in which I fulfilled a personal fantasy in my cheerleader skirt and pom-poms, Cannon dominated the dodgeball tournament after a dramatic reversal of a one-on-three match accomplished in large part by staring down the competition.
May 15, 2007
By Colin Nickerson, Globe Staff
Scientists today reported a giant ring of ``dark matter'' detected by the international Hubble Space Telescope.
The ring lies 5 billion light-years from earth in a cluster of galaxies known only as ZwCl004+1652, the coordinates used to identify that region of the universe. The ring itself measures millions of miles across.
Dark matter, an invisible substance so ethereal it might be nothing except for its gravitational field, represents one of the great mysteries of astrophysics. Most astronomers and physicists are certain it is there -- the universe would have long since torn itself to tatters without its gravitational bonds -- but so far they can't prove it.
But discovery of the ghostly ring in a distant cluster of galaxies, announced by NASA and the European Space Agency, represents strong new evidence that the intangible substance not only exists, but pervades the cosmos.
The colossal ring, measuring 2.6-million light years across, was formed eons ago during a smash-up between two clusters of galaxies, scientists surmise.
The finding marks the first time that dark matter has been found in a formation all its own. Usually, dark matter has been conjectured by the force it exerts on surrounding ``real'' matter -- for example, galaxies and clouds of interstellar gas molded into otherwise inexplicable shapes by the gravitational pull of dark matter.
``This is the first time we've detected dark matter as having a unique structure that is different from the gas and galaxies in the cluster,'' said M. James Jee, an astronomer with Johns Hopkins University and a member of the US-European team that spotted the ring of dark matter.
``I was annoyed when I [first] saw the ring because I thought it was an artifact'' -- a false image -- ``which would have implied a flaw in our data reduction,'' he said. ``It took more than a year to convince myself the ring was real. I've looked at a number of clusters and haven't seen anything like this.''
May 15, 2007
Harvard scientists Dr. George Daley (at left in photo) and Doug Melton (center) will discuss embryonic and adult stem cell research on the fifth installment of the Charlie Rose Science Series on PBS. It airs at 11 p.m. tomorrow on Channel 2.
The other guests are Larry Goldstein of the University of California at San Diego and Story Landis of the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Sir Paul Nurse, president of Rockefeller University, will be the co-host.
May 15, 2007
Dr. Jerome Groopman (far left) and Dr. Atul Gawande are Harvard clinicians who also write for The New Yorker. Each doctor has a well-received new book. But they are only two of many doctors telling their stories or sharing their views on the pages of books, on blogs or in newspaper columns, a story in today's New York Times says.
The last six months alone have seen the publication of a half-dozen volumes of memoir and opinion by doctors at every stage of professional life, the story says, from newbie ("M.D.: A Four-Year Journey Through Medical School" by Shani Stein-Ratzker) to emeritus ("Galileoís Gout: Science in an Age of Endarkenment" by Gerald Weissmann).
May 15, 2007
Today's Globe: insulin pump hurdle, Wightman sentence, healthcare costs, costly viral outbreak, medical vendor deal
The insulin pump that controls Gregory Hennick's diabetes is the size of a pager and fits in his pocket. He said it hasn't stopped him from working as a police officer during the summer or from running laps, working out at the gym, or doing just about anything else, until now. A state regulation bars anyone who wears an insulin pump from being hired as a full-time police officer in Massachusettss.
Louise Wightman (left) yesterday was sentenced to six months, suspended for five years, for her convictions on May 4 of larceny, filing false healthcare claims, and posing as a psychologist. Suffolk Superior Court Judge Nancy Staffier Holtz said the 47-year-old woman's exotic dancing career was not a factor in the criminal case.
To sustain the landmark Massachusetts health insurance initiative, the state must find ways to control the climbing costs of healthcare, policy-makers said yesterday at a forum on the first year of healthcare reform.
The coalition that put together the Massachusetts health reform law has to stick together to restrain healthcare inflation so that health insurance is affordable for all those who must buy it under the state mandate, a Globe editorial says, while Sally C. Pipes, president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute, writes on the op-ed page that the law's guardians have made certain that the plan will fall far short of achieving universal coverage.
The final financial toll of an outbreak of a stomach virus last winter has been tallied at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Massachusetts. The state's largest health insurer yesterday reported a first-quarter loss of $31.9 million, compared to an $11.5 million profit a year ago, blaming a norovirus that led to a spike in healthcare costs.
May 14, 2007
MIT's provost today disputed statements by Prof. James L. Sherley about the agreement they reached after Sherley ended his hunger strike in February.
"He has claimed the existence of agreements with MIT that do not in fact exist, and he has revealed that he has made no plans to leave MIT when his faculty appointment ends" June 30, Provost L. Rafael Reif said in an e-mail sent to faculty.
Sherley, a stem cell scientist who is African-American, went on a hunger strike to protest what he called racism in the university's decision to deny him tenure. In a statement e-mailed to news organizations last week, Sherley (at right in this February file photo) said that the Feb. 16 agreement he reached with MIT administrators to end his hunger strike made the deadline void, as did MIT's public disclosure of the deadline, which he called a violation of personnel guidelines.
"The administration has not acted in good faith on the agreement we made," Sherley said in an interview today. "Most important, it kept tenure on the table."
Reif repeated previous statements that MIT's tenure decision is final.
"There was no agreement to review his tenure case again, nor did MIT agree to conduct any further review of his allegations that had been considered in his grievance process," his e-mail said.
On Feb. 16, MIT and Sherley released statements in which they agreed to work to resolve their differences.
Sherley's faculty appointment ends on June 30, a date he called his "scheduled forced eviction" in last week's e-mail.
May 14, 2007
Two bursts of bright light in the evening help the brain's clock adapt to a longer day, sleep researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital report, something important for astronauts traveling to Mars but also for earthbound travelers, shift workers or other people whose internal clocks are out of synch.
"Utilization of bright-light exposure could work whether you're going to Mars or Los Angeles," Dr. Charles Czeisler, chief of sleep medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in an interview.
Czeisler, Dr. Richard E. Kronauer of Harvard and colleagues from the University of Lyon and the University of Colorado conducted a study for NASA's National Space Biomedical Research Institute that appears in today's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
They set out to solve the problem of what could be perpetual jet lag-like fatigue on an eventual year-and-a-half-long mission to Mars, a plan announced by President Bush in 2004. The Martian day is 39 minutes and 35 seconds longer than a day on Earth -- which doesn't seem like much at first, but adds up to more than four hours in just one week.
The researchers sequestered 12 healthy people in rooms with no time cues for 65 days. First they observed their individual internal clocks, finding a range of differences in the timing of when their bodies released melatonin. Some people were releasing the sleep-promoting hormone as much as five hours before bedtime while for others it was an hour ahead.
"This may explain why some individuals feel so tired in the evening," Czeisler said. "It's as if people are in different time zones, like England and Boston. Their internal clocks are spread out over many time zones.
Over the next 30 days, the participants were exposed to a longer day under varying amounts of light. Those who got two 45-minute sessions of bright light in the evening were able to adapt their sleep/wake cycles to a longer-than-24-hour day.
"These results suggest that people could be treated for sleep disorders" in this way, Czeisler said.
May 14, 2007
By Stephen Smith, Globe Staff
The state's new public health commissioner later this month will embark on an eight-city tour of Massachusetts to take the pulse of citizens on health issues. Residents will have an opportunity to share their thoughts about what's most important -- and most needed --in the realm of public health with Commissioner John Auerbach, who will present data about important health concerns.
Auerbach's first stop on his Regional Health Dialogue will be in Worcester on May 30, with a meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Quinsigamond Community College Hebert Auditorium, 670 W. Boylston St.
Subsequent sessions include:
Northeastern Massachusetts: 4 to 6 p.m. June 4 at Greater Lawrence Technical School, 57 River Road, Andover.
Southeastern Massachusetts: 9 to 11 a.m. June 7 at a location to be announced.
Cape Cod: 4 to 6 p.m. June 7 at Barnstable High School, 744 West Main St., Hyannis.
Berkshires: 5 to 7 p.m. June 13, 2007 at Ralph J. Froio Senior Center, main meeting room, second floor, 330 North St., Pittsfield.
Western Massachusetts: 4 to 6 p.m. June 14 at Springfield Technical Community College, Building 2 Theater, One Armory Square, Springfield.
Metrowest: 4 to 6 p.m. June 21 at the YMCA Hopkinton, 45 East St., Hopkinton.
Boston: 4 to 6 p.m. June 26 at the Boston Public Health Commission's Carter Auditorium, Fourth Floor, 35 Northampton St.
The state Department of Public Health said that the times and locations of each session are subject to change. Go to mass.gov/dph/comm/health_dialogues.htm for the latest on the Regional Health Dialogue.
May 14, 2007
Today's Globe: house calls, fading vitamins, medical e-files jobs, mammogram decline, Dr. Dorothy Villee, withholding vaccinations,
Dr. Myron Siu, 32, an internist who works at Tufts-New England Medical Center, started house calls last August; he's believed to be the only Cantonese-speaking doctor in Boston with a weekly commitment to see patients in their homes.
In Business, Massachusetts is among the leaders nationally in the use of electronic patient records and computerized drug prescribing. But its workforce is not keeping pace: The state lacks enough people who know how computers work and who understand how doctors diagnose and treat diseases.
US women are getting mammograms to screen for breast cancer at declining rates, according to a study describing a trend that some health officials fear may reverse progress against the deadly disease.
Dr. Dorothy (Balzer) Villee, an associate in endocrinology at Children's Hospital in Boston for nearly 30 years who volunteered with patients in their final days at Hospice & Palliative Care of Cape Cod, died of a stroke April 23 in Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. She was 79.
If a majority of children are vaccinated, but some are not, the burden of disease can move into these high-risk populations where infection can have severe consequences, Dr. Maria Raven of New York University and Bellevue Hospital Center writes on the op-ed page.
May 14, 2007
Healthcare spending for Massachusetts communities has nearly doubled since 2001, squeezing town budgets and forcing cutbacks in public safety and government services and leading to calls for property tax increases, according to a story in Sunday's Globe.
Enny Wiederhold (left), a retired nurse and hospital volunteer, is known at Brigham and Women's Hospital, the "Baby Whisperer." Part stern grandmother, part medical professional, she has carved her own niche in the highly specialized world of neonatal care. While the nurses on the floor check the babies' heart monitors and make sure the delicate infants are breathing properly, Wiederhold is there to make sure they are held and comforted, a Sunday Globe story says.