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Events, Stanford News

Stanford’s Health Matters happening on Saturday

Stanford's Health Matters happening on Saturday

kid on helicopterTomorrow, Stanford Medicine opens its doors to the public as part of its annual Health Matters event. On the agenda: medical and health talks (sample topics: how to stay healthy and injury-free while working out, what you need to know about heart disease prevention, and what researchers are learning about longevity and aging) and a series of interactive exhibits. Among those hands-on activities: cooking demonstrations and Q&As with Stanford nutritional experts, a meet-and-great of the stars of Stanford’s canine wellness program, and the opportunity to hop on and learn more about the lifesaving technologies that happens in the Life Flight helicopter.

Parts of the event will be live tweeted; if you can’t physically be here, follow along on @StanfordHealth all day.

Previously: Stanford Medicine’s community open house happening on May 16 and Stanford Medicine community gathers for Health Matters event
Photo by Alex Johnson

Health Disparities, In the News, NIH, Research, Science, Women's Health

Research for All: Congressional bill aims to bring gender equality to medical research

Research for All: Congressional bill aims to bring gender equality to medical research

Gender matters in medical research. That’s the reasoning behind the Research for All Act (.pdf), a recently introduced Congressional bill that would require scientists conducting NIH-funded research to look at male and female animals and cells. The legislation would also require the FDA “to guarantee that clinical drug trials for expedited drug products are sufficient to determine safety and effectiveness for both men and women.”

As noted in a press release on the bill from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.):

Women compose more than half the U.S. population, but most medical research focuses exclusively on men…

For example, the unique way women metabolize drugs was ignored when researchers determined the dosage for Ambien sleeping pills; as a result, the initial recommended dosage was double what it should have been for women.

Additionally, cardiovascular disease is the leading killer of all Americans, but only one-third of subjects in cardiac clinical trials are women.

In a Nature piece published last spring, Londa Schiebinger, PhD, director of Stanford’s Gendered Innovations in Science, Health & Medicine, Engineering, and Environment, highlighted the “male default” in science and outlined the benefits of taking gender into account during research:

Including gender analysis in research can save us from life-threatening errors… and can lead to new discoveries. Gender analysis has led to better treatments for heart disease in women. Identifying the genetic mechanisms of ovarian determination has enhanced knowledge about testis development. Analysing how sex affects donor–recipient matching is improving stem-cell therapies. And exploring how sex-specific biological factors and gender-specific behaviours interact has helped researchers to understand how nutrients trigger cell functions, and may assist in the fight against obesity.

Previously: Stanford professor encourages researchers to take gender into account, A look at NIH’s new rules for gender balance in biomedical studies, Why it’s critical to study the impact of gender differences on diseases and treatments, Stanford Gendered Innovations program offers tools for improving scientific research and Women underrepresented in heart studies
Via The Hill
Photo by Benita Denny/Wellcome Images

Grand Roundup

Grand Roundup: Top posts of April

Grand Roundup: Top posts of April

The five most-read stories this month on Scope were:

Eating for good blood: Tips for boosting iron levels and hemoglobin: This entry from the Stanford Blood Center discusses hemoglobin levels and offers ways to boost levels prior to blood donation.

ME/CFS/SEID: It goes by many aliases, but its blood-chemistry signature is a giveaway: A multi-institution team published a study in Science Advances showing another physiological basis for a diagnosis of what it now being referred to as systemic exertion intolerance disease: a characteristic pattern, or “signature,” consisting of elevated levels of various circulating immune-signaling substances in the blood.

The first time I cried in a patient’s room: In a recent installment of SMS Unplugged, fourth-year medical student Moises Gallegos shares a moving encounter he had with a patient.

From Costa Rica to Stanford: Pediatric liver transplant surgeon shares his story: During a recent talk, Carlos Esquivel, MD, PhD, – known as one of the top pediatric liver transplant surgeons – told a gripping tale of his journey to Stanford.

“It’s not just science fiction anymore”: Childx speakers talk stem cell and gene therapy: At the Childx conference held here earlier this month, there was a great deal of optimism that stem cell and genetic therapies are about to have a huge impact on many childhood diseases.

Our most-shared story of the month: The first time I cried in a patient’s room

And still going strong – the most popular post from the past:

The mystery surrounding lung-transplant survival rates: A 2012 article in the San Francisco Chronicle provided a look at the challenges facing lung transplant patients and explored why a significant number don’t live beyond the five-year mark, despite improvements in survival rates.

Aging, Medicine and Society, Pain, Palliative Care, Patient Care, Stanford News, Videos

“Everybody dies – just discuss it and agree on what you want”

"Everybody dies - just discuss it and agree on what you want"

Earlier this week, my colleague pointed to a New York Times essay penned by VJ Periyakoil, MD. In it, Periyakoil calls for a role-reversal in talking about end-of-life issues and encourages patients to take the lead in starting such conversations with their doctors. “Without these conversations, doctors don’t know what the patients’ goals are for living their last days,” she writes. “What are their hopes, wants, needs and fears? Do they want to die at the hospital connected to a machine? Do they want to die at home? The current default is for doctors to give patients every possible treatment for their condition, regardless of its impact on the patient’s quality of life, the cost or the patient’s goals.”

Periyakoil goes on to describe a letter that she and her colleagues created to help facilitate these patient-doctor conversations. The video above expands upon the Stanford Letter Project, which helps patients map out what matters most to them at the end of life, and includes the candid thoughts of numerous older adults.

“If I’m brain-dead, unplug me,” one woman says matter-of-factly. “And I want to die painless. No pain – just put me to sleep and don’t let me wake up.”

In the doctor’s office, one man shares his reason for writing a letter and expressing his wishes: “One of the worst things in the world that you can have happen [is you’re on] your deathbed and you’re putting the burden of life-altering decisions on a family member that has no clue of what you really want or don’t want.”

Advises another older man: “Don’t be ashamed of it – everybody dies. Just discuss it and agree on what you want.”

Previously: How would you like to die? Tell your doctor in a letter, In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day: A reminder for patients to address end-of-life issues, Study: Doctors would choose less aggressive end-of-life care for themselves, On a mission to transform end-of-life care and The importance of patient/doctor end-of-life discussions

Scope Announcements, Stanford News

Scope wins award for its “creative and effective approach” to promoting academic medicine

Scope wins award for its "creative and effective approach" to promoting academic medicine

We’re happy to announce that Scope is a 2015 GIA Award for Excellence winner. The awards, given by the Association of American Medical Colleges, were designed to honor “the most creative and effective approaches used to promote academic medicine in the United States,” and we won in the electronic communications/social media category. We also received recognition from the group in 2012 and 2014.

This is a good time to also remind readers that there are several ways to consume our stories: We have a magazine on Flipboard, and all of our posts appear on Twitter in the @ScopeMedBlog feed.

Previously: Scope honored as among the best in digital health resources, Scope honored by the Association of American Medical Colleges, Five thousand blog entries – and counting, and Scope receives AAMC Award for Excellence

In the News, Pediatrics, Sleep, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford doc gives teens a crash course on the dangers of sleep deprivation

Stanford doc gives teens a crash course on the dangers of sleep deprivation

Numerous studies, including a big one published in Pediatrics earlier this year, have shown that adolescents are getting less sleep than ever before. But most teens are unlikley unaware of the dangers of sleep deprivation – and that’s something that a group of Stanford clinicians is trying to change. Rafael Pelayo, MD, with the Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine, and colleagues recently gave a “crash course” on sleep, and the importance of getting enough, to students at nearby Menlo-Atherton High School. ABC7 captured the story in the video above.

Previously: Talking about teens’ “great sleep recession”, With school bells ringing, parents should ensure their children are doing enough sleeping, Study shows poor sleep habits as a teenager can “stack the deck against you for obesity later in life”, What are the consequences of sleep deprivation? and Want teens to eat healthy? Make sure they get a good night’s sleep

Grand Roundup

Grand Roundup: Top posts of March

Grand Roundup: Top posts of March

The five most-read stories this month on Scope were:

Stanford neurosurgeon/cancer patient Paul Kalanithi: “I can’t go on. I will go on.”: Paul Kalanithi, MD, who wrote eloquently and movingly about being diagnosed with lung cancer, died of the disease earlier this month. In a 1:2:1 podcast recorded last November, the 37-year-old first-time father reflected on his struggle with mortality, his changing perception of time and the meaning he continued to experience despite his illness.

For this doctor couple, the Super Bowl was about way more than football: Paul Kalanithi and his wife, Lucy, won a trip to the Super Bowl by raising money for lung-cancer research and winning the Lung Cancer Survivors Super Bowl Challenge, sponsored by the Chris Draft Family Foundation.

Patients with “invisible illnesses” speak out about challenges in their communities and workplaces: This post links to a recent NPR story during which Carly Medosch, a former ePatient scholar at Stanford’s Medicine X, speaks about discrimination in the workplace for those whose health challenges are not immediately obvious.

It’s Match Day: Good luck, medical students!: Small envelopes containing big news were handed out to medical students at Stanford, and those at 155 medical schools across the country, on March 20. A story on the day’s happenings can also be found here.

Stanford neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi, who touched countless lives with his writing, dies at 37: This post shares the obituary of Paul Kalanithi, who died on March 9.

Our most-shared story of the month: Stanford neurosurgeon/cancer patient Paul Kalanithi: “I can’t go on. I will go on.”

And still going strong – the most popular post from the past:

Stop skipping dessert:” A Stanford neurosurgeon and cancer patient discusses facing terminal illness: In this 2014 Q&A, Paul Kalanithi talked about his experience with cancer and about the importance of end-of-life decisions.

Science, Stanford News

Using ants to teach high-schoolers about science

Using ants to teach high-schoolers about science


Now this is fun: Stanford biologist Deborah M. Gordon, PhD, has developed a “citizen science” lesson plan that gets high-school students to study ants. Yes, ants. Gordon, who studies group behavior and is also a member of the Stanford Neurosciences Institute, sent hundreds of the picnic pests to the orbiting International Space Station last year, and this collaborative work is a continuation of that research.

From a Stanford News piece:

The lesson plan guides students as they investigate new collective search algorithms in species of ants that haven’t been studied – and there are more than 14,000 species to learn about. Ants may not encounter microgravity on Earth, but they search in every other kind of environment. The results might offer suggestions on how to program robots for rescue and exploration. Collective search algorithms are used to program rescue robots to search efficiently. When robots search dangerous territory for humans, it may be most effective, and cheapest, to mimic ants and not require the robots to report back to a central controller.

“Deborah Gordon is a scientist who wants to reach out to classroom teachers who are preparing our future scientists and citizens,” [Tammy Moriarty, PhD, a professional development associate at Stanford’s Center to Support Excellence in Teaching] says. The lesson plan engages students with a scientific inquiry that does not have a predictable answer. As a result, the students are actually doing science, including collecting and observing wild ants and looking for patterns in their behavior.

Students will use technology, such as cell phone photography or video, to record ant behavior and see how ants go about searching a new area thoroughly. Using affordable and commonly available materials, the students will build an enclosure that allows them to observe ant behavior as the ants explore a new area. Then they will measure the ants’ movements, to see how the ants coordinate their search and how well they cover the area. When student researchers record their results in an online database, the data will be available to other students and scientists.

It’s true that the work of these young scientists is unlikely to have direct applications to human health. But anything that interests kids in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, as this lesson plan does, is a good thing in my book – and could potentially steer them towards a career in medicine or biomedical research.

Previously: Internships expose local high-schoolers to STEM careers and academic life, Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas and Fruit flies headed to the International Space Station to study the effects of weightlessness on the heart
Photo by Troup Dresser

Clinical Trials, In the News, Research, Stanford News, Technology

Lights, camera, action: Stanford cardiologist discusses MyHeart Counts on ABC’s Nightline

Lights, camera, action: Stanford cardiologist discusses MyHeart Counts on ABC's Nightline

GMA shoot - 560

Apple’s new ResearchKit, and Stanford Medicine’s MyHeart Counts iPhone app, were highlighted on ABC’s Nightline on Friday. Michael McConnell, MD, professor of cardiovascular medicine and principal investigator for the MyHeart Counts study, was interviewed, telling business correspondent Rebecca Jarvis around the 4-minute mark that the app will “definitely” change the way his job works. “It gives us a whole new way to do research,” he explained. “Traditionally reaching many people to participate in research studies is quite challenging. The ability to reach people through their phone is one major advance.”

Previously: Build it (an easy way to join research studies) and the volunteers will comeMyHeart Counts app debuts with a splash and Stanford launches iPhone app to study heart health
Photo by Margarita Gallardo

Events, Medical Education, Stanford News

Stanford Medicine’s Match Day, in pictures

Stanford Medicine's Match Day, in pictures

There was a lot of excitement at the medical school campus today, where 77 students found out where they’ve been “matched” for their residencies. Norbert von der Groeben captured the celebration through a series of photos; watch for more on the morning’s event here on Monday.

Previously: It’s Match Day: Good luck, medical students! and At Match Day 2014, Stanford med students take first steps as residents

Stanford Medicine Resources: