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Events, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

Medical students and author Khaled Hosseini share their muse with Stanford community

Medical students and author Khaled Hosseini share their muse with Stanford community

"Giving UP! "Say Something" by A Great Big World at An evening with Medicine and the Muse at Paul and Mildred Berg Hall, Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford School of Medicine on Wednesday, April 16, 2014   ( Norbert von der Groeben )When best-selling author Khaled Hosseini, MD, took the stage at Stanford’s recent Medicine and the Muse symposium, he smiled, shook his head and said, “Those student performances were amazing. I am not sure how I can follow that.” The performances Hosseini referred to were those of numerous medical students and included a soulful dance set to the song “Say Something” by Great Big World, an emotional spoken word poem, a performance of Chopin, a documentary film clip, an opera singer, and a playful dueling instrumental performance featuring an Indian drum and violin.

In addition to these performances, art and photography created by medical students was on exhibit in the lobby of the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. One art piece was a tree adorned with thank-you notes written to patients by several fourth-year students. One note read:

It’s unfair that all I can say is “Thank you”
Because I learned and benefited from…
your pain
your illness
your despair
your secrets
your body and mind and spirit
I am honored to have had a chance to care for you, learn from you, and witness your resilience

Hosseini himself had a chance to see one of his former patients, who came to the event and brought his medical record for Hosseini to sign. “I guess I did all right for you,” Hosseini laughed, “You are here.”

Before the book-signing, the overflow crowd was silent and attentive as Hosseini answered questions about his writing and Afghanistan posed by Paul Costello, chief communications officer for the School of Medicine. Hosseini shared that as a 15-year old coming to America from Afghanistan, he struggled. “To be a 15-year old in an American high school, not knowing how to speak English. That was tough. I was invisible.” When Costello asked Hosseini about his hope for Afghanistan, particularly after the April 5 elections, he said, “I hope there is a new future for Afghanistan. A future of peace, not war. Did you know that 64 percent of the Afghan population is under the age of 24? And their heroes are people like Steve Jobs… There is so much more to the country of Afghanistan than what is portrayed on television.”

Several students and spouses in attendance were also veterans of the U.S. War in Afghanistan. Shannon Barg, who served in the U.S. Army as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot and is participating in a writing workshop for student veterans sponsored by the Arts, Medicine and Humanities program, brought the copy of The Kite Runner she had read “over and over” in Afghanistan for Hosseini to sign. “That book was so important to me over there,” she said. “I can’t believe I had this chance to meet him.”

A conversation with Khaled Hosseine  and Paul Costello meets during an evening with Medicine and the Muse at Paul and Mildred Berg Hall, Li Ka Shing Center at Stanford School of Medicine on Wednesday, April 16, 2014   ( Norbert von der Groeben )Hosseini also shared his writing routine. “I write every day. Writing is very blue collar. You have to show up every day, and you have to put the work in.”

When asked about his days as a physician, Hosseini joked that his patients would spend more time talking to him about his books than about their ailments. “So I had to step down, for the sake of their health.” Although he derived satisfaction from helping patients as a medical doctor, Hosseini believes he can perhaps have a further reach with the humanitarian work his writing allows him to pursue. He has established the Khaled Hosseini Foundation to bring humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan, building shelters for refugee families and providing economic opportunities, education, and health care for women and children of Afghanistan, and he recently wrote about his work with Syrian refuges in a New York Times op-ed.

“We are all part of humanity,” Hosseini said, “And we should try to help one another.”

Jacqueline Genovese is assistant director of the Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program within the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. Medicine and the Muse 2014 was made possible by the generous support of Stanford School of Medicine, the Medicine & the Muse Medical Humanities Program, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, the Biomedical Ethics and Medical Humanities Scholarly Concentration, the Drs. Ben and A. Jess Shenson Funds, and a Stanford Arts Institute SPARK Grant.

Previously: Intersection of arts and medicine a benefit to both, report finds and Stanford’s Medicine and the Muse symposium features author of “The Kite Runner”
Photos by Norbert von der Groeben

Events, Medicine and Literature, Medicine and Society

Intersection of arts and medicine a benefit to both, report finds

Intersection of arts and medicine a benefit to both, report finds

An article today on Cleveland.com notes that, at least in Northeast Ohio, collaboration between medicine and the arts benefits both camps as well as the region’s economic health. A preliminary report from the non-profit Community Partnership for Arts and Culture looks at ways art and medicine enrich one another in Cleveland and provides recommendations for enhancing those partnerships. From the news piece:

The report identifies four principal ways in which the art and medicine intersect productively:

• The use of arts and culture in medical settings;

• Participatory programs that involve patients and communities in activities and therapies that promote positive medical outcomes and general wellness;

• The potential shown by arts and culture to serve as a rallying point from which public health and social equity can be addressed; and

• The enrichment of medical training.

Meanwhile, at Stanford, art and science lovers prepare for this evening’s Medicine and the Muse symposium, featuring author Khaled Hosseini, MD. Stay tuned for a recap on Scope next week.

Previously: Stanford’s Medicine and the Muse symposium features author of “The Kite Runner”, Literature and medicine at life’s end and Thoughts on the arts and humanities in shaping a medical career

Behavioral Science, Ethics, Medicine and Society, Research, Stanford News

Breaking down happiness into measurable goals

Breaking down happiness into measurable goals

sunflowersSo you want to be happy. Can you be more specific? A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that concrete, rather than abstract, goals for happiness tend to be more successful. Jennifer Aaker, PhD, Stanford social psychologist and marketing professor, and colleagues performed six field and laboratory experiments and found that participants who performed specific acts of kindness – such as recycling or making someone smile – reported greater happiness than participants whose prosocial goals were less precise – such as helping the environment or people more broadly.

From a Stanford News article:

The reason is that when you pursue concretely framed goals, your expectations of success are more likely to be met in reality. On the other hand, broad and abstract goals may bring about happiness’ dark side – unrealistic expectations.

Acting directly and specifically in service to others brings greater happiness to the giver, the study found. The piece continues:

For example, an experiment involving bone marrow transplants focused on the whether giving those who need bone marrow transplants “greater hope” – the abstract goal – or giving those who need bone marrow transplants a “better chance of finding a donor” – the concrete goal – made a giver more happy.

The answer: Helping someone find a donor resulted in more happiness for the giver. This, the researchers wrote, was driven by givers’ perceptions that their actual acts better met their expectations of accomplishing their goal of helping another person.

Previously: Study shows happiness and meaning in life may be different goalsAre you happy now? Stanford Roundtable spotlights the science of happiness and wellbeing and Stanford faculty and students launch social media campaign to expand bone marrow donor registry
Photo by Iryna Yeroshko

Medical Education, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

Studying the humanities to address “the messiness of human life”

Studying the humanities to address "the messiness of human life"

Life’s problems and people are often complex, ambiguous and soft to the touch. This holds true even in the medical sciences and professions that require precision in data collection and analysis; critical thinking skills and a broad, flexible world view are therefore necessary components of a balanced education. The School of Medicine‘s dean, Lloyd Minor, MD, explains in a recent op-ed for the Stanford Daily why anyone invested or even interested in medicine should pay attention to the humanities.

From the piece:

Consider the child with autism or the adult with Alzheimer’s disease. A physician can make a diagnosis but cannot offer a cure or a satisfying answer to the question “why?” Even for conditions that we can prevent or treat, patient behavior can significantly impact the success or failure of an intervention. For the hypertensive patient, no amount of prescribed medication will impact the social factors that may be inhibiting lifestyle modification. The specificity of scientific interventions does not account for the messiness of human life.

We as physicians heal best when we listen to and communicate with our patients and seek to understand the challenges they face in their lives. The perspectives on illness, emotions and the human condition we gain from literature, religion and philosophy provide us with important contexts for fulfilling these roles and responsibilities.

Previously: Becoming Doctors: Stanford med students reflect and share experiences through podcastsThoughts on the arts and humanities in shaping a medical careerEncouraging alternative routes to medical school and Stanford dean discusses changing expectations for medical students

Events, Medicine and Literature, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

Stanford’s Medicine and the Muse symposium features author of “The Kite Runner”

Stanford's Medicine and the Muse symposium features author of "The Kite Runner"

Hosseini SmallNext Wednesday, Stanford’s annual Medicine and the Muse symposium will bring together medical student art, music, photography and literature in a series of performances and exhibits. During the event, Khaled Hosseini, MD, bestselling author of The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns and And the Mountains Echoed, will join Paul Costello, chief communications officer for the School of Medicine, in conversation. He will also be available for book signing.

This year’s Medicine and the Muse theme is “Renewal,” informed by Hosseini’s writing. The event “is an opportunity for medical students to share their artistic talents, and to hear from a physician who has followed his muse to success in writing,” said Grace Xiong, a member of the medical student committee organizing the event.

Medicine and the Muse takes place April 16, from 5:30-8:30 PM in Berg Hall of the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge on the Stanford campus. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested. To RSVP, e-mail mandm2014@lists.stanford.edu, or call 650-725-3448.

Photo by Elena Selbert

Autism, Medicine and Literature, Medicine and Society

“No, I’m not ready yet”: A sister’s translation for her brother with autism

Over on Medium.com, Abby Norman shares experiences from her youth in a family with a brother, Caleb, who has autism and a mother with an eating disorder. Able to observe and interpret Caleb’s ways of communicating, Abby acts as a translator to give him a voice that others will hear and, one hopes, understand.

From the piece:

What calmed him was lying on the bed for hours, motionless, watching the numbers of the digital clock change.

He did not potty train on schedule. Instead, he had somewhat of an intense penchant for smearing feces all over the rug and walls of the house. This was his way of saying, “No, I’m not ready yet.” … His relationship to the toilet had nothing to do with his bodily needs: the toilet was his method of rejecting objects. If he didn’t want something, he’d flush it down the toilet.

He was only aggressive in the sense that, when startled or overwhelmed, he would kick and scream. They started out seeming like normal tantrums; but while most kids could be consoled, Caleb could not be, and he would have to literally wear himself down before he would stop.

The author notes that even in understanding her brother’s differences, she was not necessarily his ideal caretaker. The piece continues:

Once he started school, the nightmare only intensified. I say that not to describe what life was like for us, but for him. School, with its unpredictable nature and constant social interaction, its lack of structure for kids who needed anything other than “normative learning.” The truth was, Caleb wasn’t really special needs. He was extremely intelligent.

At home, his day to day life was more or less consistent. While my experience growing up with a mum with an eating disorder was difficult, for Caleb, the obsessive-compulsive nature of her lifestyle was exactly what he required to stay calm and safe. He and my mother had, and to this day still have, a very symbiotic relationship.

Previously: Inspired by his autistic son, a Stanford researcher works to understand the biochemistry of autismThe Reason I Jump: Insights on autism and communication, A mother’s story on what she learned from her autistic son and Autism therapies: It still comes down to parents

Bioengineering, Global Health, Medicine and Society, Stanford News, Videos

Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries

Music box inspires a chemistry set for kids and scientists in developing countries

Over the past few weeks my colleague Kris Newby has been writing about the Foldscope, the 50-cent microscope developed by bioengineer Manu Prakash, PhD. Today Prakash is announcing another device that will bring high tech science to the developing world – and to kids.

The device won a contest from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public to “Reimagine the chemistry set for the 21st century.” In the contest materials, the two groups cite the absence of chemistry sets on the market today that inspire creativity.

As the parent of two boys I have to agree. Chemistry toys these days come with prepackaged materials and set instructions for how to use them. Sure, I’m not enthusiastic about some of the dangerous chemicals in the kits that inspired an older generation of scientists, but a bit of creativity would be nice.

Prakash took inspiration from a simple music box to design a handheld chemistry set that can be programmed using holes punched in a paper tape. The prize came from the set’s use as a toy to inspire kids, but Prakash and graduate student George Korir also envision it being used to carry out science in developing countries. They say it can be built for about $5. Prakash told me, “I’d started thinking about this connection between science education and global health. The things that you make for kids to explore science [are] also exactly the kind of things that you need in the field because they need to be robust and they need to be highly versatile.”

My Stanford Report story goes on to describe how it works:

Like the music box, the prototype includes a hand cranked wheel and paper tape with periodic holes punched by the user. When a pin encounters a hole in the tape it flips and activates a pump that releases a single drop from a channel. In the simplest design, 15 independent pumps, valves and droplet generators can all be controlled simultaneously.

Prakash and Korir didn’t set out to make a kit for kids. Their idea was that a portable, programmable chemistry kit could be used around the world to test water quality, provide affordable medical diagnostic tests, assess soil chemistry for agriculture or as a snake bite venom test kit. It could even be used in modern labs to carry out experiments on a very small scale.

This chemistry set and the Foldscope are both part of what Prakash calls “frugal science.” There’s more about how the device works in the technical paper.

Previously: Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope and Free DIY microscope kits to citizen scientists with inspiring project ideas
Photo in featured entry box by George Korir

Medicine and Society, Orthopedics, Stanford News

Art and anatomy: Decades-old collaboration brings augmented reality into the hands of Rodin

Art and anatomy: Decades-old collaboration brings augmented reality into the hands of Rodin

This Wednesday, the Cantor Art Museum is launching a first-of-its-kind exhibit, “Inside Rodin’s Hands: Art, Technology, and Surgery.” This unique exhibit uses 21st Century technology to look inside the works of Rodin’s 19th Century sculptures.  As described by Tracie White in today’s Inside Stanford Medicine, the exhibit:

…is a feat of interdisciplinary collaboration that celebrates a long-time connection between sculptor Auguste Rodin’s fascination with the human form and medicine’s fascination with human anatomy.

“A deep and rich history unites the art of the museum with the medical school,” said Connie Wolf, museum director, which has one of the largest Rodin exhibits, with 200 of his sculptures, including the Thinker and the Gates of Hell. “These statues have inspired faculty at the School of Medicine. Art is informing medicine in this exhibit. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever done before.”

Indeed, the rich history that Wolf refers to goes back to the early 90’s when Albert Elsen, PhD, joined forces with Robert Chase, MD. Elsen, a leading authority on Rodin, was the person most responsible for amassing the museum’s huge collection. Chase, then head of the Division of Anatomy, knew his art, too, having taught a popular course on Renaissance art and anatomy.

Because Rodin was known to use models with diseases and deformities, these two “super docents” delighted in taking med students on strolls through the Rodin Sculpture Garden. They’d wend their way through the garden, from one statue to the next, prompting the students to determine whether there were actual clues belying a medical condition, or were they simply seeing the results of the sculpture’s artistic license?

In 1991, I was lucky enough to tag along on one of these walks. By that time, I’d logged scads of Saturdays and Sundays at the garden, usually with drawing pad in hand. This time, it was a very different kind of tour, more akin to doing rounds in the hospital. These works of art that were models for my drawings, were now being diagnosed like patients. I was fascinated from the get-go. The last stop on our tour was the Gates of Hell. After an introduction to the monumental bronze, the focus shifted to the final “patient,” the life-sized statue of Eve, positioned on the right-side of the Gates. She sparked the liveliest discussion of the tour: Was the model for Eve pregnant? If so, how far along might she have been?

I remember how excited I was, seeing Rodin’s art in an entirely new way. It never entered my mind, that decades down the road, I’d get to experience that newly enlightened excitement, again. Nor, did it occur to me that I’d get to witness the trajectory that spans the last 23 years.

Continue Reading »

Events, Medical Education, Medicine and Society, Neuroscience, Stanford News

The brain whisperer: Stanford neurologist talks about his work, shares tips with aspiring doctors

The brain whisperer: Stanford neurologist talks about his work, shares tips with aspiring doctors

Parvizi at MS 101 - smallJosef Parvizi, MD, PhD, knows firsthand how art can influence medicine. While at a concert featuring music created by digitizing space sounds, he was inspired: “Why can’t we make music by digitzing brain waves?”

Parvizi, a neurologist who specializes in epilepsy, told local high-school students attending Stanford’s Med School 101 recently that the beauty of being a physician-researcher at Stanford is that you’re “surrounded by brilliant people in all areas.” So he took his literal brainstorm to Chris Chafe, PhD, in Stanford’s music department, and the result is a newly patented “brain stethoscope” that can translate brainwaves into music. Parvizi demonstrated the difference between normal brainwave music and the music produced by a brain experiencing a seizure in this YouTube video about the research.

In addition to the brain stethoscope, Parvizi has developed a procedure utilizing electrodes to detect the exact area of the brain that is causing the seizure, and then working with brain surgeons to operate on the affected area. At last week’s event he told the story of a patient who for 20 years had seizures that caused her leg to flail out to the side, greatly limiting her ability to do the things we take for granted every day, like driving or taking a shower. Showing a picture of the happy patient in her car holding up her driver’s license, Parvizi said, “This patient has been seizure-free for six years, driving and enjoying life like never before.”

Parvizi described being a physician-researcher this way: “Like riding two horses standing up with one foot on each horse, you have to keep your balance and it takes some skill.” But, he says, being a physician-researcher allows you to help thousands of patients with your research, and one patient at a time with the application of that research.

He advised the students to “do work you are excited about,” and in looking for a mentor, “be persistent, not pushy.” Parvizi told the story of how as a medical student he contacted the pioneering cognitive neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, MD, PhD, after reading his ground-breaking book, Descartes’ Error. “This was before the Internet, so I wrote to him and sent him faxes. I finally called him and told him I would be coming to the States and would like to meet with him. He told me he would give me 15 minutes. I told him, ‘I am coming all the way from Norway,’ and he said, ‘I will give you 15 minutes.’” That meeting set the course for Parvizi’s career, a career he clearly relishes.

“It took me 22 years of school and training, and that sounds like a lot, but it went by fast because everything is so interesting and exciting,” Parvizi told the group. Snapping his fingers and smiling, he said, “It went by just like that.”

Jacqueline Genovese is assistant director of the Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program within the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics. Parvizi and Chafe will be demonstrating their brain stethoscope on April 29 from 5:30-7 PM at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, as part of  the program’s Recombinations series.

Previously: At Med School 101, teens learn that it’s “so cool to be a doctor”, How epilepsy patients are teaching Stanford scientists more about the brainImplanting electrodes to treat epilepsy, better understand the brain and Ask Stanford Med: Neurologist answers your questions on drug-resistant epilepsy
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

Aging, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute encourages “personal reflection and intellectual exploration”

Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute encourages "personal reflection and intellectual exploration"

PizzoStanford University announced today a new center to support highly accomplished leaders who are mid-career in public or private sector positions and seeking new resources and influences to prepare for their next steps. The Stanford Distinguished Careers Institute (DCI) will offer 20 participants access to faculty and classes in all seven of Stanford’s schools, including the School of Medicine. Additionally, the DCI Fellows will participate in specially designed programs including a core program of weekly seminars and discussions, one-to-two day meetings on key issues, and monthly dinners with faculty scholars and Stanford and Silicon Valley community leaders.

Philip Pizzo, MD, former dean of the medical school, is founding director of the institute, which is a partnership with the Stanford Center on Longevity.

From a Stanford News article:

“We know what role universities play in early life and in stimulating the first phase of careers,” said [Pizzo], who returned to teaching in 2012 after serving as dean of Stanford School of Medicine for 12 years. “What is their role in mid- to later-career life transitions and journeys?”

“Life should be filled with new journeys and new opportunities, and shouldn’t be affixed to traditional stopping points that are no longer relevant,” said Pizzo, who is the David and Susan Heckerman professor of pediatrics, and of microbiology and immunology at Stanford. “We need to recalibrate the way we think about the life journey, and recognize that individuals have different things to offer and to gain at different stages in life.”

Pizzo said the institute will serve as a transition to new ventures for participants, allowing them to build on their life experiences to create something unique that will improve themselves and the world.

“The new way forward that emerges from participating in the institute can be one long-anticipated and hoped-for, or one not yet imagined,” he said.

Previously: The legacy of Stanford’s Philip Pizzo and Phil Pizzo, the marathon man, moves on
Photo by L.A. Cicero

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