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Stanford Medicine magazine’s top reads of 2021 offer hope

Stanford Medicine magazine's most-read articles of 2021 were about health inequity and discoveries about the brain and nervous system.

In 2021, Stanford Medicine magazine focused on two seemingly implacable problems: racial inequity in medicine and unlocking the mysteries of the brain and nervous system. The magazine's most popular articles of the year not only described daunting challenges facing health care professionals and patients but also offered solutions.

As professor and chair of neurosurgery Michael Lim, MD, said in the magazine's most-read article of the year, speaking about advances in neuroscience: "We are at an inflection point where we are starting to give functions back to people."

Plenty of challenges remain for 2022, but the research, treatments and programs explored in this year's most-read articles offer a hefty dose of hope.

Top reads in Issue 1, 2021, "Closing the gap: Addressing racial inequity in medicine":

Image by Edel Rodriguez
  • "Righting decades of wrong," which opened the themed issue on the impact of racism on health, is a survey of projects aimed at countering racial inequity and medical mistrust.

    "Racial inequity is a public health crisis that's never been solved," Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in the article.

    The article details routes toward solutions, such as medical outreach programs based at barbershops in Black neighborhoods, increasing access to healthy foods and a successful effort calling for dermatology journals to feature skin with varying pigmentation -- not only white.
Illustration by Brian Stauffer
  • "Unequal treatment" features Megan Mahoney, MD, Stanford Health Care's chief of staff, and other experts and researchers who discuss how considering race can undermine care for everyone.

    Mahoney, who is biracial, describes how her concerns about using race to determine treatment arose when she was a medical student. Mahoney is part of a movement urging medical centers to take race out of health care.

    "You can have the same case, the same words or presentation, and once you attach white or Black to it, you will see wildly different recommendations," said Mahoney in the article.

Top reads in Issue 2, 2021, "Unlocking the mysteries of the brain":

Illustration by Harry Campbell
  • "Making a comeback," which kicked off our themed issue on the brain, was comprised of at least 10 individual stories about research and treatments designed to address conditions that ranged from dementia to paralysis to blindness.

    It starts with a story about an experimental Alzheimer's treatment aimed at tackling not only amyloid, which is the usual target of Alzheimer's treatment but also other forces thought to spur the degeneration of brain cells.

    "One of the great mysteries in our field now is that we see people -- even at advanced ages -- with a brain full of amyloid but with memory and other cognitive function intact," said professor Frank Longo, MD, PhD, chair of neurology.

    "While we do not understand this phenomenon and why it occurs in only a minority of people, we think we have created a compound that confers a therapeutic version of amyloid resilience."
Illustration by Harry Campbell
  • "Good vibrations: Can Parkinson's symptoms be stopped?" tells the story of an experimental treatment for Parkinson's disease based on wearing a vibrating glove.

    It might sound like magic, but early research on the experimental treatment shows promising results. 

    "My goal is to create treatments that are more effective and less brutal on the body by simply utilizing the self-organization power within the body," said neurosurgery professor Peter Tass, MD, PhD, who is developing and testing the treatment.

Images by Edel Rodriguez, Brian Stauffer and Harry Campbell

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