How much should an EpiPen cost?

In today’s Congressional Corner, Vermont Representative Peter Welch tells WAMC’s Alan Chartock why his committee has been looking into that question.

  Andy Lazris, MD, is a practicing primary care physician who experiences the effects of Medicare policy on a daily basis. As a result, he believes that the way we care for our elderly has taken a wrong turn and that Medicare is complicit in creating the very problems it seeks to solve. Aging is not a disease to be cured; it is a life stage to be lived

His new book is Curing Medicare: A Doctor's View on How Our Health Care System Is Failing Older Americans and How We Can Fix It.

  Nearly seventy-five years ago, Donald Triplett of Forest, Mississippi, became the first child diagnosed with autism. Beginning with his family’s odyssey, In a Different Key tells the extraordinary story of this often misunderstood condition, and of the civil rights battles waged by the families of those who have it. Unfolding over decades, it is a beautifully rendered history of ordinary people determined to secure a place in the world for those with autism—by liberating children from dank institutions, campaigning for their right to go to school, challenging expert opinion on what it means to have autism, and persuading society to accept those who are different.  

We speak with John Donvan and Caren Zucker.

  It has long been assumed that people living with autism are born with the diminished ability to read the emotions of others, even as they feel emotion deeply. But what if we’ve been wrong all this time? What if that “missing” emotional insight was there all along, locked away and inaccessible in the mind?

In 2007 John Elder Robison wrote the international bestseller Look Me in the Eye, a memoir about growing up with Asperger’s syndrome. Amid the blaze of publicity that followed, he received a unique invitation: Would John like to take part in a study led by one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, who would use an experimental new brain therapy known as TMS, or transcranial magnetic stimulation, in an effort to understand and then address the issues at the heart of autism? Switched On is the story of what happened next.

  All her life, Emily has felt different from other kids. Between therapist visits, sudden uncontrollable bursts of anger, and unexplained episodes of dizziness and loss of coordination, things have always felt not right. For years, her only escape was through the stories she’d craft about herself and the world around her. But it isn’t until a near-fatal accident when she’s twelve years old that Emily and her family discover the truth: a grapefruit sized benign brain tumor at the base of her skull.

In her memoir, All Better Now, Emily Wing Smith chronicles her struggles with both mental and physical disabilities during her childhood, the devastating accident that may have saved her life, and the means by which she coped with it all: writing.

  There are 13 million people with cancer in the United States, and it’s estimated that about 1.3 million of these cases are hereditary. Yet despite advanced training in cancer genetics and years of practicing medicine, Dr. Theo Ross was never certain whether the history of cancers in her family was simple bad luck or a sign that they were carriers of a cancer-causing genetic mutation. Then she was diagnosed with melanoma, and for someone with a dark complexion, melanoma made no sense. It turned out there was a genetic factor at work.

Using her own family’s story, the latest science of cancer genetics, and her experience as a practicing physician, Ross shows how to spot the patterns of inherited cancer, how to get tested for cancer-causing genes, and what to do if you have one. Theo Ross’s new book is: A Cancer in the Family. 

  In The Brain That Changes Itself, Norman Doidge described the most important breakthrough in our understanding of the brain in four hundred years: the discovery that the brain can change its own structure and function in response to mental experience—what we call neuroplasticity.

His new book, The Brain's Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity ,shows how the amazing process of neuroplastic healing really works.

Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

  Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Previously he worked at The Washington Post.

He is the author of three New York Times best-sellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers; a collection of his New Yorker articles titled What the Dog Saw and most recently, David and Goliath

This episode was recorded live at The White Hart Inn in Salisbury, CT and presented by Oblong Books and Music. 

 As a young medical student, Dr. David Casarett was inspired by the story of a two-year-old girl named Michelle Funk. Michelle fell into a creek and was underwater for over an hour. When she was found she wasn’t breathing, and her pupils were fixed and dilated. That drowning should have been fatal. But after three hours of persistent work, a team of doctors and nurses was able to bring her back. It was a miracle.

If Michelle could come back after three hours of being dead, what about twelve hours? Or twenty-four? What would it take to revive someone who had been frozen for one thousand years? And what does blurring the line between “life” and “death” mean for society? In Shocked, Casarett chronicles his exploration of the cutting edge of resuscitation and reveals just how far science has come.

The O+ Festival is a celebration of art and music that creates a bridge to access health care for artists. O+ fosters complete physical, mental and social well-being by connecting artists directly with a coalition of health care providers and health resources, in a shared vision to nurture the individual and the community.

  Among the first generation of boys prescribed medication for hyperactivity in the 1980s, Timothy Denevi took Ritalin at the age of six, and during the first week, it triggered a psychotic reaction. Doctors recommended behavior therapy, then antidepressants.

Nothing worked. As Timothy’s parents and doctors sought to treat his behavior, he was subjected to a liquid diet, a sleep-deprived EEG, and bizarre behavioral assessments before finding help in therapy combined with medication. In Hyper, Timothy describes how he makes his way through school.

  Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids were estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 are on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise?

In his new book, Neurotribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, journalist Steve Silberman answers this question by peeling back the layers of medical history that radically altered the scope of autism diagnosis in the last century, and revealing the perfect storm of social forces that led to the sudden increase in diagnoses beginning in the late 1980s.

This summer, Steve’s TED Talk on The Forgotten History of Autism went live online and in less than 24 hours, it garnered over 400,000 views.


  Raymond Francis, a chemist and a graduate of MIT, once found himself in a hospital, battling for his life. The diagnosis: acute chemical hepatitis, chronic fatigue, multiple chemical sensitivities, and several autoimmune syndromes, causing him to suffer fatigue, dizziness, impaired memory, heart palpitations, diarrhea, numbness, seizures and numerous other ailments.

Knowing death was imminent unless he took action, Francis decided to research solutions for his disease himself. His findings and eventual recovery led him to conclude that almost all disease can be both prevented and reversed.

He writes about his journey in the new book: The Great American Health Hoax.

  When ADHD first appeared in the DSM in 1987, 3 percent of U.S. children were thought to have the disorder. By 2000, the number increased to 7 percent. In 2014 that number jumped to an alarming 11 percent of children and 15 percent of high school students. Two-thirds of these children are on medication. In contrast, in countries like France, Finland, the UK and Japan, the number is a half of one percent, and far fewer children taking medication.

In the new book: A Disease Called Childhood: Why ADHD Became an American Epidemic, Dr. Marilyn Wedge brings together the latest developments in neuroscience and clinical research, a history of big pharma and psychiatry, and cultural studies of educational systems around the world.

  In recent years, there have been major outbreaks of whooping cough among children in California, mumps in New York, and measles in Ohio’s Amish country—despite the fact that these are all vaccine-preventable diseases.

While America is the most medically advanced place in the world, many people bypass modern medicine in favor of using their faith to fight life threatening illnesses.

According to our next guest, children suffer and die every year from treatable diseases, and in most states it is legal for parents to deny their children care for religious reasons.

Dr. Paul Offit is a Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. His new book is Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine.

  Rob Dunn's The Man Who Touched His Own Heart tells the raucous, gory, mesmerizing story of the heart, from the first "explorers" who dug up cadavers and plumbed their hearts' chambers, through the first heart surgeries-which had to be completed in three minutes before death arrived-to heart transplants and the latest medical efforts to prolong our hearts' lives, almost defying nature in the process.

  America's Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Back-Room Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System is Steven Brill’s much-anticipated, sweeping narrative of how the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was written, how it is being implemented, and, most important, how it is changing—and failing to change—the rampant abuses in the healthcare industry.

Brill probed the depths of our nation’s healthcare crisis in his trailblazing Time magazine Special Report, which won the 2014 National Magazine Award for Public Interest.

1/26/15 Panel

Jan 26, 2015

  The Roundtable Panel: a daily open discussion of issues in the news and beyond.

Today's panelists are WAMC’s Alan Chartock, WAMC Newsman Ray Graf and University at Albany Journalism Professor and Investigative Reporter, Rosemary Armao.

Topics include: President Obama in India, Elections in Greece, Blizzard, Reactions to American Sniper, and Medical Treatments Tailored to Patient's DNA.

  We are very happy to continue our regular feature – Ideas Matter: Checking in with the Public Humanities. It is our chance to check in with the Humanities Councils throughout our 7-State area to discuss important ideas and why they do indeed matter.

Today we check in with MASS Humanities and learn about “Literature, Medicine and the Experience of War” - a six-month, scholar-led, humanities reading and discussion program for health professionals and staff in medical facilities administered by the US Department of Veterans Affairs and/or veterans and military service organizations.

Exercise Will Hurt You

Nov 25, 2014

  When was it decided that exercise could only be good for you? Leading neurosurgeon Dr. Steve Barrer argues, based on his extensive career treating exercise-related injuries, a cornucopia of his own personal injuries from exercise over the years, and ample scientific data, that we ought to change the way we think about exercise.

Instead of succumbing to what Barrer calls “the cult of exercise” that follows the mantra “no pain, no gain,” how about some common sense? His book is Exercise Will Hurt You.

  In 2006 when he was 50 years old, Michael Kovarik of Greenwich was a third-grade teacher in a South Colonie School when he felt a lump in his left breast. He never thought he would develop breast cancer, but he did.

Although male breast cancer is rare, it exists. Nationally, the American Cancer Society predicts 2,360 men will develop the disease this year and 430 will die from it. Contrast that with the 232,670 new cases in women and the prediction that 40,000 will die.

Kovarik has been working to raise awareness about male breast cancer and has written a book about his experience, Healing Within: My Journey with Breast Cancer.


  Out of 238 million American adults, 100 million live in chronic pain. And yet the press has paid more attention to the abuses of pain medications than the astoundingly widespread condition they are intended to treat.

Ethically, the failure to manage pain better is tantamount to torture. When chronic pain is inadequately treated, it undermines the body and mind. Indeed, the risk of suicide for people in chronic pain is twice that of other people.

Far more than just a symptom, writes author Judy Foreman, chronic pain can be a disease in its own right -- the biggest health problem facing America today.

  Deborah Harkness is a scholar and writer specializing in the history of science and medicine. She has received numerous awards, including Fulbright, Guggenheim, and National Humanities Center fellowships. Currently a professor of history at the University of Southern California, she is the author of the New York Times bestselling All Souls Trilogy, and the final book in that trilogy, The Book of Life, is out today.

Studying the area surrounding a cancerous tumor may provide new medical insights.

Dr. Marco Bisoffi, associate professor of biological sciences at Chapman University, is studying field cancerization to help treat the deadly disease.


    We like to imagine that medicine is based on evidence and the results of fair testing and clinical trials. In reality, those tests and trials are often profoundly flawed. We like to imagine that doctors who write prescriptions for everything from antidepressants to cancer drugs to heart medication are familiar with the research literature about a drug, when in reality much of the research is hidden from them by drug companies.

With Ben Goldacre’s characteristic flair and a forensic attention to detail, Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients reveals a shockingly broken system and calls for regulation. This is the pharmaceutical industry as it has never been seen before.

    Katy Butler was living thousands of miles from her vigorous and self-reliant parents when the call came: a crippling stroke had left her proud seventy-nine-year-old father unable to fasten a belt or complete a sentence. Tragedy at first drew the family closer: her mother devoted herself to caregiving, and Butler joined the twenty-four million Americans helping shepherd parents through their final declines.

In Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ponders her parents’ desires for “Good Deaths” and the forces within medicine that stood in the way.

   Showtime's dramatic series Masters of Sex, starring Michael Sheen and Lizzy Caplan, is based on this real-life story of sex researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson.

Convincing hundreds of men and women to shed their clothes and copulate, the pair were the nation’s top experts on love and intimacy. Highlighting interviews with the notoriously private Masters and the ambitious Johnson, critically acclaimed biographer Thomas Maier shows how this unusual team changed the way we all thought about, talked about, and engaged in sex while they simultaneously tried to make sense of their own relationship.

  This morning we’ll discuss MassHumanities Literature & Medicine: Humanities at the Heart of Health Care – it’s a six-month long program that allows medical professionals to reflect on their work through the power of literature. Hospitals host scholar-led discussion groups and together they explore works of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction that illuminate issues central to caring for people, whether they are well, sick, or dying.

Our guests are Pleun Bouricius, Director of Grants and Programs for MASSHumanities, and Robert Meagher, Professor of Humanities at Hampshire College.

More than 90 communities across the country take part in the Lung Cancer Alliance's Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil throughout the month of November. A Vigil at Albany Medical Center - Hilton Garden Inn will take place Thursday night, November 14th at 5:30pm.

The Alliance is looking to advocate for public health dollars for research for cheap, widely available early detection like a blood or urine tests, and provide patient support services. And they look to triple lung cancer survivorship by 2020. Joining us to tell us more:

Dr. Hilton Hossanah is here, he is a Thoracic Surgeon and Assistant Professor at Albany Medical Center. We also welcome Betsy McPhail:  She built a network of support as a caregiver, which gave her the support she needed to get through. Her 20's something sister was diagnosed and died from lung cancer. And Phyllis Goldstein is Director of Lung Cancer Alliance New York and a never smoker survivor who found the path of advocacy to honor the death of her best friend and her father to lung cancer.

Coates: Corporate Influence On Medicine

Nov 8, 2013

Today, commentator Dr. Andrew Coates discussed the corporate influence on medicine.