medicine

  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.

  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.

 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.

    

  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.

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