Death of the stethoscope?

By Font Awesome by Dave Gandy - http://fortawesome.github.com/Font-Awesome, CC BY-SA 3.0, LinkIt’s not just zombies that rise from the dead—science news stories can also come back to haunt the reader.

Take “Death of the stethoscope,” which surfaced in my RSS feed in the middle of 2015. As a former stethoscope user, the clickbait headline immediately intrigued me.

No stethoscope? How would clinicians survive?

Historical

First off: a little history. According to his Wikipedia summary, a French doctor called René Laennec invented a hollow hearing tube in 1816 to assist doctors in listening to a patient’s heart and lungs. Around 1852, the single tube morphed into the standard model that you see plugged into physicians’ ears from Grey’s Anatomy to House to ER. Apart from making them look hot professional, a stethoscope also helps with auscultation, the examination procedure whereby a doctor eavesdrops on your internal whooshes, pings and lub-dups. Noises from heart rhythms, gut movements

Around town: Operation Med School

Medical students learning from professor.This one’s for you if you have a high school student around the house who is thinking that med school could be a good option for post-secondary.

A group of enterprising Grade 11 and 12 students is putting on a one-day pre-medical conference for high school peers. Run as an annual event, Operation Med School exposes attendees to many aspects of working in health care by giving them a chance to meet medics, biomedical researchers and other professionals in the field of medicine. The Vancouver event takes place on Saturday, February 18, at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre of the University of British Columbia. (The team also runs similar events in Toronto and Calgary.) Admission includes a lunch card as well as networking opportunities with people who can help guide a future medical career.

Dear reader, I’m sure if you cast your mind waaay back (or even waaaay-er back for some), to those intense days of career planning for high school graduation, you will no doubt remember the heady mix of giddy excitement at the prospect of adulthood mixed with a good dose of

A new era for thalidomide?

By Hrodmar [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsI’d like to stretch the coincidence theme once more on the blog, so bear with me as I wander through some random but connected happenings from my own world of science communications.

Thalidomide.

What do you think of when you hear the name of this drug? What images come to mind?

If you’re a certain age, I’m sure that images of babies born with missing limbs or flipper-like appendages instead of arms or legs flash in front of you. Middle-aged adults may hold childhood memories of growing up around these kids, pointing to them in the street. Older women may shudder, thinking how close they came to taking the as-then wonderdrug that deformed so many lives in the late 1950s and early 1960s. For youngsters, it may just be a sad episode in modern medicine (if they’ve heard of it at all).

For me, thalidomide is the bogey-drug, the medication taken oh-so-innocently that blighted the lives of kids only a few years older

Tea to fight malaria? Yes, but also no.

Brendan Borell has written a scathing attack on the WHO, published in Slate last week. Because of the basics of the story, I thought I knew what I was in for: someone is advocating the use of a cheap “natural” remedy instead of a well-understood synthetic drug. They’re anecdotally reporting extreme efficacy and no drawbacks. Meanwhile, medical authorities are tearing out their hair and imploring people to stick to the stuff that works.

That’s how stories about herbal medicine typically go in my world. But this isn’t quite one of them.

“Although the tea itself has traditionally been used in treatment, not prevention, in China, a randomized controlled trial on this farm showed that workers who drank it regularly reduced their risk of suffering from multiple episodes of malaria by one-third.”

Randomized controlled trial you say?

“Soon afterward, a researcher named Patrick Ogwang with the Ugandan Ministry of Health documented a decline of malaria incidence among almost 300 workers drinking the tea, and followed up with the randomized controlled trial demonstrating