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Vital Signs

Media Mentions : DMS and DHMC in the News

Among the people and programs coming in for prominent media coverage in recent months was Dr. Jonathan Ross. In the "Diagnosis" section of the New York Times Magazine, the DHMC internist—" a tall wiry doctor with large silverrimmed glasses and a gentle manner"—solved a medical mystery. "I think this is scurvy," the magazine quoted Ross as saying to his medical team, which was taking care of a patient crippled with a puzzling illness. "He said they needed to start treating her immediately," the magazine recounted. "The team was skeptical. . . . [But] by Day 5 [of treatment with vitamin C], the patient was able to walk again, though she had to use a walker."

In Peter Jennings's last documentary for ABC News before he died of lung cancer, he interviewed DMS physician-researcher Elliot Fisher. "Dr. Fisher and his fellow researchers at Dartmouth Medical School studied the relationship between how much is spent on health care and how beneficial that health care is," said the narrator of the documentary. "The findings were pretty consistent," Fisher told Jennings. "More medical care did not result in better medical care. In fact, it goes the other way, if anything." Fisher's work was also mentioned in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial and in a feature in the Economist.

Nightmares aren't the only sleep problems that affect kids. In an article in the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette, "Dr. Michael Sateia, [former] president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, noted that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that pediatricians screen all children for snoring, which can be a sign of sleep problems. 'This is part of a growing recognition of the importance of healthy sleep and sleep disorders in childhood,' said Sateia, a professor of psychiatry at Dartmouth. 'Pediatricians are beginning to recognize how common sleep-related problems of all kinds are during childhood and what impact these disorders have on . . . children.'"

In January, after Israel's Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke, National Public Radio's All Things Considered interviewed a DHMC expert about medically induced comas. "Dr. James Bernat is a professor of neurology at Dartmouth Medical School," the show's host said. "He says the goal of a medically induced coma is to reduce the work of the brain cells and protect them from increased pressure inside the skull or after an event such as stroke." Another NPR show, Weekend Edition, also talked with Bernat, to get his opinion on an unusual case in Massachusetts. One day after a court decided that an 11-yearold girl in a coma should be allowed to die, the girl awoke. The debate over the case "echoed that over Terri Schiavo," observed the NPR reporter. "But Dr. James Bernat says the two cases are different. 'Mrs. Schiavo was in a vegetative state for 15 years,'" he pointed out.

"A funny thing is happening to hypnosis," according to Prevention. "It's becoming respectable." In an article titled "The Healing Power of Hypnosis," the magazine featured a DHMC nurse who was having trouble getting pregnant until she underwent hypnosis by "Da-Shih Hu, M.D., a psychiatrist and an assistant professor at Dartmouth Medical School." Among the many medical centers—and the many different hypnotic treatments—also mentioned in the article was "Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center, [where] doctors use hypnosis to reduce pain and nausea" during certain epilepsy diagnostic procedures.

Major newspapers in Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Seattle, Ottawa, and London, as well as radio and TV stations worldwide, consulted a DMS epidemiologist about a fiber study that appeared recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association. "In an editorial in the same journal," reported the BBC, "Dr. John Baron of Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire said short-term studies appeared to suggest there was no effect from high dietary fiber intake on bowel cancer risk." Baron was also quoted about a trial showing that calcium and vitamin D supplements don't protect against colorectal cancer. The study was "probably not long enough to observe an effect on colorectal cancer," Baron told USA Today.

For each day of February, Black History Month, the Indianapolis Star featured a black individual "who made a difference." Among the honorees was "Dr. Mae Jemison . . . the first black female astronaut in space" and an adjunct professor of community and family medicine at DMS. "After graduating from medical school, she joined the Peace Corps," explained the Star, "serving as a medical officer in the West African countries of Sierra Leone and Liberia. 'Having been an astronaut gives me a platform,'" she told the paper, " 'but I'd blow it if I just talked about the shuttle.' Instead, she brings attention to what she sees as unacceptable disparities in the quality of health care in the U.S. and in Third World countries."

"The hospital industry has spent nearly $100 billion in inflation-adjusted dollars in the past five years on new facilities, up 47% from the previous five years," noted a recent USA Today article. For perspective, the paper turned to a DMS expert. "'These hospitals are loaded with technology to intensively treat chronically ill patients right up to death,' says physician John Wennberg, director of the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences at Dartmouth. 'We know from research that does not improve outcomes, but it does drive up costs.'" A Washington Post editorial by Steven Pearlstein and a Wall Street Journal article also cited Wennberg's work. "We know from John Wennberg and his associates at Dartmouth that as much as half of all health care consumed in some regions is medically unnecessary," Pearlstein wrote.

"For the first time, the federal Medicare insurance system will pay for certain people over 65 to get an ultrasound screening test to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms, a dangerous ballooning of the body's main artery that can burst with lethal results," began an article in the Wall Street Journal. "Robert Zwolak, a Dartmouth Medical School vascular surgeon who has campaigned for the new law," the Journal continued, "called it 'a tremendous step forward and a great victory for patients at risk.'" (For more on Zwolak's campaign, see "Surgeon leads aneurysm screening campaign" in the Summer 2005 Dartmouth Medicine.)

Countless commuters listened in as "Dartmouth Medical School's Dr. James Weinstein, one of the nation's leading experts on back pain," was interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition in early March. Featuring two of Weinstein's patients who were considering back surgery, the segment described how "Weinstein wouldn't tell his patients what to do," but rather gave them the best information available about the current treatment choices. "Weinstein is heading a federally financed study . . . to compare the benefits of surgery and nonsurgery," NPR explained. "Results are due this summer." Weinstein's name also cropped up in a Wall Street Journal article about baby slings. The trendy carriers are functional as well as hip, the Journal said, "because they distribute the baby's weight" better and "allow mom or dad to switch sides periodically. 'If you can change loads and positions, that's good for the body,'" Weinstein advised.

Also providing baby-related advice, in the magazine Parenting, was "Jennifer Shu, M.D., director of the newborn nursery at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center." Regarding baby sleeping positions, she told Parenting, "I tell my patients: You should still put them down on their backs, but what babies do in the middle of the night is their business." Later on in the article—titled "Is My Baby Ready To . . .?"—she offered a word of caution about attachable crib toys. " 'Some [babies] will push the buttons repeatedly until they get sleepy. Other kids will just get more and more wired,' says Dr. Shu, the mom of a four-year-old."

The Kansas City Star recently interviewed Dr. "Lori Arviso Alvord, a Navajo who grew up on a reservation in New Mexico. Today she is a surgeon and an associate dean at Dartmouth Medical School," the Star said. The article also reported on several talks that Alvord gave in Kansas City. "Her remarks touched on Navajo beliefs, ceremonies, and cultural practices and how they relate to healing," the Star explained. "For example, she said the traditional Native American lifestyle included a lot of physical activity and a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and nuts. Meat depended on good hunting and was not a daily staple. Such a lifestyle reflects modern-day exhortations for exercise and low-fat diets."

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