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Vital Signs

News Briefs

'PEZ Lady' Dispenses Joy
You could not believe the nose prints up against my window," says Kate Clay, the director of DHMC's Center for Shared Decision Making. When her office was on the Medical Center's main mall, kids and grownups alike would press their noses to her office window to admire her colorful collection of PEZ dispensers (pictured at left). Her office is no longer in as prominent a location, but she still displays a rotating, seasonally appropriate selection there.

Over the last 20 years, Clay has collected more than 350 of the whimsical candy dispensers, which feature the heads of cartoon, movie, or holiday characters. Total strangers will often strike up conversations with "the PEZ lady," and children are delighted when she lets them choose a dispenser for themselves from her bag of extras. She once gave a Smurfs dispenser to a cancer patient whose wife was decorating a Smurfs-theme room for him at home. "The one thing he didn't have was a Smurf PEZ," says Clay. "I did."

Although "people are here because they're ill," she observes, "a little comic relief brings a lot of joy."


'Poetic' Prose Wins Prize
A piece of prose about a poet-the cover story in the Spring 2008 issue of Dartmouth Medicine (pictured below)-has won the top writing prize of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The article, about former New Hampshire and U.S. poet laureate Donald Hall, received the AAMC's Robert G. Fenley Award of Excellence in the Solicited Articles category.

Titled "The Poetry of Caregiving," the story was written by freelancer Susan Salter Reynolds, a staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, for whose pages she has also written about Hall. The focus of the piece was the death from leukemia of Hall's wife (and fellow poet) Jane Kenyon, especially the way he grew into his caregiving role during her illness. Both Hall and Kenyon had high praise for the care she received at DHMC. Read the article here

The AAMC judges said of Reynolds's story: "Loved the -details. Really well done-you could hear his voice. The tone matches the subject matter-at times poetic." The award will be presented at an AAMC meeting in late March.


On the Ball: Luckily, the coach of the Hanover High School girls' basketball team is Dr. Daniel O'Rourke, a DHMC cardiologist. When a player's dad suffered a heart attack at a recent game, he was revived thanks to O'Rourke, an EMT, and a defibrillator.

Hometown News: Milton and Fred Ochieng' (DC '04 and '05, respectively) were ABC News Persons of the Week in January. The brothers built a clinic in their Kenyan hometown while in medical school. See the full story here.

China Pattern: A health-care blogger noted that China faces many of the same health-care problems as the U.S., including overutilization of services and unaffordable coverage-and then mused, "How do you say 'Dartmouth Atlas' in Chinese?"

Safe Way: Reducing employee injuries is part of DHMC's safety effort. In 2007, its employee injury rate was almost half the U.S. average-just 4.4 injuries per 100 full-time equivalent staff, compared to 8.7 per 100 FTEs nationally.

Typing Test: If you thought Facebook was just for chitchat and snapshots, think again. DHMC's Blood Donor Program is part of a national pilot that's aiming to recruit younger donors using a Facebook application called Takes All Types.

Pain Killer: The nation's two biggest pain societies recently issued new guidelines on the long-term use of potentially addictive opioids. Dr. Gilbert Fanciullo, a pain specialist at Dartmouth, was one of the authors of the guidelines.

Green Acres: DHMC became the first U.S. hospital to measure its ecological footprint (an estimated 13.8 acres per full-time staffer), after recycling manager John Leigh developed a spreadsheet-style analysis tool, thanks to a grant from the Maverick Lloyd Foundation.

Paper Trail: Research from DMS's Department of Pathology was ranked among the top 10% in the world by the U.S. and Canadian Academy of Pathology, based on the number of papers accepted for presentation at the organization's annual meeting.

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