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Media Mentions : DMS & DHMC in the News

Among the people and programs coming in for prominent media coverage in recent months was Dr. John Modlin, chair of pediatrics at DMS and head of a national panel on immunization policy —a group very involved in preparing for the possibility of bioterrorism. Modlin has discussed immunization issues everywhere from the New York Times to National Public Radio's All Things Considered. In a People magazine Q&A, for example, he said, "We're in a much better position to respond to smallpox than we were a couple of months ago." (See page 10 for more on this topic.)

The Wall Street Journal carried a report recently on "a study that shows promise in the fight against cervical cancer. If the final round of trials goes as expected, the vaccine could receive federal approval for marketing in several years, said Diane Harper, the director of the colposcopy clinic at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. 'We are very, very excited,' Harper said. 'I think cervical cancer can go the way of smallpox.'"

A pair of young DHMC patients appeared recently on both Good Morning America (GMA) and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Harrison Colegrove, 11, and his sister Gracie, 9, had been confined to wheelchairs for several years. "Doctor after doctor saw the Colegroves," reported GMA, "but none had a name for the disease. . . . After five years of searching, the family would discover the sort of medical miracle you find only in movies." The Colegroves also shared their story on Oprah. There, Winfrey explained that "their ordeal finally came to an end when the family met Dr. James Filiano of Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center. [He] believed the children were suffering from something called dopa-responsive dystonia." Happily, the rare disease is treatable with medication, and the Colegrove children now do karate and gymnastics.

A Dartmouth neurosurgeon was quoted on both coasts in recent months. The New York Times, reporting on a Lancet study of cerebral aneurysms, wrote: "Some American neurosurgeons are unhappy with aspects of the study. Dr. Robert Harbaugh, director of cerebrovascular surgery at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Medical Center, agreed that the sevenpercentage- point difference in good outcomes after one year was significant, but he said he wanted to see longer studies." And the Los Angeles Times turned to Harbaugh for commentary on a study showing no support for allegations that roller coasters cause brain injury. " 'It's more likely that these things happen by chance and that the roller coaster isn't causing the problem,' said Robert Harbaugh, a neurosurgeon at Dartmouth."

A few days before Thanksgiving, the New York Times editorialized on the fact that "surgery to treat severe obesity is expanding at a rapid rate." The paper said "an analysis by researchers at Dartmouth Medical School found that the gastric bypass operation could increase life expectancy by two to three years on average" but rued "the failure of medical science to find a less drastic approach to the nation's bulging weight problem."

"If cancer is an iceberg, a detectable tumor is just the tip, says Michael Sporn, a cancer researcher at Dartmouth Medical School": So read the opening sentence of a feature in U.S. News & World Report on a field called chemoprevention, a term that Sporn coined. "Ever since the government- sponsored war on cancer began in the 1970s," the article went on, "doctors have focused on treating those tips. But now, says Sporn, 'the goal is to melt the iceberg before it surfaces.'" (See page 6 for other recent news about Sporn.)

Scientific American, calling arsenic a "mysterious carcinogen," noted that "although toxicologists aren't sure how [it] attacks the body's cells, a new study by scientists at Dartmouth Medical School indicates that the substance disrupts the activity of hormones called glucocorticoids, which help to regulate blood sugar and suppress tumors."

The New York Times turned to a Dartmouth expert in outcomes research for commentary on a study showing lumpectomy to be as effective as radical mastectomy in the treatment of breast cancer. "'I think this is great,' said Dr. H. Gilbert Welch of Dartmouth Medical School. 'This is Cadillac data, just what we want.'"

Another outcomes expert was quoted in connection with a study suggesting that men who undergo surgery for prostate cancer can reduce their chance of dying of that disease—but not their overall risk of dying. Reported the Associated Press: "What the study doesn't show is which patients would benefit most and least from the operation, said Dr. John Wasson of Dartmouth, who believes prostate cancer is an overtreated disease."

"A virtual volley of conflicting advice and studies" about health practices—such as "today's medical bulletin: drink red wine; tomorrow's: don't drink red wine"— was the subject of a story in the Miami Herald. One key, says DMS's Lisa Schwartz, M.D., "is presenting scientific information in a way patients can understand. . . . 'You hear all these numbers and you have no way of knowing are they big or small. We want to do a better job of giving people context for those numbers,' says Schwartz."

When the FBI began investigating an unusually high rate of heart surgery at a hospital in Redding, Calif., the media—from the New York Times to NPR's Morning Edition—began beating a path to the door of a Dartmouth expert in health-care utilization. Wrote the San Francisco Chronicle, for example: " 'We've been aware of Redding for a number of years,' said Dr. John Wennberg, whose research at Dartmouth looks at wide regional differences in the use of costly medical services."

The complexities of ensuring the safety of donated blood was the subject of an article in the St. Petersburg Times. "Blood banks would like to test each sample individually. . . . But experts say they lack the technology to do it, with some 14 million units of blood processed each year in the U.S. 'That is the best way of testing, but it's just not feasible at this time,' said Dr. James AuBuchon, medical director of the transfusion service at Dartmouth. 'It's going to take a few more steps, analytical equipment steps, before we can implement single-donor testing routinely.'"

An increase in the number of college students nationwide who take prescription psychoactive drugs was the subject of a recent Boston Globe story. "'The Internet makes a huge difference,' said Dr. Mark Reed, one of Dartmouth's two full-time [student health service] psychiatrists. 'When they come into my office, they tell me they've been studying the signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder, and they say: 'I need cognitive behavior therapy, and I need an SSRI [selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, an antidepressant].' My jaw drops to the floor, and I say, 'Okay, humor me. Can you take me through the evaluation?'"

The lack of any scientific underpinning for the ubiquitous advice to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day has made the news in a big way ever since the release in mid-summer of a review article for the American Journal of Physiology by Dartmouth faculty member Heinz Valtin, M.D. Now Valtin has really made the bigtime press—the funny pages. The nationally syndicated comic strip "Sylvia" recently depicted a TV host proclaiming, "Dr. Valtin, a kidney specialist, says that drinking eight glasses of water a day leads not to better health but more trips to the bathroom." (See page 10 of the Fall 2002 issue for details about his article.)

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