MEDIA MENTIONS: DMS & DHMC IN THE NEWSAmong the people and programs coming in for prominent media coverage recently was kidney specialist Heinz Valtin, M.D. An article he was invited to write for the American Journal of Physiology on whether there is a scientific basis for the recommendation to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a daycame in for a torrent of attention. One reason may be the many punning opportunities the story offered. "The notion that everyone should try to drink at least eight glasses of water a day has seeped its way into the common consciousness," wrote the Washington Post. "Fitness experts have long claimed that drinking eight glasses of water a day is the wellspring of good health," said the New York Post. But, noted the Arizona Daily Star, "the conventional wisdom that you should drink at least eight glasses of water a day may be all wet." The Toronto Star described Valtin as "a scientist who undertook an exhaustive hunt for evidence backing all this water advice and came up mostly, well, dry." The Winston-Salem Journal warned of "a flood of lobbying from the bottled-water industry." And so on. For more on Valtin's article (as well as more punssorry, we couldn't resist either) see page 10.
Another faculty member who made multiple media appearancesthough on a much more sobering topicwas Dr. John Modlin, chair of Dartmouth's Department of Pediatrics. He heads the national panel that deals with vaccine policy, a group that has been extremely active in the wake of bioterrorist threats involving anthrax and smallpox. "One of the biggest factors affecting the panel's decision not to make the [smallpox] vaccine more widely available is the risk of side effects associated with the vaccine, said Modlin," according to the Baltimore Sun. "'This is a public health decision. There are many issues in the past where the public health interest does not jibe with the personal health interest,' said Modlin" in the Washington Post. And the Los Angeles Times reported that he "said the recommendation 'appropriately balances the risks of the vaccine against the likelihood of a smallpox outbreak.'" See the profile on page 58 in this issue for more on the smallpox vaccination issue and Modlin's career.
A recent page-one Sunday New York Times feature by Gina Kolata detailed the work of Dartmouth's Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences. "A growing body of research is leading many medical experts to ask whether more is really better when it comes to health care. . . . 'If there are twice as many physicians, patients will come in for twice as many visits,' said Dr. John Wennberg of Dartmouth Medical School, where much of the new work is being done." Kolata noted that "the Dartmouth findings are controversial" but said "the research is attracting attention from mainstream medical groups. . . . 'They are excellent scientists,' said Dr. Yank Coble, president of the American Medical Association."
Kolata mentioned Dartmouth work in an article on medical statistics, too. It said the figures used by disease advocacy groups, while accurate, "may lead people to exaggerate their chances of getting and dying from a fearsome disease." A study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute "shows how the same numbers presented in different ways can have very different emotional tones. . . . Most statements about cancer risk 'are given in isolation, without context,' said the lead author of the new paper, Dr. Steven Woloshin of the VA Outcomes Group in White River Junction, Vt. 'Without seeing how they compare to other risks, it is hard to gauge what they mean.'"
The July issue of Parents magazine noted that "it can be scary when your baby's temperature soars. But do you really need to call the pediatrician?" The first step in managing a child's fever, said the article, is to "take her temperature. Your infant might not mind having her temperature taken rectally as much as you mind taking it. You can make it easier on yourself by holding her facedown on your lap with her feet off to the side, suggests William Storo, M.D., a pediatrician at Dartmouth- Hitchcock Clinic in Concord, N.H."
"Having an unpleasant experience during a mammogram screening," said the Reuters wire service, "may discourage women from having another mammogram, researchers report." Women who have a negative interaction with the technologist or a high body mass index are less likely to have a repeat test, noted the study. "'Further research should focus on how best to coach women through the mammographic experience,' Dr. Patricia Carney of Dartmouth Medical School and colleagues state in the July 15 issue of the journal Cancer."
The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote recently about competition among hospitals to establish neonatal- intensive-care units, saying that "they are perceived as glamorous places where miracles happen." But such units' proliferation is now being questioned. "Dr. David Goodman, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School, raised the collective ire of neonatologists last month when he published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine claiming that the U.S. has more neonatal resources than are needed to prevent the death of high-risk newborns." See page 9 for details.
"Do patients fare best at hospitals that have the most experience with a procedure?" asked the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The paper then described several recent studies which show that, indeed, "the differences among hospitals are striking." Among the studies mentioned was one on the outcomes of 14 different types of cancer and heart surgery. "More than 20,000 Medicare patients die each year undergoing the surgeries, said the study's author, Dr. John Birkmeyer of Dartmouth Medical School in New Hampshire. 'Approximately 2,500 of those deaths could be averted if all hospitals were achieving the same level of performance as very-high-volume hospitals,' he said."
Wired magazine, which covers the world of digital technology, recently reported on "a new breed of magnetic resonance imaging . . . called magnetic resonance elastography. 'This technique tries to measure the stiffness of tissues, how hard it is,' said John Weaver of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N.H. . . . 'You can see subtler changes than you can with your fingers.'"
"The latest drug in the war on cancer is already sitting in your medicine cabinet," according to Reader's Digest. "A recent study followed 1,121 people who had one or more adenomas (cancerous polyps) removed from the large bowel. Three years later, researchers discovered that patients who took a daily 80mg dose of baby aspirin cut their risk of developing more adenomas by 19%." But it's not a panacea. "Says John Baron, an internist at Dartmouth Medical School: 'You can't take these drugs and wave your doctor goodbye.'"
Angiogenesisthe process by which the body creates new blood vesselshas been a focus of cancer research for over 20 years. More recently, noted the Orlando Sentinel, angiogenesis has attracted the attention of cardiologists. "Said Michael Simons, a leading researcher in the field and chief of cardiology at Dartmouth Medical School, 'If extra vessels can lead to tumor growth, can we grow extra vessels in the heart to do some good?'"
Smoking in the movies continues to attract media coverage. Said the Los Angeles Times, "Researchers at Dartmouth Medical School in a recent study concluded that children who viewed the most smoking images in movies were more likely to have smoked." The study's principal investigator was pediatrician James Sargent, M.D.