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Vital Signs

News Briefs

Here Comes a Clown

Patch Adams taught me that joking around at the bedside to help distract and relieve the suffering of a patient is a way to show that you really care about that person," says second-year medical student Jonathan Strutt. Adams, a noted comediandoctor, runs the Gesundheit! Institute, where Strutt recently spent three days learning about topics ranging from relief of suffering through clowning to equal access to health care.

Strutt felt that Adams "said it best when he mentioned, 'Entertaining is not my primary goal. I am looking to relieve suffering.'" Strutt's own efforts in that regard include playing the mascot of the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD)—a friendly blue dinosaur known as the CHaD-a-saurus.

Strutt would love to one day work in a "hospital designed by children," he says. "It will be a place where kids can learn about their illness through interactive exhibits [and] get distracted from their pain and suffering by having themed inpatient rooms, amusement rides, and fun activities."


Seed Money for Science

Several budding scientists at Dartmouth got a boost this spring, thanks to a $1.5-million four-year grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI). The grant is funding up to 25 paid research internships for sophomores at Dartmouth College; 8 of the 15 HHMI interns chosen so far are working with members of the DMS faculty.

The grant is allowing science education to bloom at Dartmouth in other ways, too, by funding nine new teacher-training fellowships for postdoctoral scientists and an outreach program for third- to sixth-grade students. This past winter, with the help of the Montshire Museum of Science, Dartmouth undergraduate and graduate students—including three from the Medical School—conducted weekly in-school "science camps" in the nearby Rivendell School District.

"Our students will gain as much as the Rivendell students," predicts Nancy Serrell, associate director for outreach at Dartmouth's Center for Environmental Health Sciences, as well as the coordinator of the HHMI program at Dartmouth. "This is the way outreach is supposed to work. There's a balance of benefit that goes in both directions. . . . Students who apply their science in outreach are more likely to stay in science."


Risky Business: DMS Drs. William Black and John Baron wrote an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association about a study--on the value of routine CT scans for those at risk of lung cancer--that has drawn a lot of media attention.

Primary Care: That's "primary" as in politics, not medicine. The presidential candidates for 2008 are being invited to give "health policy grand rounds" talks at DHMC, with a focus on substance rather than sound bites. The series was first held before the 2004 election.

Good Call: Dartmouth economist Douglas Staiger coauthored a paper with good news about the predicted nursing shortage. The paper projects that with more people entering nursing later in life, the shortage could be cut from 760,000 to 340,000 by 2020.

Red Zone: The U.S. spends $600 million a year to test the blood supply, DMS's Dr. James AuBuchon told the Wall Street Journal. One of the first U.S. hospitals to diversify its blood sources, DHMC began its own blood donor program in 1996.

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