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Vital Signs

News Briefs

Wennberg's Book Value
Here's a riddle (though the subject is too serious to be funny): When is a book about health care not a health-care book? When it's an economics book. Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer was deemed the best economics book of 2007 by the New York Times. It was ranked ahead of Alan Greenspan's best-selling memoir in "another very good year for economics books."

And here's another riddle: What makes the foregoing relevant to the readers of Dartmouth Medicine? Overtreated—by Shannon Brownlee, who has written for such publications as Atlantic Monthly and the New York Times Magazine—draws heavily on the work of Dartmouth's Dr. John Wennberg (featured on the cover of DM's Winter 2007 issue) and his colleagues. In fact, the first sentence of chapter one begins: "John E. Wennberg is one of the heroes of modern medicine."

Brownlee's "bombshell of a book [is] must reading," said Kirkus Reviews. The book's essence won't be news to this magazine's readers, but its scope and detail are enlightening, and its story-telling style makes it accessible to the average patient, not just to health-care administrators. Or economists.


Battle Against Brutality
When he was six years old, Yinong Young-Xu, Sc.D., stood on a Shanghai street as thousands of bystanders laughed and cheered at trucks filled with political dissidents on their way to be executed. "It was like a traditional ChineseNew Year's celebration—except the city was celebrating its own brutality," Young-Xu recalled in a commentary titled "A Potential for Brutality" on public radio's This I Believe.

For Young-Xu, who researches post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the DMS-affiliated VANational Center for PTSD, witnessing such violence "was just hard," he says. "Somehow, your instinct to survive in that society, to fit in, is . . . to be brutal. . . . People just turned in their relatives, as long as they could save their own skin."

"I believe brutality is a disease, just like cancer," he said in his commentary (to hear it, go to npr.org and put his name in the search field). "Every one of us is at risk, including me." He won't forget that day in Shanghai. "I hope those brave young men who perished . . . find some solace in the fact that a bystander, a relatively innocent child, did not forget them."


We'd Also Like To Thank . . .
The editors of Dartmouth Medicine aren't yet calling themselves "moviemakers," but they no longer generate just words and still images. Two years ago, they began producing videos, podcasts, and other multimedia enhancements to DM's online edition. These "web-extras" recently received the Association of American Medical Colleges' top national award—the Award of Excellence—in the Electronic Communications, Rich Media category.

It's not quite a gold statuette, but the staff is pleased by the recognition. (See this issue's "Editor's Note" for more on the genesis of the initiative.) The AAMC judges called DM's multimedia "elegant" and "a top-notch job." The web-extras are now a major draw on the DM website, which attracts over 1.5 million visitors a year. (To view them, go to the Dartmouth Medicine Home and click on any of the Web Extras icons.)

The AAMC also gave the magazine's print edition an Award of Distinction. The judges called DM a "classic of external magazines" and a "standard for the field." They praised its design ("takes you through the magazine as a whole, not just through each story"), its writing ("one of the best-written publications in the bunch"), and its "great mix of harder and softer pieces."

The awards are "a tribute to the magazine's many collaborators and contributors," says Editor Dana Cook Grossman.


Village Improvement Society
A family in rural Ecuador might be able to raise $250 to pay a surgeon to fix their child's congenital heart defect. But add in the cost of lodging, transportation, and medical supplies, and surgery is impossibly expensive for most such Ecuadoreans.

Ellis, left, examines an Ecuadorean child.

So in 2005, Nicholas Ellis, now a second-year DMS student, founded Medicine, Education, and Development for Low Income Families Everywhere (MEDLIFE). The organization funds educational programs and health-care services for Ecuadorean villages and short-term treatments for villagers with serious health problems. "We trust in the Ecuadorean health system," says Ellis. "That's a point of pride for me."

MEDLIFE—a recipient of Dartmouth's 2008 Martin Luther King, Jr., Social Justice Award—recruits student volunteers fromfour different colleges. More than 100 have participated from Dartmouth.


Break(ing) News: Eight first-year DMS students and two undergrads traveled south for spring break—but to the mountains of Kentucky, not the beaches of Florida. They volunteered for a week with the Frontier Nursing Service.

That Doesn't HERT!: In the two years since the Hitchcock Early Response Team (HERT) was established—with the aim of forestalling "code blue" responses within DHMC—the number of codes per year been reduced by more than half.

TIMELY TOPIC: A book by DMS's Dr. Dennis McCullough, on caring for elderly relatives, got a glowing New York Times review that was one of the Times's most-e-mailed health articles for a whole week. See this issue's Grand Rounds for more on McCullough's concept of "slow medicine."

WEIGHTY MATTER: What has 942 pages, is 8 inches tall, and weighs 12 pounds? The core grant application that Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center sent in January to the National Cancer Institute. The grant must be renewed every five years.

Aw, That's Sweet: The DHMC Blood Donor Program is always looking for donors, since 1 in 10 patients requires a transfusion—so during February, the program expressed appreciation to donors by giving out free chocolate truffles.

And One To Grow On: This spring, DMS marks the 10th anniversary of its Community Medical School with an eightweek public lecture series on "Great Discoveries Then and Now." More than 5,000 people have attended since 1998.

The Daily Dish: The food service program at DHMC, which turns out 4,500 meals daily, has a new, energyefficient dishwasher that pulverizes and compacts waste; it's projected to reduce waste volume by 85%.

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