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Vital Signs

Media Mentions: DMS and DHMC in the news

AAmong the people and programs coming in for prominent media coverage in recent months were a couple of Dartmouth doctors who appeared on a 60 Minutes segment about end-of-life care. "Something like 18 to 20 percent of Americans spend their last days in an ICU," Dr. Ira Byock told correspondent Steve Kroft. "It's extremely expensive. It's uncomfortable. . . . This is not the way most people would want to spend their last days of life. And yet this has become almost the medical last rites for people as they die." Byock is the director of palliative care at DHMC.

Dr. Elliott Fisher, a researcher at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice (TDI), appeared on the 60 Minutes segment, too, and was also quoted in Forbes regarding U.S. health-care spending. "Fisher and his colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School have shown that medical spending fluctuates wildly from town to town and hospital to hospital, with no measurable improvement in health inthe pricey places," Forbes reported. The article also quoted the director of TDI, Dr. James Weinstein: " '[In the U.S.], we don't have any sort of system to measure the effectiveness of what we are doing,' laments Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center orthopaedic surgeon James Weinstein. He showed in 2006 that patients with herniated spinal discs often get better on their own, without the need for back surgery. 'For all the money we spend, we are flying blind.' "

Dr. Abraham Verghese, a correspondent for Atlantic magazine, wrote about "incidentalomas" after attending "a wonderful talk . . . at Stanford . . . by Gilbert Welch, M.D., of Dartmouth Medical School, an expert in the field" of cancer screening. Incidentalomas, Verghese noted, are abnormalities that show up unexpectedly when one undergoes imaging or testing aimed at a different abnormality or condition. And in a New York Times article, Welch was quoted as saying, "The efforts to detect cancer early can be a two-edged sword. It helps some people, but it harms others."

National Public Radio's All Things Considered recently explored a blockbuster drug used to treat osteoporosis and its lesser-known relative, osteopenia. To explain how the definitions of both conditions were determined, the show interviewed "Anna Tosteson, . . . a professor of medicine at [Dartmouth] who attended" a meeting at which the definitions were set. "She says that over a two- or three-day period the experts in the room went back and forth . . . trying to decide precisely where on a graph of diminishing bone density to draw a line. 'Ultimately it was just a matter of, "Well . . . it has to be drawn somewhere," ' Tosteson says."

DMS's chair of pharmacology and toxicology was mentioned in a Scientific American feature about chronic pain. "In animal experiments . . . Joyce DeLeo and her colleagues at Dartmouth Medical School have shown that a chemical called propentofylline suppresses astrocyte activation and thereby chronic pain," the article noted. An astrocyte, a type of glial cell, is among the "new culprits in chronic pain," according to the article. DeLeo has been studying the relationship between glia and chronic pain for two decades.

When brain activity was detected recently in a young man in Belgium who had been diagnosed five years ago as being in a vegetative state, top media outlets sought expert commentary from a noted Dartmouth neurologist. "Dr. James Bernat of Dartmouth Medical School, a spokesman for the American Academy of Neurology," told Time that "ever since a research paper four years ago showed apparent signs of awareness in a vegetative patient . . . families of patients have been clamoring for brain scans. . . . [But] it's still a research tool," he cautioned. Nevertheless, "I'm convinced," he said in a New York Times article, that in some cases "the MRI technique . . . gives us a window into human consciousness that we have not had."

Wisconsin Public Radio's Here on Earth devoted an entire show to a DMS-related initiative called Students for the Advancement of Learning and Medical Aid in Tanzania (SALAMA: Tanzania). The host interviewed two Dartmouth graduates who founded SALAMA and "Dr. Lisa Adams, who teaches global health . . . and directs Dartmouth's Global Health Initiative, . . . [which is] designed to unite the multidisciplinary strengths of Dartmouth's various departments and schools to address specific global health priorities." International efforts "can't just be about medical care alone," said Adams. "If we're going to really make an impact, we must look beyond medical research."

For a story about a multi-million dollar contract to pay for face transplants for veterans, the Boston Globe talked with "Dr. Joseph Rosen, a plastic surgeon at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. . . . 'We certainly expect that by providing a new face, that would be a big step toward them leading more useful and productive lives,' said Rosen, who is a consultant to Walter Reed and will help the military monitor its contract. . . . 'It's very important to address these new problems and come up with viable solutions. It's not enough to just keep soldiers alive.' " Rosen also noted that "there are nine wounded veterans for every fatality in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared with three wounded for every death in prior conflicts."

The positive findings from a Dartmouth study of a vaccine for tuberculosis (TB) caught the attention of the BBC, U.S. News & World Report, West Africa Democracy Radio, and a number of other media outlets. The "vaccine could cut tuberculosis cases among HIV-positive Africans by almost two-fifths," the BBC reported. "TB is the most common cause of death among people in developing countries who have HIV/AIDS," reported U.S. News, "and the results of the clinical trials are a 'significant milestone,' according to Dr. Ford von Reyn, director of the DarDar International Programs for the infectious disease and international health section at Dartmouth Medical School."

A commentary on CBS Sunday Morning cited a "Dartmouth Medical School study [showing] that there's a strong association between adolescent smoking and watching smoking in movies." Hollywood drew criticism for its images of junk food, too, thanks to DMS research. "A majority of the top-grossing films in recent years have featured food and beverage product placements," Reuters noted, "with junk food and fast-food restaurants grabbing most of the starring roles, a new study finds." When it comes to discussions about advertising, " 'movies have fallen under the radar,' said study author Lisa Sutherland," in an article in BusinessWeek. "In fact, she said, no one has studied this topic, until now, although there's been plenty of research into the roles of tobacco, alcohol, and violence in movies."

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may be just as effective as sleeping pills, according to a recent article in U.S. News & World Report. And to find out if online CBT works as well as face-to-face therapy, U.S. News turned to "Michael Sateia, chief of sleep medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. . . . Online treatments 'have tremendous capacity for reaching a very large number of patients,' " he told the reporter. But "more research is needed to evaluate effectiveness."

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