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Vital Signs

News Briefs

Shooting For The Senate
Doctor, astronaut, researcher ... senator? DMS's Dr. Jay Buckey, who flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia's Neurolab mission in 1998, is making a bid for the United States Senate in 2008.

"Out of 100 Senators, we have 58 lawyers and only two physicians," he says. "That's very concerning when you look at the kinds of problems we are facing"—many of which have medical consequences, such as the war in Iraq, U.S. energy policy, health care, and funding for science and technology. "I believe we have to keep the U.S. a leader in science and technology—so we can remain leaders in the world economy," says Buckey.

If he's elected, Buckey plans to work toward developing a new energy economy, increasing federal investment in research and development, creating a universal and portable health-care system, and more. "If medical professionals are not involved," he says, "the decisions made on our health-care system won't address their concerns."


Strictly By The Book
"My shoe was calling. Take me off, it whispered. Tap my heel against your forehead three times. Do it now, quick, no one will notice." That is American humorist David Sedaris's description— in "A Plague of Tics," a chapter in his memoir, Naked—of his childhood struggle to overcome obsessive-compulsive disorder. His essay was one of many literary pieces pondered by an eclectic group of participants in a recent Literature and Medicine Program held at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

The monthly gatherings, which are sponsored by the New Hampshire Humanities Council, are part of a nationwide hospital-based initiative that brings together diverse groups of people for literature-based discussions on health-care issues. The 20 members of the DHMC group ranged from physicians and nurses to support staffers and computer programmers.

"I wanted to find out what [other] people deal with," explains Patricia Latona, a senior programming analyst, "and gain some insight into the medical world."


Family Goes To Extremes
Normally, when ABC-TV's hit show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition rehabs a deserving family's home, the family goes on vacation, often to DisneyWorld. But while a volunteer construction crew raced to build a new 3,000-square-foot ranch house in only 106 hours—less than four and a half days—for the Vitale family ofAthens, Vt., Sara and Louis Vitale and their two young sons passed up the chance to go on a free vacation.

Sara Vitale, left, at David's House

Instead, they spent the time volunteering at David's House, a residence for parents whose children are patients at the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth. The Vitales had spent 18 weeks at David's House in 2005 after their son, Louis Angelo, Jr., was born with severe birth defects. In fact, it was those medical problems that prompted Sara Vitale to write a letter to the show's producers, asking for help in building a home that would accommodate her son's special needs. But David's House didn't even need to ask for the help that the Vitales gave back to them.


Stairway to Health
The words "Free / exercise / equipment" appear on successive risers of one staircase. "Stairway to health" is emblazoned on another. There's also "Be a / frequent flier / Frequent / these flights." These snicker-worthy signs began appearing in uncarpeted stairwells at DHMC during the summer of 2006 as part of the Take the Stairs project, an initiative of the Heath Improvement Program (HIP) that's intended to make climbing stairs more appealing than riding elevators.

HIP—for which DHMC earned a 2007 Outstanding Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Governor's Council on Physical Activity and Health—has developed many easy ways to exercise, like walking challenges and scavenger hunts.And those clever stair signs. Theymay not quite make concrete steps into a stairway to heaven—but a "stairway to health" is a pretty good alternative.


Screen Test: Six medical students recently volunteered to do hearing, vision, and blood pressure screenings for preschoolers in area Head Start programs. They used a toy doctor kit to show the kids what they'd be doing.

Worldly Wise: More than 1,400 people turned out to hear Dr. Paul Farmer, subject of the bestseller Mountains Beyond Mountains, speak at DMS in November. He gave the keynote address at a three-day symposium on global health and poverty.

On The Gravy Train: Any DHMC employees who must work on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day are invited to enjoy a free holiday meal in the Hospital dining room. No potatoes to peel or dishes to wash.

Patience Counts: Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center serves over 20,000 patients annually and over 2,800 new patients a year. Opened in 1972, it's been a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center since 1990.

This Vessel Is Ready For Boarding: DHMC has the first integrated vascular surgery residency approved in the U.S. After completing the five-year program, doctors are qualified to sit for the vascular surgery board exam.

Coming Of Age: Given that Vermont is the fastest-aging state in the nation and New Hampshire is the fourth-fastest, the Health Resources and Services Administration is giving Dartmouth $1.24 million over three years to develop a geriatric education center.

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Dartmouth Medical SchoolDartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterWhite River Junction VAMCNorris Cotton Cancer CenterDartmouth College