AOA is a medical honors society that's supposed to separate top-tier medical students from the rest of the pack. It helps determine which doctors get the top jobs in the most competitive fields. The problem? There's implicit racism in the way it chooses members, and fixing it may be a massive challenge.
Wondering whether eating powdered mummies might be just the thing to cure your ills? Tempted by those vintage ads suggesting you wear radioactive underpants for virility? Ever considered drilling a hole in your head to deal with those pesky headaches? Probably not. But for thousands of years, people have done things like this—and things that make radioactive underpants seem downright sensible! In their hit podcast, Sawbones, Sydnee and Justin McElroy breakdown the weird and wonderful way we got to modern healthcare. And some of the terrifying detours along the way. [more inside]
Podcast: Sawbones: A Marital Tour of Misguided Medicine: Sawbones: COVID Lies, Darned Lies and Statistics
Two doctors made headlines this week by trying to construct the narrative that the COVID-19 pandemic has been overblown by the hospital system in pursuit of more profits. This week, Dr. Sydnee and Justin explain why their numbers don't add up, and how you can combat this narrative if it, depressingly, sticks around.Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers
A medical historian narrates the last century of scientific struggle against an enduring enemy: deadly contagious disease. Ever since the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, scientists have dreamed of preventing catastrophic outbreaks of infectious disease. Yet despite a century of medical progress, viral and bacterial disasters continue to take us by surprise, inciting panic and dominating news cycles. From the Spanish flu to the 1924 outbreak of pneumonic plague in Los Angeles to the 1930 “parrot fever” pandemic, through the more recent SARS, Ebola, and Zika epidemics, the last one hundred years have been marked by a succession of unanticipated pandemic alarms. In The Pandemic Century, a lively account of scares both infamous and less known, Mark Honigsbaum combines reportage with the history of science and medical sociology to artfully reconstruct epidemiological mysteries and the ecology of infectious diseases. We meet dedicated disease detectives, obstructive or incompetent public health officials, and brilliant scientists often blinded by their own knowledge of bacteria and viruses. We also see how fear of disease often exacerbates racial, religious, and ethnic tensions―even though, as the epidemiologists Malik Peiris and Yi Guan write, “‘nature’ remains the greatest bioterrorist threat of all.” Like man-eating sharks, predatory pathogens are always present in nature, waiting to strike; when one is seemingly vanquished, others appear in its place. These pandemics remind us of the limits of scientific knowledge, as well as the role that human behavior and technologies play in the emergence and spread of microbial diseases.
An incredibly versatile cooking ingredient containing an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and possibly cancer-fighting properties, mushrooms are among the most expensive and sought-after foods on the planet. Yet when it comes to fungi, culinary uses are only the tip of the iceberg. Throughout history fungus has been prized for its diverse properties—medicinal, ecological, even recreational—and has spawned its own quirky subculture dedicated to exploring the weird biology and celebrating the unique role it plays on earth. In Mycophilia, accomplished food writer and cookbook author Eugenia Bone examines the role of fungi as exotic delicacy, curative, poison, and hallucinogen, and ultimately discovers that a greater understanding of fungi is key to facing many challenges of the 21st century. [more inside]
In The Butchering Art, the historian Lindsey Fitzharris reveals the shocking world of nineteenth-century surgery and shows how it was transformed by advances made in germ theory and antiseptics between 1860 and 1875. She conjures up early operating theaters―no place for the squeamish―and surgeons, who, working before anesthesia, were lauded for their speed and brute strength. These pioneers knew that the aftermath of surgery was often more dangerous than patients’ afflictions, and they were baffled by the persistent infections that kept mortality rates stubbornly high. At a time when surgery couldn’t have been more hazardous, an unlikely figure stepped forward: a young, melancholy Quaker surgeon named Joseph Lister, who would solve the riddle and change the course of history. [more inside]
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Dialysis Clinics Season 4, Ep 12
New events worthy of mention:
- Trump again. The fallout from his firing of FBI Director James Comey, and the many problematic things about it.
- Congressfolk's continued denial over the situation mentioned above as every functioning adult in the nation gets steadily angrier about their refusal to do anything about it. "When you've got the Presidential equivalent of a five-year-old shitting on the salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays, at some point you stop blaming the five-year-old and you start blaming the people who are not stopping him."
- Back to New Zealand's ruling National Party's appropriation of Eminem music. New Zealand PM Bill English heard about Last Week's Last Week Tonight mention of the court case and said, "some of the stuff I've seen he does isn't very funny." LWT, in retaliation, found an actual Facebook post Bill English made, with pictures: "Cooked dinner for the family last night - like if you agree with tinned spaghetti on pizza!"
- And Now: A Series of Terrible Pizzas That New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English Would Probably Enjoy
- Main Story: Kidney dialysis clinics, particularly those operated by DaVita, and the dangerous extents many go through to save costs, like rushing patients through dialysis, and the deeply terrible methods some employ to keep customers using their services and not seek out life-saving transplants. DaVita has had to settle nearly a billion dollars to settle lawsuits over the past five years, while their CEO compares his business (willingly!) to Taco Bell. LWT offers a commercial for Taco Bell stating how it's not a proper business model for dialysis clinics. YouTube (24m)
Mystery Science Theater 3000: THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE Season 5, Ep 13
"Fantastic! Weird! Horrifying!" "Alive...Without A Body... Fed By An Unspeakable Horror From Hell!" How gifted does a doctor have to be that, when his GF is decapitated in a crash, his thought is, "I can fix this!" Two-for-two on a bad idea streak, he goes out and tries to kill attractive women so he can get her a new chassis. This movie teaches us that not only are free-standing heads capable of speech, they can communicate with horrible monsters. It's Mike Nelson's first episode as host, and boy, they change a lot of things with this episode, including updating the set and changing the door sequence! It's a pretty good episode riffing-wise, too. YouTube (1h31m) Premiered October 30, 1993. Did you know there is a stage musical based on the film, "Head: The Musical!" (Vimeo 1h40m) [more inside]
This week on Sawbones, Sydnee and Justin are back with, and we don't think we're exaggerating here: The weirdest story they've ever told. [more inside]
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Mental Health, Peeple Season 2, Ep 29
Vladimir Putin launches air strikes against ISIS in Syria. Quick takes from the United Nations general debate: Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe defends their anti-homosexuality laws; Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaims the Iran nuclear deal by silently staring them down for 45 seconds; dictator of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko brings his 11-year-old son to sit beside him in the General Assembly. The Secret Service hits scandal yet again by trying to embarass Congressman Jason Chaffetz by leaking his old job application to their agency. And Now: People On Television Talking Shit About Their Producers. Main story: the horrifying plight of the mentally ill in the United States. YouTube (12m) And Now: Newscasters Stretching The Definition Of The Word "Exclusive." And finally, the new "Yelp for people" app, Peeple... wait that sounds a bit familiar. Last Week Tonight launches a website to facilitate people saying awful things on the internet without actually hurting anyone: screamintothevoid.com. Or consider another suggestion by LWT: Peeble, an app which rates people according to the opinion of Mario Van Peebles. [more inside]
"How to Die in Oregon" is an intimate and personal look at the Death with Dignity laws in Oregon. The documentary primarily follows the final months of Cody Curtis, a 54 year-old cancer patient and mother of two, with her decision regarding her end-of-life planning. [more inside]
This week on Sawbones, Dr. Sydnee and Justin revisit a horrifying, real-world case of Boogie Fever. Music: "Medicines" by The Taxpayers (http://thetaxpayers.net)
The metaphor, magic, and money coursing through our veins... [more inside]
One of our favorite human beings turns 80 this week. To celebrate, Robert asks Oliver Sacks to look back on his career, and explain how thousands of worms and a motorbike accident led to a brilliant writing career. [more inside]