Category Archives: Uncategorized

Recess Rehash: Henrietta Lacks vs. HeLa, and the People Behind the Specimens

[With the news that HBO and Oprah Winfrey will release an adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in April 2017, enjoy this discussion with Lacks’ great grandaughter and grandson, originally recorded in 2013]

The efficacy of any biomedical researcher is based on his or her foundation of scientific knowledge.  Few would have any problem grasping that idea.  What’s less well understood, by both researchers and laypeople alike, are the stories of the biological materials they work with.  Often these materials are cell cultures, tissue samples, human DNA.

From left to right: Dave Etler, Eboni Jones, Victoria Baptiste, David Lacks, Alison Pletch, and Greg Pelc.

Unlike the chemicals, reagents, test tubes, and machinery used in research, these materials often come from people.  That’s easily forgotten when they can be ordered from catalogs and websites in the way of other commodities. But those people, who may no longer live among us, have stories.  In the case of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman who passed away in the early 1950s of cervical cancer, the cells taken from her without her or her families’ knowledge touched off a revolution in biomedical science.

Henrietta and Day Lacks (From
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,”
R. Skloot, 2009)

They’ve contributed to the vaccine for polio, were the first cells to be cloned, and have been used in a number of cancer, virus, and pharmacological studies all over the world. Rebecca Skloot’s 2009 book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks noted that Mrs. Lacks’ cells have been used in more than 60,000 studies, and 300 more are being added each month.  They are of huge importance to science because they were the first so-called immortal cell line–unlike most cells, they divide and reproduce essentially without limit.  But though no-one in Henrietta Lacks’ family knew of their existence at first, the cells ultimately became of huge importance to her descendants.  In this episode, Alison Pletch, Eboni Jones, Greg Pelc, and I were honored to be able to welcome two members of the Lacks family to the show.  David Lacks is Mrs. Lacks’ grandson, and Victoria Baptiste is her great granddaughter, and they spoke with us about their ancestor, informed consent, and their work with the National Institutes of Health on HeLa cell research guidelines.

The opinions expressed in this feed and podcast are not those of the University of Iowa or the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine.

A Podcast for Iatroblasts: Ian Drummond’s “The Undifferentiated Medical Student”

choices photoIan Drummond is a fourth-year student at Case Western.  When it came time to consider what specialty to go into, Ian realized he didn’t have the knowledge needed to make an informed choice. So he did what anyone would do: started a podcast in which he will interview physicians from all 120 medical specialties listed on the AAMC’s Careers in Medicine site.  Okay, not everyone would do that, but he did, and iatroblasts everywhere owe him a huge thank you.  Because while it is a massive undertaking for him, it is also super helpful to you!  Cole Cheney, Tarun Kadaru, Liza Mann, and Hillary O’Brien spoke with Ian to find out what he’s learning from his guests on The Undifferentiated Medical Student.  We also discuss the challenges and benefits of podcasting for busy med students.   Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every Monday.

Continue reading A Podcast for Iatroblasts: Ian Drummond’s “The Undifferentiated Medical Student”

We’ve Made It: Our First Tweetstorm

old time medicine photo
Photo by Internet Archive Book Images

Is labeling people during a med school interview a good idea?  Is such labeling always an example of ad hominem?  Are doctors who write newspaper articles espousing antivaccination ideas deserving of sanction by their employers, or are they simply expressing valid concerns?  Are their employers guilty of the same sins as administrators at NASA who didn’t listen to engineers before the space shuttle Challenger disaster? Our first-ever tweetstorm critique brought Dave to consider all these thoughts with Matt Wilson, newbies Laura Quast and Kendra Frey, and Adam Erwood.   Also, radiologists face the extinction of diagnostic radiology by AI and pigeons, 3D printers capable of producing functionally complete human skin are here, and hybrid pig-human embryos all found their way into the news this week.  And Dave tests his co-hosts’ knowledge of medical history in a Pop Quiz. Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every Monday.

Continue reading We’ve Made It: Our First Tweetstorm

Coming From a Medical Family

happy bird photo
Certainly not! Hurrumph. Photo by DrPhotoMoto

On Inauguration Day, listener Tekia (and we hope that’s spelled right) called to let us know that we were helping her stay frosty.  Another listener, Liza, wrote wondering if her peers with MD family members are at an advantage in medical school.  Co-hosts John Pienta and Adam Erwood (who have physicians in their immediate families) and Kylie Miller and Rob Humble (who don’t) are happy to discuss the blessings supposedly showered upon those for whom medicine is a family business, and how those who aren’t so fortunate can soldier on without those advantages.  Also, the spirit of intellectual curiosity is alive!  Thanks to that–and a twitter hashtag–we learned this week that birds don’t break wind.  Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every week.

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Your Pre-med Clinical Experience Can Cost You Money and Waste Your Time…and Hurt Your Application.

backwards photo
Photo by mikecogh

Medical school admissions committees look for clinical experiences on applications, so it behooves premeds to seek out ways to get into the clinic as a way of learning about the practice of medicine and to show they are serious about becoming a physician.  But there are clinical experiences that can hurt your application, and the Association of American Medical Colleges want to warn premeds that participation might signal a lack of judgement. Corbin Weaver, Kylie Miller, Teneme Konne, and Levi Endelman give some advice on the ones to avoid.  Meanwhile our president-elect is thinking about creating a ‘commission on autism,’ and may be looking to a well-known anti-vaxxer to head it up.  And a cybersecurity flaw leaves pacemakers and defibrillators wide open to hackers, allowing them to shock patients or drain batteries.  And we find out whether our co-hosts can really understand their patients, even if they speak sdrawkcab.  Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every week.

Continue reading Your Pre-med Clinical Experience Can Cost You Money and Waste Your Time…and Hurt Your Application.

Careless (and Repulsive) Whispers

scalp massage photo
Photo by Yogesh Mhatre

Fresh from winter break, Kaci McCleary, Tony Rosenberg, Mark Moubarek, and new co-host Teneme Konne bring us up to date on their activities during their time off.  We hear from co-host Amy Young as she sends in her (surprising?) thoughts on the Grand Canyon.  Meanwhile, the good old mesentery might get a well deserved promotion, from fatty membrane that gets in the way during abdominal surgery but conveniently holds your spleen to full blown organ…so long as you’re an Irish researcher.  Sadly, recent extra-legal efforts to replace fatally flawed mitochondria in human ova with healthy ones might prove to be worthless (and worse).  France declares everyone an organ donor, unless you opt out (you jerk).  And Dave takes everyone on a tour of the murky world of autonomous sensory meridian response on YouTube.  Will we jump on the ASMR bandwagon, or wipe the warm condensation off our ears and sit this one out?

Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every Monday.

Continue reading Careless (and Repulsive) Whispers

Putting 2016 behind us…waaaay behind us.

smell photo
Photo by break.things

Dave and the gang (Kaci McCleary, Rob Humble, Elizabeth Shirazi, and later in the show Anthony Hunt (an Iowa pharmacy student to whom Rob is affianced) say goodbye to what many acknowledge was a suppurating, prurient rash of a year.  Fortunately, medical students around the country are working to make medical school a better place, including some Michigan students who have formed a consult service for those who need help not being terrible oral presenters. The gang discuss their favorite lecturers, including Dr. Nathan Swailes who’s got a pretty fun blog about histology, of all things. NASA technology is doing its part, taking Mars Lander technology and using it to detect bed sores, which is a far bigger deal than you might expect.  Another group of researchers has created a cool bit of nanotech that can effectively diagnose 17 different disorders just by ‘smelling’ your breath.  Can today’s co-hosts smell any better than a bunch of high tech nano-whatsis?  We do an experiment to find out.

Listeners, share your thoughts and ideas with us each week: call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, send us emails at theshortcoats@gmail.com, and follow us on Facebook.

Continue reading Putting 2016 behind us…waaaay behind us.

PIMPing and Jamming, Sexist Science, and Salon Samaritans

flight attendant photo
“Oh, sweetie, aren’t you precious! We were looking for a real doctor!” Photo by gbaku

Dave once again forces the group to play a game of questionable relevance to medicine in which his co-hosts ask each other anatomy questions while wearing speech jammer headphones.  Corbin Weaver, Matt Wilson, and Issac Schwantes are good sports, however, which is easy for them seeing as how Dave is the absolute worst at talking while wearing the mind-scrambling headset.  We also discuss a couple recent examples of bias in medicine, including flight attendants’ response to a young, black doctor’s offer to help a distressed passenger in flight, and Delta’s follow up admission that its policies weren’t helpful. Another example: a recent study that seemed to conclude women were better doctors than men, without addressing other, perhaps systemic reasons for the results. And what can hairdressers do about domestic violence?  Illinois lawmakers think they can help quite a bit.

Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every Monday.

Continue reading PIMPing and Jamming, Sexist Science, and Salon Samaritans

Re-doin’ the Drops, a Clash of Wits, and Snapchat Surgery

sauron photo
Uh, oh. Sauron’s been doin’ the drops again. Photo by Dustin Ginetz

We tried Roto Z eye drops in the past, and were unimpressed.  But thanks to Doug Russo, who secured the real deal–Roto Z Pro eye drops–Kaci McCleary and newbies Matt Wilson, Jenna Schade and Elizabeth Shirazi felt the burn.  Now that they’re suitably refreshed, Dave must do his part to help med students keep their wits about them by playing a game of MegaClash!  Listener and ortho resident Emily calls in to say hello and express concern that med students are forced to choose specialties based on shallow exposures.  We address a worrying sentiment Dave noticed popping up a lot this week: that “if you can see yourself doing anything else besides being a doctor, do that instead.”  But it’s cool, because the National Academy of Medicine has formed a coalition of organizations to address burnout and suicide in medicine and medical education.  And a UK surgeon offers his students a way to observe surgery without all the boring bits, leveraging Snapchat Spectacles.  Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every Monday.

Continue reading Re-doin’ the Drops, a Clash of Wits, and Snapchat Surgery

Semester Wrap-up, Gramma’s baked, and Short Thoughts

cats photo
Mmm-hm, well, I can help but notice you’ve stopped petting me, so prepare for a good clawing. Photo by rainerstropek@yahoo.com

Dave and the crew–Mark Moubarek, Levi Endelman, Julie Gudenkauf, and Erin Pazaski–look back on things they experienced as the semester draws to a close.  As first years, Levi and Erin share their thoughts on entering medical school.  Mark is getting ready for his clerkships to begin.  And Julie has finished up her primary-care clerkships and is moving into exploring some of the more specialized areas of medicine.  We also discuss the not surprising fact that baby-boomers are more into cannabis than their children and grandchildren are.  A scientist has decided that he can find people who are overly susceptible to the placebo effect and screen them out so drug companies can save millions on clinical trials and drugs can get to patients faster.  Meanwhile, some other podcasters who couldn’t join us this week send in their Short Thoughts on American consumerism, a woman that was truly a pioneer in medicine, and cats.  Listeners, share your thoughts with us each week.  Call us at 347-SHORTCT any time, and see our Facebook page for a question to consider every Monday.

Continue reading Semester Wrap-up, Gramma’s baked, and Short Thoughts