Episode 025: Henrietta Lacks vs. HeLa, and the People Behind the Specimens

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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.

Listen now to Episode 025: Henrietta Lacks vs. HeLa, and the People Behind the Specimens

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.

Episode 024: John Lawrence, Doctors Without Borders, and Syria

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A simple field hospital in Syria.  Flickr: FreedomHouse

Syria is in the midst of a civil war.  As a measure of the seriousness of the situation, a Reuters report out recently says that the war has claimed the lives of 115,000 people.  And with 5000 of those deaths in September alone, it seems as though international pressure to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons hasn’t slowed the war down at all.  The UN reports that only twelve international aid organizations are approved by Syrian officials to work in country. One of those is Doctors Without Borders, or Medecins Sans Frontieres.  This time on The Short Coat Podcast, we welcome back Dr. John Lawrence, pediatric surgeon and associate professor of Surgery at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. and formerly of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.  Dr. Lawrence has performed six surgical missions working with MSF, and he’s come to Iowa to talk about Syria, from which he’s recently returned.  Not long ago, medical students Jessica Gaulter, Katherine Ryken, and Ethan Forsgren sat down to talk with him about his experiences with MSF and in Syria.

Listen now–Episode 024: John Lawrence, Doctors Without  Borders, and Syria

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.

Local coverage: Opportunities for third year students in Des Moines

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This episode introduces students to the Des Moines Area Medical Education Consortium‘s group of hospitals,  and the unique opportunities available to third-year students at the Carver College of Medicine who can take advantage of a year-long rotation in Iowa’s capital city.  Dr. Steven Craig, the executive director of the DM Consortium, talks with Natalie Ramirez about what the benefits and opportunities exist for M3s in our state’s capital city.

Listen now: Opportunities for Third-Year Students in Des Moines.

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.

Episode 023: Relationships and Medical School.

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About three weeks ago our guests, Lisa Wehr and Matt Maves, Jacob and Rachel Evans, and Jessica Kincheloe, were plunged into another year of medical education at the UI Carver College of Medicine.  Since some, notably first-year medical students, find that it is an icy plunge, indeed,  we got together to discuss relationships in medical school: how our guests maintain them, how to allow them to flourish, and how to prevent them from being crushed by the pressure of medical school.

Okay, so it’s not that bad…but everyone could use a few tips, amiright?

Listen to Episode 023: Relationships and Medical School

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.

Episode 022: Marilynne Robinson and Gilead

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Here at the Carver College of Medicine, on the campus of the University of Iowa which is famous for its legacy of writing and writers, we are lucky enough to receive occasional visits from some pretty outstanding authors.  Recently, during the annual CCOM Reads contest, medical students were encouraged to read author and Iowa Writers’ Workshop Professor Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, a novel for which she won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.  It’s an account of the memories of John Ames of his father and grandfather, all of whom are Congregationalist ministers in Gilead, Iowa.  After the contest was over, we asked Ms. Robinson to visit with the students to talk about her writing of the novel.

Listen: Episode 022 – Marilynne Robinson and Gilead

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.

Episode 021: Match Day!

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The Haugsdals compare their match results.

This week, we talk about Match Day, the big day when medical students find out what they’ll be doing for the next few years after graduation.  It’s a big deal, and to help us make sense of it, CCOM Registrar Damien Ihrig and fourth-years Jaclyn and Michael Haugsdal and Natalie Ramirez sit down to hash it out.  It’s both magical and stressful, but at the end you have a job that you love…hopefully.

Listen now to Episode 021: Match Day!

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.

Episode 020: Positive Exposure with Rick Guidotti

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Photos by Rick Guidotti

Rick Guidotti is a fashion photographer working in New York, Milan, Paris, and London for everyone from Elle to Yves Saint Laurent. In 1997, he and physician Diane McLean founded Positive Exposure, a non-profit organization dedicated to using the visual arts to highlight the beauty of genetic diversity and challenging the stigmas associated with differences in appearance. Positive Exposure presents diversity workshops, educational and human rights programs, and multimedia exhibitions for physicians, nurses, genetic counselors, health care professionals-in-training, universities, elementary and secondary schools, legislators, and the general public.  Rick sat down with Iowa medical students Kurt Wall and Miriam Wiener to talk about his work with Positive Exposure, and about what families who live with genetic, physical, and intellectual differences want: to have their stories heard.

While you listen, be sure to visit http://positiveexposure.org/, and look at the galleries at the bottom of the page to meet the families and people that Positive Exposure works with.

Listen to Episode 020: Positive Exposure with Rick Guidotti.

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.

Episode 019: Gunners and Slackers

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Regular Miriam Weiner. 

It’s a well-known fact that medical students fall into two broad categories: the gunners and the slackers.  A panel of students, including students Willis Hong, Mgbechi Erondu, Zeynep Demir, Cameron Crockett, Kat Hu, Miriam Weiner, Tyler Bertroche and Tony Cyr have fun exploring these two groups’ styles, motivations, and the effect they can have on their peers.  So much fun, in fact, that we must say: The opinions expressed belong only to those who voiced them, and are not the opinions of the University of Iowa or the Carver College of Medicine.  

Listen–Episode 019: Gunners and Slackers

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.

Episode 018: David Oshinksy, PhD, and Polio: An American Story

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Polio patients in iron lungs in 1952. Photo: Wikipedia

Today Natalie Ramirez, Zhi Xiong, Mgbechi Erondu and Dave Etler got to hang out with a real Pulitzer winner (!) and a nice man, David Oshinsky, PhD. He is the author of Polio: An American Story. From the papers of Jonas Salk, Albert Sabin, and other key players, Dr. Oshinsky records the U.S. public health crisis of polio and the search for a cure in the early 1950s, a frightening time for all Americans.
Dr. Oshinsky taught 20th century U.S. political and cultural history at Rutgers University before moving to the University of Texas at Austin. His other works include A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy and Worse Than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice.

He has a lot to say about one of the greatest public health threats of the 20th Century, what it took to bring it down, and why the fight isn’t over.

Listen to Episode 018: David Oshinksy and Polio: An American Story

Special thanks to Michael Welsh, MD, and the members of the 2012 Distinguished Mentor Award committee for the opportunity!

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.

Dealing with Med Student Stress

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A 2006 review of studies on medical student psychological distress suggests that its common for medical students to experience depression and anxiety, more so than in the general population or those in the later years of medical training.  Hello, Captain Obvious.  As our new medical students finish up their first full week of medical school, student Natalie Ramirez and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics psychiatrist Jodi Tate join us to talk about the stress that medical students face as they begin medical school, and what they can do to take the edge off.  

Listen:  The Short Couch: Dealing with Medical Student Stress

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.

Broadcasts from the amazing and intense world of medical school.