Features

Open Wide and Say “Yeowwww!”

Body tattoos have become so mainstream that it’s no longer unique or ultra-cool to sport inked skin anymore, which is why the latest body modification fashion trend is now trending: tooth tattoos! But if you want to get in on the fun, you’ll have to make a trip to your dentist to get one or more of your teeth inked up.

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Harm Reduction as a Smoking Cessation Method

Cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths a year in the US and affects an estimated 1.2 billion people globally. Yet with all the marketing, statistics, and politics related to smoking, and the negative impact that smoking has, some people continue to smoke. The mentality for some might be related to not having enough willpower, or having tried to quit using methods such as nicotine gums, patches, and lozenges, with little success. Smoking is a very difficult addiction to break, and studies have shown that over 80% of smokers who attempted to quit on their own relapsed within the first month.

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Trials Set to Begin on Suspended Animation for Patients With Life-Threatening Injuries

What does it mean to be dead? Scientifically, the best definition of death is the cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. However, nature always seems to find a way to blur the lines. In 1999, a 29-year-old Swedish woman was skiing in Norway when she fell through a crack in a frozen river. She was trapped under the ice for 80 minutes, her body temperature fell to 57°F, and when rescuers found her, she was clinically dead. She stayed that way for 9 hours, but when she began to warm up, her heart started beating again. When she woke, she showed no signs of permanent damage and made a full recovery. The woman experienced something called “suspended animation.” She wasn’t breathing, she didn’t have a heartbeat, and there was no activity in her brain, but she wasn’t dead. The woman was temporarily suspended in a state between life and death. Her biological life processes had significantly slowed down, and may have even stopped completely.

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Not-so-Nice Fictional Doctors

This column usually deals with real-life doctors who broke their oaths, committed despicable crimes, and almost always ended up in prison to pay for their transgressions. But in honor of author Mary Shelly’s birthday (August 30, 1797), whose most famous novel, Frankenstein, has been turned into many major motion pictures, we’d like to take a quick look at some of the most dangerous doctors in the history of film.

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Bob Marley

Robert Nesta Marley was born on February 6, 1945. He grew up poor in the rural community of Nine Miles, Jamaica. Going from bad to worse, while barely a teenager, Marley moved with his mother to the Kingston neighborhood of Trenchtown, which was a poverty-stricken ghetto.

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The Doctor Is in: Waiting Room Diagnoses for Disney Princesses

Walt Disney Corporation is one of the world’s largest media companies with regard to revenue and digital media consumption. Their products, including princess products, are purchased by millions and they earn billions every year. For example, an average of 200 million people watch a Disney film per year, 395 million people watch Disney-produced television shows every week, 212 million people listen to Disney music each week, 42 million purchases are made at Disney stores annually, and an average of 50 million people visit the Disney theme parks each year.

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Unsolved Mysteries: The Zodiac Killer Terrorizes San Francisco

“I am not sick. I am insane. But that will not stop the game.”

Those are the sinister words written by the man who would come to be known as the Zodiac Killer, a man who terrorized the San Francisco area from 1966 to 1970 and baffled investigators in their search for his true identity, which is still unknown to this day.

It is believed that his first victim was Cheri Jo Bates, an 18-year-old freshman at Riverside City College near Los Angeles. While she studied at the campus library on the evening of October 30, 1966, somebody tampered with her car. Upon discovering that it would not start, someone, presumably a man, approached her and dragged her into some nearby bushes.

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Pucker up: Lip Plating Still in Vogue in Remote Tribal Villages

Today we travel outside the US to explore the lip plate, a form of body modification that’s still practiced in Africa among a few indigenous tribes, particularly in the central and southern part of the continent, as well as among some tribes in the Amazon rain forest. Women from the Mursi tribe in southwestern Ethiopia are particularly notable for this practice because their village has turned into a tourist attraction for Westerners to come and get their gawk on.

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Reiki: Life Force Healing

Spiritual healing therapies have been around since olden times. A therapy known as Reiki may have originated in the region of Tibet more than 2500 years ago, but Mikao Usui, a Japanese Buddhist, is credited with rediscovering the root method of Reiki. Reiki is a form of healing that utilizes life force energy that is transferred to others through the use of a practitioner’s palms, otherwise known as palm healing. By transferring this life force energy into others, it is thought to bring equilibrium back to those plagued by a variety of injuries and illnesses.

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Unsolved Mysteries: Did Anastasia Escape the Firing Squad That Annihilated Her Entire Family?

The Romanov family ruled Russia for more than 300 years. The last Russian czar, Nicholas II, had been in power for more than 23 years. However, in 1917, Russia’s belief in a ruling czar was well on its way to oblivion. The Russian economy was in shambles, in part due to the country’s involvement in World War I, which began in 1914 and had already claimed more than 1 million lives. The Bolshevik revolution, led by Lenin, had created a Red Army that was marching to seize power, while loyalists to the czar, called the White Army, were trying to fend off the coup.

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Doctor Blogs

Guns Cause Autism

A statement likely to bring Wayne LaPierre, the president of the NRA, storming onto my doorstep. Maybe with an angry mob at his back.

I wouldn’t state this, unless there was evidence

For starters, autism is 5 times more likely in boys than girls. One in 42 boys, versus 1 in 189 girls, is diagnosed each year.  

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Pediatrics

Study Says Surgeons Should Never Take a Day off

A paper by a couple of public health researchers created some media buzz because it suggested that cardiac surgeons' performance deteriorated when they took even one day off from surgery.

For a sample of over 56,000 patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) in Pennsylvania over a 5-year period, the average 1-day mortality was 0.62% and average in-hospital mortality was 2.72%. That means 349 patients died within 24 hours and 1532 died in-hospital.

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The Malpractice Crisis Is Old News

The rise of malpractice litigation started more than a century ago, and in the US, it quickly became a crisis and has continued to be so. The discovery of anesthesia is a good example of the way technology and American individualism ran ahead of physicians’ ability to organize and regulate themselves.

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Anesthesiology

Alaska

Finding balance in life is essential. I have always said that to be a good family physician, one must take good care of themselves and their family. This includes physically and emotionally. That is why for our 25th anniversary last year, we chose to take a trip to Alaska. I had heard many stories of trips to Alaska from other people. Never have I heard any negatives of travel there. You can add our family trip to the positive stories of trips to Alaska.

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Medical Director, Medical Bag

Amy’s Choice

With prescription opiate and heroin abuse on the rise, young women battling addiction have a tough choice to make. More women of child-bearing age have to decide between weaning off methadone and relapsing or bringing a baby into this world addicted to opiates.

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Pediatrics

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Keeping a Medical Office Clean

First impressions say much to a prospective patient, and working in a clean environment is essential for medical staff. Clean waiting rooms, exam rooms, front desks, and bathrooms are important. Keeping germs at bay is prudent. How many patients complain that they don’t like going to the doctor (or hospitals) because they always get sick? In the medical office, a simple surface cleaning and pickup just is not enough.

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Smart Contact Lenses

Aimed at providing diabetes sufferers a means to monitor their blood sugar, the device reads chemicals in the tear fluid of the eye and warns the wearer if the levels are abnormal via embedded LED technology within the lenses themselves. Because human tears contain a variety of inorganic electrolytes, organic solutes, proteins, and lipids, such a device would provide a convenient platform for diagnosing and/or monitoring many health-related illnesses.

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Online Doctor Reviews and What You Can Do

One of the biggest changes wrought by Internet transparency is the ability of almost anyone to air both opinion and grievance to a wide audience. For physicians, and all other professionals in the field, this freedom has brought some challenges. Grievance, rather than praise, is more likely to motivate individuals to take to the web to make their comments public. Good reviews are expressed online, but don’t tend to carry as much weight as the cautionary tale. Angry patients often turn to the public and their peers online to register grievances, which in some cases can feel like character assassination.

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Prohibitive Costs of Medical School and Incurred Debt

Student debt is a concern in the US overall, with college costs increasing at a higher rate than inflation for decades now. The rate of tuition increase for medical schools has exceeded other areas of graduate education. Student loan indebtedness has risen right along with college costs, with the median debt at $170,000 for medical school graduates in 2012, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. They report that nearly 90% of medical students graduate in debt.

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Robotic Surgery in Space

It's 2025 and you're serving as medical officer on a crew traveling on the first manned spaceflight to Mars. You've trained for this mission for years, and NASA's doctors gave you a clean bill of health before you left on the 6-month trip to the Red Planet. You wake up on day 121 of the mission with a dull pain in your stomach that over several hours becomes sharper upon palpation in the right lower quadrant. You have no appetite and are feeling nauseated. You shrug it off as being the result of the freeze-dried chili you had for dinner the night before. But later in the day, you begin vomiting and are now running a fever of 101°F.

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Career Burnout: Reinvigorate or Change Your Medical Career

Job burnout is stressful. It causes a unique type of stress that includes mental and physical exhaustion. There are so many factors that can contribute to burnout on the job, including work-life imbalance, monotony, lack of resources, and a dysfunctional workplace, to name a few. A MedPage Today survey indicates that approximately 38% of doctors experience job burnout.

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Fact or Fiction: Do Doctor Dramas Accurately Portray Real Life in the ER?

In the pilot episode of Scrubs, JD gets his first emergency call after a patient's heart fails. He frantically runs toward the patient's room, but panics and instead hides inside a closet where he finds Elliot, who is also hiding from the adrenaline-fueled moment of saving someone's life. Meanwhile, the scene cuts to Turk, who is already at the patient's bedside, furiously rubbing the defibrillator's pads together before shocking him back to life. Stop right there. Did you catch the inaccuracy?

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Specialties

IBM’s Watson pushing the boundries.

IBM’s Watson computer has been making headlines these past few years. It was put to the test on the game show Jeopardy and routed 2 of the most successful contestants in the show’s history. If the past is any indication of performance, Watson’s involvement in the field of oncology could prove beneficial to both patients and practitioners. Originally the size of a large room, IBM managed over time to successfully reduce the size of Watson to that of a pizza box. Improvements weren’t only made to its size, but also its processing speed, which has increased by an astonishing 240%.

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Food Allergens During Pregnancy

For years, clinicians have been counseling pregnant women that what they eat and drink, what drugs they take, and what illnesses they experience during their pregnancies can have a potentially harmful effect on their unborn children, including inducing childhood allergies. This belief was so strong that many doctors recommended that pregnant women should avoid foods known to cause allergies, such as nuts and wheat. But more recently, the idea of restricting intake of specific foods during pregnancy has been carefully reexamined, and in 2010, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases issued dietary guidelines specifically stating that restricting the mother’s diet is not necessarily a recommended strategy to effectively reduce allergies in children.

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Tanning Mom Update

In May 2012, Patricia Krentcil, commonly known as the “Tanning Mom,” became a media spectacle after being charged with child endangerment for allegedly putting her 5-year-old daughter in a tanning booth. The 45-year-old denied the charges, claiming her daughter got sunburned "the old-fashioned way, by playing outside." There was a flurry of press reports and outrage expressed at the time, and Krentcil got more than her share of 15 minutes of fame. This accusation came a few weeks after the Mayo Clinic announced that one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer, melanoma, had increased steadily for young women, and that this was attributed to the increased use of indoor tanning beds. Statistics indicate that consumers using indoor tanning beds have a 74% higher likelihood of developing melanoma.

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Near-Death Experiences: More Real Than Real

Near-death experiences (NDEs) have been documented throughout time, the earliest dating back to Plato. Generally, they are stories told by people who were dying, or thought to be dying, and then returned to life healthy enough to describe their experience. Dream-like, out-of-body NDEs usually involve a tunnel of light, seeing loved ones who have passed away, a sensation of euphoria, and a mind-expanding journey. The recent documentation of NDEs has raised the question of whether human beings have souls or not. In most NDE cases, there is the sensation that people's souls have left their bodies. However, as our knowledge has advanced, many experts claim NDEs can be explained through neuroscience, dismissing the theory of a connection to the soul.

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What Made Ozzy Osbourne a Babbling Mess?

On August 17, 2003, rock legend Ozzy Osbourne was invited to Wrigley Field to sing Take Me Out To The Ball Game during the seventh-inning stretch of a Chicago Cubs game. What ensued was a garbled-up, unintelligible rendition of the famous song so bad that Osbourne went down as the worst Wrigley singer in history. Over the next few days the scene was replayed on national television, making a mockery of the mumbling singer. That incident, said Osbourne’s manager-wife Sharon, was the last straw; she claimed that Ozzy’s doctor was overprescribing him a host of powerful antipsychotic and tranquilizing drugs, which contributed to his bizarre behavior.

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