Joan Hollobon turns 97!


Happy (day after) birthday  to Joan Hollobon, the former doyenne of Canadian medical journalists! A merry group of 10 friends joined her yesterday to celebrate her 97th birthday, with flowers and a FaceTime visit from several others.

(The pictures are from last year’s celebration. I didn’t bring my camera this year which freed me to have cake and chat with people.)

Joan was medical reporter for the Globe and Mail for 25 years, retiring in 1985.~TM

Download FREE booklet: How to ask for help when serious illness strikes


Hand of drowning man

Credit: Lilyana Vynogradova

My sister Roxe has always been generous. Generous to a fault. I’ve been a recipient of that generosity, as have friends in need, friends on their birthdays and other holidays, and complete strangers such as the countless people behind her in the Tim Horton’s drive-thru whose coffees she bought.

When she was diagnosed with metastatic endometrial cancer, I was happy to travel the roughly 450 kilometres (about 280 miles) from my home in Toronto to hers in Ottawa to be with her for chemotherapy sessions and the days afterward. But for the times I couldn’t be with her, Roxe was reluctant to ask any of her friends or neighbours for help. Continue reading →

Guide offers advice for writing about trans people


Two Toronto agencies have prepared a guide to help journalists write correctly and respectfully about transgender and gender-diverse people.

The 519, a Toronto LGBT community centre, and Rainbow Health Ontario, a provincewide Toronto-based programme designed to improve access to  services for and to promote the health of Ontario’s LGBT communities, released the guide last month.

The seven-page document, downloadable here as a PDF, provides appropriate and, just as helpful, inappropriate language. The guide’s stated intention is to help journalists write accurately and respectfully, while not confusing readers. Continue reading →

Colour your world

From the Oregon Health & Science University's colouring book

From the Oregon Health & Science University’s colouring book

Since 2013, colouring books for adults have grown into the “hottest trend in publishing.” And now the archives of major universities and museums around the world have got in on the act.

“#Color Our Collections 2016” is a week-long celebration (ending today, 5 February) of historical illustrations and images from the world’s leading archives. Continue reading →

Joan Hollobon – unstoppable!

guestsLast Friday (29 January), a few friends and former colleagues joined Joan Hollobon for a celebration of her 96th birthday.

Joan retired in 1986 after 25 years as the Globe and Mail‘s medical reporter. Post-retirement, she continued as a contributing editor of the then-Addiction Research Foundation’s Journal, and continued working with the Canadian Science Writers Association, of which she was a founding member. (The organization presented her with its first lifetime achievement award in 2010.)

Joan was a mentor to many, and in particular, a role model for me in my 35-year (and counting) medical reporting career.

Her memory has dimmed somewhat but she remains vitally interested in Canadian healthcare and politics, and had a great time at the party as these pictures attest.~TM


Zika, microcephaly link called “surprising”

In this transmission electron micrograph of Zika virus, the arrow indicates a single virus particle. Courtesy: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In this transmission electron micrograph of Zika virus, the arrow indicates a single virus particle. Courtesy: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zika virus is a flavivirus, as are yellow fever, dengue and West Nile viruses. But none of those other viruses are known to cause microcephaly, which makes the Zika-microcephaly link “surprising,” according to Dr. Hugh Pennington.

Dr. Pennington, an emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, made that observation in a recent London Review of Books blog post.

“Diseases caused by the other flaviviruses have been intensively studied for many years without microcephaly turning up as a complication,” he wrote. “It hasn’t been clearly evident in Zika virus outbreaks elsewhere in the world. But flaviviruses mutate in real time. The classic example is West Nile virus. Isolated at the Rockefeller Yellow Fever labs in Uganda in 1937, like Zika it remained quiet for years. Then in the mid-1990s it got nastier, causing severe brain disease with epidemics in North Africa and Southern Europe. It took off in New York in 1999, and spread rapidly across the continent.” Continue reading →

One at a time?

it-s-time-to-end-poverty-374fac74a0_640x360This isn’t a specifically medical usage problem, but it appears in medical writing as well. Use of the  phrase “one <fill in relevant item/person> at a time” is rampant. I have never understood it. Sometimes it’s the only way a given activity or objective could be accomplished but in other cases, it’s absurd. Notably, in this advertising campaign by the Canadian division of the Salvation Army. Continue reading →

Toronto psychiatrist IDs new type of hoarding disorder

©Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection

©Vivian Maier/Maloof Collection

By now, the story of Vivian Maier has become well known: the Chicago-based nanny who compulsively took photographs — hundreds of thousands of photographs — but either rarely printed the negatives or never had the film processed at all.

Toronto psychiatrist Dr. Katalin Margittai watched the documentary of John Maloof’s extraordinary efforts to find out who Vivian Maier was (the Academy Award-nominated “Finding Vivian Maier”), and made several diagnoses. She published them in an article in the February issue of the Chronicle of Neurology & Psychiatry (article not available online).

For those who have wondered why Maier took all those pictures but never developed the film, Dr. Margittai’s answer is that she suffered from a new type of hoarding: hoarding moments in time. Continue reading →

Happy 95th birthday to Joan Hollobon!

Courtesy Asia Wreczycka

Courtesy Asia Wreczycka

Joan Hollobon, once the doyenne of Canadian medical writers, celebrated her 95th birthday yesterday.

Joan was the Globe and Mail‘s medical reporter from the early 1960s until her retirement in 1985.  In a career that spanned the founding of Medicare to the early days of the AIDS pandemic, she was also a founder of the Canadian Science Writers Association, which awarded her its first lifetime achievement award in 2010.

A few of us had cake and heart-healthy red wine with her last evening. She was in great spirits and thoroughly enjoyed herself.~TM

Gilligan’s creator was a med school reject – due to quota on Jewish students

Before launching into 2015, we at Murray’s Review are reviewing our 2014 notebooks for stories we didn’t have time to cover this year.

Sherwood Schwartz receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2008 ~ Credit: Nicolj

Sherwood Schwartz receiving his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2008 ~ Credit: Nicolj

We all (or those of us of a certain age) know the story of “Gilligan’s Island,” which ran on U.S. TV from 1964 to 1967.

A chartered boat tour in the Hawaiian islands, given by a blustery captain and his hapless first mate on the S. S. Minnow, ran into a typhoon and was shipwrecked on an uncharted island. The tour group consisted of a millionaire couple, a sexy female movie star, a farm girl and a science professor. The show followed their efforts to live on the island while trying to be rescued from it. Hilarity ensues.

But there was more to it than that, according to a new book on sitcoms. In Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community, Saul Austerlitz writes that Sherwood Schwartz, the show’s creator, wanted to find a scenario that would force disparate characters together and unable to leave. “All my shows, actually, are how do people learn to get along with each other?” he quotes Schwartz as saying.
Continue reading →

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