Monthly Archives: June, 2014

Medical diphthongs, or ‘a’ before ‘e’ (except when it’s just ‘e’)

Credit: Claudio Divizia/Terry Murray

Claudio Divizia/Terry Murray

To “ae” or not to “ae”—that was indeed the question put to Dr. Anne Curzan (PhD) by the “Department of Orthopaedic Surgery” at a medical school recently.

Dr. Curzan,  professor of English at the University of Michigan, where she also holds appointments in linguistics and the School of Education, spelled out her reasons for coming down on the side of the ‘ae’ vowel diphthong in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The unnamed medical school department consulted her because the department wanted to retain the diphthong, but there was “a higher level administrative decision” to drop it. The department argued that ‘orthopaedic’ is the only correct spelling for who its members are.

Dr. Curzan said she sided with the “department members’ right to spell orthopaedic as they wish,” not because they are right and the adminstration is wrong, and not deferring to the roots of the word, which she called “a poor justification.”

Her reason for agreeing to the diphthong was based on an interesting combination of prevailing standards and human (or at least professional) rights. Continue reading →

Do you see what I see? When you do, you won’t be able to unsee it

WebThat’s the logo for this year’s FIFA World Cup at the left.

According to FIFA, the logo — chosen by a seven-member judging panel from more than 125 submissions — shows three victorious hands together around a soccer ball. The “uplifting humanitarian notion” of interlinked hands are rendered in the yellow and green, with the type below in the blue of the national flag of Brazil, where the 2014 World Cup is being held.

Some people have seen a facepalm. Now do you still the ball? Not likely. Continue reading →

Researcher proposes mandatory mental health screening for university students

Credit: alexsokolov

Credit: alexsokolov

A Northwestern University researcher has proposed that all university students undergo mandatory mental health screening to uncover and treat depression and other conditions.

“The challenge is that we can’t help what we can’t see,” Dr. Simon Williams (PhD) wrote recently in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“The only real way to uncover and aid sub- and pre-clinical depression, anxiety, and other conditions is through some form of screening,” said Dr. Williams, a medical sociologist who is research associate at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Continue reading →

Quotable: “There is no room for callousness in the business of healing”

rom-reader“The medical profession—beset by too many technocratic physicians steeped in dazzling science—has been scrambling lately to restore its compassion, its capacity to cope with patient anguish. Medicine wrestles to comfort those in pain and devises intricate strategies to strike sacred connections with human beings who are ill. There is no room for callousness in the business of healing….

“Inserting compassion into the patient-doctor relationship is not just a nice touch or a polite gesture. Sound data demonstrate that a warm, empathetic approach improves clinical outcomes, bolsters immune systems, increases patient satisfaction, and even augments professional gratification among physicians…”

– Dr. Benjamin Corn, professor and chairman of the Institute of Radiotherapy at Tel Aviv Medical Center and a co-founder of the NGO Life’s Door – “On Shavuot, the Book of Ruth Offers Doctors a Prescription for Compassion,” Tablet magazine, 3 June 2014

Obituary: Dr. Ciro de Quadros

Dr. Ciro de Quadros | Credit: Sonia Mey-Schmidt/PAHO/WHO

Dr. Ciro de Quadros, a Brazilian epidemiologist who was instrumental in ridding the Americas of polio, died in late May. He was 74 and had pancreatic cancer.

Just five weeks before, on April 25, Dr. de Quadros was named a Public Health Hero of the Americas by the  Pan American Health Organization (PAHO, the regional office for the Americas of the World Health Organization). Continue reading →

Word Watch: pneumonia front

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

“Pneumonia front” jumped out at me from the (web) pages of the Chicago Tribune last week when the U.S. National Weather Service reported a front moving from the north toward the Chicago area that was expected to drop temperatures by 20 degrees (F) within minutes, spawning thunderstorms.

Pneumonia really has nothing to do with it, except to play on the old saying that “you’ll catch your death of cold” if not dressed warmly enough. As pneumonia fronts generally occur in the spring and summer, a dramatic drop in temperature in likely to leave one inadequately dressed for the cold. Continue reading →

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