News & Information
American Medical Association Annual Meeting
Written by Editor   
Sunday, June 08, 2014 11:44 PM

The American Medical Associations annual meeting of the House of Delegates opened Saturday.  Issues on the AMA agenda include a proposal to classify cheerleading as a sport; a report that suggests there is an ethical imperative for physicians to prospectively inform patients of procedures such as sterilization or prescribing of marijuana that physicians feel violate their consciences; and challenge to the AMA board of trustee's oversight of advocacy.  Additionally, the AMA will debate gun violence and its impact on medical practice, and offer a remedy to the ongoing problems at VA medical centers.

 According to delegates from the Florida Medical Association, who say it is time to shake up AMA's lobbying efforts, as a Washington power broker, the American Medical Association comes away empty-handed more often than not.  Florida deligates lined up significant support in an effort to force the AMA board to cede control of its advocacy operation to the AMA's House of Delegates (HOD).  Specifically, Florida is asking the AMA to hire an outside consulting firm to evaluate "all aspects of the AMA's advocacy efforts" and that evaluation would be overseen by the HOD. Currently, the AMA's advocacy efforts are overseen by its Board of Trustees.  One delegate characterized the AMA's current advocacy efforts as "a lot of singles and doubles, but very few home runs."

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Senate Confirms Burwell as HHS Secretary
Written by Editor   
Thursday, June 05, 2014 05:33 PM

By a vote of 78-17, the Senate on Thursday confirmed Sylvia Mathews Burwell as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Burwell, who currently heads the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), replacesKathleen Sebelius, who tendered her resignation in April (but is continuing in office until her replacement becomes official).

Before coming to OMB last year, Burwell, a native of Hinton, W.Va., previously served as president of the Walmart Foundation, according to her official biography. Prior to that job, she served as president of the Global Development Program at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she worked for 10 years in various capacities.

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Shinseki Resigns in Wake of VA Scandal
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Thursday, June 05, 2014 08:04 AM

Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned in the wake of the unfolding scandal over long wait times for care at VA health facilities.  In a news conference, President Obama said he had accepted Shinseki's resignation "with considerable regret." A growing chorus of voices on Capitol Hill -- including both Democrats and Republicans -- had been calling for the secretary to step down.

Shinseki's resignation comes in the wake of an ongoing investigation by the inspector general of the VA into alleged criminal misconduct at a veterans' healthcare facility in Phoenix. Allegations against the facility "include gross mismanagement of VA resources and criminal misconduct by VA senior hospital leadership, creating systemic patient safety issues and possible wrongful deaths," the inspector general's office noted in its interim report.

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Richard III: Shakespeare Blew It
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Thursday, June 05, 2014 07:32 AM

Shakespeare got almost everything wrong about Richard III's physical appearance.  An examination of the recently discovered skeleton of the ill-fated English king shows he had scoliosis, which is probably the root of the perception that he was a malformed -- and therefore malevolent -- hunchback.

But the scoliosis would have had only a slight effect on his appearance, so slight it could have been minimized by "a good tailor and custom-made armor."  His right shoulder was probably slightly higher than his left, but it's unlikely he limped.  Contrast that with the words Shakespeare puts into the future king's mouth in his opening speech in "Richard III": He describes himself as "rudely stamp'd ... deform'd, unfinish'd" -- so ugly, in fact, that he cannot "prove a lover" and therefore decides to be a villain.  Richard also says he was: "Sent before my time into this breathing world scarce half made up and that so lamely and unfashionable that dogs bark at me as I halt by them."

After the skeleton was excavated in 2012, from the long-lost Greyfriars Minor Friary in Leicester, the investigators used CT imagery to create three-dimensional reconstructions of each bone.  Using that data, they created polymer replicas and built a model of the spine to study its alignment in life.

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Medicine in the 19th Century
Written by Editor   
Thursday, June 05, 2014 07:14 AM

"I knew nothing about medicine, but I had sense enough to see that doctors were killing their patients; that medicine was not an exact science; that it was wholly empirical, and that it would be better to trust entirely to Nature than to the hazardous skills of the doctors."  -- Dr. James Marion Sims, who is often referred to as the father of modern gynecology in the U.S. 

Prior to the use of x-ray technology, it took a couple of tools from an American gynecologist to save an Italian hero's bloody ankle after surgeons spent 2 months searching for an alleged lead bullet.  In 1862, Giuseppe Garibaldi, a man hailed as a hero of the Italian Unification, suffered a serious gunshot wound to his right ankle on the battlefield at Aspromonte, and the international health media of the day covered a 2-month long debate between French, British, Italian, and Russian surgeons over whether or not the bullet remained intact and how to manage Garibaldi's worsening condition.

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