Linkage 7/29: Debt & Doctors, New Hearts, and Brain Models

national_debt_clock_by_matthew_bisanz

One of the sectors closely monitoring the debt debate in Washington is the medical world, where hospitals, physicians, and patients anxiously await the final agreement on cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. Of particular concern to academic medical centers [pdf] are proposed cuts to graduate medical education, funding used to pay the salary of residents and fellows who are both training as physicians and specialists and working on the front lines of patient care. In a time when a patient’s wait time to see a specialist grows longer and longer, squeezing the bottleneck of physicians-in-training even tighter could have long-term consequences.

This week, the Medical Center’s executive vice president for medical affairs and dean Kenneth Polonsky took to the newspapers to argue against these damaging cuts. In an op-ed letter published by the Chicago Tribune, he expressed concern that the proposed cuts would “would reduce access to doctors, multiply waiting times and do lasting harm to patients in Illinois and nationwide.”

No one questions the need to rein in spending on health care or the obligation of hospitals to do their part. But we need to maintain a high level of patient care, and to make certain that our country has enough physicians in the future. Policymakers in Washington must maintain their support for graduate medical education and find more equitable ways to distribute the budget-cut burden.

Elsewhere…

Speaking of Washington and health care policy, without the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, 63-year-old Glenn Bovard of Valparaiso would not have been able to receive life-saving gift this past Father’s Day: a new heart. The Post-Tribune profiled Bovard’s story and surgery, performed by the Medical Center’s Valluvan Jeevanadam and Jai Raman. “The surgery was a cakewalk compared to the heart attack,” Bovard told the paper.

As many as one-third of patients with epilepsy cannot control their seizures with medication. Local newsmagazine Chicago Tonight profiles efforts by Wim van Drongelen, technical and research director of our pediatric epilepsy center, to develop new ways of helping these patients by modeling how seizures begin and spread in the human brain.

At the end of a long, difficult week, many people like to unwind on a Friday evening with a drink? But does alcohol relieve stress, or prolong it? A new study by Emma Childs of the University of Chicago Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory and written up by the Gannett News Service suggests a double-edged sword – stress reduces the positive effects of alcohol, while a drink may extend the tense feelings produced by a stressful event.

A cautionary tale about when newspapers twist the words of scientists for sensationalist ends – did paleozoologist Darren Naish really say that the Loch Ness Monster was “more fact than fiction?”

Evolution isn’t only a process that happened in the distant past. Carl Zimmer’s wonderful cover story in the Science Times this week follows New York evolutionary biologists as they hunt for signs of urban evolution in progress for mice, fish, ants, and other city-dwelling critters.

About Rob Mitchum (523 Articles)
Rob Mitchum is communications manager at the Computation Institute, a joint initiative between The University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory.
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