Linkage 8/12: Physicians of Tomorrow & Molecular Furniture

laurablinkhorn-forwebMedical school isn’t cheap. Today, medical students graduate with an average debt over $155,000, and the need to pay off those mortgage-sized loans drives many a young doctor away from more modestly compensated but sorely needed fields such as primary care and family medicine. To alleviate this financial pressure, many organizations have started scholarships to help with the med school tuition bill, rewarding scholastic achievements and commitments to work in underserved populations. The American Medical Association’s Physicians of Tomorrow program is one such effort, and this week’s announcement of the 2011 recipients [pdf] carried a heavy Pritzker School of Medicine presence.

maggiemoore-forwebTwo of the 18 (11 percent, but who’s counting) fourth-year medical students receiving the $10,000 scholarship were from the University of Chicago’s medical school. Laura Blinkhorn (left) and Maggie Moore (right) are the two very impressive Pritzker students among the recipients, each with very impressive biographies already built in their young careers. Blinkhorn has done work with South Side neighborhoods as part of the Pritzker Summer Service Partnership, works with the Washington Park Free Children’s Clinic, and is planning to spend 3 months of the next year doing a clinical rotation in the African country of Gabon. Moore volunteered at the Maria Shelter Clinic for Women and Children and the South Side “Girls on the Run” program, and somehow finds time to write poetry about her medical experiences. Because of poems such as “Cadaver Memorial” and a collection called “A Third Year’s Life in Lyrics,” Moore was given the Johnson F. Hammond, MD Scholarships supporting medical journalism by the AMA. Congrats!

New Furniture for Molecular Engineering

When you are building a new house, you’re gonna need some furniture. The same thing goes for building a new research institute – before you can fill it with people, you need somewhere for them to sit. The University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, which was born in December and acquired a leader in March, has this week announced four named professorships made possible by anonymous donations. The funded positions give the institute the power to recruit prominent researchers to help realize the institute’s unique vision blending biology, chemistry, and physics.

“The big job in front of us is to bring together people with expertise in broadly applicable areas of enabling technology, such as synthesis of new materials, biological engineering, new ways of doing computing and quantum information science,” said Matthew Tirrell, the founding Pritzker Director of the Institute for Molecular Engineering and senior scientist at Argonne.


The San Diego Union-Tribune Keith Darcé wrote an excellent overview of the Earth Microbiome Project, the global study of the world’s bacterial populations that has previously been featured on the blog. Our own Jack Gilbert is featured (he mentions their current project swabbing bacteria from the animals of the San Diego Zoo), and an interesting hunt for bacteria able to survive in high-salt conditions is also explained.

“There is a place at the University of Chicago where you can get and openly take methamphetamine. Or Ecstasy. Or alcohol.” So begins Chicago Tribune reporter Barbara Brotman’s piece on the research at Harriet de Wit’s Human Behavioral Pharmacology Laboratory, a frequent star of the blog. Brotman perfectly describes the difficulties of testing drugs known for partying in the sober environment of the laboratory, and gets some great quotes from volunteers who have participated in the studies.

What makes a psychopath? Only one percent of the general population qualify for a diagnosis of psychopathy (or antisocial personality disorder, as it’s called in the DSM), but some 20 to 30 percent of prison show signs of the psychiatric disease marked by a lack of empathy and human attachment. Yet little is known about differences in the brains of psychopaths that might explain their unusual behavior. University of Chicago psychologist Jean Decety wants to change that with a new project that will use fMRI technology to look at the brains of prisoners as they look at a very Clockwork Orange series of videos depicting intentional and unintentional violence. The project is in collaboration with Kent Kiehl of the University of New Mexico, no stranger to looking at the brains of convicted criminals.

There’s a certain type of evolutionary “Just So” story that is seductive, such as when a species adapts to soot-blackened trees by evolving darker wings. But testing whether these stories are, in fact, scientifically accurate can be very difficult, as Hillary Rosner describes in her New York Times piece on an ambitious mouse research project in Nebraska.

How much patient-centered care do patients actually want? In the New York Times, Dr. Pauline Chen looks at a study by the Medical Center’s Farr Curlin that suggests people want some decisions left to their doctors.

About Rob Mitchum (525 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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