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DISPATCHES

A World in Transition

Physicians are rarely trained to care for transgender patients. New efforts aim to bridge that gap. 

Podcast: Tiny and Cold

The 2017 Nobel Prize in Chemistry brought cryo-electron microscopy to the front page. What is it, and why is it changing drug discovery?

Phasing Out Phase 3

What if drugs were released to the public earlier, then graded on their performance in the real world?

The Food Pharmacy

Poor diet makes some health conditions much worse. For Rita Nguyen, that’s an invitation for hospitals to step into the kitchen.

Blind Spots

Shinobou Ishihara’s tests for color deficiency remain the standard after 100 years.

Lost in the Hospital

In a noisy, disorienting institutional environment, older patients often fall victim to delirium, a severe mental malady. Geriatric expert Sharon Inouye describes a program that can head off problems.

A Dwindling Craft

With new advances in 3D printing, scientific glassblowing may soon be obsolete.

Signs of Life

A family regroups—and heals—as a daughter recovers from surgery.

Second Opinion Fall 2017

Experts weigh in on the promise of curing blindness and hospital readiness after mass casualty events.

The Unwelcome and Unwell

An excerpt from a new memoir by Elizabeth Ford, who reflects on nearly two decades of treating patients in New York City’s correctional system.

Bright Future for the Feces Cure

Transplanting healthy human feces became a breakthrough treatment for C. diff infection. Now researchers ask—can it do more?

Scourge of the Summer

Lyme disease cases spike in the warmer months. Research on the disease is inching forward, as the number of reported infections reaches new heights.

Cocoanut Grove, 1942

The largest nightclub fire in U.S. history became a milestone in modern medicine.

Pain for Women, Pain for Men

Males and females experience pain differently—and appear to process it differently, too. Why has it taken so long for science to find out?

Is Skipping a Child’s Vaccines Medical Neglect?

Pediatricians want to know whether they can call child protective services if a parent refuses to vaccinate. The answer remains unclear.

After Surgery, Less Pain

Changing the norms of surgery may head off the addiction that can take root during recovery.

Podcast: The Minutes After

It's a matter of time before the next bombing, shooting or violent attack. How can emergency physicians save more lives?

Safe Harbor

Scientists in unstable regions sometimes fear for their lives. Allan Goodman helps them find refuge and a chance to work again. 

The Gene Drive

A new technology quickly spreads genetic mutations in the wild. Who will keep it from getting out of hand?

Near Death, New Life

More children survive cancer, but infertility is often the cost. New techniques offer hope.

Diagnosis on the Go

A portable detection system can identify disease-causing bacteria far from the laboratory.

An Ocean to Cover

A woman navigates a foreign hospital to support her sister.

When Industry Funds the Advocates

Patient advocacy groups play a role in the approval of drugs. Should their donors come under scrutiny?

The Blood Depot

An invention for the battlefields of World War I led to the modern blood transfusion.

A Lost Generation

A low ebb in funding for young scientists resists easy answers.

Art of Abandonment

Photographer Walter Arnold captures the beauty of a forsaken hospital. 

Virtual Reality

A by-the-numbers look at how this perception-bending tool is changing medicine.

Second Opinion Spring 2017

Experts comment on the risks of opioids and rising suicide rates.

The Secret of Vitamin B7

The most damaging forms of multiple sclerosis get new treatments, including one that is already widely available.

Blood Gets an Upgrade

The long search for a blood substitute could take a major step forward this year.

The Mobile Menace

Talking and texting while driving cost hundreds of lives every year. Should physicians intervene before those accidents happen?

Sniffing Out Lung Cancer

Testing cells in the nostril may change how doctors diagnose the deadliest form of cancer.

Why Aren’t Women Running Hospitals?

Reshma Jagsi suggests that sponsorships may play a big role in the gender imbalance at the top levels of academic medical centers.

A New Genomics of Race

Gene changes related to culture may play into how disease affects the body, according to researcher Esteban Burchard.

On the Desert Wind

A new vaccine may prevent valley fever and break a long-standing impasse on fungal research.

Going Deep

Next-generation MRI machines can look far inside the brain, and map in minute detail where things go wrong.

Caught by the Tail

A discovery about the “tails” of tuberculosis antibodies may help in the fight against other diseases as well

Podcast: The Green Silk Bag

Author Mike Jay discusses the improbably poetic rise of nitrous oxide.

Allies Within

Bacteria in the body produce their own powerful antibiotics. Some may lead to new tools for fighting superbugs.

Devices That Bloom

A new shape-shifting material would let surgical implants grow in place.

Hot Water

Public health physician Barry Levy sends a warning about climate change.

The Rehearsal Epidemic

A measles outbreak in 1917 inspired the blueprint for fighting the devastating Spanish flu.

The Patient Between

A woman with diabetes struggles to be heard in the emergency room.

More Transplants, Fewer Drugs

Antirejection medicines may someday be unnecessary for transplant patients. But some body parts pose more of a challenge than others.

Towards a Complex Transplant

These medical breakthroughs made a penis transplant possible.

Hospital Food

Across the country, meals served to patients get an update.

Skin Deep

Photographer Cara Phillips captures skin damage, beautifully.

Second Opinion Winter 2017

Readers weigh in on the risks of data sharing and the promise of the OpenNotes program.

Under Lock and Key?

Genetic databases have helped medicine make great leaps forward. But is it really possible to keep the identities behind those genes a secret?

The Heart of a President

When Eisenhower came clean about his heart attack, it allowed one physician to change the nation’s views on cardiac health.

Crystal in the Sky

The best place to observe the building blocks of the human body might be in outer space.

What’s Behind the Aspirin Cure?

Aspirin can keep some cancers from growing and spreading—that much we know. Now it’s a race to find out why.

For Diabetes, a Better Crystal Ball

An ambitious data project may help doctors predict when a patient’s diabetes will take a turn for the worse.

Podcast: The Story Prescription

Health Story Collaborative explores the value of letting patients talk about their illnesses. Also: how terrorist attacks affect us.

The Patchwork Quilt of Naloxone Laws

A drug that reverses overdoses saves thousands of lives. Does its prescription status keep it from saving more?

The Cobblestones of Memory Lane

Fifty years ago, Terje Lømo made a breakthrough in how we understand learning and memory.

The Pill and the Pessary

Margaret Sanger was a lifelong pioneer for birth control—and drove major innovations in the devices that made it possible.

Should Patients Read Their Progress Notes?

A nationwide program advocates that patients should have seamless access to their doctors' notes. But not everyone thinks this is a good idea.

Physician, Rest Thyself

Burnout is on the rise among doctors. Is medical school the place to make a difference?

Terror's Shadow

Samuel J. Sinclair studies the deep scars left by terrorist attacks.

Imaging the Past

Mummies give up new secrets with the help of cutting-edge medical imaging tools.

Making the Leap

Ten years ago, researchers coaxed normal adult cells into stem cells for the first time

And Free the Medical Records

Data from patients’ everyday medical records can also be mined—anonymously—to offer new insights on how diseases work.

The Path to Legal Standing

Next-generation sequencing may have to overcome a few hurdles

Death and Distance

Telehealth programs are changing how people get better—and sometimes the way they die.

Small Movements

Caring for her father after his stroke helps the author heal old wounds.

Second Opinion, Fall 2016

Readers weigh in on the importance of social activism amongst physicians and the various approaches to childhood transgenderism

A Killing Heat

Warming temperatures may be causing a global wave of kidney disease.

Loose the Hounds

Prized for more than 10,000 years as loyal companions, domestic dogs now also become a powerful ally in the fight against cancer

A Tradeoff for T Cells

Researchers are looking into a simple, promising way to boost the immune system. But the price is steep.

Podcast: Eli, Age 11

Coming of age when you’re transgender isn’t easy. A mother and son discuss how they’re meeting the challenges.

Podcast: Young Minds on Cannabis

A new Proto podcast explores the effects of pot on the teen brain and how one woman became part of the do-it-yourself medical device movement.

Sleeping Rough

The homeless are the most vulnerable population in the country. How can health care reach them?

How a Sea Anemone Can Help Us Hear

A new way to understand and treat hearing loss comes from the deep waters of comparative biology.

A Rough Patch

A living bandage offers a revolutionary new way to manage diabetes.

The Sky Is the Limit

Drug prices are increasing at a historic rate. Should (and can) they be capped?

Peril on the Plate

One recent diagnostic advance may be guilty of stalling the fight against food-borne illness.

Same Pig, Second Act

After major breakthrough in gene editing, pig organs show new promise for use in humans.

Hidden Americans

Xóchitl Castañeda looks for the immigrants invisible to the U.S. health care system.

Fighting for Social Medicine

Jack Geiger discusses the importance of physician activism in promoting community health

The Black Dog

A mother details her internal struggles during her son's battle with clinical depression

The Trauma of War

A photography exhibit profiles veterans who return home with life-altering wounds.

Second Opinion, Summer 2016

Readers weigh in on the expanding field of community paramedicine and the role of chaplains in hospitals.

The Trouble With X-Rays

Geneticist Hermann Muller was one of the first skeptics of the Atomic Age.

Feeling Your Pain

The quest to find an objective measure for physical pain may be getting closer to its goal.

Defined: Unbefriended

Every incapacitated patient needs someone to help make medical decisions on their behalf. But some lack any friends or family members who could help.

What a President Can Do

Which U.S. president left the biggest mark on modern medicine? Four historians cast their votes.

The Foggy Future of Brain Games

Can a video game really improve cognitive function? One company holds out hope for the holy grail: the blessing of the FDA.

Babies, the Open Books

Soon it will be both easy and inexpensive to screen a newborn’s whole genome. But that could be a terrible idea.

How Cancer Gets From A to B

Cancer travels through the body in surprising ways, new research shows. That discovery comes with both good news and bad.

Closer Than Sisters

Cousins close the gap of three decades by sharing an organ.

In the Event of Disaster, Children First

Children are the most vulnerable during a disaster. So why isn’t the emergency response system better at helping them?

Robots on the Wards

Brian Herriot on building a robot-friendly hospital

Bugs in the City

A community lab in New York City creates a portrait of Manhattan.

The Hen and the Hares

The 50-year crusade to prove the link between viruses and cancer

Chloe’s Law

New laws address how physicians should follow up on prenatal tests.

Can Pot Cause Psychosis?

Researchers debate the link between marijuana and mental illness.

Dr. Darwin and the Leaky Vaccine

What role do evolutionary forces play in vaccine efficacy?

An Apple a Day

Adding or tweaking genes can improve the nutritional value of everyday foods.

Second Opinion Winter 2016

Readers weigh in on a national pain strategy and innovative new technologies that could help the blind see.

Please, Keep Your Prayers

An atheist patient reflects on compassion in a Catholic hospital.

Should Congress Pass the Cures Act?

Two experts face off on new legislation that aims to speed up the approval process for drugs and medical devices.

Dementia and the Loaded Gun

Gun ownership is highest among the elderly. When dementia strikes, few laws can step in to keep these patients and their caregivers safe.

Defined: Information Blocking

When a company in the electronic health records industry interferes with its clients’ ability to access, exchange or use the data the company stores.

Beating Zika in the Wild

Fighting mosquitoes is no walk in the park. A disease ecologist describes the landscape of mosquito-borne diseases here in the United States.

Blue Light Special

Drug-resistant bugs have spurred research into a promising—and surprisingly simple—treatment.

10 Years That Changed Medicine

Proto’s first issue came out in 2005. The decade that followed brought landmark changes to the world of health care.

Outsmarting the Common Cold

Throwing antibiotics at viral infections is bad and sometimes dangerous medicine. Tests based on gene expression may help.

The Grim and Marvelous Story of Chemotherapy

Research on chemical treatments for cancer began in the ashes of a world war.

Relief Valves

Pilot programs teach kids and parents skills for coping with stressful lives.

Roald Dahl and the Curious Shunt

The beloved author’s first great gift to children was medical, not literary.

The Bleeding Edge

A Boston lab looks to the plucky and omnipresent red blood cell for a new generation of therapies.

The Secret in Mother’s Milk

Does the body have a hidden highway between a mother’s digestive tract and the milk she produces?

A Touch of Sugar

The science behind placebos has come a long way since the sugar pill. Ted Kaptchuk is leading the revolution.

The Doctor Bill

Who should shoulder the cost of training new residents?

A Drastic Cure

The lobotomy won its inventor the Nobel prize, but remains a shadowy chapter in the history of mental health.

Temporary Passengers

Advances in pacemaker technology are making the devices safer, smaller and longer-lived.

Defined: Oral Parity

Advocates rally around a new standard for cancer drug pricing. But will it have the desired effect?

Senses in Practice

A special kind of synesthesia helps physician Joel Salinas feel what his patients feel.

Free to Choose

A cancer patient struggles with the tyranny of too much choice.

Second Opinion–Fall 2015

A Proto feature about changing screening protocols draws a vigorous response.

Progress on Prostates

A new genetic test may hold the promise of greatly reducing unnecessary treatment in prostate cancer.

Superbugs in Their Sights

The Cures Act wants to put more tools in the hands of those who fight drug-resistant bacteria. Can this war be won?

For Rent: The Eureka Moment

Will rent-by-the-hour robotic labs change the way that medical research happens?

The Month of Beginning

An excerpt from Matt McCarthy’s tales of being a medical resident: The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly.

Where There’s Smoke

Cigarette labeling hits a big milestone, but the battle continues over the perception of tobacco’s risks.

Mortal Remains

The teaching cadaver is as old as the study of medicine. Is there a better alternative?

Health Care Blindsided

Mahzarin Banaji explores the role of personal bias in medical care.

The Foam of Life

A new foam technology might prolong life for those wounded on the battlefield.

A World of Pain

Prescription abuse has reached epidemic levels. So why is the FDA approving powerful new painkillers?

A Health Nut Cracks

A power lifter ponders a lifetime of self-inflicted injuries.

Defined: Just Culture

A new organizational approach views medical errors in a whole new light.

Retirement and the Physician Shortfall

A graph that outlines the gap between physician supply and demand between 2013 and 2035.

The Awakening of Oliver Sacks

The final illness of the physician and author happens 100 years after the greatest outbreak of encephalitis lethargica.

Measuring the Impact

Researchers are still searching for answers about how best to diagnose and treat childhood concussions.

Pricing Transparency

When it comes to the cost of treatments, hospitals struggle to give customers a straight answer.

The Explosive Child Revisited

Bad behavior in children may come from a lack of certain cognitive skills. Studies show that those skills can be taught.

Down and Dirty

Culturing bacteria in the soil from which they came could lead researchers to breakthrough antibiotics

Second Opinion Spring 2015

Readers weigh in on the promises of artificial intelligence in medical diagnosis and the shortcomings of end of life care in the U.S.

Does This Cause That?

Whether it’s smoking and cancer or vaccines and autism, the Bradford Hill guidelines celebrate 50 years of tracing diseases to their proper roots.

The Cogs of Addiction

What role do brain mechanics play in opioid addiction?

The Epidemic That Medicine Made

The misuse of opioid painkillers has become a major health crisis. How can the tide be turned?

A Shock From Outside

Implanted devices are just one approach to neuromodulation therapy. Transcranial stimulation is achieving results and reaching new audiences.

A Shake-Up in Stroke Treatment

A new approach for restoring blood flow to the brain is having unprecedented success.

Nature Bites Back

More than half of infectious diseases pass through animals first. A strain on their natural habitats may be making these ailments more dangerous.

A New Weapon Against Sepsis?

MGH researcher Biju Parekkadan may have discovered a breakthrough treatment for this global killer.

Hospital as Ecosystem

Researchers are learning more about the unique biomes of medical spaces.

A Race to Resilience

Stephen Friend is looking for new cures in the genes of a million volunteers.

Feeling Nature’s Pull

Researchers have harnessed the power of the immune system to remove foreign pathogens from the blood.

Kidneys Wanted

A shortfall has repercussions in policy and an international black market.

Second Opinion Winter 2015

Readers weight in on the promise of 3D printing in medicine and the importance of telehealth technology.

X-Ray Vision

Wilhelm Röntgen stumbled upon one of medicine’s first imaging techniques 120 years ago.

Checklist Item 31

What is empathy, and how can it be taught to young doctors?

Of Elephants and Evolution

Animals may hold a key to cancer’s origins and treatment.

The Right to Try

Five state legislatures now allow terminal patients to circumvent the FDA. Will this new path to experimental drugs help or hurt?

My Father's House

An immigrant physician’s daughter defines her American dream.

Fixing Medicare's Hospice Problem

New approaches can combat the steep costs of caring for dementia patients.

A Killer Still on the Loose

MRSA infections are down by more than half, and new treatments are on the way. But the pathogen still takes a deadly toll.

The Rise of the Robot Scientists

Artificial intelligence may also prove key to the future of research, as computers serve up relevant studies and make connections that humans might miss.

The Brain Extended

A wounded World War II veteran transformed thinking about artificial limbs.

Are Hospitals Shrinking?

In one metric—inpatient stays—hospitals are seeing a steady decline.

Do Ebola Quarantines Make Sense?

Treating the epidemic means re-evaluating a public health tool with a storied past.

Tech Meets Quarantine

New digital systems can help keep infectious agents at arm’s length—or further away.

A Tragedy of Rural Proportions

A new documentary explores health care inequality in rural America, and why the Affordable Care Act isn’t enough.

Joint Venture?

The need for a U.S. joint replacement registry is urgent, but should the government or orthopedic surgeons control the data?

The Value of Good Feelings

New research suggests that having a positive outlook may improve health and longevity.

An Infernal Ringing

There's never a quiet moment for the millions suffering from a persistent buzzing in their ears.

Where Have All the Microbes Gone?

Internist and researcher Martin Blaser believes that disturbances in the gut may underlie several modern maladies.

Doc on a Screen

Telehealth could be coming to a computer near you.

Dotter's Folly

The first angioplasty procedure was performed 50 years ago. But it was some time before the work of "Crazy Charlie" Dotter caught on.

Supply-Side Solutions

Simplifying fecal transplants could make the treatment safer and more accessible.

Hooked on Faxes

Physicians and faxes have a long, complex relationship.

Acting Out

Reflections on being a minor character in a disaster drill.

New Technology, Old Rules

The use of 3-D printing technology in hospitals and labs has raised new regulatory issues for the FDA.

Second Opinion Fall 2014

Readers weigh in on more efficient methods of coding medical conditions and current debates in hormone therapy.

Gut Feelings

The mysteries of celiac disease prove to be more intricate than expected.

Artificial Blood

Researchers in Scotland have used stem cells to culture blood artifically

Judgment Call or By the Book?

Medical guidelines aim to encourage best practices, but these physician bloggers argue that guidelines shouldn’t determine treatment.

Making Trials Multitask

A funding shift may encourage more fundamental brain research.

Drawing From Experience

Cartoonist Ben Schwartz discusses the visual side of learning medicine.

Going the Distance

Longitudinal studies have provided both puzzles and insights about human health and well being.

The Science of Lyme Disease

Peter L. Slavin and David F. Torchiana on the science and importance of Lyme disease.

Wanted: A Better Analogy

Why geneticists hate the term dark matter.

What Lies Beneath

A young woman's uncomfortable experience in the hospital and the memory it forged.

Defined: Community Paramedicine

A new approach to in-home care turns to EMS providers.

Only (Dis)connect

Three physician bloggers consider where social media and medicine meet.

New Fuel for the Hormone Therapy Debate

Attitudes towards hormone therapy have shifted toward a more nuanced approach.

A Winning Formula?

Where do scientific prizes fit in the research funding landscape?

Smart Bubble Wrap

“Smart bubble wrap” could help lead to better prosthetics.

Second Opinion Spring 2014

Readers weigh in on the challenges of medical literacy and issues with replicating research.

The Electric Brain

Eighty years ago, what he perceived of as a telepathic experience led Hans Berger to create the electroencephalogram.

The School Nurse

School nurses see to a variety of ailments, and there aren’t enough of them.

Decoding Violence

Psychiatrist Paul Appelbaum talks about the factors that can contribute to violent behavior.

Bubble Power

Aiming tiny bursting bubbles at tumors could pave the way for new treatments.

Carolyn Greene: The Data Miner

Epidemiologist Carolyn Greene aims to use electronic health records to track chronic disease trends.

The Legacy of Agent Orange

The fallout from exposure to Agent Orange—used to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War—continues to be felt.

Doctress of Medicine

One hundred and fifty years ago, Rebecca Lee Crumpler became the first black woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.

In Framingham, Deep Cuts

Sharply pared budgets could kill the Framingham Heart Study—after 50 years of astonishing research breakthroughs.

These Hands

At her great-uncle's bedside, the author considers the genetic disorder that binds her family.

Go Live

In this short story, an IT guy reveals the human angle of dealing with new health care technology.

Defined: Helium Cliff

An impending helium shortage could greatly raise the price of helium, an element used to chill MRI scanners.

Does This Gene Look Patentable?

The Supreme Court ruled on whether genes can be patented. But the answers aren't crystal clear.

When It's All in Their Heads

Three physician bloggers discuss how to treat patients with imagined ailments.

A Second Life for Lungs

“Lung washing” is keeping donated lungs alive longer.

The Second Attack

After her husband's first heart attack, the author cannot escape the fear that it will happen again.

Defined: Super-Utilizers

One group of patients, also known as frequent fliers, account for a disproportionate share of health care spending: super-utilizers.

A Malaria Vaccine Clears Another Hurdle

Can a new vaccine, injected intravenously, put the brakes on malaria?

The Red-Tape Blues

Three physician bloggers bemoan—and cope with—administrative headaches that impede caregiving.

Power Struggle

As concerns about cyber attacks on medical devices and hospital networks rise, a new system aims to detect malware intrusions.

A Second Act for Phages

As resistance to antibiotics grows, might phages, a treatment that fell out of favor decades ago, be the answer?

Mother's Little Helper at 50

After 50 years, we take a look back at the pharmaceutical industry's first $100 million brand.

A Gutsy Procedure

Evidence for fecal transplants as effective treatment for stubborn C. diff. infections.

Rooting Out Disrespect

Lucian Leape, the father of the modern patient safety movement, talks about the culture of disrespect in medicine—and how to fix it.

Billiions of Lost Years

China's air pollution provides chilling statistics on air quality and its relationship to disease and life expectancy.

Lucky Day

A woman assaulted with a box-cutter finds a friend and guide in her plastic surgeon.

Point of Departure

In an excerpt from physician Danielle Ofri's latest book, a heroin addict makes a group of medical residents rethink their assumptions.

Errors From the Patient's View

A prototype program aims to improve adverse event reporting by giving patients, family members and others a voice in the conversation.

Worth Its Salt

Elegant in its simplicity, saline solution is a staple in hospitals.

The Integrative Oncologist

Oncologist Donald Abrams confronts cancer with both conventional and integrative methods.

Matej Peljhan: Le Petit Prince

In this photo series, the imagination is the only limit for Luka, a young boy with spinal muscular atrophy.

Killing Me Brightly

UV light proves itself as an annihilator of germs.

For Better or Worse

Against all odds, a husband stands by his wife to fight the ultimate battle: cancer.

Still Running Short

Although drug shortages have lessened in recent years, some key classes of medications remain in short supply.

The Off-Label Debate

Physicians routinely prescribe drugs for uses not approved by the FDA. But should drug reps be allowed to tout those uses?

Standards for Surgeons

With his creation of the American College of Surgeons 100 years ago, Franklin Martin introduced a vital aspect to surgery: regulation.

Re-examining the Health Care Market, 50 Years On

Nobel Prize-winning economist Kenneth Arrow discusses the current state of the health care industry.

Clearing Hep C

Several drugs that stop the virus by blocking different pathways are nearing FDA approval.

Stuck, At Home

Solutions to the shortage of home health workers can't wait much longer.

Victim or Villain?

To quarantine or not to quarantine? To this day, difficult public health case Typhoid Mary still begs the question.

Born This Way

The popularity of C-sections is on the rise.

What Veterinarians Can Teach Us

Cardiologist Barbara-Natterson Horowitz explains why the most humanistic medicine today is being practiced by veterinarians.

Rhythmic Entertainment

Help for Parkinson's patients from an unlikely corner: the Mark Morris Dance Group.

Unexpected Cave Dwellers

Researchers have discovered 93 strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in a cave in New Mexico.

Under the Microscope

The author undergoes her first ultrasound, her anxiety heightened by her past as a genetic counselor.

Off the Shelf

A drug approved for type 2 diabetes may also target cancer’s wayward metabolism.

Trouble Signs

A drug approved for type 2 diabetes may also target cancer’s wayward metabolism.

The Burning Question

Who will be the first to tap the potential of brown fat?

Vocal Chords Restored

Researchers may have discovered a way to restore vocal cords using a polymer found in moisturizing creams.

Applying Apps

The world of medical apps is still imperfect, these physician-bloggers say.

The Upside to Full Disclosure

After instituting “disclosure, apology and offer” policies, hospitals have seen a drop in malpractice lawsuits.

The Bone Collector

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Hamann-Todd Osteological Collection. We pay it a visit.

Silk's Healing Touch

Silk’s strength makes it an asset in the medical field.

The Case for Research

Economist Larry Summers argues that, despite the need to limit government spending overall, health research must remain a top priority.

Let the Sunshine In

With her daughter fighting cancer, a mother relies on a support system of friends and family to remind her of the world outside.

Filtering Out HIV

Scientists looking to block HIV's evasions of the immune system found an unlikely source of inspiration: the spam filter.

Our Eyes, Our Rhythms

Another possible disruptor of our circadian clock: aging eyes that admit less light.

Playing Chicken

New avian flu work has sparked debate among researchers and security experts.

In War, Order from Chaos

Modern emergency care finds its roots in the Army of the Potomac.

Shining a Light on ALS

Massachusetts General Hospital's Merit Cudkowicz discovered a key to jumpstarting ALS research: pooling resources.

Experts in Diagnosis

A professor of medicine explains how medical students can learn the art of clinical reasoning from the hosts of NPR's Car Talk.

Failure Redefined

A mother assures doctors who tried to save her son from an incurable disease that their compassionate care was a true success.

Defined: Parsimonious Care

The American College of Physicians’ new ethical guidelines has its members separating prudent cost controls from ones that may adversely affect patient care.

Our Germs, Ourselves

The bacteria inside us may form a symbiotic relationship that not only affects metabolism, but emotions and brain development as well.

Protecting Children's Hearts

A cholesterol test for 10-year-olds could show early signs of cardiovascular disease, yet critics warn that this could lead to unnecessary treatment.

Predicting Suicide

Harvard psychology professor Matthew Nock has undertaken a large-scale study to understand why people take their own lives and find ways to assess those at risk.

Pinpointing Pain

The use of 3-D models to track a patient’s pain has roots in a sixteenth-century sketch by a German master.

The Newborn Score

Lacking a standardized test to assess a baby’s health at birth, anesthesiologist Virginia Apgar created a simple rubric that persists more than a half century later.

The Ethical Investigator

In 1966, the anaesthetist-in-chief of Massachusetts General Hospital published a paper that would yield greater protection for clinical trial subjects.

Sleep, Interrupted

Repeatedly waking up costs sufferers not only a good night’s rest, but their health and money as well.

Facing the Pain

A father and son fight through the ordeal of multiple surgeries to repair the boy's skull.

Foreign Bodies

More than 2,000 objects remarkably unfit for consumption lodged in throats, lungs and stomachs. One physician has retrieved them all.

When Social Ills Become Medical

To treat her young patients, Nadine Burke uses research on how adverse childhood experiences affect health.

A Firewalker's Heart

Researchers found that a stroll over hot coals affects not just the person doing it, but the loved ones looking on as well.

The Forgetting Basket

As her mother’s memory fades, one writer watches it go, one handwritten note at a time.

Defined: Hygiene Hypothesis

Could living cleaner actually make us sicker?

Policing Physicians Online

Doctors use Facebook and Twitter just like the rest of the public, but their participation brings ethical and legal risks.

The Path to Diagnosis

A century ago, MGH pathologist Richard Cabot made an event out of physicians identifying illnesses—and greatly improved diagnostic methods as a result.

A Healthy Investment

Primary care physician Eric Weil directs a program that shows that more attentive care for high-risk patients may be the most effective way to control costs.

Ending Smallpox

Deep in Central Russia and down in Atlanta are the two remaining stocks of the eradicated virus that's killed millions—should they be destroyed?

Occupational Hazard

When a doctor becomes addicted, colleagues may not be equipped to spot or treat it.

Defined: Biocreep

Trials that involve new drugs being compared to existing versions could let inferior treatments slip through.

Finding Clues Among the Rare Few

New AIDS research and the study of asymptomatic HIV-positive patients has brought optimism to those looking to cure the disease.

The Healing Touch (Screen)

Medical bloggers discuss how smartphones and iPads will change the way they practice medicine.

A Hospital for Boston

The city's first hospital was founded to treat the poor—and serve as a teaching locale for Harvard Medical School.

Dealing with Delirium

Treating delirious patients can be costly and difficult, where hospitalization itself may exacerbate the disorder.

Medical Lampoon

Douglas Farrago’s bimonthly collection of top-ten lists, editorials and “True Stories of Medicine” provides a sharp satire of the health care system.

What Caused the Plague?

Scientists say they’ve confirmed the bacteria behind the pestilence that killed millions in Europe in the Middle Ages.

The Scarlet V

For one woman, a scar left behind by her husband's cancer treatment isn't a disfigurement, but a mark of survival.

Defined: Incidentalome

Genetic tests can be fraught with false positives and insignificant findings that may undermine their effectiveness.

Simulators Surge

High-tech mannequins and simulation software are becoming more prevalent in medical schools.

Should Genes Be Patented?

A federal court recently ruled that they couldn't, whereas supporters and critics continue to debate whether patents foster or hinder innovation.

Lord of the Fly Room

Thomas Hunt Morgan's discoveries won him the Nobel Prize and forever altered American Laboratories.

The Mind's Healing Power

A pioneer in meditation reflects on the past and future of research into the mind body connection.

A "True Superbug"?

A strain of the sometimes-deadly bacteria is defying antibiotics.

Accepting Ethan

One father’s emotional limits are put to the test when his newborn son is found to be severely disabled.

An Elusive Isotope

The world’s hospitals rely on technetium-99m for imaging, but the isotope is in short supply.

Why Recertify?

Does the recertification process prove physicians’ expertise or just waste their time?

Defined: Structure/Function Claim

Critics say a certain type of statement allowed on food labels could mislead—rather than inform—consumers.

Nursing a Profession

One hundred and fifty years ago, Florence Nightingale opened a school that would revolutionize nursing.

What's That Racket?

The sounds of talking and footsteps, overhead paging, and beeping equipment can add up to quite a cacophony.

Medicating Young Minds

One writer planned to write a book about the willful overmedication of children, but what she found was the opposite.

Taking Hit After Hit

Repeat blows to the head can have serious—and long-term—implications for football players.

PTSD Timeline: Centuries of Trauma

A brief history of the observation and study of PTSD

My Body, Myself

Deciding to keep her medical condition a secret from her parents becomes a declaration of independence for one woman.

Helping Haiti

The aftermath of the January 12 earthquake in Haiti had these medical bloggers pondering everything from the quiet courage of patients to wider issues in health care.

Using Baby's Blood

Storing newborns' blood for research creates a valuable resource—but some parents are trying to put a stop to the practice.

Defined: Zinc Fingers

With zinc finger technology, scientists might be able to “cut and paste” DNA to fight certain diseases.

The Salvarsan Wars

When Paul Ehrlich developed the first clinically tested syphilis treatment in 1910, he sparked hope and controversy.

Sticking Points

Percutaneous injuries among medical students and health care workers hurt in more ways than one.

A Flight Plan for Hospitals

An author and seasoned pilot talks about what aviation can teach hospitals about safety.

Spinning Scaffolding for Skin Grafts

A team of researchers in New York is working on a sweet solution—based on the structure of cotton candy—to help engineered tissue survive.

Radioactive Me

For one mother, getting her thyroid under control could also mean forgoing a second child.

The Cost of Free Drugs

Handouts from drug companies might seem helpful, but some experts contend that they create conflicts of interest and raise prescription costs.

Defined: Ghostbusting

A movement to ban uncredited contributors is growing among medical journals.

A Pungent Problem

Americans spent $6.7 billion on mouth-freshening products in 2007, but popping a mint or gargling green stuff is no match for hardcore halitosis.

The Literary Physician

Rita Charon, director of a new program in narrative medicine at Columbia University, discusses how developing narrative skills can create better physicians.

Getting Out the Gout

An underdiagnosed condition gets its first new drug in 40 years.

Søren Sørenson: The Pioneer of pH

A century ago, chemist Søren Sørensen invented what would become a crucial diagnostic tool: the pH scale.

Choosing Chance

When it comes to breast cancer predisposition, one woman decides she’d rather not know.

The Small-Town Touch

In his new novel, The Spirit of the Place, Samuel Shem explores what it means for physicians to meet high expectations.

In the First Polypill Trial, Compelling Results

An all-in-one medication reduced such cardiovascular risk factors as blood pressure and heart rate.

Defined: Green Chemistry

Pharmaceutical companies are finding that reducing waste in drug manufacturing can also save them millions of dollars.

Don't Tread on M.D.

Jeffrey Segal and his firm, Medical Justice, are using waivers to combat what they see as unfair online reviews of doctors.

Plastic Tips on Shoelaces

Jack Szostak, Carol Greider and Elizabeth Blackburn win the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work with telomeres.

The Health Nag

Sometimes being overbearing can save a life.

More Faces Saved

Recent procedures bring new hope to face transplant candidates.

Is No-Pay the Way?

To save money and increase quality of care for Medicare patients, the government is considering denying payment to hospitals for certain procedures.

Defined: Cosmetic Neurology

Some drugs lend extreme wakefulness and focus—but are the enhancements worth the risks?

Curious Medicine

Medicina Curiosa, the first English-language medical journal, mixed the technical with the practical.

Resistance Fighter

Paul A. Offit, an infectious disease specialist, discusses the costs of not vaccinating children for fear of autism.

No Prescription is Necessary

These glasses offer a low-tech, low-cost, no-doctor solution for poor eyesight.

Striking Unlucky

Confronted with her son’s diagnoses with three rare diseases, a mother contemplates luck—good and bad.

Handle With Care

In an excerpt from his novel Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese examines the importance of words of comfort.

To Catch an Addict

Michael G. Fitzsimons, head of the drug-testing program at the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care, discusses preventing fallout from addicted physicians.

The Tell-Tale Heart

How an electrified, 660-pound behemoth became a common diagnostic tool: the ECG.

To Sleep, Perchance to Walk

With insomnia drugs yielding bizarre side effects, sleepwalking has wandered back into public consciousness.

A Dance of Musical Color

Artists with a certain neurological condition put all their senses to work.

A Fine Specimen

A rare tumor places the author in an uncomfortable spotlight.

Accordions for Heart Repair

A unique shape could hold the key to repairing heart tissue.

Your Genes Have Been Scanned. Now What?

New studies aim to determine what consumers do—or don’t do—after they’ve had a mail-order genome test.

Lady Doctor

In 1849 Elizabeth Blackwell became the first woman to graduate from medical school.

Should I Be Worried?

Risk expert David Ropeik argues that despite constant headlines, Americans’ health worries are largely misplaced.

Banishing Mosquitoes

A simple technology nets a decline in malaria incidence and deaths.

Imperiled Partners

In depression, family members are helpless spectators looking on.

Constant Kidney Care

Dialysis clinics could be a thing of the past with the development of a portable, wearable device.

Drilling for a Century

The level of dental care we now enjoy dates back to the arrival of plug-in electric drills.

Of Labels and Liability

Will consumers continue to have the power to question a drug’s safety?

Dr. Exotica

Tending to recent immigrants and other travelers, Carlos Franco-Paredes diagnoses diseases that few other physicians in North America have ever seen.

Dappled Danger

The beauty of a dappled steed comes at a cost to its health.

A Cosmic Connection

Forty-three years after his death, a renowned physicist has an unexpected hand in extending his grandson’s life.

Defined: Plug and Play

Getting the various pieces of operating room equipment to communicate with one another could save lives—but it’s easier said than done.

Eyeing Clinical Trials

The United States is launching a database to remedy a lack of transparency in clinical trial results.

Anatomy of Gray's

From hand-drawn illustrations to CD-ROM technology, Gray’s Anatomy has advanced with medicine throughout its 150-year existence.

The Power of No

With their online Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine, editors Christian Pfeffer and Bjorn R. Olsen are encouraging physicians to re-evaluate clinical practices based on negative data.

Bees Become Diagnosticians

Can bees smell disease?

Damned Spot!

The first dermatologist told the writer that she was just seeing things. But finally, magically, the second dermatologist saw what the writer saw.

Defined: Human Microbiome

Scientists have had only a glimmer of an idea how microbes affect our bodies; a $115 million National Institutes of Health project aims to find out.

The Autism Gene

Researchers have found the first strong genetic cause to be specifically associated with autism.

Class Conflict

Pharmacists propose a third category of drugs—“behind the counter”—which they, not doctors, would prescribe.

The Balm in the Willows

The most popular drug in the world—aspirin—would never have won FDA approval. Fortunately, the active ingredient was isolated in 1828.

Our Earth, Our Health

Eric Chivian, founder of the Center for Health and the Global Environment, worries that some medical mysteries may remain forever unsolved as a result of global climate change.

After a Terrorist Attack

Photographer Diane Covert sheds light on victims of terrorist attacks with her photography exhibit featuring x-ray photos of the victims.

Are public Report Cards that evaluate individual physicians a good thing?

Point: Yes, they are key in the nation’s efforts to develop a value-driven health care system. Counterpoint: No, because the wrong kind of measurements can do more harm than good.

All Over the Map

As Elliott Fisher of the Dartmouth Atlas Project has discovered, more money does not always mean better health care.

A New Light

Engineering students at Duke University created the BlueRay, which is being used experimentally on jaundiced babies in the developing world.

A Miraculous Conception

Thirty years ago, the first test-tube baby made medical history.

A Beautiful Place

As a daughter discovers, her mother’s personality seems to drift, but she still can appreciate the important things: a wonderful sentence, the snow as it falls outside her bedroom window.

Defined: Technetium-99

The radioactive isotope, used in some 20 million medical scans each year, briefly found itself amid controversy.

A Life Restored

When the author’s macular degeneration worsened, physicians offered cold facts, not help. She had to find her own answers.

A Brain Scanner in Your Hand

On the football field and battlefield, a better way to assess concussion damage.

No Alternative

Despite high patient demand, doctor bloggers argue that complementary alternative medicine may provide more harm than help.

Progress With Prions

New research sheds light on the mystery of prions: misfolded proteins that promote a lethal chain of events.

Sickle Cell Secrets

In 1907, a surgeon and an intern discovered why cells sickle after they noticed something odd.

Outsider on the Inside

When controversy erupts over the safety of a drug, chances are, Steven E. Nissen is not far away.

Body Image

The University of Calgary’s CAVEman, a computer-generated hologram, can display human body parts in ultrasharp resolution.

Heart and Soul

The author climbed a mountain against doctor’s orders—but not against his better judgment.

Child's Play

A solution to a sub-Saharan public health crisis is also…a merry-go-round.

Should the HPV vaccine become mandatory for girls?

Point: Yes, it will help prevent diseases; Counterpoint: No, it was inadequately tested.

Gripping New Technology

One research team is working to make prosthetics more practical.

A New Step in Scarless Surgery

Years ahead of schedule, doctors perform on humans a surgery that involves reaching internal organs via the mouth or other natural orifices.

Mobile Aid

In 1792, a clever French army surgeon devised the “the flying ambulance.”

Picturing the Other Side

Photographer Max Aguilera-Hellweg’s most demanding assignment was one he gave himself: to understand doctors not by taking their pictures but by becoming one.

The Health Within Illness

For the author, her illness gave her authenticity, a kind of ability to be.

A Useful Cavity

Another way to ensure patients take their medication: implant a dental prosthesis that releases drugs directly into their mouths.

Stopping Seizures

In 1857, Sir Charles Locock first prescribed bromide, the first effective medication for epilepsy.

The Real Gender Gap

Marianne J. Legato, founder of the field of gender-specific medicine, is only beginning to uncover how different the sexes are.

Pit Stop

A Ferrari team has taught surgeons a thing or two about efficiency and error elimination.

Survivor?

Brain surgery unexpectedly impaired a writer/illustrator’s abilities to speak, read and write, leaving her to wonder if she would ever get her old self back.

A Certain Glow

A virtual map of the veins eases the job of those drawing blood.

Can You Hear Me Now?

The origins of the hearing aid began with a centerpiece (flowers optional).

Hindsight is 20/20

Disgraced stem-cell scientist Woo Suk Hwang has become exhibit A in the case for tightening scrutiny of apparent medical advances.

Calling Dr. Kildare

Medical-drama characters may have evolved from saintly to sexy, but at least one aspect of these shows has remained constant: the will to get the medicine accurate.

Frontline Frustrations

Caring for patients is what registered nurses signed up to do, not dealing with patients’ inconsiderate families, defensive colleagues and red tape, as these nurse bloggers explain.

Master of Disguise

Robert Barron, who once created masks for CIA agents, now uses his talent for a different purpose: bringing people disfigured by trauma and disease out from hiding.

I Want to Stay Right Here

The author talks about the trials of caring for her mother—at age 73.

An Aural Art

An everyday doctor’s device, the stethoscope, has its roots in preserving propriety.

Avian Flu, One Year Later

After the panic, the author of our article on avian flu discusses developments in the story.

Music in the OR

Surgeons report on which songs help them get pumped in the operating room.

No Sponge Left Behind

During surgery, dozens of sponges are placed in the body. One company wants to ensure that they all make it out.

Blood Feud

The testing of artificial blood has sparked controversy over individual rights.

For Caregivers, Heavy Cares

Medical bloggers discuss their fears and worries.

Critical Condition

Television portrays ERs as high-tech places where everyone gets saved. But what’s the real deal?

Extreme Doctoring

Doctoring for Kenneth Kamler isn’t limited to his office in New York—or the Amazon rainforest, or the mountains of Bhutan, or even the reaches of space.

No Regrets

Disappearing ink could allow tattoo removal without the scars.

The Kid Inventor

The author explains the connection between her appearance on Late Night with David Letterman and the problem of unsupervised drug-taking by the elderly.

Chilled to the Bone

As more people receive joint implants, one company hopes to make a synthetic bone that works with the body, not against it.

The Costs of Care

As these medical bloggers relate, care exacts an ethical toll as well as a financial one.

Cheating Science

An excerpt from Allegra Goodman’s novel Intuition.

Generic Drugs

No-name drugs may be cheaper than brand names, but they have some drawbacks as well.

In Praise of Rules

Debora Spar of the Harvard Business School argues that new medical technology can't go unregulated forever.

Coral Reef's Promise

Coral reefs house millions of species, and each holds the possibility of millions of cures.

The Difficult Patient

The author ponders her argumentative relationship with her doctor.

Will NIH Cuts Stifle Research?

The National Institutes of Health fund much of U.S. medical research. Could budget cuts stem the flow of breakthroughs?

Should there be different drugs for different races?

Point: Race is a social construct, not a genetic indicator; Counterpoint: Race correlates highly with genetic variation.

Blood Count

The need for—and dearth of—one precious commodity.

First, Do No Harm

In an environment where doctors are paid by the test, Nortin M. Hadler is convinced that many tests are useless, or worse, harmful.

Color Coding

Why do scrubs look they way they do?

MRSA by the Numbers

Some countries have the problem of resistant staph well in hand; others don’t.

Mum's Metamorphosis

While the author’s mother battled cancer, he took portraits that reflected more than just her cool green glasses.

The Birth of the Pill

The world’s most recognizable birth control method, the Pill, turns 50.

Half-Baked or Brilliant?

Medical bloggers muse on futuristic hospital devices, getting paid and ER drug seekers.

A Most Curious Surgeon

An excerpt from Wendy Moore’s The Knife Man: The Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery.

Pee Power

Energy to run diagnostic tests could come from an unexpected source.

Slimmer Life-Span Cycles

Starving mice, drugs in the water and sighing.

Before the Fall

In an interview pre-scandal, stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang explains his methods and motivation.

The Medical Tourist

The author gets a very thorough, very pleasant checkup in Thailand.

Morphine at 200

The painkiller named after the Greek god of dreams has a big birthday.

Made-to-Order Body Parts

Body parts, made quickly out of long-lasting materials, could be the future of prosthetic organs.

Treating TB

What was once treated with a lung compression device is now solved by antibiotics.

A Beautiful Death

Psychiatrist and Jesuit priest Ned Cassem discusses death and dying.

Engineering Better Treatments

A cross disciplinary approach has begun to pay dividends for endometriosis research.