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Noteworthy items from May 2011
One Grand Birth
Grandparents are likely visitors to the delivery room to see a newborn baby. But one Virginia grandmother was a critical part of her grandson's entry into the world: she gave birth to him.
Kristine Casey became a first-time grandmother in one of the more unique ways, according to the Chicago Tribune, by serving as a surrogate to her daughter and son-in-law. Casey, 61, volunteered to carry the baby for the couple after they had unsuccessfully tried to conceive for years.
Having already given birth to three healthy baby girls, the last one in 1981, Casey said she thought she could do it again. Calling the birth of her daughters "the happiest days of her life," Casey approached one of her daughters, Sara Connell, about having one more of those days to help produce her first grandchild. "I thought, 'Wow, three of the happiest days of my life were giving birth to my daughters,' and I thought I could choose to do this for someone I love," Casey told the newspaper. Finnean Lee Connell was born via C-section on Feb. 9.
Preparing for Nuclear Fallout
Could a nuclear crisis like the one in Japan happen in the United States?
Most experts say probably not. American nuclear facilities are not located near any major geological fault lines, so even a large earthquake would not likely affect any U.S. nuclear reactors in such a drastic way.
Still, nuclear crises - whether caused by a natural disaster, human error, or acts of war - do happen, and the AMA is taking no chances when it comes to preparing physicians for the worst. The association hosted a free, two-hour webinar last month to "help physicians and healthcare professionals learn more about medical and public health implications of radiation events."
The webinar, "Crisis in Japan: Medical and Public Health Implications of a Radiation Emergency," covered the "different types of ionizing radiation and relative medical implications, diagnosis and treatment considerations of acute radiation syndrome, the necessary steps to prepare for a radiation emergency, and the immediate and long-term public health roles in a radiation emergency," according to the AMA.
You can access a recorded version of the event here: http://tiny.cc/2iq6z.
The association also made several related articles from the journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness available at the journal's website: www.dmphp.org.
"Our thoughts are with the Japanese people during this ongoing crisis, and this tragedy has emphasized the importance of our national preparedness in the event of a radiation emergency," said AMA Board chair-elect Robert M. Wah, MD. "The AMA is proud to convene an informational webinar to discuss radiation preparedness in the U.S. and the implications of and treatment for radiation exposure."
Can You Smell What They're Saying?
A new approach to avoiding hearing loss may live in a surprising place: the nose.
Australian researchers say extracting stem cells from the nose and transplanting them to the ear may help preserve sound for those with hearing problems dating back to infancy, according to MSNBC. A trial in mice indicated improved hearing function after having the cells transplanted into their cochlea, the part of the inner ear that houses the sensory organ of hearing.
The transplanted cells, scientists say, essentially repair tissue by replacing damaged cells and aiding the survival of existing cells, thus preventing hearing loss from getting any worse.
Make Your App Dream Come True
Have you ever faced a problem in your practice - surly patients, a crazy schedule, an intransigent insurer - and thought, "I wish there were an app for that!"? Well, maybe there can be. And maybe you could win a prize for being the one to think of it.
The AMA recently announced an "app challenge," offering two prizes worth a total of $5,000 for the entrant who offers the best idea for a smart phone application. It's easy to enter the contest at www.amaidealab.org. You need not be an app developer; you just need to be a U.S. physician, and be able to clearly explain the benefits of the idea.
The AMA's new iTunes-downloadable app, an on-the-go guide that is compatible with Apple iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices, adds to a growing list.
Wondering if someone has already thought of your idea? Check out a compendium of best-app-for-docs' lists: http://tiny.cc/kaenc.
Diagnosing a Sharp Pain
Li Fu already had haunting memories of being stabbed during a robbery five years ago, but something else from the incident was also on his mind - actually it was in his mind.
Li, 37, had been suffering from terrible headaches and went to see a doctor. After a routine X-ray, a four-inch knife blade was discovered stuck in his brain dating back to the 2006 robbery, according to the Daily Mail. Fu, who is from China, had received treatment for his injuries at the time of the robbery, but somehow doctors missed the knife buried deep in his skull.
One of the surgeons who removed the knife said it's "a medical miracle" that the patient survived being stabbed in the head to begin with, much less walking around for four years with a blade stuck in his brain.
Yes, this is a real website and, yes, it's loaded with actual "funny surgery stories," most of them submitted by users. There's the one about the guy who "gets dates with female new hires by having them escort him when he takes expired patients to the morgue," then comforting them if they get emotional; an explanation (as if one were needed) for the admonition "never buy lemonade from a urologist"; and whole lot of funny stories that we can't print.
$1.4 trillion: The amount of annual economic activity contributed by U.S. office-based physicians.
4 million: The number of jobs nationwide supported by private-office docs.
Source: The American Medical Association
"The government basically said, 'If we just put [meaningful use rules] out there, and don't provide some help, it's possible that the small provider offices, because they're not experienced in healthcare IT, wouldn't be able to take advantage of this program."
Bruce Kleaveland, health IT consultant discussing the assistance to smaller primary-care practices from Regional Extension Centers.
This article originally appeared in the May 2011 issue of Physicians Practice.