Master of the clinical trial

The boy was a good student but tended to coast at times. When he took biology in Grade 9, he barely passed his first exam. Salim, you can do so much better, his teacher told him. You are being lazy. Accepting the implied challenge, the young pupil decided to show his teacher just how much better he could do. He studied hard, and not just the curriculum. He got his hands on university textbooks and studied them too. On the next test, he received an extraordinarily good mark.

You see, Salim, his teacher said. Just look what you are capable of.

Containing health myths in the age of viral misinformation

It has never been easier in human history to find and share information about health and medicine. But much of the information found on the Internet and shared on social media is inaccurate and potentially dangerous. As more people seek health content online, it will become increasingly important for medical researchers and practitioners to find effective ways of steering the public toward evidence-based content and away from myths and pseudoscience.

Wartime advances in trauma care are coming back to help civilians

He knew the homeowner possessed firearms, not that it worried him. In Colorado, a police officer nervous to visit a home with a gun was in the wrong line of work.

Officer Jonathan Key flicked off his patrol car’s headlights and slowed down as he neared the brick duplex on West Jewell Place. He planned to stop short of the home, four houses or so back, and walk the rest of the way. But before he had a chance to park, he heard a loud pop-pop-pop. Then all he could see were sparks and dust.

Lost in transition: Transiting from the pediatric to adult health care system

For young people with chronic health conditions, turning 18 signals an important milestone. That’s when they transfer from nurturing, family-centred pediatric hospitals to the overcrowded, fragmented adult health care system. Not all make it to the other side “The scariest thing ever”

At the age of nine, while lounging on the floor of a friend’s home, playing Monopoly, Sarah Mercer attempted a feat that put her in hospital for three days: she tried to get up. Unfortunately, her left knee had other plans, opting to fracture rather than co-operate.

“That’s when I began using my wheelchair,” says Mercer. “I started walking again later, but I kept falling and breaking my bones.”

A call for clarity and quality in medical writing

Words matter in science that matters. Far too often, however, the words in medical literature are chosen and arranged without enough care. This leads to confusing, jargon-filled writing that is difficult to read, even for medical researchers.

Not only is careless writing a barrier to publication, it makes it more difficult for peers to understand and build on other researchers’ work. Poor communication limits the impact of medical research, so clinicians and patients ultimately suffer as well. Vague and ambiguous clinical practice guidelines, for example, have been linked to medical errors and inconsistent interpretation.

Writing about complex medical research in plain language is challenging. Technical terms, acronyms and jargon, although used too frequently, cannot be avoided entirely. But the benefits — improved knowledge translation, less research waste — are too great for needlessly complicated writing to be accepted as inevitable.

Safe injection site for Ottawa? “It’s about common sense and decency”

Do you care whether David Becker lives or dies? Perhaps that isn’t a fair question, considering you don’t even know the guy.

All right, then, let me tell you about this David Becker. He’s 57 years old. He lives in Vancouver with his 28-year-old daughter. He works several part-time jobs — mostly cleaning gigs that pay him in cash — pocketing about $60 a day. He spends it all on drugs — preferably speedballs, a mixture of cocaine and heroin. He shoots up first thing in the morning before the nausea comes, then twice more by evening, capping the day with one last fix at bedtime, which falls somewhere between midnight and dawn. He has been pumping that poison into his body for a long, long time. “I haven’t missed a day in 20 years,” says Becker.

Oh, another thing about David Becker. He’s HIV positive. Got the virus back in 1998, when fresh syringes — or “rigs,” as he calls them — were hard to come by in Vancouver. A place downtown used to hand them out, he recalls, but it closed too early — two fixes too early. He would rather have used clean needles, of course, but if none were around, a dirty one did the job. “If you have the drugs in your hand, you want it in you as fast as possible,” explains Becker. “You will do anything to get it in you. If you see a rig on the ground, you pick it up.”

Legumes, lemons and streptomycin: A short history of the clinical trial

he first documented experiment resembling a clinical trial was not conducted by a scientist or doctor, but by an ingenious military leader who dabbled in architecture and is perhaps best known for the 7 years he spent roaming the wilderness eating grass. His name was King Nebuchadnezzar, and he ruled Babylon for almost 60 years, his reign ending in 562 BC.

At some point during his rule, according to the “Book of Daniel” in The Bible, Nebuchadnezzar ordered his people to eat only meat and drink only wine, a diet he believed would keep them in perpetual fine fettle.

But several youth of royal blood and herbivorous bent objected.