Medicine and the Legacy of Steve Jobs

An intriguing column from Forbes:

Certainly, hospitals could use the Jobs touch. In a stunning eulogy, Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson recounted how an intubated Jobs asked for a sketchpad in the ICU. “He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment,” she said. “He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. 

I have often said that airlines have the worst customer service with medicine second-worst. Apple’s solutions are elegant because they take charge of the entire customer experience (i.e., hardware, software, Apple store, etc.).

In medicine, it is the opposite. The ER nurses don’t communicate with the hospital nurses, the doctor doesn’t to bother to look at the form you laboriously filled out, etc., etc. The amount of wasted time is breathtaking and that translates into big dollars.

Science ≠ Consensus

In my presentations on ‘global warming’ I have a slide that asks,

What is the role of consensus in science?

The answer, of course, is “none.”

Yet, time after time, we keep hearing that global warming “deniers’” position is unreasonable because it flies in the fact of scientific consensus. But outside of climate “science,” skepticism is valued and consensus is scoffed at.

Here is a news story, out today, about the 2011 Nobel Prize in chemistry

JERUSALEM (AP) — When Israeli scientist Dan Shechtman claimed to have stumbled upon a new crystalline chemical structure that seemed to violate the laws of nature, colleagues mocked him, insulted him and exiled him from his research group.
After years in the scientific wilderness, though, he was proved right. And on Wednesday, he received the ultimate vindication: the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
The lesson?
“A good scientist is a humble and listening scientist and not one that is sure 100 percent in what he read in the textbooks,” Shechtmansaid.
The shy, 70-year-old Shechtman said he never doubted his findings and considered himself merely the latest in a long line of scientists who advanced their fields by challenging the conventional wisdom and were shunned by the establishment because of it.
In 1982, Shechtman discovered what are now called “quasicrystals” — atoms arranged in patterns that seemed forbidden by nature.
“I was thrown out of my research group. They said I brought shame on them with what I was saying,” he recalled. “I never took it personally. I knew I was right and they were wrong.”
The discovery “fundamentally altered how chemists conceive of solid matter,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in awarding the $1.5 million prize.

That must be the exception, right?  Wrong! Here is a story from the Associated Press about the 2005 Nobel Prize for Medicine:

Dr. Barry Marshall was so determined to convince the world that bacteria — not stress — caused ulcers that he drank a batch of it.
Five days later he was throwing up, and he had severe stomach inflammation for about two weeks.
It was just the result he was hoping for. His bold action over 20 years ago symbolized the perseverance Marshall brought to proving a controversial idea — one that gained the ultimate validation Monday as he and Dr. Robin Warren won the Nobel Prize in medicine.
The discovery by the two Australians that ulcers weren’t caused by stress, but rather by the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, turned medical dogma on its head. As a result, peptic ulcer disease has been transformed from a chronic, frequently disabling condition to one that can be cured by a short regimen of antibiotics and other medicines, said the Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm…

Dr. David A. Peura, president of the American Gastroenterological Association, said the prize-winning work “revolutionized our understanding of ulcer disease” and “gave millions of people hope.”
He read about the H. pylori theory in 1983 while serving as a gastroenterologist in the Army, and “I thought it was crazy,” he recalled Monday.

Peura, who met Marshall when both worked at the university and considers him a friend, said Marshall’s perseverance was responsible for the eventual acceptance of the theory. “Any lesser of a person probably would not have been able to withstand some of the ridicule and scorn that was thrown at him initially,” Peura said.

So, science is at its best when someone challenges conventional wisdom with experimental evidence and facts. Consensus? Unscientific.

Hat tip: Anthony Watts

Custom-Grown Human Body Parts

Below, I talk about 3D manufacturing.

Today, the Wall Street Journal has a story about custom-growing a trachea for a cancer patient and implanting it into the windpipe.

Think about combining the technologies: Fast-developed custom-made body parts to cure the injured.

We live in an absolutely amazing world that we often do not appreciate.

This Needs More Attention

I’ve been a supporter of the new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, which will be tasked with keeping agriculture safe from terrorism and other perils, replacing an older facility in New York to a to-be-constructed location near Manhattan, Kansas. It is being chartered by the Department of Homeland Security. Given the interest and expertise we have in the central U.S., it makes sense to have it here.

In the last two days, several newspapers in the region (here is one) have run stories about the facility being “hardened” to withstand 230 mph winds from a tornado.  Given the virulent pathogens that will be kept there, 230 mph is too low, in my opinion. We know that winds in some rare tornadoes can top that figure by a significant margin.

Meteorologist and tornado researcher Dr. John Snow agrees:

“It sounds to me like they (the DHS) are a little low on their wind speeds,” said John T. Snow, [former] dean of the College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences at the University of Oklahoma.

I hope the operators of the facility will listen to these concerns.

So, When Do I Grow Out of It?

There is scientific evidence of the “awkward stage” where even athletic young people become uncoordinated.

In other words, the bulk of the available science about adolescent development suggests that there is a period during which young people, even those who have always been superb little athletes, are going to trip over their own feet.

I remember going into that stage. I do not recall coming out of it.

In fact, I ask for “motor skills” every Christmas, but Santa does not seem to deliver.

New Research in Heart Attack Causes

As Glenn Reynolds would say, Faster Please…
Researchers have discovered that a protein known to regulate cholesterol is also linked to the formation of the type of blood clot known as thrombosis that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
They believe that by developing drugs that can control the important protein, called LXR, they will be able to prevent thrombosis and also control cholesterol levels.
Details here
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Faster, Please…

New airplanes are being built with composite materials because they are both lighter and stronger. For that reason, Wichita has become one of the leading locations worldwide in the application of these materials. We have been hoping this will lead to medical breakthroughs and, apparently, it has.

Wichita scientists regrow section of bone


The Wichita Eagle


Scientist Paul Wooley has regrown a section of bone in a mammal’s leg, a breakthrough he and collaborators say will revolutionize bone medicine worldwide. It will dramatically improve treatment for wounded soldiers and many of the tens of thousands of people seriously injured in traffic accidents every year, he said; it could make many future amputations unnecessary.

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