If the flu were new

from Wayne Wood

Watching the Ebola hysteria being ratcheted up day-by-day, it is a truly amazing thing to recall that as of today, exactly one person has died of Ebola in the entire Western Hemisphere.


Two other people who cared for him as he was dying now have Ebola, but both are being cared for at facilities familiar with how to treat the disease, and there is great hope that both will recover, as have several other American health care workers who contracted Ebola while caring for people in West Africa.

Ebola is indeed a horrible and deadly disease, and we need to do everything we can to arrest its spread in West Africa and care for the people affected there. But it is not spreading in the American general population, and is almost certainly not going to do so.

But it’s new, and it’s scary, and it’s foreign, and that leads some people to panic.

That leads me to a thought experiment: What if the flu were new?

What if people got on television and reported that this crazy new disease is about to hit, that it will likely kill 50,000 Americans in the next few months. That it can be spread through the air in workplaces, schools and homes. That when friends and family get together in a few weeks for the holidays, that we will pass this potentially deadly virus around, and that it is especially dangerous for the young and the elderly.

What if we said that a vaccine was available, and, while that vaccine is not perfect, if everybody got one, the death toll of this disease would be reduced substantially.

But flu isn’t new. Nobody carries on like this because we think the flu is a normal part of winter, it’s familiar to us, and that leads us to underestimate its danger.

But if it were not familiar, and the facts were the same about its spread and its danger, the Crazed Cable Commentators would be going nuts. Only with WAY more justification than they have to go nuts over American Ebola.

Here is one of the many television interviews with William Schaffner, M.D., professor of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt, this one with CNN International.

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That “In sickness and in health part”? This is what it means

from Wayne Wood:

From The New York Times, this is a video of a husband caring for his wife as she fades into early onsite Alzheimer’s. A heartbreaking testament to the power of love.








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Avoiding the bummers of summer

from Wayne Wood:

Ain’t no cure for the summertime blues.

On the other hand, there is prevention for some of the bummers of summer.

…Such as grilling disasters, as Vanderbilt University School of Medicine student Trisha Pasricha writes in this story:


And then there is fireworks safety. My colleague Jennifer Wetzel gathers up some tips for staying safe while setting off small, entertaining explosions:


For those who want to spend some time in the water, Ashley Culver reported some great safety ideas for adults and children from the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt:


Going to be cutting the grass? Know how to do it safely:


Summer is a great time to be alive. Knowing how to be safe can help keep it that way.

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Rascal Flatts and Children’s Hospital: A great combination

from Wayne Wood:

“NBC Nightly News” broadcast a report that told its viewers what those of us at Vanderbilt Medical Center already knew: the members of Rascal Flatts are dedicated to the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

As part of that broadcast’s “Making a Difference” series, correspondent Kate Snow reported on the relationship between the members of the group and the children, families and staff at the hospital.

The full report is here:


A blog entry that Snow wrote about her experiences at the hospital was also posted to the NBC News site:


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Measles is back. Really.

from Wayne Wood:

Measles is a bad thing that, at one time, almost every kid had to suffer through. This was mostly a week or so of feeling miserable, although a few people who get measles have terrible complications, and a few die. (I had measles in seventh grade, and had to miss a big field day/fun/rummage sale event at my school. Not that I am bitter.)

None of this is necessary. One of the great advancements human beings have achieved is the ability to prevent diseases with vaccines, and a good one exists to prevent measles. Yet here the disease is, making hundreds of people sick.

Vanderbilt’s Dr. Bill Schaffner is a tireless advocate for vaccines and the good they do, and there is an Associated Press story out today by medical writer Mike Stobbe in which Schaffner says, “This increase in cases may be a ‘new normal,’ unfortunately.”

There are so many diseases that are terrible for which there is no prevention or cure. It seems unbelievable that this one, that literally nobody should ever get, is now sickening people by the hundreds because we collectively won’t do the simple thing necessary to prevent it.

The whole AP story is here.


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Shade Tree Trot–a fun event for a great cause

from Jessica Pasley:

The Shade Tree Trot has come a long way since it sauntered onto Nashville’s 5K scene in 2009.

What started as a sidewalk 5K directed mostly at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students and friends, has expanded to a full-fledged race complete with road closures and chip timing, according to race organizers.

Now in its sixth year, the Trot is the single largest source of funding for Shade Tree Clinic, a free medical service that provides primary care to uninsured patients in East Nashville.

Last year’s event, combined with the Shade Tree Benefit Dinner, raised $41,000 to assist with the day-to-day operations of the clinic.

Who: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students and community

What: 6th Annual Shade Tree Trot 5K

When: 8 a.m., Saturday, March 29

Where: Race to begin at the Vanderbilt University Football Stadium at the corner of Jess Neely Drive and Natchez Trace.

Elizabeth Berry and Andrew Medvecz, fourth-year medical students and co-organizers of the event, will be on hand to assist with any media questions.

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She doesn’t have cancer. She just doesn’t have hair

from Wayne Wood:

This is a story and video from The Tennessean about Hannah Grubbs, a Hendersonville fifth grader who has a medical condition that keeps her from growing hair. All her life people have assumed that she has cancer, even though she is healthy. That motivated her to begin a charity for children with cancer, and to donate caps and bows for cancer patients at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. (Full disclosure: Hannah’s mom, Deanna, is a former student of mine).





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Thanks to Southwest Airlines, on behalf of Vanderbilt patients and families

from Wayne Wood:

Again this year Southwest Airlines has stepped up to provide free travel for Vanderbilt patients who may need some help paying for a trip home after a trauma, or help coming to VUMC for cancer treatment.

For the families helped, this is a very big deal, and Southwest deserves thanks for this program to aid people in need.

Here’s a news release about the progam from my colleague Jennifer Wetzel:

Southwest Airlines Provides Vanderbilt Patients with Free Flights

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is one of 73 nonprofit hospitals and medical organizations selected for the Southwest Airlines 2014 Medical Transportation Grant Program. It is the fourth year Vanderbilt has received a Southwest transportation grant.

The grant is administered by Vanderbilt LifeFlight and will help approximately 60 Vanderbilt patients reduce the burden of air travel expense during times of illness by receiving free roundtrip tickets.

“We have patients fly to Vanderbilt for treatment from all over the country,” explained Elizabeth Worsham, a supervisor with Vanderbilt LifeFlight Discharge Transport and administrator of the grant.

Worsham said many of the grant’s recipients are seeking cancer treatment at Vanderbilt. Others have been involved in motor vehicle accidents while traveling and could not afford the trip home.

Worsham works with Vanderbilt’s case managers to evaluate the needs of each patient and distributes the Southwest tickets accordingly. The tickets also allow one family member to travel as a caregiver if needed.

Nationally, more than $2.8 million is provided each year through Southwest’s Medical Transportation Grant Program to help people with health care-related travel expenses. Vanderbilt is the only hospital in Middle Tennessee, and one of only two hospitals in Tennessee, to receive the grant this year from Southwest.

“We are extremely grateful to Southwest Airlines for providing these tickets for these families during such a difficult time in their lives,” Worsham said.

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Andre Churchwell honored by Black Health magazine

from Wayne Wood:


Andre Churchwell, M.D., senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs, was honored in a feature in the new issue of Black Health. The magazine published a salute to 15 African American medical educators.

Here is Churchwell’s article from the salute:

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Jason Koger featured in Apple’s 30 years of Mac ad

from Wayne Wood:

About three years ago I worked on a story for House Organ about Jason Koger, a young man from Kentucky who was badly injured in an electrical accident that cost him both of his arms. Jason is a remarkable guy–with the help of his wife Jenny, the rest of his family, and an amazing medical team, he recovered from his burns and learned to use innovative artificial hands.

I reported last year that he was featured on an episode of Hawaii Five-O.

Now, Jason’s latest achievement is that he is one of the people featured in the advertisement released by Apple to observe the 30th anniversary of the release of the first Mac computer. He is show with one of his young children cracking an egg with one of his hands.








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