Monthly Archives: February 2012

MCAT Changes Starting in 2015

This is a pertinent blurb from the AMAWire, the online news journal of the American Medical Association:

Changes to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will ensure that medical school applicants receive a wide-ranging education that enables them to communicate well with patients and understand the many social and behavioral factors that affect health, according to the Association of Medical Colleges.

Starting in 2015, the MCAT will include two new sections: One will be knowledge of psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior; the other will cover critical analysis and reasoning skills. The writing portion will be eliminated, and the overall exam time will increase to more than six hours.

Visit the Association of Medical Colleges website for more about the revised MCAT. Also, view a story by American Medical News about the test’s changes. The story includes comments from Darrell G. Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of Medical Colleges.

This is especially important for those choosing their electives or deciding a major in undergrad now. Make sure you get those social sciences in!

Infectious Diseases: Is Your Attention Divided?

During the 9/11 terrorist attacks, eleven people were ill with Bacillus anthracis (anthrax), and 5 of them died. I distinctly remember my parents, friends, and classmates being afraid to open letters because they thought anthrax attacks were happening everywhere. Frankly, they weren’t; the terrorists successfully scared many Americans, which I believe was the main objective.

What else have we heard and read about so often? SARS outbreaks which originated in China? Mad-cow disease? West Nile Virus? These, along with Ebola and Monkeypox have caused less than a thousand deaths worldwide. I’m not saying that’s a good thing. It’s just interesting to think of horrible, impacting diseases and often find yourself reflecting upon these.

Infectious diseases that have caused over 100,000 deaths include the following: Rotavirus, Influenza, Hepatitis, and the top three killers, HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. Do you find this surprising? Over 1 million people have died from AIDS. Non-infectious agent killers include lower respiratory infections, which cause the most deaths, and diarrheal diseases (e.g. cholera) which are a close second.

Check out the stats from the CDC on disability life years (DALYs) yourself:



Leading causes of DALYs due to infectious and parasitic diseases. Lower respiratory infections, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, and malaria are among the infectious diseases that contribute to the most DALYs lost each year throughout the world. (Each year of DALY is equivalent to 1 lost healthy life year.)

Turbines Replacing Heart – Life without a Pulse?

heart stop beating
Two doctors from the Texas Heart Institute replaced the heart of Craig Lewis, 55 with a mechanical heart. He continued to live for a month and died a week ago from organ failure.

According to the doctors Craig Lewis died from other complications and the underlying disease, not the device, which consists of pipes and two turbines. The mechanical heart was no regular pacemaker, it functioned entirely different and has been tested on about 50 calves. It would certainly be interesting to evaluate the device’s effect on Craig’s prolonged life and death.

I’m not sure what to think of this entirely. We already have pacemakers, but something about this video is intriguing. Will we have mechanical organs readily available in the future? It seems like we are still very far away from such technological advancements. Supposedly the biggest promises are in stem cell research and gene therapy, and indeed these treatments seem to have gotten safer than in the earlier stages. Of course, this would be a biological approach! Check out the video below!

Daily Bread from the Bread Maker

whole weat braedYes, this article is about bread. Bread because we all eat it – well most of us. Bread is super useful for students, and tasty if it’s made right. My Indian roommate never ate rice – but he certainly ate bread all the time. Similarly, I eat bread about twice a day. According to last week’s AMA Newsletter, the CDC finds bread is actually the top source of sodium in US diet, as well. I have stopped buying bread because commercial bread in the United States is usually awful. When I read this article on whole grains products often actually not being whole grain, I felt affirmed.

For about a year I have been using the Panasonic SD-YD250 Automatic Bread Maker, a bread maker, and I can whole heartedly (grainly?) recommend it. Not only have I already saved the cost of continuing to buy bread from the grocery store, I also now control what goes into my bread 100% of the time. I can add flax seeds, sesame seeds, rasins, nuts, etc.

It’s one of the few commercial items that have really improved my life and I would buy it again without doubting my choice. Bread is great for students – you can make sandwiches and take them with you. You can also throw a lot of different things on bread like meatballs, fried eggs, or hot dogs on top, not to mention cold cuts. So yeah, I’m big on bread :-).

Why Your Cigarette is Burning Your Lungs

One in five people in the US smoke cigarettes. It’s likely you have someone close to you who does, or maybe you smoke yourself. My step-dad smokes about a pack and a half a day, and I have friends who smoke as well. I’ve tried it myself and admittedly enjoy a hookah with some friends once or twice a year.

It seems as though everyone in the health care field is advocating to quit smoking, but why? Why is it socially acceptable to smoke cigarettes but not cool for obese people to overeat? Neither are healthy, and both endanger lives and poorly impact one’s health.

Since the 1960s, when cigarettes became readily available and were used in just about every movie and TV show, lung cancer rates have exponentially increased. (Click below to enlarge.)

Cancer Rates Since 1930

Cancer Rates Since 1930

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancerous death in the US. It usually develops a number of years after one first starts smoking. In the past few years, steps have been taken to fight the preventable cancer. The FDA now mandates cigarette companies to display the effects of smoking on their packages: “SMOKING CAN KILL YOU”, “CIGARETTES CAUSE CANCER”, “CIGARETTES CAUSE FATAL LUNG DISEASE” are a few of the warnings.

As of today in the US, 19.3% of adults over 18 are smoking. The number hasn’t decreased much since 2007, where the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Report stated a smoking prevalence of 19.8% amongst American adults. Quitting any addiction is a difficult task and it requires discipline, counseling, and support from peers or loved ones. Prevention, however, is the best cure.