10 Fun Facts about Vax

It’s that time of year again.  The leaves are a-changing, there is a crispness in the air, and you’re finding it impossible to NOT purchase Halloween candy that you will inevitably eat and have to buy again anyway.  Oh, and your local pharmacy, Facebook feed, tv, magazines, and just about any other media outlet are reminding you to go get your flu shot.

Continue reading 10 Fun Facts about Vax

What do you March for?

So sorry for the lengthy gap between blog posts dear faithful readers!  Responsibilities at work are in the process of shifting (I hope to have more to officially say about that in the near future) and I’m currently participating in a vicious weekly battle with the real estate market of the greater Boston area.  So needless to say, I’ve had very little time to devote to all that is cloudy in the media.  Alas, the March for Science is 2 weeks away and I wanted to post something before and after this momentous day.

The March for Science is scheduled to take place on Saturday April 22, 2017, which is also appropriately Earth day.  The March will officially be held at the National Mall in Washington, DC, but there will also be sister marches in more than 425 other cities around the world.

Despite that it may seem to be, participating in the March and standing up for science is not a political issue. Yes, we need federal money to fund research grants, and yes, the government regulates that, but there exists anti-science rhetoric at both ends of the political spectrum.  Understanding that vaccines protect us from dangerous pathogens and GMOs are safe are just as important as accepting that we’ve evolved from single-celled organisms and that the Earth (with life on it) has existed long before Adam and Eve.

In preparation for the March for Science, I’ve been thinking of a making a few posters.  What do you think of these?

I may be a scientist, but one needn’t be to participate in the March.  Consider the ways science influences your life and March for that.  Here are my reasons:

I March because science isn’t just a series of classes we had to take in school,
but a way of thinking

I March because science paves the way for innovation and technological advancement

I March because we are all scientists, whether our experiments
happen in a kitchen or in a lab

I March because science holds truths about the universe we have yet to discover

I March because science (and it’s truths) exist whether I believe in them or not

What do you March for?

 

Our Precious Antibiotics

(c) Gage Skidmore

Just a day after reading about a woman in Nevada who died from a bacterial infection resistant to EVERY SINGLE antibiotic, I discovered that my sister had just finished a course of antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection known as pharyngitis.  Not all that interesting until you consider that my sister had strep test-negative pharyngitis, meaning not caused by the bacteria Streptococcus.  As my palm smacked my forehead in disbelief and I attempted to explain why taking antibiotics might not have been a great idea, I said to myself, “gosh darn it Heather, you’ve got a blog, go blog.” Continue reading Our Precious Antibiotics

Year-in-review

It’s pretty safe to say that 2016 sucked a big one. Adding insult to injury, the worst day of the year for me (and likely many of you) just happened to fall on my birthday–November 9th.  But, before we slam the door on this year (and look forward to next? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯),  let’s reflect on some memorable science in the media in 2016. Continue reading Year-in-review

Reawakening the beast

bear_head_vector_illustration_thumbTaking leaping strides back, he held tight to the rock in a firm grip.  He gazed left, then right, scanning the horizon for just the right moment.  The ongoing battle in front of him means he doesn’t have much time.  Just as he reacts to a bengal tiger pouncing to his right, he sees his opening and unleashes the bomb.  The tiger doesn’t stop and plows right into his midsection.  Others join the foray and soon there’s a pile, thousands of pounds on top of him, crushing.  He might have a broken rib and he definitely lost his breath for a moment.  As the pile lessens and he’s helped up by one of his own, he shakes away the ringing in his ears, and looks up to witness his success.

Continue reading Reawakening the beast

Hard knocks on science

It’s that time of year again!  Crisp air, the start of a new school year, a hint of red in the trees, and the beginning of the NFL season–this is undoubtedly my favorite time of year.fall

This NFL season should be full of intrigue.  Will Ezekiel Elliot plow over all front lines?  Will Jim Caldwell, Mike McCoy, and Gus Bradley still have their jobs at the end of the season?  Will any AFC East team dethrone the 4-game Bradyless Patriots?  Will Colin Kaepernick’s stance–or lack thereof–result in a season-long seat on the bench?  Will mermaids rise from the ocean to cheer William Hayes and the newly relocated LA Rams?

I bet you thought this piece was going to be about concussions.  Although that is an ever-present issue for football players, what I really want to discuss is Rams defensive end William Hayes’ anti-science diatribe on the HBO show Hard Knocks. Continue reading Hard knocks on science

Preventing cancer in our children

16727-a-nurse-giving-a-young-girl-a-vaccine-shot-pvNational vaccination coverage statistics for adolescents (13-17 years old) were recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a cancer blog?  Oh, it is–the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prevents infection by the HPV strains that cause cancer.

In 2015, 56% of adolescents had at least 1 dose of HPV vaccine, 45% had 2 doses, and 35% had all 3 doses required for maximal protection.  In comparison for the same adolescent population, 87% had a Tdap vaccine and 81% had a meningococcal vaccine.

So why the low HPV vaccination rates? Continue reading Preventing cancer in our children

A socialist view of the Zika epidemic

Epidemiologists say there’s little worry about the impact the Olympics will play in the spread of Zika virus.  While that may be true–it is winter in Rio–the virus is not there for the Olympics.  The growing number of locally acquired infections in Miami highlight how restricting our attention to big, flashy events like the Olympics does a disservice to curbing this epidemic.

The most significant clinical outcomes of Zika virus infection are birth defects in babies born to infected pregnant women. While a majority of the focus to restrain Zika virus involves travel restrictions for pregnant women or women planning to become pregnant, we need to remember that the virus doesn’t seek out pregnant women.  We are all susceptible and we can all contribute to minimizing the spread of Zika virus and reducing its affect on the next generation of our world. Continue reading A socialist view of the Zika epidemic

When air becomes breath

red-crabCancer.

It’s a word everyone recognizes, but no know truly understands.  Even when it ravishes through your own body, setting up impenetrable fortresses, and taking over each territory in an ugly game of Risk, it is near impossible to comprehend.

That’s because cancer is an enigma. For life, we need death.  For the proper formation and function of our organs, cells need to die.  Though cancer may be the cause of death for so many, cancer is enigmatically immortality.  The agelessness of cancerous cells is what results in the shutdown of organ systems and ultimately death.

Death is as natural a process as life, and yet we grapple for understanding in its wake.  Being the salient individuals we are, comprehending our own mortality is an impossible endeavor, but that doesn’t stop us from trying.  No one in our time has put it in quite the same context as Dr. Paul Kalanithi in his posthumous memoir When Breath Becomes Air.

This article is not a review of his book, which was one of the few I’ve ever read front to back in a single sitting–it’s short, but also exceedingly captivating.  This is, simply and meaninglessly, my appreciation for Kalanithi’s life and exploration of his own mortality, in his own words. Continue reading When air becomes breath

Cool as a cave

Mammoth caves - Historic entrance
Mammoth caves – Historic entrance

It was hotter than hot–over 90 degrees with a thick southern humidity that hits you like a bus when you step outside.  As I pulled on my long sleeve shirt, I chuckled at the thought of wearing it on the surface, 250 feet above my current location.  It was 55 degrees where I stood and boy was it fabulous.

With 405 miles of mapped cavities and some unknown distance of unmapped offshoots, Mammoth caves in Kentucky is the longest cave system in the world.  I experienced a mere few miles of this wonder, with at least a couple of those miles intertwining and overlapping each other like spaghetti in a bowl.  However little distance walked, crawled, & climbed, it was undoubtedly one of the coolest adventures of my life–both figuratively and literally. Continue reading Cool as a cave