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
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
At the same time we have Hillary, 4 female astronauts graduating from the NASA space program, Samantha Bee on late night tv, and actual dialogue about gender gaps in salary and management, it’s still been a rough start to 2016 for women. Continue reading It takes two to make a thing go right, or wrong
When I was one month old, my parents took me on my first trip to India to visit my grandparents and extended family. I was a healthy baby, but a vulnerable one as I had not received most of my vaccinations yet. Thanks to herd immunity – a result of most people around me on the flights, in the airports and in my extended family being vaccinated – I was safe. The recent outbreaks of easily preventable diseases such as measles and whooping cough have frightened me because I think of all the people who cannot be vaccinated, including babies or people with compromised immune systems or allergies. They rely on the rest of us getting vaccinated to stay safe. Unfortunately, even when armed with facts, it can be frustrating to argue one’s case with members of the anti-vaccine movement. But sometimes a (moving) picture really does speak a thousand words.
This past summer, I served as a preliminary judge for the Biomedical Sciences category at the 2014 Jackson Hole Science Media Awards. When I saw that one of the finalists was entitled “Jabbed – Love, Fear and Vaccines,” I panicked, assuming that this documentary was going to promote the spurious link between autism and vaccines. I was pleasantly surprised to find that “Jabbed,” produced by the Australia-based Genepool Productions, excellently illustrates the science behind vaccines while also addressing fears about vaccination. The documentary went on to win the best Biomedical Sciences program at the Jackson Hole Science Media Awards (note: while the original “Jabbed” documentary is unavailable for viewing outside of Australia, you can view a trailer for the program here). Genepool Productions also collaborated with NOVA to produce an American version of this program, entitled “Vaccines – Calling the Shots,” which utilized some of the same footage in “Jabbed” and can be viewed in its entirety here (it originally aired in September). While I found the latter to be jumpier in its editing, it is also better tailored to an American audience. Both “Jabbed” and “Vaccines” pack a lot of punch, interspersing interviews with prominent researchers, anecdotes from several different families from around the world and graphics to illustrate how the immune system works (if you have only two minutes to spare, watch this short video because it’s both adorable and accurate). While this could have ended up being an information overload, the stories are balanced to provide insights into not only the spread of infections, but also the spread of misinformation and fear.
Upon initiating the design of my Yale College Residential seminar class, Biomedical Science in the Media, I scoured the interwebs for good and bad science reporting. One of the notable sites I came across, which later served as an inspiration for this blog, was Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science website. In his blog, Dr. Goldacre discusses and discredits science that is inappropriately reported and often misconstrued in the news. Along the way he presents the facts, if they are known, and highly educated conjecture if they aren’t. Goldacre is also an active broadcaster, campaigner, medical doctor, and academic that still manages to find the time to update his blog and write books. His first book, Bad Science, has sold over 500,000 copies worldwide and just happened to be on my personal summer reading list.