Category: History

The Gene: An Intimate History

Six years ago I reviewed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. It was hands-down one of the best books I have ever read on a medical topic. Now he’s done it again. His new book is titled The Gene: An Intimate History. Mukherjee is a superb writer. Much of what I said about his first book...

/ July 19, 2016

Why Science-Based Medicine Matters

The regular contributors at Science-Based Medicine (SBM) work diligently every week to explore the world of science-based medicine and the gauzy, nebulous netherworld of fantasy-based medicine. They shine light on the leading edge of medical science, dissect the nuances of mainstream care, expose the misconceptions and sometimes the frank deceptions of so-called alternative medicine. Launching SBM on January 1, 2008, sbmadmin (Steven...

/ June 25, 2016

Zika virus, microcephaly, and calls to bring back DDT (Rachel Carson revisionism edition)

In response to the Zika virus threat, predictably the same group of anti-environmentalists are urging that we bring back DDT and "Spray, baby, spray!" To make their questionable case, they overstate the benefits of DDT, downplay its risks, and engage in some major historical revisionism regarding the legacy of Rachel Carson.

/ February 15, 2016

Worshiping at the altar of the Cult of the Brave Maverick Doctor

One of my favorite television shows right now is The Knick, as I described before in a post about medical history. To give you an idea of how much I’m into The Knick, I’ll tell you that I signed up for Cinemax for three months just for that one show. (After its second season finale airs next Friday, I’ll drop Cinemax until...

/ December 14, 2015

Matt Ridley’s not-so-mythical “myth” of basic science

I’m a clinician, but I’m actually also a translational scientist. It’s not uncommon for those of us in medicine involved in some combination of basic and clinical research to argue about exactly what that means. The idea is translational science is supposed to be the process of “translating” basic science discoveries in the laboratory into medicine, be it in the form of...

/ November 1, 2015

Frontal Lobotomy: Zombies Created by One of Medicine’s Greatest Mistakes

Frontal lobotomies have a dramatic, thankfully rather brief, history in the treatment of mental illness. Janet Sternburg has written an illuminating, and humanizing, book on the history of lobotomies, both personal and societal.

/ September 15, 2015

NCCIH and the true evolution of integrative medicine

There can be no doubt that, when it comes to medicine, The Atlantic has an enormous blind spot. Under the guise of being seemingly “skeptical,” the magazine has, over the last few years, published some truly atrocious articles about medicine. I first noticed this during the H1N1 pandemic, when The Atlantic published an article lionizing flu vaccine “skeptic” Tom Jefferson, who, unfortunately,...

/ June 29, 2015

The Gerson protocol, cancer, and the death of Jess Ainscough, a.k.a. “The Wellness Warrior”

Less than four days ago, a young Australian woman died of a very rare type of cancer. Most of my American and probably many of my European readers have never heard of her, but in Australia she had become quite famous over the last seven years as a major proponent of “natural health.” Her name was Jess Ainscough, but, like a certain...

/ March 2, 2015

The Marvelous Dr. Mütter

The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia has a marvelous collection of human bones, surgical specimens, monsters in jars, and medical memorabilia. It holds attractions for everyone, from the jaded medical professionals who thought they’d seen it all to the coveys of youngsters who compete to point out the grossest items to their friends, from the student of history to the connoisseur of the...

/ December 23, 2014

Retconning the story of traditional Chinese medicine

Proponents of "integrating" traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) into medicine paint a tale of an ancient, unified system of medicine that's been tested over at least two millennia and found to be effective. The real story is very different and is best explained with a term more commonly used to discuss comic books. Basically, the "integration" of TCM into "Western medicine" is nothing...

/ November 10, 2014