Articles of Interest This Week

email etiquette


More of an overview of trends and issues than specific suggestions, Two New Reports From eHealth Initiative Provide Valuable Information On eHealth Tools For Cancer Patients is worth reading for those interested in eHealth issues and some of the challenges that make health applications, beyond fitness trackers and the like, more challenging.

Painkillers Could Prove Helpful in Stem-Cell Transplants provides some early evidence that common painkillers could help patients generate more stem cells for autologous stem cell transplants (the ‘harvesting’ phase). To be tested in clinical trials. Autologous stem cell transplantation improved follicular lymphoma outcomes highlights a recent study showing better results for auto SCTs and Rituximab compared to allo SCTs for follicular lymphomas.

Caring for the emotional needs of a cancer patient captures well the ‘post-cancer treatment blues’ that many of us have to varying degrees, once the immediate focus on our treatment is over. I never had anything as dramatic as the case outlined in this article, but there was some withdrawal symptoms as my follow-up clinic visited decreased in frequency, as they were a comforting routine.

A good reminder on the importance of the quality of life, and how framing a prognosis and end-of-life discussion can make a difference in Sunshine Rounds’ Celebration:

The lung cancer did not stop.  Nevertheless, in those four years since the diagnosis, Sue rejoiced.  She celebrated daily smiles, family travails, dry Thanksgiving turkeys, the moon on Caribbean waters, 43 books, long walks with blisters, bad April fool jokes and two grandchild births.

The medicine that kept Sue alive was not in a bottle. It was an elixir from her soul. She learned that those last years were not a part of death.  Sue healed and gained strength because she decided to live.  Whatever tomorrow might bring, sunrise or sunset, this moment, right now, is infused with the glory of life.

And Valerie Harper, being open about death and living in the moment, provides another good example as in this short video (2 minutes): Harper on living with cancer diagnosis. And from Don Dizon, an oncologist, the importance of saying goodbye, or closure, when their efforts have not succeeded and their patient is terminal in The importance of saying goodbye at the end of life:

“It was the greatest honor of my life to be here for you and to get to know you and your family… thank you for the letting me be your doctor; I don’t know if we will see each other again, but let me tell you now because I can, and because you are here—goodbye; I will always be here for whatever comes to you and your family—but I just needed to say this to you now.”

Health and Wellness

The Disease Lobbies, not surprisingly, shows how lobbying can increase the amount of government funding for research into different types of diseases. This is in addition, of course, to the various public and private fundraising campaigns where some cancers (e.g., breast cancer) receive more attention and funding than others (e.g., lung cancer).

The White Coat Ceremony by Dr. Phil Gold provides a touching and pointed address to second year medical students with 10 suggestions. My favourites are : there are no stupid questions and to manifest your humanity, encompassing altruism, compassion, and commitment. A somewhat different take is “Good patients” cover their emotional cracks, on how patients ‘self-discipline’ themselves in their conversations with their doctors, and how doctors manage their emotional pressures. Always a fine line, and more clinics and hospitals are better at handling the socio-psychological side of treatment, but none of us our perfect in how we handle raw emotion.

A Bumpy Road to a Soda Ban summarizes the initial reaction to the court defeat of Mayor Bloomberg’s ban on large size soda, noting correctly this is more of a ‘nudge’ to change behaviour than an outright ban. Unfortunately, the editorial writers of The Globe and Mail, despite their in-depth reporting on health and obesity issues, wrote a silly editorial on individual ‘freedom and responsibility,’ ignoring the supply-side marketing and engineering that breeds over-consumption. Even their ever-reliable Margaret Wente, normally against excessive government, has come out in favour of some forms of regulation to address the temptations engineered by the ‘food’ scientists (Is it time to ban junk food?). A more nuanced view, on the challenges of getting public acceptance of ‘nudge’ approaches, can be found in the Christian Science Monitor’s Sugary-drink bans and other fads: When pols try to nudge good behavior.

A powerful video on empathy by the Cleveland Clinic. While set in a hospital, its message on understanding and empathy apply to any number of situations. 4 minutes, well worth watching:


Nick Bilton’s Digital Era Redefining Etiquette provides a provocative take of what is proper etiquette in today’s world. Voice mail no, thank you messages or emails no, twitter to communicate with your mother (!). It has provoked a fair amount of comment, one of the better ones, from the Atlantic, This Is Not the End of Email Etiquette:

But, okay, even if you assume that everyone reads and cares deeply about email send offs, there is still room for kindness. On the one hand, you risks offending Slate writers, who will harshly judge anyone who writes “my very best” before signing her name. Far more likely, should you follow his mean advice and abruptly terminate your email, is that the recipient of your email will notice theabsence of a sign-off, and think: “This looks naked. How rude!” Which person would you rather antagonize: The jerk getting pissy over everyone following the presumed standards of human communication, or someone who actually cares about the email you’re sending her? Ideally, neither kind of person would get all worked up and everyone could go on emailing as they please. 

Like a Dagger to Bloggers’ Hearts, Google Just Killed Google Reader (effective July 1) is bad news, as I rely on Google Reader for my article search. I expect alternatives will emerge and should readers know of any good ones, please share (this article in The Atlantic gives some suggestions A Guide to Life After Google Reader: I will try NewsBlur).

And in more Google-related news, The Eyes Have It: Google Glass and the Myth of Multitasking, points out the other major risk in addition to privacy concerns (see also The Plan to Make Google Glass Seem Totally Normal Is Backfiring, which is somewhat encouraging):

Multiple studies have actually shown that it’s actually a myth that our brain can juggle two things simultaneously. In actuality, the brain is designed to only process one piece of information at a time. Cognitive capacity models of attention, memory and processing explain that our brain has a limited amount of resources it can use to deal with new pieces of information it gets to process. The more difficult a task is, the more resources the brain will need to put on the job. But the more resources we use for one job, the less we have to apply toward another. Doing two things at once stretches our brain’s capacity thin, making it so we aren’t able to perform either task without sacrificing some time or performance quality. In other words, while we can certainly try to do more than one thing at a time, reading text messages on our Google Glass screen and cooking, for example, something has got to give. Either we’ll be reading our texts at an incredibly slow pace, or that soufflé we’re supposed to be watching is in big trouble.


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