UCSD researchers win, er, prestigious prize

If you have ever wrestled with snarled cables, cords or jewelry, you can thank two UCSD researchers for figuring out the math and physics of why these frustrating knots happen.  Dorian Raymer of SIO and Douglas E. Smith from Physics have been awarded the 2008 Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for their paper, “Spontaneous knotting of an agitated string.”  (PNAS  October 16, 2007   vol. 104  no. 42  16432-16437 ).  The Ig Nobel prizes are awarded annually to achievements that “make people laugh, then make them think.”  This year’s Medicine prize went to Dan Ariely of Duke University, USA, for demonstrating that high-priced fake medicine is more effective than low-priced fake medicine.  The Biology prize was awarded to Marie-Christine Cadiergues, Christel Joubert, and  Michel Franc of Ecole Nationale Veterinaire de Toulouse, France for discovering that the fleas that live on a dog can jump higher than the fleas that live on a cat.  See the full list of winners.

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Art Observation and Medical Students

From the July 2008 issue Journal of General Internal Medicine is a research study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) where researchers, led by Joel Katz and Shahram Khoshbin, from the Departments of Medicine and Neurology developed a pre-clinical course for Harvard Medical School students to enhance their diagnostic abilities and improve their visual assessment skills through close observation and guided discussion of fine art and artistic concepts. The researchers found that the students who took the course had a 38 percent increase in overall accurate visual observations of patients and art work compared to otherwise similarly-trained control students in the study.


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National Library Week

April 13-19, 2008 is National Library Week. The American Library Association has produced a series of fun short videos with different facts about libraries. This one’s my favorite. (BTW, my money’s on the gorilla.)


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Shared Research Facilities database at UCSD

Check out the new Shared Research Facilities & Equipment website at http://research.ucsd.edu/sharedfacilities. It offers a searchable inventory of research facilities, equipment and research support services available for researchers at UCSD, from Alzheimer’s disease assessment to x-ray crystallography.

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Student-directed online interactive medical curriculum

The University of Alberta School of Medicine has embraced one of the newest trends in medical education – providing online interactive and collaborative study tools within their learning system. Homer – think Greek mythology and students setting out on “an epic journey of lifelong learning” – is their newly created system that contains links to the information med students need – class notes, slides, and schedules – and also learning games, journal articles, email, Facebook and other networking tools.

The assistant dean for health informatics and an associate professor of medicine, Robert Hayward, headed the team that invented Homer. In a field that is typically dominated by “top-down instruction” via lectures, U of A “wanted to make a change from the traditional system of regurgitating notes at exam time and competing with other students to a cooperative model,” said Hayward.

What is particularly unique is the student interactivity. Students can post their own quizzes or questions, provide study tips and help monitor others posts for possible errors. The project is mostly self-policed by the med students who find and correct any errors. As one might expect, “Some first-year students objected at first, saying they just wanted to know what they were going to be tested on.” However, perhaps offering the high praise Homer’s creators were hoping for, they acknowledge later that “Homer helped them study.”

See the full story at The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Medical-School Curriculum Goes Interactive, Online, … and Hip-Hop.

Watch the “Diagnosis Wenckebach” video by a group of 2nd year med students at U of Alberta.

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September 19: smiley’s birthday

September 19 marks an Internet milestone: tt’s the 25th anniversary of the first use of the “smiley” in online communication. Scott E. Fahlman, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University first proposed using the punctuation string to denote comments meant to be taken lightly in postings on a bulletin board discussion system on Sept. 19, 1982. Since then, smileys or “emoticons” have been helping clarify the meaning of otherwise easily misinterpreted emails and chat postings. See http://www.cs.cmu.edu/smiley/ for more. September 19th is also Talk Like A Pirate Day, but that’s another story! Arr!


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PDAs for Brain Injured Veterans

First piloted in North Carolina, the Veterans Administration (VA) is providing PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants or hand-held computers) for active duty military and veterans with brain injuries to help remind them of life’s important little details – i.e., appointments, time for taking medication(s), or family & job duties. The portable reminder is needed as a common effect of traumatic brain injury is the loss of short-term memory.

According to the story in the Raleigh News & Observer, the VA bought “46 PDAs last year and 135 so far this year.” It is unclear how wide-spread the program will be, but many more will be needed. A study by the Veterans Brain Injury Center found that “64 percent of injured troops examined had suffered brain injuries.”

Dr. Bruce Capehart, a psychiatrist at the Durham VA Medical Center, explains that this is not a frivolous expense. “These patients need it for their medicine, they need it for their health care appointment, and to live their lives from day to day.” The more effective ones have an audible alert to remind the users of a scheduled item, because without it, the veterans must remember to check it.

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X-Box 360 – a medical education tool?

The University of Washington (UW) is experimenting with using an X-Box 360 to teach rural students surgical techniques. Wireless audio and video components expand the X-Box capabilities and connect the distant students to the main campus. The idea is to demonstrate a procedure or technique and then observe the student practicing the technique.

Brian Ross, professor at UW’s Institute for Surgical and Interventional Simulation hopes that the success of the experiment, defined as showing that learning can be accomplished this way, will positively impact health care outcomes. If successful, the X-Box 360 offers this learning technology at a tenth of the cost of current devices and requires much less infrastructure such as broadband connections and servers.

Hat tip to iHealthBeat Blog.

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Biomedical Library Postcards Available

Our library postcards have arrived! The photograph, taken by Lev Tsimring, is the first place winner from our recent photo contest. The postcard turned out really well. Come by the front desk to pick up a postcard. I will mail a postcard to the first 30 people who respond to this post, if you contact me at nstimson@ucsd.edu and give me your snail mail address.

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Online Network for Med Students & Doctors

TiroMed is a professional social networking site for pre-med students, medical students, residents, and physicians to network and communicate. The site has borrowed from the MySpace idea to create a cyber environment only for those in “medical instruction or in practice.”

Registering for a user name is a fairly simple process. Sections of the site are set up much like a collection of blogs with member spotlights and a recurring learning section with the “Medical Adventures of How+e & M+nn.” Audience-specific pages provide information regarding a variety of topics and links for more information. The site also offers the opportunity to pair with a physician mentor.

Check it out – join more than 2,300 doctors & medical students across the country. www.tiromed.com/

Want more details? See the newstory from the Business Journal of Phoenix.

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