The Vaccine Race

The Vaccine Race

The Vaccine Race: Science, Politics, and the Human Costs of Defeating Disease
by Meredith Wadman

RA 644 .R8 W33 2017

“Until the late 1960s, tens of thousands of American children suffered crippling birth defects if their mothers had been exposed to rubella, popularly known as German measles, while pregnant; there was no vaccine and little understanding of the disease itself. In June 1962, Leonard Hayflick, a young biologist in Philadelphia, produced clean, self-replicating cells in which vaccines against rubella and other common childhood diseases could safely be grown. Two years later, in the midst of a devastating German measles epidemic, his colleague Stanley Plotkin developed the actual vaccine that would one day wipe it out. The new cells, derived from a legally aborted fetus, led to vaccines that have saved millions of Americans, and billions of people around the world, from some of the deadliest diseases in history.

The Vaccine Race is the story of these major breakthroughs in cell biology and public health, and of their legacies today. Meredith Wadman nimbly explains the science of these achievements, but also describes the political roadblocks that nearly stopped the scientists. She recounts the terrible dilemmas of pregnant women exposed to German measles, and the testing on infants, prisoners, orphans, and the intellectually disabled, which was common in the era. These events took place at the dawn of the battle over using human fetal tissue in research, during the arrival of big commerce in campus labs, and as huge changes were coming to the laws governing who owns research cells and who can profit from biological inventions. It is also the story of those for whom the rubella vaccine arrived too late, and of yet one more unrecognized woman whose cells have been used to save countless lives.

This is a masterful account of heroic possibilities and tragically missed opportunities at the intersection of science and politics. The new methods and new cells led to vaccines that have fought off polio, rabies, chicken pox, measles, hepatitis A, shingles, and adenovirus. With frightening viruses constantly emerging – and reemerging – around the world, no medical story could have more human drama, impact, or urgency today than The Vaccine Race.”
– publisher description

Patient H.M.

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich

RC 394 .A5 D58 2016

“In the late 1930s, in asylums and hospitals across America, a group of renowned neurosurgeons embarked on a campaign to develop and refine a new class of brain operation – the lobotomy – that they hoped would eradicate everything from schizophrenia to homosexuality. These “psychosurgeons,” as they called themselves, occupied a gray zone between medical research and medical practice, and ended up subjecting untold numbers of people to the types of surgical experiments once limited to chimpanzees.

The most important test subject to emerge from this largely untold chapter in American history was a twenty-seven-year-old factory worker named Henry Molaison. In 1953, Henry – who suffered from severe epilepsy – received a radical new version of the lobotomy, one that targeted the most mysterious structures in the brain. The operation failed to eliminate Henry’s seizures, but it did have an unintended effect: Henry left the operating room profoundly amnesic, unable to create new long-term memories. Over the next sixty years, Patient H.M., as Henry was known, became the most studied individual in the history of neuroscience, a human guinea pic who would teach us much of what we know about memory today.

Luke Dittrich uses the case of Patient H.M. as a starting point for a kaleidoscopic journey, one that moves from the first recorded brain surgeries in ancient Egypt to the cutting-edge laboratories of MIT. He takes readers inside the old asylums and operating theaters where psychosurgeons conducted their human experiments, and behind the scenes of a bitter custody battle over the ownership of the most important brain in the world. Throughout, Dittrich delves into the enduring mysteries of the mind while exposing troubling stories of just how far we’ve gone in our pursuit of knowledge.

It is also, at times, a deeply personal journey. Dittrich’s grandfather was the brilliant, morally complex surgeon who operated on Molaison – and thousands of other patients. The author’s investigation into the dark roots of modern memory science ultimately forces him to confront unsettling secrets in his own family history, and to reveal the tragedy that fueled his grandfather’s relentless experimentation – experimentation that would revolutionize our understanding of ourselves.

Patient H.M. combines the best of biography, memoir, and science journalism to create a haunting, endlessly fascinating story, one that reveals the wondrous and devastating things that can happen when hubris, ambition, and human imperfection collide.”
(publisher description)

The End of Memory

The End of Memory: A Natural History of Aging and Alzheimers
by Jay Ingram

RC 523 .I54 2015

“It is a wicked disease that robs its victims of their memories, their ability to think clearly, and ultimately their lives. For centuries, those afflicted by Alzheimer’s disease have suffered its debilitating effects while family members sit by, watching their loved ones disappear a little more each day until the person they used to know is gone forever. The disease was first described by German psychologist and neurologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906. One hundred years and a great deal of scientific effort later, much more is known about Alzheimer’s, but it still affects millions around the world, and there is no cure in sight.

In The End of Memory, award-winning science author Jay Ingram writes a biography of this disease that attacks the brains of patients. He charts the history of the disease from before it was noted by Alois Alzheimer through to the twenty-first century, explains the fascinating science of plaques and tangles, recounts the efforts to understand and combat the disease, and introduces us to the passionate researchers who are working to find a cure.

An illuminating biography of “the plague of the twenty-first century” and scientists’ efforts to understand and, they hope, prevent it, The End of Memory is a book for those who want to find out the true story behind an affliction that courses through families and wreaks havoc on the lives of millions.”
– publisher description

Black Man in a White Coat

Black Man in a White Coat: A Doctor’s Reflection on Race and Medicine by Damon Tweedy, M.D.

R 154 .T84 A3 2015

“When Damon Tweedy begins medical school, he envisions a bright future where his segregated, working-class background will become largely irrelevant. Instead, he finds that he has joined a new world where race is front and center. The recipient of a scholarship designed to increase black student enrollment, Tweedy soon meets a professor who bluntly questions whether he belongs in medical school, a moment that crystallizes the challenges he will face throughout his career. Making matters worse, in lecture after lecture the common refrain for numerous diseases resounds: “More common in blacks than in whites.”

Black Man in a White Coat examines the complex ways in which both black doctors and patients must navigate the difficult and often contradictory terrain of race and medicine. As Tweedy transforms from student to practicing physician, he discovers how often race influences his encounters with patients. Through their stories, he illustrates the complex social, cultural, and economic factors at the root of many health problems in the black community. These issues take on greater meaning when Tweedy is himself diagnosed with a chronic disease far more common among black people. In this powerful, moving, and deeply empathic book, Tweedy explores the challenges confronting black doctors, and the disproportionate health burdens faced by black patients, ultimately seeking a way forward to better treatment and more compassionate care.”
– publisher description

The Thirteenth Step

The Thirteenth Step

The Thirteenth Step: Addiction in the Age of Brain Science by Markus Heilig

RC 564 .H45 2015

“The past thirty years have witnessed a revolution in the science of addiction, yet we still rely on outdated methods of treatment. Expensive new programs for managing addiction are also flourishing, but since they are not based in science, they offer little benefit to people who cannot afford to lose money or faith in their recovery.

Clarifying the cutting-edge science of addiction for both practitioners and general readers, The Thirteenth Step pairs stories of real patients with explanations of key concepts relating to their illness. A police chief who disappears on the job illustrates the process through which a drug can trigger the brain circuits mediating relapse. One person’s effort to find a burrito shack in a foreign city illuminates the reward prediction error signaled by the brain chemical dopamine. With these examples and more, this volume paints a vivid, readable portrait of drug seeking, escalation, and other aspects of addiction and suggests science-based treatments that promise to improve troubling relapse rates. Merging science and human experience, The Thirteenth Step offers compassionate, valuable answers to anyone who hopes for a better handle on a confounding disease.”
– publisher description

The Digital Doctor

The Digital Doctor

The Digital Doctor: Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age by Robert Wachter

R 858 .W385 2015

“While modern medicine produces miracles, it also delivers care that is too often unsafe, unreliable, unsatisfying, and impossibly expensive. For the past few decades, technology has been touted as the cure for all of healthcare’s ills.

But medicine stubbornly resisted computerization – until now. Over the past five years, thanks largely to billions of dollars in federal incentives, healthcare has finally gone digital.

Yet once clinicians started using computers to actually deliver care, it dawned on them that something was deeply wrong. Why were doctors no longer making eye contact with their patients? How could one of America’s leading hospitals give a teenager a 39-fold overdose of a common antibiotic, despite a state-of-the-art computerized prescribing system? How could a recruiting ad for physicians tout the absence of an electronic medical record as a major selling point?

Logically enough, we’ve pinned the problems on clunky software, flawed implementations, absurd regulations, and bad karma. It was all of those things, but it was also something far more complicated. And far more interesting.

Written with a rare combination of compelling stories and hard-hitting analysis by one of the nation’s most thoughtful physicians,  The Digital Doctor examines healthcare at the dawn of the computer age. It tackles the hard questions, from how technology is changing care at the bedside to whether government intervention has been useful or destructive. And it does so with clarity, insight, humor, and compassion. Ultimately, it is a hopeful story.

“We need to recognize that computers in healthcare don’t simply replace my doctor’s scrawl with Helvetica 12,” writes the author, Dr. Robert Wachter. “Instead, they transform the work, the people who do it, and their relationships with each other and with patients. . . Sure, we should have thought of this sooner. But it’s not too late to get it right.”

This riveting book offers the prescription for getting it right, making it essential reading for everyone – patient and provider alike – who cares about our healthcare system.”
– publisher description

Bad Faith

Bad Faith

Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine by Paul A. Offit, M.D.

BL 65 .M4 O34 2015

“In recent years, there have been major outbreaks of whooping cough among children in California, mumps in New York, and measles in Ohio’s Amish country – despite the fact that these are all vaccine-preventable diseases. Although America is the most medically advanced place in the world, many people disregard modern medicine in favor of using their faith to fight life-threatening illnesses. Christian Scientists pray for healing instead of going to the doctor, Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions, and ultra-Orthodox Jewish mohels spread herpes by using contaminated circumcision tools. Tragically, children suffer and die every year from treatable diseases, and in most states it is legal for parents to deny their children care for religious reasons. In twenty-first century America, how could this be happening?

In Bad Faith, acclaimed physician and author Dr. Paul Offit gives readers a never-before-seen look into the minds of those who choose to medically martyr themselves, or their children, in the name of religion. Offit chronicles the stories of these faithful and their children, whose devastating experiences highlight the tangled relationship between religion and medicine in America. Religious or not, this issue reaches everyone – whether you are seeking treatment at a Catholic hospital or trying to keep your kids safe from diseases spread by their unvaccinated peers.

Replete with vivid storytelling and complex, compelling characters, Bad Faith makes a strenuous case that denying medicine to children in the name of religion isn’t just unwise and immoral, but a rejection of the very best aspects of what belief itself has to offer.”
– publisher description