SFGate.com Mark Fiore wins Pulitzer for animated editorials

If you’ve never heard of Mark Fiore, you should. And will.
Mark Fiore of the San Francisco Chronicle was recognized today with the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

For a distinguished cartoon or portfolio of cartoons characterized by originality, editorial effectiveness, quality of drawing and pictorial effect, in print or online or both, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
Awarded to Mark Fiore, self syndicated, for his animated cartoons appearing on SFGate.com, the San Francisco Chronicle Web site, where his biting wit, extensive research and ability to distill complex issues set a high standard for an emerging form of commentary.

The editorial cartooning award has been presented by the Pulitzer Foundation annually since 1922.
The Pulitzer page for Fiore’s prize includes the citation and his biography.
Although Walt Handelsman of Newsday won for this category in 2007 with his portfolio split between illustrations and animations, I believe that Fiore’s award is a first for a cartoonist who operates exclusively on the web and solely with animations instead of traditional, static illustrations.
Fiore’s entry of 15 animations from 2009 can be viewed at the Pulitzer site.
Moreover, Fiore is self-syndicated representing what is likely to become a model, for better or worse, of how large news organizations will skim the best talent without having to pay benefits or manage the high overhead costs of a bricks-and-mortar structure.
Furthermore, my purely data-free perception is that Fiore may be the first mainstream editorial cartoonist that young hipsters would actually recognize by name. Fiore appeals to middle-aging farts like me but also seems able to generate a buzz with those caffeine-crazed whippersnappers.
As a science blogger concerned about the costs of pharmaceuticals and health care delivery, I found Fiore to be especially sharp on the health insurance reform debate, particularly with his recurring characters, Dogboy and Mr. Dan.
The following animation appeared on March 24, 2010, so it wasn’t included in the Pulitzer judging. But it is one of the best that cuts to the quick between angry perceptions of the health care bill versus the facts.

Congratulations to Mr. Fiore for this unbelievably well-deserved award.

Another reason to reform employment-linked healthcare: the explosion in temporary employment

Free Agent Nation.jpgAn article by Paul Davidson in this morning’s USA Today reminded me of another reason why we need health care reform in the United States, or at least a move away from employment-linked health coverage: temporary employees may soon comprise 25% of the national workforce.

An encouraging jobs report Friday underscored the growing prominence of temporary workers who some experts predict could constitute up to a quarter of the workforce in a few years.
A big reason employers shed a far-less-than-expected 11,000 jobs last month is that temporary staffing agencies found slots for 52,000 additional workers, the most since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said.

Temp workers don’t draw full health benefits from most employers and must therefore seek high-cost personal policies or pray that their spouse has family health coverage.
At the universities and research institutes where I’ve worked over the last 25 years, there have always been strict limitations on temporary employment to terms of 6 months to one year, in part due to the tendency of employers to take advantage of the cost savings of a temporary or contract employee.
One positive outcome of so many people becoming temp employees is that opponents of health care reform might find themselves on the receiving end of health care insurance costs most often encountered by small businesses or traditional freelancers such as writers, industry consultants, restaurant workers, and musicians.
An abrupt transition from being a corporate beneficiary to a free agent is often what is needed for some to accept that a basic level of health care is a human right.

The new NHS sexual health hub: Could you imagine this happening in the US?

No matter how early I wake up, it’s always five hours later in the UK and I’m overwhelmed by the thought that I’m already behind (I won’t even get into the feeling I have when I think of our Australian readers).
So when I start the day reading my Twitter stream, it’s usually populated by midday news from England. I follow the NHS – National Health Service – “one of the largest publicly funded health services in the world,” and their superb health information site, NHS Choices.
This morning I saw this tweet about the launch of their new sexual health site:

@NHSChoices Our new sexual health hub includes advice on contraception, good sex guides, sex & young people, STIs and much more http://bit.ly/3wtJwL

NHS-choices-logo.gifBeyond the simple fact that the NHS exists because the UK has held since 1948 that every person deserves a basic level of state-supported health care, could you imagine what it would take for such a site to be sponsored by a US health agency? Supported with tax dollars? Can you imagine the wrangling of politicians, the religious right, and all manner of people ranting about government-sanctioned sex – and information for the young people???
So at the risk of being deemed a socialist, let me applaud the NHS for what is a truly terrific and straight-talking resource. What I’ve seen of the rest of the site is pretty fantastic as well.
You don’t have to be British to get a lot of great take-home information for yourself and for your kids.

Quackwatch founder Stephen Barrett takes on health care reform myths

Stephen Barrett by nando Harry Lynch.jpg. . . or as Dr Barrett refers to it more accurately, Insurance Reform.
On Friday, Sarah Avery of the News & Observer reported on her interview with the now-retired Pennsylvania psychiatrist who started the Quackwatch.com website in 1996 following years of investigating fraudulent health practices.
From the Quackwatch Mission Statement:

Quackwatch is now an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct. Its primary focus is on quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere. Founded by Dr. Stephen Barrett in 1969 as the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud (Allentown, Pennsylvania), it was incorporated in 1970. In 1997, it assumed its current name and began developing a worldwide network of volunteers and expert advisors.

Avery reports that Barrett has been particularly effective in drawing attention to the quackery and dangers of chiropractors:

Call the American Chiropractic Association, mention Barrett’s name, and the response is a groan.
“Uhhhg,” said spokeswoman Caitlin Lukacs, “I’ll try to find someone to comment.”
No one called.
A Google search for chiropractors lends a possible explanation. Barrett’s Quackwatch page pops up as the fifth site listed out of 6.5 million, indicating it’s one of the most frequently visited among people looking for chiropractics.
He loves it.
“It’s good to be in the top 10,” he says and grins.

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Billionaires For Bush now against healthcare reform

Billionaires Against Healthcare 515px.jpg
Here’s the updated version of the group, Billionaires For Bush, doing their clever schtick prior to a healthcare town hall forum last evening in Durham, NC (Yes, they are standing in front of a Hummer H2).
A robust crowd of 850 people filled the B.N. Duke Auditorium on the campus of North Carolina Central University to hear from a panel led by Congressman David Price (D-NC4).
[N.B. – not well-known is that the Duke family purchased 25 acres of land to create the campus for this historically-black college four miles across town; hence, the university honored the gift by naming its central performance auditorium after the then-executor of the Duke Endowment.]
Over 100 people had to be turned away and there appeared to be only one skirmish that required police intervention.
The whole story and video report can be viewed here at WRAL-TV.
ibiblio pioneer and UNC-Chapel Hill Professor Paul Jones also provided timely and informative Twitter updates (@smalljones) while also coining the term, “Deather.”
One quick final note from the WRAL report: friend of ScienceOnline bloggers, Rep Brad Miller (D-NC13), has canceled his future public forums because of a death threat made to his office, choosing instead to meet with small groups of concerned citizens.

LugerFest 2009: Ed Brayton, Isis, and the legendary 40 oz porterhouse

Each summer, the fair City of New York plays host to a cosmic convergence of bloggers within the ScienceBlogs.com corral. It’s a great time to meet all the folks we know very well online, but perhaps not IRL. Moreover, we had a really nice reader meetup last year where – thank you very much – all four of you came to see me, including Dr Val of Better Health and Peter Frishauf, Medscape founder.
The planning for this summer’s gathering has led to the two following posts. One is a throwing-down-of-the-gaunlet by Isis the Scientist to Ed Brayton, challenging him to a duel over the 40 oz porterhouse steak at the century-old Brooklyn landmark, the Peter Luger Steak House (“No other steakhouse serves a porterhouse so breathtaking” Frank Bruni, The New York Times). The second is Ed’s response to the challenge from Isis.
An Open Challenge. . . (Isis)
Picking Up the Gauntlet: It’s On (Ed Brayton)
I kid you not, upon reading Ed’s response in my office yesterday I was doubled-over with laughter, tears streaming down my face (no doubt enhanced by my immune system’s current battle with blooming honeysuckles):

Isis, my dear –
I know that spending so much time with a young child can sometimes reduce one’s faculties a bit. And lord knows that even the most well-crafted high heels can cause a serious delay in blood flow to the brain. But as a physiologist, you know all of that.
What you clearly do not know is that, to quote Vizini, you’ve fallen for one of the classic blunders. The best known never get involved in a land war in Asia and never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line, but only slightly less well-known is this:
Never challenge a fat man to a steak-eating contest.
I am to charred flesh consumption what Lance Armstrong is to bike racing. What Michael Jordan is to basketball. What Cato Kaelin is to couch crashing. What Rush Limbaugh is to pill popping.

This is from an amazingly serious and accomplished gentleman commentator and public speaker experienced in the online, print, and broadcast journalism discourse on matters of science, religion, law, and culture. So the tone and content of Ed’s response is all that more hysterical.
I would never think of calling Ed a fat man until he used the term above. Let me just say that Ed is of greater than average mass and volume of distribution. Here is photographic evidence submitted for your consideration:

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WSJ Health Blog and NYT ‘Well’ Tie for 2nd Place in AHCJ Excellence Online

Just a quick note of congratulations to friends of Terra Sig (FOTS, if you will) on earning 2008 Awards for Excellence in Health Care Journalism from the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ).

FIRST: M.B. Pell, Jim Morris and Jillian Olsen, Center for Public Integrity, “Perils of the New Pesticides”
SECOND (tie): Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, The “Well” blog
SECOND (tie): Scott Hensley, Jacob Goldstein and Sarah Rubenstein, The Wall Street Journal Online, The Wall Street Journal Health Blog
THIRD: Randy Dotinga, Voice of San Diego, “Suicide Magnet” [Part I, Part II]

You’ll recognize Scott Hensley as the subject of my post the other day on his departure from the WSJ for greener pastures (I almost spelled it, “pasteurs.”), leaving the blog in the hands of Jacob and Sarah.
Tara Parker-Pope, formerly of The Wall Street Journal and now at the NYT, is an avid reader of many blogs in the ScienceBlogs.com network and has linked to us on occasion – even responding to comments.

The awards will be presented at a luncheon April 18 at Health Journalism 2009 in Seattle. Princeton University health policy expert Uwe Reinhardt will be the keynote speaker.

Continuing in the “I Can’t Believe My Life Happens to Me” files, I ran into Uwe Reinhardt at Duke two years ago when he was trying to find a Board of Trustees meeting – we ended up sitting down over coffee where he gave me a personal tutorial on health care economics and the quality-adjusted life year (QALY). A complete gentleman and amazingly clear instructor of this health policy-challenged blogger who had no idea who Reinhardt was until I Googled him afterward.
Back to the matter at hand: I congratulate all of our online health communications colleagues, of course, but especially those who have been our supporters through the years.
h/t @ivanoransky

“Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM)” is not a single “thing”

I just had a chance to check in on a triad of posts by Prof Janet Stemwedel at Adventures in Ethics and Science (1, 2, 3) on the ethical issues of the conduct of studies, particularly clinical trials, supported by the US NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM).
For background, NCCAM was originally established for political, not scientific reasons, as the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine in October 1991. It received a token budget of $2 million at the time. They still only get $120-ish million; modest by NIH standards as compared, say, with the 2007 NCI budget of about $4.8 billion. But that $120-125 million is pretty significant in that it could fund about 60 independent researchers and their laboratory groups for five full years.
How was alternative medicine defined then? Primarily as folk and cultural modalities not incorporated into conventional Western medicine but used and promoted for disease treatment or prevention without statistically-defined efficacy and safety. The net was cast very wide, from “energy therapies” that defy the basic tenets of physics to herbal medicines that have given rise to 25% of prescription medicines.
Hence, CAM is not one modality. It is a term used to describe a wide spectrum of health-promoting approaches that have not been evaluated previously under rigorous, controlled basic or clinical science standards.
CAM is a terrible term. It is NOT medicine. Modalities proven to work are medicine. Modalities that don’t work are not medicine. There is no complement to medicine. Medicine is medicine. There is no integrative medicine, either. Medicine already takes advantage of all modalities: surgical, pharmacological, radiological, physical, psychological, nutritional – if a clear benefit can be offered to a patient that outweighs the risk.
So-called integrative medicine gurus have adopted proven, preventive medicine techniques – diet, exercise, meditation, yoga – and have used them 1) to justify that “CAM” works and 2) that the efficacy of these approaches justifies study and implementation of approaches that have absolutely no scientific basis.
Oh yeah, often with substantive personal financial benefit.

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Why I think Sanjay Gupta is a good pick for Surgeon General

PharmGirl just sent me this tip after I got out of a meeting but I see that some bloggers have already weighed in about Obama’s apparent selection of Dr Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General.
PalMD was briefly positive but PZ is concerned that Gupta is merely a talking head or placeholder and an apologist for the US health care system. However, I see two main advantages.
1. He knows firsthand the limitations of the US health care system, especially in poor rural and urban areas where access to care is a challenge even under normal circumstances. Gupta has also been on-site for several of the most challenging medical emergencies the US has faced in recent years, most significantly the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
2. Literally millions of Americans already trust him for health care information. Some may consider this a detriment but let me frame this in the context of the recent brouhaha between science bloggers and traditional science journalists: as accurate and influential as science bloggers or top-tier science journalists think we may be, the vast majority of Americans still obtain health information from television, again, in poor or rural areas where internet access is limited or too expensive. The Sanjay Gupta’s of television play an incredible role in dissemination health information to much of this country.
Be thankful Obama didn’t pick Dr Phil.
The primary question is how Gupta would use this position in the Obama cabinet to promote health care reform and improved access to care for the indigent and the increasing number of un- or underinsured. But he is an expert in framing messages and complex medical issues to a diverse audience. This could be very good, if the position is used wisely to effect health care reform and improved public health.
Addendum: My dear friend and colleague, Dr Val, levies her disappointment at Better Health.

Congratulations to top Denver docs

Reusch%205280.jpgNobel Prize month also means that Denver’s 5280 magazine has announced the annual results of their top 270 medical professionals in 79 specialties. While the picture here is the cover of last year’s issue featuring my dear colleague, Dr John J (Jay) Reusch, the good doctor was again named among the top six physicians in Cardiovascular Medicine. Our other compatriot, Dr Daniel (Dan) Bessesen was named for the sixth year among the top specialists in Endocrinology, Diabetes, & Metabolism.
Even my former pulmonologist, Dr James (Jim) Good, made the list – for his 14th year! The Pulmonary Disease category is extremely competitive, particularly because Denver is a historical landmark in respiratory medicine and home to the USN&WR #1 ranked National Jewish Medical Center. Honestly, you can’t help but feeling well when you are treated by Doctor Good.
I had the great pleasure of doing my postdoc down the hall from Dr Bessesen when he was doing the research portion of his endocrine fellowship. My research training with physician-scientists like Dan gave me the opportunity early on to appreciate the particular contributions of this hybrid professional. Moreover, I can easily cite Dan and Jay as the two most influential gentlemen in my adult life despite the fact I never did end up going to medical school (sorry, PharmMom).
And while Google-stalking me old mates, I learned that those of you in Denver can see Dr Resuch in a different light Monday evening when he performs his band’s music in a rare solo performance.
kutner_5280_Oct08.jpgLest you think from these three names that the Denver medical community might be too paternalistic, about 40% of this year’s honorees are women, with the University of Colorado internist, Dr Jean Kutner gracing this year’s cover.