The ALS ice bucket challenge, better known as #ALSIceBucketChallenge or #icebucketchallenge, was almost the perfect storm for viral fundraising. In my course, Designing Health Campaigns Using Social Media at Tufts University, we analyzed why the challenge went viral. Not surprisingly, given its popularity, my students had all heard about it and watched challenge videos. About half had done it. Some researched amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and ...

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Thanks to the popularity of medical television shows, most people have witnessed hundreds of fictional cardiac arrests in their lifetime. In most of these scenes, the patient loses consciousness, and the medical team rushes to the bedside: “He’s in v-fib.” “Get me the paddles.” The team performs urgent chest compressions for a few seconds.  Then they place the metal paddles on the victim’s chest: “Clear!”  Kathump. The patient’s heart is back to normal again, tragedy ...

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Back-to-school shopping, new sneakers and first-day outfits, sharpened pencils and fresh notebooks in oversized backpacks by the door: As a parent, these are the images I’ve come to associate with the start of every school year. But with my 20-plus-year history as a developmental pediatrician specializing in autism at Albert Einstein’s Children’s Evaluation and Rehabilitation Center, I have an added association with the start of the school year: a particular type of ...

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Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a truly horrible illness. It is a progressive fatal neurodegenerative disorder that leads to worsening muscle weakness. Weakness in the limbs initially makes handwriting sloppy and makes it hard to button clothes and eventually causes paralysis. Patients also develop weakness in the muscles that control swallowing and speech, eventually requiring them to use feeding tubes and computer text-to-speech software. Eventually the ...

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The ALS Association, and the British version, the Motor Neurone Disease Association, have made boatloads of money off of the ice bucket challenge. Originally the idea was that a person would challenge another person to donate money for ALS research and if they hadn’t done so in 24 hours, they would dump a bucket of ice water over their head. It turns out that people like dumping ice buckets over ...

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Ask almost any physician why they chose medicine, and they'll answer, "I wanted to make a difference in the lives of patients." But in today's high-pressure healthcare environment, it's easy to get caught up in performance metrics and obsessed with efficiency. We tell ourselves, "It's OK, as long as we're delivering great clinical care, we're delivering great care. After all, the massive heart attack was averted. The wound was stitched. What ...

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It all comes down to willpower, right?  Strength of purpose.  Muster the resolve to skip dessert, and you have a shot at losing that spare tire hanging off your belly.  Succumb to your temptations, however, and you are simply being weak. But is it just weakness that causes us to overeat? A study in Psychological Science suggests that our inability to resist that mouthwatering looking chocolate cake doesn’t arise simply because our ...

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I have made several observations as to why developmentally challenged people are losing out in our health care systems. Given that there are 11 million children in the United States with an emotional, developmental or behavioral condition, we really can’t afford to neglect this important issue. My first observation is that primary care remains a chronically undervalued component of health care delivery in the U.S. Despite the 60 million Americans who ...

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The interview had lasted fifteen minutes so far, and we'd made minimal progress. I was a medical student doing a rotation at a physical medicine and rehabilitation clinic back in my home state, Wisconsin. It was the end of the day; to save time, the senior resident, Paul, had joined me in the exam room so that we could hear Leora's medical history together. A year earlier, Leora, in her mid-fifties, ...

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My heart sinks each time I see the subject line in this too common email I receive in my medical practice: “Sad news: Matthew was fine when he went to bed last night but his mother found him dead in bed this morning.” Matthew (not his real name) had epilepsy with seizures that persisted despite use of currently available antiseizure medications. We started Matthew’s evaluation when the latest antiseizure medication had been ...

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