Wednesday, March 26, 2008

TB Patients Chafe Under Lockdown in South Africa

PORT ELIZABETH, South Africa — The Jose Pearson TB Hospital here is like a prison for the sick. It is encircled by three fences topped with coils of razor wire to keep patients infected with lethal strains of tuberculosis from escaping.

But at Christmastime and again around Easter, dozens of them cut holes in the fences, slipped through electrified wires or pushed through the gates in a desperate bid to spend the holidays with their families. Patients have been tracked down and forced to return; the hospital has quadrupled the number of guards. Many patients fear they will get out of here only in a coffin.

“We’re being held here like prisoners, but we didn’t commit a crime,” Siyasanga Lukas, 20, who has been here since 2006, said before escaping last week. “I’ve seen people die and die and die. The only discharge you get from this place is to the mortuary.”

Struggling to contain a dangerous epidemic of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, known as XDR-TB, the South African government’s policy is to hospitalize those unlucky enough to have the disease until they are no longer infectious. Hospitals in two of the three provinces with the most cases — here in the Eastern Cape, as well as in the Western Cape — have sought court orders to compel the return of runaways.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Think Apple: It Boosts Creativity

(But all us Apple users already knew this :)

You don’t need to be a Mac owner to be a cutting-edge hipster. Turns out just thinking about Apple can make you more creative.

That’s according to researchers at Duke University and the University of Waterloo, who found that exposing people to a brand’s logo for 30 milliseconds will make them behave in ways associated with that brand. And in Apple’s case that means more creatively, Gavan Fitzsimons, one of the Duke professors who conducted the study, tells the Business Technology Blog. The study will be published in the April issue of the Journal of Consumer Research.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Next Saffron Revolution

The Dalai Lama wants to talk peace, but the anger of his long-suffering people is only hardening.

The streets of Dharamsala, India, ordinarily a gantlet of signs for yoga schools and other New Age trekker traps, have turned into a huge open-air photo gallery of bloodied Tibetan corpses. It's a gruesome sight—awful enough, in fact, to crack the fabled composure of the Himalayan town's best-known resident, the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of some 6 million Tibetans.

Fears and Tears

I just say hmmm....

In an exclusive interview, the Dalai Lama talks to NEWSWEEK about the violence in Tibet, his vision of the future—and how he manages to sleep in spite of his distress over the killings.
Some images of the recent casualties have been graphic and disturbing. Have you seen them? What was your reaction? We heard you wept.

Yes, I cried once. One advantage of belonging to the Tibetan Buddhist culture is that at the intellectual level there is a lot of turmoil, a lot of anxiety and worries, but at the deeper, emotional level there is calm. Every night in my Buddhist practice I give and take. I take in Chinese suspicion. I give back trust and compassion. I take their negative feeling and give them positive feeling. I do that every day. This practice helps tremendously in keeping the emotional level stable and steady. So during the last few days, despite a lot of worries and anxiety, there is no disturbance in my sleep. [Laughs]

See-saw to power African schools

A young inventor is hoping to tap the unbounded energy of children in a playground to power schools in Africa.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Buddhist Monk Praying at Shwedagon Pagoda


I hope to be able to blog in a bit more detail about our trip to Myanmar, and more specifically my wonderful experience with the flying eye hospital. However, as soon as I came back to the States, I was on both general ophthalomology call and retina call. So I haven't had much time. At least my jet lag is coming in handy as those late night ER visits aren't that big of a deal!

China and Darfur

Is the Chinese Government orchestrating I.T. assaults on websites that advocate for Darfur?

The Save Darfur Coalition reported that it has been subject to sophisticated Internet attacks — attacks that apparently originated in China. And Eric Reeves, who runs a Darfur-related website, says that his site has been attacked as well, along with that of Dream for Darfur, an organization that focuses on pressuring China in the run-up to the Olympics because of its close associations with the Sudanese government.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How a Blind Man Will Lead a State

Interesting comments follow the article as well...

In a few days, New York will have a new governor who also happens to be legally blind.

For people with sight, it’s hard to imagine how a person who is blind copes with day-to-day living, let alone the challenges of running a state. But over the years, in various interviews, Lt. Gov. David A. Paterson has given us glimpses into how he has managed his education and career in politics without sight.
Mr. Paterson also shared interesting insights into how people with disabilities are treated if they appear to be coping well.

My truest disability has been my ability to overcome my physical disability. So in other words, as soon as people see that I can be independent, then they hold me to the standard that everyone else is.

Psychotherapy for All: An Experiment

The clinic is at the forefront of a program that has the potential to transform mental health treatment in the developing world. Instead of doctors, the program trains laypeople to identify and treat depression and anxiety and sends them to six community health clinics in Goa, in western India.

Depression and anxiety have long been seen as Western afflictions, diseases of the affluent. But new studies find that they are just as common in poor countries, with rates up to 20 percent in a given year.

Researchers say that even in places with very poor people, the ailments require urgent attention. Severe depression can be as disabling as physical diseases like malaria, the researchers say, and can have serious economic effects. If a subsistence farmer is so depressed that he cannot get out of bed, neither he nor his children are likely to eat.

In India, as in much of the developing world, depression and anxiety are rarely diagnosed or treated. With a population of more than one billion, India has fewer than 4,000 psychiatrists, one-tenth the United States total. Because most psychiatrists are clustered in a few urban areas, the problem is much worse elsewhere.

As a result, most Indians with mental illness go untreated, especially in poor and rural areas. “There is a huge treatment gap for people with depression,” said Dr. Vikram Patel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the psychiatrist who began the Siolim project. “In most places in the developing world, 80 percent to 90 percent of people with severe depression don’t receive adequate treatment.”
After completing training, he spent two years in Zimbabwe as a researcher. He hoped to prove that Western concepts of mental illness did not apply in the developing world. Instead, he came to the opposite conclusion, that the ailments were in fact just as common and just as treatable as in the West.
ven clinicians who look for depression may miss it. For reasons that no one fully understands, depressed patients in the developing world often complain of physical symptoms like fatigue, headache and insomnia rather than emotional problems like sadness or regret.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Passion and Attention to Detail

"Passion and Attention to Detail"--Two qualities you can't teach as per Orbis medical director, Hunter Cherwek; yet, abundant in evidence in working with the Flying Eye Hospital crew this past week.
Wonderful people in their professionalism, work-ethic, skills, and enthusiasm.
Hunter is a great leader of a great team.
I am again very impressed by the Orbis organization--the best international ophthalmology NGO, by a long shot, with which
I have been privileged to work.

Time out of mind

But the quest to spend time the way we do money is doomed to failure, because the time we experience bears little relation to time as read on a clock. The brain creates its own time, and it is this inner time, not clock time, that guides our actions. In the space of an hour, we can accomplish a great deal — or very little.
The brain’s inclination to distort time is one reason we so often feel we have too little of it. One in three Americans feels rushed all the time, according to one survey. Even the cleverest use of time-management techniques is powerless to augment the sum of minutes in our life (some 52 million, optimistically assuming a life expectancy of 100 years), so we squeeze as much as we can into each one.

Believing time is money to lose, we perceive our shortage of time as stressful. Thus, our fight-or-flight instinct is engaged, and the regions of the brain we use to calmly and sensibly plan our time get switched off. We become fidgety, erratic and rash.
The remedy is to liberate ourselves from Franklin’s equation. Time is not money but “the element in which we exist,” as Joyce Carol Oates put it more than two decades ago (in a relatively leisurely era). “We are either borne along by it or drowned in it.”

Monday, March 03, 2008

In Mandalay!

We made it into Mandalay last night and I was greeted at the Mandalay airport my good friend, Leo Mercado, who I had not seen in the past 8 years. Leo was one of the best scrub tech I ever worked with while I was in Saudi Arabia. We did thousands of cases together. It was so great to see him again. We reminisced about all the great memories we have of KKESH. The other neat thing about the airport was that we could see the Orbis DC 10 on the tarmac--magnificent site!

We drove back to the Mandalay Hill Resort, where we were greeted with green lemonade with cayenne drinks in the lobby and by Hunter--medical director for Orbis. It was great to see him--a veritable waterfall of energy and enthusiasm. He and and many of the Orbis crew waited for our delayed plane and missed climbing up the hill behind the hotel to see the sunset. Very kind indeed. Even kinder, he brought down half his clothes to share with me and my 3 boys as our luggage had been lost. (Ryan, my 14 year old, was proudly sporting Hunter's "Tiger Beer" Tshirt today!)

We had a sumptuous breakfast at the hotel, a 7am meeting, and then at 8 am we started our day at the clinic. I saw about 40 patients--many patients with advanced diabetic retinopathy. The trainees are quite motivated and bright--it was a pleasure working with them. It was also nice meeting the other members of the Orbis crew and the other volunteer faculty. This is a much bigger crew than when we were in Enugu on my last orbis trip, due to the presence of the airplane. The crew comes from all over the world. Both the crew and the Burmese are striking in their kindness. It has been a great first day!

Tonight we have dinner with our hosts and tomorrow it is off to the plane to do some surgery!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Soaring Food Prices Putting U.S. Emergency Aid in Peril

The U.S. government's humanitarian relief agency will significantly scale back emergency food aid to some of the world's poorest countries this year because of soaring global food prices, and the U.S. Agency for International Development is drafting plans to reduce the number of recipient nations, the amount of food provided to them, or both, officials at the agency said.

USAID officials said that a 41 percent surge in prices for wheat, corn, rice and other cereals over the past six months has generated a $120 million budget shortfall that will force the agency to reduce emergency operations. That deficit is projected to rise to $200 million by year's end. Prices have skyrocketed as more grains go to biofuel production or are consumed by such fast-emerging markets as China and India


Well, after numerous delays due to West Coast Fog, we finally left LA at 9pm. We were supposed to leave at 12:30pm from San Fran. 12 hour flight to Osaka was great in an Airbus 340. Individual DVD players/gaming systems per seat were great for the kids. As a bonus of the delay we got to fly Thai airways instead of United as previously scheduled. We have always loved all the Thai carriers. In Osaka, we refueled and then another 6 hours to Bangkok--can't believe how modernized the airport has become! Okay, two more flights to go...Bangkok to Yangon and then Yangon to Mandalay. But for now a few hours of R and R and surfing. (BTW read some great articles in the Feb 14 issue of the New York Review of Books--highly recommended!)
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