The Pulse – May 2, 2014

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    What do we mean when we say that a patient is “brain dead”? Surprisingly few medical students can answer that question, so a Temple Hospital doctor has taken it upon herself to teach residents the difference between “brain dead” and “dead,” and how to have the toughest conversation of a medical career…when you attempt to explain that difference to the family of a patient. 

    For tens of millions of Americans, this time of year means sneezing, runny nose, and red eyes. Yep, it’s allergy season. Time for antihistamines and decongestants, but some people have been seeking salvation with a natural alternative. Local honey has been gaining a lot of traction around the region as a salvation for allergy sufferers. But does it work? We go in search of an answer.

    Kids of past generations grew up creating after-school scientific experiments in their rooms with the help of toy chemistry sets. But don’t discount those first experiences with test tubes and volatile compounds. Many grown-up scientists credit chemistry sets with a lifetime passion for experimentation. A new iPad app hopes to bring chemistry sets to the digital generation, and it’s a surprise hit. But you may be surprised to find out where it’s a hit.

    Measles has been making a comeback. So far this year, 129 Americans have fallen ill with the disease which was declared “eliminated” after the MMR vaccine shrank the number of U.S. cases from 500,000 per year to less than 100. Many epidemiologists and public health officials are blaming parents who have chosen to not vaccinate their children for personal reasons. Kristen Feemster is an infectious diseases physician and researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and she believes that vaccines should not be optional.

    Padge-Victoria Windslowe, better known as the “Black Madam,” will stand trial next week on charges that one woman died and another came close after silicone was illegally but voluntarily injected into their rear-ends. The Philadelphia Case has garnered international attention and shed light on an underground and dangerous practice that’s cropped up around the country in the name of beauty, called “pumping parties.”

    Also on the show, The University of Pennsylvania is calling attention to the role of African American nurses who helped integrate health care in Philadelphia. We take a look back at an important moment in medicine when color barriers fell. And we visit with Dr. Jeffrey Brenner, an innovative physician on a mission to use data to help the sickest and most expensive patients. He’s betting his new way of thinking about patient care will dramatically improve outcomes and reduce cost.

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