The Pulse – May 30, 2014

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    Long ago doctors visited the sick, instead of the other way around. Around the time of the Civil War, doctors made 30 to 40 house calls per day. But in our modern era of crowded waiting rooms, it’s hard to believe there was ever another way. The thing is, house calls are still happening in Philadelphia, and if a little-known beta test in the Affordable Care Act is considered a success, the house call may return to the mainstream of modern medicine.

    In our regular installment of Patient Files—your stories of illness, healing, and coping—Pastor Stephen Weisser tells us about beating the odds to survive hemophilia, and how dealing with his rare illness has given him special insight into the needs of his congregation.

    Every couple of months, public health workers from across Philly gather after work to drink red wine out of plastic cups and to talk shop…for fun. They call themselves the “Nerd Club,” and we sent reporter Taunya English to this month’s gathering to eavesdrop on their discussion of Zoonosis—infections that can leap from animals to humans.

    It takes curiosity, commitment and a lot of stubborn determination and personal experience to become really good at what you do. In our series “The Spark,” people in the field of health and science tell us what ignited a passion for their chosen careers. Today we follow oncologist Dr. Marisa Weiss, a doctor at Lankenau Medical Center and the founder of breastcancer.org who has made a difference in the field of breast cancer care.

    Last Saturday, several hundred Philadelphians marched from Rittenhouse Square to Love Park in protest of genetically modified food. GMOs are at the center of a swirling debate about the safety of what we eat, and there’s been a strong push to label foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Though, despite the uproar at transgenic food engineering, a recent New York Times poll found that only half of those surveyed would actively try to avoid GMO foods. Guest commentator Rebecca Rupp has a dog in this fight. She’s a blogger for National Geographic’s “The Plate,” and she isn’t convinced that GMOs are the societal menace that some would have you believe.

    The pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, which has a strong footprint in Delaware has fended off Pfizer’s takeover attempt. Pfizer, based in New York, officially announced Monday that it will not pursue the deal. However, as reporter Elana Gordon tells us, both companies face uncertain futures.

    Is gluten sensitivity fact or fiction? A 2011 study detailing the symptoms of gluten sensitivity was recently debunked by its own author, but could lead to other possibilible conclusions about sensitivity to FODMAPs, or highly fermentable carbohydrates. We invited Jefferson University Hospital gastroenterologist Stephanie Moleski into our studio to tell us what’s really going on here. 

    Also on the show, we talk about the promise of commercial space flight with Scientific American’s Clara Moskowitz, and Pulse reporter Zack Seward gives us a sneak peek inside Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute, which now houses the nation’s largest permanent exhibit devoted to the human brain.

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