The Pulse – October 10, 2014

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    When you have a serious illness, and you’re confronted with several treatment options, who should choose the best path? You? Your doctor? There’s a culture shift in medicine and lots of support these days for something called “shared decision making.” The idea: that doctors and patients decide together on the best treatment. Reporter Taunya English found out that individual patients have varying appetites for wading into the muck and detail of medical probabilities and treatment risks.

    This week was the groundbreaking on what will be the world’s largest and most powerful telescope when it opens sometime in the next decade. The TMT—or “Thirty-Meter Telescope—will sit atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii’s highest peak, where access to heavenly bodies is almost direct. The telescope will feature a 30-meter mirror assembled from 492 meter-square hexagonal pieces that will help astronomers peer far into the outer reaches of our universe. But many native Hawaiians are taking issue with its placement on one of their truly sacred places. We sat down with astronomer Derek Pitts to learn more.

    The constant stream of news about the ebola outbreak can be overwhelming and somewhat terrifying. And, unbeknownst to many, Philadelphia is home to thousands of Liberians and other west African immigrants, which means all that tragic news is really hitting home for people in our region. Elana Gordon brings us the story of one individual who’s been on the front lines here and abroad in dealing with the emotional impact of this outbreak.

    Disease epidemics and misinformation sometimes go hand in hand. Our intrepid producers happened upon a pop-up history lesson of sorts in Philadelphia’s Old City recently to learn about the yellow fever epidemic of 1793, when ten percent of the city’s population died of a mysterious illness. We now know that mosquitos were the cause, but back then citizens fingered a batch of discarded, rotting coffee on Ball’s Wharf as the culprit.

    If you catch a little television this evening, or drive past a highway billboard or even listen to WHYY for a while, you’ll eventually get hit with an advertisement for some type of healthcare. The Rothman Institute and Virtua, two providers in our region, recently got into a fight over one such ad related to joint replacements. Their dispute brings to light bigger issues about medical advertisements, the claims they make, and how they impact patient decisions. Reporter Todd Bookman dug deeper.

    Field trip! We visit a quiet oasis just North of I-95 and the Philadelphia airport called the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. Acres of open water fed by Darby Creek and the Delaware River are surrounded by marshes of cat tails and wild rice. It’s a tranquil setting, but it’s part of an ecosystem that’s long faced threats: first, from human development, and now, brought on by sea level rise. Carolyn Beeler looked into the history of the Tinicum marsh and efforts to understand just how long it can survive.

    This week, we also take you to a singing competition, but there was no snappy british judge at this one—it’s called Philadelphia’s Recovery Idol, and features people in drug and alcohol recovery who are committed to staying sober. Every year the competition culminates in a concert in front of thousands of people at Penn’s Landing, and we take you there to hear the dulcimer tones.

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