When the smoke clears


This article received a 2013 Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism from the Association of Health Care Journalists.

On a Saturday afternoon in September, dozens of ex-smokers fill a shop tucked into an office park off Highway 316 in Lawrenceville, Ga. From the parking lot, a haze is visible inside the shop. On the door, a handwritten sign reads, “We ID! Must be 18+ to try or purchase any e-cig products.”

The haze inside, unlike cigarette smoke, clears as quickly as it rises, taking with it the scent of vanilla. It rises again, followed by baked apples, next cherries, then tropical fruit.

The ex-smokers aren’t sneaking a smoke. They’re “vaping” electronic cigarettes — rechargeable pipes and cigarette-shaped devices that vaporize food-flavored liquid nicotine — at the grand opening of Steam Cigs, a “vape” shop and lounge.

No law requires that Steam Cigs be hidden from view in an office park. Nor is the shop forbidden to sell to minors. In fact, e-cigarettes and other “novel nicotine products” enjoy much greater visibility than conventional cigarettes do. A relatively new product, e-cigarettes fly under the radar and skirt regulations that conventional cigarettes must follow. But that may soon change. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have begun to explore regulations of the sale, marketing and consumption of these new products. Continue reading

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WebMD News Wire

The monthly news wire from WebMD Magazine — news you can use from the latest discoveries in science and health.Wire Jan:Feb 14_Page 1

Wire Jan:Feb 14_Page 2

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Med school on the five-year plan

At a time when some are calling to shorten medical school, many Yale students are extending it.

Like most of his classmates, Julius Oatts is staying on at the School of Medicine for a fifth year of study. This option, available for more than 20 years, has become increasingly popular, with as many as two-thirds of each class adding a year to their medical studies, primarily to do research. For Oatts, an extra year gives him the chance to try on the lifestyle of a physician-scientist. “It’s easy to say you’re interested in patient care and research in the beginning of med school, but this is the first time that I have seen what the day-to-day of that is like, both the challenges and the benefits,” Oatts said, who’s doing research in ophthalmology. “You take a project and it’s yours for the year.”

At a time when some are calling to shorten medical training, more than half of Yale students are choosing to extend it. Continue reading

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In the No

Feeling overwhelmed? Get to know your limits

It’s 9 p.m., and you’re still at work.  You couldn’t relax at home with unfinished work on your desk. And if you don’t get this done, your boss will be upset. At least that’s what you think.

It isn’t the work that leaves you unable to relax. It’s that you see that work as a threat. Stress is not a reaction to an event but rather to how you interpret the event, says psychologist Allan Cohen, Psy.D. You think, “If I don’t work late every night, I will get fired,” or “My boss won’t like me,” or “My co-workers won’t respect me.” Continue reading

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Serving her community

Lisa Catall of Rite Aid sees room to help patients more through medication therapy management

When Bhavesh Dhabliwala walked into his neighborhood Rite Aid last November, he just wanted something for his gas pain.  But if he hadn’t met pharmacist Lisa Catall, “What would’ve happened? Who knows? Maybe I wouldn’t be talking to you,” Dhabliwala says.

Dhabliwala expected the pharmacist to simply point him down the right aisle, but he didn’t know who he was dealing with. Continue reading

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The art of persuasion

Director of Mayo Vaccine Research Group calls for new approaches to vaccine education

A Google search using the terms “vaccines, information, reactions” will return countless stories about the injuries, and in some cases deaths, parents attribute to childhood immunizations.  These moving first-person accounts appear in Internet search results ahead of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, which typically takes a quantitative, science-based approach to disseminating information.

This difference in approaches is a major reason many people in the U.S. may still reject vaccines, according to Gregory Poland, M.D., director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group. Continue reading

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Seeking a continent’s history in its DNA

Anthropologist finds clues to agriculture, malaria, lactose tolerance, and pygmies’ stature in Africans’ genes.

Sarah Tishkoff, Ph.D., has lost count of the trips she’s made to Africa since 2001 to study the continent’s genetic history. “By looking at your blood,” she explains to sub-Saharan villagers, “we can learn something about your mother, your father, your grandparents.”

Through the villagers’ DNA, Tishkoff has traced the history of malaria and dairy farming. She’s suggested a link between pygmies’ stature and a genetic mutation that strengthens their immune systems. She’s found the common ancestors of East Africa’s only two click-speaking populations. And her studies reveal greater genetic diversity among Africans than in any other ethnic group and suggest that all humans came from Africa more recently than previously believed. Continue reading

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Office space

Not hitting it off with your co-workers? You might need to take a step back.

Whether it’s a co-worker who bulldozes us during staff meetings or shoots down every new idea, or several colleagues who make up a clique outsiders just can’t break into, we’ve all had co-workers we simply don’t like. They can turn a job you may otherwise enjoy into your own daily personal hell.

Some perspective is in order. While your co-worker’s behavior may feel like a personal affront you did nothing to deserve, he or she may feel affronted, too, says Andy Selig, Sc. D., a management and organizational psychologist who often mediates tense workplace relations. “Most of the time, all the protagonists involved feel like victims,” he says. Continue reading

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Runge devotes storied career to the disenfranchised

Barriers cleared for women, black, employee community pharmacists.

Taking office as President of APhA in 1979, Mary Munson Runge said her goal was to increase membership among women, minority, and employee pharmacists. Runge knew a thing or two about all three—she was the first woman, the first African American, and the first employee community pharmacist elected president of APhA—ending a 126-year trend of whites, men, and mostly pharmacy owners.

“The lion’s share of the responsibility is on the shoulders of … members and leaders of local and state associations to actively recruit and welcome these members,” Runge explained as she sought to increase the bonds between APhA and the state pharmacy associations. Continue reading

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Coney Island Sea Rabbits & Benbecula Mermaids

This piece originally appeared as a guest post on Wonders & Marvels — “a community for curious minds who love history, its odd stories, and good reads.”

I saw a sea rabbit off the coast of Brooklyn in the summer of 2008. “Dr.” Takeshi Yamada stepped off the Coney Island boardwalk to wander among sunbathers and castle-builders offering them the chance to pet the creature. Yamada, dressed in a black three-piece suit, looked like a “doctor” who might’ve sold snake oil to unwitting tourists strolling that same boardwalk beneath parasols the year it opened in 1923.

Tucked under Yamada’s arm was a fuzzy creature with the upper body of a rabbit and a long mermaid-like tail. It was lumpy and appeared to be losing fur by the fistful, and though my fellow sunbathers and I knew better than to believe in sea-dwelling rabbits, somehow we couldn’t be sure. Continue reading

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