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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Doctor who challenged double-booked surgeries at Mass. General reaches settlement

A former Massachusetts General Hospital orthopedic surgeon who publicly criticized the hospital’s policy of allowing physicians to perform more than one surgery at a time has reached a $13 million wrongful termination settlement with the hospital. Dr. Dennis Burke, who was at the center of a Boston Globe Spotlight series exposing double-booking surgeries, was fired in 2015 after allegedly clashing with the hospital administration for calling out the practice, which allowed surgeons to book concurrent surgeries — overlaps that could last hours — without letting patients know that they were sharing a surgeon. MGH, which says Burke was fired over violations of patient confidentiality, has since changed its surgery policy. Burke has now been offered his old job back and will be honored with a new hospital safety initiative bearing his name. Burke told the Globe, however, that he doesn’t plan to resume working at MGH. 

Europe sees first native cases of Zika

European health officials recently confirmed the first native cases of Zika virus on the continent. Imported cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been frequently reported, but with these new cases — in three patients in southern France — local mosquitoes transmitted Zika. The cases were likely part of the same transmission cycle as the patients developed symptoms within a few days of each other in August this year, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The patients have since recovered. The agency also said that cooler temperatures now mean a lower likelihood for more such cases. At the same time, other experts have warned that rising global temperatures could mean favorable conditions for mosquitoes, and mosquito-borne illnesses could rise in places where they haven’t historically been a problem. 

Lab Chat: Treat sexual harassment like scientific misconduct, scientists say

Some 58% of women in academia report being sexually harassed, and it often leads to them leaving their fields altogether. In a new policy paper, scientists argue that sexual harassment ought to be dealt with in the same manner as scientific misconduct, including having offices dedicated to investigating accusations. I spoke with Joyce Wong, a biomedical engineer at Boston University and one of the paper’s co-authors, to learn more. 

Where does the problem lie in the current system? 
No one talks about [harassment] because they’re afraid of retaliation. And, often, the focus is on the accuser, because people wonder what’s going to happen to their career. And while it’s important to hear both sides, it’s also important to protect the victim’s career. 

What are you proposing as a way to systematically deal with sexual harassment? 
Treat sexual harassment as misconduct. Those with substantiated claims against them have to disclose it when they apply for funding. Also, develop some kind of program or mechanism to protect [the careers of] victims. 

Inside STAT: After difficult childbirth experiences, new parents seek healing by speaking out


A recent study found that 1 in 6 mothers reported “mistreatment” during their childbirth experience. That was the case for Julie French, who had to have an emergency C-section four months ago. Medical staff brushed off her panic when she tried to convey her trouble breathing under anesthesia, and post-surgery, an epidural complication left her with debilitating headaches and even an early discharge from the hospital when she was still in pain. “It’s still really hard to talk about,” she tells STAT contributor Elizabeth Preston. “It felt like they let me down.” But increasingly, new parents like French are getting back in touch with hospitals, to let them know about their difficult experiences, with the hope that something will change for other mothers. Read more here

Gap between preventable deaths in rural and urban America has widened 

New CDC data finds that the gap between rural and urban Americans who die from preventable causes has widened across many conditions between 2010-2017. Here’s more: 

  • Cancer: Nearly 29% of rural deaths from cancer were preventable in 2010, but that dropped to about 22% in 2017. During the same period, these deaths in urban areas dropped from around 18% to roughly 3%. 

  • Heart disease: Some 45% of rural deaths from heart disease were preventable in 2010, compared to 34% in cities. In 2017, that figure was unchanged for rural U.S., but dropped to around 28% for urban areas. 

  • Unintentional injuries: The gap between rural and urban areas narrowed in this category. Some 61% of rural deaths in 2010 increased to 64% in 2017, but 25% of such deaths in cities in 2010 nearly doubled to 48% seven years later.

About a third of women of reproductive age have at least one chronic condition

A new study finds that about a third of women of reproductive age have a chronic health condition that could complicate pregnancy. Looking at data from nearly 750,000 women between 2010 and 2014, researchers found that some 32% had at least one chronic condition — including diabetes, depression, or asthma. The CDC lists several of these conditions as complications to be aware of during pregnancy and recommends that women who have such conditions but don’t plan to become pregnant obtain long-acting birth control, such as an IUD. However, the study found that fewer than 6% of women with a chronic condition were on such contraception. The study primarily used data from women in Utah, but the authors suggest that primary care providers should aim to increase the use of long-term birth control among chronically ill women. 

What to read around the web today

  • Juul halts sales of mint, its top-selling e-cigarette flavor. The Associated Press
  • This booth can virtually connect patients with clinicians and dispense medications. Will patients use it? STAT
  • Brexit threatens progress of large autism studies. Spectrum
  • At height of crisis, Walgreens handled nearly one in five of the most addictive opioids. The Washington Post
  • A crucial blind spot in veterinary medicine. The Atlantic
  • A medicinal chemist sees some red flags on China’s newly approved Alzheimer’s drug. STAT Plus

Thanks for reading! I'll see you on Monday,


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Friday, November 8, 2019


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