Jul 4, 2012

Dialogues in Medicine: Physicians and Patients on 200 Years of Progress

On June 22, 2012, a glorious morning, I woke up at 6 to dress up for the conference. My host's future son-in-law had warned me about dressing appropriately for the occasion, and was aghast I did not bring a tie (I didn't want to look like a salesperson instead of a medical student, and I paid 2 months' salary for my ticket anyway!) He was nice enough to lend me his Kenneth Cole black tie but I decided not to put it on until I am positive everyone has a tie.
Which they didn't. Some even came in scrubs so I was positive I am not too shabby by comparison.

Joseph B. Martin Conference Center at Avenue Louis Pasteur

The reception area. Essay winners were received at the 3rd floor rotunda for a warm welcome by editor-in-chief Dr. Drazen

The conference hall itself, which sits 450 people, in preparation for the HIV/AIDS panel

Possibly worth all the time and money - a picture with editor-in-chief of the NEJM Dr. Drazen. I did tell him the picture will end up in application for travel money from school.

The editors were very friendly and readily talks with students or residents during the breakfast. Of course most American students were so excited given the opportunity. I later learned many whom attended breakfast that day were leaders in their respective fields of medicine and holds an editing post in the journal as well.
At 9 sharp the bell rang for start of lessons the conference started with HIV/AIDS. I won't bore you with the littlest details and contents because you can find them here (upload still in progress), so I will just give a short summary on each panel.
In HIV/AIDS we discussed how patients, mainly gay men in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York at the start of the epidemic, fought for medical attention. These movements gave birth to the current National Institute of Health, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), and preventive measures which made HIV a manageable chronic disease today.
The maternal and fetal health panel boasted on how regular antenatal examination and improved nutrition had improved women's health tremendously, but addressed high rate of preterm birth in the United States. That abortion should be legalized and women empowered in family planning to prevent incidences of preterm labor, low birth weight infants, and poor maternal health.
The third panel, breast cancer, discussed how the invention of the randomized controlled trials (RCT) improved medicine and surgery. Patients diagnosed with breast cancer nowadays don't have to endure disfiguring surgery with terrible side effects thanks to physicians proving "more is not necessarily helpful" in cancer surgery. Today, treatments are individually tailored and like HIV, many cancer patients are managing their disease just like hypertension.
The last panel, cardiovascular disease, is about how current technology changes the percept and treatment of a once fatal disease. Hypothermia therapy, ECMO, artificial heart, are major but expensive advances during the last decade. In terms of disease prevention and management, a simple aspirin reduces heart disease by many folds, as well as cheap antihypertensives and good glycemic control. At the end of the day, all diseases can be managed and lived with thanks to technology, investments, and innovation in pharmacologic intervention.
After a tiring day, the after-conference continues at the Museum of Fine Arts. A reception was waiting for us there with free passes into the museum. That evening was all about awesomeness, a la Neil Patrick Harris. We had a wine party inside a hall full of expensive paintings, NEJM cookies and M&Ms, a strings quartet, and permission to make as much noise as we like in a museum. A museum.

Drinks in the coat room of Museum of Fine Arts

This is one of my very rare pictures during the evening. I had some sauvignon blanc and experienced severe lightheadedness forcing me to switch to cranberry juice and sparkling water later. Such a waste of good wine!

An NEJM cookie. Very sweet both in the gustatory and literal sense


Needless to say I took a lot of the above for souvenirs. The cookies got all crushed on the way back, sadly.
There are a lot of people I would like to thank for making this trip possible:
Mum, Dad, and my sister - for the unrelenting support and rooting for my school when I was denied funds
Dr. Wu - for all her efforts in fighting on my behalf, in Mandarin
Dr. Chu - for her soft loan and endless words of encouragement
My intern partners and friends - for covering my absence, listening to my bi*ching about rejected funding, and my endless boasting later on
Sister Yang and family - for taking me in like her own son, and the Charlie Card ride, and the tie, and the coconut cake, and the endless wait at Boston Logan.


dad, mum n mei said...