Thanks to an overly earnest caterer at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton had her cake and ate it, too.
The author of the breaking-all-records work of nonfiction, Living History, made an official stop at the Great Neck, N.Y., health system last week to help announce a $15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support disease-oriented research at the North Shore-LIJ Research Institute. The grant represents a shift for the NIH, which for the first time this year is awarding specialized research grants to health systems that do not have their own medical schools.
But the event also became an unofficial book signing. Although books were not available for purchase, some attendees brought their own copies of the runaway bestseller, which the senator graciously signed, says Terence Lynam, a spokesman for NSLIJ.
The caterer apparently could not help himself, baking a cake topped with a replica of the book. "Frankly, it blew our photo op," Lynam says. A Daily News photographer snapped a photo of the cake rather than the formal group shot of dignitaries attending the event. (Outliers is opting for the group shot.)
The five-year award will allow the system to expand its recruitment of patients for clinical studies of diseases such as Alzheimer's, cancer, depression, obesity, Parkinson's, rheumatoid arthritis and schizophrenia. This is the first year the NIH is awarding these types of grants, marking "growing recognition that hospital systems can do this research just as effectively in a hospital setting as in the traditional academic setting," Lynam says.
Virgin Mary or chemical deposit?
Crowds of religious faithful and other visitors are flooding to see a section of clouded glass in a hospital window that many say holds the image of a robed Madonna.
According to the Associated Press, at least five years have passed since a seal broke in the third-floor window at Milton (Mass.) Hospital, turning the glass a blotchy white. But last week, the murky patches began taking a form that visitors say clearly looks like the Madonna.
"It seems like every day it gets clearer," says Sharon McGarty, an administrator in a doctor's office across the hall. "It used to look like just a dirty window."
News of the image has spread by word-of-mouth and the media-more than 25,000 people have come to look at the nondescript brick wall and impromptu religious shrine, now surrounded by dozens of bouquets. A large plastic container for money also has been set there, by whom it wasn't immediately clear. One hospital worker saw a mother bring her son, who uses a wheelchair, to touch the wall with his legs.
Officials at the hospital just south of Boston have sought advice from the Archdiocese of Boston on "appropriate steps to take" about the phenomenon. To ease congestion, the hospital last week asked visitors to view the image only between 5: 30 p.m. and 8: 30 p.m. Still, vehicles circle the parking lot looking for spaces and security guards have been assigned to direct traffic.
Experts say the image is the product of a spreading chemical deposit trapped in the pane.
"The phenomenon is basically the human ability to see pictures out of randomness. There are trillions of these and they just wait for someone to notice them," says Joe Nickell, a senior research fellow at the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. "There's nothing miraculous about it."
But Alexandra Zahak isn't buying that explanation. She says she plans to visit the hospital every day.
"An eye doctor works in that office," she says. Mary is "trying to tell us to open up our eyes."
Get your motor running
Was that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson donning leather pants during work hours?
Sure was, but he wasn't trying to make a fashion statement or advocating for a looser dress code at the agency. Instead, as Congress prepared to debate Medicare reform last week, the secretary took the opportunity to drum up some publicity and support for the reform effort by leading a squadron of about 30 motorcyclists from the local Harley Owners Group from HHS headquarters to a community health center in Brandywine, Md.
"We're trying to rev up the Congress to pass Medicare," Thompson said.
Saying the Medicare program has changed drastically since it was created in 1965, Thompson added, "Seniors have changed as well. We want a very modern Medicare to keep up with the lifestyles of seniors."
Congress is trying to include prescription drug benefits into the Medicare program.
Greater Baden Medical Services in Brandywine was chosen to highlight provisions in the Senate Medicare reform bill targeting rural healthcare. Among those provisions are some that would equalize base payment rates to urban and rural hospitals and ease criteria for cost-based reimbursements for rural hospitals.
At a press conference before the ride, Thompson was joined by Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) and Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). Baucus joined Thompson for the ride.