Peter Wolfe is a physician who works and teaches at UCLA, but he's developed a busy sideline as a well-respected football prognosticator in his free time. Indeed, he helped Pete Carroll, head coach of the rival University of Southern California football team, win the national title last football season. Well, sort of.
An internist at UCLA Medical Center, Wolfe has developed a computer ranking system to rate college football teams, and his rankings are factored into the Bowl Championship Series, which selects the teams that play in the sport's title game. Wolfe had been compiling rankings since the 1970s, but college football brass took notice after he started posting them on the Internet.
Now, Wolfe's rankings-and five other computer polls-are used in the college championship system. Officials also use two other polls conducted by "the humans," as Wolfe likes to say. Wolfe says one edge that computers have over humans is that computers don't discriminate against teams.
"The humans pay attention to the top five teams," he says. "Below 10, it's really hard to say: Is No. 12 Georgia really that much different than No. 18 Utah?"
The downside to the computer poll is the grunt work. Wolfe must type in the scores of games for some 700 college teams and that takes "a bunch of hours," he says. Wolfe, who works alone, declined to say-officially-which team he likes to see win.
"I teach at UCLA, if that gives you a hint," he says. For a peek at Wolfe's rankings, go to: www.bol.ucla.edu/~prwolfe/cfootball.
Jailed doc shows his poetic side
Also on the theme of doctors with interesting or offbeat hobbies, how about the case of William Hurwitz, a physician who has gone from bad to verse. A pain specialist whose story has been chronicled on "60 Minutes" and elsewhere, he is currently being housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Md., while his December 2004 conviction on 50 narcotic prescribing-related charges is being appealed.
Hurwitz, 59, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison, has turned to writing poetry to both fill his time and tell his story. Two of his poems, "The Appeal" and "Billy's Lament," have been posted on the Web site of a physician colleague, Alexander DeLuca, who advises readers: "Don't be fooled by the `Dr. Seuss meets Lenny Bruce' rhyming. You can learn a lot in these poems, about the war on doctors and about my friend Billy-what sort of man he is, and what sort of physician."
The poems can be found at: doctordeluca.com/Library/WOD/ Hurwitz-TheAppeal05.htm.
Here's a sampling, from "The Appeal":
"The jury was left somewhat confused
They asked for help, but the judge refused
`The bounds of medicine' he couldn't describe
Or when to an addict, one could prescribe."
Charleston shuffle has team hopping
Medical professionals across the Gulf Coast and throughout much of the U.S. have done heroic work in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's devastation. In some cases, though, the best efforts of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel have been thwarted by the sometimes haphazard, confused response from government organizations such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose chief, Michael Brown, has come under withering criticism.
Few incidents better illustrate some of those tactical difficulties than the frustrations of dozens of medical personnel who rushed to an airport at Charleston, S.C., early last week to prepare for what they were told would be 180 evacuees from Katrina. As they waited for the flight to arrive, they discovered that it was actually bound for an airport more than 500 miles away in another Charleston-the capital of West Virginia.
"We were getting geared up this morning and then it was obviously a different Charleston," South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said in a report by the Associated Press. "And so it goes with massive government entities." It was the second time in just six hours that FEMA officials incorrectly alerted officials in Charleston, S.C., about a planeload of evacuees that wound up in the other Charleston.
All sorts make a point of volunteering
The entire nation has opened its hearts-and wallets-to the countless victims of Hurricane Katrina. Hospitals and healthcare systems have donated millions of dollars. Indeed, everybody seems to be pitching in-and we mean everybody. In fact, this overwhelming collective effort now includes a group called Acupuncturists Without Borders, which has announced it will provide evacuees housed in Houston and other areas with free acupuncture treatments.
Officials with the New York-based Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, which is organizing the volunteer teams, say "acupuncture can be extremely beneficial in helping people facing enormous stress, anger, frustration, depression, fatigue and other emotional and physical pain." In addition to helping the victims of the disaster, officials said, volunteers also will provide treatments to police, search-and-rescue volunteers, the Red Cross and all medical personnel.
Meanwhile, one individual is focusing attention on a group that will play a key role down the road in recovery efforts-the cleaning industry. Stephen Ashkin, who publishes a newsletter called Green Cleaning, asks, "Who is going to take care of ... the environmental services workers in the healthcare facilities ... whose jobs are gone and lives have been disrupted by this horrific disaster?"
Ashkin has called on the industry's suppliers, distributors, contractors and trade groups to lend a helping hand to this group. While he says he thinks that doctors, lawyers and engineers will weather this storm, "Let's try to take care of our own family. If we don't, who will?"