Nobel Prize winner Tony Leggett didn't hesitate when he was asked to pose as Mr. January in a pinup calendar. The physics professor didn't doff his clothes, but the image is still revealing.
It is Leggett's buff brain that leads off a 2006 calendar from the University of Illinois' Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. The calendar shows MRI scans of the brains of a dozen people who work or study at the school's Urbana-Champaign campus, including Chancellor Richard Herman, women's basketball coach Theresa Grentz and Kai Nielsen, a carpenter in the campus maintenance shop.
The idea behind the calendar, "Big Brains on Campus," was to help raise Beckman's profile, known for its cutting-edge studies of intelligence, computers and nanotechnology, not to mention its Biomedical Imaging Center, where the brain scans were performed.
"It's certainly not the usual way of us promoting our work," says Beckman's director, Pierre Wiltzius, whose own brain scan is part of the calendar.
Appropriately, the calendar also recognizes the contributions of retired UI professor Paul Lauterbur, who won the Nobel Prize in 2003 for his pioneering work in developing MRI.
Data show that a jumbo jet's worth of patients die each day from medical errors, so it is fitting that an aviation comparison was used in a new study of one source of errors--the handoff of patients from one physician to another.
The study in the December issue of the journal Academic Medicine found that unlike among air traffic controllers and other vital safety operations, there are few systems to deal with patient handoff when one physician leaves the hospital and another takes over. The result is that the handoff is routinely botched--the result of poor communication and training and insufficient information systems--with dire implications for patients.
The solution is to teach physicians the handoff process using a model based on principles of adult learning, effective feedback and clinical experience, the study authors say.
"The safest method of transferring responsibility for a patient is a face-to-face handoff, in which the physician going off duty talks directly with the physician coming on duty," says senior author Richard Frankel, a professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a research scientist in evidence-based medicine at Richard L. Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Indianapolis.
A precise patient handoff from one physician to the next is critical to patient safety and care, says Frankel, who studies physician communication.
"Computerized medical records can facilitate face-to-face handoffs," he says. "Body language and other crucial factors are lost when the handoff is done over the phone and a written handoff may be difficult to read--doctors have notoriously poor penmanship--errors especially in numbers or decimal places are easy to make, and written notes are open to misinterpretation or misplacement."
One can only imagine what might happen if air traffic controllers acted that way.
The Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York is behind one of the most heartwarming stories of the holiday season.
The Jewish-founded hospital pulled out the welcome mat earlier this month for five Muslim Iraqi children in need of life-saving heart surgery. The youngsters, who range in age from 6 to 14, were making the long, dangerous trip from Baghdad with the help of Rotary International's Gift of Life program, Army Reservist Sgt. Marikay Satryano and Montefiore. Once they arrived in New York, the patients healthy enough to do so were going to wait out the time until their surgery date with host families in the area.
The effort was inspired by Satryano, a community relations specialist based in Amman, Jordan, says Montefiore spokeswoman Pamela Adkins. Satryano went through college on a Rotary scholarship, so when she learned about the young patients' plight, she knew to turn to the Gift of Life program, Adkins says. Gift of Life has a long-standing relationship with Montefiore.
Without the volunteer hu-manitarian effort, the children would likely die since Iraq doesn't have the resources or expertise available to perform pediatric cardiac surgery. The children all suffer from congenital heart defects.
The surgeries are scheduled for Dec. 20 through Dec. 22, and will be performed by Sam Weinstein, Montefiore's pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.