Breaking News
December 12, 2018 - Slow-growing type of glioma may be vulnerable to immunotherapy, suggests study
December 12, 2018 - Study provides new information regarding microRNA function in cellular homeostasis of zebrafish
December 12, 2018 - Study provides new understanding of mysterious ‘hereditary swelling’
December 12, 2018 - Researchers shed new light on how to combat Shiga and ricin toxins
December 12, 2018 - Pregnant Women Commonly Refuse Vaccines
December 12, 2018 - Drug treatment could offer new hope for some patients with brain bleeding
December 12, 2018 - Health care financial burden of animal-related injuries is growing, study says
December 12, 2018 - Macrophage cells could help repair the heart following a heart attack, study finds
December 12, 2018 - Researchers develop new system for efficiently producing human norovirus
December 12, 2018 - New artificial intelligence-based system to differentiate between different types of cancer cells
December 11, 2018 - Healthy Lifestyle Lowers Odds of Breast Cancer’s Return
December 11, 2018 - New research identifies two genes linked to serious congenital heart condition
December 11, 2018 - NIH Director talks science, STEM careers with preteens
December 11, 2018 - Disabling a Cellular Antivirus System Could Improve Gene Therapy
December 11, 2018 - New tool swiftly provides accurate measure of patients’ cognitive difficulties
December 11, 2018 - NICE releases new guidelines for diagnosis and management of COPD
December 11, 2018 - Without Obamacare penalty, think it’ll be nice to drop your plan? Better think twice
December 11, 2018 - Researchers capture high-resolution X-ray and NMR image of key immune regulator
December 11, 2018 - Natural flavonoid is effective at treating leishmanisis infections, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Avoidant grievers unconsciously monitor and block mind-wandering contents, study shows
December 11, 2018 - Study identifies how hantaviruses infect lung cells
December 11, 2018 - Improving PTSD care through genetics
December 11, 2018 - Dermatology providers show interest in recommending cannabinoids to patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers to study effects of electroconvulsive therapy on Alzheimer’s patients with aggression
December 11, 2018 - Four dried fruits have lower glycemic index than starchy foods, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Optimization of drug dose sizes can reduce pharmaceutical wastage
December 11, 2018 - Ultrarestrictive opioid prescribing strategy linked with reduction in number of pills dispensed
December 11, 2018 - PET scans to optimize tuberculosis meningitis treatments and personalize care, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Researchers aim to identify and target high blood pressure indicators
December 11, 2018 - Researchers identify immune cell subset that may drive chronic inflammation
December 11, 2018 - Ezogabine treatment reduces motor neuron excitability in ALS patients, study shows
December 11, 2018 - One implant, two prices. It depends on who’s paying.
December 11, 2018 - Standardizing feeding practices improves growth trends for micro-preemies
December 11, 2018 - COPD Tied to Obesity in Male, Female Never-Smokers
December 11, 2018 - Flossing: Information for Caregivers
December 11, 2018 - Does breastfeeding hormone protect against type 2 diabetes?
December 11, 2018 - Educating future doctors to prescribe physical activity for their patients
December 11, 2018 - Krystal 2000 microplate design improves fluorescence and luminescence measurement
December 11, 2018 - FDA clears mobile medical app to help increase retention in recovery program for opioid use disorder
December 11, 2018 - Overcoming Challenges in High-Speed Centrifugation Experiments
December 11, 2018 - Study shows link between neighborhoods’ socioeconomic status and dietary choices
December 11, 2018 - Lower BMI before obesity surgery predicts greater post-operative weight loss, study finds
December 11, 2018 - Obesity May Be Driving Rise in Uterine Cancers
December 11, 2018 - Antioxidants may prevent cognitive impairment in diabetes
December 11, 2018 - Study discovers link between meditation and how individuals respond to feedback
December 11, 2018 - Researchers identify potential diagnostic tool for Alzheimer’s disease
December 11, 2018 - Oral cancer prognostic signature identified
December 11, 2018 - How Can I Find Out What Caused My Miscarriage?
December 11, 2018 - Novel personalized medicine tool for assessing inherited colorectal cancer syndrome risk developed
December 11, 2018 - Study uncovers 11 new genes associated with epilepsy
December 11, 2018 - Filling research gaps could help develop more disability-inclusive workplaces
December 11, 2018 - Cartilage tissue engineering brings good news for patients with cartilage defects
December 11, 2018 - Novel 3D printing workflow helps predict leaky heart valves
December 11, 2018 - Imagination can help overcome fear and anxiety-related disorders, shows study
December 11, 2018 - Are caries linked to political regime?
December 11, 2018 - Leader in Diabetes Clinical Trials Wins Naomi Berrie Award
December 11, 2018 - Scientists discover cellular mechanism that triggers pneumonia in humans
December 11, 2018 - Increasing mental health problems related to drug use in over 55’s
December 11, 2018 - High-intensity interval exercise could help combat cognitive dysfunction in obese people
December 11, 2018 - Annual flu shot can save lives of heart failure patients
December 11, 2018 - Researchers compare health outcomes for VA and non-VA hospitals
December 11, 2018 - Recommendations Developed for Psoriatic Arthritis Treatment
December 11, 2018 - Genetic analysis links obesity with diabetes, coronary artery disease
December 11, 2018 - Study shows that having genetic information can affect how the body responds
December 11, 2018 - UNAIDS Report: 9 Million Are Likely HIV Positive And Don't Know It
December 11, 2018 - Lund University researchers succeed in obtaining dendritic cells by direct reprogramming
December 11, 2018 - Breast tumors recruit bone marrow cells to boost their growth, study reveals
December 11, 2018 - Updated breast cancer screening guideline highlights importance of shared decision-making
December 11, 2018 - EHR-related stress associated with physician burnout
December 11, 2018 - AHA: 12-Year-Old Heart Defect Survivor Inspires NFL Player’s Foundation
December 11, 2018 - Breast cancer patients who take heart drug with trastuzumab have less heart damage
December 11, 2018 - Providing aid to those humans – and animals – affected by the California fires
December 11, 2018 - Even without proof, CBD is finding a niche as a cure-all
December 11, 2018 - Drawing leads to better memory than writing
December 11, 2018 - Researchers report novel findings on plant hormone
December 10, 2018 - A Tale of Two Labels
December 10, 2018 - Triple combination cancer immunotherapy improves outcomes in preclinical melanoma model
December 10, 2018 - A 14-year-old explains what it’s like to get a new heart
December 10, 2018 - Team Players Honored with 2018 Baton Awards
December 10, 2018 - Global report highlights how the changing world is affecting children’s physical activity levels
Science is on trial – and we need doctors to provide the defense

Science is on trial – and we need doctors to provide the defense

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

More than half the residents of Marin County, a suburb of San Francisco, hold at least a bachelor’s degree, giving the county one of the highest education attainment rates in the United States. But it’s also where, according to a 2015 study by Kaiser Permanente, roughly one in five children under the age of 36 months had not been fully vaccinated. Neighboring Sonoma County had under-immunized rates of 13 to 16 percent. The latest data from the CDC show unvaccinated rates among kindergarten students have risen in 11 states, largely because of parental fears about the side effects of vaccines — fears that are unsubstantiated by science.

Vaccines have become emblematic of a nationwide struggle between science and its skeptics, with each side speaking a language the other does not understand. As the above examples show, this skepticism about science, while a perspective held by only a subpopulation of people, still crosses educational, geographic, and political lines.

Science has been through this before. In 1846, Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian physician, realized the importance of hand-washing in hospitals — only to be met with ridicule. Hand hygiene is now standard practice worldwide and prevents countless infections. During my own career as a surgeon and scientist, I have seen rampant denialism about the link between smoking and cancer. But as we all know, millions of people are now, in 2018, still making decisions about life and death based on rumor of the sort that Semmelweis would recognize only too clearly.

There are many opinions about how we arrived here. Global economic forces that have left people displaced and disillusioned, failing education systems, the politicization of science and medicine, growing skepticism of experts and institutions, social media’s ability to spread false stories as rapidly as true ones — all have likely played a role. It also seems that a broad appreciation of science is waning. From a survey of 14,000 people in 14 countries, a study by 3M found that two in three respondents think “a little to never” about the impact of science on their everyday lives.

I don’t pretend there are easy solutions, but there are certainly positive steps we can take. For example, we can find ways to be more innovative, efficient, and collaborative in how we research and test medical treatments and interventions. Removing the divide between fundamental discovery-based science on one side, and clinical-based science on the other, would be a start. Allowing the two to work more closely together could spur wonderful — and unexpected — translational discoveries, and may help the public better understand the value of fundamental research.

Another way is for us, as doctors, researchers, and practitioners, to continue sharing the work we’re doing and the exciting frontiers we’re pushing forward — not just in academic papers or medical journals, but across the country. We have a responsibility to educate people, especially children, about the role and value of science in our society today, and the tremendous advances that have been achieved — advances that are too often taken for granted.

When the 20th century ended, men and women in the U.S. were, on average, living close to 30 years longer than when it began. Many people outside the field of medicine today aren’t familiar with whooping cough or diphtheria — diseases that in 1920 combined to kill more than 20,000 Americans. Polio has been eliminated in the United States. HIV is no longer a death sentence.

The pace of these achievements continues to accelerate. In this past year alone, there have been promising advances in our understanding of ALS and autoimmune diseases. At Stanford Medicine, we’ve worked on a new approach to treating multiple sclerosis, and our researchers have pioneered a less expensive, faster, more reliable test for tuberculosis, a disease that still devastates developing countries and remains difficult to diagnose in places that lack electricity.

In the face of skepticism and disbelief, storytelling and engagement from the scientific community has never felt more valuable — or necessary. The conversation may not always be easy, but it is critical that we participate in it. “Mankind’s greatest achievements have come about by talking,” the late Stephen Hawking said, “and its greatest failures by not talking.”

Lloyd Minor, MD, is dean of the Stanford School of Medicine and a professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery. A longer version of this piece originally appeared on his LinkedIn page

Image by Shutterstock

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles