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17 posts from April 2009


Swine Flu Provides Dry Run for Preparedness

Swine flu from next door in Mexico reminds us that biological threats are a serious national security issue. National policy over the past several years has focused on bioterrorism, but naturally occurring epidemics can be more serious in terms of lives lost and economic harm. 

Fortunately, swine flu cases outside of Mexico have not been too serious, so far, although public health officials still do not understand why it has been more lethal in Mexico.  However, other threats are still out there. Avian flu could still evolve into a strain that is transmissible between humans, and new diseases similar to SARS could arise. It is essential that the CDC and state health departments be fully staffed and funded to deal with these threats. 

The silver lining for swine flu is that it can serve as a dry run in preparedness to show us how the system is working and what we need to do to be better protected.

Electronic Medical Records: Challenges to the President’s Plan to Digitize Healthcare

James Pierce Reposted from HealthNewsDigest.com - Philadelphia, Pa.– Ready or not, electronic medical records (EMRs) are coming to a hospital near you. President Barack Obama has devoted $20 billion to healthcare IT in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and in February 2009, he announced his aspirations to have an electronic health record for each person in the U.S. by 2014. Dr. James Pierce, chair of the Bioinformatics and Computer Science Department at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, notes that a nation-wide implementation of EMRs comes with considerable challenges, as well as tremendous advantages.

“Digitization of the healthcare system will be much more efficient and cost-effective, and will enable easier communication among different parts of the system, simpler manageability, and less storage compared to paper records,” explained Dr. Pierce. “EMRs allow healthcare providers to send queries electronically, which is expected to decrease the errors that are made on paper and ultimately, save lives.”  Read More


Steps to learner-centered teaching

Many faculty either desire on their own or feel pressure to use learner-centered approaches. However, they may lack the confidence or skills to make the changes they need to make. Divide and conquer may be the answer here. Here are two ways to divide and succeed with learner-centered teaching:

  1. MaryEllen Weimer defined learner-centered teaching into
    • The function of content
    • The role of the instructor
    • The responsibility for learning
    • The purposes and processes of assessment and
    • The balance of power

    I further defined these five dimensions into four- seven separate components. (For more information)
    For example, I further defined the responsibility for learning into:

    • Responsibility for learning
    • Learning to learn skills
    • Self-directed, lifelong learning skills
    • Students’ self assessment of their learning
    • Students’ self-assessment of their strengths and weaknesses and
    • Information literacy skills
  2. Divide your planned changes into small incremental steps. Small changes can
    • Are easier to implement
    • often have spillover effects and
    • can increase your confidence in your ability to become a learner-centered teacher.

I welcome your responses and your examples of how you implemented learner-centered teaching.

Rome Journal #3

Some quick updates:

2 altemps ceiling 

It's Culture Week in Rome, which means the state-run museums and archaeological sites are all free. Across from the conference is the Museo Nationale Romano Altemps, filled with sculptural treasures. Of course, I'm in awe of the walls and ceilings (above photo)--here I thought I was a housepainter.

5 castel view atop

(left) A view from atop Castel Sant'Angelo of the Tiber River. The conference keeps me busy--we're in sessions from 9 am until 8 pm every day, with a break from 12-3 pm. That's just enough time to see a quick sight and grab my new favorite food, carciofo (artichokes).

5 baileys roma cousin

Bailey's Roman cousin.



Another "minor" detour: around the corner from the conference was the Church of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio. It seems every church contains something by Caravaggio (1569-1609).

15 caravaggio

Took a stroll through Villa Borghese, the Fairmount Park of Rome.

Rome 4.23.09 109 

...And then walked to Northern Rome, to the Priscilla Catacombs--over 10 km of underground passageways where approximately 40,000 Christians were buried.

20 catacombe




Health Information Technology

According to the results of a poll released today, a large majority of Americans believe that electronic health records will improve the quality of care.  However, a majority also believes that these records will increase, rather than decrease costs.  Most respondents also fear that electronic records will increase the risk that confidential information will be released to unauthorized persons.  Despite these concerns, most Americans see medical computerization as a positive development.

Overall, this is good news for advocates of electronic health records.  This includes President Obama, who has made their adoption a priority of his health reform efforts and a focus of considerable spending in the stimulus bill.  Public acceptance electronic records will make widespread adoption much easier.

I suspect that in this case, the majority of Americans have it right.  Electronic health records will almost certainly improve the coordination of care and reduce medical errors.  However, the promised reduction in costs seems unlikely.  Has computerization ever made anything cheaper?  Home computers and the Internet have made many aspects of our lives much more convenient and efficient, from booking airline reservations to doing our banking, but think of the money that we spend for this convenience.  Thousands of dollars on equipment that we replace every few years and hundreds of dollars each year on Internet access.  The result in health care is likely to be no different.

These issues and others related to health information technology will be debated by a panel of experts at a symposium on the future of health information technology to be held at USP on Thursday, May 14 from 5 – 7.  The experts represent a range of key perspectives – medicine, government, industry, and academia – that are essential to the success of computerization.  Events such at this will help to sort out the issues so the health system can move ahead in this crucial sphere.  For more information, please visit http://www.usp.edu/symposium/.


Rome Journal #2

Reason, Fiction and Faith: An International Flannery O'Connor Conference
20 April 2009
Today's highlights:


Pontifica Universita Della Santa Croce (the university hosting the conference) is the "new kid on the block"--the newest Pontifical University in Rome. The conference organizer, Prof. Fr. John Wauk (a former Pennsylvania resident) is a vibrant professor here in Rome.

Rome134 William Sessions (left) and Rosemary Magee (right) are among the O’Connor scholars here, along with Ralph Wood and Susan Srigley. Special guests Ughetta Fitzgerald (the daughter of Robert and Sally Fitzgerald) and Davide Rondoni (a poet and dramatist from the University of Bologna, founder of their Center for Contemporary Poetry) are terrific additions. I’ve met scholars from Buenos Aires and Portugal, Canada and Georgia. We sit in conference sessions wearing headsets like we’re at the United Nations—behind us, there is a wall of tinted glass where the elusive translators sit.


Rome12(Left) Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) was a Southern writer known for her harrowing novels and short stories, which fuse orthodox Catholicism with transformational violence. Bruce Springsteen, Bono, and Quentin Tarantino cite her as an influence; Conan O’Brien and Tommy Lee Jones each wrote their senior thesis on O’Connor’s work. Her most popular stories include those from the short story collections A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge. Her writing is vivid and ferocious—and widely misread and misunderstood.

And, Flannery O'Connor was very funny. 

“Everywhere I go, I'm asked if I think the universities stifle writers,” O’Connor once said (when discussing fiction writers). “My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.”

O’Connor traveled to Notre Dame to present a talk to writers in 1955. When she arrived home to Milledgeville, Georgia, she found that her mother had hung new frilly curtains in her bedroom. “The curtains have to go,” O’Connor said, “lest they ruin my prose.” T

Today's food report: Cappucino, Gelato, Tomato/Basil/ Mozarella sandwich (in that order). There was a "coffee break" at the conference, and I spent ten minutes looking for the coffee. Then, I realized that tiny plastic cups (like thimbles! the size that holds a swig of mouthwash!) were there for us to serve ourselves espresso.



Rome Journal

Rome, Day 1
18 April 2009 ~ Saturday

Rome1 Here I am in Rome, presenting a scholarly paper on short story writer Flannery O’Connor (1925-1964) at “Poetics and Christianity: An International Flannery O’Connor Conference,” sponsored by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. I arrived at 8.45 am at Leonardo da Vinci airport after sleeping fitfully on a crowded plane from Philadelphia. I’ve never been to Rome, but it was easy enough to take a train from the airport to the Termini Rail Station downtown. From there, I grabbed a taxi. (“Everything will be all-a-right,” my driver said, as he sped over bumpy streets, swerving wildly past tour buses and cutting off scooters. I enjoyed his fearless driving, but decided right then that I would not rent a scooter in Rome.)

Rome2 Hotel Due Torri is my home for the next week. It’s a small place, with narrow hallways and small, clean rooms. My 5th floor room has a terrace that overlooks the terra cotta roofs of the Piazza Navona area.

Though tired—and though I need to do some thinking and research before my conference presentation— I walked to nearby Piazza Navona.

Rome3 Neptune and sea nymphs swim in the fountain there; artists sell paintings in the sun. I ate my first gelato (chocolate) and circled the piazza.

Rome is otherworldly. 

Rome5 When you travel or when you write, tangents and detours often lead to unexpected rewards. Along the way home from Piazza Navona, I discovered a little church called Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi on Via dei Portoghesi. It’s not on any map or in any tour book. I noticed the front gate open and walked through it. Inside, I found a stunning church. A silver-haired man with slender fingers played the organ, and the music charged through the air. This, I learned, was organista Jean Guillou, practicing for that evening’s free concert. For now, there were four of us in the church, and we strolled the aisles and gasped at the ceilings as Guillou played.


Rome6 I exited the church and continued to walk. The late afternoon sun cast a yellow glow on people walking toward the Pantheon. I followed. I ate pizza on the steps of the fountain next to the Pantheon, then wandered through the solid Corinthian columns among the throngs of tourists. There I was, in one of the oldest buildings in the world, wearing an iPod and listening to a downloaded Pantheon tour. (I think I heard Hadrian groan from the afterlife.) 

Rome10 I wanted to see the tomb of artist Raphael and the oculus—the round opening in the ceiling that created a column of light between heaven to earth.

I walked back to Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi on Via dei Portoghesi for Jean Guillou’s concert. Now, the church was full. I stood in the back and listened to Guillou play Handel.



Coupons, $4 generics, and Free Generic Antibiotics

Disservices to Patients and Insults to Pharmacists

In my opinion, the cost of many medications is too high and I strongly support appropriate initiatives that will make them more affordable for patients. Many patients, for cost considerations, reduce dosages to enable their prescriptions to last longer or do not obtain their prescriptions at all. This situation not only results in inadequate therapy but also results in bad economics as inadequate drug therapy leads to more serious health problems that require even more costly interventions (e.g., additional physician visits, hospitalizations).

Read more


Late but not forgotten!

USP students, from the Fitness & Health Management Department organized and implemented the First Annual College of Health Sciences Health Fair, "Catch a Wave to Good Health" on Thursday, April 2, 2009.  Check out our talented & engaged students!  What a HUGE succes!

 IMG_2728 IMG_2718 IMG_2746


The Next Generation of Scientists

Winners from the Delaware Valley Science Fairs took part in an awards brunch at the University on Friday, April 10. Twelve students and their families interacted with faculty and showed off their research projects. The Philadelphia Inquirer carried an article on Saturday about the winners, "A fair display of brillance," which can be read online.  

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