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Sept. 11 and academic freedom

(09/18/06 4:00am)

Any discussion of academic freedom at Duke must begin with the Bassett Affair that occurred Dec. 2, 1903 after Trinity College professor John Spencer Bassett published "Stirring up the Fires of Racial Antipathy" in The South Atlantic Quarterly. His description of Booker T. Washington as the "greatest man, save General Lee" to be born in the South caused an outcry among politicians demanding his resignation.  The Board of Trustees' decision to reject his resignation was later commended by President Teddy Roosevelt as an important stand for academic freedom.

Tap your hidden potential

(12/02/05 5:00am)

How many students perform up to their potential in the classroom or on the playing field? What holds you back from achieving the best that your talents would allow? Often it is anxiety related to the thought of past failure that distracts you from the focus required to accomplish your goal. Unfortunately, most people learn to worry from their parents who are often experts at creating self-fulfilling prophecies.

Message of the missile

(10/19/05 4:00am)

On Friday, Sept. 23, the day before the national peace march in Washington, I walked onto the Chapel Quad to discover a large missile on top of the pedestal ordinarily occupied by the statue of James B. Duke, which had been temporarily removed for cleaning. The art installation had been erected at 5 a.m. that morning as a protest against the Iraq War by a group of students led by Rita Bergmann, a senior cultural anthropology major, and Rann Bar-On, a third-year math graduate student.

God and the earth

(10/12/05 4:00am)

The Nicholas Institute's inaugural Environmental Summit on Sept. 21 featured an impressive array of scientists and policy makers, and surprisingly, two of the speakers emphasized the importance of spirituality in creating solutions to our environmental problems. Russell Train, former Administrator of the EPA, pointed out the potential for mobilizing the Religious Right in support of an earth stewardship agenda. Paul Gorman, executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment (NRPE), gave a passionate testimony about the central role of "caring for creation" in the future of religious life.

Consider "experimenter effect" in alternative medical research

(04/08/98 4:00am)

April Fool's Day was marked by two noteworthy events centered around the Journal of the American Medical Association, one of which received a tremendous amount of publicity. The April 1 issue of the Journal featured a media-hyped article debunking therapeutic touch based on the fourth grade science fair project of an 11-year-old girl. The April 1 event that went unnoticed, but was likely more significant, was the passing of the deadline for the Journal's general call for scientific papers on alternative medicine to be published in a special theme issue this fall.

Integrative medicine balances conventional, alternative healing

(03/12/98 5:00am)

Elton Brand's miraculous recovery was an interesting example of an integrative approach to healing. As noted by Dick Vitale during the Carolina game, Brand had appropriate surgery by a top orthopedic surgeon at one of the best medical centers in the country. In addition, he had ultrasonic treatments and electrical bone stimulation, a controversial method of enhancing bone healing. Would he have healed as quickly without it? Nobody knows for sure, but it does raise some provocative issues relevant to the evaluation of alternative therapies.

Neurofeedback can help find 'the zone' of peak performance

(02/18/98 5:00am)

Have you ever had the experience of shooting baskets, suddenly getting "hot" and having every one go in for a certain stretch of time? Often as soon as we realize we are in "the zone," we quickly lose the unconscious rhythm that was propelling us to peak performance. Top athletes seem to have a natural ability to stay in this state for extended periods of time, as described in Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's "Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience."

Headline misrepresents author's meaning

(01/29/98 5:00am)

I was personally offended by the title, "Don't call the anesthesiologist-hypnotism can work wonders," chosen by the editorial staff for my column, The Noosphere, in the Jan. 28 edition of The Chronicle. I'm sure the entire staff of the Anesthesiology Department at the Medical Center was similarly offended, and for that I apologize because that was not my intent. The title I submitted was "Hypnosis empowers patients to mobilize their inner resources," which more accurately reflects the spirit of the article. As I pointed out in the article, hypnosis is most commonly useful as an adjunct to conventional anesthesia rather than as an alternative.

Don't call the anesthesiologist-hypnotism can work wonders

(01/28/98 5:00am)

In 1846, Scottish physician James Esdaile published his book, "Hypnosis in Medicine and Surgery," which documented his experience with 345 patients in India. His use of hypnosis to perform painless surgery in this group of Hindu convicts resulted in a remarkably low mortality rate of five percent during an era when mortality rates were over 50 percent. That year happened to coincide with the introduction of the first ether anesthesia, and unfortunately surgical hypnosis was soon forgotten. Had chemical anesthesia not been discovered for another 100 years, we might now be evaluating halothane as a possible alternative to conventional surgical hypnosis.

NIH supports use of acupuncture to relieve pain, treat addictions

(12/08/97 5:00am)

Last month, there was a National Institute of Health consensus conference on acupuncture to evaluate the scientific evidence supporting the use of this ancient technique in modern medicine. The panelists concluded that acupuncture is effective in the relief of post-operative pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, nausea of pregnancy, and post-operative dental pain. Although the scientific evidence is less convincing, stroke rehabilitation, headache, addiction, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma were listed as conditions worthy of further investigation.

Scientists finally discover what herbalists knew for centuries

(11/14/97 5:00am)

Last month's announcement of the awarding of a $4.3 million grant to Duke for a multicenter study of St. John's wort in the treatment of depression heralds the beginning of a new era of scientific investigation into herbal remedies. As summarized in psychiatrist Harold Bloomfield's recent book, "Hypericum and Depression," the serious research into St. John's wort started in Europe in the 1980s. Now after the completion of over 20 randomized, double-blind clinical trials there, the scientific community in this country is finally starting to pay attention.

Future of medical care lies in support groups and self-care

(10/17/97 4:00am)

In 1989, Stanford University psychiatrist David Spiegel published a landmark article in the prestigious British medical journal "Lancet" documenting that women with advanced breast cancer who participated in supportive group therapy lived on the average twice as long as those who didn't. Ironically he had undertaken the study with the hypothesis that group support and self-hypnosis for pain control would improve the quality of life, but have no effect on quantity.

Hospitals should focus on spiritual as well as physical healing

(09/19/97 4:00am)

In her best-selling book, "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal," pediatrician Rachel Remen draws her material from 20 years of working with cancer patients, her own personal struggles with a chronic disease and the wisdom of her grandfather, a rabbi who shared spiritual lessons with her at the kitchen table during her childhood. Dr. Remen emphasizes the healing power of storytelling in her work as medical director of the Commonweal Cancer Help Program. She also shares these insights with the medical students she teaches at the University of California at San Francisco.

Massive pollution of N.C. waterways results in `Pfiesteria hysteria'

(09/02/97 4:00am)

Last spring I took my daughters on a weekend trip to Camp Sea Gull, a YMCA camp on the Neuse River. We heard that it might not be safe to swim in the river due to hog farm lagoon spills upstream, and I had read that the state government attributed massive fish kills in the area throughout the previous two years to low oxygen content in the water related to an oversupply of nutrients from pollution of that type.

Comet's appearance carries astrological significance

(03/25/97 5:00am)

"Comets are coming!" In February I took my kids to see the Morehead Planetarium sky show that preceded the arrival of the Hale-Bopp Comet. The show reminded us that the ancients always associated comets with some major earth event like a war or other societal upheaval. With this theme in mind, I got up early a few weeks ago to see the real thing.

Near-death experiences parallel Biblical resurrection

(03/05/97 5:00am)

There have been numerous bestselling books in the past few years that have had "Light" in the title, and it is no coincidence that they have all been about near-death experiences. Betty Eadie's "Embraced by the Light" topped The New York Times list for almost a year in 1993. Lightning survivor Dannion Brinkley's "Saved by the Light" had a similar impact. Their popular appeal is undeniable, but what do we actually understand about the nature of these experiences from the contrasting viewpoints of science and spirituality?