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On ‘Sound Medicine’: Typing breast cancer, overcoming communication barriers, and explaining health care in 200 pages


“Sound Medicine” covers controversial ethics topics, breakthrough research studies and the day-to-day application of recent advancements in medicine. It’s also available via podcast and Stitcher Radio for mobile phones and iPads and posts updates on Facebook and Twitter.

How do different subtypes of breast cancer affect treatment? According to a recent genetic analysis, four distinct types of the most common breast cancer tumors are thought to arise in the milk duct. ”Breast cancer is not one disease; it is one of several different diseases that all happen in the breast,” said Kathy Miller, M.D, breast cancer expert at Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. Miller shares her thoughts about how treatments will be geared toward each of these four types and how soon this discovery will help physicians target therapies to benefit breast cancer patients.

What creates communication barriers between caregivers and health care providers? Communication between health care professionals and surrogate caregivers for older adults who cannot make decisions for themselves is often fragmented, says Alexia Torke, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and a scientist at Regenstrief Institute.  Dr. Torke studied the breakdown in communication between these groups and found that it comes from the surrogates’ physical presence when clinicians make rounds, an absence of a point person who is charged to communicate with the family caregivers, the lack of relationships between caregivers and providers, and the fast-paced hospital environment. She also provides tips for caregivers and providers to improve communication in this setting. Since caregivers want daily updates, from any member of the interdisciplinary team, Torke also suggests that daily communication be built into the structure of the hospital care team.

What has changed at the IU School of Medicine Student Outreach Clinic since its inception in 2009? The Indiana University Student Outreach Clinic recently celebrated four years of serving uninsured patients free of charge on the near eastside of Indianapolis. Since opening, the clinic has expanded to include students from Butler University School of Pharmacy, IU Department of Public Health, IU School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Indy Krannert School of Physical Therapy, IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law and IU School of Dentistry. The clinic partners with local Neighborhood Fellowship Church, which houses the clinic every Saturday. On average, the clinic is capable of seeing 30 to 35 patients with acute and chronic conditions each Saturday — patients who otherwise would not be able to attain care due to transportation and financial constraints. Charles Goodwin, M.D. /Ph.D. student is the IU Student Outreach Clinic Board chair. Goodwin discusses the importance of interdisciplinary relationships at the clinic and how the experience of volunteering at the clinic benefits students like him.

Can our complex health care system be boiled down to a 200-page paperback? Medical students Elisabeth Askin and Nathan Moore from Washington University in St. Louis were motivated by their peers and their own uncertainty of the future of health care to try to explain our health care system. The result, “The Health Care Handbook,” is a readable, concise and informative “user’s manual” that explains the basis of our health care system and the policies that aim to change it in the near future. Reviewers have lauded their success, pointing to examples such as the authors’ description of the 2,000-page Affordable Care Act in about a 20-minute read, organized by a series of questions. For future editions, medical students at Washington University will be asked to revise and update the book as needed, while still providing a refreshing student perspective.  Askin and Moore share the inspiration behind the recurring theme of “everything is always more complicated than you think” in their book and how they prioritized their topics.

In this week’s “Checkup” segment with host Jeremy Shere, Suzanne Devkota, postdoctoral student in molecular biology, tells us how certain types of bacteria are more efficient at harvesting calories than others in our gastrointestinal system. This may lead to therapies that manipulate the bacteria in our guts to promote weight loss.

“Sound Medicine,” co-produced by the IU School of Medicine and WFYI Public Radio (90.1 FM) and underwritten in part by Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, is aired on the following Indiana public radio stations: WBSB (Anderson, 89.5 FM), WFIU (Bloomington, 103.7 FM; Columbus, 100.7 FM; Kokomo, 106.1 FM; Terre Haute, 95.1 FM), WNDY (Crawfordsville, 91.3 FM), WVPE (Elkhart/South Bend, 88.1 FM), WNIN (Evansville, 88.3 FM), WBOI (Fort Wayne, 89.1 FM), WFCI (Franklin, 89.5 FM), WBSH (Hagerstown/New Castle, 91.1 FM), WFYI (Indianapolis), WBSW (Marion, 90.9 FM), WBST (Muncie, 92.1 FM), WBSJ (Portland, 91.7 FM), WLPR (Lake County, 89.1 FM) and WBAA (West Lafayette, 101.3 FM).

“Sound Medicine” is also broadcast on these public radio stations across the country: WLRH (Huntsville, Ala.), KSKA (Anchorage, Alaska), KTNA (Talkeetna, Alaska), KUHB (Pribilof Islands, Alaska), KUAF (Fayetteville and Fort Smith, Ark.), KIDE (Hoopa Valley, Calif.), KRCC (Colorado Springs, Colo.), KEDM (Monroe, La.), WCMU (Mount Pleasant, Mich.), WCNY and WRVO-1 (Syracuse, N.Y.), KMHA (Four Bears, N.D.), WYSU (Youngstown, Ohio), KPOV (Bend, Ore.) and KEOS (College Station, Texas).