Health

Salty Debate

Salt is essential to life. The sodium found in salt regulates the heartbeat and the body’s balance of fluids. Once known as “white gold,” salt helped establish civilization with the discovery of its food-preserving ability. Roman soldiers were paid in salt (from which the expression “worth one’s salt” is thought to derive). A few centuries ago, …

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Shall We Dance?

Don Shepherd may have stumbled upon the closest thing to the fountain of youth. While millions of Americans—and Steelers fans—tuned in to watch Hines Ward glide and smile his way across the dance floor in “Dancing with the Stars,” Shepherd was leading his own dance partner. The 58-year-old Peters software salesman took up ballroom dancing …

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The Pittsburgh Project

The year is 2020. You’re driving home from work, listening to your favorite satellite radio station. An announcer interrupts with breaking news: Smallpox has broken out in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of patients are flooding hospitals, with untold more infected. The public is panicked. Local officials are scrambling to maintain control. Everything points to a terrorist …

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Pasteur’s Quadrant

Among scientific researchers, you’re in the zone if you can create something that falls into what is known as Pasteur’s Quadrant. Back when the National Academy of Science was getting organized, its president, Vannevar Bush, developed a methodology for allocating federal funding by classifying research as either basic or applied. Basic research seeks to increase the …

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The End of Smallpox

There are a lot of reasons why people believe Dr. D.A. Henderson was the best person to lead the successful effort to eradicate smallpox from the planet in the 1960s and 1970s. Usually they revolve around his intellect (unquestionably world class), his training (schooled in “shoe leather epidemiology” by his mentor) or his style of …

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Planetary Hollywood

First the lights dim. In the darkness, you feel the intense drumbeat and techno-pop rhythms of the synthesizer pounding deep in your gut. Next a fiery, red globe materializes above you like a cosmic disco ball of galactic proportions. Look left and a futuristic spacecraft emerges from the solar system beyond. It begins to circle …

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Moving Beyond Mayview

When the state Department of Welfare announced last year that it would close Mayview State Hospital by Dec. 31, 2008, officials explained what would happen to the remaining 200 patients and said the closure would allow patients to receive community-based care. But lost in the desire to look forward was any look back at the …

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The Jet Set

Amadeo Marcos was the first surgeon to take a piece of liver from a healthy living donor and successfully transplant it into an unrelated critically ill patient. In the nine years since, he’s done more of these complex surgeries than anyone. Topping his vitae is his current position, chief of the transplant division at the …

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Death cycle

In 2004, the region’s two largest hospital systems sought to redraw the map of Pennsylvania. Although their hospitals, clinics and headquarters all sit in and around Allegheny County, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and West Penn Allegheny Health System asked Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, to identify them as a …

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It’s Pay Dirt

Graham Hatfull, Ph.D., is clearly pleased when presented with a film canister brimming with soil dug from a Penn Hills back yard. Common, every day dirt. An odd gift, to be sure, but one often suggested to anyone meeting the head of the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Biological Sciences for the first time. “Beautiful,” …

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Saving Science

On a quiet afternoon inside Seville Elementary School’s modest, unprepossessing building in Pittsburgh’s northern suburb of Ross, something electric is happening—literally and figuratively. The subject at hand is electricity: what it is and how to create it. But there’s a charge in the atmosphere, too, the kind that might make the hair on parents’ necks …

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Head Honchos

For five years, Chet Mathis, fellow University of Pittsburgh scientist Dr. Bill Klunk and a team of chemists designed hundreds of chemical compounds looking for one that would open the door to the discovery of a drug capable of taming Alzheimer’s disease. For five years, their lab work and chalkboard theories bought them a few …

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The Two Sides of Jonas Salk

The recent celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the University of Pittsburgh’s polio vaccine recalled one of the great moments in Pittsburgh history. Led by Dr. Jonas Salk, the scientists were armed with expertise, belief and will. I got to know Salk just 11 years ago and wrote a three-part profile about him. But I …

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