Ben dreams of deadly sushi.

Ben Utter, one of the founders of Vital, reflects on how we–doctors, scholars, parents, everyone–can improve each other’s health by listening.


The lark sings loud and glad,
Yet I am not loth
That silence should take the song and the bird
And lose them both.
               —D.H. Lawrence, “Listening”

The doorbell rang in my dream the other night, and I opened our front door to find a food deliveryman. Without a word, he handed me a cooler and walked back toward his car. Inside the Styrofoam container were several slices of fugu, the infamous, highly toxic pufferfish, the kind prepared only by highly-skilled Japanese chefs, lest a residual trace of poison kill a diner. In the dream, I handed these morsels to my young daughter and son and watched—passively, but, as is often the case in dreams, with a suffocating sense of imminent danger—as they slurped them down. I awoke with a gasp, disoriented, still wondering whether or not this dangerous dinner was going to send my children into renal failure (turns out that on this count, at least, I needn’t have worried, since tetrodotoxin kills by paralyzing the lungs—an unsurprising error on the part of my mind’s dream production company, which had no more data to draw on than what I knew about fugu from watching that episode of The Simpsons). Continue reading →

Faith in Public Health

Rev. Lee Ann Pomrenke argues that the fear of being called “too political” is holding back faith communities from advocating effectively on matters of public health that should certainly be their concern. This is a powerful call to faith communities to reclaim at home the essential work that many congregations are already supporting internationally.

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Continue reading →

Race, Racism, and Infertility

In our second article of the Racism in Science series, Vital editor Lesley Curtis interviewed researchers Bethany Johnson and Margaret M. Quinlan concerning the connection between racism and infertility.

Your research focuses on how perceptions involving race influence women’s health and the care they receive. Since race is a socially constructed category, let’s begin by noting the actual statistics about infertility and women of color in the US.

Sure. In the US, we have an inaccurate, wide-reaching, offensive stereotype of the “welfare queen” with numerous children. This stereotype is often racialized to support the idea that African-American women are somehow more fertile or more likely to need government assistance. This is, of course, not true. Yet, it often informs thinking about fertility. Continue reading →

Dr. P.K. and Vulnerable Me

With the power that inevitably accompanies a professional role like that of physician or teacher comes the responsibility not to take advantage of others’ relative vulnerability.

Infertility problems are not something my life partner and I have had to worry about in our marital and procreative relationship. After giving birth to four of the most wonderful, near perfect children on God’s good earth, we decide that it could only go downhill from here.

So one of us has to do something about it. I draw the short straw and find myself in a family practice doc’s office a few weeks later. I don’t know this physician, nor does he know me. My regular primary care physician has referred me to this man because of a Chinese surgical procedure for vasectomy that his partner has just studied. He has not mastered it, however (I will discover rather too late), and will be trying out his new skills on me. Continue reading →

Overcoming Vaccine Anxiety: The Power of Story

This week, I took my daughter to receive the last of her early childhood vaccines. Two years ago, she was completely unvaccinated.

I was raised by parents who, after some bad experiences with conventional medicine, opted not to immunize my siblings or me, instead pursuing more “natural” healthcare options. When I became a parent myself, I was naturally (no pun intended) inclined to follow in their footsteps. But I wanted to make sure I was doing the best by my daughter. So, acknowledging, but not truly resisting my confirmation bias, I endeavored to do some research.

It wasn’t pretty. Continue reading →

White House Worries

In a democracy, political animals reign supreme; recently, the 24-hour, non-stop, binge-inducing, all-consuming social media train ride that is barreling down the tracks to Election Day appears to be on a collision course with our lives—and no sign of a course correction is in sight.

In the era of personal technology, you might find it difficult to step away from the madness long enough to hit pause and take a breath. Between Trump’s tweets and Hillary’s email leaks, the phenomenon of FOMO is in full effect. Perhaps you find yourself fiercely loyal to one of the candidates, convinced that a loss for your team would bring about immediate Armageddon; or perhaps you are merely a political junkie, refreshing FiveThirtyEight.com twice a minute for the thrill of the chase. Continue reading →