Racism in Science?

We at Vital are excited to announce a new series, beginning soon, on Racism in Science.

It might surprise a great many people to learn what social scientists have long maintained, that race has little if any biological basis. If, as Kittles and Benn-Torres explain race has “no clear biological definition yet strong social and cultural meanings,” what does it mean today to study race in science, medicine, and health? Continue reading →

Forbidden Iron

My Uncle Brian recently tried to describe someone to my father. “He was a tall slender guy, like Michael.” Michael is me.

“Brian, when was the last time you saw Michael?”

“Maybe a year and a half ago . . . why?”

“Why?! Brian, he’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger! He’s busting out of his shirts!’”

I felt my face turn red when my father related this conversation to me. Part of me was pleased—I work hard at the gym. Another part of me, a part I keep hidden, knew I had so much further to go—and that was why I blushed, not because of the compliment. It’s that second part, the secret part, throbbing constantly under everything else, that I want to talk about. The incessant drumbeat inside me that calls out for more, that animates my endeavors at the gym. It feels like an unseemly thing I’d do best to hide. It is a desire that I have hidden, or downplayed, or dressed up in respectable guises.

Well. Time to come out of the closet.

Continue reading →

Let’s Not Blame the Milk

Breastfed infants, as opposed to formula-fed infants, are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. While this is true, it’s important not to blame the milk. Here’s why.

Breastfeeding. It’s almost scary to write anything about it. There are women who feel bad because they do not or cannot breastfeed. There are women who do so and love it. There are women who do so and hate it. There are women who barely get through six months and women who adore nursing toddlers. There are women who are defiantly pro-formula and those who feel proud to have never given their child a drop of formula. Continue reading →

“Haiti is Not a Theater of Suffering”: An Interview with Jonathan M. Katz

When it comes to international aid, attempts to improve public health, assist in development, and respond to natural disasters can be thwarted by political strife and global economic inequality that stretch far beyond the control of the individuals whose lives are at stake. In this context, expertise in the culture, history, and language of a country, in addition to scientific and medical knowledge, can go a long way toward improving the potential success of public health policies and interventions.

The cholera epidemic that spread in Haiti nine months after the 2010 earthquake, for example, was started by U.N. peacekeeping forces, but only six years after its initial outbreak did the U.N. admit it played a role in the affair. In an effort to understand how deeply-rooted assumptions about a culture can have significant impact on public health policy, Lesley S. Curtis, Vital’s Editor-in-Chief and scholar of Haitian Studies, interviewed Jonathan M. Katz, the journalist whose investigation first revealed the U.N.’s responsibility for the epidemic and the author of The Big Truck that Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Continue reading →

Multiple Sclerosis: Treating Myself, Treating Others

On a brisk February morning in 2014, Dan Nuzzo woke up gasping for air. His heart was racing and he could no longer sleep. That moment, Dan explained, was his “lowest point” since his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis two years before. Indeed, at this time, his symptoms were so severe that he postponed his physical therapy training for a second time. Continue reading →