Faith in Medicine Series for Vital Magazine

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.

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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 →