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February 26 - March 1, 2015 

A terrible demonstration

The New Physician November-December 2014

In the past few weeks, and particularly since the .rst U.S.-based transmissions of the Ebola virus in Dallas last month, there has been little health news that hasn’t been overrun by the latest updates, setting aside the fact that the outbreak had already been raging in West Africa for months.

Even if the crisis in West Africa and the feverish response to the handful of diagnoses here in the United States does crystalize a number of topics we usually cover in the abstract: The global nature of health and disease, the critical importance of biomedical research even without a crisis at hand, and how our society views its healers.

Even if the moral argument for developing health infrastructure overseas weren’t persuasive, the current crisis is a fast-moving example of how interconnected our world and our health is: We are seeing in every news update how the global health inequities that have been building for centuries have played out in a matter of months. Our readers know this well, but our health here can’t be insulated from the world, nor should it be.

In the media response, from national news down to our Facebook feeds, we’ve seen how health information can be twisted and how widespread health illiteracy can become more than just a nuisance. We’ve seen public frustration when our vaunted institutions fall short, even if those frustrations are misdirected. We’ve seen the politicization of health and medicine in the run-up to elections, when the physicians and other clinicians are the ones putting themselves on the front lines of this disease.

Hopefully today’s medical students take many lessons from this crisis, but among them, remember that we can’t take the real world dynamics of disease for granted. We can’t take logical, measured responses to fast-moving health crises for granted.

We can’t take the public’s faith in physicians for granted.

For our health care system in general, as student editor Luke Messac found out speaking to leading health economists, we can’t take logical, measured responses to economic questions for granted either. Luke spoke with “systems doctors” about their frustrations in working to shape the U.S. health care system. His feature begins on page 18.

Starting on page 24, Paul Wynn looks at formative volunteer experiences to be had within our own borders, where we have plenty of need. On page 31, Angie Hamouie walks us through a case demonstrating the sliding scale of value we’ve given patients.

As always, let us know what you think of these stories or any other in this issue. We look forward to hearing from you at  

Pete Thomson