Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Doctor by Any Other Name

Last December, controversy swirled when a Wall Street Journal op-ed argued Jill Biden shouldn’t go by “Dr. Jill.” The same debate occurred a century prior, when in 1921 a group at UVA formed the Society for the Rationalization of the Title of Doctor.

The New York Times Sunday Magazine covered the story:

“It may be that the hovering spirit of Thomas Jefferson, renowned, whether justly or not, for conspicuously democratic habits and behavior, moved the professors at the university which he founded to declare that all men were not only free and equal but should show it by wearing the same title.”

So should the title “doctor” be reserved solely for physicians? The article also quoted Nicholas Murray Butler, president of Columbia University, who argued that even physicians shouldn’t:

“I see no reason why the disagreeable habit of addressing certain persons by the title of doctor should not be done away with entirely,” he said to an inquirer the other day. “And there is no more reason for addressing a doctor of medicine as doctor than for so addressing a doctor of philosophy, of laws, or of theological. In fact, in England it is not done.”

The other side of the argument was that everybody who earns a doctorate should be called “doctor,” including Ph.D.’s and others.

How about the horn-rimmed-spectacled young man who has just won his degree by presenting the world with a thick volume entitled “The Intensive Use of  Skylights in the Monasteries of the Thirteenth Century,” with voluminous footnotes abounding in Latin on each page? And the other young man who has been similarly rewarded for his thesis on “The Declining Prestige of the Preposition ‘Ab’ After the Second Punic War.” And he who has chased the parts of speech all the way from H.G. Wells back to Chaucer and is off the press with a tome demonstrating beyond a doubt that Pope was more fond of intransitive verbs than was Francis Bacon? What of these? And of thousands of others like them? Is it not cruel and unusual punishment to deprive them of the glory for which they have so faithfully labored?

The debate continues today. Conservative author Joseph Epstein published a December 2020 Wall Street Journal op-ed arguing that incoming First Lady Jill Biden shouldn’t call herself “Dr.”

The Ph.D. may once have held prestige, but that has been diminished by the erosion of seriousness and the relaxation of standards in university education generally, at any rate outside the sciences. Getting a doctorate was then an arduous proceeding: One had to pass examinations in two foreign languages, one of them Greek or Latin, defend one’s thesis, and take an oral examination on general knowledge in one’s field. At Columbia University of an earlier day, a secretary sat outside the room where these examinations were administered, a pitcher of water and a glass on her desk. The water and glass were there for the candidates who fainted. A far cry, this, from the few doctoral examinations I sat in on during my teaching days, where candidates and teachers addressed one another by first names and the general atmosphere more resembled a kaffeeklatsch. Dr. Jill, I note you acquired your Ed.D. as recently as 15 years ago at age 55, or long after the terror had departed.

Jill Biden defended herself on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

That was such a surprise. It was really the tone of it. He called me ‘kiddo.’ One of the things I’m most proud of is my doctorate. I worked so hard for it. Joe came when I defended my thesis. But look at all the people who came out in support of me.”

I won’t wade into the debate over whether Jill Biden should call herself “Dr.” but hopefully we can all agree that Dr. Dre never received his doctorate. That man has been inflating his academic credentials since the late ’80s.

 

Doctor by Any Other Name (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 24, 1921

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

April 23rd, 2021 at 12:41 pm

Posted in Debate,Health

How to Live for More Than a Hundred Years

French doctor L.H. [Louis-Henri] Goizet published a book in 1920 claiming a surefire trick to live past age 100: massaging your head. Let’s just say that’s not the prevailing scientific consensus today.

Now for the treatment. He sits us on a stool, and, beginning at the top of the head, for, he says, the brain is the home of the Ego and the centre of gravity of our being, and all physiological evolution takes place around its extreme axis, he begins with slow, gentle, rotary, tractile motions, from west to east, since that is the course of all nature’s movements, both internal and external, as exemplified by the course of the planets around the sun, to rub the top of our head with the palm of the hand.

Goizet claimed all sorts of amazing transformations on patients as a result:

“It seems extraordinary, at first, that rubbings so light could produce effects of such importance that under their conscious and reasoned action one sees the enlarged mouth shrink, the commissures contract, the nostrils appear, the jaws relax, the teeth loosen, the wrinkles disappear, the contracted and elevated shoulders descend to their normal place, the neck gets clear, the head, stooping forward, becomes erect, the wrists become refined, the fingers taper and stretch out…”

I’ll stop it there, but that one sentence continues on for dozens of more words.

What’s the secret to old age, according to today’s most up-to-date scientific knowledge? In 2015, Scottish 109-year-old Jessie Gallan told the Daily Mail her key to remaining alive so long was “staying away from men.” Maybe she has a point: of the 28 people currently alive who have been validated as age 110 or older, all 28 are female. Seeing as I am a man, alas, it will be hard to stay away from myself.

 

How to Live for More Than a Hundred Years (PDF)

Published: Sunday, November 14, 1920

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

November 12th, 2020 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Health

Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis

The end of World War I was great news for everyone, but especially for psychiatrists. Shouldn’t war have meant more need for psychiatrists, and peace meant less need? Actually, it was apparently the opposite.

They’re all back, it seems — that neurotic clan of wealthy women, ranging from hysterical debutantes to idle spinsters — from the victims of coddling husbands to “misunderstood wives.” Before the war their favorite indoor sport was symptoms. From April 1917 to November 1918, the neurosthenic market had a sensational slump. But the war is over — for the ladies, if not for prohibitionists.

One professional explained how the war had slashed demand for psychological services.

“Young girls,” said the doctor, “whose sole end in life had been to succeed in society and to make a ‘suitable match’ got down on their hands and knees and scrubbed the floors of canteens and hospitals. They had no time for introspection. Moreover, they had an emotional outlet, since patriotism is as intense an experience as religion.”

Interestingly, something similar may be happening currently. America is not at war, yet people seem to be more worried. Therapists have reported huge post-2016 spikes in people citing Donald Trump as a cause of their stress, worry, or psychological symptoms. (Those on the right call this “Trump Derangement Syndrome.”)

 

Nervous Invalids Back on a Peace Basis: War’s Compensatory Outlets Closed, the Neurologists’ Waiting Rooms Are Crowded Again, and the Sanitaria for the Newly and Idly Rich Are Booming (PDF)

Published: Sunday, December 14, 1919

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

December 10th, 2019 at 11:10 am

Posted in Health

War as a Tonic for Jaded Feminine Nerves

WWI caused a marked declined in women’s slouching — a change which some doctors attributed to the war itself..

Said Dr. Eugene L. Fisk, director of the Life Extension Institute in June 1918:

The most gratifying physical change in women is in their posture. Time was, not so far distant, when the clouch was a fashionable attitude for women. This began in society, was seen on the stage, and was reflected widely among workingwomen. It was accentuated by the hobble skirt and the turkey trot, just before the war.

The last year has come like a breath of fresh air to the physical habits of all women. I believe the unconscious influence of the military largely accounts for it. The soldier has captured the popular imagination. The military bearing, the military salute, the military appearance appeal to the women even more quickly than to the men, and they react to it automatically in their physical manners. A girl who glides or slouches or minces along is no longer considered desirable by young men or envied by her associates.

What may make this doubly surprising is that WWI actually generally marked the end of corsets in America. Corsets forced women to sit up straighter with better posture, so one might think that their decline as a fashion would actually cause more slouching rather than less.

War as a Tonic for Jaded Feminine Nerves: Physicians Say They Are Now Treating Fewer Women Whose Ills Are Imaginary — Military Heels, Sensible Toes, and the Erect Carriage Instead of the Slouch (PDF)

Published: Sunday, June 23, 1918

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Written by A Step in the Write Direction

June 22nd, 2018 at 10:53 am

Baseball as Means of Keeping the Doctor Away

With the MLB season just resuming again last week, let’s take a trip back to 1918, when the two biggest sports were baseball and boxing. Basketball and football were very much secondary on the popularity scale.

A recent conversation with my brother speculated about which people from 2018 would still be remembered by the general public in 100 years, with my brother suggesting that LeBron James would, under the logic that “Babe Ruth is still remembered 100 years later.” But even Babe Ruth hasn’t truly passed the 100-year test yet — although his professional baseball career began in 1914, he didn’t truly start becoming a legend until the 1920s, with his first MVP award not until 1923.

In this 1918 article, the biggest baseball players mentioned at the time and included in the featured illustrations were Ty Cobb, Charley Herzon, and Willie Keeler — none of whom are much remembered by anybody today outside of hardcore baseball fans. Just goes to show that you never really know who or what will last in the public consciousness.

This article describes how baseball was as much a psychological sport as a physical one:

“Then the discovery was made. The habit of many seasons had become somehow altered. He no longer swung with ease in a parallel to the ground. Instead he popped flies and hacked the ball toward the ground. The points found, it was necessary to discover what made the change.

“On examination again, it was brought out that a few enlarged glands in the neck, from some poor teeth, would become a little sore only when his bat was swung as he had originally trained, namely, on the horizontal. It was not much of a pain, but unconsciously for a month he had avoided that important movement. A batting “slump” was the result. Once the diagnosis was made, despite some delay in the removal of the cause, he resumed the horizontal swing and his restored batting average became apparent.”

Baseball as Means of Keeping the Doctor Away: How the Expert Batter Needs the Vigor and Sharpened Senses of Perfect Health — A Little Psychology on the Side (PDF)

Published: Sunday, April 7, 1918

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April 8th, 2018 at 12:33 pm

Posted in Health,Sports

Less Sugar Means Good-bye to Your Surplus Fat

As the government asked Americans to spend more conservatively in the early months of WWI, one way in which people could save money quickly became apparent.

“In 1916 the per capita consumption of sugar in Germany was approximately 20 pounds a person per annum… In England it was about 40 pounds; in France about 37 pounds, and in Italy about 29 or 30 pounds. In the United States it was 85 pounds! In New York City it was almost a hundred pounds.”

Americans may have cut back on the sugar intake during WWI, but alas the trend didn’t stick. Per capita sugar consumption is now more than 100 pounds per year. And America consumes by far the most sugar per capita of any nation.

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Source: Business Insider

Less Sugar Means Good-bye to Your Surplus Fat: Uncle Sam’s Appeal Demands a Tightening of Belts Among the Sweet-Toothed, for Whom This Extravagant Country Is Famous (PDF)

From Sunday, November 4, 1917

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November 2nd, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Health

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army

If soldiers in WWI thought the Axis Powers were scary, they had nothing on chlamydia.

During the war, the U.S. military lost more than 7 million “person-days” and were forced to discharge more than 10,000 men due to sexually transmitted diseases.

Mere months into the war, top official realized this could become a serious problem. William H. Zinsser, Chairman of Council of National Defense’s Sub-Committee for Civilian Cooperation in Combatting Venereal Diseases, said:

 “One nation, during the first year and a half of war, lost the services of more men through venereal disease than through death or wounds in battle. One regiment which participated in a furious attack in Northern France was sent back of the lines to recuperate, and there joined another regiment which had been encamped behind the front for some time and had seen no actual fighting at all. Will you believe that the latter regiment, the one that had not been in action, had lost the services of more men through venereal disease during its stay behind the lines than the one back from the firing line had lost in the attack?”

Barring Sex Disease from the American Army: For the First Time in History a Nation Takes Advance Steps to Avert an Evil Worse Than Battle Casualties (PDF)

From Sunday, October 28, 1917

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October 27th, 2017 at 12:01 pm

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food

According to the historical consumer price index, 30 cents in August 1917 was worth $5.65 in June 2017, the most recent month for which inflation can be calculated. Can you live on $5.65 worth of food per day in the modern era?

The article portrays it as a major feat, but it actually doesn’t strike me as too difficult, especially if you eat homemade prepared meals and don’t eat out. Get some bread, turkey, American cheese, and mayonnaise — you can make two sandwiches for lunch at the cost of, what, maybe a dollar or two? Have some Cheerios and milk for breakfast, that’s maybe another dollar or two.

But you would almost certainly have to spend more than $5.65 to eat what the author, Dr. Mary K. Isham, describes over the course of a day:

  • “A bowl of steamed whole wheat with milk and sugar” [for breakfast]
  • “Three cheese sandwiches, a large glass of iced whiskyless eggnor with a few  drops of vanilla instead, and a big banana” [“for luncheon”]
  • “Two slices of beef loaf, baked yesterday; boiled corn on the cob, a plate of combination salad, three slices of bread and butter, coffee, half a sugar melon, and two wafers of chocolate peppermint” [for dinner]

 

Keeping Healthy on 30 Cents a Day for Food: New York Doctor Tells How She Manages to Spend Only That Much for Three Square Meals Consisting of First-Class Viands (PDF)

From Sunday, August 5, 1917

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August 5th, 2017 at 10:06 am

Posted in Health

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business

Although we now usually associate the phrase “draft dodger” with Vietnam avoiders going to Canada, the phenomenon occurred on a lesser scale during World War I as well. (Though far less frequently, given the almost unanimous American support and patriotism for the war effort.)

This article on the subject begins in the second-person, being addressed to “you” — a form of writing almost entire unseen in the pages of the New York Times during this ear.

“A word with you, Mr. Would-Be Slacker. If you’re thinking of trying to dodge the selective draft by pretending physical disability when you get before the local examination board, here’s a bit of advice: Don’t. Since you are Mr. Would-Be Slacker there is no use preaching patriotism to you. But here is something that will influence you: If you try to dodge the draft and are caught, there is a heavy penalty, both fine and imprisonment; and you’re almost sure to get caught.”

Small Chance for Draft Dodgers If Doctors Know Their Business: Scientific Methods for Detecting Malingerers Who Pretend Ailments of Eyes, Ears or Muscles (PDF)

From Sunday, July 29, 2017

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July 28th, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Professor Blames Beer for German Outrages

What was causing German atrocities during World War I? Harvard geology professor Reginald Aldworth Daly suggested a largely-unheralded factor may have been alcohol:

“The Germanic peoples are the only great group who feed alcohol to the babies or very young children of middle and upper classes. Just at the time of life when the nervous system should be specially protected against all poisons, vast numbers of German children are kept mildly charged with alcohol. If the baby has not already been prenatally damaged because of the beer drunk by his mother, he still runs the risk of poisoning from the alcohol-bearing milk of a drinking mother or wetnurse. The child grows to manhood, drinking alcohol and continually handicapped in his development of cerebral, and therefore moral, control.”

Daly concludes with a quote from von Moltke: “Beer is a far more dangerous enemy to Germany than all the armies of France.”

According to statistics from the World Health Organization, Germany today still ranks among the biggest alcohol-consuming nations in the world, with an average 11.4 liters of alcohol consumed per capita, for citizens age 15 or older. The global average is 6.4. The U.S. number is 9.3. Highest in the world is Lithuania at 18.2.

Professor Blames Beer for German Outrages: Cumulative Effect of “Mildly Alcoholic State” on the Minds of Men Who Have Imbibed National Drink Since Babyhood (PDF)

From Sunday, July 1, 1917

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July 2nd, 2017 at 3:14 pm