New president for Friends of Science in Medicine

Monash University Associate Professor Ken Harvey AM is the new President of Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM). FSM was formed in 2011 and has grown to become a major critic of unscientific health practices and fraudulent health claims. It has advised governments and media, made numerous submissions to inquiries and provided extensive public advice concerning dubious health claims and practices. It successfully advocated the removal of private health insurance taxpayer-funded rebates from “natural” therapies that lacked evidence of efficacy. Professor Harvey said: “I am delighted to take on the presidency. Valuing scientific rigour is especially important in an age where unsubstantiated health claims are rampant and scientific consensus is ‘imbalanced’ by the views of extremists. We critique unproven and exploitative services offered by medical practitioners, such as the infusion of intravenous vitamins and chelation therapy. We are equally concerned about traditional Chinese medical practitioners claiming that acupuncture can treat infertility, or naturopaths advocating homeopathy. We encourage tertiary institutions and students of medicine and health sciences to critically appraise therapeutic products and services as part of the courses offered. Complementary medicine provides a fertile field for students to assess the often outrageous claims made, and report regulatory breaches.” The FSM 2019 executive is President: Associate Professor Ken Harvey AM, School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, Monash University; Vice-President: Professor Rob Morrison OAM, School of Education, Flinders University; Treasurer: Dr Pallave Dasari, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Adelaide Medical School; Professor Paul Rolan, Director Innovation, Health and Medical Sciences Faculty Office, Adelaide University; Professor Hubertus Jersmann, Discipline of Medicine, University of Adelaide; Dr Sue Ieraci, Senior Staff Specialist, Emergency Medicine, Bankstown Hospital, University of Sydney; Dr Benson Riddle, General Practitioner, Sydney; Associate Professor Basia Diug, Head (Quality and Innovation), Medical Education Research and Quality Unit, School of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, Monash University; Loretta Marron OAM, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary.

Advancing women in science and medicine

Australian research features strongly in a special issue of The Lancet dedicated to advancing women in science and medicine. An editorial stated: “Gender equity is not only a matter of justice and rights, it is crucial for producing the best research and providing the best care to patients. If the fields of science, medicine, and global health are to hope to work towards improving human lives, then they must be representative of the societies they serve. The fight for gender equity is everyone’s responsibility, and this means that feminism, too, is for everybody — for men and women, researchers, clinicians, funders, institutional leaders and, yes, even for medical journals.” Authors from the University of Melbourne, the University of Sydney, the Australian Academy of Science, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, Male Champions of Change STEM, and Science in Australia Gender Equity contributed to the issue. Research articles include: Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science? A natural experiment at a national funding agency; Why do women leave surgical training? A qualitative and feminist study; and Factors affecting sex-related reporting in medical research: a cross-disciplinary bibliometric analysis. Reviews cover the topics of Gender equality in science, medicine, and global health; Gender and ethnic diversity in leading universities; Applying feminist theory to medical education; The need for feminist global health agenda; Engaging men to support women in science, medicine, and global health; Athena SWAN and ADVANCE: effectiveness and lessons learned; Working toward gender diversity and inclusion in medicine; and, Organisational best practices.

Vitamin D helps treat lethal drug-resistant TB

Vitamin D has been found to speed up the clearance of tuberculosis (TB) bacteria from the lungs of people with multi-drug resistant TB, according to a study of 1850 patients receiving antibiotic treatment, published in the European Respiratory Journal. The research team pooled data from 1850 TB patients who took part in clinical trials of vitamin D in eight countries (the UK, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Republic of Georgia and Guinea Bissau). They then ran an analysis to see whether there were particular groups of patients who responded better to vitamin D than others. When added to antibiotic treatment, vitamin D was found to accelerate TB clearance specifically in patients with MDR TB, even though no acceleration of TB clearance was seen when looking at the entire study population as a whole. The vitamin D supplementation was also found to be safe at the doses administered, with no links to serious adverse events. The researchers say these results illustrate the potential for so-called ‘host-directed therapies’ – treatments that boost the immune system – to improve outcomes in patients with drug-resistant bacterial infections. The researchers caution that the analysis is not sufficient on its own to justify a clinical recommendation of the use of vitamin D in the treatment of MDR TB, as it is based on a relatively small number of participants. However, they say these results now provide a rationale to carry out new clinical trials to see if vitamin D really can benefit patients who are taking standard antibiotics for MDR TB.


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Perfectionism is a danger to doctors' mental health
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