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Apr 6 2011

Cornerstone Time Capsule

During National Hospital Week, Community Hospital will open a box that had been placed in the cornerstone of the newly built Osteopathic Hospital in 1964. Such cornerstone "deposits" were placed during a Masonic ceremony that dates back centuries. One of the earliest written records of the ritual was done from the 1739 celebration of the New Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Such celebrations continue today, where local Masonic Lodges host Masons from around a state and the Grand Lodge to commemorate the construction of a building. The ceremony includes officials, and their guests, of the building being constructed. The Masons parade to the construction site and engage in a ceremony that opens and closes with a prayer. A square, a level, and a plumb are used to check not just the stone itself, but to remind all present of their virtue, equality, and rectitude. The stone is consecrated with corn, wine, and oil. Local officials usually speak at the occasion.

In masonic terminology, the Cornerstone is the first stone placed above ground, and is usually at the northeast corner of the building. The Foundation stone is usually the first stone laid underground in building a masonry structure. The Capstone is the topmost stone that completes the structure. Some abbreviations on the Masonic cornerstone or plaque require explanation: MW Grand Lodge means Most Worshipful, AF & AM means Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. There are sometimes two dates (in our case): A.D. 1964 and A.L. 5964. The A.L.signifies Anno Lucis, year of light in Latin. The Masonic calendar traditionally dated from 4004 BCE; the creation of the universe, Anno Mundi, as computed by Archbishop James Ussher in 1650-54. In the mid-18th century the Masons started using Anno Lucis dates.

While the Masons refer to the objects they place in the Cornerstone as a "deposit", the term "time capsule" has crept into our language. The first use of "time capsule" was applied to the torpedo shaped object buried at the 1939 World's Fair in New York City. The plaque marking the location lists some of its contents: tooth powder, bifocals, asbestos shingle, and zippered tobacco pouch. A second time capsule was buried when the 1964 World's Fair was also held in New York City. This capsule contained artifacts from a newer generation: a checkered bikini, credit cards, a Beatle's record, filter cigarettes, and freeze-dried foods.

The time capsule concept seems to run throughout history and across cultures. Artifacts about buildings were intentionally placed in caches in ancient Assyria. When a statue toppled at the Christchurch cathedral in their recent earthquake, two time capsules were found in the plinth. Time capsules have played major roles in the plots of some recent films: the 2009 science fiction thrilling Knowing and the 2001 South Korean romantic comedy My Sassy Girl (although not in its 2008 American remake).

What can we expect when ours is opened in May? In some other cases, the cornerstone artifacts include a local newspaper, business cards of persons attending the ceremony, information about the ceremony, and objects placed in the deposit by the Masons. We will find out if the employees and trustees entrusted any other relics to the box for our discovery.

Feel free to visit some of the sources I consulted for this article:
The 1964 marker
The 1939 marker
Cornerstones: A Masonic Tradition of Dedication
2002 Cornerstone Ceremony at the Elko Airport
Wikipedia on the Time Capsule
Freemasons and the U.S. Capitol Cornerstone

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 4:16 PM - Categories:

Mar 11 2011

The Diabetes Belt

Researchers with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have just published an article identifying the diabetes belt: 644 counties in 15 mostly-southern states that have estimated adult diabetes rates greater than 11%. The counties are in close proximity, most touch another such county, and form a coherent unit when mapped.

The study, to be published in the April 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine has been made available in a pre-publication version. (At the time of this writing, the article is openly accessible on the publisher's web site.)

The researchers took data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) surveys from 2007 and 2008, combined it with estimates of diagnosed diabetes among adults, and have compiled it into a group of maps that can be viewed at CDC's Diabetes Data and Trends web site.

Users can choose among three indicators: Diagnosed Diabetes, Obesity, and Physical Activity and select the year of interest and the type of data. Even staying within a single indicator, changing the other parameters will alter the map display.Switching from percentages to numbers of adults, one sees a switch from those counties with small populations and lots of diabetics, to the urban centers in each state. Users can also drill down to a specific state using the drop-down menu and see the map and estimated values for each county.

As you might guess from the maps, Colorado has the lowest obesity rate of any state, and its residents engage in regular physical activity, both appear to have positive effects on preventing diabetes.

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 1:03 PM - Categories:

Jan 26 2011

The Haptics of Writing

When we took our daughter to law school last summer, we made a pilgrimmage to an Apple Store to purchase a new Macbook to replace her five-year old Powerbook. Surely many of you have made similar pilgrimmages on behalf of your own children.

During one of our conversations last fall I asked our daughter if she were using the laptop to take notes in class. No, she was not. She preferred to take notes by hand and transcribe them to the computer later. Perhaps she was also being somewhat smug by not joining all the students who used their computers during lectures to checkout Facebook pages, read e-mail, or tweet their opinion on the latest trends. A recent Doonesbury touched on this aspect of life in the contemporary college lecture hall.

When the fall semester was ending, I asked our daughter if she could use her computer for her final exams. Yes, she could. You had to install software from the college that blocked access to the Internet and did not allow the student to write outside the alloted time. However, our daughter chose to handwrite her exams. Only two students chose to handwrite, and they met in a room of their own. Our daughter acknowledged that handwriting was slower than typing, but thought it gave her time to better formulate her ideas. With only two students in the room, it was a quiet location for thinking.

Today, I read a news item about a paper in the Advances of Haptics: "Digitizing literacy: reflections on the haptics of writing". The authors, Anne Mangen and Jean-Luc Velay, look at the relationship between how we write with cognitive development. They are primarily interested in handwriting versus word processing. The study draws on evolutionary biology, biopsychology, and neuroscience to explore how handwriting – the manual formation of letters in the process of writing – affects our reading which thereby influences our whole process of learning.

My simplified synopsis of the two modalities is that handwriting is a unimanual activity with a focus on a single physical point - where the pen or pencils meets the paper. Word processing is a bimanual activity that has two separated spaces: the keyboard and the display. Plus the writer does not form the letters in word processing, but does in handwriting.

Even if you do not have a child leaving their newest laptop at home during lectures and exams, you might enjoy reading this article.

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 11:50 AM - Categories:

Jan 5 2011


If you are one of the 2011 resolutionaries who vowed to become more active and fit in new year, you might want to visit which is both the URL for web site and the acronym for the Couch to 5K program.

Although this program has been around since 1996, I was not aware of it until seeing it mentioned on an NHS web site this week. The nine-week approach uses three training sessions a week to get the participant from alternating walking and running to being able to run for an entire 30 minute stretch.

The program's web site includes a plethora of useful information:

  • Written instructions in more than 20 languages
  • A version for treadmill users
  • Podcasts to put on your favorite MP3 to accompany your sessions
  • C25K apps for iPhone and Android
  • Inspirational stories
  • What to do beyond 5K

Before beginning any exercise program, especially if you were the ultimate couch potato in 2010, you should check-in with your healthcare provdier.

If that New Year's Resolution feels old, and you did make it last year, you might want to check out C25K and find our how others have gone from the living room to 3.1 miles in nine weeks. And that treadmill version might come in handy until the snowpack and ice have melted from the streets.

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 2:55 PM - Categories:

Dec 7 2010

The Long and Short of It

Whenever I participate in the New Hire Clinical Orientation, I bring a recent news item on medical research. In preparation for the orientation on December 2, I checked my usual online sources. A story on the NHS Behind the News site caught my eye.

Finger Length Predicts Prostate Cancer. This web site evaluates recent medical research that has attracted media attention. They do a first-rate job summarizing the research, stating what conclusions are possible from the type of research done, and give their own appraisal of the study and often comment on the media headlines and clamor.

This research compared the ratio of the length of a man's index finger to ring finger and compared that to the incidence of prostate cancer to see if this ratio would work as a low-cost marker for prostate cancer. In the study, over half of the men had a shorter index finger than ring finger. Statistically, more men whose index finger is shorter than their ring finger had prostate cancer. This length ratio is linked to the testosterone exposure as the fetus develops in utero.This exposure to the hormone is thought to influence the later likelihood of developing prostate cancer.

The synopses on Behind the News are done by Bazian (their name is a delightful play on "Bayesian" analysis). They have written a case study of their NHS work. I rather expected them to take the finger length study to task. Really, finger length being predictive of cancer?

Instead, they were much more accepting of key parts of the analysis. They accepted the type of study, liked the size of the study. But they had questions about some other aspects of the research. While the percentage of men with indexed fingers shorter than ring fingers in this study is over 50%, fewer than half the men had prostate cancer. Bazian suggests that there is some other cause at work here that likely affects finger length as well as a propensity to develop prostate cancer. They even mention that this study looked only at men's right hands, but some studies looking at both hands don't find a straightforward relationship between finger length and hormone exposure.

Whenever a medical research items makes a big splash, head on over to Behind the Headlines to see what Bazian has to say about it. Besides, it is a fun way to learn about the different study types and improve your evidence-based practice appraisal skills.

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 4:12 PM - Categories:

Nov 22 2010

NCBI's Images Database

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has released an image database built from the full-text articles in the PubMed Central repository. When the database went online in October, it held more than 2.5 million images. For more background, read the NIH Press Release.

The images can be graphs, line drawings, illustrations, radiography, or photographs. To see some of the range of resources, view the results of this search on chorea.

While I find that quick word searches have worked well for my uses, there is an extensive help page explaining other ways to search as well as dissecting the images results page.

The database includes extensive holdings of genomic images, but I can see the database being useful in a community hospital setting. Perhaps you have just attended an in-service on wound vacs and wondered what types of wounds these devices are used to treat. The results aren't pretty, but here they are.

Please do keep in mind that while viewing these images to open to anyone, use of the images must comply with their copyright status.

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 12:11 PM - Categories:

Oct 28 2010

On Become a "Branch Campus"

Subject examinations, aka shelf exams, are administered to medical students as they complete their clinical rotations or clerkships. This morning, a third year student from Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine took his examination here at Community Hospital.

Several RVUCOM students are spending the year in Grand Junction and are doing most of their clinical rotations with local physicians. Being able to take their examinations here saves them from making the winter drive across I-70. (View the current road conditions across the state thanks to the Colorado Department of Transportation.)

This step comes as we completed the requirements from the National Board of Medical Examiners to be a "branch campus" of Rocky Vista for testing purposes. We had to be located at least two hours from the college - no problem meeting that requirement, we needed to have the appropriate facilities, and we needed to have an Associate Executive Chief Proctor.

Heather Gray agreed to be our initial AECP; now Dan Thomas has taken over that position. Heather and Dan, along with Connie, Erica, and myself are the proctors who can administer the examinations. We surely have one of the highest proctor-to-student ratios of any NBME site, but feel this is a valuable service to offer the medical students.

0 comments - Posted by Steve Rauch at 3:44 PM - Categories: