Outstanding Academic Titles 2022: Health and Disease

This week we highlight 2022 Outstanding Academic Titles about health and disease

1. Plagues upon the earth: disease and the course of human history
Harper, Kyle. Princeton, 2021

Harper (Univ. of Oklahoma) prefigures the scope of this work in his introduction (“Microorganisms and Macrohistory”): “Human history shapes disease ecology and pathogen evolution; disease ecology and pathogen evolution in turn shape the course of human history. Our genes are a product of our history, and our history has been decisively patterned by the battle with infectious disease” (p. 5). This proposition is fleshed out in succeeding chapters through careful descriptions of every known human plague, and of the organism(s) that caused each one. Harper identifies the animals that have carried the organisms throughout recorded history and in prehistoric times. Some chapters also discuss plant crop diseases. Historical diseases were sometimes brought in check by scientific advances and strong government actions. Harper warns that we should expect new infectious diseases to almost continually become important, as our population grows and we continue to alter the planet. This is a solid book, superbly referenced and interdisciplinary, covering disease from pre-human origins to the present, and making extensive use of published DNA comparisons and descriptions of plagues by historical observers. Appropriate graphs and illustrations abound, with almost 60 pages of notes, 90 of references, and an appendix listing all known organisms that cause infectious disease. View on Amazon

2. Centers of the cancer universe: a half-century of progress against cancer
by Donald L. “Skip” Trump and Eric T. Rosenthal Rowman & Littlefield, 2021

Looking back over the past fifty years, authors Dr. Skip Trump and science journalist Eric Rosenthal together recall their memories of the advances made against the dreaded diagnosis of hopeless cancer. The enactment of the National Cancer Act (NCA) in 1971 increased funding for treatment, research, and education, while various provisions of the new law strengthened the role of the National Cancer Institutes (NCI) in running clinical trials, amassing large data stores, and sharing of research. Decades before, with the emergence of the Korean War, certain physicians had elected to join the cancer community in lieu of serving in a foreign war zone. These same individuals now became noted and honored contributors in the new medical war against cancer. The remarkable progress that resulted, from early application of chemotherapies against pediatric leukemias to the current range of available medical treatments, is retold here, along with mentions of the myriad physicians, researchers, philanthropists, politicians, and patients recognized as the infantry in the quest to conquer cancer. The narrative features specifics about medications currently used and in development, the NCI, the current role of public information and advertising, and challenges still facing both patient and oncologist. View on Amazon

3. Addressing sickle cell disease: a strategic plan and blueprint for action
ed. by Marie McCormick, Henrietta Awo Osei-Anto, and Rose Marie Martinez National Academies Press, 2021

Sickle cell disease is taught in high school biology classes as well as undergraduate and graduate institutions as an example of genetic disease, an important illustration of basic biology concepts. The disease is also covered in nursing and medical classes, and is a popular topic for public health students. Despite its discovery in 1910 and coverage throughout academe, many adults suffering from this condition receive suboptimal treatment. Thus, there remained a need for a monograph that covers the various aspects of sickle cell, from how societal structures have impacted those with the disease to how to deliver high-quality care. This “Consensus Study Report,” undertaken by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, fills the gap by presenting comprehensive information about the disease in one resource. Topical organization makes it easy for readers to focus on particular areas of interest. Summaries at the beginning of each chapter and extensive reference lists following the chapters will aid students and practitioners. Appendixes are also well organized and allow readers to easily locate important information, such as training models for hematologists or support organizations for families. Important study recommendations are also included. View on Amazon

4. Joseph James Kinyoun: discoverer of bubonic plague in America and father of the National Institutes of Health
Houts, Joseph K. McFarland, 2021

Here portrayed by his great-grandson, Kinyoun is an American public health pioneer. Houts traces Kinyoun’s professional career beginning with extensive travels from the 1870s onward, including advanced scientific training in Europe with Koch and Pasteur, followed by a triumphant return to the US bringing the germ theory of disease as well as drugs and vaccines to the backward American practice of medicine. Kinyoun founded the US Hygiene Laboratory (eventually the NIH) and a biologics program (eventually the FDA). In 1909, he diagnosed a deadly epidemic in California as bubonic plague—the first documented outbreak in the New World. For this he was vilified and even accused of terrorism by California partisans while caught between federal and state jurisdictional control of the disease he had diagnosed. Houts presents exciting context on the manifestations and spread of plague through several epidemics, ending in San Francisco. Although Kinyoun’s hygiene lab prospered and was moved to Washington, he personally became a victim, and the story gets ugly: he lost his position, control of his laboratory, and his good name. Kinyoun died in 1919 virtually unknown, never achieving his place among the greats of infectious disease research and prevention. The book strikes a good balance between the medicine and politics of public health practice. View on Amazon

5Breast cancer facts, myths, and controversies: understanding current screenings and treatments
Finkel, Madelon Lubin. Praeger, 2021

Breast cancer doesn’t care who you are. Though it is considered a disease of middle-aged and older women, it can strike men, younger women, and even children with equal ferocity. Hearing “you have cancer” is a horrible experience for anyone, but a breast cancer diagnosis may be especially emotionally charged for women as it can seem to strike at the heart of what being female means. This well-researched, well-written book is an essential tool for laypeople interested in the current state of breast cancer research. It covers everything from the history of breast cancer through current screening recommendations and the variety of treatment options available today. The treatment section is especially important: it covers the pros and cons of different modalities, what side effects to expect, and other points for potential discussion. Additional topics include holistic therapies; coping with breast cancer, including the emotional aspects of the disease; and patient-physician communications. There is also a section on finding the support necessary to getting through the treatment process. View on Amazon

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