Outstanding Academic Titles: Health Sciences

Enjoy these five selections from the Choice Reviews 2021 Outstanding Academic Titles list. This week we highlight Health Science titles.

1. Adverse events: race, inequality, and the testing of new pharmaceuticals
Fisher, Jill A. New York University, 2020

Adverse Events is a rigorous text that examines how Phase I clinical trials on new pharmaceuticals (drug candidates) are carried out in the US. Human participants in these trials are selected from a pool of healthy volunteers, with the intent to control potential “adverse effects” that could result from taking the medications. In this study, Fisher (Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) documents how such trials are actually conducted through interviews with volunteers and participating staff. The economic, corporate, and administrative context of clinical trial facilities is examined, along with the priorities of pharmaceutical companies involved. This book presents weighty implications relative to current US economic and employment arrangements, since in practice most healthy volunteers are men drawn from socially disadvantaged groups (the unemployed, immigrants, racial/ethnic minorities) and/or who live in economically disadvantaged communities. The high rate of compensation is attractive to volunteers, despite the health risks involved and a highly controlled clinical setting that resembles incarceration. Risk assessment, informed consent, and social interaction among volunteers and with clinical staff are among the topics discussed. View on Amazon

2. Divided bodies: Lyme disease, contested illness, and evidence-based medicine
Dumes, Abigail Anne. Duke, 2020

The Lyme bacterium, transmitted by a tick, causes systemic disease and a distinctive rash, and yields to adequate antibiotic treatment, which kills the germs and prevents complications. The treatment is considered effective, the germ eradicated. Many patients, however, believe that they suffer from persistent infection (or “chronic Lyme”) due to delayed, inadequate, or failed treatment. “Mainstream medicine” and medical insurance providers categorically deny the existence of chronic Lyme. Patients, advocacy groups, and “Lyme-literate physicians” believe as strongly that the condition is real, disabling, and requires long-term treatment. Dumes (women’s and gender studies, Univ. of Michigan) used an anthropological and ethnographic methodology to illuminate the deep divide between mainstream medicine and “Lyme-literate medicine.” She shadowed physicians and interviewed patients and practitioners to elucidate the controversy, and in the process illuminated the challenge of applying “evidence-based medicine.” In five chapters she “maps the controversy,” explains treatment and prevention, gives voice to sufferers, and examines chronic Lyme in the context of evidence-based medicine. This book is valuable for its illustration of how some medical paradigms become mainstream, while others disappear. Chronic Lyme, whatever it is, holds up a mirror to evidence-based medicine. View on Amazon

3. Fighting the first wave: why the coronavirus was tackled so differently across the globe
Baldwin, Peter. Cambridge, 2021

Baldwin (Univ. of California, Los Angeles) details how nations responded differently to COVID-19’s global outbreak during the initial months of the pandemic. While he focuses on governmental public health actions in North America, Western Europe, and Asia, Baldwin also addresses a range of coronavirus responses in other parts of the world. In addition to this international overview, Baldwin’s text provides historical context surrounding the pandemic response within individual nations. For example, he suggests that Sweden’s decision to leave open some schools and businesses and not require masks was inconsistent with the public health track record of previous Swedish governments. Still, Baldwin concludes that no nation was prepared to handle a public health emergency in which all population demographics were at risk. He adds that COVID-19’s rapid diffusion vividly demonstrates the degree to which all countries are epidemiologically interdependent. Commendably, this well-written book is accessible to all audiences. It is an excellent companion to Debora MacKenzie’s COVID-19: The Pandemic That Never Should Have Happened and How to Stop the Next One (2020). The detailed index and Baldwin’s extensive notes are of particular value.  View on Amazon

4. The Impacts of racism and bias on Black people pursuing careers in science, engineering, and medicine: proceedings of a workshop
ed. by Cato T. Laurencin National Academies Press, 2020

This volume of proceedings reflects recorded presentations and discussions from a virtual workshop held in April 2020 to explore the role played by racism and bias in furthering the underrepresentation of Black Americans in STEM professions, especially medicine. Introduced by distinguished surgeon, biomedical innovator, and editor Laurencin (Univ. of Connecticut), the workshop was organized by the Roundtable on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine, established in 2017 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine under Laurencin’s leadership. Convened just one month before the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the workshop speaks importantly to our current time. Chapters follow the workshop agenda, with highlights of the presentations including keynote remarks by epidemiologist Camara Phyllis Jones (chapter 2), who characterized racism as a system of power and identified how it works at three different levels: institutionalized, personally mediated, and internalized. Overviews of workshop discussions include footnotes to important references. All readers, from academe to those in public and private corporations, will find this volume an effective foundation from which to act within their own communities.
View on Amazon

5Overcoming addiction: seven imperfect solutions and the end of America’s greatest epidemic
Pence, Gregory E. Rowman & Littlefield, 2020

Overcoming Addiction provides a reading experience simple in its clarity and provocative in the multilevel depth of its discussion on substance use disorder and the models that have come to be known as treatments. Bioethics commentator Pence expertly covers seven different approaches/models for understanding and treating various types of addiction, ranging from Alcoholics Anonymous to applied neuroscience discoveries. In a well-crafted text that combines clearly defined, fact-based pros and cons with philosophical discussion on addiction, he also opens up discourse on the human conditions that support substance use and abuse. In addition to addressing the familiar legal and illegal substances, Pence explores the role of big pharma in addictive disorders and the near future as marijuana is increasingly legalized. The book is refreshingly void of inherent bias, focusing on facts, theoretical foundations, and philosophy. Pence begins by introducing the complex of myths and facts that surround addictive behaviors and concludes with ten insights for fighting this “epidemic.” Each chapter is expertly written, provides new perspective on existing models of treatment, and ends in a summary that might induce critical re-reading. View on Amazon.

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