Date: October 1, 2013
Hidden Beauty: Exploring the Aesthetics of Medical Science
Norman Barker, MS; Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue, MD, PhD (Schiffer, 2013)
The cover of Hidden Beauty includes a stunning photograph of multi-colored items resembling burnished charms. They are unquestionably beautiful—yet they’re actually gallstones, excruciatingly painful crystalline deposits removed from the gallbladders of patients.
“As caretakers, researchers, and photographers working in a busy academic setting, every day we are faced with images that are awe inspiring for their beauty and for the terror they may represent to our patients suffering from disease,” writes Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue, professor of pathology, oncology, and surgery, and co-author of Hidden Beauty with Norman Barker, associate professor of pathology and art as applied to medicine.
“The idea that disease with all its negative ramifications can still have aspects of beauty intrigued me,” Iacobuzio-Donahue writes. “After all, the human body truly is a thing of beauty and wonder.”
Barker, who has spent 30 years helping physicians and scientists visualize their research, had a similar epiphany early in his career. He writes that as a young medical photographer just out of art school, he was “asked by a pathologist to photograph a bloody kidney specimen in the autopsy room. The physician told me to make sure that it’s ‘beautiful’ because it was being used for publication in a prestigious medical journal. I can remember thinking to myself; this doctor is crazy, how am I going to make this sickly red specimen look beautiful? Of course I did the best I could and the image was published, but I learned a lot from that experience. There truly is beauty in everything, although sometimes it might be in the eye of the beholder.”
Enlisting 60 colleagues—50 of them from Hopkins—Barker and Iacobuzio-Donahue have compiled an astonishing assortment of images. These include photos encompassing every aspect of the human body, from the head and neck to the chest, abdomen, pelvis, and connective tissues, as well as pictures of infections, inflammations, and research efforts. Each is accompanied by a concise explanation of what the image depicts and its importance. Also included are some magnificent drawings by Max Broedel (1870–1941), founder of the Department of Art as Applied to Medicine. NAG
Living with Itch: A Patient’s Guide
Gil Yosipovitch, MD; Shawn G. Kwatra, MD (Johns Hopkins, 2013)
Just reading the word itch can make many people want to scratch.
Whether referred to by its medical designation, pruritus, or the layperson’s more common term, itch, this often-chronic, sometimes maddening, frequently painful, and virtually universal affliction affects millions of people and has done so since time immemorial.
Yet despite being the principal symptom of most skin diseases, as well as linked to many systemic conditions such as liver disease, renal failure, hematologic abnormalities, and autoimmune and endocrine disorders, itch was until the mid-1990s what often is referred to as an “orphan disease”—neglected, rarely researched, and absent a widely effective treatment, such as aspirin is for pain.
Into this void stepped Gil Yosipovitch, founder of the International Forum for the Study of Itch and head of the Department of Dermatology at Temple University, and co-author Shawn Kwatra, who spent a year as a dermatology resident at Johns Hopkins.
Together, Yosipovitch and Kwatra have produced a clearly written, extremely useful, and admirably compact book (just 140 pages) that in 15 brief chapters covers everything from the definitions and mechanisms of itch, to the types of itch from which people suffer, to what treatments are available for the wide array of torments it inflicts—from eczema (atopic dermatitis) to hives (urticaria), psoriasis, and other conditions.
Also featured are moving testimonials from individuals who have endured intractable itch themselves or watched family members or others suffer from it, as well as a list of resources, such as the names of associations for people with specific skin conditions, and a helpful glossary.
No “simple remedy” exists for treating chronic itch, Yosipovitch and Kwatra write, but “there are many things people can do right now” to alleviate their suffering. The authors offer advice on how to prevent some forms of itch without medications, as well as describe topical and systemic treatments for itch. Some of the measures may sound like folk remedies—among them sleeping in wet pajamas underneath a dry pair—but there is solid scientific evidence on why they can work. For the topical and systemic treatments, the authors also provide itemizations of possible side effects. NAG