Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World


Better medical research for longer, healthier lives

When I started my career as a medical statistician in September 1972, medical research was very different from now. In that month, the Lancet and the British Medical Journal published 61 research reports which used individual participant data, excluding case reports and animal studies. The median sample size was 36 people. In July 2010, I had another look.

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Why you must stop for coffee and donuts this morning

Sometimes, what your brain wants is not always good for your body. Donuts are a good example. It’s early morning and you’re driving to work after a nice breakfast of black coffee and two eggs, easy-over, with bacon. Yet, you’re still hungry and having difficulty paying attention to the traffic. Why? Your brain is not cooperating because it is not satisfied with that breakfast because it lacked one critical ingredient that your brain urgently needs: sugar.

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World Anaesthesia Day: Key events in the history of anaesthesia

Today (Friday 16 October) is World Anaesthesia Day. To mark this occasion, we have selected ten of the most interesting events in the history of anaesthesia. From the discovery of diethyl ether by Paracelsus in 1525, to James Young Simpson’s first use of chloroform in 1847, and the creation of the first specialist anaesthetic society in 1992 – anaesthesia is a medical discipline with a fascinating past.

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Soda Politics

The soda industry exposed [infographic]

Although soda companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are recognized around the world – the history, politics, and nutrition of these corporations are not as known. In her latest book, Soda Politics: Taking on Big Soda (and Winning), Marion Nestle exposes the truth behind this multi-billion dollar industry. Check out these hard hitting facts and see how much you actually know about the soda industry.

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Perceiving dignity for World Mental Health Day

Each year in July, I greet a new group of post-doctoral psychiatric trainees (‘residents,’ ‘registrars’) for a year’s work in our psychiatric outpatient clinic. One of the rewards of being a psychiatric educator is witnessing the professional growth of young clinicians as they mature into seasoned, competent, and humanistic psychiatrists.

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The rise of epigenetics and the demise of nature vs nurture

Epigenetics has been a buzzword in biology for the past several years, as scientific understanding has grown about how genes are expressed. We now know that segments of DNA–genes–can be silenced by chemicals in DNA’s local environment; likewise, genes can be “turned on” in ways that allow populations of cells to churn out proteins at high speed, at sluggish rates, or at any speed in between.

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The music next door

It was midnight and I had just slumped into bed, exhausted after one of my first days on-call as a new intern, and still adjusting to life in a new apartment. As my nagging reflections on the day were just beginning to subside, insistent knocking at my door jolted me back to alertness. Dragging myself out of bed to open the door, I was surprised to see a diminutive elderly lady who appeared quite perturbed.

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Telemental health: Are we there yet?

An unacceptably large proportion of mentally ill individuals do not receive any care. Reasons vary but include the dearth of providers, the cost of treatment and stigma. Telemental health, which uses digital technology for the remote delivery of mental health services, may help toward finding a solution.

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Compassion or compromise? The ethics of assisted suicide

“Death is inevitable, but suffering doesn’t have to be,” says Tennessee native John Jay Hooker, who has devoted his life to fighting for civil liberties, and hasn’t let his deadly cancer stand in his way. This past summer, he filed a lawsuit against his state to sue for the right to die on his own terms.

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Global health inequalities and the “brain drain”

There are massive inequalities in global health opportunities and outcomes. Consider, for instance, that Japan has around twenty-one physicians per 10,000 people, while Malawi has only one physician for every fifty thousand people. This radical inequality in medical skills and talents has, obviously, bad consequences for health; people born in Malawi will live, on average, 32 years fewer than their counterparts born in Japan.

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How much do you know about travel medicine?

Is garlic or citronella more useful in repelling insects? Which disease is typically identified as an ‘urban’ disease? What is the most reliable way to purify water? Which factors contributes most to psychological stress in frequent international travellers? Whether you’re climbing Mount Everest in the Himalayas, making your way through the Amazon, or just curious about various hazards abroad, prepare for your travels and test your knowledge of the unique dangers and diseases faced in travel medicine.

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Evolution: Some difficult problems

Two other major and largely unsolved problems in evolution, at the opposite extremes of the history of life, are the origin of the basic features of living cells and the origin of human consciousness. In contrast to the questions we have just been discussing, these are unique events in the history of life.

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Youth violence

Perhaps one of the most politically unpopular truths about violence is that it is young people who are most vulnerable to it, not the elderly or children, but youth. Global estimates from the World Health Organization are that, each year, 200,000 young people are murdered.

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The woman who changed the world

Society owes a debt to Henrietta Lacks. Modern life benefits from long-term access to a small sample of her cells that contained incredibly unusual DNA. As Rebecca Skloot reports in her best-selling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the story that unfolded after Lacks died at the age of 31 is one of injustice, tragedy, bravery, innovation and scientific discovery.

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Preparing for world travel [infographic]

Are you planning a trip to Brazil, Cambodia, The Dominican Republic, Haiti, or another destination that requires immunizations in advance of your arrival? Are you a health care worker, about to travel to a destination currently dealing with an epidemic or outbreak?

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