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Absolutely Maybe

Absolutely Maybe

Evidence and uncertainties about medicine and life
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    Hilda Bastian Hilda Bastian likes thinking about bias, uncertainty and how we come to know all sorts of thing. Her day job is making clinical effectiveness research accessible. And she explores the limitless comedic potential of clinical epidemiology at her cartoon blog, Statistically Funny. Follow on Twitter @hildabast.
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  • Science in the Abstract: Don’t Judge a Study by its Cover

    Cartoon in a lab - You said to do an abstract

    A competition for attention lies at the heart of the scientific enterprise. And the abstract is its “blurb.” A scientific abstract is a summary used to attract readers to an article and to get a piece of research accepted for a conference presentation. Other than the title, it’s the part of an article that is [...]

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    A Viewer’s Guide to Mammography Evidence Ping-Pong

    Cartoon of woman saying you bet I have questions

    You could get a very sore neck watching all the claims and counter-claims about mammography zing back and forth. It’s like a lot of evidence ping-pong matches. There are teams with strongly held opinions at the table, smashing away at opposing arguments based on different interpretations of the same data. Meanwhile, women are being advised [...]

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    The Disease Prevention Illusion: A Tragedy in Five Parts

    Cartoon of an early bird catching no worms

    Act I: An ounce of “prevention.” “Prevention is better than cure.” Aphorisms like this go back a long way. And most of our dramatic triumphs against disease come from prevention: clean water, making roads and workplaces safer, antiseptic routines in hospital, reducing smoking, immunization, stemming the spread of HIV. Many of our cultural superstitions and greatest [...]

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    (Hi)stories our bodies tell: Experiencing racism (Guest Post)

    Sharecropper by Elizabeth Catlett

    Guest post by Michelle Munyikwa I am currently still reveling in Black History Month. Yes, it is no longer February. But I hope to retain that mindfulness, grasping onto this moment each year that forces us to pay attention to the stories of black peoples across America and draws into stark relief how histories have [...]

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    Out from the shadows of racist anthropology (Guest Post)

    Human skull inscribed for phrenological demonstration

    Guest post by Michelle Munyikwa The skull was smaller than I expected it to be, shockingly light in my hands. Despite its yellow-stained surface it had the appearance of being well kept, almost as if it had been polished. On the forehead was a simple label: American Idiot. As if that told us everything we [...]

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    Vulnerability as strength: Thoughts on changing medicine’s hidden curriculum (Guest Post)

    Image of white lab coats

    Guest post by Michelle Munyikwa I recently read this article in Health Affairs regarding the effects of the hidden curriculum on patient safety and, in my usual fashion, have been thinking about it ever since. Dr Joshua Liao describes an experience he had as a medical student on labor and delivery, when the dynamics of [...]

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    “How is it that life gets under our skin?” Introducing Michelle Munyikwa

    Picture of Michelle Munyikwa

    There don’t seem to be all that many PhD anthropologists who are also physicians. It’s a long, daunting road to get there: 12 years of study to be exact. Counting her Bachelor of Science, Michelle Munyikwa has passed the halfway mark. Why she is deeply committed to this onerous dual track is as fascinating as [...]

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    No guts, no glory? The fear and attraction of risky winter sports

    Illustration of ski-jumping

    This blog appears in the In-Depth Report Science at the Sochi Olympics The one time I went flying off the side of a mountain on skis, I certainly didn’t mean to. Before I hit the ground, there was a surprising amount of time for reflection – and more on the long painful schlep down to [...]

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    The winter sneeze – hand, tissue or Dracula style? (Gesundheit!)

    Cartoon of Marie Antoinette saying "Let them sneeze into their elbows"

    When I was a kid from the wrong side of the tracks, wiping your nose on your clothes was a marker of social class. Lots of us girls were very keen on our hankies, though. I used to embroider initials on them and crochet lace around their edges. Now it’s hankies that should make people [...]

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    5 key things to know about meta-analysis

    Cartoon - meta-analysis bookshop

    Knowledge accumulates. But studies can get contradictory or misleading along the way. You can’t just do a head count: 3 studies saying yes minus 1 saying no ≠ thumbs up. The one that says “no” might outweigh the others in validity and power. You need a study of the studies if you want to be sure [...]

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