Human Anatomy at Colby

Entries Tagged as 'Human Health'

Mayra Arroyo: A Healthier and Happier Me

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Mayra Arroyo: A Healthier and Happier Me


During the 4 weeks of class I learned so much. Not only anatomy, but I also learned a lot about my lifestyle choices and my study habits. Before taking this class, I had never really thought about how the choices I made affected my learning and my health. One clear example is the number of hours I sleep. I was used to sleeping at 12 am or later and snoozing for an hour every morning. After sleeping at 10 or 11 pm every night and waking up 6 or 7 am, I was able to see a difference in my energy levels through out the day. I did not have to take naps during the day and I also did not have to drink coffee to stay awake during the day. This allowed me to be extremely productive and be fully concentrated on what I was doing.

Another example is eating breakfast. I was used to waking up too late and not having enough time to go to breakfast. With my new sleeping habit I was able to go to breakfast every morning. I was the most proud of this new eating habit, not because I started it, but because I was able to continue it the whole month without quitting.

The last lifestyle change I made occurred the last week of class after watching “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”. I started to remove all juice from my meals. I have always known that soda is extremely bad for a person’s health, but I wrongly assumed that juice was not as bad. After watching this video I learned that juice is equally as harmful, and have stopped drinking it. Although I have not been prefect and have had juice, I am much more conscious about drinking water instead of juice at every meal. I also learned from this video that many of the things that we eat today contain fructose, even things that most people would not even think, such as baby formula. This was absolutely shocking and horrifying. I have started to look at the labels of food in hopes to reduce my consumption of fructose. I know these small changes will make a huge difference to health.

This class not only helped me become a healthier individual, but it has helped me become a better student. One way is that I am now a more organized. I have started to make lists in ranking of importance of things I need to accomplish each day. This has not only helped me be more organized, but it has also helped me to prioritize. This was significant for this class, because there was a lot of material. I had to focus on the most important ideas concepts, because it was impossible to study every single topic thoroughly. Although these changes may seem minor, they are not because this is the start I needed in order to become better and healthier student. I plan to continue these new habits during the spring semester and beyond.



Tags: Bi265j · Human Health

Calvin Robbins: My Celiac Disease Story

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Calvin Robbins: My Celiac Disease Story


Every year, the BI 265 Jan Plan class holds student run Grand Rounds presentations. A Grand Round presentation is usually done by a doctor and patient (or actor) in front of other doctors to educate them of a surprising finding or elusive diagnosis, thereby helping the doctors in attendance better diagnose the problem in the future. This year a group presented about a man who had Celiac disease but presented as a cardiac patient (check out Ari, Danielle, and Laurel’s Grand Rounds presentation on celiac disease). It inspired me to tell my own story of being diagnosed with Celiac disease.

When I was 10 years old, I started to notice that when I coughed, there were small specks of blood in the mucous. Originally this was dismissed as an issue with dry air, as it was winter at the time, but as time passed, it was recognized as a larger problem.

The obvious assumption was a respiratory issue, so I had X-rays done which showed a very mild case of pneumonia. Soon the Pneumonia was treated but the blood in the mucous remained. Next came a series of blood tests, consultations, more blood tests, MRIs, X-rays, and still more blood tests, of which the only result was slight anemia. Guesses ranged from Acute Interstitial Pneumonia to tuberculosis to cancer, to a stomach ulcer, but every test came back negative. Doctors wanted to do a lung biopsy to check for AIP but my parents elected to wait for the Celiac results as a lung biopsy is invasive, carries a high risk of infection and would have had a long recovery period for an active 10 year old.

Finally, after about 3 months into an attempted diagnosis, a blood test was performed to test for Celiac Disease. The test was positive. An endoscopy was performed to verify Celiac Disease, as blood tests are not 100% accurate. The doctors discovered an abnormality in the small intestine: the villi were heavily flattened. Given this new insight, and after about a month of a gluten free diet, the blood speckling disappeared.

Celiac Disease is a genetic disease in which the body has an immune reaction to the presence of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. After blood testing it was found that my father and sister, who was asymptomatic, both have Celiac Disease, while my mother does not. From my family you might guess that it is recessive, but the actual inheritance mechanism is still unknown. Worldwide, it is estimated that about 1% of people are diagnosed with Celiac disease while most people with Celiac Disease actually remained undiagnosed.

Sticking with the theme of Grand Rounds, my case was actually presented as a Grand Rounds discussion by Dr. Andrew Filderman once the diagnosis was reached. It is thought that these types of atypical situations go undiagnosed or are improperly diagnosed most of the time they are presented, so spreading information about Celiac Disease is an important step in providing better care to patients.

Tags: Human Health

Lauren Shirley: BI265J and Personal Health

February 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Lauren Shirley: BI265J and Personal Health


One interesting aspect of BI265j was the emphasis that Dr. Klepach placed on personal health. On the first day of class, we were given sheets to track our sleep, exercise, stress, and eating habits. Initially, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information to absorb and the sheer scope of the class. Suddenly, I was trying to fit 4 hours of class, three hours of lecture online, sufficient exercise, three square meals and at least eight hours of sleep into a day, not to mention the actual studying part of learning for the class!

The first week was a bit rocky for me: trying to learn to use my time efficiently enough to get everything done while not succumbing to mental exhaustion at the amount of information I was trying to absorb was a challenge to say the least. However, switching back to a traditional classroom environment from the flipped environment was a lifesaver! By eliminating two hours of lecture from my homework load, I had sufficient time to study and exercise. I was able to go to the gym almost every day of the week (when I wasn’t fighting a flu).

I really enjoyed having part of the class be about maintaining our own personal health as a means to more effective learning. By placing an emphasis on exercise, I didn’t feel guilty leaving the library to go the gym for a study break. Instead, I embraced this new lifestyle opportunity and learned to play squash, something I had always wanted to do since coming to college, but had never been able to justify the time to do! Interestingly, I noticed that as I exercised more and put more of an emphasis on my own health rather than on numerical success in class, my stress decreased. I can’t say my quiz grades necessarily improved, but I felt like I was better able to absorb the material that was presented to me and was much happier while I was learning.

Also, by tracking my eating, I noticed that when my stress increased, my cravings for unhealthy foods increased as well. While I am not normally a person that eats a lot of baked goods or sugary foods, I definitely wanted them more when I didn’t exercise as much or get as much fresh air. This made me realize the importance of diet as a result of exercise.

Finally, I really enjoyed making sleep a priority during Jan Plan and received around eight hours of sleep every night on average with the exception of nights I was on duty as an EMT.

Thus, this class really taught me that my exercise habits impact both my stress and my diet, and that when I exercised less, other areas of my life would suffer. I was it metaphorically as similar to instructions for putting on an oxygen mask in a plane: Put on your own mask first before you help those around you. By focusing on my own health, effective learning and success will follow. Also, success is not defined just by numbers academically, but by your quality of life in general and how you feel.


Tags: Bi265j · Human Health

Anonymous Student: Circumcision

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Anonymous Student: Circumcision


Dr. Peter Millard recently came in for a talk about HIV and preventative measures in Africa, specifically discussing circumcision and its effects in nations severely affected by HIV within Africa. Dr. Millard actively supports circumcision and has equated the procedure with vaccination. There are serious issues with this claim. Circumcision and vaccines can not be equated. The amount of mental acrobatics it requires to compare a quick needle stick with a 15-minute unanesthetized surgical alteration of the genitals is ridiculous. Unlike vaccinations, botched circumcisions are common. Immunization prevents disease but circumcision is 100% chance of mutilation (Rebecca Grey). Vaccination also does not deprive an individual of any functional body parts. The foreskin is not just skin as Dr. Millard alluded. It is composed of mucous membrane, also called a prepuce, analogous to the eyelid or the inside of the mouth. People designated female at birth have a foreskin equivalent called the clitoral hood which evolved from the same tissue as the foreskin. Circumcision within US history has been tied to various fleeting reasons. The procedure was popularized by Dr. Kellogs during the Victorian era (the same person who co-invented corn flakes) to curb masturbation. He said:

“ The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anæsthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment.”

This masturbation hysteria was then replaced by fear of sexually transmitted infections followed by prostate cancer, and now urinary tract infections. Parents believe that circumcision helps with cleanliness, but they do not realize that there is something called a bath or a shower. Taddio et al. performed a meta-analysis observing the pain responses to subsequent vaccinations of circumcised infants and uncircumcised infants. They found that circumcised infants showed a stronger pain response than uncircumcised infants. The trauma of circumcision has lasting effects on these children. This logic of removing a functional body part to prevent disease is the same as selling a car to prevent a car accident (Men’s Health). Safe sex practices are what stops HIV transmission.

Dr. Millard mentioned that circumcision decreased transmission of HIV by 50-60%, but did not mention that a vaccine has essentially a 95% efficacy rate. Vaccination is about immunization, circumcision is not about immunization. The US has the highest HIV transmission of all the westernized countries and the highest circumcision rates. Evidence points to insufficient education about safe sex practices. In 1992, 410,00 cases of chlamydia was reported, 20 years later, 1.3 millions cases were reported. In 2000, there were 31,618 cases of syphilis, 10 years later, 45.834 cases were reported. It seems sex education among the general population is low. Instead, doctors are telling parents to circumcise their children instead of teaching children safe sex practices. Media now takes over where various sitcoms commonly have circumcision as a plot device which actively shames those who are not circumcised. Circumcision has become naturalized and not questioned.

Within the US, infant circumcision is still endorsed and is now supported by the WHO and the CDC which is backed by data from adult circumcisions in African countries performed on “consenting” adults. Infant circumcision forcefully separates the fused foreskin from the glans which results in the tearing of the synechia (the tissue that connects the foreskin to the glans) and keratinization of the affected areas. Circumcision is commonly used as treatment for phimosis, but infants can not get phimosis as their foreskins are not naturally retractable. The loss of protective mucosal membranes and various nerves denies the child of their own bodies and decisions. Before a child can even consent to having sex, they have their bodies permanently altered.

The voluntary medical male circumcision in African countries which is backed by the WHO is packaged with connecting men to health care, access to safe sex education, condoms, HIV testing, counselling services, and links to HIV care and treatment. These incentives behind the procedure drive safe sex practices which prevent HIV transmission. Proper habitual condom-use alone prevents HIV transmission by 95%. Circumcision can not be considered voluntary when access to safe sex tools and practices that prevent HIV are contingent upon this procedure. The institutionalized industry of circumcision is backed by ministers of health, policy makers, program managers, health care providers, and donors (e.g. PEPFAR and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) who fund supporting programs. HIV transmission can also be transmitted through circumcision if the tools are not sterilized. Stopping circumcision means stopping access to health care. Of course the HIV transmission rates decrease when patients are educated on safer sex practices. The studies done in Africa were decided to be unethical after two years, but did not mention the unethical issues behind the actual circumcision itself. Long term follow-up should be required for these patients.

The exporting of circumcision results in growing acceptance of this procedure “in communities, among men and their partners, adolescents and parents” (WHO). Although studies have been done on adult men, the WHO supports influence on adolescents who are not given complete informed consent especially when their parents and the institutions manipulating the conditions favor circumcision. Many nations curtail to the US when it comes to health policies. Circumcision has become tool to normalize and impose Western standards of bodies on peoples that can not fully consent.

Circumcision in African countries are funded by western imperialism which exports this practice outside to different nations only to import the “results” back into their own countries to continue non-consensual practice of genital mutilation. This dangerous cycle impacts bodies in very specific ways to normalize cognitive dissonance. Babies do not have consent over circumcision. Continued practice of circumcision normalizes a dangerous environment for those designated male at birth. Why must this procedure be made by doctors paid to cut off foreskin? The infant has no agency over their bodies. Circumcision is a practice that attempts to manage disease, but does not answer the question of how disease can best be managed. Cultural bias coming from Dr. Millard reflects normative nontherapeutic circumcision sentiments within the US.





Tags: Guest Speakers · Human Health

Rachel Bird: The End of My Gymnastics Career

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rachel Bird: The End of My Gymnastics Career


I used to be squeamish. I was the kid who’d cover their face during movie fight scenes and feel nauseous at the sight of a bloody hangnail. Then I hurt myself — badly — during gymnastics practice, and I realized that as queasy my innards made me, it was worth it to understand them. When I fell on the trampoline during a routine in April 2012, I shattered my left radius and ulna. The repeated bouncing after the initial fall damaged the soft tissue and left the bones in a compound fracture, puncturing my skin halfway up the forearm. Although the initial reconstructive surgeries were able to salvage some of the bone and repair the structure of my arm, the massive soft tissue damage made my arm swell under the surgical dressings. My fingers grew so puffy with edema that they pressed together, despite the dressing that kept them spread as wide as physically possible. My elbow swelled to the size of my knee, and the staples holding the skin on the inner side of my forearm split open and the wound started oozing.


Eventually, the doctors diagnosed me with compartment syndrome, a condition that is common in crush injuries, but not frequently found in the type of break I had. Because of all the damage to the muscle tissue, my arm had swelled so much that the blood vessels were squeezed almost shut, preventing oxygen from getting to the nerves and muscles in my hand. Unfortunately, by the time I was diagnosed with compartment syndrome, the damage had already been done. The typical treatment for compartment syndrome is a WoundVac, which is essentially a vacuum that attaches onto an opening in the dermis and sucks out all the excess fluid before it can cause a problem. However, by the time the nurses had removed my surgical wraps and determined the cause of the swelling and burning sensation in my arm, the swelling had already begun to subside. Initially, the doctors believed that the nerves would be able to regrow, and most of the damage could heal on its own. However, after two months of daily occupational and physical therapy, I still had no sensation in my wrist, palm, or fingers. Even worse, the build-up scar tissue had cemented my fingers into a fist, and I only had roughly 15 degrees of mobility in my elbow and even fewer in my wrist. My hand was so stuck that I was unable to open my hand to trim my fingernails, so they were starting to grow into the skin on my palm. I didn’t even notice until it started bleeding, because I had no functioning pain nerves in my hand. I also had no proprioception, so when I wasn’t looking at my hand, I would have no idea where it was. This led to some funny encounters, because I would all-to-frequently end up with my hand in my food, or touching a stranger’ back!


After visits to numerous specialists, Dr. Barth, an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in hand and foot injuries suggested an unusual fix. He planned to surgically open up my forearm and scrape the scar tissue off of the joints and tendons in my hand. He would also remove the dead muscle tissue, but leave the muscle bellies (the central portion of a muscle), in the hope that the few remaining muscle fibers would be able to grow. Hopefully, without all the scar tissue blocking blood flow, some of the nerves in my arm would be able to grow back.

Luckily, the surgery was mostly successful, and I was able to open my hand. Less than two weeks after I was discharged from the hospital, I was able to feel deep pressure in my wrist and in parts of my palm! Nerves regrow at approximately five millimeters per day for larger nerves, so as my median nerve inched up my palm, my occupational therapist could track its growth with touch charts and a photocopy of an anatomy textbook. However, so much muscle and tendon was removed, that even though I was slowly able to feel the proximal areas of my fingers, I didn’t have the strength to move them. My arm was so weak that I had to wear a sling for most of the day because I couldn’t support my hand. Even worse, because I couldn’t feel scratches or cuts, two small paper cuts on my fingers got infected.

Dr. Barth proposed another surgery. He wanted to transfer a tendon from my upper arm into my forearm, in the hopes that I could “retrain” my brain to use one tendon for a different purpose. The surgery transferred the brachioradialis tendon and attached it to my extensor pollicis brevis, so when I wanted to move the distal joint of my thumb, I would have to think about bending my elbow. He also transferred the flexor carpi radialis and attached it to the flexor digitorum superficialis, so when I wanted curl or flex my fingers, I would use the muscle that had previously bent my wrist.


Although the process of recovering from this surgery and relearning how to use my hand to nearly two years, I am now able to type this paper using both hands (admittedly, it’s kind of awkward)! Unfortunately, having blood flow cut off to my nerves for so long had left me with permanent nerve damage, and I deal with chronic nerve pain and pretty limited strength and mobility. However, I can tie my shoes, dress myself and function in a classroom setting in ways that I couldn’t have dreamed of in the months following my accident, and I am so thankful to modern medicine for that!



Tags: Human Health · Personal Story

Rachel Bird: My Concussion

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rachel Bird: My Concussion


Let me preface this by saying that I do not know how to ski. However, I’m a decent snowboarder, and I (mistakenly) thought that the two skills were relatively similar. Apparently I’m quite incorrect. The result is that this entire blog post is hearsay. I have absolutely no memory from Saturday, January 17 until Monday, January 19. According to my friends, on Sunday morning, we all got up early to drive up to Sugarloaf mountain to enjoy Colby Ski Weekend, with discounted lift tickets. The morning skiing was decent, but crowded. I was slowly (but surely) figuring out how to ski, and when we stopped for lunch I was feeling pretty confident. After a few successful runs in the afternoon, it was starting to rain, and the slopes had become slick and icy. We decided to do one last run and then head home. Our group got split up on one of the turns, and I ended up going ahead. When I hit a particularly icy patch, my right ski slipped out from under me and I rolled down a hill. I ended up at a fork in the trail and I went right, following a skier in black who I assumed was my friend. At the next fork in the trail, the only options were two different black diamonds, and the woman I had been following was clearly not a fellow novice skier! I reluctantly chose the path to the right and crossed my fingers. Initially, I was doing fine, slaloming side to side and avoiding the smooth icy patches in the center. Then I came on a steep slope and started to lose control. I tried to slow down, but the rain and melting ice didn’t offer any traction for my rental skis. I careened off the trail and down a hill into the woods, banging my skin on a branch and knocking the base of my head against a tree stump. I blacked out.

I woke to an old man in a green jacket poking me with his ski pole, “Are you okay, sweetheart?”

“Yeah, I’m fine, just give me a second.”

I crawled out of the woods and adjusted my goggles on my too-big rental helmet. I clamped my skis back on and gingerly slid the rest of the way down the mountain to the lodge. I mechanically returned my skis, boots, and helmet, and returned to our picnic table to change into dry clothes. I felt fine — a little drained, but that’s understandable after a long day at the mountain. As we waited for the shuttle to take us back to the parking lot, sleet and rain pelted down. The shuttle finally showed up, but on the way to the parking lot, my head started to pound. I blinked the snow out of my eyes, but my vision stayed blurry.

“Hey Chris — I think I’m seeing double.”

My boyfriend’s face swam in front of me, his mouth splitting into two identical sets of lips and then merging back into one.

“Do you feel okay?” Michaela’s voice piped up from my periphery, her head smearing into an unidentifiable mass.

“Um… I don’t know. I think I hit my head pretty hard when I fell.”

“We’ll get you to the health center when we get back to campus.”


The shuttle pulled up to the parking lot, and I slouched into the backseat of Tenzin’s car. The sleet kept pouring down as we inched down the steep road. I slumped over on Chris’ shoulder, but he kept shaking me awake.

“Rachel, I really don’t think you should go to sleep yet, you might have a concussion.”

Then the car swerved and Tenzon overcorrected and the wheels slid and the road curved and we were in a snow bank. My head whipped forward and hit the seat in front of me with a resounding thump. Tenzin and Katie climbed out the front doors to survey the damage. The car was fine, but we were clearly stuck in the snow on the side of the road. Luckily, an ambulance happened to be passing by and the EMTs pulled over to see how we were doing.

“We’re all fine, but our friend is in the back seat, and we think she’s got a concussion.”

I crawled out of the back window, and stumbled over the the ambulance. The EMTs chattered between themselves, and apparently reached some consensus, because I was loaded into the back of the ambulance and barraged with questions.

“What year is it? What’s your name? Who is the president? Where do you live? Do you know your address? Are you taking any medicines?”

“Um. I don’t remember… I’m really sorry. I don’t know… uh… I don’t remember.”

Everything was fuzzy as the EMTs started an IV, and I dry-heaved into a plastic bucket.

“Zofran for the nausea and fluids for dehydration.”

I slumped onto the stretcher and blinked in time with my head’s pounding. Somehow I made it to Farmington Hospital and into a hospital bed, but I was too busy focusing on the peculiar way my forehead was pulsing. More nurses with more questions that I couldn’t quite conjure the answers to, more bright lights and beeping noises that made my head pound, more medical terminology that I was sure I had heard before, but I couldn’t quite place. The tall doctor called for a CAT scan, but I needed to give a urine sample first to prove I wasn’t pregnant, and my head hurt too much to get up and use the bathroom. But I gave the sample, and got the scan, and went back into my hospital bed, and tried not to fall asleep with my eyes open, because I was so damn tired. Hours or maybe seconds passed and the tall doctor sauntered back into the room. My boyfriend jumped up and began badgering him with questions. I took the opportunity to promptly fall asleep while sitting up.

“No internal hemorrhaging, which is good, but she’s got a pretty severe concussion…”

The doctor’s voice trailed off into technicalities, but I was already fast asleep.



Tags: Human Health

Chris Lee: What I Gained From BI265

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Chris Lee: What I Gained From BI265


This year I decided to sign up for BI265 (Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology) for my Jan Plan course. Going into it, I had no idea what to expect. I knew from my experiences with high school anatomy that it would require a lot of memorization. Given the fact that the class would only last for a month, I also expected the class to move at a very rapid pace. With these thoughts in mind, I walked into the classroom on the first day, ready to begin my second Jan Plan at Colby.


On the first day, Dr. Klepach told us that one of his goals in the course was to teach us to maintain healthy lifestyles, despite the rigorous nature of his class. According to him, this would be an important lesson to learn, especially for those of us who entered the health professions field. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, especially while taking a course like BI265 at first seemed impossible. We were exposed to a lot of information each class and it was not uncommon for us to have quizzes the day after we were introduced to new material. During the first week, I spent nearly all my time outside of class in the library going over lecture notes and stressing over whether or not I had studied enough. I wondered how it was possible to fit in time for sleep, activities outside class, and three meals a day without stressing out. As it turned out, it was possible to achieve all three of these things and succeed in the class. All it took was some self-reflection and time management.


Self-reflection is an all-around good skill to have. It lets you evaluate where you are in the process of trying to accomplish something and lets you see where your strengths and weaknesses lie. In my case, self-reflection let me see a major weakness in my approach toward the class: my study habits. Usually, my approach to studying would be to re-read my notes until the information sank into my head. For a Jan Plan course, this is inefficient because time is very limited. After an unsuccessful performance on the first lab exam, I sat down and thought about how I was studying. I concluded that I needed to implement a more active style of learning. For instance, when studying the different parts of the eye, heart, and ear, I looked at anatomical models of these organs in addition to looking at the diagrams in my notes. Our lab exams asked us to identify structures on anatomical models, which was why it was more beneficial to study the models in conjunction with diagrams. Being able to self-reflect on my performance in the course helped me make the necessary changes to how I approached the material and improve my performance.


In addition to self-reflection, time management was another important skill that helped me get through BI265. In order to fit in time for sleep and other activities outside of class, I had to stay focused and be more efficient when it came time to work. Doing this allowed me to be productive while allowing for more time to enjoy myself outside of class. A technique I used to help with time management was setting up an organized schedule. Through this method, I was able to see when I could devote time to study, keep track of deadlines, and plan ahead. I attribute my decrease in stress levels to an improvement in my time management skills. Being more organized helped me get more done sooner so that I was not left with an overwhelming amount of work in the wake of an imminent deadline (which is very stressful situation). While I learned a lot about the cardiovascular, skeletal, digestive, and other body systems in BI265, I also learned the importance of self-reflection and time management. I have no doubt that these two skills will be beneficial to me for the rest of my college career and ultimately the rest of my life.


Tags: Bi265j · Human Health

Ivan Yang: Musings on the Fetus vs. Mother Battle

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Ivan Yang: Musings on the Fetus vs. Mother Battle


One of the best yet most challenging parts of this course is the sheer volume of knowledge that can be gained in these four weeks. I learned a spectacular amount of information about the human body during the course, giving me a greater appreciation for the ingenuity of evolution and the delicate intricacy of the body’s structures and mechanisms. In addition, Dr. K has a knack for sprinkling little bits of knowledge throughout his lectures that, when given time to soak in, can stimulate a great deal of critical thinking.

For example, when Dr. K lectured on the respiratory system, he briefly mentioned that fetal hemoglobin has higher oxygen saturation than adult hemoglobin does at the same oxygen levels. While this assertion can be explained by the fact that the fetus has higher demand for oxygen and must compete for oxygen in slightly deoxygenated blood, it reminded me of an article I read in a previous biology class on imprinted genes.


Imprinted genes are genes which are “marked” by the maternal or paternal parent and which are expressed over other versions of the same gene. Mechanisms of imprinted gene expression and evolutionary reasons for their existence are mostly obscure due to their relatively recent discovery. In fact, the existence of imprinted genes was only verified through cloning experiments in the late 80s. Scientists attempting to create a uniparental mouse (a mouse with two paternal or two maternal sets of DNA) found that it was impossible to create a fully-developed uniparental embryo. When the embryo was created from two maternal sets of DNA, its cells were properly organized, but the placenta was insufficient. When the embryo was created from two paternal sets of DNA, it was able to form a very healthy placenta, but the fetus itself was a disorganized mass of cells.

These results flew in the face of Mendelian genetics, which suggested that genes are merely strands of information with no history of origin. To the contrary, genes do, in a sense, remember their parental origins. The studies in the 80s suggested that the expression of certain genes in the paternal genome is responsible for making the placenta, while the expression of certain genes in the maternal genome is responsible for organizing the embryo. One of the first explanations posited that the placenta should be thought of not as a maternal organ designed to support the fetus, but rather as a fetal organ designed to parasitize the mother. While the mother and the fetus both have the common purpose of perpetuating the continued survival of the fetus, they disagree over how much of the mother’s resources should be dedicated to the fetus. In a sense, maternal genes are “selfish” and only the genes necessary to organize the fetus are expressed. Hence, the uniparental mouse embryos made of two maternal sets of DNA were unable to create a sufficient placenta.

This competition for resources between the fetus and the mother, clearly observable through research on imprinted genes, is strikingly similar to the competition for oxygen between the fetus and the mother. As previously mentioned, fetal hemoglobin has a higher oxygen affinity than adult hemoglobin does. To ensure its own survival, it is entirely conceivable that the fetus robs oxygen from the mother’s bloodstream. Perhaps this is but another example of a battle of wills between the fetus and the mother.


Tags: Human Health

Calvin Robbins: Lyme’s Disease

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Calvin Robbins: Lyme’s Disease


In the last decade, occurrences of Lyme Disease in Maine have been increasing at shocking rates. Colby is a school with a very outdoor-oriented student body, so information regarding Lyme Disease and its effects on the human body is something that everybody should take the time to look at.

Cal2 reference

Lyme Disease is a bacteria based disease which affects several body systems. The bacteria is transferred via the bite from an infected tick, usually (although not always) resulting in a rash in the surrounding area. The classic sign of Lyme disease is this “bull’s eye” shaped rash, although recently many cases have gone undiagnosed as people with a solid rash do not suspect Lyme Disease.

The first stage of the disease is called the Early localize stage, which begins with the rash which can take up to 30 days to appear after being bitten. Early symptoms tend to present similarly to the flu, with fatigue and joint pain being key identifiers.

The next stage, Early Dissemination begins around a week to a few months after the bite. During this stage, the disease spreads from the muscles, joints and skin into the nervous and cardiac systems. Heart problems due to Lyme disease can include blockages and weak heart muscles, thus creating symptoms such as easily induced fatigue that you would expect from poor heart function. Nervous system effects, while relatively rare, are generally serious. Common issues include meningitis and numbness or pain in certain affected nerves. If treated in or before Early Dissemination, the disease generally has no lasting effects. If the disease progresses past Early Dissemination, the patient is likely to experience lasting effects.

The Late Disease is generally many months or years after the bite. The most common symptom at this stage is arthritis of the joints, usually one or both knees.

When Lyme disease is suspected, a simple blood test can confirm Lyme Disease, although they are rarely effective within the first six weeks of the disease, and even after that can often read as a false positive. If the patient is experiencing Late Disease symptoms, they are tested for septic arthritis which presents similarly, but generally with a higher fever. A final decision on this can be achieved with an analysis of the synovial fluid, which, as we learned in BI 265, is produced by the synovial membranes, which line joints. The synovial fluid is used as a lubricant for the joint.

Treatment is relatively simple and consists of a regiment of antibiotics, which are administered via IV in more severe cases. Most patients experience lasting symptoms even after antibiotics have killed the bacteria, these patients often experience joint pain and nervous system problems for months after treatment. For patients with severe joint swelling, a synovectomy (removal of a portion of the synovium from the damaged joint) is recommended to ease some of the pain.

Fortunately, this is a very easily preventable disease. When you go outside, make sure you cover your lower extremities by wearing pants. On top of this you can also use tick repellants to deter ticks from even getting on you to begin with. At the end of any outdoor activity, make sure to check all areas of the body (especially inside joints and other warm moist places). If you ever find a tick attached to you, carefully remove it with tweezers and continue to monitor the area of the bite over the course of the next few weeks. There is no vaccine for Lyme Disease so the best way to prevent it is to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to avoid tick exposure in the first place.

Tags: Human Health

Calvin Robbins: The Science Behind Run Til You Puke

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Calvin Robbins: The Science Behind Run Til You Puke


Have you ever heard of somebody exercising to the point of vomiting? Or have you done it yourself? I never have, but during the digestive system lecture of the BI 265 Human Anatomy and Physiology class this Jan plan I had a sudden realization as to why this happens.

While nausea may be a common feeling when working out due to food or liquids in the stomach being bounced around, that is not usually why we actually end up vomiting during hard exercise. In fact, one of the biggest causes starts with the respiratory system. The job of the respiratory system is to remove CO2 from the blood and replace it with O2. During exercise, cells produce CO2 as sugars are broken apart to make ATP, which the cell uses for energy. Some of the CO2 byproduct goes into the blood and attaches to hemoglobin, but the vast majority of CO2 is actually transported as carbonic acid, which induces respiratory acidosis. When a person is doing anaerobic activity, such as running at full speed for a long enough time, their lungs are unable to get all of this accumulating CO2 and carbonic acid out of the bloodstream thus creating increasingly acidic blood. It is not due solely to lactic acid as many people believe, but the inability to exchange enough gas in the lungs.

As the blood gets increasingly acidic, the body has to find a way to get rid of all of this acid. One of the main ways the body has of releasing acid, as you may have already guessed, is through vomiting. As you vomit, the hydrochloric acid used for digestion is expelled from the stomach, which is lined with highly vascularized rugae. As the acid is forced out of the stomach, the acidic contents of the blood are pulled out to replace the Hydrochloric acid that was lost from vomit. Following the same thought process, this is why excessive puking will produce alkalosis (high pH) in the blood.


If you vomit frequently after heavy exercise you should take a few steps to achieve a healthier and more beneficial workout:

  1. Base your workouts on a heart rate range.  This will force you to stay within a set range for aerobic exercise, which can be roughly calculated based on your age. Usually 85% of max heart rate is the highest you should be going for an aerobic workout to prevent acidosis.
  2. Drink plenty of water; if you are vomiting due to dehydration, it is a much more severe issue than acidosis. Steadily drinking water before, during, and after exercise will help, as well as a small amount of sports drink to replace some of the ions lost during the work out.

It takes a lot of anaerobic exercise for the body to get to the point of vomiting. This kind of activity, contrary to what some may think, is very bad for your body, and is not something to strive for in a hard workout. Remember to drink plenty of water and keep a reasonable heart rate target in mind for a healthy and effective workout.

Tags: Human Health · Lab · Special Activities

Rebecca Gray: Substance Abuse Isn’t F*cking Funny

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rebecca Gray: Substance Abuse Isn’t F*cking Funny


I swear like a sailor around my parents. And I always have. Because my parents pick their battles, and the battle they picked was substance abuse. Substance abuse is not a joke to them. To them, impersonating the voice of a chain smoker is not funny, and the incoherent ramblings of a drunk friend are not comic storytelling material. My mother lost her brother to a drunk driver when she was thirteen, and my father lost all four of his grandparents to tobacco-related illness. Thus, they’ve always been strict with me, and the overwhelming message under their roof remains: the use of alcohol, tobacco, and other illegal, mind-altering substances is absolutely, positively, unacceptable. They spent so much time enforcing this rule and communicating its importance. Not only did I never get away with drinking in high school, I never had the inclination to; I knew how hurt my parents would be if they were ever to find out, and I couldn’t put them through that. And so, in return for 100% sobriety and transparency about where I was, who I was with, and how I was getting there, they let me swear.

I am glad this was the hill they chose to die on; I believe that I am a healthier and happier (as cheesy as that sounds) person for it. That is why Colby surprised me. The idea of drinking to the point of memory loss every weekend freaked me out. Did my friends not get that when their blood alcohol level rose too high, their brains actually couldn’t form long term memories? That when they woke up feeling like they couldn’t remember the night before, their brain in fact hadn’t truly experienced it at all? I couldn’t believe how many people my age smoked. Did they not know their skin was yellowing, wrinkling? That their lungs were turning black and their bodies becoming reliant on nicotine to function comfortably? I’ve had many a conversation with a fellow Colby student who is not familiar with the physiological effects their substance use has on their body. It is surprising and saddening to see.

Specifically, I recall a weekend last spring, during which a friend drove home with me to meet my family. That Friday, she consumed a lot of alcohol–too much– and vomited. A lot. Saturday morning, she awoke, hungover as all get out, and we trudged through the March sleet to my house. As my mom served us some soup, we chatted and caught up. It was around this time that I swore. My friend audibly gasped. “You can say that in front of your mom?” she asked.

Yeah. I can. My mom doesn’t care. What she does care about is that I don’t try a cigarette, that I don’t use marijuana without first understanding the side effects it might have on my psyche, that I don’t drink more alcohol than my liver can handle, and that I don’t rely on any mind-altering substance to feel happy. This brings me to BI 265. Having learned about the intricate system that is my body, I am even less inclined to mess around with its equilibrium. While cigarettes never tempted me before Jan Plan 2015, my newfound knowledge of arterial disease has made sure I will never get near one. I wish more parents choose to battle substance abuse with their kids, because it is so important and valuable. But even more so, I wish more people would choose to know about how their bodies work. How the things they put in their bodies, the things they do with their bodies, the things they let their bodies get near, affect their mental and physical health. Because only with this knowledge can we change substance abuse culture, both on Mayflower Hill and in general.


Tags: Human Health · Personal Story

Rebecca Gray: Healthy For All The Right Reasons

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rebecca Gray: Healthy For All The Right Reasons


I love infomercials. I know it’s weird, but really I don’t think it’s any more shallow than tuning in to E! every week to see what the Kardashians have been up to. I remember being eight, and waking up at 5:30am to catch the Magic Bullet program on channel 8, which aired just before the Shark vacuum cleaner, which came on at 6. I’ll watch any infomercial–a brownie pan that cuts the brownies for you, a humidifier that cures asthma, a bra that somehow fits everyone. But what I’ve never been able to wrap my mind around are the fitness oriented ones: zumba work out tapes, overcomplicated pilates machines, a CD that somehow makes you lose weight if you fall asleep listening to it. I’ve thought a lot about this, and I think there are two reasons why I don’t find fitness programming engaging.

First, I’ve always felt generally okay with my body. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I eat leafy vegetables every day and drink mostly water. Throughout high school, I was always an athlete, and even now, I get outside pretty often, whether to ski or run or walk around a bit. In general, I’ve always been okay with my body and pretty proud of what it could do. These fitness programs prey on insecurity. People who feel okay about how they look aren’t going to spend money on a 30-day-shred work out DVD, and people who enjoy their exercise aren’t going to invest in an extravagant treadmill with separate tracks for each foot–they’re just gonna throw on their sneakers and head outside.

But second, and I think more importantly, I’ve never thought of eating or training as something I do for appearance. When I dragged myself out of bed at five in the morning to lift in high school, it was so I could shred my next ski meet. When I took up running last year, it was so I could get fast enough to train with my dad, who’s a speed demon, and spend time with him.    One of the most important principles I learned in A&P is that there is more to health than looking the right way or weighing the right amount. Getting enough sleep, exercising the right amount and in the right way, eating the right things at the right times, drinking gallons of water, and limiting stress are all key. But attitude is also important. Worrying night and day about whether you’re eating the right things or running enough miles is not healthy. Obsessing over ever calorie or every hour of sleep lost is not conducive to a well-rounded life. What I’ve learned is to aim for a sustainable lifestyle of health. This includes being aware of things that are good for me (skiing and hearty, unprocessed meals) and things that are bad for me (pumpkin-chocolate chip cookies and staying up all night watching Friends on Netflix), but also being gentle with myself when things don’t go perfectly. Sometimes I’m going to have weeks where I don’t get to exercise, or nights where I stay up until 3 in the morning, contemplating the universe with friends. This is okay. It doesn’t mean I’m terribly unhealthy, and it doesn’t mean I’ve doomed my body. It means I’m human.

So yeah, I love infomercials. And I’m okay with that, even though I know TV is basically melting my brain and there are more productive, fulfilling ways to spend my time. I still find solace in the fact that I can change the channel when vapid fitness programming comes on, because I am happy with my health, both physically and mentally. I am confident that I can live well, doing the right thing for my body for the right reasons (health and fun, not aesthetic), and be gentle with myself when I am not perfect. Because let’s face it, the only perfect thing in this world is the Magic Bullet, which chops a whole onion in less than 20 seconds and is still on my Christmas list.

Tags: Human Health · Personal Story

Rebecca Gray: Sociology of Epidemiology

February 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Rebecca Gray: Sociology of Epidemiology


Today, I met an epidemiologist. He spoke about disease control: how germs traverse continents, how we respond to global health crises, and how we can prepare for future epidemics, because, “after all,” he said, “they are inevitable.” To begin, he offered a bit of a crash course on HIV in America; while the subject matter was grim, the bottom line felt overwhelmingly hopeful. In a nutshell, we learned that HIV, at one time the leading cause of death for men ages 25-40 in the U.S., is now a condition well-controlled with proper medication. So yes, while HIV remains a gravely serious diagnosis, and continues to spread rapidly in underdeveloped regions of Africa, the vibe of this speech was uplifting, full of the promise of research, breakthrough, and medical revolution.

But I am skeptical. I am skeptical because this crash course glossed over the very gritty history of HIV in America. It glossed over they way AIDS (Auto-Immune Deficiency Disorder) used to be called GRID (Gay-Related Immune Deficiency). It skipped the years that HIV drugs (AZT and others) spent in gridlock, waiting to be clinically tested, because policy makers refused to fund medical initiatives for “perverts” with “homosexual tendencies”. It did not mention that the decline of HIV-related deaths in the U.S. correlated exactly with the mobilization of the gay rights movement. In short, it did not admit that disease control intersects with issues of social justice on nearly every level: race, class, gender, and sexuality.

The outbreaks we hear about, the drugs we are sold, the preventative measures we are asked to take, are carefully calculated. Information can be manipulated to reassure or scare us, to rile us up or calm us down. Our recent preoccupation with the ebola virus is a textbook example of this. As midterm elections drew near, political candidates used a health crisis occurring in Africa as ammunition in an American political debate. Articles citing the ways in which ebola can be contracted, pictures depicting its unsavory symptoms, and bold political promises to end this epidemic pervaded our lives. Then, suddenly, voting season passed, effectively closing the door on ebola discussion. This happened because government officials, now secure in their jobs, could no longer bank on public fear. In fact, our speaker did acknowledge this, and made admirable efforts to include social discussion in his lecture. It is not my intention to discredit him; I understand that in a single hour, it’s impossible to cover the field of epidemiology and all its intersections with sociology entirely. I found his presentation to be smart, well researched, and engaging. Rather, I just hope to use this blog post as a means to discuss the social implications of epidemiology in a way that we were not quite able to in class. Medicine cannot function outside the realm of social intersectionality. To say that medical information and technology are the only roadblocks, or even the largest roadblocks between ourselves and global health solutions is to be sadly mistaken. As important and exciting as medical advancement is, we must also tackle poverty and discrimination when taking on issues of global health. Class, race, gender, sexuality, age, and ableism all affect a person’s access to proper healthcare and health education.

Tags: Guest Speakers · Human Health

Arianne Thomas: My JanPlan Experience – pt. 2

February 22nd, 2015 · Comments Off on Arianne Thomas: My JanPlan Experience – pt. 2


Going into my first JanPlan two years ago I didn’t know what to expect. The only thing I had known about it that it was a time to step out of your comfort zone, take a different class, and explore other aspects of learning. I signed up for the Catholic Church and Hollywood class that year because it fulfilled two distribution requirements. I thought that the class would be a breeze. Not only did I hear from upperclassmen that it was an easy class, I was also raised in the Catholic Church and went to a Catholic school for most my life, and therefore had to take church history and other religious classes throughout my high school experience. Turns out, the class was easy. The class met three times a week, and every single day we watched a movie, the hardest part of the class being keeping my eyes open for three hours in the dark room. There were three relatively short essay assignments and there was no final.

My sophomore year, I decided to step out of my comfort zone. I took the African Music class being not at all musically inclined other than my experience with the recorder in the third grade. Since the class fulfilled the art distribution requirement, and I’m even less artistically inclined, I figured I would manage. A normal class day consisted of singing, drumming, and dancing. There were no assessments other than a few performances at a local church and during the Martin Luther King Day celebration.

I knew this year would be different when I signed up for Anatomy and Physiology. My mom, a retired flight nurse in the Air Force, recalled taking full semesters of both Anatomy and Physiology while in college. She was surprised that we could fit in all the information in just one month, recalling specific parts and functions of the human body that she was required to know. I knew it would be a lot of hard work, but I was prepared to dedicate my month to working hard. Going over the syllabus on the first day, I was a little bit overwhelmed with the amount of material, quizzes, and projects we were going to accomplish during the month. Dr. Klepach also warned us that people often get C’s and D’s on the quizzes and tests, which was worrisome as my grades and my GPA are always a primary concern. On top of it all, our professor wanted us to keep logs of our eating, exercising, and sleeping habits and to monitor our stress levels. Within the first few days of the class, I was completely overwhelmed by all the work and studying I had to do and called my mom for some support, only to hear her say “I told you so.” It was a matter of days until about a third of the class switched into a different class. The first week proved to be the hardest, listening to two hour long lectures and taking detailed notes on top of studying for a few quizzes and a lab test. It was really encouraging to hear Dr. K’s words of praise after the class average on our first lab test was 40%, well above the average of last year’s class. Although the subsequent weeks lightened up and my personal scores improved, the most important lesson I learned was balancing my life. Previously, when I got swamped with school work, I would often cut out exercising or a full night’s sleep to catch up with work. Dr. K stressed the importance of a healthy lifestyle, and this transformed me to be a better student. It not only forced me to stay on top of my work, but also kept me healthy during the time of the year when many people get sick. This aspect of the class was crucial in showing me that a healthy, balanced lifestyle can be achievable even with a rigorous school schedule, which is something I believe many college students tend to forget.


Tags: Bi265j · Human Health

Alexandria Lucas: Grand Rounds / Oligoastrocytoma

February 22nd, 2015 · Comments Off on Alexandria Lucas: Grand Rounds / Oligoastrocytoma

Alexandria Lucas_237129_assignsubmission_file_ALucasSophMajorPic

The grand rounds project, which consists of research on a particular topic and a final group presentation that is open to the public, I think was perhaps one of the most valuable parts of this class, for it really did require a lot of individual learning and the students really had to take things into their own hands, be independent, and put a final product together all outside of class, much like the way things will happen in medical school. I very much appreciate that Dr. K always pushed us to work hard in this way to prepare us for much harder tasks that are to come in the future in our post-Colby years, and the Grand Rounds project was easily one of those things.

My group wanted to do a case study for our project, so we first began by looking through a list of different case study articles when one caught our attention titled: “32 year old woman with episodes of unconsciousness.” We were very curious what was causing these episodes, because it really could be a wide range of things, so we choose this as our topic because of its very intriguing symptoms.

The next part of the project consisted of breaking up the material into sections, such as symptoms, differential diagnosis, diagnostics tests, and more, and then each group member doing research on their assigned sections. We then worked on putting together a PowerPoint presentation and a one-page synopsis on the topic. Some groups did a lot of this work together, but it is always hard to find a time that everyone can meet, so we ended up doing most of this work alone and communicating over email and Google docs which I think actually worked really well.

On the second to last day of class, each group presented their PowerPoint on their topic for about 15 minutes. I found this to be one of my favorite class times throughout the whole semester. I really enjoyed hearing about medical cases that I know nothing about, as well as see the different groups be so intrigued and excited about the topic they choose to research, and in addition seeing how much knowledge we had all gained over the past few weeks.

Alexandria Lucas_237129_assignsubmission_file_headrespiratory

It was, however, a little nerve-racking to be put in front of the class speaking about something that is often quite advanced and perhaps a little over a college students’ head, but having the class there and Dr. K in front being very supportive, the presentation did not end up being as scary as I thought it was going to be. Our case, of the 32 year old woman with episodes of unconsciousness, was mainly a result of an Oligoastrocytoma, which is a tumor consisting of mixed cells. It was located in the temporal part of her brain, which was causing her unconscious episodes. However, what makes this case even more interesting is that she had a genetic predisposition to neurocardiogenic syncope (fainting, loss of muscle both due to abnormal control of the brain over the heart), which led to her case being complicated by ictal asystole (stopping of the heart during her epileptic seizures, which is very rare). Not only during this Grand Rounds project did I have the opportunity to be an independent learner as well as a group member, but I also learned a significant amount about this woman’s case and Oligoastrocytoma’s, as well as recognizing the fact that although certain medical cases can easily explained by one disease, that does not mean that is always the only thing going on.

Tags: Bi265j · Grand Rounds · Human Health

Danielle Levine: Grand Rounds

January 31st, 2015 · Comments Off on Danielle Levine: Grand Rounds

Danielle Levine (’15, Biology)


One of the opportunities I had during this Jan Plan course was to participate in a Grand Rounds Presentation; Grand Rounds, in which physicians give lectures to their peers, including other physicians and medical students, on a medical topic is a common tradition in medical education. In groups of three students, we were able to pick any topic of interest for a fifteen minute oral presentation that we would present at the end of the semester. Given the vast array of medical topics that could be picked for a presentation, we looked to academic medical sources, including the New England Journal of Medicine, for possible past case studies that we could research and discuss. After scrolling through dozens of case studies, and clicking on articles with titles that seemed very interesting and then reading the articles’ summaries, we finally settled on an interesting case subject, one about celiac disease or gluten-induced enteropathy, that we considered particularly relevant given the current emphasis on the effects of gluten in the diet in popular culture.

In this case study, a 42-year old man presented to the emergency room with the chief complaint of chest and abdominal discomfort; given his additional history of unintentional weight loss and chronic diarrhea for ten years following coronary artery bypass grafting, an inflammatory disorder or a cancer of the chest or abdomen were differential diagnostic considerations. After multiple tests were performed, including an invasive exploratory laparotomy done after a CT scan showed enlarged jejunal lymph nodes, a small bowel biopsy revealed the diagnosis of celiac disease given the presence of flattened villi and intraepithelial lymphocytes. Today, celiac disease can be diagnosed via a simple blood test for IgA tissue transglutaminase and IgA endomysial antibodies. This case study demonstrates the importance for physicians, especially given the increasing incidence of celiac disease, to test for it non-invasively when a patient’s symptoms may be suggestive of it.

The diagnosis of celiac disease has been increasing in the developed world, at least in part due to the availability of new non-invasive tests to diagnose the autoimmune disorder. Also, there has been an increase in the diagnosis of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which has been an even more significant factor in the increase in the number of people now adhering to a gluten free diet in the developed world. Unfortunately, some people do not have a true gluten-related disease or sensitivity, but are adopting a gluten free diet in a fad-like way. This is unfortunate because a gluten free diet can cause its own problems, such as nutritional (in particular, certain vitamins) deficiencies, and a lack of fiber in the diet leading to bowel-related issues.

Given the occurrence of a generalized increase in autoimmune disorders today, the hygiene hypothesis has been offered as a possible explanation, the basic tenet of which is that given increasingly prevalent strict hygienic practices, children today are exposed to fewer pathogens, and as a result can develop autoimmune disorders in which their own immune systems attack self antigens. Given the increasing numbers of people diagnosed with autoimmune disorders, it is hoped that research into celiac disease as well as other autoimmune disorders will lead to improved treatments of and ways to prevent them.

This Grand Rounds presentation was very informational as it allowed us to research a current topic of interest and, in so doing, learn the signs and symptoms that may exist at presentation of a certain disease (in this case, celiac disease), and how that disease may ultimately be diagnosed. As celiac disease is likely to continue to be a relatively common disease in the developed world, I believe this experience will be helpful to me, since I hope to become a physician someday. Being able to present our research to our peers as well as physicians and nurse practitioners, that is, to emulate something a real physician might engage in, was a wonderful experience. Furthermore, my mom, as a physician, talks about attending Grand Rounds Presentations every week at a hospital in New Jersey, and for me to be able to present a case study in the same manner was a fun and great opportunity.



Tags: Grand Rounds · Human Health

Cameron Matticks: JanPlan 2015 Internship talk to Bi265j Human A&P

January 31st, 2015 · Comments Off on Cameron Matticks: JanPlan 2015 Internship talk to Bi265j Human A&P

Cameron Matticks, (’15, Cell & Molecular Biology) was the 2015 Bi265j TA and intern. Listen to his talk to the class about his experience below.

Tags: Guest Speakers · Human Health · Internship Talks

Human A&P Grand Rounds Presentations

January 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Human A&P Grand Rounds Presentations


Our Human Anatomy and Physiology class will be presenting a series of talks on various diseases this coming Wendesday, January 28th 2015 from 9 until 11 AM on Colby’s campus in the Olin 01 auditorium, beneath the Olin Science Library. Each of the five 15 minute talks will be followed by a brief Q&A and will cover the following topics:

  • Celiac Disease
  • Oligoastrocytoma
  • Atypical Hyperplasia of the Breast
  • Postpartum Coronary Artery Dissection
  • Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting vs. Stent Implantation

The presentation is free and open to the public and light refreshments will be served.

Tags: Grand Rounds · Human Health · Special Activities · Uncategorized

The Human Microbiome, Healthcare-associated Infections, and Probiotic Therapy

February 14th, 2014 · Comments Off on The Human Microbiome, Healthcare-associated Infections, and Probiotic Therapy

By Lizzy Gorence


Within the human body lives a diverse and abundant population of microorganisms. These microbes populate the surface and deep layers of the skin, the saliva and oral mucosa, the conjunctiva, the urogenital tract, and most significantly, the gastrointestinal tract. Although still not entirely understood and catalogued, studies conducted through the Human Microbiome Project (HMP), an initiative of the National Institute of Health, have revealed the presence of many thousands of species of bacteria, fungi, and archaea, which populate the human host.  In fact, HMP studies indicate that there are at least ten times as many bacteria as human cells in the body, and that microorganisms account for approximately 1-3% of total body mass.

But we are in a human anatomy and physiology class, not a microbiology class, so why do we care? Well, without the presence and diverse composition of these microbial populations our own human cells would be unable to carry out the vital processes about which we’ve learned throughout the JanPlan term. Examining the mutually beneficial nature of the human-bacterial relationship is one of the central goals of the Human Microbiome Project. While the human microbiota varies in abundance, composition, and size among individuals, it is similarly vital for every human’s health and survival. Imbalances in our gut microbiota can have serious implications for our overall health because many bacteria in the digestive tract are able to break down certain nutrients that humans otherwise could not digest. Additionally, certain microbes that are ubiquitous in the gastrointestinal tract, such as Clostridium difficile, are also opportunistically pathogenic.


C. difficile causes illness in the human host when granted a competitive advantage over their cohabitating organisms. It usually gains this advantage in the bodies of people getting medical care, who may have taken an antibiotic that targeted an organism that competes with C. difficile for nutrition. It can also be transmitted through feces and is commonly transferred between patients on the hands of healthcare providers. Thus, C. difficile infections are categorized as healthcare-associated infections (HAI). While most types of HAIs are declining, C. difficile remains at historically high levels. When C. difficile populations increase to pathogenic proportion, the infection causes cases of diarrhea and intense abdominal pain linked to 14,000 American deaths annually. An estimated $3 billion in excess healthcare costs annually are spent on managing C. difficile infections. Therefore, finding effective and affordable treatment for this particular HAI is imperative.

Traditionally, when we think of treatments for infectious disease, we think of antibiotics. However, our developing understanding of the human microbiome has led many to believe that probiotic therapies will be just as (if not more) effective in the treatment of infections like Clostridium difficile. Personally, I’ve always found the concept of fecal transplantation completely fascinating. Once you move past the “ick factor,” it’s an incredibly effective and fairly intuitive treatment. By transplanting bacterial fecal flora from a healthy donor to an ailing recipient via enema, the competitive environment of the healthy gastrointestinal tract is restored. At the Mayo Clinic, the fecal transplantation program yields a 90% cure rate for C. difficile infections. While the practice of fecal transplantation has been streamlined over the 50 years since its introduction, companies like Rebiotix, out of Minnesota, seek to further standardize the treatment.

This small biotechnology company has developed a microbiota suspension that can be easily preserved, ordered on demand, and administered by medical professionals. In addition to sufferers of C. difficile, the Rebiotix treatment can potentially be effective for those afflicted by Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, or Metabolic Syndrome. While their RBX2660 suspension is currently in phase 2 of its clinical trial, the product is poised to enter the market in early 2016. While products like this are still rare, and may seem foreign to those who grew up associating antibiotics with treatment and bacteria with illness, probiotic treatments represent a new understanding of the human body and the organisms it harbors. By augmenting microbial populations, probiotic treatments harness their power, and use it to improve the health of the host.




  1. “Human Microbiome Project.” National Institutes of Health. NIH, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.
  2. “Clostridium Difficile Infection.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 01 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.
  3. “Clinical Updates.” Quick, Inexpensive and a 90 Percent Cure Rate. Mayo Clinic, n.d. Web. 26 Jan. 2014.
  4. “Powerful Therapy, Delivered.” About Clostridium Difficile Infection. Rebiotix, n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014.




Tags: Human Health

Choose your Poison

January 25th, 2013 · Comments Off on Choose your Poison

Everyone knows about alcohol poisoning… but what about poisoning by sugar?  Yesterday in class we learned a lot about the hormones in the gastrointestinal tract and how your body digests sugar.  I thought I had a basic working knowledge of how my own body digests food and absorbs nutrition, but what I learned yesterday totally blew that I thought I knew out of the water.


Tags: Human Health · Uncategorized