Lab, Interrupted

By Danielle Ofri
New York Times Op-Ed 

BEDPAN ALLEY is the affectionate name given to a stretch of First Avenue in Manhattan that is packed with more hospitals than many cities possess. This stretch also happened to be right in the flood zone during Hurricane Sandy. Water damage and power failures closed down all three of the New York University teaching hospitals — Bellevue Hospital, Tisch Hospital and the Manhattan V.A. Two months later, they are still not admitting patients, though two are on schedule to begin doing so shortly.

The harrowing evacuation of hundreds of patients made headlines nationwide. The disruption of regular medical care for tens of thousands of outpatients was a clinical nightmare that is finally easing. And the education of hundreds of medical students and residents is being patched back together.

All academic medical centers, however, rest on a tripod — patient care, education andresearch.The effect of the hurricane on the third leg of that tripod — research — has gotten the least attention, partly because rescuing cell cultures just isn’t as dramatic as carrying an I.C.U. patient on a ventilator down flights of stairs in the dark.

But, of course, there is an incontrovertible link between those cell cultures and that patient. For every medication that a patient takes, someone researched the basic chemistry of the drug, someone designed the clinical trial to test its efficacy, and of course a volunteer stepped forward to be the first to take the pill.

(read the full ope-ed at the New York Times)

 

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Danielle Ofri’s newest book is What Doctors Feel: How Emotions Affect the Practice of Medicine. She is an associate professor of medicine at N.Y.U. School of Medicine, and her clinical home is at Bellevue Hospital. She is editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review.

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