Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Easy way to make yourself feel better: read WebMD

I just did something I shouldn't have-- but the result was, from my selfish perspective, good. Like probably 25,000 other people I got the National Eczema Association's email newsletter today. It says that CEO Julie Block is a guest expert on WebMD. Join the discussion, it said. I clicked on the link. Good Lord. Should you ever despair about your eczema, you can click on that link to instantly confirm that there are people out there doing far worse than you. Someone apparently has cactus infiltrating their entire body, pushing needles out their fingernails and reproductive organs. And then there's the tree man.

So one news item in the NEA newsletter is that the National Jewish Health Center in Denver won a $31.5 million grant to study MRSA infections in patients with eczema. This grant was awarded in July, but I broke the story two days ago. NEA, consider yourself scooped!

This in jest. There's a difference between being a blogger on your own schedule beholden to no-one and trying to get a respectable newsletter out on deadline. The NEA's newsletter and magazine are valuable resources for people like me.

I wrote to Diane Dunn, the NEA's communications and program manager, to introduce myself, and she decided to treat the anonymous internet weirdo with kid gloves. She wrote back suggesting there may be a way for us to work together. I sincerely hope so. There aren't many places you can go to to get news about eczema research. The mainstream media tends only to cover stories about dogs (this happens to be a general rule in science writing) or stories with an angle like people with eczema are "allergic to money" because there is some correlation of atopic dermatitis with higher income. Eczema is complex enough that there are results coming out of labs and clinics all the time that may pertain to your individual case. I hope to relay some of these stories.

I wrote to Adam Dormuth at National Jewish to ask him if he could give me details on the Atopic Dermatitis Research Network, a consortium of ten academic centers that was created specifically for the purpose of winning the grant, which was advertised by the NIH in a competition. If someone told me there was $31.5 million to be had, I'd call all my professor friends and get the band back together too. Anyway, haven't heard back from Mr./Dr. Dormuth. The man may prioritize his inbox the same way I do, which is

1) requests from people who really matter, like donors, politicians, ambassadors, and Newsweek  reporters
2) requests from people who matter, like faculty who have a paper coming out next week that the public affairs department doesn't have the bandwidth to write about
3) announcements about campus events featuring free food
4) spam
5) requests from anonymous bloggers

I've just wasted ten minutes trying to think of a witty ending for this post. And failing. In short: we'll get some answers about ADRN, whether it's from National Jewish or elsewhere.

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