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Recent Newspaper & Online Columns by Kate Scannell MD

Armstrong doping scandals reveals much about society as a whole

By Dr. Kate Scannell
First published in print: 10/28/2012

I'm going to ask my nephew to read the 202-page report issued last week by the United States Anti-Doping Agency that summarizes the doping allegations against cyclist Lance Armstrong by his own teammates and entourage. It's a powerful document that stimulates critical thinking about sportsmanship and athletic competition, and it raises important ethical issues about athletes' pervasive use of performance-enhancing drugs.

Because the report cobbles together stories from professional athletes who broke a code of silence that had tethered them to a troubling team secret, it also offers insights about these issues from the experiences of intimate insiders. No aunt or school health counselor can compete with that for the prized attention of a serious young man trying to imagine what life might be like as a professional athlete.

At times, the USADA report reads like William Golding's classic novel, "Lord of the Flies." On a literal level, we learn what happens when a group of (mostly) men are sequestered on an island (team) of their own making and self-governance, without effective supervision by oversight agencies that are supposed to enforce publicly agreed-upon rules of conduct.

In short order, leaders emerge within the team and regularly break those rules. A new regime supplants the old order and, ultimately, everyone comes to fear retaliation if they don't comply with the new norm. So they take the secret handshake -- or the blood doping, the growth hormone, the steroids.  Read More 

Multistate meningitis outbreak offers dramatic reminders

By Dr. Kate Scannell, Syndicated Columnist
First Published in Print: 10/13/2012

How do 14,000 people in 23 states hobble into a doctor's office complaining of back or joint pain -- only to discover, days to months later, that they may have been injected with a potentially lethal infection?

That's the central question for public health authorities who are trying to contain the current multistate outbreak of fungal meningitis linked to contaminated steroid injections. As of last Thursday, the number of people known to have developed the meningitis had risen to 170, including 14 deaths. Regrettably, those tallies are expected to rise as doctors and patients become increasingly aware of this unusual fungal infection which can take weeks to months to diagnose.  Read More