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What We're Reading

Hello Blog readers! We at BMSA know that midterm season is coming up fast and soon will be in full swing. So how about before you hit the library for those long study days, you take a few minutes to read some articles that that our team has picked out just for you.


Coronavirus outbreak: WHO’s decision to not declare a global public health emergency explained

Courtesy of

Contributor Si-Cheng Dai

The latest virus has been spreading across the globe, and tensions are rising. The World Health Organization (WHO), however, hasn’t acted —  it hasn’t issued a public health emergency of international concern, a PHEIC, just yet, and people are wondering why. A bevy of things may be in play here; PHEICs were first issued to prevent diseases from going under the radar by encouraging transparency and international relations, but China seems to have hit the ground running this time. Fourteen million people have been quarantined in thirteen of China’s cities, and scientists in the nation were quick to sequence the genome of the novel coronavirus and publish those results. Another factor in play may be the coronavirus’s morbidity and mortality rate. If the virus’s Ro, or ease of spreading, is low, it may not be much of a threat. Couple that with the outbreak’s nearly four times lower fatality rate compared with its infamous predecessor, Sars, and perhaps you have something that isn’t so large of a threat as our recency bias would indicate. For now, though, WHO will be monitoring the progression of the disease, and a PHEIC certainly isn’t out of the question.

C-section should be a 'respected' choice for pregnant women, 

says Alberta doctor

Courtesy of National Post

Contributor Claire Millard 

The view on caesarean sections is changing explains Murphy, a Calgary University clinical assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology. The choice between natural births and C-sections is one that has dominated ethical health-care discussions for many years, but now might be the time for this to change. 

There has been a long-standing opposition to C-sections in Canada with them being documented to cause respiratory difficulties in newborns, increase risks for post-surgical infections, and they pose a costly burden on health-care systems; however, there are substantial benefits to consider with the implementation of a C-section birth plan. Murphy argues that there are in fact fewer, and less serious, risks associated with C-sections than reported in natural births and that clinicians should present both as options in their conversations with patients about birthing plans. Murphy believes that “it’s more about women… [having] the choice” of a C-section if that is the route that they wish to take after open discussions of the best course of action for the individual, “not that all women should have one.”

A New Test Aims to Objectively Measure Pain. It Could Help Legitimate Sufferers Access the Meds They Need.

Courtesy of

Contributor Simi Juriasingani 

Pain management is one of the biggest challenges faced by the healthcare system. Considering the rise in opioid addiction, doctors and nurses are increasingly cautious with prescribing and administering pain medication. One of the key limitations in the field of pain management is the relative nature of the experience of pain, which varies for every patient. Due to the stringent mindset towards prescribing pain medication, patients are often left to deal with unnecessary pain and they can end up being mislabelled as addicts if they advocate for themselves. Additionally, they may end up turning to illegal sources for opioids after being turned away by medical professionals repeatedly, which only adds to the opioid addiction crisis. This article highlights the progress made by Dr. Niculescu at Indiana University to develop a test for biomarkers in the blood that could help quantify cell signalling associated with pain. If successfully translated to clinical practice, this approach could help guide the prescription of pain medication and eliminate the need for patients to "convince doctors and nurses that [they're] in pain."

Which country has the world's best healthcare system?

Courtesy of

Contributor Ramtin Hakimjavadi

This week’s article from The Guardian is a couple years old (published in February 2016), but given the recent coronavirus outbreak, and the subsequent rallying of healthcare organizations worldwide, it seems appropriate to take a brief look at some of the best healthcare systems the world has to offer. What is notable, and perhaps quite troubling, is the fact that Canada is not even included in this list. Nevertheless, this article breaks down twelve healthcare systems in different countries, offering a look at the way citizens are given access to the treatments they need. Government spending, length of stay in hospitals, and the doctor to nurse ratio are all important large-scale considerations in healthcare - ideas that many aspiring physicians may not think about. There does not seem to be a straightforward formula to achieving the optimal healthcare - the U.S. ranked amongst the highest for spending in healthcare, yet they are plagued by risk-averse medical practices and a system that incentivizes excessive tests. Moreover, it is interesting to think about how each country’s healthcare system is equipped to deal with an epidemic, like the one we face today.

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