Karen Springen

Stories by Karen Springen

  • MEDICINE TAILORED JUST FOR YOU

    Suppose you've just been diagnosed with lung cancer, which is fatal in most people within two years. Your doctor tells you there is a new drug that has kept some patients alive for as long as five years, but it can have serious side effects, including liver and eye damage. Worse, it works in only 10 percent of the people who receive it. You would probably respond, Let's see what else you've got--which is more or less what the FDA said about just such a drug, Iressa, when it was approved in 2003 as a so-called third-line therapy. This means it should be given only to patients who have failed to respond to at least two other therapies. By that point, of course, it could be too late to save patients who might have been successfully treated at an earlier stage.Now, suppose there's a genetic test that can predict whether you're in the 10 percent for whom the drug works.The day after researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute announced they would begin...
  • ON THE MARCH TO ERADICATE CHILD ILLNESS

    Dr. Bruce Aylward is yielding no ground. As coordinator of the World Health Organization's $4 billion Global Polio Eradication Initiative, Aylward runs a worldwide immunization program that is supposed to eliminate the virus forever by the end of this year. He's still not ready to push back the schedule, even though cases of the devastating childhood illness have been popping up in countries like Indonesia and Yemen, where it was wiped out long ago. "The virus has never been in this much trouble," he insists. When the global campaign began in 1988, the disease was paralyzing350,000 or more victims a year on five continents--mostly children. So far this year, the number of confirmed cases hasn't passed the low hundreds. Now, says Aylward, the essential thing is to finish wiping out the disease. "If we blink," he says, "it will be not hundreds, but hundreds of thousands."People forget too quickly the horrors of sicknesses like polio. In 1954, the year before Jonas Salk introduced his...
  • EDUCATION: CLASSY GIFTS

    The last day of school is right around the corner. What's the best way to thank your child's teacher? Some advice:Check school policy. If your principal allows gifts, remember that giving a present is optional. "You should not feel you have to do that," says former elementary-school principal Cindy Post Senning, great-granddaughter of Emily Post and coauthor of "Emily Post's The Guide to Good Manners for Kids."Don't break the bank. Extravagant gifts could be "misperceived as a bribe," says Senning--especially if you give them before report cards come out.Avoid cliches. "Don't give anything with apples," says Tim Sullivan, president of PTO Today, a bimonthly magazine for school parent-teacher organizations. Sullivan, whose mom spent 20 years as a teacher, remembers her opening every kind of apple imaginable, including ceramic and plastic ones.Organize a class gift. Any parent can take the initiative and collect money based on each person's ability to pay. "If someone can give $5, and...
  • HEALTH: A STAPLE IN TIME...

    Getting stitches once meant a week spent looking like Frankenstein. No more. Today, doctors are increasingly turning to two alternatives: glue and staples. Both make treatment less traumatic and require less follow-up.Glue. The adhesive is faster and easier than stitches, because it requires no sewing, anesthesia or later removal--it sloughs off naturally in seven to 10 days. And patients can shower immediately. But it's not recommended for scalp wounds or "high tension" areas like knee joints, says Dr. Margaret A. Dolan, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on pediatric emergency medicine (see aap.org).Staples. Last year Incisive Surgical introduced absorbable staples (placed under the skin's surface) for abdominal wounds. For a C-section, a doctor places 14 one-eighth-inch staples a half inch apart. The staples are faster than sewing (which means less time under anesthesia), and don't require a return visit for removal. They also heal better, says Dr. K....
  • FAMILY: WAITING FOR HARRY

    On July 16, muggle kids will finally get their hands on book number six, "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince." Here's what they can read while they wait (for more options, see ala.org)."The Two Princesses of Bamarre," by Gail Carson Levine. In this fairy tale, by the author of "Ella Enchanted," a princess outsmarts dragons and ogres while on a quest to save her sister's life."A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeleine L'Engle. In the first book of a series about an unusual family, a girl and her younger brother travel through space and time to rescue their missing father."The Witches," by Roald Dahl. This wicked story by the author of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" features nasty witches who try to turn the world's children into mice--but are thwarted by a scrappy boy."Clemency Pogue: Fairy Killer," by J. T. Petty. A girl accidentally kills seven fairies--and then heroically (and humorously) travels to correct her mistake.
  • PUBLISHING: THE 'BOYS' ARE BACK. NICE HAIR, JOE!

    When the "Hardy Boys" series began in 1927, the brothers were helping Dad figure out who robbed a neighbor. Now they're taking on radical environmentalists and a murderer at the X Games. "They have a little more of an edge," says Rick Richter, president of Simon & Schuster's children's publishing division, which is launching the revamped series next month. While the boys maintain their wholesome image, they cruise around on motorcycles, rely less on Dad and take on risky undercover missions. (In one, Joe Hardy gets a--gasp--mohawk.)The reason for the re-release isn't much of a mystery. When S&S gave Nancy Drew a similar makeover last year, she landed on The New York Times's best-seller list. There are currently more than 800,000 copies of the new "Nancy Drew: Girl Detective" series in print; they've been snatched up by fans of the original series who now have kids. " 'Hardy Boys' and 'Nancy Drew' are essential to American adolescence and learning to be a reader," says Bill...
  • HEALTH: LIVING THE HARD LIFE

    Here's a novel alternative to Viagra: exercise, eat right and stop smoking. In "The Hardness Factor: How to Achieve Your Best Health and Sexual Fitness at Any Age" ($25.95), out next week, New York University Medical Center's Dr. Steven Lamm argues that good overall health is the secret to good sexual health. "That's what's going to convince a 26-year-old to stop smoking, lose 20 pounds or get his blood pressure checked," he says. Here are key steps to take:Lose weight and exercise. Diabetes raises your risk of heart attack and stroke, and also leads to "unpredictability" in sexual performance.To promote good circulation, watch your blood cholesterol levels and don't smoke. (See americanheart.org for guidelines.)Eat right. "When you have fatty food, you are stunning your blood vessels," says Lamm. He recommends antioxidant-rich fruits like bananas and grapes that are also "sensuous." Lamm also likes niacin (found in poultry, tuna, avocado and peanuts), which raises good HDL...
  • FAMILY WET, BUT NOT WILD

    Ready for a splash- filled summer? Here are some tips for keeping your family safe in the water:Maintain constant eye contact with a child who is not yet a strong swimmer, says Stew Leonard, coauthor of "Stewie the Duck Learns to Swim: A Child's First Guide to Water Safety." Also, see the Consumer Product Safety Commission's new "swimming-pool safety alert" at cpsc.gov.Insist on barriers. A four-foot fence--with self-closing and self-latching gates--should surround home pools.Check for missing or broken drain covers, which can entrap small kids.Bone up on first-aid skills and gear. See ymca.net for classes in your area.Educate your children. Make sure kids know not to swim alone--and not to jump into the water to save anyone else. The YMCA advises owners of backyard pools to post rules--and go over them with kids regularly.
  • PERISCOPE

    Ah Turkey: Old Hatreds Die HardCould Kurdish separatist leader Abdullah Ocalan do more damage to the Turkish state from inside prison than he was able to do while free? If the European Court of Human Rights has its way, Ocalan may have to be retried because it has deemed his 1999 terrorism conviction unsound. But a retrial could trigger an ugly nationalist backlash--not just against Turkey's Kurdish minority, but against Europe too, wrecking three years of unprecedented reforms and diplomacy that have brought Ankara to within a whisker of opening negotiations to join the European Union.Turkey's increasingly nationalist opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP), has already latched onto the case as an opportunity to denounce European perfidy. "[Europe] is playing with Turkey's honor, inciting the people," says Deniz Baykal, head of the CHP. "We should not bow our heads." Many Turks are suspicious of Kurdish aspirations, which they see as covert separatism, and of European...
  • Tip Sheet

    By Karen SpringenMen may earn more than women, run faster and buy more wide-screen TVs. But when it comes to health, they trail the opposite sex in nearly every category. Stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and the six other leading causes of death kill men at a higher rate than they do women. Yet men are half as likely to see a doctor regularly. "They're busy with work, and they always make excuses," says Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham of California, a prostate-cancer survivor who is pushing to open an Office of Men's Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Here are some steps men can take to live longer, healthier lives. ...
  • 'There Is Hope'

    Alcohol and drugs killed icons like Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. But some strong-willed addicts get help in time. In "The Harder They Fall: Celebrities Tell Their Real-Life Stories of Addiction and Recovery" (Hazelden), former rock 'n roll publicist Gary Stromberg and his partner, Jane Merrill, tell some of the famous folks' stories of redemption. Stromberg also weaves in tales of his own abuse. In the 1970s, he built a public-relations firm that represented a range of stars--from Muhammad Ali to Barbra Streisand, the Rolling Stones and Elton John--and produced a hit movie, "Car Wash." But he says his addiction to alcohol and drugs cost him his career and his long-time girlfriend in 1980. Today Stromberg runs a small PR company in Westport, Conn., where he lives with his two children who, he notes, have never seen him drunk or stoned. At 63, he eats only vegetarian food, runs regularly and works out on an elliptical trainer. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Karen Springen about his...
  • BOOKS: OUT OF THE CLOSET AND ON THE SHELF

    Last year Dr. Justin Richardson and his partner, Peter Parnell, read a New York Times story about two male penguins who hatched a baby penguin in Central Park--and thought it would make a great kids' book. Simon & Schuster agreed. Next month "And Tango Makes Three" will hit bookstores, which are increasingly being stocked with gay-themed books for children and teens. In the next few months major publishers will back a spate of new gay titles: from "You're Different and That's Super," a picture book by "Queer Eye" 's Carson Kressley, to the humorous "Absolutely Positively Not," on a teen in denial about being gay.This is a far cry from the 1990s, when only indie houses would touch titles like "Heather Has Two Mommies." Today stories can be about finding the right boyfriend, not just about coming out, says David Levithan, an editor at Scholastic and author of "Boy Meets Boy." Not everyone approves. Three of the books on the American Library Association's 2004 "Ten Most Challenged...
  • Periscope

    A report bound for the U.S. Congress says Washington has underestimated China's "astonishing" recent progress in areas from nanotechnology to satellites. Written by former assistant under secretary of Defense Michael Pillsbury for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a panel set up by Congress, the report is circulating at the Pentagon, where officials plan to use it to press for stricter technology-transfer controls on China in upcoming congressional hearings. A senior Defense official warns: "We've been allowing its scientific community to cherry-pick the technology they need to modernize their defenses."The Pentagon is a home for hard-liners on China, and the Pillsbury report is likely to revive old battles. The report argues that a patronizing U.S. view of China--and the absence of a Chinese sputnik to galvanize concern--have lulled the U.S. diplomatic and scientific community into complacency. It cites recent reviews by the U.S. National Science Foundation...
  • A PEACEFUL ADOLESCENCE

    At 16, Purva Chawla holds good rankings in schooland loves competing in drama and elocution contests. The New Delhi student is "head girl" of her school and plays for the table-tennis team. Recently she won a public-speaking contest organized by The Times of India, and the British Council selected her to travel to Britain with a group of young leaders to organize a sporting event for kids in Scotland. Even with all her extracurricular activities, she still makes it home for dinner with her parents and goes out to the movies with them twice a week. "I talk with them very freely about what's happening with my friends, boyfriends, whatever," she says.Is the Chawla family for real? Didn't they get the memo that says teens and their parents are supposed to be at odds until... well, until forever? Actually, they're very much for real, and according to scientists who study the transition to adulthood, they represent the average family's experience more accurately than all those scary TV...
  • WHO'S THE WEAKER SEX?

    Men may earn more than women, run faster and buy more widescreen TVs. But when it comes to health, they trail the opposite sex in nearly every category. Stroke, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and the six other leading causes of death kill men at a higher rate than they do women. Yet men are half as likely to see a doctor regularly. "They're busy with work, and they always make excuses," says Rep. Randy (Duke) Cunningham of California, a prostate-cancer survivor who is pushing to open an Office of Men's Health at the Department of Health and Human Services. Whatever Congress decides, here are some steps men can take to live longer, healthier lives.18 to 35. Focus on prevention. See your doctor every two years for routine tests, including blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar screens. Ryan Cooper, 28, saw his dad die of a heart attack at 40 and now visits the physician regularly. After a recent checkup showed his triglycerides (a kind of fat) were twice the normal level, he hit the...
  • BEYOND THE BIRDS AND BEES

    A few decades ago, many parents were content to let their kids learn about the birds and bees from pals on the playground. These days, smart parents know that straight talk on sex can ease some of the confusion surrounding puberty and help their kids make sound choices later on.The stakes have never been higher. Each year in the United States, more than 800,000 girls 19 and younger get pregnant and over 4 million teens contract sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea. In the old days, "the only way you could die from having sex," jokes Lynda Madaras, a sex educator and author of "What's Happening to My Body?," "is if your parents found out and they killed you." Today unprotected sex can lead to infertility and a life-threatening disease like HIV.Parents shouldn't wait until the junior prom to sit their kids down for The Talk. By then, it may well be too late. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance...
  • HEALTH: SHEDDING LIGHT ON HOSPITALS

    No one wants to trust his heart-bypass surgery to a mediocre hospital. But how do you sort the reliable ones from the rest? Earlier this month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, along with the nation's major hospital groups, launched a database that offers free performance reports on more than 4,200 hospitals nationwide. For now, hospitalcompare.hhs.gov focuses on the quality of care for patients with heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia. It shows, for example, the percentage of patients at each hospital who are treated with beta blockers and aspirin at arrival and discharge--key recommendations from the American Heart Association. Until the site adds more information early next year, you may want to supplement it with data from other sources. Leapfroggroup.org, which is free, looks at such safety measures as computerized prescription ordering, which eliminates miscommunications caused by messy handwriting and helps staff check for harmful drug interactions....
  • PUMP UP THE FAMILY

    Bruce and Lisa Smith never skimped much on food. Chips, fried chicken, canned fruit, sodas--they ate as much as they wanted, whenever they wanted. Exercise? Pretty much nonexistent, unless you count working the TV remote or the computer mouse. "We were out of control," says Bruce, 42. And so was their son, Jarvae, who is 5 feet 4 and weighs 176 pounds. Three months ago Jarvae's doctor referred the entire family to a fitness program run jointly by the YMCA of Metropolitan Milwaukee and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin. During weekly meetings, the Smiths learned how to change their eating habits--no more soda, lots more salad--and they traded TV time for walking and swimming. So far, the Smiths have lost 22 pounds altogether. And they're on a family quest for healthy living. "It's working," says Bruce. "We feel good."If you're like most Americans, you know you need to eat better. You know you need to exercise. You know you need to turn down the stress level. What many adults don't...
  • A PEACEFUL ADOLESCENCE

    At 17, Amanda Hund is a straight-A student who loves competing in horse shows. The high school junior from Willmar, Minn., belongs to her school's band, orchestra and choir. She regularly volunteers through her church and recently spent a week working in an orphanage in Jamaica. Usually, however, she's closer to home, where her family eats dinner together every night. She also has a weekly breakfast date with her father, a doctor, at a local coffee shop. Amanda credits her parents for her relatively easy ride through adolescence. "My parents didn't sweat the small stuff," she says. "They were always very open. You could ask any question."Is the Hund family for real? Didn't they get the memo that says teens and their parents are supposed to be at odds until... well, until forever? Actually, they're very much for real, and according to scientists who study the transition to adulthood, they represent the average family's experience more accurately than all those scary TV movies about...
  • A HEAD START ON FITNESS

    Toddlers are by nature active, curious, energetic little people. They love to run, they love to dance, they love to climb. Like the rest of us, however, they live in a world of temptation: fast food, TV, videogames. They need help to keep them healthy and fit.When it comes to eating, toddlers are the kings and queens of pickiness. But that doesn't mean you should give up on peas the first time your 2-year-old spits them out. It can take anywhere from five to 10 attempts before a child accepts a new taste. Be patient. Let kids be grazers, too. Dr. William Sears, father of eight children, recommends that parents fill ice-cube trays or muffin tins with a smorgasbord of nutritious snacks--bananas, avocados, steamed broccoli. Toddlers get to pick and choose, and they're entertained at the same time. Good eating means good drinking, too: water and milk (low-fat or skim after the age of 2) are ideal. Get rid of sodas and cut way back on sugar-sweetened, calorie-rich fruit juices.The...
  • 'Hot Zone II'?

    Since an outbreak of the deadly Marburg virus surfaced in Angola last fall, 215 people have died. The deadly illness--first reported in Marburg, Germany, in 1967--causes high fever, liver and kidney failure and bleeding from the nose, mouth, eyes and rectum, killing nine out of every 10 victims. What threat does the virus pose to Americans and others around the world? NEWSWEEK's Karen Springen asked Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: For those who've heard of "The Hot Zone," Richard Preston's true story of a highly infectious, deadly virus from the central African rain forest that suddenly appeared in Washington, D.C., the Marburg virus sounds scary. Could it spread outside Africa?Dr. Anthony Fauci: It is extremely unlikely to cause a public health threat, other than a very isolated case outside of a setting like sub-Saharan Africa, where there's a healthcare delivery issue. It is not easily spread. It...
  • Personalized Health

    While the Terri Schiavo case has dominated the news over the past week, medical ethicists have also been busy considering developments in personalized medicine--customizing health care to fit individual genetic profiles. On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration issued guidelines for interpreting "pharmacogenomic" data (see fda.gov). Meanwhile, three months ago, the FDA approved the first laboratory test to help physicians use genetic information to choose the right doses of drugs for patients with cardiac problems, psychiatric diseases and even cancer.To learn more about the implications of our brave new medical world, NEWSWEEK's Karen Springen spoke with Dr. Arthur Caplan, chairman of the department of medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and author of "Am I My Brother's Keeper? The Ethical Frontiers of Biomedicine" (Indiana University Press). Excerpts:NEWSWEEK: What's your stance on the Terri Schiavo case?Dr. Arthur Caplan: The right thing to do is to honor...
  • GAME OVER IN COLORADO

    In nearly five years as president of the University of Colorado, Elizabeth Hoffman racked up an impressive list of accomplishments. A skillful fund-raiser, she increased the university's endowment by nearly $100 million and established new technology initiatives. Two faculty members each won a Nobel Prize. But that wasn't enough to overcome what one member of Colorado's board of regents described as the "perfect storm" for a 21st-century university administrator: allegations of sexual assault by football players and recruits, and a showdown over free speech. Last week Hoffman decided that calls for her resignation from politicians and editorial writers made it impossible to lobby the legislature for much-needed money, and she quit. "I do not take this step lightly," she told the regents in her resignation letter. "I love CU. I have given it my heart and soul."Hoffman's exit may seem precipitous, but she lasted at least as long as any of her recent predecessors in Colorado. Around...
  • HEALTH: DON'T PAY TO PLAY

    Young kids are vulnerable to sports injuries that can become chronic later in life. This month the National Athletic Trainers' Association (nata.org) and the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (aaos.org) are kicking off a public-service campaign aimed at keeping sporty kids healthy. Here's more advice for parents:See your physician. A pre-participation exam can screen your child for pre-existing conditions like cardiovascular problems.Avoid heavy weights. Kids are better off with light weights and high repetition.Prevent overuse injuries. Kids can get "Little League elbow" from sidearm throwing and repetitive strain. Limit pitch count to about 60 to 80 a week for younger kids, says University of Mississippi pediatric orthopedic surgeon John Purvis.Stay away from high-injury activities like trampolines, which can be "very dangerous," says Purvis, especially when multiple kids jump at once.Encourage them to play outside. Like cross-training, it tones many muscles at once. Only...
  • HEALTH: MILLION DOLLAR SMILE

    Kendall Ramirez, 34, always felt self-conscious about her teeth, which she thought were too wide and masculine-looking. So before her wedding five years ago, the Dallas marketing consultant splurged on MAC veneers, paying about $15,000 to cover her 10 top front teeth with porcelain. She was so happy with the results that, last year, she went back and had her bottom set bleached. The result: a bright, rounded, more feminine smile. "It was worth every penny," she says.Ramirez is part of a new era in dentistry that goes far beyond fighting cavities. With the vast majority of celebrities sporting blinding-white smiles, and shows like "Extreme Makeover" bringing da Vinci veneers to Everyman, Americans have grown tooth-obsessed. As a result, dentists are performing about twice as many cosmetic procedures as they were just three years ago, estimates Cleveland dentist Matthew Messina, the American Dental Association's consumer adviser. And companies have sprung up to offer special financing...
  • HEALTH: LESS PAIN, ALL GAIN

    About six out of every 10 U.S. women giving birth receive an epidural--a combination of a local anesthetic and a narcotic injected through a catheter inserted in the lower back. Yet traditionally, doctors worried that administering one before the cervix opened four or five centimeters (a process that takes eight to nine hours, on average) would slow labor and increase the risk of C-section. Last week a randomized, controlled study of 750 first-time moms, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, delivered some good news: early epidurals actually shortened average labor time by 90 minutes--and did not increase the incidence of C-section. Why? "Our gut feeling is that somehow the whole process of relaxing and not being in pain actually speeds the process of labor," says Northwestern Memorial Hospital obstetric anesthesiologist Dr. Cynthia Wong, lead author of the study.The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology currently recommends waiting for the four- to five-...
  • BETA-TESTING PARADISE

    Deep in the back of the 60,000-square-foot appliance store in suburban Chicago, Yamaha representative Chuck Lucous is performing his magic. He's working with a rectangular silver state-of-the-art speaker that's sitting on a special mount beneath a Panasonic plasma TV. He hooks it up to a DVD player, and soon music cascades across one area of this retailing gem called Abt Electronics. The song sounds remarkably rich coming from a single speaker, and that's the point: this $1,299 Yamaha "acoustic sound projector" is intended to replicate the performance of a multispeaker system. Abt became the first store in the United States to sell the speaker earlier this month--but that's hardly unusual. That big-box store in your town is a great place to find merchandise. When it comes to electronics, though, version 1.0 of any new product is likely to show up at Abt first.The theater industry once tried out new plays in New Haven, Conn., before they opened on Broadway. Carmakers routinely unveil...
  • SURGERY: A TAXING PROCEDURE

    Taxing breast implants is the latest tool states are using to augment their revenues. New Jersey pioneered the idea in September, when it became the first state to levy a 6 percent tax on elective cosmetic procedures, such as liposuction and face-lifts. Now similar taxes are up for debate in Washington and Illinois, and other states are said to be considering cosmetic-surgery tax legislation.Botox and breast implants make an easy target for cash-strapped states like Washington, which faces a deficit of roughly $2 billion. After all, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports that in 2003, Americans spent $8.4 billion on cosmetic procedures. Doctors and medical groups oppose the taxes, saying they discriminate against women, who made up 86 percent of those getting procedures in 2003. But Washington state Sen. Karen Keiser, who notes that revenues from her state's tax would go to health services for children, says it might even give the industry a lift. "[It's] a little...
  • Broadway in the Loop

    Even with big stars like Tim Curry, David Hyde Pierce and Hank Azaria and a dynamite script by Eric Idle, the producers of the surefire smash "Monty Python's Spamalot" wanted to fine-tune their musical before it hit Broadway. So the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the cast and crew headed to Chicago--where audience laughs (and silences) helped them decide what needed tweaking and even deleting. As a result, when the show started its Broadway previews on Valentine's Day, New York theatergoers were spared its weak moments, including an unfunny witch-burning scene. Instead, they got Chicago-tested winners--including the zingers, "We won't succeed on Broadway if we don't have any Jews" and "There's a very small percentile who enjoys a dancing gentile."Those lines are funny because they're untrue. "The Midwest is really a good barometer for the country," explains producer Mary Lu Roffe. Last month alone, Chicago theatergoers could choose (if they could get tickets) between two pre-Broadway...
  • LIGHT UP AND YOU MAY BE LET GO

    Workers for Weyco, a health-benefits administrator in Okemos, Mich., can now be fired for smoking--on or off the job. The company plans to randomly test workers at least once a year. As a business that pays claims for health plans, "we see some of the devastating effects of smoking-related illnesses," says Gary Climes, vice president of finance. "We're trying to avoid it." So are other corporations. While 28 states have passed smoker-protection laws since 1989, the others never made smokers a protected class. "Smokers have a significant higher percentage of medical complications. They miss more days of work," says Richard Chaifetz, CEO of ComPsych, an employee-behavioral-counseling firm. And even when they're at work, they often structure their day around cigarette breaks. UCLA nursing professor Linda Sarna reports in the journal Research in Nursing & Health that nurses who smoke are perceived by their peers as spending less time with patients. Critics of the nicotine crackdown...
  • THE MISCARRIAGE MAZE

    Jon Cohen and his wife, Shannon, never thought much about fertility. Their first child, Erin, was conceived easily, and Shannon's pregnancy progressed without a hitch. But when the couple decided to try again four years later, when both were 37, they ran into trouble. First they had difficulty conceiving; then Shannon had four consecutive miscarriages. "We felt like failures," says Jon.The experience prompted Jon to delve into the science of miscarriage, which he maps out in his new book, "Coming to Term" (Houghton Mifflin. $24). Despite the guilt and secrecy, miscarriage is far from uncommon. Anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of all pregnancies are lost before women are even aware they've conceived, and at least one in seven known pregnancies ends in miscarriage. Older women are especially vulnerable--as more forty-somethings launch into baby-making, miscarriage could strike in even greater numbers. Researchers will never be able to treat the heartache, but they are beginning to...
  • HEALTH: MED SCHOOL FOR THE MASSES

    Today, says Bruce Fuchs, an immunologist and director of the National Institutes of Health's office of science education, physicians are likely to say, "'Here's a range of treatment options. What do you want to do?' That puts a lot of pressure on an individual." Which may account for why once-a-week, after-work lectures on topics like anatomy, microbiology, infectious disease, cancer and heart disease are now offered at more than 80 U.S. medical institutions. At the Smithsonian this spring, the NIH is holding a "mini med" on aging. And PBS is airing "Mini-Med School TV," with episodes on "Hi-Tech Brain Repair" and "Lifesaving Heart Repair" taught by docs at Chicago's Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Mini med schools' six- to 10-week sessions don't qualify students to do open-heart surgery. But at Washington University in St. Louis, attendees practice suturing on synthetic skin. In PBS's brain-repair episode, Dr. Hunt Batjer, chair of Northwestern's neurological-surgery department,...