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Category: science

Computerized Screening for Adolescent Behavioral Concerns

In the latest issue of Pediatrics, official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio have published a paper titled “Trial of Computerized Screening for Adolescent Behavioral Concerns“. This paper talks about the potential benefits of the Health eTouch systems to help pediatricians identify injury risks, depressive symptoms, and substance use among adolescent visiting urban clinics.

A total of 878 primary care patients 11 to 20 years of age where included in the study conducted in waiting rooms of 9 urban clinics. All of the patients where given wireless devices in clinic waiting rooms to answer questions about their health and behavior. The clinics were randomly assigned to have pediatricians receive these screening results either just before face-to-face encounters with patients (immediate-results condition) or 2 to 3 business days later (delayed-results condition).

What the study eventually found was that 59% of the respondents had positive results for 1 or more of the following behavioral concerns: injury risk behaviors, significant depressive symptoms, or substance use. Sixty-eight percent of youths in the immediate-results condition who screened positive were identified as having a problem by their pediatrician. This was significantly higher than the recognition rate of 52% for youths in the delayed-results condition.

Take a look at the video, including a short interview with one of the main researchers, to learn more.

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Resources for finding a PhD position in medical sciences

I have been trying to find a suitable PhD position, preferably in European Union or North America, for the last three months. Until today I had no luck, but I am not complaining because medical research is a highly competitive field and three months are rarely enough to get a fantastic position.
However, what I did manage to do during this period is to find, try and evaluate numerous websites designed to help you find research positions (PhD, post doc or anything else). I am bringing you a little review of these websites enriched by my own observations and some tips on how to use them in the most efficient manner. There are also other resources you can find and use, but I believe the ones presented here will get you off on a good start. I wish you luck in finding your dream position.

If by any chance you are an employer looking for a PhD student with MD degree, be sure to take a look at my CV.

Resources are listed in alphabetical order.

The Dutch Academic Career Network

Academic Transfer
AcademicTransfer is a website for finding academic positions in the Netherlands. Don’t worry, they also have an english version of their site. 

The good thing: up to date listings of academic positions in the Netherlands, good search engine, email newsletter with latest vacancies, various RSS feeds (by job discipline, job type and specific organization)

The bad thing: includes only positions in the Netherlands (although sometimes they list some positions from other countries) 

Tips: Go to their extended search where an interface designed in Flash will appear, allowing you to tweak your search query to the last detail. Also, subscribe to their RSS feeds. is a job board for the international research and academic community. It is used by scientists at over 600 institutions in 38 countries.

The good thing: allows you to register, submit your CV, save jobs you like, create email job alerts

The bad thing: small number of jobs, no advance search, no RSS feed, email alerts not specific enough

Tips: Visit from time to time, as you may find jobs not listed elswhere

EMBO Life Sciences Mobility Portal

EMBO Mobility

EMBO Life Sciences Mobility Portal essentially provides a list of international PhD programs in life sciences. It also includes links for grants, courses and events.

The good thing: lots of high quality jobs

The bad thing: this is essentially just a list, don’t expect advance search, lot of listed jobs already expired, no email newsletter and RSS feeds for jobs

Tips: Worth visiting because sometimes you can find positions not listed elsewhere, although you can get very frustrated when you realize deadlines for lots of listed jobs have expired a long time ago.

The European Researcher’s Mobility Portal

EU mobility portal

The European Researcher’s Mobility Portal is a joint initiative of the European Commission and the 34 countries participating in the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research. It stores research jobs in the EU, but also has a list of fellowships and grants.

The good thing: at one place you can find jobs from 34 countries and some useful practical info about each participating country

The bad thing: one would expect more PhD vacancies, no email newsletter, no RSS feeds

Tips: No email newsletter and RSS feeds means that you will just have to visit this site regularly. Go to advance search, enter PhD into a free text field, select your main research fields and other options, and then search.


Find a phd

FindAPhD is a large database of worldwide PhD positions, but I have noticed that most of the included jobs are from the United Kingdom. This makes it somewhat redundant to site. They also provide databases for master courses, postdoc positions and other academic jobs.

The good thing: lots of jobs, funding flags assigned to each position providing you with a quick funding information (self funded, only UK students, international students, etc.)

The bad thing: no email newsletter, no RSS feeds, lots of jobs have no deadlines (applications accepted all year round), but when you contact employers you will find that some of them are already taken, sometimes no contact information is provided, so you have to send enquires to the employer through FindAPhD site, form designed to do that does not allow for your attached CV to be larger than 150 KB

Tips: No email newsletter and RSS feeds means regular visits to the site. Use advance search and select research fields of interest. When search results return sort them by funding type, so you don’t read about those you can’t apply to.

Jobs UK will find you jobs in research, science, academic and related professions. Although this site lists some jobs in other countries, it primarily exist to help you find a job in the United Kingdom.

The good thing: frequently updated with many jobs from the UK, probably the best source of academic jobs in the UK, email newsletter, RSS feeds, career advice, podcasts, blogs

The bad thing: email newsletter and RSS feeds are general, and there is no way to receive only the jobs you prefer

Tips: Subscribe to Health & Medical category either by email newsletter or RSS feed. When new jobs arrive to your inbox you will have to do a little bit of work by yourself, to scan through all of them and find PhD studentships.


Nature jobs
Naturejobs is a part of a Nature publishing group, publisher of Nature (the world’s foremost weekly scientific journal), web portal. It is much more than a mere database for research jobs, as here you can find career podcasts and vodcast, news, magazines, advice etc.

The good thing: daily updated directory of numerous prestigious research positions from across the globe, lot of jobs, tags assigned to each job, RSS feeds, additional services offered to job posters, extra content like career advice

The bad thing: to receive email alerts you need to register

Tips: You can look for jobs by opening a category, for example studentships, or you can use their advance search to really pin point jobs you are looking for. Their RSS feed service is excellent. You can transform any search query into a feed.

International Scholarships is an international scholarships and financial aid website. Their scholarship database is developed by international students in order to help fellow students.

The good thing: a substantial number of PhD scholarships from around the World, lot of jobs not listed elsewhere, email newsletter, RSS feed, forum, comments 

The bad thing: many old, expired studentships, no advance search, no specific email newsletters and RSS feeds

Tips: Worth visiting because sometimes you can find positions not listed elsewhere, although you can get very frustrated when you realize deadlines for lots of listed studentships have expired a long time ago.

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Peculiar medical research – round 1

It is often that I come across some rather interesting medical research papers. Sometimes they are funny or strange, but always unexpected. This is why I decided to start some sort of a column where I will present these papers.

For the first time, I chose a paper (actually two papers, but they are from the same series and on the same subject) written by A. Faix, J.F. Lapray, C. Courtieu, A. Maubon and K. Lanfrey from Department of Urology and Radiology, CMC Beau Soleil, Montpellier, France.

Their titles are Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Sexual Intercourse: Initial Experience and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of Sexual Intercourse: Second Experience in Missionary Position and Initial Experience in Posterior Position, and were both published in Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy

Authors best describe their research in abstracts. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Sexual Intercourse: Initial Experience

The objective of this study was to investigate sexual intercourse with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). A volunteer couple (30 yearold male, 27-year-old female) with a normal sex life, had face to face sexual intercourse (reversed missionary position) under MRI. Static and dynamic T2-weighted sagittal sequencies were acquired on the midline before and during vaginal penetration. In this position, before penetration, the vagina was parallel to the pubococcygeal line and had normal anterior convexity. After penetration, accentuation of the vaginal convexity was observed, produced by the penile gland reaching the anterior cul-de-sac and contact with the anterior vaginal wall. The posterior bladder wall was pushed forward and upward, the uterus upward and backward.

In this initial experience, we observed a preferential contact of the penis in erection with the anterior vaginal wall and the anterior cul-desac in the face-to-face sexual position. MRI allows a noninvasive assessment of sexual intercourse.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of Sexual Intercourse: Second Experience in Missionary Position and Initial Experience in Posterior Position

Our objective was to confirm that it is feasible to take images of the male and female genitals during coitus and to compare this present study with previous theories and recent radiological studies of the
anatomy during sexual intercourse. Magnetic resonance imaging was used to study the anatomy of the male and female genitals during coitus.

Three experiments were performed with one couple in two positions and after male ejaculation. The images obtained confirmed that during intercourse in the missionary position, the penis reaches the anterior fornix with preferential contact of the anterior vaginal wall. The posterior bladder wall was pushed forward and upward and the uterus was pushed upward and backward. The images obtained from the rear-entry position showed for the first time that the penis seems to reach the posterior fornix with preferential contact of the posterior vaginal wall. In this position, the bladder and uterus were pushed forward.

A different preferential contact of the penis with the female genitals was observed with each position. These images could contribute to a better understanding of the anatomy of sexual intercourse.

And now something all of you have been waiting for, the actual IMAGES.
Click to enlarge (I mean the images).

Sexual intercourse under MRI

Sexual intercourse under MRI

If nothing else, this volunteer couple became favorites of every “strangest places you made love” contest.

Images copyright © 2002 Brunner-Routledge

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Drugs from your inbox

Spam, or unsolicited e-mail, is everywhere and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, it will never go away, at least not until people keep buying the stuff spammers offer. And oh boy aren’t there always some new suckers in the cyberspace. However, things get far less amusing when human health gets into play. Have you noticed that a high percentage of spam you receive today is health-related?

It is just this health-related spam that Peter Gernburd and Alejandro Jadad from the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation from Canada wanted to find out more about. In September 2007 issue of PLoS Medicine, an open-access, peer-reviewed medical journal, they published a very interesting paper on this subject titled “Will Spam Overwhelm Our Defenses? Evaluating Offerings for Drugs and Natural Health Products”E/mail spam selling drugs
In their research they used three e-mail accounts, unfiltered for spam, to gather all the spam they could get in the period of one month. Among all the received spam messages, they picked out the health-related ones, defined as those which included offers of interventions that could modify a physical, cognitive, behavioral, or emotional state in humans (e.g., medications, natural health products, devices, or professional services). All Web links included in such messages were further analyzed.

During the study period researchers received 4,153 spam messages, out of which 1,334 or 32% were health related. Majority of these messages (73%) were sent from the United States.

Scientists tried to order prescription drugs and natural health products from Web sites advertised in these messages. Online drugsEventually, they received 9 orders (5 prescription drugs and 4 natural health products). Some of the products they managed to buy where Clalis (for erectile dysfunction), Tramadol (for pain), Valium and Xanax (for anxiety and other disorders). There was no report of any evidence of credit card abuse by the spammers, except for one undelivered product.

What the study lacked, but authors promised to report on in the near future, was the analysis of the actual purchased pharmaceutical products to reveal whether they are genuine, fakes, and most importantly are they dangerous.

You can read the complete paper on PLoS Medicine Web site.

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PubMed provides access to Medline, a premier bibliographic database that contains references to journal articles in the life sciences with a concentration on biomedicine. It is available via the NCBI Entrez retrieval system, which was developed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) at the National Library of Medicine (NLM), located at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

PubMed is extremely popular among biomedical researchers, in part because it offers free access, contrary to other such search engines like Scopus and Web of Science. However, during the years I heard a lot of people complaining about PubMed. They do not like its interface and are not satisfied with search results it provides. A lot of these people never gave any thought about PubMed, nor did they try to learn how to use it properly. They just punch in queries like they do on Google. I believe that a lot can be improved by understanding of Medline and especially of the MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) controlled vocabulary used to index all Medline articles. Users should also use tags, booleans operators and limitations, which can make the whole search process more pleasant and satisfactory. I highly recommend going through the PubMed online training, which also offers easy to follow animated tutorials with sound.

However, I would like to present a different approach to searching PubMed, an online application named PubReMiner. I had an opportunity to see a presentation of PubReMiner during my stay at the Academic Medical Center (AMC) in Amsterdam last summer, and was immediately delighted by it. Instantaneously I realized how beneficial it could be during my future search for literature. 

PubReMiner was created by Jan Koster, a member of Bio-informatics team of the Department of Human Genetics at the AMC, with a purpose to help people find biomedical literature on a certain subject indexed by the PubMed database. PubMed is growing larger everyday and when you enter a search term on any subject, it is highly likely that you will end up with a huge number of references and a headache. To get something useful to work with you need to combine different keywords, but usually you do not know which ones. Here is were PubReMiner steps in. It allows you to initiate a broad query (which is currently restricted to 7.500 abstracts), after which you can add or exclude words, authors, and journals to guide your search. These are all displayed in descending order, allowing you to immediately see which words, authors, and journals are used the most in combination with your query, so you can use them in your search. Apart for allowing the construction of efficient queries, PubReMiner can be useful in other areas, and this is actually how I use it the most. These are:

  • Selection of a journal for your current work (by scanning the most often used journals of similar research)
  • Finding experts in a research area (by viewing the authors associated with your query)
  • Determination of the research interest of an author (by viewing the keywords associated with an author) 

The best way to get the idea about PubReMiner is, of course, to try it yourself. Nevertheless, I will post a simple demonstration enriched by screen shots to get you started. 

Let’s say for example that you were reading the new issue of Nature and read the article entitled “Proteasome subunit Rpn13 is a novel ubiquitin receptor” by Koraljka Husnjak, Suzanne Elsasser, Naixia Zhang, Xiang Chen, Leah Randles, Yuan Shi, Kay Hofmann, Kylie J. Walters, Daniel Finley & Ivan Dikic. You were very intrigued by the research, so you decided to learn more about this research group and their work. You start you investigation with the last author, knowing that he might be the leader of the group. 

Go to PubReMiner and enter “dikic i” into the search box.


Your query results in 99 references. 
PubReMinerThis is way too much for you to start reading it all, but you can already learn a lot about the author. You can see for example the number of publications he has published per year, in which journals and who were his most frequent coauthors. Also, you can see which words, Mesh terms and substances are used in combination with this author, and this can help you identify his research interests. In just a matter of seconds you came to know that this author is, among others, interested in phosphorylation, signal transduction and ubiquitin/metabolism. 

The article you read was about ubiquitin, and this is the subject you are most interested in, so you select Ubiquitin/metabolism Mesh term and search again. 


Again, you get a lot of information in a structured table about Ivan Dikic’s work on ubiquitin. This is still too much for you to read, so you select only his most recent work, the last two years (2007 & 2008).


 This query gives you 5 references, which you feel is just the perfect number for you to start learning more, so you click on theGoTo PubMed with query button. 


The button does what it promises to do, which is opening PubMed in new window with your search query and 5 references.


This is just a small part of what PubReMiner has to offer, but I hope I managed to at least show you some basic and encourage you to try it.  

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Apparel Inspired by Medical Sciences

Threadless is a hugely popular online apparel store mostly famous for its creative t-shirt designs. What is unique about it is that members from all over the world submit designs online, which are then put to a public vote. Almost all of the submissions are brilliant, because they are mainly the work of professional designers or very talented passionates, but only a small percentage of submitted designs are selected for printing and sold through the store. This process ensures a higher quality of the final product, design version of peer review in scientific journals. 

I have been following submissions to the store for a while and have noticed that quite a substantial number of designs that end up being sold on Threadless are inspired by medicine, anatomy, dentistry, science, and such. At the same time, I have also been following fashion styles of numerous physicians and scientists, and let me tell you it is a sore sight for eyes 🙂 So many people in our profession have literally no sense of aesthetics. To help them (help us) and those who have to interact with them (us), I selected some of the t-shirts inspired by medical sciences from the Threadless catalog. Just imagine how cool you would look on monday morning when you come to your lab or hospital department. You could literally inspire people, make them smile and light up. Isn’t that the best medicine?

Run, Scientists, Run!
Run scientist



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