More than making house calls and being there for patients, the following doctors spent the last year coming up with discoveries, techniques, treatments, and tales of bravery that changed the lives of the people under their watch and those under the care of many of their colleagues.
From coming up with a faster way to get more organs to transplant recipients to finding less painful ways of administering chemotherapy, these doctors contributions have touched their patients and thousands more they will never meet:
David Ho – A heartbeat away from an AIDS vaccine?
In 1996, Dr. David Ho was named Time’s Person Of The Year for pioneering the use of antiretroviral cocktails in the fight against AIDS. 14 years later, HIV and AIDS are no longer an instant death sentence, and Ho is aiming to one-up the leading vaccine (which can reduce the risk of new HIV infection 31%) with a radical new technique of delivering and then unpacking a pre-set series of antibodies to an HIV-infected immune system.
Chris Copola – Above and beyond for child patients in Iraq
Serving as a trauma surgeon at a combat support hospital 40 miles north of Baghdad in 2007, Copola treated injured troops, detainees, civilians, and children. What set him apart this past year was the publishing of Copola: A Pediatric Surgeon In Iraq, a frank, honest, often heartbreaking book detailing his heroic efforts above and beyond the call of duty.
J. Keith Melancon – Pioneering domino kidney surgeries
Elizabeth McPhatter got a new kidney a year ago, thanks to Dr. J. Keith Melancon and a team of 13 others. The others weren’t a team of doctors, nurses, and ER technicians though. They were 13 other transplantees and family members involved in the world’s first six-person kidney swap. The swap was a form of domino surgery, where families including a member in need of a kidney and a member who would like to donate their kidney but isn’t a match join forces with other families with members in need and donors. Donors give kidneys to strangers in the other families and everyone who needs a compatible kidney gets one. Why didn’t we think of this earlier?
Nancy Baxter – Outwitting the trick of colon cancer
A recent study found that 9% of patients who opted for “virtual” colonoscopies had flat or recessed lesions: Much harder to successfully detect and ten times more likely to be cancerous than typical polyps. What’s more, colonoscopies themselves may need a tweak to be more effective. The insight comes thanks to Nancy Baxter and team at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital. According to Baxter’s findings, colonoscopies are responsible for preventing 2/3 of cancer deaths due to polyps on the left side of the colon. But the research says “hold on” when it comes to thinking such exams will catch polyps responsible for cancer on the right side of one’s colon. Such exams, she found, aren’t nearly as effective on that side. According to Baxter, radically reengineering how colon cancer is screened for could save thousands more lives a year in North America.
Andrei Alexandrov – Double-barrel treatment could be best-yet for stroke sufferers
Doctors have known for several years that administering excess tPa – a naturally occurring hormone that dissolves blood clots – can reduce long term effects in stroke patients. But now, University of Alabama-Birmingham doctor Andrei Alexandrov has found that tPa administered along with transcranial Doppler ultrasound is even more effective in treating ischemic stroke.
John Kanis –Osteoporosis patients might not need meds
Deciding whether or not Osteoporosis sufferers needed bone density drugs or not has been a hotly debated topic among doctors. World Health Organization physician John Kanis’ recent breakthrough could put an end to unnecessary prescriptions for women who have borderline bone mineral density results. The WHO system, called FRAX, relies on additional factors that traditional bone density tests don’t take into account.
Denise Robertson – The best natural way to control your hunger?
Try what diets you want, says a new study out of London’s Imperial College: But whatever one you choose, be sure to include servings of resistant starches in a meal or two a day. Such starches, notes lead researcher Denise Robertson, could be the key to quickly, healthily getting-to-and-maintaining an ideal weight. The starches, found in foods such as potatoes, brown rice, corn, whole grain breads, and beans, have ‘prebiotic’ properties and are not digested but fermented over a longer period in your large intestine. In the study, participants who ate resistant starches as part of their meals were satisfied with 10% less food and felt no lingering hunger.
Timothy Whelan – Less time, less pain for cancer treatment
Patients who have traditionally had to undergo 5 weeks of chemotherapy might do just as well with 3 weeks of treatment. Dr Timothy Whelan at Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre in Ontario found that a shorter treatment at higher doses was often just as effective as the longer regimen.
Do you know a doctor who made a difference in a patient’s life? Maybe they didn’t cure a disease but still cured one person. Do you have any colleagues (or maybe your own doctor) who deserve a shout-out for going above-and-beyond for your health and peace of mind? Leave a comment below…