When claims of freedom blind us of their potentially insular nature

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Protests against COVID-19 policies have persisted throughout the pandemic. I can understand wanting life to be back to normal, visiting friends and family, and doing something as basic as going to a restaurant with my wife. As a physician, I am disturbed that such protests often perpetuate falsehoods about the pandemic, such as it not being real, it being no worse than the flu, and the number of dead is inflated or similar compared to other years. I find the last the most egregious as it suggests that all of those we have lost did not matter.

I have been…

I describe the twenty-four hours following my COVID-19 vaccine.

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There is a lot of misinformation regarding COVID-19 vaccines. I have written multiple articles on my Medium page documenting the objective aspects of COVID-19, including vaccine side effects. Yesterday, I was fortunate to receive my COVID-19 vaccine as some researchers had the opportunity to sign up for it.

I flowed through the registration at the vaccination center relatively quickly. As with every other medical procedure, I was appropriately asked for contraindications to the vaccine (have I had reactions to vaccines in the past). The center exists so people who have severe reactions can be cared for (a stretcher in a…

The vaccines are no longer experimental. They have "passed" and are now approved for general use. Being approved under emergency legislation does not mean safety assessments were skipped or minimized. Providers also have the ethical responsibility of "justice," which means here to ensure public health in this public health crisis. Receiving a vaccine (and being mandated to given no medical contraindications, even though it is a hard line), is essential for patient safety as a provider can be infected without knowing it, masks are not perfect, and hospitalized patients are more likely to suffer and die if they get COVID…

Review of this generally accessible textbook

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As I have been occupied with my research, textbooks have been a more frequent companion than Medium as I have been seeking to improve my knowledge to do better work. Given my recent desire to choose ideal sampling periods for data analysis, I read through the book Essentials of Epidemiology in Public Health by Ann Aschengrau and George R. Seage III, 2020. Both of the authors are public health specialists and thus well-suited to contribute to this textbook.

As one with a stronger background in epidemiology and public health, this book was less useful because it mainly focused on the…

I apologize for my recent paucity of articles. My COVID-19 research has become even more demanding than before and I am investing my time into contributing to the science that…

I second the efficacy of PCR in diagnosing infectious disease, including COVID-19. While more traditional lab tests, like checking someone's temperature or white blood cell count can provide information regarding the possibility of an infection, they do not tell you which infection. While clinical information, such as knowing the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community, sick contacts, and symptoms can point towards COVID-19, this would not be definitive evidence. PCR provides definitive evidence because it is designed to only detect SARS-CoV-2 viral genetic material. As with any test, PCR is not perfect, but it is considered the gold standard, ie…

I discuss why a healthy amount of skepticism is appropriate.

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The news can be a valuable source of information given that it makes one aware of the current situation of one’s community and world. Given that many do not have connections to the research community and do not read primary literature, news and health writers can provide a much-needed link. This connection is crucial because it can give hope and promise of a better tomorrow. It can provide information that one can reflect on their own time, answers to questions omitted during a health visit, and ease for anxiety related to health concerns that one faces.

Just as with the…

Gut microbiome work is an attractive topic and something that gains much publicity. I am personally hesitant to use the word "undeniably" due to my physician-scientist nature. As you discussed, there are promising studies suggesting an association both in rodent models and human models (https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12888-020-02654-5). This review paper I am citing critically appraised studies investigating fecal transplant with respect to psychiatric conditions. I think it is unlikely that fecal transplants will become mainstream for treating psychiatric conditions given that there are already many therapies that work (which insurance would be more likely to cover). Studies like these are still valuable…


I go over designing a system to guide plant watering.

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I have recently been exploring growing bonsai trees as a means of making my apartment more cheery. As I quickly found with my first set of seeds, water delivery is an important yet challenging aspect of plant care. This difficulty is expanded in my apartment, where it remains dry due to the long Canadian winter. I initially purchased a moisture-indicator pen, but it did not meet my preference for greater sensitivity. I decided to use Arduino with a soil moisture sensor.

As an aside, I have had good results with using off-brand Arduino products, such as those made in China…

Evaluation of the literature concerning another social media health claim.

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Dubious health claims have been reasonably common over history and have become particularly disseminated with the advent of social media. Well-intentioned individuals can hear of a study where some components can be found in food, which produced an effect in cell cultures or animal models that on face value sounds unattractive. Tofu is one particular victim of this where isoflavones have been chemically classified as selective estrogen receptor modulators and phytoestrogens¹.

I heard through my wife that social media suggests that one should not consume too much tofu or soy because of concern for its “health effects.” On review of…

Julian Willett, MD

Loving husband. Physician scientist who enjoys spreading his knowledge with the world whether related to medicine, technology, or science.

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