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September 1, 2007

Medicine and Bioethics Column

A new project: I have just started as the Medicine and Bioethics Columnist for The Observer, the student newspaper of Case Western Reserve University, my new school. The column is called "Medicine Today" and it will be addressing issues of medicine, medical education, and bioethics. I'll be sure to post new articles when they come out every few weeks.My first column came out yesterday. Check it out: "Special" camp teaches lessons on discipline and optimismHere's a taste:The face of chronic disease in America is often seen as the ailing hearts and arteries of the hypertensive, the sedentary obese, or diabetic amputees. But there is another face – faces, really – that could perhaps be known as the future of chronic disease, faces that take nothing away from the growing severity of the ailments and yet engulf themselves in an inspiring optimism.These new faces of the future taught me and my first-year medical school colleagues many of the daunting challenges and inspiring triumphs in the management of chronic disease at, of all places, a summer camp.Camp Ho Mita Koda (meaning "welcome, friend" in a local native language) is the oldest summer camp in the country for diabetics, residing in Newbury, Ohio, just outside of Cleveland. It is much the same as any other "normal" summer camp: it has swimming, boating, archery, arts and crafts, a ropes course, and bunks for girls and boys. It is the same as any other camp except for the fact that every camper there carries around a pancreas filled with dead beta cells and, without the necessary production of insulin, no way to naturally regulate their blood sugar.Diabetes can be a truly brutal disease, causing fainting and seizures acutely and blindness, kidney failure, amputation, and heart disease later in life. Proper preventative management is terribly challenging, requiring delicately adjusted insulin injections along with rigorously monitored physical activity and diet. Such is the curse of Type I diabetes.That was why it was so surprising to show up at Camp Ho Mita Koda with a dozen of my classmates to see a bunch of kids running around just as they would be if there were not an insulin dispensary downstairs from the cafeteria....