Last week, I got the forty-second grant rejection of my academic career. This puts my overall grant success rate at about 10%. In other words, for every ten grants I write, nine get rejected.
What follows isn’t a sob story about rejection, however. Rejection is part of the academic game.
What follows, instead, is a look at this academic game from the perspective of a surgeon who works in—and writes grants for—global health. Specifically, I want to ask three questions today:
Or: why denominators matter
Slowly but surely, we’re getting vaccinated. (In high-income countries, at least, but this isn’t a post about vaccine nationalism).
Covid case counts in the US have steadily decreased since mid-April, reaching numbers we haven’t seen since March of last year. It’s pretty phenomenal.
So, this is a good time to talk about why we’re about to see reports of increasing infections among vaccinated people.
And it’s true! By the time 90% of the population is vaccinated, nearly a third of Covid infections will be in people who’ve been vaccinated!
In fact, here’s what it’s going to…
Let me introduce you to Paul. When I was younger, Paul once told me:
“Listen, if you can’t believe the Bible about the Creation, how are you ever going to believe it when it tells you that Jesus rose from the dead?”
Paul had dark hair, which he parted to the left, and a penchant for pleated, polyester pants. (In his defense, this was the 1980s.) He was my introduction to a particularly flinty religious tradition.
It takes many names — Evangelicalism, conservative Christianity, Christian fundamentalism, Biblical literalism — and, no matter your relation to it, you probably have a…
This piece originally appeared in the WorldBank DATA Blog.
Two thousand years ago, the story goes, an itinerant carpenter-prophet in Palestine met a woman who had suffered from a bleeding condition for twelve years. She had gone to see this man because she had already “suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors”—which, fair enough—“and had spent all she had.” 
Today, we’ve given that a name: “Catastrophic expenditure for health.”
And that concept — financial catastrophe in health care — feels quite new. It wasn’t until 2009 that we knew that over 60% of bankruptcy in the…
My old college roommates are really smart.
Like, really smart. While I mostly shout into the void of social media, one of them now flies jet planes and another writes papers with phrases like “the phenomenologically relevant properties of string compactifications which arise in the context of heterotic line bundle models.”
Like I said, really smart.
This week, one of them told me he’d become intrigued by something called the Great Barrington Declaration. He wanted to know what we public health folks thought about it, and why its ideas hadn’t gotten more attention.
He also forwarded an article from the…
Today, I want to talk about testing. It’s become a bit of a hot topic, especially with the #BlackLivesMatter protests of the last few weeks. Governor Andrew Cuomo has made coronavirus testing free to New Yorkers, and Governor Charlie Baker followed suit a week later in Massachusetts.
(On the other hand, the Stable Genius told us the other day that “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” So, there’s that).
The other day, this brilliant meme made its internet rounds:
and we need to talk about it.
But first, let’s talk about prisoners. Before you go any further, I’ve got two disclaimers at the bottom of this post that you should read. I’ll be here when you get back.
Let’s do a little thought experiment: imagine you and one of your acquaintances—we’ll call him Herb—have been apprehended by the police. They’ve got you both on video during a drug sale, but they can’t quite tell from the surveillance camera who made the actual sale.
To figure it out…
Over the last week or two, pre-emptive postmortems on the continuing worldwide shutdowns due to Covid-19 have begun to metastasize. Their authors stand in judgment over these shutdowns, claiming to present incontrovertible facts that prove that the shutdowns were unnecessary.
These postmortems get published in widely-read, respected periodicals like The Telegraph, The Hill, and even the Wall Street Journal. The way they’re written, they sound like so much Serious Thought.
Today, I want to suggest that they’re the opposite. They’re rife with serious epidemiologic errors, and—perhaps more damningly—they conceal insidious privilege and a touch of implicit bias.
Buckle in. This…
Failure is the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently. —Henry Ford
It’s been a month of quarantine. Guaranteed you’ve seen this Venn diagram floating in the ether:
On its face, this figure feels existentially true. A call to action.
We’ve been sent to our rooms by this pandemic, locked away from others (or with others) for an eternity. We’re surrounded by uncertainty: when will this be over? Will it be over? Will there be more waves? Am I going to get covid? And what the hell, why am I hungry again?
Enter this graphic, here to save you…
Two weeks ago, I started wearing a cloth mask in public.
Not going to lie. It feels weird. It’s hot. It’s kinda gross. And when I started wearing it, people gave me wide berth. Boston’s a walking city; we’re used to crowded sidewalks. But my mask guaranteed I’d get six feet of physical distancing—no one wants to walk near a bald, bearded brown guy wearing a mask.
Two days ago, Los Angeles mandated cloth masks for anyone walking outside. Even the President himself, despite his resolute “what’s the big deal” stance toward the pandemic, announced that the CDC recommends everyone…
O’Brien Chair of Global Surgery, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland | Global surgeon | Decision analyst | Climber | 3x American Ninja Warrior Competitor