CEPI Students Take Part in MLK Day of Service

Movie Poster for Hidden Figures

Image Source: IMDB

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, Pennsylvania State Senator Vincent Hughes hosted a screening of Hidden Figures, the inspiring story of a group of African American women who were influential mathematicians involved in the early American space program. Over 200 students, educators, and members of the community joined Sen. Hughes at the Rave Cinemas at University City for the event, including several members of our Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship and Out4STEM Programs.

Students from the Teva and Out4STEM Programs stand at a table covered in literature about CEPI programming at Rave Cinemas at University City

After the movie, several of our CEPI youth presented information about our various programs to the public. Participants also took part in a raffle with the chance to win an Amazon Kindle, and one of our students–Gloria–was a lucky winner.

Philly Youth Kick Off Pennsylvania Teen Health Week 2017

Students from CEPI's various youth programs pose for a group photo on the steps of the PA State House with Dr. Rachel Levine and Dr. Loren Robinson

Did you know that teenagers make up 13% of the total US population? However, despite making up such a significant portion of the population there was no week focusing on teen health until 2016. In January 2016, Pennsylvania became the first state to devote a week to spreading awareness about the health issues directly affecting teenagers with the creation of Pennsylvania Teen Health Week (THW). Teen Health Week was the brainchild of Dr. Laura Offutt. Dr. Offutt is a Pennsylvania physician, Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, and the host of Real Talk with Dr. Offutt, an online resource devoted to teen health. CEPI is proud to be an active partner in Pennsylvania Teen Health Week. January 9-13 is the observance Pennsylvania Teen Health Week 2017. This year each day focuses on one of five themes: Nutrition and Fitness, Violence Prevention, Mental Health, Sexual Health, and Substance Use.

Teva intern Su Ly stands at a podium in front of attendees to the proclamation of Pennsylvania Teen Health Week 2017 at the Pennsylvania State House

This past Monday we traveled to the Pennsylvania State House in Harrisburg to commemorate the second annual Pennsylvania Teen Health Week. Philadelphia youth representing the Karabots Junior Fellows Program, the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program, and the Out4STEM Program were on site to show their support. The festivities began with statements from four prominent Pennsylvania physicians: Dr. Rachel Levine, Physician General for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Dr. Loren Robinson, Deputy Secretary for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (and Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia), Dr. Robert Sharrar, Executive Director of Safety, Epidemiology, Registries and Risk Management and Member of the Philadelphia Board of Health (as well as a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia), and Dr. Offutt. The event concluded with a reading of Gov. Tom Wolf’s proclamation announcing January 9-13 as Pennsylvania Teen Health Week 2017. Several Philadelphia youth, including Xavier Gavin and Su Ly of the Karabots and Teva Program, respectively, bravely read Gov. Wolf’s proclamation.

Students from CEPI's various youth programs sit in the observation deck atop the Pennsylvania State Senate chamber and listen to a guide conduct a tour of the State House

After the reading, our students took a tour of the Pennsylvania State House, visiting the chambers of the Pennsylvania Senate, House of Representatives, and Supreme Court. While they viewed from the observation decks of the respective government houses, we hope to see some of them as lawmakers and policy developers in the future (remember: the minimum age to serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives is 21).

Image displaying the logos of the sponsors for Teen Health Week: Pennsylvania Southeast Region Area Health Education Center (AHEC); System of Care, a program of the Delaware County Department of Human Services; the Craig Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia; and Honeygrow.

Pennsylvania Teen Health Week 2017 is sponsored in part by the Pennsylvania Southeast Region Area Health Education Center (AHEC)System of Care, a program of the Delaware County Department of Human Services; the Craig Dalsimer Division of Adolescent Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Honeygrow.

CEPI Curiosities: Duchenne’s Smiles

CEPI Curiosities: Tales from Medical History's Strange Side

Greetings and salutations, medico-historico enthusiasts and welcome to the latest installment of CEPI Curiosities, our regular look back at the thought-provoking and downright strange from the history of medicine. Past forays into the medically weird have included 1990s anti-drug PSAs, the famous Siamese Twins (Chang and Eng Bunker), and a physician who collected thousands of swallowed objects.

This month’s iteration is a continuation of our look from last month at physiognomy, the pseudoscience of divining evidence of one’s character by examining the physical dimensions of their face. As I enumerated upon last month, physiognomy, as with phrenology, was next to impossible to measure scientifically and, again as with phrenology, gradually fell out of favor. This time around we are going to take the science of faces from a different direction and examine some interesting, dare I say shocking, facial research. Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to renowned faceologist (well, technically, French neurologist) Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne de Boulogne.

Duchenne was a pioneer in neurology. He was one of the first in his field to use electricity to study muscular anatomy, also known as myology, and was an early adopter of photography, using the new medium to record his experiments. Among his contributions to the field was his extensive research on the myology of the face, which he first published in his 1862 treatise The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression (TMHFE). One of the legacies of his research is a genuine smile (one where the sides of the mouth curl upward, the cheeks raise, and the eyes form crow’s feet) is known today as a Duchenne smile. A contemporary of the physiognomy movement, Duchenne was politely dismissive of Lavater’s conclusions, in part calling out the Swiss theologian for his silence on facial movement to say nothing of his lack of scientific credentials, writing:

Lavater devoted himself to the study of facial expression at rest, of physiognomy as such. His research was concerned with the difference between the combinations of contours and lines, the profiles and silhouettes that make up the static face. He certainly would not have neglected as much as he did of the study of facial expression in movement, which should serve as the basis for the examination of the physiognomy at rest, had he been either an anatomist or a physiologist or a doctor or even a naturalist. Duchenne The Mechanism of Human Facial Expression 4.

Rather than study the face to measure the temperament of the human soul, Duchenne focused on mapping the functions of human facial muscles to determine what specific muscles a person used to convey different expressions. This is where the mention of Duchenne’s dual interest in electricity and photography become important, because Duchenne drew his conclusions by shocking patients’ faces with electricity and photographing the results. Even Duchenne himself was aware his methodology might come as…er…shocking to his contemporaries, musing in the early pages of TMHFE: “No one thought that the study of myology could benefit from gross experiments by a physician who provoked convulsions on the faces of his tortured subjects using electrical currents” (Duchenne 10).

Between 1852 and 1856, Duchenne conducted his experiments on a series of live human subjects, including a young man, a nine-year-old girl, and an elderly woman. However, he performed the bulk of his tests on an elderly man with localized facial paralysis that left him with an inability to feel pain. Duchenne described him as an ideal candidate for this sort of experiment because “I could stimulate his individual muscles with as much precision, and accuracy as if I were working with a still irritable [responsive to stimuli] cadaver” (43). He had each subject convey a facial expression displaying one of several emotions, which he listed as attention, reflection, aggression, pain, joy, kindness, scorn, lasciviousness, sadness, crying, sniveling, surprise, and astonishment. Duchenne then recreated the expressions by subjecting parts of the patients’ faces to localized electric shocks. In both cases he photographed their visages, publishing 73 photographic plates in TMHFE.

What I find especially interesting about Duchenne’s work, aside from the whole zapping people’s faces part, is his photographs provide a contrast to what one typically expects from historic photography. Long exposure times and the novelty and highly specialized nature of photographic technology led many 19th century portraits to take on a serious, or downright somber, tone. The Civil War photography of Mathew Brady offers an example of the gravity of 19th century portraits and provides the glimpse most modern observers think about when they think of the 1800s.

1864 Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Matthew Brady; Source: National Archives and Records Administration

1864 Portrait of Abraham Lincoln by Matthew Brady; Source: National Archives and Records Administration

By contrast, in Duchenne’s imagery, we see people in various stages of joy, fright, sarcasm, and downright silliness; something people tend to associate with more modern images.

To bring Duchenne into the present day, his work recently gained some popular attention during the 2016 US Presidential Election.  Richard E. Cytowic, a professor of neurology at George Washington University, observed during the Republican primaries that Texas Senator and Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz stood at a disadvantage among voters because he lacked a Duchenne smile.

Now, while physiognomy has been disproven, there is a natural response to attempt to ascertain a person’s character by looking at them. It is a practice frequently seen in visual-based fiction, such as movies, comic books, and cartoons, where facial characteristics are used as a visual shorthand for viewers (think about the last TV show or film you watched; were you able to tell who were the “good guys” and “bad guys” by simply looking at them). The same, in this particular case, goes for politics.

And that wraps up our look at physiognomy and the science of faces. Until next time, catch you on the strange side!

CEPI Youth Help People Get Tested at World AIDS Day 2016

Four students in the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship pose with signs displaying various facts about HIV/AIDS at World AIDS Day 2016

On December 3, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia observed World AIDS Day 2016 with a day-long event to promote HIV/AIDS awareness, dispel the stigma and misconceptions associated with the disease, and encourage people to get tested. Visitors to the Mütter Museum received free admission in exchange for an HIV test (they involve a simple blood sample and test results are known in 60 seconds, a small price to pay for a day at the Museum and certainty over one’s status). It was a large undertaking; fortunately we had on hand a dedicated group of CEPI youth to help out.

Representing the Karabots Junior Fellows Program, the Teva Pharmaceuticals Internship Program, and the Out4STEM Program, our intrepid volunteers were instrumental in logistics, education, and promotion. They directed visitors who came to get tested to make sure the process was as quick and easy as possible. They encouraged people to pose with images of HIV/AIDS-related facts and share them on social media. They also helped educate the public with small health-related lessons, including a lesson on bone pathology using models of human skulls. Overall they helped make for a successful event wherein we tested eighty-five people!

Sara, a student in the Karabots Junior Fellows Program, teaches two students about skull pathology by displaying a group of human skull replicas at World AIDS Day 2016


The Karabots Junior Fellows Journey Through the Academy of Natural Sciences

Timshel Purdum, Assistant VP of Public Experience at the Academy of Natural Sciences, presents a tour of an animal display to the Karabots Junior Fellows

As part of their year-long study of the medical and social construction of the body, the students of the Karabots Junior Fellows Program are preparing to develop their own exhibit. To help them better prepare and to understand how museums use human and animal specimens to teach the public, they recently visited the Academy of Natural Sciences to explore their animal displays. Founded in 1812, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia seeks to educate the public in subjects related to natural history. They feature an impressive collection of flora and fauna specimens, including prehistoric skeletons, a live butterfly room, and taxidermy displays of various species that recreate them in their natural habitats (known as “habitat dioramas”). Timshel Purdum, Assistant Vice President for Public Experience, led the Fellows on a tour of the habitat dioramas, explaining the process by which the specimens were acquired, how they were prepared for display, and how the Academy uses them to educate the public. She also presented the students with fascinating inside stories about various dioramas (such as the “Franken-moose,” a moose specimen with the antlers of a different moose attached to them) and images from the site’s copious historical records. Afterwards the explored the museum for themselves.

Photograph of the "Franken-Moose," a moose with another moose's antlers on display at the Academy of Natural Sciences

World AIDS Day at the Mütter Museum: December 3, 2016

Promotional flyer for World AIDS Day 2016 at the Mütter Museum, December 3, 2016

Did you know more than 1.2 million Americans are living with HIV? Did you know that 1 in 8 people living with HIV are not aware they have it? December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day devoted to spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS, offering support to the millions living with the disease, and remembering those who have died from it.

On Saturday, December 3, 2016, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia will be commemorating World AIDS Day with a day-long event to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, enumerate the facts and myths related to the disease, and encourage everyone to get tested. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia will be offering 60 second tests to any member of the public 13 years or older (testing is provided by Bebashi) with free admission to the Mütter Museum to whomever gets tested. The event will take place from 10 AM-5 PM.