Former NFL player who became a neurosurgeon is now serving on the COVID-19 front lines

Few people are ever able to realistically ask themselves, "Should I become a professional football player or a brain surgeon?" much less actually succeed at doing both. But that's exactly what Myron Rolle managed to do.

The native Texan, whose parents immigrated here from the Bahamas, completed his Bachelor's degree at Florida State in less than three years. After college, he spent a year studying at Oxford University as a Rhodes scholar, then returned to play as a defensive back in the NFL for the Tennessee Titans for three years. After announcing that he was leaving football in 2013, he entered medical school. He is now in his third year of residency as a neurosurgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

So, you know, a pretty average life.

Now, Rolle has found himself on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the neurosurgery floor of his hospital has been transformed into a COVID-19-only unit. Though he's still performing emergency brain surgeries, all elective procedures have been postponed. With his schedule freed up, Rolle has volunteered to work in the surge clinic that triages new patients who come in with COVID-19 symptoms.



And interestingly enough, when talking about how he's making the transition from neurosurgery to treating a respiratory disease, it's his football experience—not medical training—that he refers back to.

"Obviously, neurosurgery is not directly connected to this upper respiratory illness," Rolle told The Tennessean. "But just like in football, if you're called to do something different that you weren't expecting, you adjust. You adapt. They're showing us a new formation that we didn't see on tape? You've got to hunker down and get the job done. In my opinion, this novel disease is something like that. A formation, a personnel package that we haven't seen before. We have to meet the challenge, and I'm happy to be able to join the fight."

Rolle shared some of his experience in the coronavirus battle in late March on ESPN, as Boston was ramping up its preparedness for a surge in COVID-19 patients:

Well done, Dr. Rolle. You are a true inspiration and role model for us all.

Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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