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March of Dimes

On March 21, 1963, Maurice R. Hilleman's daughter woke him up. She had a sore throat.

When he examined her, he realized that she had swelling beneath her jaw.

He knew immediately that this was no ordinary sore throat. She had mumps.


Mumps is a contagious viral disease that typically starts with a fever, headache, aches and pains, fatigue, and a loss of appetite. It is then followed by swollen salivary glands. It used to be the most common cause of acquired hearing loss, and there was no treatment.

All Hilleman could do was tuck his daughter back into bed and hope she would be OK.

‌A 3D representation of a mumps virus particle. Image via Alissa Eckert/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It's easy to forget today that those severe childhood diseases like mumps were once a relatively common occurrence.

As recently as half a century ago, kids would often get sick with diseases that caused devastating side effects and, sometimes, even death. In fact, some illnesses such as mumps, measles, and rubella were so prevalent that most parents could easily recognize them — usually because they had either had them themselves or had seen them before.

Measles — the same disease blamed partly for decimating Native American populations after the arrival of European explorers — was so common at the beginning of the 20th century that almost all Americans caught it sometime during their lifetime (though usually as children). In 1912-22, an average of 6,000 people died from it each year in the U.S.

Sometimes these diseases struck in the womb, too.

In the early 1960s, rubella, also known as German measles, was reaching pandemic proportions in pregnant moms. While the disease usually only produced a mild rash and fever in children and adults, if an expectant mother caught the virus — especially in the first trimester — congenital rubella syndrome caused damage to her developing baby more often than not. Not only could this cause miscarriage, but it could also lead to babies being born deaf, blind from cataracts, with heart conditions, or with developmental delays. During the epidemic, 20,000 babies were born with this syndrome.

So when Hilleman's daughter got sick, he decided to take the only action he could. He went to work.

Dr. Maurice R. Hilleman. Image via the National Library of Medicine.

Hilleman had a Ph.D. in microbiology from the University of Chicago, and he had been working at Merck & Co. for about six years, leading the company’s virus and vaccination research programs.

So, after she was in bed, he immediately drove to work, picked up sampling equipment from his lab, and went home to collect a swab from the back of her throat. He then brought the sample back to the lab, where he used it to help develop a vaccine against mumps.

Hilleman and his colleagues used the sample from his daughter to isolate the disease organism and figure out how to keep it alive in the lab. Then they tried to weaken it in a process called attenuation, or passing the virus over and over through a series of cells until it can no longer reproduce inside a human being (or make people sick) but can still make the body's immune system react and produce antibodies and T-lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell).

This result gives the body the defenses (or "memory" antibodies and T-lymphocytes) to protect itself if it ever comes into contact with the actual virus in the future.

‌Illustrations that were used in public service announcements to encourage parents to vaccinate their children against rubella in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Image via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ‌

By 1967, Hilleman had developed a working vaccine for mumps — and he named it Jeryl Lynn after his daughter (who recovered fully from the disease)

But his work on vaccines didn’t stop there. In 1968, he improved upon an existing measles vaccine (one that still caused rashes and fevers). In 1969, he worked with federal regulators to develop a vaccine for rubella in order to prevent another epidemic.

Syringes containing the mumps, measles, and rubella vaccine. Photo by Mark Kegans/Getty Images.

He also figured out how to combine the shots for measles, mumps, and rubella (a total of six shots) into just two — an initial shot and a booster — creating the MMR vaccine.

Hilleman developed and improved upon more than 40 vaccines — more than any other scientist in the world.

As a developer of vaccines, his work is unequaled. Today, over 91% of children receive the MMR vaccine before they turn 3, and it is considered one of the most important vaccines to get before you get pregnant (if you haven’t had it already) to prevent your baby from complications or birth abnormalities.

The MMR vaccine helped wipe out rubella from the Americas by 2015.

‌Hilleman at the Merck Institute for Therapeutic Research at West Point in 1963. Image via AP Photo.‌

While many of us might not know his name, Hilleman is a hero in medical science. His work on vaccines saved millions of lives in the continuing battle against contagious disease.

Joy

Nurse turns inappropriate things men say in the delivery room into ‘inspirational’ art

"Can you move to the birthing ball so I can sleep in the bed?"

Holly the delivery nurse.

After working six years as a labor and delivery nurse Holly, 30, has heard a lot of inappropriate remarks made by men while their partners are in labor. “Sometimes the moms think it’s funny—and if they think it’s funny, then I’ll laugh with them,” Holly told TODAY Parents. “But if they get upset, I’ll try to be the buffer. I’ll change the subject.”

Some of the comments are so wrong that she did something creative with them by turning them into “inspirational” quotes and setting them to “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton on TikTok.

“Some partners are hard to live up to!” she jokingly captioned the video.

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All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

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Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

The mesmerizing lost art of darning knit fabric.

For most of human history, people had to make their own clothing by hand, and sewing skills were subsequently passed down from generation to generation. Because clothing was so time-consuming and labor-intensive to make, people also had to know how to repair clothing items that got torn or damaged in some way.

The invention of sewing and knitting machines changed the way we acquire clothing, and the skills people used to possess have largely gone by the wayside. If we get a hole in a sock nowadays, we toss it and replace it. Most of us have no idea how to darn a sock or fix a hole in any knit fabric. It's far easier for us to replace than to repair.

But there are still some among us who do have the skills to repair clothing in a way that makes it look like the rip, tear or hole never happened, and to watch them do it is mesmerizing.

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Pop Culture

Artist uses AI to create ultra realistic portraits of celebrities who left us too soon

What would certain icons look like if nothing had happened to them?

Mercury would be 76 today.

Some icons have truly left this world too early. It’s a tragedy when anyone doesn’t make it to see old age, but when it happens to a well-known public figure, it’s like a bit of their art and legacy dies with them. What might Freddie Mercury have created if he were granted the gift of long life? Bruce Lee? Princess Diana?

Their futures might be mere musings of our imagination, but thanks to a lot of creativity (and a little tech) we can now get a glimpse into what these celebrities might have looked like when they were older.

Alper Yesiltas, an Istanbul-based lawyer and photographer, created a photography series titled “As If Nothing Happened,” which features eerily realistic portraits of long gone celebrities in their golden years. To make the images as real looking as possible, Yesiltas incorporated various photo editing programs such as Adobe Lightroom and VSCO, as well as the AI photo-enhancing software Remini.

“The hardest part of the creative process for me is making the image feel ‘real’ to me,” Yesiltas wrote about his passion project. “The moment I like the most is when I think the image in front of me looks as if it was taken by a photographer.”

Yesiltas’ meticulousness paid off, because the results are uncanny.

Along with each photo, Yesiltas writes a bittersweet message “wishing” how things might have gone differently … as if nothing happened.
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