Emeritus Faculty Association news April-May 2010

May Meeting:
Provost's Annual Luncheon, 12.00 noon, Friday, May 7th, Student Activities Center (send RSVP to Ann). Our luncheon speaker will be commentator David Bouchier who will speak on the subject of "A Word to the Wise."
What it is wisdom? How do we recognize it? What can we do with it if we find it? Drawing on the wisdom of sages past and present, including Plato, Hegel, Woody Allen, and Homer Simpson, David will sketch the outlines of a general theory of wisdom which may or may not answer all our questions about the meaning of life, and so save the world.
David Bouchier is the award-winning essayist for National Public Radio Stations WSHU and WSUF in Fairfield, Connecticut, and hosts the Sunday afternoon classical music program Sunday Matinee on the same stations. For ten years he contributed a regular humor column called "Out of Order" for the Long Island section of the Sunday New York Times, and has published fiction and non-fiction in many literary and political magazines.
Born in London, David has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and college teacher on both sides of the Atlantic. Rather late in life he received a PhD from the London School of Economics, and spent some years teaching in the department of sociology at the University of Essex (one of Britain's experimental universities founded in the 1960s), where he received the gift of irony. His most recent book of essays, A Few Well Chosen Words, was published in 2007. Other recent books include a collection of essays about life in America, The Song of Suburbia, published in 2002; stories of life in a French village, The Cats and the Water Bottles, also published in 2002; and Writer at Work (2005). He lives in Stony Brook with his wife Diane (prof and chair, Sociology), and two resolutely anti-intellectual cats.

Co-chair Howard Scarrow
After his recent bout with encephalitis Howard has now progressed to rehab at Island Nursing and Rehab Center, 5537 Expressway Drive North (LIE access road) Holtsville, NY 11742. He has our card with all our best wishes and hopes to be back on his feet and able to join us for the emeritus luncheon.

Last Meeting
Co-chair Al Carson introduced Stephen G. Post, Professor of Preventive Medicine and Director/Founder of the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics at Stony Brook, for his talk "Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Benefits of Giving". Post began with the observation that practicing physicians report a loss of enthusiasm for their career; the main reason given is they lack the time to connect with their patients. Those who do, however, find they actually can shorten the time needed to treat them. Successful physicians can touch base with their patients and protect from burnout and stress. Third year medical students lose the ideal of dealing closely with patients, but regain it in their clerkship year when they interact with residents and other medical professionals.This loss is due to the emphasis by allopathic (scientific) medicine to concentrate on understanding the clinical aspects of disease at the expense of patients' emotional needs. Relying only on the former approach is why medicine loses patients. When doctors project empathy, patients avoid "doctor shopping", cure rates are higher, and medical non-compliance is less. Biologists have shown that a single abrupt, disparaging and critical interaction can elevate the level of the stress hormone, cortisol, for 48 hours. One of the most quoted lines in medicine is "The secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient". Emotions are a part of our bodies can be important in the clinical treatment of disease. After listening to many dying patients, Dr. Cicely Saunders wrote the book, Empathy and Altruism: A Scientific and Humanistic Perspective and showed that attentive listening is compassionate. Wound healing has been shown to be slower in couples with high hostility. Doctors who make effective apologies for mistakes are more successful. The laying on of hands is a powerful technique in successful treatment. (More in Post's recent book Altruism and Health: Perspectives from Empirical Research Oxford 2007.)

Another poll rating for Stony Brook

Of Truth and Consequences
Long ago and far away, news sources like the BBC were universally respected and trusted. But in the brave new world it has become necessary to compare "news" reports and commentary with fact checking sites, such as: http://www.politifact.com (St. Petersburg Times), http://www.FactCheck.org (U. Penn Annenberg Public Policy Center), http://www.snopes.com, and http://www.truthorfiction.com . Although these sites really seem to make an effort to let the chips fall where they may, inevitably conservative politicians, talk radio, TV, and internet blogospheres have been taking most of the hits. And so also inevitably we are hearing accusations that the fact-checking sites are liberally slanted and calls for right-wing-approved fact-checking. I say the more fact-checking the better! But comparing the millions glued to TV and talk radio, and the occasional curmudgeon doing fact-checking, it has been well said that truth doesn't stand much of a chance. Hence my private fantasy:- to take Lydia (see last emeritus talk and newsletter) which already monitors the media 24/7 and boils the stories down to a standard form, and hook it up to a processor such as http://purportal.com which searches the fact-checking sites. Then feed the hits back in real time. So an assertion on talk radio might be immediately followed by a rude noise, while a TV pontificator or internet blog might be adorned with a "pants-on-fire" icon. And as for the newspapers - well hardly anyone reads those any more anyhow.
Editor's note: We should point out that his piece appeared on this website a week before ABC revealed that they planned to try exactly this, using the first fact-checking site mentioned above. Nor were we aware that had been suggested by Prof Jay Rosen of the NYU journalism school. However ABC appear to be having difficulty with timely feedback and some of these ideas might help, except that Prof Skiena wishes to pass. See: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/13/arts/television/13politifact.html?ref=arts