Melinda Beck

Melinda Beck is a veteran reporter, writer and editor for major publications, currently writing freelance articles and pursuing book projects.

You Must Remember This: Forgetting Has Its Benefits

There's an old saying that inside every 70-year-old is a 35-year-old wondering, "What happened?" What happened is that countless days, nights, meetings, commutes and other unremarkable events went by, well, unremarked. They didn't make a lasting impression on the brain or they were overwritten by so many similar experiences that they are hard to retrieve. In short, they've been forgotten. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Neuroscientists say forgetting is crucial to the efficient functioning

How to Bring the Price of Health Care Into the Open

It's a simple idea, but a radical one. Let people know in advance how much health care will cost them—and whether they can find a better deal somewhere else. With outrage growing over incomprehensible medical bills and patients facing a higher share of the costs, momentum is building for efforts to do just that. Price transparency, as it is known, is common in most industries but rare in health care, where "charges," "prices," "rates" and "payments" all have different meanings and bear little r

How to Cut Your Health-Care Bill: Pay Cash

As consumers get savvier about shopping for health care, some are finding a curious trend: More hospitals, imaging centers, outpatient surgery centers and pharmacy chains will give them deep discounts if they pay cash instead of using insurance. When Nancy Surdoval, a retired lawyer, needed a knee X-ray last year, Boulder Community Hospital in Colorado said it would cost her $600, out of pocket, using her high-deductible insurance, or just $70 if she paid cash upfront. When she needed an MRI t

Is Your Medicine Right for Your Metabolism?

People can respond to drugs very differently. A medication that brings relief for some patients might show no benefit at all in others, or even cause harmful side effects. A growing array of genetic tests is designed to help predict how people are likely to respond to many common medications, from antidepressants and antihistamines to pain relievers and blood thinners. The tests, which are controversial, look for tiny variations in genes that determine how fast or slow we metabolize medications

Innovation Is Sweeping Through U.S. Medical Schools

Critics have long faulted U.S. medical education for being hidebound, imperious and out of touch with modern health-care needs. The core structure of medical school—two years of basic science followed by two years of clinical work—has been in place since 1910. Now a wave of innovation is sweeping through medical schools, much of it aimed at producing young doctors who are better prepared to meet the demands of the nation’s changing health-care system. At the new Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School

If at First You Don't Succeed, You're in Excellent Company

In her new autobiography, "Home," Julie Andrews tells of taking a screen test for MGM studios when she was 12 years old. "They needed to gussy me up a bit because I was so exceedingly plain," she writes. "The final determination was 'She's not photogenic enough for film.'" J.K. Rowling's book about a boy wizard was rejected by 12 publishers before a small London house picked up "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone." Decca Records turned down a contract with the Beatles, saying "We don't li

70,000 Ways to Classify Ailments

Doctors, hospitals and insurers are bracing for possible disruptions on Oct. 1 when the U.S. health-care system switches to a massive new set of codes for describing illnesses and injuries. Under the new system, cardiologists will have not one but 845 codes for angioplasty. Dermatologists will need to specify which of eight kinds of acne a patient has. Gastroenterologists who don’t know what’s causing a patient’s stomachache will be asked to specify where the pain is and what other symptoms are

Dyslexia Workarounds: Creativity Without a Lot of Reading

Actor Henry Winkler was told he was stupid. A teacher labeled Dan Malloy, the future governor of Connecticut, "mentally retarded." Delos Cosgrove recalls "hanging on by my fingernails" in high school and college before becoming a thoracic surgeon and the Cleveland Clinic's chief executive officer. Each has dyslexia, a condition that makes reading difficult but has little to do with intelligence. Mounting evidence shows that many people with dyslexia are highly creative, out-of-the-box thinkers,

The Sleepless Elite

For a small group of people—perhaps just 1% to 3% of the population—sleep is a waste of time. Natural "short sleepers," as they're officially known, are night owls and early birds simultaneously. They typically turn in well after midnight, then get up just a few hours later and barrel through the day without needing to take naps or load up on caffeine. They are also energetic, outgoing, optimistic and ambitious, according to the few researchers who have studied them. The pattern sometimes star

In Search of Alcoholism Genes

Millions of Americans know all too painfully that alcoholism runs in families. Children of alcoholic parents are four times as likely to develop drinking problems as the general population. Sons of alcoholic fathers face up to nine times the usual risk. Even babies of alcoholics adopted into non-drinking homes have nearly the same risk of alcoholism as they would if they'd stayed with their biological parents, studies have shown. But untangling just which genes pass along the predisposition fo

New Gadgets That Could Give Telemedicine a Boost

Telemedicine offers patients the chance to meet with a doctor, 24/7, without leaving home. But many physicians are wary of participating because they can’t peer into patients’ ears, look down their throats or listen to their lungs remotely. A new genre of home diagnostic devices aims to address those concerns by giving patients some of the same tools that doctors use during in-office exams. Think part Star Trek Tricorder, part Harry Potter Extendable Ear.

Meanwhile, back on the farm

It spans only about an acre at the north end of campus, but the Yale Farm brings a world of food experiences, issues, and ideas to the Yale community. Student interns and volunteers learn to grow vegetables, fruits, herbs, and flowers, care for honeybees and free-range hens, and manage soils for long-term health. Russian literature classes come to thresh Ukranika wheat, a variety much like a kind of wheat mentioned in Anna Karenina. Moreover, the farm serves as a forum for studying the complexi

“We wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t looked.”

“We wouldn’t have known if we hadn’t looked.” A fund at Yale is jump-starting new research on gender and health. WHRY director Carolyn M. Mazure with the center’s recent undergraduate fellows. Left to right: Dhikshitha Balaji ’18, Kaveri Curlin ’19, Mazure, and Haleigh Larson ’18. View full image Compared with men, women recovering from bypass surgery had lower levels of functioning, more pain, higher rates of infection, and more than twice the rate of rehospitalization. This WHRY-funded discove

Eating at Yale has changed. Drastically.

Alumni who remember Salisbury steak with brown sauce might not recognize Yale dining today. The cafeteria steam tables have been replaced with “action stations,” where chefs in white coats prepare dishes such as Kogi Beef Tacos and Jerk Chicken Skewers with Mango Drizzle in front of waiting students. The introduction of spa water, infused with fruit slices and prominently displayed in glass canisters, has brought soda consumption down. Trays are gone. Students carry individual dishes to their s

No time to lose

Michael Wishnie ’87, ’93JD, was just leaving a Celtics game in Boston when he got the emergency phone call. It was Friday night, January 27, and President Donald Trump’s executive order barring refugees and halting immigration from seven mostly Muslim countries was only a few hours old. Rebecca Heller ’10JD was on the phone. A former student of Wishnie’s, and director of the nonprofit International Refugee Assistance Project, she had learned that an Iraqi man her group was helping had been separ

With Direct Primary Care, It’s Just Doctor and Patient

There’s no waiting room at Linnea Meyer’s tiny primary-care practice in downtown Boston. That’s because there’s rarely a wait to see her. She has only 50 patients to date and often interacts with them by text, phone or email. There’s no office staff because Dr. Meyer doesn’t charge for visits or file insurance claims. Patients pay her a monthly fee—$25 to $125, depending on age—which covers all the primary care they need. “Getting that third-party payer out of the room frees me up to focus on p

Review: “Keep the Damned Women Out”

Melinda Beck ’77, a longtime columnist and editor at the Wall Street Journal, is a writer in New York City. As yet another male president takes the oath of office this month, it’s bracing to recall that once, gaining entrance to the nation’s elite colleges was also a struggle for women. “Keep the Damned Women Out”—as one alumnus implored the Dartmouth trustees—is a meticulously researched, deftly written look at how coeducation happened at Yale, Princeton, Harvard, and elsewhere in the 1960s

Can a Death-Predicting Algorithm Improve Care?

Health-care experts often lament that one-quarter of all Medicare spending—$150 billion annually—goes to treating patients in their last year of life. But identifying those patients in advance and cutting back on futile care has been difficult. Can an algorithm help? A startup called Aspire Health says that it can predict which patients are likely to die in the next year and reduce their medical bills substantially by offering them palliative care at home, keeping them comfortable while avoidin

Patients May Still Get a ‘Surprise’ Bill After an In-Network ER Visit, Study Finds

According to new study by Yale economists, an in-network emergency room visit may result in a bill from an out-of-network doctor. Two dueling ads highlight the impasse between insurance companies and physicians regarding the matter. Image: Cigna/ACEP Patients who get emergency care at a hospital in their insurance network have nearly a 1 in 4 chance of being treated by an out-of-network ER physician who may send a “surprise” bill, according to an analysis in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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