Tagged: tufts

Toothsome design

I concede that when I found the Fall 2010 issue of Tufts Dental Medicine in my mailbox, I did not immediately think, “Bet this one has good graphics.” I’d never seen the magazine, edited by Karen Bailey, but I did not imagine a dental school periodical would have much flair. So much for what I know. I didn’t realize that the magazine has a resourceful design staff of design director Margot Grisar and senior designer Betsy Hayes. TDM‘s design is clean and understated, with nothing that leaps out and loudly demands some attention, but it’s smart and clever.

For example (click the images for a closer look), this is the opening page of a story about dentists dealing with anxious patients (that is, people like me):

More of the cleverness I’m talking about, for a story about health care reform:

I also like “The D List,” “a smattering of dentistry tidbits to inform, amuse, and amaze.” Did you know that North American kids spend $500 million each year on chewing gum, or if you start smoking cigarettes at the rate of a pack a day when you’re 18, by the time you are 35 you will be at risk for losing four or five teeth? Me neither.

UMag inbox

The forthcoming issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine went to press Monday, which means The Dale is back in business as UMag Supreme Blogger. Some of what’s come in the last few weeks:

I usually have an allergic reaction to life-affirming stories about plucky individuals who overcome obstacles to do great things, because they are almost always badly written. So when I came to Jason Ryan’s story “Life’s Rich Pageant” in College of Charleston Magazine, I nearly paged right past it, and would have were it not for Diana Deaver’s striking photography. I mean, not only is the story life affirming, it’s about a beauty pageant winner, for God’s sake—to my amazement, Charleston has a “Miss College of Charleston” pageant. Anyway, I started the piece, and kept reading, and kept reading, and damn if I didn’t read the whole thing. Beauty queen Meagan Orton is, indeed, a beautiful young woman, but she’s also tough as a boot. She’s been a medical disaster ever since her premature birth, enduring injuries and illnesses and serious allergic reactions, the last of which, at the end of her sophomore year, left her deaf. Deaf but undaunted—her pageant performance was as a dancer. For the story, she gamely pulled her hair up so Deaver could photograph the hearing device implanted in her skull behind one ear. The story has some treacly bits, at least to my grumpy taste, but it held me to the end. Mark Berry edits the magazine, which is worthy of attention for its photography throughout.

Reach, from the University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts, notes that Poets & Writers has ranked the school’s creative writing program 14th out of 140 nationwide. Poets & Writers ranks writing MFA programs? Apparently this ranking nonsense has been proliferating. Can’t wait for Saveur‘s ranking of dormitory cafeterias, Turkey World‘s list of the best ag school poultry programs, and from Turf the nation’s 100 top quadrangles. Remind me . . . what does this have to do with education? My favorite item was that the Minnesota program ranked “10th for placement of grads in highly regarded post-MFA programs.” That’s one more way of saying creative writers still can’t make any money as creative writers. Meanwhile, Reach scored Garrison Keillor for its cover and seven pages inside; Keillor conversed with six undergraduates about “academic happiness.” There’s not much Keillor here; he wrote the intro and a postscript, but the story is all quotes pulled from the student interviews. Must be said, though, the Lake Wobegon man is spiffy in red retro Adidas runners. Editor is Mary Pattock.

I’ve come to expect fine stories from David Brittan’s Tufts Magazine. The summer 2010 issue contains two. One is Hugh Howard’s discussion of slavery in Boston; Howard notes that Massachusetts was the first of the original U.S. colonies to legalize human bondage. The other, by Al Gore’s former speechwriter Robert A. Lehrman, is an informative and entertaining explication of what makes a good political speech. In a sidebar, I learned that not only did Patrick Henry not write his “Give me liberty or give me death” speech, he didn’t deliver it, either. Accept for that one notable line, the whole thing was made up 40 years after the fact by an inventive biographer.

The summer issue of Dartmouth Medicine has a great lead sentence: “My first case at Saint Francis Designated District Hospital in Ifakara, Tanzania, was to close a hippo bite.” That from a story by Meredith J. Sorenen. Dana Cook Grossman edits.

Good work: Michael Blanding

The winter 2010 edition of Tufts Magazine contains a well-penned feature story by Michael Blanding about the new—really new—field of cultural neuroscience. “The Brain in the World” surveys what neuroscientists have been learning about how the neural structure of the human brain appears to be affected by culture. If you are Korean or Indian or Japanese or American, the culture that you inhabit does not just influence your behavior, it actually changes the physical structure of your brain.

Illustration by Mariko Jesse

The story’s anecdotal lead describes a 1997 crash of a Korean Air flight that killed 228 people. The crash occurred when an exhausted pilot failed to clear a hill blocking his approach to an airport on Guam. Investigators later determined that the flight’s first officer and flight engineer both recognized the danger, but apparently could not overcome a typically Korean deference to authority and warn the pilot he was about to make a fatal error. (The information for the lead is taken from Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers.) When Korean Air began requiring its air crews to speak English in the cockpit, its safety record improved dramatically. English lacks several deferential forms of address common in Korean, and English empowered the Korean crew members to speak more directly to superior officers.

Research in the two-year-old field (told you it was new) has found that Americans and Indians have different brain activity when listening to popular music, even when listening to the same songs, and the differences found on brain scans sort along cultural lines: the American scans matched, and the Indian scans matched. So brains of a feather scan together. Blanding writes:

What [Tufts professor Nalini Ambady] and other cultural neuroscientists have discovered is that although the brains of people from different cultures do not exhibit large structural differences, certain neural pathways do become more ingrained from immersion in a particular culture. They’ve also learned that those differenes in brain function can influence our emotions, our behavior, and our attitudes toward people from cultures other than our own.

Blanding explains the science with grace and clarity, and presents research in little narratives that give the piece some energy. One nice thing to see is that the story doesn’t focus solely on research at Tufts, but also cites work at the University of Michigan, MIT, and Northwestern. Tufts recognizes that bringing the reader a fully informed story is more important than merely singing the praises of neuroscience at the university. And when the story does dig into research from Tufts, that research is work done by a couple of doctoral students. Nice to confer some recognition on people just beginning their careers.

Tufts Magazine is edited by David Brittan.