articles

  • Texting Thumb, Trigger Finger, Gamer’s Thumb and Other Smartphone Injuries

    Scientific American November 19, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    As a longtime emergency department physician, I have a case study I’d like to share with you. The patient’s right thumb knuckle is inflamed, swollen and often painful, especially toward the end of the day, and the inside part is a little numb. Her grip is slightly weakened, and her palm aches. Her middle finger […]

  • Pregnant and Unvaccinated: Delta’s Deadly Toll

    Scientific American October 1, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    She was having trouble getting a full breath. That was the first thing. The day before, Autumn Carver, seven months pregnant with her third child, had enjoyed a CrossFit class. Now a simple cough was compounded by the breathing issues, which rapidly worsened. It wasn’t long before her husband, Zach Carver, took Autumn to Community Hospital […]

  • Critical Care Doctors Are in Crisis

    Scientific American August 9, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    As a critical care physician, Kelli Mathew knew her days were spinning in the wrong direction. For one thing, her well of empathy was dry. When unvaccinated people came to her, suffering the effects of COVID, Mathew began snapping back. She had run out of comforting or even neutral things to say. “In my mind, […]

  • How Designer DNA Is Changing Medicine

    Scientific American July 17, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    For as long as he could remember, Razel Colón had known pain. It ripped down his neck and back, shot through his legs and traveled on to his feet, often leaving him writhing and incapacitated. He suffered occasional attacks of “acute chest,” in which breathing suddenly becomes difficult. “It felt like an elephant was sitting […]

  • How the Pandemic Roiled the Foster Care System

    Scientific American June 27, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    For the first four years of her childhood, Vanessa Brunetta’s family was homeless. Later, her family was rocked by domestic violence to the point that “my older brother and I would spend most nights at a neighbor’s house or locking ourselves in our room,” she says. By age eight, she’d been placed in foster care; in […]

  • Giving COVID survivors just one dose of the vaccine could help end the pandemic faster

    Fortune May 18, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine went in for his second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. “It absolutely kicked my butt,” he told me. He spent most of the following day on his back, feeling fog-headed and achy, before things returned to normal about 24 hours after that. That sort of reaction […]

  • Should I attend a family wedding? The CDC guidance doesn’t help

    New York Daily News May 17, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    Recently, I received the kind of invitation that many of us have been longing for, to an event the likes of which has been unthinkable for more than a year: the wedding of a beloved niece, and an opportunity to see friends and family. That I, an emergency physician, have hesitated so much in deciding […]

  • In the fight against COVID, Brazil’s surge won’t stay in Brazil

    Fortune April 23, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    The helicopter view of the COVID-19 crisis gripping Brazil might, at first glance, look awfully familiar. It includes a botched initial response and the downplaying of its seriousness by those at the top, the undermining of science and vaccination efforts, the crush of patients on overloaded intensive care units, and the promotion of quack “cures” like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin, among other missteps. But the […]

  • The Fast Lane for COVID Testing Has Opened Up in the U.S.

    Scientific American April 16, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    For a recent flight that required a negative COVID-19 test result, I went through a process so silly and laborious that it got me wondering. First, I booked an appointment at an approved testing center, about a 25-minute drive from my home. Upon arriving, I paid $175 to take a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. […]

  • The Best Medicine Doesn’t Always Come in a Bottle

    Scientific American April 1, 2021

    By Carolyn Barber

    Ed Bidwell lived a nightmare before waking up to a better day. A debilitating brain bleed caused by a burst artery turned his life on a dime. He temporarily lost consciousness. With the left side of his body subsequently weakened and his ability to work compromised, he soon lost his job, and he went into […]