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Medicine and Modern India

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Siddhartha Mukherjee talks about his biography about cancer. Then, Yvonne Thornton tells us about her father’s wishes that she become a physician. Also, Douglas Starr recounts the birth of modern forensics. Plus, Anand Giridharadas discusses India’s economic boom and cultural upheaval.

A Biography of Cancer

Although cancer was first documented thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, it is a disease that has long lingered at the margins of medicine--noticed only when other diseases, like tuberculosis and smallpox, had been largely eradicated. Oncologist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee attempts to shine a light on this often misunderstoond and terrifying disease in his book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. He recounts centuries of discoveries, setbacks, victories, and deaths and traces the history of the disease in patients from Persian Queen Atossa to his own leukemia patients in Boston.

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Something to Prove

Today, Dr. Yvonne Thornton is the first African-American woman to be board certified in the obstetrical sub-specialty of maternal-fetal medicine. But getting to this point wasn't easy. Her latest book, Something to Prove, picks up where her first book, The Ditchdigger's Daughters, left off, and charts Dr. Thornton's ascension to the top of her field as a physician.

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The Killer of Little Shepherds

Douglas Starr, codirector of the Center for Science and Medical Journalism, recounts the birth of the field of modern forensics in his book, The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Modern Forensics. It gives an account of serial murderer Joseph Vacher, known as the killer of "little shepherds," and the desperate search by police in France to stop his terrifying killing spree.

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Anand Giridharadas on India Calling

Anand Giridharadas discusses what it was like to return to the land of his ancestors amid an unlikely economic boom. In India Calling: An intimate Portrait of a Nation's Remaking, Giridharadas profiles the entrepreneurs, radicals, industrialists, and Indian families who are responding to this economic upheaval.

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Cancer Research Through the Ages

Dr. Siddhartha Mukerjee joined Leonard on today's show to talk about his comprehensive history of cancer, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. In the book, he makes reference to some of the seminal studies on cancer—from the discovery that drugs could help cure the disease (the birth of chemotherapy), to the way that genome sequencing has revolutionized the field. Amazingly enough, many of the studies that Dr. Mukerjee discusses are free online. Here, we've collected the three most important studies that are highlighted in the book. Just click on the link to take a step back in history—to a time when one drug used on one patient could fundamentally alter the face of cancer research forever.

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