Sunday, June 2, 2013



Medical Apps: Healthcare in the palm of your hand.

How many times in the last year have you heard any of the following sentences?

“Check out this new app I just got...”

“I’ve got the best idea for a new app, I just need to find a programmer...”

“This app is like actually sooo helpful!”

Whether you’ve got an iPhone or not, chances are you know what an “app” is and are likely overwhelmed with the shear app-fever that has taken hold of Western society in the last five years.

There are apps available for nearly every conceivable idea (including conception itself as seen below) and yet somehow new and novel ideas are made available to consumers at a rate of hundreds per day.

The term “app” actually applies to programs for both Apple and non-Apple devices and can be found on a variety of gadgets other than the iPhone or iPad. The term is actually much older than its relatively recent explosive popularity, as it came into existence as an abbreviation for the word “application” more than 15 years ago and continues to apply to many forms of software apart from games, social media programs, and nearest fast-food locators...  

But the problem with apps is not their availability, but rather their excessive and constantly growly numbers, which can cause many useful ideas for convenient lifestyle additions to be lost in an ever-deepening sea of colorful finger-sized icons.

In the spirit of this column and my obsessive nerdification of health science, I would like to highlight some of the contributions that the app craze has given to patient-driven healthcare by listing some of the health-related apps currently available and elaborating a few of the more intriguing ones that are both fascinating now and that carry significant prospects for the future.

1. Ovuline

This novel idea came into existence around five years ago with its first version: Smart Fertility, an app which sought to predict a woman’s ovulation periods based on a set of simple stats specific to the user (a woman trying to get pregnant).

Timing can mean everything...
Ovuline now uses a complex algorithm that incorporates data pertaining to the woman’s current condition (such as basal temperature, cervical fluid analysis, ovulation test results, physical symptoms, mood, etc.) and matches them up with lifestyle metrics (such as activity, weight, nutrition and sleep patterns) to accurately predict a woman’s most fertile days of her cycle: ovulation.

With the average user becoming pregnant within 2 months of signing up and using Ovuline, it seems to actually be working quite well. The founders of the app promise to continue updating their algorithm and expanding to pregnancy tracking as well as increase the personalization of the app, perhaps even taking the male partner’s status into account as well...

2. Time2brush

This child-oriented app turns brushing your teeth (and therefore dental hygiene and oral health) into a game. It teaches children how to properly brush their teeth by using a diagram that shows where to brush and a musical timer to tell them how long. It also awards point for each successful brush session and encourages children to stay on top of their teeth cleaning!

A slightly more complex version geared to wards adults (called OralEye) allows home users to snap photos of their mouth and send them off with a short dental history to a dentist. Most responses are quite quick and can help guide the patient with what to do next for their symptoms and suggested diagnosis.

3. Fitness apps

There are many different shapes, colors, and types of fitness apps that can do anything from keep a log of your workouts to map your runs, demonstrate exercises and stretches, and even factor in your heart rate, caloric intake, hydration, and advise changes to your routine in order to reach pre-programed fitness goals. Never before has it been easier to have a personal trainer literally in the palm of your hand, and what’s more is that it can be free!

I didn’t list any specific app in particular here because there are so many out there and each one fits the taste of a certain person, but check them out, they could be the missing piece in your ever-fleeting attempt to ‘actually get into shape’.

There are also a multitude of potentially helpful lifestyle monitoring apps that can keep track of complicated histories of everything from your food intake, to sleep patterns, to every possible metric for mothers and their newborns, to glucose levels and even hearing capabilities, all of which can be generally printed out and brought in to the doctor’s office to assist with understanding condition development and paint a fuller picture of a patient’s history.


Healthcare, like any other facet of the global economy, is a consumer activity that ranges from international organizations to intensive care units at a big hospitals to the Google-searching self-diagnoser sitting at home on their couch. However, the internet-propagated availability of health information through self-diangostic applications like WebMD, iTriage, or HealthTap has turned health care into an epidemic of health scare, so try not to get overwhelmed with everything that’s out there!

Remember to always take online diagnostic tools with a grain of salt and to use them as a guide, not a death sentence. If you do find yourself genuinely concerned with your current state of health, then make an appointment with your doctor, have a conversation with them, and go from there.

Good luck!


Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed 

Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!

Friday, May 3, 2013

THE MED BEAT: Superfoods!


Food for thought;

I once wrote an article about the health benefits of spices, however for those of you that may not be as into cooking, or perhaps you just don’t eat much spicy food, or maybe you just want some simple, healthy food advice, I have compiled a list of superfoods, yes, foods that are super, just as they are!

First things first, I have three things to clarify for this list.

First of all, these foods are not listed in a ‘more-super-than’ ranking or order, they are all equal in their superfood qualities!

Second, I am not using the word ‘superfood’ because I am lazy and simply falling back on a cliché, in fact, I couldn’t mean it more than the word itself describes: these foods are really quite super! There are many words that could also describe these foods, such as magnificent, magic, superb, wonderful, glorious, marvelous.... the list goes on. They are foods that are particularly good for you with few negative drawbacks. I am by no means recommending you eat these foods to excess, or that you eat only these foods, I’m just saying that they are a great and simple addition to your diet.

Third, this is not a finite list, but only a place to get started. Nor is this list overly insightful, in fact, it is quite likely that you know many of these foods already, but you may not know why they are good for you... I hope that in reading this you come to see some of the many hidden or taken-for-granted benefits packed inside certain foods and that this inspires you to go out and find more superfoods and spread the good word to everyone! This is only a list of some common, healthy foods, but there are many more out there and I encourage you to find them and share them with us by commenting on this article below.

Here we go!

Loaded with anthocyanins, blueberries are a wonderful source of antioxidants which can improve your vision and also promote brain function; two things that most college students often complain they need help with.

They say a glass of red each night can do a lot of great things for you. Now that doesn’t mean holding off for the week and then drinking ten glasses on Friday night, but it does mean that a little red wine once in a while, or even daily, can be quite good for you. Red wine has been proven to raise levels of HDL cholesterol (this is GOOD cholesterol... you want it!), and like blueberries, carries a ton of antioxidants.

When I say dark, I mean go as dark as you can find it, like 80% cacao or more! Dark chocolate has been found to contain a potent dose of disease fighting compounds as well as strong antioxidants. It may also help reduce BAD cholesterol...

Also known by its less-famous but far more awesome name Alligator Pear, avocados contain plenty of fiber and are rich in monounsaturated fats (GOOD fats!). They also contain lutein, an antioxidant that appears to be most active in protecting your eyes and skin... Sign me up!

Some people love ‘em, some hate ‘em, whichever you are, eggs are full of amino acids and as such are actually one of the most protein-rich foods in our world.
Sidenote: recent studies have shown that eating egg yolks isn’t actually as bad for you as previously thought, in fact, it totally fine to eat the yolk!

Like avocados, almonds also contain plenty of cholesterol-lowering fibers and monounsaturated fat. They are great on their own, but if you’re not a huge fan of plain almonds, California Almond Board for some ideas!

Yes that’s right, Ancient! Most modern wheat has been either genetically modified or crossbred and therefore doesn’t always carry as much of the nutritional punch that can be found in Heirloom or Ancient grains. Grains such as Amaranth, Kamut khorasan, and spelt contain much more protein, antioxidants, and minerals than do their more modern counterparts. Many people also find that they taste better too!

Looking for protein? Fiber? Antioxidants? and also perhaps some minerals?
Look no further! You can find a full range of all of these wonderful and important things in seeds such as flax seeds, chia seeds, and quinoa seeds!

Growing up, I absolutely detested oatmeal; I couldn’t eat it. However, after looking into why some people are so keen to have oats for breakfast, I found some fascinating reasons. Oats are rich in protein and fiber, and like seeds, they also carry a host of minerals including iron, magnesium, zinc, and calcium! Now although this is some encouraging motivation to get oats into your diet, if you’re like me, it may not change your opinion on oatmeal, so I found some ideas for using oats in your cooking: check out Eating Well's oat recipes.

The benefits of eating fish are well documented and studied. With salmon (and other fatty fish), their benefits, according to the American Heart Association reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, arthritis, stroke, and even depression. Just try to stay away from farmed and/or frozen salmon, and do your best to buy from someone who is catching wild salmon in a way that supports sustainable agriculture!

All of these foods can be found at your local grocery store, so go out and get them! Get healthy! and get super!

Feel free to contact columnists at Unleashed 

Medical Section Columnist, Kurtis Morrish:

My name is Kurtis Morrish. I graduated from Cal last year as an Integrative Biology major. I am now in the process of applying to medical school in the hopes of one day serving people as a family doctor. By no means do I write to you as an M.D., but I have extensive experience doing all kinds of scientific research; boiling-down long, dry, mumbo-jumbo-dense medical journals into a reduction that is a little sweeter, useful, and hopefully informative for you. I hope to learn as much from my writing as you do, so please hit me up with further questions, concerns, or comments!

Monday, April 22, 2013

THE RIPPLE EFFECT: Is Apartheid Really Over?

Effects of District Six
Reporting from Cape Town, South Africa
12 April, 2013

Coming from a different continent brings a freshly innocent perspective. Curious foreigners read about South Africa, of the ills of apartheid, always being left with a feeling of closure because of the ANC’s success in 1994. When these curious foreigners then come to South Africa, they expect to see recovery. I expected this. At first, this is what I thought I saw, distracted by the loveliness of the beaches, views and diverse night life Cape Town has to offer.

This façade dissolved when I realized who was mainly enjoying these aspects of Cape Town with me: White people. Blacks and Coloureds, instead, try to sell ice cream on the beach or sell drugs on Long Street. Street signs even give way to Afrikaans and English. Where is the Xhosa ‘EXIT’, the Zulu ‘Look both ways’? The new ‘Rainbow Nation’ encourages a more accepting society, but there are clearly many wounds still exposed.

One of these open wounds is the hurt of District Six. After the government declared the area White only, thousands were forced to move to townships. With a force that can move thousands upon thousands from their homes, how could the ghost of apartheid not still aggressively linger in Cape Town?

District Six seems to be slowly forgotten by locals as time wears on and foreigners appear, for the most part, unaware of it, but those who were directly affected by the forcible removals remember it. One of the main commemorations of District Six is Cape Town’s District Six Museum.

Joe Schaffers, a curator there, makes it his mission to tell as many people about District Six as possible so that it will not happen again. His account of District Six illuminates how apartheid still affects people today.

At 28-years-old, Joe Schaffers and all his friends and family were forcibly removed from District Six. Joe moved to the township of Hanover Park, separated from friends and all that was familiar to him.

 “When you think you’re safe, and someone breaks in to take it away, you realize you’re not that safe… what represented comfort no longer exists,” says Joe, touching a picture of District Six entitled “42 sites of removal.” One of the remnants of old homes was his.

“Many died of broken hearts,” Joe says, referring to those extricated from their homes in District Six.

 Pass Laws created under apartheid removed Blacks and Coloureds from ‘White areas’.

“If you were injured,” Joe gestures toward a White visitor, “and if the ambulance that came to help you was an all Black ambulance, they couldn’t help you. You’d have to wait for a White ambulance. Even if you were at your last breath; too bad.”

Pass Laws are ‘in the past’, but their ramifications are still present today, as especially seen in townships. The gangs we see today, Joe explains, developed according to the relocation’s placement from District Six, organized by race.

 “It’s like putting a bunch of rats together in a small space; they’ll start killing each other.”

Joe further explains the reason behind youth unrest and the ‘gangsterism’ it encourages, saying, “If you didn’t listen to your parents, you would were given a hiding!... Moms and dads would leave the house for work and around half past five or six in the morning and would return at six or seven at night! ... This leads to unstable township homes!”

He also discusses the dissolving of education and the decline of health with the relocation.

 Joe continues on to say that “barrack-like structures” make up the townships, and because they are “so hastily built and of poor quality,” when people had to settle in, the structures “developed cracks, leaks and dampness, which gave rise to respiratory illnesses such as TB, bronchitis, pneumonia, and asthma.”

Today, the museum helps not only to remind the community and visitors of District Six, but to also heal wounds. At the District Six Museum, ex-inhabitants of District Six are encouraged to write their names on the floor map and memory cloths to psychologically reclaim the areas they used to live in.

“Kids blame themselves,” says Joe in regards to children living in the townships,
“and they need to know it’s not their fault. They are constantly being brought down. The need to know that just because they’re born into this, doesn’t mean it’s their fault for being who they are.”

Joe speaks of how the story of District Six is so often lost in the new attitude of comparisons: “It’s all about the ‘I have’ and the ‘I have not’s’.”

As addressed by informative posters in the Museum, Hands of District Six (previously called Friends of District Six) lobbied against any development in District 6.

Mr. Schaffers has dedicated 35 years to working with displaced communities. The City Council recommended him for the Service Excellence award.

When asked how to fix the damage incurred with the evacuations of District Six, Joe smiles and says, “To take things forward by acceptance of each other: unity.”

Curious tourists and I might have initially expected recovery, but the process of healing apartheid’s deep wounds will take the patience of years to come. Unity, as Joe hopes for, is hopefully soon to come.

Women in the World and the Ripple Effect Section, Sasha Martin:

I made my own major, The Nature of Emotion as investigated through literature, psychology, anthropology, cognitive science and other interdisciplinary fields, and am minoring in Creative Writing. I created Unleashed for the general empowerment and knowledge of women and men everywhere, and continue to be involved as editor, designer and writer. I am an editorial and PR intern for City Lights. I happen to love the Unleashed staff quite dearly, as well as readers like you. It's amazing what words can do! Feel free to email me at Unleashed. I hope you enjoy!