Malcolm Gladwell of New Yorker
Personally, I would love to see Malcolm Gladwell of the New Yorker Magazine
do a piece on this. The story of WPI and XMRV fits beautifully into the premises of Gladwell's hugely popular books:
eg: The Tipping Point
- how a new idea catches, then spreads like wildfire
; how the WPI and team's XMRV findings have hit a nerve - and resulted in a global wave of interest, including popular media (eg. feature on Dr Oz Show within 2 months of the research coming out).
" - the power of first impressions - and the DANGER of confusing intuition with cultural/gender bias
(eg. "whiny, out-of-shape, middle-aged female patients" summarily dismissed as hypochondriacs when in fact they may have a cancer-causing retrovirus!)
How is it, that after being dismissed by dozens of specialists and countless "tests" over the course of a decade, when I sent a 1-page graph of my symptoms to a world-renowned cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, he immediately recognized my textbook diagnosis and called me 5 minutes later to discuss it? This is so reminiscent of the art expert in Blink
who took one look at a painting that had received scores of detailed "expert" analytics that it was authentic - and in the blink of an eye, made an accurate pronouncement on its authenticity. There are two dynamics here - one: physicians who make an instant "blink" decision that confuses cultural bias and groupthink with intuition; and two: physicians who rely on routine, in-the-box tests, not their intuition, which results in the pandemic misdiagnosis of millions of North American patients with ME/CFS as "hypochondriacs". As Jerome Groupman of the book "How Doctors Think
"If you listen to the patient, he is telling you the diagnosis."
Listen, indeed. How has medicine become so slavishly devoted to in-the-box medical tests that it has systemically and internationally missed a more prevalent retrovirus than HIV? How have crystal-clear clinical histories been so pandemically ignored?
I suspect that Gladwell might also be interested in the dynamic of "Narcissistic Personality Disorder", and how this might play into the endemic perpetuation of medical misdiagnosis in our patient community. Look at a class of med students, and you will see profound self-selection in personality types. In fact, research has found that narcissistic personality disorder (eg. "God complex", never being "wrong") is more prevalent in physicians than in the general population. What a culture of medical innovation so desperately needs is intellectual humility (a la
Michaelangelo, who famously said, "I am still learning
"), instead we are saddled with a med school selection process that inadvertently favors narcissists.
Gladwell writes stories that people read
- he has tremendous mass appeal - in an intelligent, thoughtful way. I think he might be personally fascinated with the whole culture of how doctors make decisions based on pseudo-intuition that for the ME/CFS patient community have been disastrous. How can a profession that is ostensibly based on "science", be so horrendously trapped in non-science-based groupthink? I really think this topic could really get Gladwell's intuitive and creative juices going.