imaz-athar

Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.

PODCAST: How Do We Treat Psychiatric Disorders?

From the days of Freud, psychotherapy had been a dominant form of treating psychiatric disorders. But more recently, psychotherapy use has declined in favor of medications. In fact, according to a 2010 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the number of patients in outpatient mental health facilities receiving only psychotherapy fell from 15.9 percent to 10.5 percent from 1998 to 2007, while the number of patients receiving only medication rose from 44.1 percent to 57.4 percent. Now, there are a number of reasons behind this shift. On the one hand, many in the science community look down to psychotherapy as an unstandardized mode of treatment. Meanwhile, to these critics, medications have proven to be safe and efficacious after numerous clinical trials. These criticisms seem sound, but is a decline in psychotherapy use for the better? Does the use of medication alone ignore the social and cultural components unique to psychiatric disorders? In the first episode of The Void Podcast, I talk to psychiatrist Dr. Loren Sobel to answer these questions. Dr. Sobel practices psychodynamic therapy—a form of psychotherapy that seeks to uncover the psychological roots of patient’s mental illness. In addition to discussing the effects of the shift from psychotherapy to medication, Dr. Sobel and I speak at-length about the causes—including the scientific community’s greater dependence a biological model of disease. Have a...

Do Fidget Spinners Actually Work?

Fidget spinners have become one of the best-selling toys in the nation, sweeping elementary and middle schools, while demanding attention of concerned parents and teachers. The ubiquitous toy—which consists of a small blades that spin around a core—has been banned in many classrooms because they’re viewed as a distraction. But, it turns out fidget spinners are intended to have the opposite effect. The toys are actually meant to relieve lack of focus and restlessness common in individuals with ADHD, anxiety, and autism. Fidget spinners are among a long line of fidget toys—such as stress balls and ballpoint pens—that help limit distraction and improve performance. The utility of fidgeting can be explained using the famous Yerkes-Dodson law of arousal. According to the law, an individual requires a certain level of arousal, or stimulation, to achieve optimal performance. Based on the Yerkes-Dodson law, the spinning blades of a fidget spinner draws the eyes of its user and may provide the individual with an optimal level of arousal—which then helps lead to peak performance on a given task. So, imagine someone’s working on an assignment but, with all the loud noises, their classroom environment is too uncomfortable. There’s too many distractions, or stimuli, which prevent the student from performing well on their assignment. This person might use the a fidget spinner as a way to limit the distractions and reach a level...

How To Study for the MCAT

Studying for the MCAT is daunting, but it’s something that nearly everyone who aspires to go to medical school has to do. The act of studying itself is grueling but, for me, figuring out where to start was another hurdle to overcome. What books should I use? How much time each day should I dedicate to studying? What practice questions should I use? I’m here to help you answer these questions. Because, once you figure out how you should study for the MCAT, everything else becomes pretty straightforward. Books: There are tons of companies out there that provide great material. When I studied for the MCAT in 2015, I primarily used Kaplan. At the time, I found them to be the most comprehensive and the easiest to read. The Princeton Review (PR) books, for instance, were also great for certain subjects (particularly biology), but the series lacked a lot of the necessary biochemistry material that Kaplan had an abundance of. While studying, I followed the study guide provided by AAMC. After studying an item on the list, I checked it off. I did this for every item on the list, which made the whole process of studying much easier. The good thing about the Kaplan books is that a lot of their sections and headings match up very well with the headings in the study guide. Ultimately, it could...

Are Older Doctors Worse Than Younger Ones?

If you’re a patient, would you trust older doctors, or younger ones? Perhaps you’d pick an older one because you think they’re more seasoned and knowledgeable. Or, maybe you’d choose a younger one because you think they’re more up to date with modern treatments. Deciding between doctors can be tricky, but a recent BMJ study has elucidated a key difference in performance between younger and older doctors. The study—led by Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School—took a random sample of Medicare data for more than 700,000 hospital admissions from 2011 to 2014, and found that doctors age 50 and above have higher patient mortality rates than doctors under age 50. The results are summarized in the table below: Doctor age range Patient mortality rate 40 and under 10.8% 40-49 11.1% 50-59 11.3% 60 and above 12.1% The differences are small, but they’re meaningful. The study controlled for a number of factors, including the possibility that the sickest patients were assigned to older physicians on any given day. Jena suggests that older doctors have worse outcomes because they’re less up to date with the newest medical technologies. “There’s a fear that as doctors get further away from residency, they might be out of touch with new technologies and treatments,” Jena told STAT news. Studies support Jena’s claim—a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that over half of...

Why Medicaid Is Important

President Trump’s budget proposal reveals that his administration plans to cut a whopping $610 billion from Medicaid funding over the next ten years. Including the additional $839 billion that the American Health Care Act plans to slash from Medicaid, the total cuts to the largest health insurance program in the U.S. could round up to nearly $1.5 trillion. That’s an enormous cut. But, it’s expected from a Republican-controlled government that prides itself on fiscal conservatism (sometimes at the expense of people’s livelihood). Medicaid is often criticized, for reasons other than how expensive it is to fund. The main criticisms are that it is an entitlement program that actually provides bad coverage. Some of these criticisms are fair. For instance, individuals on Medicaid have limited access to providers, while providers are reimbursed at low rates for treating  patients—both of these factors sum up to bad coverage. But, criticisms seem to ignore the essence of why Medicaid is important in the first place—it provides coverage to individuals who otherwise wouldn’t be able to access health care. In fact, studies show that its expansion may actually have a positive effect on health care by improving affordability and access. A report by the United States Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) found that 78 percent of Medicaid expansion enrollees indicated that they wouldn’t have been able to access or afford care prior to its expansion....

Pros and Cons of The California Single Payer Bill

The California state Senate passed SB 562 on June 1. The California Single Payer Bill would put an end to private health insurance, as well as Medicare and Medicaid, and replace it with a single-payer health care system. Under a single-payer system, all California residents will be eligible to receive health insurance from a single state-sponsored insurance system called Healthy California. All funding for insurance will come from the state government, which means that there are no out-of-pocket costs for consumers. Single-payer health insurance systems are widely used in European countries, and they have been lauded by Democrats in the United States because they guarantee health insurance for all. In many ways, a single-payer system seems like a dream come true—everyone is covered and consumers don’t have to pay a dime! But, like every health care system, a single-payer system has it’s drawbacks. To better understand what the The California Single Payer Bill will look like, here’s a list of pros and cons: PROS California Single Payer Bill Means Insurance for everyone! This is perhaps the greatest and most palpable benefit of a single-payer insurance system—everyone is eligible to enroll in Healthy California. Under Obamacare, California’s uninsured rate dropped from 17 percent in 2013 to 7 percent today. This is a dramatic improvement, but there are still roughly 3 million people in California that are uninsured. This problem of access will be eradicated completely...

Trump’s Education Budget Cuts Mental Health Money For Schools

President Trump’s new education budget proposes to dedicate no money—that’s right, zero—to fund mental health services and other student support services for public schools. Previously, the government provided schools with $1.65 billion in funding for various initiatives, including mental health services. But, in an attempt to reduce the federal government’s role in education, Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have decided it’s best to cut all funding for these important student services. Lack of funding is a serious issue for a number of reasons. According to the NIH, just over 20 percent of children have had a seriously debilitating mental disorder either currently or at some point in their life. Nonetheless, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 21% of children with mental health issues actually receive services. There is a disparity between ill children and treatment received, and this gap may grow if funding for school-based mental health services is slashed. The disparity may become an even greater challenge for students who live in areas where community-based mental health services are scarce or too expensive—without school-based services, these children’s options are severely limited. The new education budget’s lack of concern for mental health services may harm children’s health in the long run. A child’s mental disorder may worsen and continue into adulthood if not treated early and appropriately. That’s why school services are vital and even preventive—they...

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