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The following program is produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant he made from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters the public and communication in medical research. A program from the series human behavior social and medical research produced by the University of Michigan Broadcasting Service. The people you will hear comments from today are Dr. John Givens Jr. Dr. Jerome T 7. Dr. Randolph Bragg Dr. F. D.W. Lukens Dr. Saul Roy Rosenthal Dr. Denton Cooley Dr. wil Seeley Dr. Barry Levinson and from the National Institutes of Health Dr. Leonard J D. And Dr. Robert H feeling Also you will hear a comment from Dr. John Kinross right from Baylor University. Four Questions will be taken up on this program. Does the public get enough medical information about research. Is the public sophisticated enough to assimilate research findings. Is the public apathetic
about medical research and what role should communications play in bringing more information to the public. The first question does the public get enough information concerning medical research. The first man to speak is Dr. F. D.W. Lukens of the University of Pennsylvania. The correct answer to your question is no because one who is interested in a particular field is always conscious of the amount of public ignorance. I think if one looks at the country as a whole and when one thinks of the many medical interests that are trying to educate the public in their respective areas then I believe the American public is unusually well educated about oh. Special disease problems. Certainly there are far better educated than the Europeans where 10 years ago. I cannot speak for the state of affairs abroad at the moment.
And this is because it has been a habit not only for special groups to put out their educational material. But for an American for the American press and for American lay journals to report progress in the treatment and diagnosis of disease to the American public. We have been a rather unusual country in that respect and I think bringing it back to diabetes I believe that we have done our part and fairly well. That doesn't mean we won't try to do more. Dr. John givens are Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. Yes I do. I think it's quite a harmful of course. For premature claims to be made because it is heartbreaking to a lot of people. This is as it has occurred for a hundred years or more with regard
to cancer. You see that and I see that. I lived. Somebody will make a premature announcement or there will be a premature announcement in the newspapers or magazines or something and somebody has found a cure for cancer. And this of course is not so. There is lots of ways of controlling cancer. I think cutting it out or treating it with certain types with radiation cancer isn't a single disease it's cancer is a different cancer the skin is different from cancer of the lungs. But and that I think is harmful. I think that the best way for the public to get information about medical progress is from the annual national meetings of large bodies where. My profession I think finally comes to the point of view that I must
press adequate information about what's going on. And when it comes from a national body of that sort and it's not premature and it's given carefully and with if somebody's got a cure for cancer they don't need the press to announce it and it'll be recognized immediately by everybody. And from the University of Minnesota Dr. Jerome t Siva didn't the extent of the dissemination of information on health and health research seems adequate overall. But there is perhaps too little effort to transmit the information in usable form. The studios and television have been applied to the transmission of information with considerable earnestness. But to wrap it up here is intended to impress the public. Read the complexity and the grammar. I research
my cooperation between Representative communication media and scientists. Undoubtedly read be helpful. Reporters that can write accurately as well as interesting reports from information provided by the scientist and reporters who asked populist label dried. The concern of scientists for the truth of statements for public consumption scientific writers I believe should have verified by run our men are experts in the field of science. What's been making my report Dr. Siva to move this to our next question is the public sophisticated enough to assimilate medical research findings. Russian. But the public was undoubtedly supposed to do enough to assimilate medical information provided the person
information is driven and apparent that a known specialist can interpret it. Like other specialists scientists do thinking on their own terms but that is no reason why be important. I do this cannot be communicated in other terms. I doubt that the layman is any less able to appreciate medical information than the average medical scientist is able to appreciate information on genetic or electronic research. Dr. Randall Sprague at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota commented the general public has of course a large body including all degrees of sophistication to a degree. The. General public is capable of assimilating medical information but I feel that. Few of the public will assemble a similarly.
Highly technical information. And furthermore a large segment of the public will be. Misled if. The dramatic and glamorous side of medical progress is overemphasized because most of the public do not are not sophisticated enough to write of the importance of medical advances and place them in their proper perspective in the overall field of medical research. In Chicago Dr. Saul Roy Rosenthal commented there would be a certain percentage of the population that would be deaf and sophisticated. And to withhold information because you can't be all would be a mistake. No population in any era has ever been so sophisticated that they understand everything is going on. You have to let the pros drop and let those who can catch them do so.
Dr. Siva didn't begins with this comment regarding the next question is the American public apathetic about medical research. Certainly people are not apathetic when confronted with problems of health scientists as well as laymen have more than enough reminders in their own families and friends of the pressing problems of cancer mental disease cardiovascular disease congenital defects common cold and any number of other problems of health. And Dr. Spraggs answered. I believe that there is a good deal of. Apathy in the public relative to. General problems of health that do not have specific or current or pressing. Application to themselves. But of course when the problem calls for personal action because the individual individual is personally involved in
that. Then the apathy tends to disappear at the Menninger foundation in Topeka Kansas. Dr. Harry Levinson felt this way no empathy quite the contrary. I found a great deal of interest especially in the last decade and the development of better mental health facilities all over the country and the development of support for research into mental illness. We've had a number of seminars here for top level executives. And I participated in a number of them and communities around the country. And I've been very pleasantly surprised to find tremendous interest in mental health concepts and how they relate to everyday job activities as well as how people can be helped. After all if you look around you you will find that every one of us has someone close to us who is emotionally upset or has had mental illness. Everyone of us in business and
industry has as his major problems that of dealing with other people and in the course of our business relationships would become very much aware of the fact that people do have personal and psychological problems which are often very frustrating for us as well as for them. So most of us are looking for ways to understand the next person better and most of us are keenly interested in trying to understand ourselves better. We are for both those reasons and particularly interested and interested in mental health and particularly interested in broader applications. We've seen a tremendous increase in articles in magazines and newspapers in the last 10 years. We've seen here at the Menninger Foundation a tremendous increase in the number of letters we get. Any time an article appears anywhere about the Menninger foundation appropriations from Congress for the National Institute of Mental Health have increased. Very significantly in recent years
state hospital appropriations have gone up considerably and the amount of money from private sources for research and mental health education has been increasing. We still have a long way to go to get public support and interest comparable to the size of the problem with which we're dealing. After all there are about 700000 people in mental hospitals and one out of every ten of us at one time in his life has a mental problem severe enough to require professional help. So we're still a long way behind in terms of how much money we're spending. But this doesn't minimize the growth of interest in the support which is come about in the last few years. Dr. Rosenthal commented about apathy. I don't believe the word is apathy. I think that people are very much aware of their health. But. I feel that it long as it doesn't affect them personally. Or if it interferes with their
comforts their pleasures. Their want to ignore it. For example cigarette smoking. Is an example. I was astounded to learn that there is an increased consumption of cigarettes in the United States in the last year. With all the publicity and all the evidence which looks very very convincing. To a man working in biology as myself. Yet there is an increase in cigarette smoking not a decrease. People just feel that it is not going to affect them. What is the role of communication media to transmit this information. Dr Sprague answered Well I am particularly interested in the contents of the material of mass communication media transmitted to the. Public relative to problems of health. In my opinion the media would. Do well
to. Minimize technical information which is really not understandable to much of the public. To minimize the. Relatively small medical. Advances. And to do away entirely with the. Emphasis on the drama and glamour of medical progress. And instead place their emphasis on. Medical information of practical usefulness to the. Public. Avoiding the employment of fear techniques. I would think that great emphasis could be placed on preventive medicine of a type that is understandable to. Most of the public.
And this is Dr. John Kinross Wright of Baylor University. I think that. A majority. Of. Doctors and a majority of scientists working in all these various research fails. We'll be very happy to. To have the public understand just what they are doing. I think many of us feel that. When we talk to. Members of the communications field that they always want to glamorize and make our findings seem spectacular. And when they emerge before the public they're grossly distorted. And as scientists we tend to be rather particular that. The precise and exact facts get across. I think that we have to accept the fact that in order to present our findings to the public some degree of. Of. Rapping out for. Presentation has to work. And
that. Some of the technical details have to be left out. But I think on the other hand that the members of the communicate the. Members of the communications field. Should try to avoid the. Concentrating on the perhaps relatively insignificant finding. But the one that seems to have the. Most immediate appeal. That they should. As well try to get across to the public some of them meet some of the backbone of research which is going on quite behind the scenes but which is relatively unglamorous. I recognise that communications media have other responsibilities then too. The scientists and the physicians but I think that it is in the national interest. That much more the. Uncolored facts should be allowed to. Emerge for presentation to the to the public. At Duke University in North Carolina. Dr. Will Seeley answered this way.
I have. Found and have been much impressed with. Reporters who my talk. Of first. Understanding of. The subject in the field in which they were. Specializing in sunny the sun tried it. And. The material that I have given them and which is later been reported has always been. Reported in a factual way and in a way in a. Manner in a in the in good taste which I think sometimes is. Maybe difficult in. Medical writing particularly where it seems to patients and I have been favorably impressed with. The manner in which it's been done I have been involved I think I've seen instances where I thought it perhaps was not. But my personal experience has been good.
Also in Houston Texas at the Baylor Medical School Dr. Denton Cooley commented. Well it seems to me that most news media whether it be radio or newspapers whatever it is make an effort to have something as their news item that has a medical news item. It's the same as any other time news item as far as they're concerned. They want something which is dramatic something which is new and something which is startling frequently in this effort to keep up their reader interest or listening public's interest. They reach in and around and get things which are in an intermediate stage of development something which is not completely worked out and by being premature and reporting such things they may actually do a great deal of harm to the research team and to the public and to the.
The medical profession as a group these things most things in medicine it should be fairly well worked out. First an experimental laboratory then will control clinical experiments before they. Are distributed for general use and for practicing physician uses these things and then I think firmly that the public is entitled to know about them. After these things have been available to their physician for a period of time if it is a very clear breakthrough and something which we are have been striving for for many years then I think it is worthwhile that the recognition be given promptly and that the public be apprised of the fact that these things have been accomplished.
In one of our institutions one by one of our research team for example the solution to the problem of cancer were to be upon us within the next week. Well it would be very nice to release that to the to the public as a news item. But it may cause rather catastrophic consequences if it's done. To abruptly prematurely and so on. One can only stop to think what an impact this would have on the United States at the present time if someone said we had the answer to cancer and it can be cured. It would be a tremendous confusion and and so on which would I'm sure harm some people particularly if the report was not absolutely
accurate and so forth. If the means of cure were not available to everyone in the country at that time reported there'd been a stampede on the group who was working on the project. So there are a lot of things I think a lot of. Advances in medicine which must be regarded as a closed secret longer then. In the other investigation and so on because it has so many social implications which I think must be considered. The director of the National Institute of Mental Health Dr. Robert Felix said I think that any of us working in this field. Are delighted to answer legitimate questions from representatives of any of the media which would give
information to the public and help them to understand these conditions more. Of course if we're asked a question about an experiment that's in progress and about which we don't yet have answers we're not going to give answers and everybody understands this sort of thing. There's an interesting thing about this business of communication however and it makes the problem those working in the communication media more challenging and also more complicated. It was said I think it was in Caesar's garlic wars as I remember when I was a boy in high school that at one point Caesar executed a faint twitch. The enemy did not see through it he was able to annihilate them in the face they faint. It was to the effect that he was going to fall back in retreat and he led them into a trap and he said man believes that which he wishes to believe. We hear what we want to hear. Any of us. We see what we want to see. This means that you cannot use the same
information in the same way by the printed word by the spoken word but by visual means for everyone. What. Mr. Jones understands Mr Smith may either not understand or deny because it conflicts with other notions that he has but there are three ways of bringing the information to Mr. Smith also. What I'm trying to say is that while A. Broadcast will reach many people if you go back and sample them you'll find that many of them heard. What you said differently then you thought you said it and that others will have heard it as you thought you said it. And the same if you poll people who have read a pamphlet or an article in a magazine or read a book. We have to diversify our media. I'd have to diversify I should say our
dissemination of information through media always being accurate. I was being sure that we know the audience and get the information the truth to people in a form which they will understand and can assimilate into their own thinking. Also the National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Leonard J dual felt I'd say that we don't really void the communication medium. If we look back at some of the projects that we've gotten involved in national some mental health we. Had a big study that we developed and supported with the University of Illinois where we studied the communication and mental health concepts through the media. Whether it's magazines in newspapers or television. We're. Very trying only aware of the kinds of things that can be potentially communicated by media. I think what so
often happens is that. We're frustrated. That. One can use the media. To have an education program and we may be able to sell mental health. But if the program following it is a family situation in which the husband or father is totally you Milly aided by the women in the family and by the children you may completely undo everything that's in the education program. And you begin to say well who has the affect who affects the kinds of programs that. Are put on. Sure the TV and radio programs. Allow a certain amount of public service type. Broadcasts. But. Bulk of their broadcast so this other kind. And if you look at the bulk of the stuff that comes over the media most of them haven't got a. A sound mental health context and I think this is some of the
findings that existed. Came out of this Illinois study is that. The bulk of them. Really tear down anything we might do through the educational use of television radio and newspapers. And this gets very frustrating and you realize that the powers behind this use are the total population our population wants this kind of stuff on TV. Advertisers want us. There are many more people in this world than mental health people and they have their interest in selling things on radio and TV just as we would like to sell mental. Health and I think very often these other values seem to be much more important than the mental health values. I way to conclude. Something this comment here is this. Just to quote from the end of my paper. Where I said that our task is vast and yet in this web of life we must remember that
man is unique in that he expects of his world not only knowledge and understanding but solace and consolation. He needs both of our ancestral traditions and psychiatry ahead of the healer and of the human soul. He needs love to ease his burdens. He needs values. He needs a society that respects man more than his products. Money in machines. And then I quoted from Harold Taylor who said. Let us remember that the measure of man like the measure of civilization. Lies in the way that each responds to the demand for imaginative thinking. For the solutions of human problems and for the enrichment of human life. Perhaps ranting in an era where science can give answers to these human instinct problems and at the same time find more plausible explanations of human behavior for illness and its many manifestations. I think what we are seeing is.
Very exciting. I think. The future may be a very exciting future. Where. Some of the things that we've been talking about are going to become part of. Our very life. And we may have a chance to see a healthier way around. This has been a program dealing with the public and communication in medical research from the series. Human behavior social and medical research. Other segments of this series are social research aspects of mental health and the challenge of aging. We invite you to listen for other programs from the series and cordially ask that you write WUOM the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor or to the station to which you are listening about information regarding the Siri. I would like to give special thanks to Ed Burroughs for his assistance and to our engineers Neil McLean and Ralph Johnston Glenn Phillips speaking thanking you for being
with us at this time. This program has been produced by the University of Michigan broadcasting service under a grant in aid from the National Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. This is the NEA E.B. Radio Network.
Medical research
The public and communication in medical research
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University of Michigan
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on the public and communication in medical research. Guests are Harry Levinson, Ph.D; Leonard J. Duhl, MD; Robert H. Felix, MD; Denton A. Cooley, MD; W.C. Sealy, MD; Sol Roy Rosenthal, MD, Ph.D; and others.
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This series explores current developments in research in the fields of the behavioral sciences and medicine.
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Guest: Rosenthal, Sol Roy, 1903-1995
Guest: Cooley, Denton A., 1920-
Guest: Duhl, Leonard J.
Guest: Felix, Robert H. (Robert Hanna), 1904-
Guest: Levinson, Harry
Guest: Sealy, Will C. (Will Camp)
Host: Grauer, Ben
Producer: Phillips, Glen
Producing Organization: University of Michigan
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 60-64-16 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:40
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Chicago: “Medical research; The public and communication in medical research,” 1961-03-03, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “Medical research; The public and communication in medical research.” 1961-03-03. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: Medical research; The public and communication in medical research. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from