Headlines @ U.Va.
CRAFTING COLLEGE ADMISSIONS ESSAYS HAS BECOME FINE ART
It’s a dark month for high school seniors. College admissions deadlines lurk just after the holidays, and the essay could be the one chance students have to show something more memorable than test scores and band camp — something to make them stand out from the pile. George Washington University gets about 20,000 applications a year; the University of Maryland gets a few thousand more. Parke Muth, director of international admission at U.Va., estimates he has read well over 60,000 essays over the years. “That’s why I’m nearly blind,” he said. Muth said he doesn’t see many laughably bad essays anymore. There’s too much at stake. College admissions are more competitive than ever. ...[But after a class has been chosen, students at U.Va.] sift through tons of essays from incoming freshmen to put on sketches for the public to show the kaleidoscope of students on campus. “Voices of the Class” gives a funny, illuminating and occasionally sad picture of each fall’s freshmen — and some inspiration for all the high school seniors trying to bang out essays. (Washington Post, Dec. 12)
TECHNOLOGY SEEKS NEW WAYS TO IMPROVE LIFE FOR OLDER PEOPLE
One day, people with Alzheimer’s disease could have telephones that show them a picture of the caller and remind them who it is and when they last talked. They might walk across a floor with sensors that check their gait and sound an alarm if they fall. Others might relax on a bed that monitors their pulse and breathing. New technologies for seniors are on display this week at the White House Conference on Aging. ... Floor sensors developed by the Medical Automation Research Center at U.Va. track the movement of a senior. They can recognize changes in gait and detect a fall and call a caregiver for help. Virginia’s team also developed the bed that senses breathing rate and pulse and, again, can call a caregiver for help if there is a sudden change. (Associated Press, Dec. 12)
BE PATIENT: SSRIS ARE A POTENT WEAPON AGAINST DEPRESSION
Doctors write millions of prescriptions annually for the class of medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors). These drugs — Prozac, Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Zoloft and Luvox — are among the best weapons available to fight depression. But for up to 60 percent of patients, there can be a debilitating side effect: a dwindling libido or difficulty with orgasm. Some researchers estimate that half of patients may throw out their pills because of sexual troubles. That’s a major public-health problem because it means people with depression aren’t getting the help they need. ... In a study of 6,300 patients to be published next year, Dr. Anita Clayton, professor of psychiatry at U.Va., found that two thirds of men who had sexual problems with SSRIs complained about desire and orgasmic function. The women were much more likely to complain of arousal problems. The simplest solution is to wait. In up to 30 percent of cases, patients develop a tolerance for the drug and their sex lives improve. But that can take up to six months. (Newsweek, Nov. 29)