Radio host to chronicle struggle with voice disorder; public invited

San Antonio (March 2, 2004) – The public is invited to a free and inspiring session with National Public Radio talk show host Diane Rehm as she discusses her struggles with a voice disorder and memories of childhood abuse. Her presentation, which kicks off a major medical humanities and bioethics conference at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, begins at 7 p.m. Friday, March 12, in the Health Science Center auditorium at 7703 Floyd Curl Drive in the South Texas Medical Center.

Rehm’s talk, “Finding My Voice,” is one of the opening events of the spring 2004 conference of the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH). The March 12-14 meeting is sponsored by the Center for Medical Humanities and Ethics at the Health Science Center. The conference, which except for Rehm’s lecture is by registration only, will address the changing relationship of medical researchers, practitioners, ethicists and educators with journalists, filmmakers and other members of the media.

Rehm has spasmodic dysphonia, a rare neurological disorder that excessively tightens the muscles controlling the vocal chords. Speech tremors and interruptions result. The problem forced her to the sidelines of “The Diane Rehm Show” on NPR for several months in 1998 before treatment helped her return.
Other conference speakers will include Fred de Sam Lazaro, medical correspondent for “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer” on PBS, and Sander Gilman, distinguished professor of liberal arts and sciences and medicine at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

“This conference has a lot of interesting features,” said Tess Jones, Ph.D., associate director of the Center of Medical Humanities and Ethics. “It will bring together scholars, educators and clinicians from throughout the country on medical and cultural issues. This is the first time an entire ASBH conference has been dedicated to medicine and media.”

Topics will include:

• the explosive growth of good (and bad) medical information on the Internet;
• coverage of sexuality and the medical implications;
• portrayal of obesity in the media;
• using film and TV segments in medical school classes;
• coverage of cloning, reproductive technologies and end-of-life issues;
• who the ethicist is speaking for – himself or the university;
• marketing of medical information and what audiences want;
• informed consent for documentaries involving patients and health care providers; and
• the importance of being accurate and clear.

“It’s a matter of all the kinds of media we use to talk about medicine,” Dr. Jones said. “Whether we are using an episode of ‘E.R.’ in our courses or answering questions about cloning for the local television station, medical humanists and ethicists are constantly engaged in a dynamic process of affecting and being affected by the media. This is a process that demands and deserves critical analysis.”

Scholars in medicine, humanities and ethics are invited to enroll at the ASBH Web site,, or by calling (847) 375-4745. Advance registration is encouraged, although on-site registration will be provided on March 12 before the conference begins.

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