This I Believe

KUHF-Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe” with Seth Corey

Dr. Seth Corey is a physician at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and his specialty is Pediatric Oncology. In addition to seeing patients, Dr. Corey teaches medical interns. His belief in the scientific method of inquiry is a driving force in his life and it is the focus of his essay for Houston Public Radio’s “This I Believe”.

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Dr. Corey is a scientist and he loves research. Over his many years as a physician, he’s learned that discovering answers to medical questions can best be found in the old fashioned step by step approach called the “scientific method of inquiry”. He says you can’t rely on tea leaves or guess work, Dr. Corey says you must rely on the science. He uses that approach everyday in the classroom, in the lab and in the patient room. He also makes sure that each of his medical students and interns learns to rely on it as well.

Here is Seth Corey with his essay for Houston Public Radio’s This I Believe.
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“On the oncology floor where we treat cancer patients, the story often sounds the same. A two year-old boy with leukemia has fever and neutropenia. A 10 year-old girl with a different type of leukemia has fever and neutropenia as well. A fourteen year old with osteosarcoma has fever and neutropenia. Fever and neutropenia – the collateral damage of the drugs, which will cure them, hopefully, of their cancers. Neutropenia means a shortage of infection-fighting white blood cells. And like a fever, neutropenia comes in grades.

The goal of the interns is to come up with a therapeutic plan by distilling from their years of memorizing facts, cramming for multiple-choice exams, and reading textbooks heavier than a newborn baby. My goal is to teach them to think, because I believe in the scientific method of inquiry. Years of caring for patients, years of conducting research into how blood cells become cancerous, and years of writing or reviewing grant proposals to fund that research have convinced me that a methodical approach to any medical problem can resolve it.

Most people last hear about the scientific method sometime in high school biology. Remember, how it goes? In the beginning is the question. Then there are the initial observations. We make a hypothesis, then design a critical experiment, better yet a set of experiments, gather the experimental data, analyze the data and validate, negate, or modify the hypothesis. Importantly, the data must be objective and accurate.

The scientific method, I have learned, is not just for scientists. Doctors use it to diagnose and treat their patients. Detectives use it to catch the suspect. Journalists to uncover scandals. Homeowners to find their dream house. Parents to determine whether their children are telling the truth. Men and women to find their spouses.

This may all sound cold, calculating, and reductionist. Yes, but I believe the scientific method works better than anecdote, gut feeling, or tealeaves. No data are perfect. No experiment is complete. Absolute truth remains elusive.”

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