Date:  Thursday, May 16th, 2019
Time:  7:30 pm
Place:  Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC Campus, 515 West Hastings Street (between Seymour and Richards Streets) in the Diamond Alumni Lounge on the second floor
Speaker:  Susan Baxter, PhD
Topic:  The science of physiology and medicine: turning people into numbers and back again

Brief Biography:

Susan Baxter, PhD, is a medical writer, author, speaker and
sessional professor at the Faculty of Health Science at SFU where she teaches fourth year courses on social aspects of health and medicine. Her last book was The Estrogen Errors (Praeger) that outlined endocrine changes in midlife women. She is currently writing a book on fatigue.


We are all well versed in sophisticated medical jargon (HDL versus LDL cholesterol) yet our understanding of the science of “physiology and medicine” (in the words of the Nobel committee) has plummeted.

This talk is a short overview of the basics of medical science and how these translate into practice. As much of this science has its roots in centuries past, we will examine how early chemists, mathematicians, immunologists and other thinkers grappled with the mysteries of the body, from respiration and metabolism to hormones and infection. What we will see is that, even though our tools and technologies have changed, in many ways what these scientists discovered 100+ years ago is really the bedrock of our medicine today.

What these early scientists learned – and we are forgetting – is that while physiology tends to follow certain rules, it also is nuanced and dynamic; physiology alters with time, age and circumstance. More commonly today we trust the certainties of statistics (originally developed to streamline manufacturing) and the resultant guidelines, not the old science of earlier centuries. Too often dogma is substituted for science. We resort to glib idioms like “sugar is bad”, for example, without any understanding of what glucose does at a cellular level or how it affects cognitive function. This talk is an attempt to review the original science to illuminate today’s medical practice. We cannot use abstract scientific principles alone to cure disease yet we cannot cure disease without an understanding those same abstract scientific principles.

Last Meeting:

Frank Fowlie gave an illuminating and educational presentation about the history of mediation and arbitration in the world of sports, both national and international. He explained the gradual evolution of compulsory alternate dispute resolution in Canada and at the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games etc. He explained how all the various sporting groups and the overarching national and international organizations work together to eliminate sexual abuse and drug abuse and to promote fairness in competition. He gave many examples including a current Canadian one which was in the press for the next two days after his talk and for which he is the Arbitrator and also the story of the female South African sprinter born with an extraordinary amount of testosterone which was determined within two weeks after he gave his talk. He also spoke about being in East Timor and leading its Olympic delegation to the Sydney Olympics. All in all, a fine and generous presentation.

Additional Information:

This is our last meeting until the fall and I wish you all a wonderful summer with lots of contentment.


Categories: EventLecture