Your body is a fortress under constant assault. Infectious diseases, parasites, environmental toxins, physical trauma, allergens, and natural disasters are some external enemies it faces. From the inside, it is threatened by occasional overzealous allergic, immune, and inflammatory responses, as well as by the cellular mutations that produce cancer.
Fortunately, the body's defenses are remarkably successful, and most of the time we are unaware of the intense drama taking place within our cells and organs.
The intriguing details of this drama make up the field of pathophysiology—the study of the disruptions in a normal body's functions that are caused by disease or injury. Medical students get an exhaustive introduction to this subject early in their training, and the best clinicians are masters of it. Yet few laypeople understand the story of how our bodies fail and the marvelous ways they heal themselves.
The Human Body: How We Fail, How We Heal is designed to fill this information gap. In 24 half-hour lectures, you will explore the many ways the body meets the challenges of disease and injury with remarkable defenses and restorative powers, and how, in some cases, it may either fail or overreact.
A Doctor Who Can Tell You What's Wrong and Why
Your guide is Dr. Anthony A. Goodman, surgeon, professor, novelist, and a superb communicator of medical information. Many Teaching Company customers have already experienced his reassuring bedside manner in his other course, Understanding the Human Body: An Introduction to Anatomy and Physiology. That series covered the normal functioning of the body's organ systems, with glimpses at the more common clinical problems.
Now, Dr. Goodman presents a systematic survey of what can go wrong, why, and how the body itself responds, as well as what doctors can do to intervene. There is no better demonstration of the wondrous intricacy of the body and the everyday miracle of good health.
Hundreds of Medical Examples
In these lectures, Dr. Goodman brings up many subjects you may have wondered about, while also taking you down fascinating paths that will be completely new to you. Among the hundreds of examples he discusses are:
- Grapefruit and medicine: Cells react to many medications as if they were toxins, which is why the medicines work for a short time before being excreted. Some chemicals in grapefruit interfere with this "toxin-recognition" function in some cells, keeping the medicine in the system longer than usual—a dose that may have been normal could become too much.
- The eyelid: If you go to an ophthalmologist for a condition such as conjunctivitis, a corneal abrasion, or an infection, the doctor will have you close your eye and then cover the eyelid with a piece of gauze and adhesive tape to keep it closed. The inside of the eyelid is the world's best dressing. It has never been surpassed.
- Human bite: The flora of the human mouth is extremely toxic anywhere but in the mouth. Therefore, the human bite is one of the most dangerous. The "boxer's fracture"—a broken hand from a blow to the opponent's teeth—must be treated very aggressively if it is contaminated with bacteria from the mouth—even more aggressively than a dog or cat bite.
- Appendicitis: An initial pain near the site of the appendix is more likely to be a kidney stone than appendicitis, which usually begins as pain around the navel due to the way nerves interpret swelling in the intestines. Dr. Goodman describes the distinctive migration of pain as the appendix becomes obstructed, enlarged, and then infected.
- Colon cancer: The tumors that cause most colon cancers are unusual because they develop from benign to malignant in a predictable sequence. Early intervention can remove the precancerous growths, called polyps. "We practically wipe out colon cancers in that population willing to be colonoscoped about every five to ten years or so," observes Dr. Goodman.
Become Familiar with Terms Doctors Use
One of the valuable features of this course is the exposure you will have to medical terminology. Dr. Goodman is generous in his use of technical terms and equally generous in the care he takes to explain them. You will learn the difference between signs and symptoms; when a disease is acute versus chronic; how to distinguish endemic, epidemic, and pandemic; and why the malapropism elephantitis means "inflammation of your elephant," when elephantiasis is the correct term (meaning "appearing like an elephant").
Reminding viewers that medical students are exposed to thousands of new words in their first two years, Dr. Goodman emphasizes that physicians have to understand each other as well as the biology of the body, and that is why a precise, familiar vocabulary is so important. "We'll try to keep these terms in play all the time, and I think you'll find them just a part of your vocabulary as we move along," he says reassuringly.
It's just one of the many ways that Dr. Goodman treats you with collegial respect when introducing you to the body's astonishing, yet natural, mechanisms of healing and self-defense when it faces the assaults and accidents of daily life.
What You Will Learn
Cellular level: After an introductory lecture describing the scope of the course, you begin at the cellular level, exploring the function of cells and the several common forms of injury. This lays the foundation for all that follows.
Inflammation and the immune system: The inflammatory response is the body's most primitive and immediate reaction to most forms of attack. The immune response is slower acting but more highly evolved, and it is tailor-made to each threat, for which it develops a distinct memory.
Infectious diseases: Infectious diseases are humankind's most persistent and deadly perils. They have a wide range of causes, including molecular prions, viruses, bacteria, parasites, and worms. These lectures focus on their prevention and treatment.
Shock: When the body perceives a dire threat it begins an automatic, progressive shutdown of systems in an effort to protect the brain and heart. This ultimately life-saving response is called shock, and yet it can quickly lead to death unless corrective measures are taken.
Cancer: Cancer is a self-inflicted wound caused when the genetic machinery of a cell goes awry. Theses lectures explore the environmental causes of cancer, the specific steps in its molecular biology, and strategies for treating its different forms.
Wound healing: The complex and astounding processes of bodily healing and repair are well illustrated by wound healing—in infections, trauma, and surgical intervention. You may be surprised to learn that no wound has to be closed, and that it is often a bad idea to attempt to close a wound that might be contaminated.
Dr. Goodman's goal is to give you the tools to understand diseases and injuries and the body's reaction to them. Such knowledge is no substitute for seeing your physician; however, now you will be better able to communicate with your doctor, know what questions to ask, and have more clarity regarding your own illness or that of a loved one.
These lectures are intended to increase the understanding of the structure and function of the human body. They are in no way designed to be used as medical references for the diagnosis or treatment of medical illnesses or trauma. Neither The Teaching Company nor Dr. Goodman can be responsible for any result derived from the use of this material. Questions of diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions must be brought to the attention of qualified medical personnel.