Spring 2012
Letters to the Editor

Readers weigh in on the importance of accuracy in health statistics — and in fiction, as well as the role of an arts education

Re-examining Health Stats
I found “Saving Lives, One Death at a Time,” about Dr. Prabhat Jha’s research into public health in India, both profound and fascinating. Dr. Jha’s research has important ethical, political, social and economic implications: it made me wonder what other official international public-health statistics need to be re-examined to ensure that health policy and funding are meeting a population’s real health needs.

Tamara Massey
BEd 2000, Toronto

Understanding Violence
It is fortunate that enlightened researchers such as criminology PhD student Alexandra Lysova understand the concept of including all stakeholders in any process that involves divergent groups of people (“Always the Victim?”). Seeing the police not as Big Brother but as an important element of the community shows that Lysova is thinking outside the proverbial us-them box. By understanding all the elements of domestic violence, police officers are able to make more educated judgments when called to the scene and are better equipped to eliminate or reduce future occurrences within that particular partnership.

Lance Naismith 
BA 1997 Woodsworth, Oakville, Ontario

A Higher Source
I hope that one of the Munk School Fellowships in Global Journalism (“A Head Start for Global Journalists”) will go to someone who has a personal faith – and a deep knowledge of other people’s faiths. During 60 years of ordained ministry, I have seldom seen the media treat a controversial faith issue fully and fairly. I think this happens partly because few editors consider religious differences important and partly because few reporters know history and theology well enough to understand why people feel strongly about their religion.

Rev. Al Reimers
MEd 1971, Wellington, Ontario

Dedicated to Science
“Antarctica’s Intrepid Explorer” draws our attention to the fact that U of T grad Sir Charles Seymour Wright was a member of Robert Scott’s 1910-13 Antarctic expedition. Wright was not chosen as one of the members to push on to the South Pole – a decision for which he was no doubt grateful. Everyone knew that the polar team had perished, so grimly discovering their bodies several months later was no surprise. Finding that they, despite their predicament, had not abandoned the 35 pounds of important rock samples was mute testimony to their dedication to their other task: the scientific exploration of the continent. One hundred years later, their bodies remain there on the Great Ice Barrier.

Geoff Rytell
BEd 1975 OISE, Toronto

Regarding “Lingo,” in the Winter 2012 issue: I was an unhappy victim of gazumping when buying a home in London in 1980. It cost me an unexpected 10,000 pounds. However, contrary to what the article states, this miserable practice is not found throughout the U.K. In Scotland, much like in Canada, a signed offer to purchase is final. Let’s give due credit to the Scots!

Phelps Bell
BA 1953 Victoria, MComm 1955, Toronto

Traumatic Delivery
I was distressed to read Brittan Coghlin’s story “Delivered”, which won U of T Magazine’s short story contest. The story takes considerably more license with the truth than many TV dramas!

First, the author failed to make any mention of anesthesia during labour or the caesarean section. I can only assume that neither the contest judges nor the author had ever experienced or attended such an operation. The anesthesiologist is vital to provide pain relief and resuscitation, and can even advise an inexperienced obstetrical surgeon. Certainly no “team” is going to “splay Serena out naked on the operating table, strapping her arms down as if laying her on a cross.”

Second, I have never seen a white linoleum floor in any operating room or delivery room.

Third, after a traumatic delivery, the anesthesiologist is often needed to resuscitate and even ventilate the baby if the pediatrician hasn’t yet arrived.
This story could scare any woman even thinking of pregnancy. I strongly advise every woman and her partner to attend free prenatal classes and discuss all possibilities with her nurses and doctors. Expectant parents can take comfort that Canadian maternal death rates are half what they are in the U.S. – mainly due to Canada’s system of universal medicare.

Dr. Elizabeth Oliver (Malone)
MD 1957, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

Brittan Coghlin responds: Readers may be interested to know that I am a registered nurse who has worked in labour and delivery. Though the events are representative of an emergency scenario, and are luckily uncommon, they do represent real, lived experiences. There was no mention of an anesthesiologist (I left out other medical details, too), because this did not serve the story of these two women. Ultimately I was writing fiction and not a medical text or public health announcement. This was a story that focused on the work of a nurse; all too frequently the limelight goes to others.

Endangered Discipline
I read with dismay “Literature Junkie,” about English professor Nick Mount, “who connects English lit to pop culture.”

When I was privileged to study at University College in the 1950s, students who matriculated in the arts were able to acquire something then called “culture” (not in today’s broad sense) – a kind of literary-historical education with exposure to the great achievements of mankind. Today it is possible, even at reputable universities, to obtain a degree in literature without ever having read a word of the Bible, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe, by selecting useless “cinch courses.”

The admission of such courses to North American universities has been devastating to serious historical disciplines, now an endangered species. The politically correct substitution of a justifiable canon of great books with ephemeral, worthless and even harmful trivia is destroying the humanities under the pretext of “diversity” – dear to administrators, who wish to be all things to all people.

Warren Kirkendale
BA 1955 UC, Professor emeritus,
University of Regensburg, Rome

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