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January 28, 2011

American Scientist Article Wins Sidney Award

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – Darin L. Wolfe has received a 2010 Sidney Award for his American Scientist article “To See for One’s Self” about the decline of the autopsy (May-June issue).

The award is presented by David Brooks of the New York Times for the best magazine essays of the year.

“We knew when we decided to publish Dr. Wolfe’s article that the topic would be a sensitive one for many people, but we decided that it was too important to put aside,” said American Scientist Editor David Schoonmaker. “I’m pleased that David Brooks sees it that way as well.”

Brooks said about the article: “Autopsies frequently reveal major diagnostic errors and undiscovered illnesses, yet the number of autopsies performed each year is plummeting. Medical training no longer relies on this hands-on exercise. Doctors are afraid of information that might lead to malpractice suits. Medicare won’t pay for them. A form of practical inquiry is being lost.”

In the article, Wolfe, who is board certified in both anatomic and clinical pathology, introduces the reader to the current art and science of autopsy, taking special note of the troubling decline in its frequency, with its associated costs in terms of scientific and educational opportunities lost.

To orient readers, he reviews the history of autopsy, discusses the leading techniques and looks to the future at upcoming “minimally invasive” procedures such as biopsy-autopsy, MRI autopsy and virtopsies.

He colors the article with observations from his own career and from the careers of the leaders in the field. Readers will learn that advanced technology has not replaced the senses and experience of the pathologist.

Wolfe is laboratory medical director, director of infection control and chief pathologist at Morgan Hospital and Medical Center in Martinsville, Indiana.

About Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society
Founded in 1886, Sigma Xi is the international honor society of research scientists and engineers, with more than 500 chapters at colleges and universities, government laboratories and industry research centers. Membership is by invitation, in recognition of research potential or achievement. Over the years, more than 200 Sigma Xi members have received the Nobel Prize. In addition to publishing American Scientist, the non-profit Society awards hundreds of grants annually to student researchers and sponsors a variety of programs that support science and engineering.


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