SARS fear builds social walls

Fear of SARS infection has resulted in social walls being built, threatening to divide people in ways we may not even be aware of, reported the Canadian Press wire service April 21. “We’re disrupting these shared social scripts and these are the things that oil social interactions,” said Michaela Hynie, a psychology professor with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies and an expert on intimacy issues. “Things like shaking hands or the way we greet people or how close we stand to people – these are all things for which we have social rules which we don’t even think about. When people don’t engage in them, we naturally feel uncomfortable.”

Health care plans in sick bay

Canadians with employer-sponsored health care plans have enjoyed a golden era in coverage – but that’s coming to an end as companies grapple with rising costs, propelled mainly by soaring drug claims, reported The Globe and Mail April 18. To put the cost of new drugs in perspective, the average cost per claim of a patented drug introduced since 1997 is $92.56, compared with $78.79 for an older patented drug and $22.94 for a generic drug, says Dr. Joel Lexchin, a professor of health policy and management with York’s Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies. “A lot of times, these new patented drugs are no better than existing medications. That’s not always the case, but a large number of times it is.” Patients, often influenced by drug advertising, will request a newly minted drug over an existing one, and about 80 per cent of the time the doctor will acquiesce, said Lexchin, who added that he and his fellow physicians are heavily courted by pharmaceutical companies.

Cracks in aging helicopter fleet a bad sign

The air force has discovered cracks in the wings of more than a quarter of its Hercules aircraft fleet after grounding its oldest models for inspections, reported Canadian Press from Calgary April 17. “In most countries they would have been sent off to the knackers yard a long time ago and replaced,” said Jack Granatstein, a military historian and York University professor emeritus. Martin Shadwick, a defence analyst at the York Centre for International & Security Studies, said the military desperately needs more funding from the federal government. “As aircraft fleets age – and these are old Hercules and extensively used over the years – you are going to see more and more problems, sort of a cascading effect,” he said.

Natives advocate traditional food

Concerned about rising rates of chronic illnesses like diabetes and obesity, Natives are advocating a return to traditional foods, reported The Hamilton Spectator April 21. “Western culture puts everything into a package, a box or a bottle, even medicines and water,” said Suzanne Brant, a speaker at a two-day conference on Aboriginal food. She has been studying traditional plant medicines for 16 years and is working on her master’s degree at York in environment, health and indigenous knowledge. “Our culture teaches us everything is interconnected and nothing should be placed in a box. That’s why it’s important to us to go back to our teachings,” she said. Brant is concerned about soaring rates of diabetes and obesity among her people and high rates of pollutants in their bodies. She believes the answer is in the soil. “It’s proven that natural plants can keep toxins out of your system,” she said. “The mechanisms are in place through the liver, digestive system and urinary tract. Plant chemicals cleanse the body. All we have to do is reconnect with the natural world.”

York basketball player wins varsity honours

When it comes to university athletics, Barrie is home to one of the best in the country, said The Barrie Examiner April 19. Daniel Eves was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport Rookie of the Year in basketball. “This was definitely a true honour,” Eves said after a sensational season at York University. “In the past, such amazing players have won it, and they’ve gone on to some pretty amazing careers.”

Former professor directs Figaro

Tom Diamond, 46, who taught acting at York for 12 years, is directing the Pacific Opera Victoria production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at Victoria’s Royal Theatre, reported the Times Colonist April 19. Diamond hadn’t always aspired to a career as an opera director. A theatre veteran, he tasted Broadway success with one of his productions, a performance spectacle called “Squonk” in 1999.

Bee is not for beauty

For most people there are just two kinds of bees – honey and bumble – and maybe an Africanized killer, began a feature on bees in The Kingston Whig-Standard April19. Butterflies and beetles get more attention “because they’re big and pretty,” according to Lawrence Packer, a bee researcher and biology professor in York’s Faculty of Pure & Applied Science. But the oversight is still staggering, given the number of bee species. “In Canada, we don’t have a good estimate,” Packer said, but “there may be over 1,000.”

Trauma training needed in Canada

We are living in perilous times, says Toronto’s Dr. Anna Baranowsky in a story on trauma and treatment in The Edmonton Sun April 19. She’s the executive director of The Traumatology Institute and is working with York University to enhance trauma response training in Canada. An estimated 70 per cent of North Americans will face some sort of trauma in their lifetime, she says. “They are victims of crime, domestic violence, child abuse, rape, sudden or prolonged illness, combat trauma, natural disasters, industrial and traffic accidents,” she says. “And then you have the people on the front lines – the police, firemen, emergency nurses, chaplains, physicians and funeral directors who may experience occupational trauma in the course of their work. The need for specialized training has never been greater.” The Sun noted that two upcoming summer certificate courses are directed at professional and non-professional caregivers and directed readers to Atkinson’s Continuing Ed site at

Roaring over sport-team names

Bernie O’Neill, a columnist for The North York Mirror, laments the renaming of York University’s sports teams to Lions from Yeomen and Yeowomen. “Frankly, I’m surprised they’re changing,” he wrote April 13. “In today’s world of hiphop and rap, you’d think having “Yo” in your team name would be ‘fly,’ ‘dope,’ or even ‘sick’ – if I’m allowed to use words from hiphop lexicon that say ‘cool,’ ‘nifty,’ or ‘swell.’ The team’s name finally seems current, and now they’re going to change it.”

Region’s poor ‘best kept secret’

York Region’s poor face greater hardships than those in other communities because the affluent region refuses to admit they exist, let alone address their needs, a York University professor told a poverty forum recently, reported YorkRegion.Com, a Web news site, April 13. “If you’re going to be poor, be poor in South Riverdale [a Toronto community with many social services]. Don’t be poor in Scarborough and, some may suggest, don’t be poor in York Region,” said Dennis Raphael, professor of health policy and management with the Atkinson Faculty of Liberal & Professional Studies.