Author Biography

Leslie Mertz

Leslie Mertz (lmertz@nasw.org) is a freelance science, medical, and technical writer, author, and educator living in northern Michigan.

Author Articles

Turning the Unknown into Known

Taken as a whole, rare diseases are not very rare. Even though a rare disease by definition is one that affects fewer than 200,000 Americans or fewer than one in 2,000 Europeans at any time, when rare diseases are considered together, they affect some 350 million people worldwide.

Tech Fights Toughest Tumors

Ask any surgical oncologist, and you’ll hear the same thing: tumors are insidious. Removing them completely can be very difficult. Sometimes tumors are in hard-to-reach areas, and, in many cases, tumor tissue looks so much like normal tissue that surgeons cannot tell exactly what to excise and what to leave alone.

A Glowing Future

New dyes latch only onto tumor cells, fluoresce, and show surgeons the entire tumor, including any of its elusive and meandering finger-like projections that may otherwise escape resection.

mHealth to the Rescue

In rural areas, it is not unusual for patients to travel 50 miles or more to reach their doctors’ offices or for doctors to refer patients to specialists whose offices are 80, 100, even 200-plus miles away.

What Can Big Data Tell Us About Health?

“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data,” said Sherlock Holmes creator and author Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. In this era of big data, and especially the crush of medical information becoming available through new technologies and bulging databases, Doyle’s quote could be updated to: “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data and understands what they mean.”

The Case for Big Data

Why do people start smoking in the first place? That is one of the many complex, interdisciplinary questions behind the Kavli HUMAN Project, a massive data-collection endeavor with the goal of learning how everything—from biology to behavior and environment—affects the human condition.