I was born and raised in Palo Alto and graduated from Paly in 1966. We would ride our bikes to Frost every weekend to play hide and seek ("A Place in the Sun," May/June).
A former girlfriend, Connie Bonner, and Sue Swanson founded the Grateful Dead Fan Club. We first watched them at Magoo's Pizza parlor on Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park. We would later stay with the Dead on Ashbury for the summer events and then in Marin following Ken Kesey's Acid Tests. I remember being in Golden Gate Park when the mime troupe was arrested and Bill Graham announced a fund-raiser to be held at the Fillmore Auditorium. I spent the next two years between Palo Alto and San Francisco, watching . . . every band that played through that time. When Winterland opened and Fillmore West began drawing ever-larger crowds, the original scene as we knew it had died. We went from 350 close friends watching to crowds of thousands. The world had changed and we appeared to be part of ground zero.
The Farm for bowling, folk dancing, Stanford booster club and, one cannot forget, the rifle range on campus. Eucalyptus during summer and paper airplanes off Hoover Tower. And through it all I managed to earn an MA from the School of Education.
I recall an interview with Ella Fitzgerald in which she was asked how it felt to have been part of the golden era of jazz. She replied that had she known it was the golden era, she might have paid more attention.
They say that while life happens in the moment, it is the memories that shape our tomorrows, and I am grateful, but not yet dead. Keep up the wonderful writing.
Jim Cushing, MA '76
You generated a warm wave of nostalgia with your article on Frost Amphitheater. I remember the killer July 1968 concert very well (Gypsum Heaps and Sons of Champlin were also on the bill) and in fact reviewed it for Down Beat magazine; that may have been Creedence's first national ink.
I do feel reasonably certain that the aptness of Frost for popular music was conclusively demonstrated, if not discovered, by the Stanford Jazz Year 1965-66, created and directed by Rick Bale, '66, PhD '72. You mention that Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald played there. They did indeed, in the fall of 1965 (Louis and his band by themselves, Duke and Ella jointly), as the Jazz Year's opening concerts. We then went indoors for the winter with concerts by, among others, Dizzy Gillespie, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Muddy Waters, Jon Hendricks and John Handy. The grand finale—and probably the Missing Link to the rock era at the amphitheater—was the spring 1966 Frost appearance by Ray Charles, drawing what at that time was the largest attendance for any nonacademic, non-football event in Stanford's history. Records are made to be broken, and ours didn't last long, but that was likely the breakthrough. And it certainly rocked.
Those were the days. A not-so-nostalgic postscript, however: Rick first had to persuade the administration to make this the Tresidder Union annual project. They ultimately agreed, and of course without their funding and support it couldn't have been done. But at the outset there was some pushback from some of the higher administrators. They feared, I regret to report, that such a program would bring 'the wrong sort of element' (read: black) onto campus. Those were not the days.
Fortunately, more progressive heads prevailed and the project unfurled splendidly, though my one great sorrow was not to have been permitted to book Jimmy Smith on the Memorial Church organ. Oh, well; can't have everything.
The Jazz Year was among the richest experiences of my life. I will be forever grateful to Rick for pulling me in and letting me contribute, and to the late, much lamented San Francisco Chronicle jazz writer Ralph J. Gleason, without whom, also, it couldn't possibly have come off. What a privilege and pleasure! Thanks for reminding me again.
Alan Heineman, '66
San Francisco, California
After reading the article, I was saddened not to see any mention of the Phil Lesh and Friends concert that took place on June 2, 2002, which was the first time such a concert had been permitted since the 1980s. The Lesh concert was the result of an extraordinary effort by the ASSU, led by Jenny Quiroz, '02, who had taken it on as a personal project and labored for two years making negotiations and arrangements. Phil Lesh was honored to play at Frost that day, as for a few brief hours the post-dot-com crowd had a taste of the Stanford community that came before them. The history of Frost concerts is still being written, and hopefully future documentation will recognize the efforts of Quiroz and her team as part of the Frost tradition.
Ray Rivera, PhD '10
The caption on the main photograph in the Frost piece reads, "Was this in the admissions brochure?" As far as I'm concerned, it might as well have been. I was courted by a representative of a prestigious university that shall remain nameless. During our talk, the recruiter mentioned that the Grateful Dead had played in the town where the school was located. With a look of disgust he added, "Talk about culture shock." I remember thinking at that moment, "At Stanford, they play right on campus!"
Barbara Saunders, '88
"After the Revolution" (May/June) asked whether recent events in the Arab world would lead to more democracy or to Islamic rule. The subtitle asked whether freedom and religion could coexist. I consider it progress that only one of the four panel members, Joel Beinin, tied progress in the Arab world to the purported need for U.S. pressure on Israel to give up land. Academia is thus evolving as well, to more serious debate about democracy in the region.
Daniel Jacobs, '82
I became a member of the Stanford Law Review in the fall of 1956 ("Remembering Warren Christopher," Planet Cardinal, May/June). There are few meetings that cause a major change in your life. But when Warren Christopher made a special trip to the Law School to meet with the newly appointed members of the Law Review, it was a life-changing, inspiring experience that made me realize how important the Law Review is and how very important our commitment had to be. His inspirational message resulted in my total devotion and I became managing editor of Volume 10. Without Christopher's commitment and devotion that would have never happened. Thank you, Warren, for all you did for Stanford, the Law School, the Law Review and our country. One truly amazing individual.
Charlie Page, '56, JD '58
I am pleased to read that Stanford is considering reinstating military training on campus ("ROTC Redux? A Quiet Debate," Farm Report, May/June). [Ed. note: For debate results, see News Briefs, Farm Report.] I am, however, troubled to hear the opposition to it, especially from Stanford Says No to War group. While I applaud and fully support its opposition to war, its contempt for the military is naïve and insulting to the dedicated men and women who serve in our armed forces.
Sam Windley, the president of Stanford Says No to War, believes that keeping ROTC from returning to the University would be a statement "that Stanford stands in opposition to the values of the U.S. military as it currently stands." While he may not like some of the policies and culture of the military, he is off base to denigrate the values of the armed forces, of which he probably knows very little. The Navy promotes core values of "honor, courage and commitment." Men and women in uniform, deployed around the world, enduring family separations, suffering hardships, facing danger and death in the service of their country, live and die embracing these values. I think that the University, the majority of its students and faculty, and alumni would not align with Stanford Says No to War in maligning the values of the U.S. military.
I would like to remind Windley that no one abhors war more than the men and women in the military who have to do the fighting and dying. And with regard to his statement that "We don't think the U.S. military is a force for good in the world," I'd recommend that this Australian law student read some history and realize that it was the U.S. military, fighting alongside his countrymen, who spilled American blood in the southwest Pacific protecting his country from invasion in World War II. I wonder what he thinks about the values of those American military men who courageously and selflessly risked their lives in ridding the world of its most evil terrorist.
Dave Ashworth, '65
Captain, USNR (retired)
Park City, Utah
I am honestly trying to determine the logic of those who oppose ROTC. Do they believe that students of ROTC cause or initiate war? Since most wars are started by politicians, should we not apply the same logic to our department of political science?
Lest we be too confining, President Obama has expressed genuine concern over the obscene salaries of CEOs and the high profits of corporations. Would not that any of our MBA graduates ever become a CEO! Our conscience might be sorely tried to allow their existence as well.
Lastly, as a physician who has made his living from disease, pestilence and trauma, [I ask whether] we should scrutinize the School of Medicine before we can return our moral compass to its proper alignment.
Irony aside, if Stanford is to truly produce progressive leaders, as President Hennessy has stated, why should we deny our future military leaders a Stanford education? If we do, we are not an inclusive institution.
John A. Ungersma,'54
Captain, USN Medical Corps (retired)
Professor David Kennedy made a very cogent case for the elite universities reinstating ROTC in a symposium at my 1957 class reunion. His basic premise was that a democracy cannot control the most powerful military in the world unless some portion of its military command is educated in the country's elite universities. I believe he is correct. In the absence of Stanford, Harvard, etc., schools such as mine, a regional university, have contributed many quality officers to our military.
What I find most disturbing are the counterarguments advanced by Todd Davies. To quote him, ". . . in my experience, the campus culture values unity and avoids conflict whenever possible." Apparently, Die Luft der Freiheit weht no longer exists at Stanford.
Jay Weston Rea, '57
A "Quiet Debate"? About ROTC? Not in my time at Stanford, when the discussions of ethical issues about war and militarism were far from quiet.
Sam Windley, president of Stanford Says No to War, stated it clearly: The outcome should be "Stanford stands in opposition to the values of the U.S. military as it currently stands."
Pamela Hutchison Collett, '67
KAPLAN'S GUINEA PIG
Thank you for the article on Henry Kaplan ("A Cannon for Oncologists," Farm Report, May/June). I was one of the recipients of his kindness. As a student, I was the barium-swallowing guinea pig as my classmates watched my innards glowing green on Kaplan's very advanced image amplifier. As we filed out to our next class, Kaplan took me quietly aside and said, "I think I saw an ulcer. Come back after finals and I'll recheck you." I did so. Happily, no ulcer.
Thomas P. Lowry, '54, MD '57
I read with great pleasure the cover story about David Kelley and the d.school ("Sparks Fly," March/April). It brought me back to the day when I took ME 101, Visual Thinking. A team of us was charged with building a shelter with foam core and cheese cloth. Limitations: Object must fit in a 3x6 foot space and be assembled within 30 seconds. Objective: Protect us from the rays of a 4 p.m. sun. From the initial brainstorming to the prototypes and failures to our final iteration, I learned the process of design, whose concepts and applications transcend academic disciplines. I have tried to carry that out-of-box, no-silos-here thinking with me in my work as a neurologist and researcher.
Audrey Yee, '85
Greenwood Village, Colorado
If the article "Weighing History" (March/April) is an accurate reflection of the views of Professor Ian Morris, I fear he is trying to lead us on an intellectual wild goose chase. His designation of "East" and "West" seems rather arbitrary. So is his selection of indicators of economic or material progress. Geography and economics are but two of the many elements governing human development. To view history through such prisms risks presenting a distorted view. Are we not driven as much by dreams? What has happened to the pursuit of happiness? Or the search for contentment?
I believe the professor's approach is an unreliable one. I shall pick on a couple of his indicators to demonstrate part of the reasons I think so.
Take fortification. If his East is a couple of thousand years behind his West in constructing fortifications, so what? It could be that an Eastern location had no neighbors or that the people had learned to live in harmony with neighbors. Or that when hostile outsiders approached, a peaceable people just moved away. Hence there was no need to build fortifications.
The professor would have to demonstrate before comparing one group with another that both were temperamentally the same and in similar circumstances when reacting to similarly hostile neighbors. Then there might be some justification in concluding that a more innovative group built fortifications while the other group didn't know how to protect itself.
Likewise with the building of big shrines: It could be that the latecomers were more advanced in their perception of the world. Maybe they realized earlier that God was part of themselves and everything around them, something nameless, formless and incapable of being replicated or represented in a shrine. Some ancient Hindu and Taoist scripts lend some support to such a thesis. Then people became corrupted and fell back on superstitions: hence the later building of big shrines. Sadly, history is filled with examples of people going collectively backward into Dark Ages.
The professor seems to think that being first in something somehow confers some sort of qualification to "rule" or to "lead." If so, then he might consider drawing up a list of negative firsts and correlating the two lists.
For example, who first came up with torture racks? Or who first perfected human exterminations on an industrial scale? Or who first reached the highest number of criminals per capita? The last would probably belong to Russia under Stalin, who turned whole classes of the population into criminals overnight. But then, the gulags were located largely in Asia. Should the credit be given to East or West?
David T. K. Wong, '52, MA '53
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The account of Herbert Hoover's relief effort in Russia has a special importance for me ("Waging a Kinder Cold War," Farm Report, March/April). Most people, even those who knew about this remarkable man's heroic efforts to save millions from starvation in Russia, don't know that he was also responsible for saving millions more from starvation in Belgium, a country overrun and ravaged during World War I. As a Fulbright [scholar] in Belgium for two years, I was privileged to visit most of the major cities, and in almost all of them there is a "Place Hoover" or Hooverplatz near the town centers. I also saw a museum in which racks of flour sacks were beautifully embroidered with flowers and thanks to America. I was honored just to have been part of Stanford and thus Hoover's legacy. One of the days at Stanford I most regret was when C. Easton Rothwell, then dean of Hoover Institution, invited me, as president of the Institute of International Relations, to come and have my photo taken with Hoover, Class of 1895. Alas, I was out of town that day. But President Hoover did speak at our 1956 commencement ceremonies (mostly about his fishing activities and the Bohemian Club). It was a great joy to see this great patriot still active at age 82, spry and quick-witted. Thanks for the update on one of America's truly outstanding men.
Richard B. Lawson, '56
Mountlake Terrace, Washington
WARY OF GENOTYPING
I applaud Maya BenBarak's curiosity about genomics and her own personal genetic information, but it should be noted that "recreational genotyping" companies like 23andMe are not providing professional medical advice and can't be relied on for diagnosing any medical conditions ("My Mother, My Cells," Farm Report, March/April). In addition, this information becomes the property of these companies, and in a world where personal information is at risk, why take the chance? While health-care legislation seeks to protect consumers from being excluded from health insurance based on genetic information that places one at risk for future disease (e.g., BRCA genes 1 and 2), it gets hazy when it comes to life, disability or long-term-care insurance. Certainly genetics has transformed the world of medicine for the better, but until one can be assured that personal genetic information is not mishandled or abused, I remain wary of services like 23andMe that are not recommended by physicians.
Michael Tom, '08
Kudos to President Hennessy for recognizing the accomplishments of Stanford's student athletes and the Stanford athletics program ("Hail to the Victors, a Study in Self-Discipline," March/April). Having such a successful program, Stanford should take leadership to address the abysmal state of Division I football and men's basketball, rife with cheating, exorbitantly paid coaches and exploited athletes.
I suggest that Stanford propose two NCAA options:
Option #1: Schools can choose a semipro league modeled on the European industrial leagues, in which athletes are paid, corporate sponsorships are unrestricted and alumni can do whatever they want to achieve football and men's basketball success.
Option #2: Schools can choose an academic league, in which rules are strongly biased to academic achievement. For example, if a school's graduation rate falls below standard, the school forfeits scholarships. TV and tournament revenues would be shared in a way that de-emphasizes monetary incentives to win. And, importantly, coaches and athletic administrators would have greater protection from the academic side so that their jobs are less vulnerable to impatient alumni. Perhaps it would even be possible to limit coaches' salaries to a reasonable multiple of professors' salaries.
Jon Richards, MBA '67
Palo Alto, California
QUESTIONS OF CREDIBILITY
The article on Uncloaking Autism ("Breaking Through," January/February) provoked considerable response with good reason ("Autism's Unknowns," March/April; "No Easy Autism Answers," May/June). The author's conclusion that it is a proven fact that vaccines do not cause autism is unbelievable. Most who subscribe to this point of view cite the cohort study in Denmark of more than 500,000 children that showed no connection. Yet nowhere does Stanford indicate that the Danish author of this study was indicted [on April 13, 2011] for wire fraud and money laundering while conducting this study for the CDC. The United States is trying to extradite him to stand trial. Given the man's long-time financial connection with vaccine manufacturers and CDC's cozy connection with these companies, many wonder about conflict of interest and the credibility of the study. One would hope that Stanford publications would do their homework before parroting so-called facts from faculty experts. (Readers should know that my daughter with autism had 36 vaccinations by the time she was 18 months old. Despite years of treatments to remove mercury, tests show the levels, both organic and inorganic, are still off the charts.)
Barry Stern, PhD '72
COMPASSION AND COMPETENCE
Advocating Stanford classes in "basic humanity, ethics and religion" misses the point of Stanford ("Dividing the Pie," Letters, March/April). My father graduated in 1926 from a Stanford that was not particularly socially conscious, yet he was a physician who earned the love of his patients, the working class, the insane and the incarcerated. My son, also a physician, graduated in 1980 from a Stanford filled with opportunities for service and a culture of sharing. But he didn't need Stanford to be a compassionate human being.
Herbert Hoover, Class of 1895, had he not become president, would have gone down in history as one of the greatest humanitarians, for saving the Ukraine from famine. Sen. Max Baucus, '63, JD '67, actually did have classes in ethics; he advanced the SCHIP children's health program and saved Social Security from further privatization, but he also implemented big tax cuts for the wealthy and destroyed the rectification of the social insurance system that single payer advocates (and suffering Americans) cried out for.
People have to have compassion to motivate them to want to help and nurture others. But in the helping, competence trumps compassion.
My father and the American physicians of his generation didn't see the functional beauty in "Everybody pays; everybody gets seen." They supposed that more elite physicians made the European medical system superior. Today's liberals see only the "everybody gets seen" part and think it's lack of compassion that stands in the way of reform; but it's not, it's lack of understanding of the finance mechanism.
The Stanfords' purpose was not to create the cynosure of elitist education. Their memorial to their only son was to educate the poor boys and girls of California—to lead them out of ignorance, to train their minds to observe, to seek knowledge, organize information, discern the significance of what seems only incidental, to share what they learn with others to make a society which allocates resources wisely to enhance the lives of all.
As for Social Security and Medicare, a social insurance that is paid for by the poorest workers—who do not themselves have health insurance and by doing without it are necessarily among the half who never see the pension, which begins at the average age of death—can't be called compassionate and cannot be said to "work." The health access that poor workers—indeed, all citizens—ought to get by simply having a portion of their salary set aside to pay for their present and future health needs is entrusted to parasitic middlemen who abscond with a huge share. Stanford needs to train students to apply their intelligence and knowledge to understand that in an urbanized society, the self-interest of the best and brightest is entwined with the interest of the hewers of wood and drawers of water. I pray they'll do this for my grandson, Stanford '15.
Stephanie Cleary Muñoz
Los Altos Hills, California
Photos credited to Fox Searchlight Pictures in the profile of Suttirat Larlarb ("Worlds of Her Making," March/April) should have been credited as ©2010 Twentieth Century Fox. All rights reserved.
The following letters did not appear in the print edition of Stanford.
MORE FROST MEMORIES
Ivan Maisel did a good job of capturing the essence of concerts at Frost ("A Place in the Sun," May/June). I was at the Jefferson Airplane concert in 1967. Grace Slick: "It's kind of hot today, so feel free to take off your clothes." Audience member: "You first!" (Grace remained in her fashionable pantsuit.) My Frost memories also include watching and participating in the annual Spring Sings. The years I was at Stanford featured many concerts at other venues, including an earlier (1966?) outdoor concert with Jefferson Airplane and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Butterfield blew the Airplane away), The Lovin' Spoonful on Tresidder's back deck, Charlie Musselwhite at Memorial Plaza and Buddy Guy in Toyon Hall. And then there were all the Fillmore and Winterland shows with the Airplane, The Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, John Mayall, Jimi Hendrix, Blood Sweat and Tears, Cream, The Band . . . good stuff. Thanks for sparking some memories.
Rick Wilson '69
Thank you for writing about rock 'n' roll at Stanford in the Sixties. (Everyone knows the Sixties lasted until at least 1975, when bell-bottoms went out of style.)
One day I was on my way from Lag to Tresidder to fortify myself with another cup of their terrible coffee when I came across John Sebastian and The Lovin' Spoonful playing for a small dancing crowd on the back deck.
Forget the coffee. Forget the history paper. Dance the afternoon away.
"Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart?" Recalling that day, I certainly do.
Kathryn Perry Fields, '68
The most incredible experience ever was a surreal performance by Seals & Croft in 1975. It was, no doubt, the result of a perfect blend of the ideal venue, pristine weather, special friends, a great crowd and two soulful performers at their peak. Magical and absolutely unforgettable. The experience is locked in my senses to this day.
Steve Chicoine, Engr. '75
Eden Prairie, Minnesota
I don't consider myself a hippie, but two distinct memories of Frost Amphitheater are attending the Joan Baez concert pictured at the front of your wonderful article (my father tells me I am somewhere in the upper right corner—I was 5 at the time) and seeing a, er, full-frontal version of Hair as a freshman in the mid '80s. What a shame it is no longer being used. The new Bing Concert Hall going up next door will have great acoustics, no doubt, but nowhere near the soul, man!
Evan Reis, '87, MS '88
"Before the rock era, Frost was known mostly as a venue for commencements and major speakers. Music leaned toward jazz and classical pops. Arthur Fiedler conducted the San Francisco Symphony in an annual summer fundraiser for the Children's Health Council." Before rock, there was Shakespeare!
George Mitchell, MS '66
Indian Harbour Beach, Florida
One of my favorite Frost concerts, albeit more folk than rock, was Gordon Lightfoot in May 1974. He played lots of songs from his Sundown album, which was a big hit at the time. There was nothing better than great live music on a sunny day at Frost.
Rod Koon, '74
I was a member of the fortunate generation that saw many of the greats play at Frost, including what I still think is the oddest concert pairing ever: Miles Davis opening for the New Riders of the Purple Sage on October 1, 1972.
But the article [may be] inaccurate when it says that The Grateful Dead appeared at Frost in the spring of 1973. [According to] deadbase.com, after its Maples concert in February 1973, The Dead didn't play at Stanford again until appearing at Frost in October 1982. The almost-annual string of Dead concerts at Frost then continued until 1989, not 1987, skipping only 1984.
It is a shame that such a great venue goes unused today.
Steve Beck, '76
Menlo Park, California
Enjoyed the article on Frost, but it left me thirsty for more details. A feature like this deserves twice as many pages! Also, no mention of the return of Phil Lesh (Grateful Dead bassist) to Frost in 2002. I was gone by then, but I heard it was a great show.
Erik Uzureau, '01
"A Place in the Sun" nicely details Frost Amphitheater's place in Bay Area live music and Stanford's historical connection to The Grateful Dead. It leaves out the crucial fact that it was Stanford University and the Stanford community, in a spasm of "Just Say No" zeal, who banned The Dead from ever returning to Frost. To save time, I'll summarize their objections here: "Ewww . . . hippies!"
James M. Reichmuth, '92
San Francisco, California
Ivan Maisel does not explain why Frost now sits quiet and mostly forgotten, a white elephant. Is Frost too small now for campus-wide commencements—then why not commencements by school or department (as is done at UC-Berkeley)? Not grand enough? Are the acoustics too difficult? The Shakespeare plays in 1964 were, it is true, hard to hear towards the back. Or does Frost present pollen problems (as at the Spring Sing of 1963, when some of us first learned we had allergies)?
Nostalgia for the rock 'n' roll of college days would be sad evidence of educational failing in any Stanford student who listened to rock to the exclusion of the far, far richer feast of music from throughout the world.
Allen Dull, '64
I was delighted to see your article about Robert Lang and his phenomenal origami ("The Mindbending Artistry of Robert Lang," May/June). I thought your readers would also enjoy Between the Folds (http://BetweenTheFolds.com), a Peabody Award-winning documentary in which Robert is one of the featured folders. Disclaimer: I found the movie and everyone in it so captivating, I ended up as executive producer.
Palo Alto, California
I came to Stanford as a freshman from a poor/working class neighborhood in 1968. Many of my high school friends and acquaintances spent time in Vietnam, some as draftees and many as enlistees. When the lottery was enacted I was #115—a sure ticket to the war zone. I did everything within my power to legally avoid the draft. I mention this background to establish my credentials in relation to the discussion of ROTC on the Farm ("ROTC Redux? A Quiet Debate," Farm Report, May/June).
The antiwar "anti-military industrial complex" sentiment that came to fruition during that period had many supporters in the Stanford community. ROTC was a very visible target for their outrage and anger. The radicals who burned down the ROTC building had wide support for their positions from many, even those who condemned the violence. Many of those supporters and others with their views remain at the University. Over the years they have become established in positions of authority and influence. Their views and positions have become part of the foundation of thought on campus.
The real reasons behind ending the ROTC programs at Stanford and other liberal arts schools can be found in the convictions and actions of these individuals. Other arguments made to remove the ROTC programs at the time and to keep them off campus today are merely smoke screens. It's time the Stanford community faced up to the systemic prejudice against anything 'military' that first formed in the radical movements of the 1960s. Once the Stanford community admits to this prejudice, an open and honest discussion about ROTC's place on campus can begin. Until that time these discussions will bear no good fruit.
Joe Virga, '72
Redwood City, California
GENETIC, METABOLIC, NUTRITIONAL ROLES IN AUTISM
I was touched by [Steve Su's] letter regarding his two sons' autism and the severe difficulty experienced trying to get help and understanding for them ("Autism's Unknowns," March/April). I apologize for my profession's lack of an adequate response to these children's needs, leaving them open to exploitation and financial hucksterism. I can understand the appeal of simple theories like "vaccines cause autism" or that chelation therapy will cure it.
It is never possible to disprove the null hypothesis—that there is no relationship between vaccines and the autistic state, and that heavy metals which can be chelated out bear no relationship. That is because it is impossible to test all instances. But it is extremely important to look at the evidence, which points to strong genetic, metabolic and nutritional/digestive causes in these hard-to-feed children. We are on the verge of being able to treat these conditions. An important resource is Stanford's MitoPhenome database, available to all online. In this, one can search by symptom or sign (I find diagnostic categories like autism don't work very well, perhaps because they are too broad) and find the genes and case reports of mitochondrial disorders resembling [Su's] sons' disorders.
Mitochondrial medicine is offered at Stanford in the pediatric endocrinology department, at Columbia in the department of pathology, and at the Johns Hopkins endocrinology department. Clues that a mitochondrial disorder may be present include blood tests for excessive lactic or pyruvic acid in the blood, indicating a block to the metabolism of glucose, and blood deficiency of glutathione, carnitine or coenzyme Q10. There is a palliative regimen of vitamins and other nutrients, developed at Johns Hopkins and used at Stanford, which helps the majority of mitochondrial patients and is offered to all. Be prepared for the necessary data collection during medical care. Height, weight, pulse and blood pressure can be collected at home in advance by parents for medical office use. They are essential to evaluating a child's growth and development. Children can, if necessary, be sedated for essential medical examinations and a carefully planned evaluation carried out on a single occasion.
When I approach a child with autism, I first define all the symptoms and signs, since it is a multisystem collection of disorders, and define the child's nutritional status. This requires both a careful diet history and lab work, since requirements and deficiencies are very individual. But in general I emphasize searching for the nutritional deficiencies that are widespread in our population, particularly lack of vitamin D. There is a strong time correlation between our abandonment of routine administration of cod liver oil to children, in the 1960s, and the growing epidemic of autism. One of my autism patients went from a special education program in elementary school to the gifted program at the middle school when we finally corrected his profound deficiency of vitamin D. And his widespread pain disappeared. Many pain clinics now prescribe large doses of vitamin D.
Half the world's children and women, including ours, are iron- and usually zinc-deficient due to high-starch diets and high metabolic need. And the learning disabilities of many children with autism, as well as others, are certainly correlated with central nervous system iron deficiency—even [problems with] learning to read and hyper behavior are improvable with good, but not excessive, iron nutritional status.
Correcting these children's poor nutrition is essential to getting a good result. It may require formula feeding and supplements because of their lack of appetite, allergies and odd eating behavior. Educating the child about science-based nutrition is also essential and should be easily accomplished with [Su's] very bright boys. Palliative treatment is very important to relieve symptoms, including chronic pain, and helps function for these children. I am ashamed that my profession has not addressed this need more vigorously.
Next I look carefully for the above metabolic dysfunctions, since they can be treated by replacing certain nutrients. Meanwhile, the search for fundamental understanding of the child's disorder can go on, with them improved.
I have treated children who were thought to be autistic, but were really deaf or having atypical seizures or migraine. In my experience, these children rarely seem to get even a careful neurological examination, let alone the brain imaging readily offered to adults. Make sure that their health care is comprehensive and orderly, and that they are as fully educated and socialized as possible.
The reason that chelation therapy and vaccine harm are viewed with such suspicion by doctors and public health is the heavy financial interests of those offering these theories and treatments to desperate parents. When I was teaching health sciences in British Columbia, a profferer of chelation therapy—then for atherosclerosis—offered me a cool million dollars if I would allow my medical name to be used to front for them in introducing chelation therapy to the province. I of course declined and reported them to the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Mary H. Rose, '63, MD '69, FAAFP
'ENTITLEMENTS' DON'T GO FAR
Like Sandy Perry ("Dividing the Pie," Letters, March/April), I was also extremely disappointed in President Hennessy's January/February column ("To Save Innovation, Tame Entitlements"). A just society must not be solely for the privileged few. We see the rich making more and paying often minimum taxes. As even Warren Buffett said recently, "There is something wrong in a society when my secretary pays a higher percentage of her wages in taxes than I do." These entitlements that President Hennessy mentions go only a very small way to making America a country of which we can be proud.
Richard Harrison, '57
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