Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Biochem 411 with Dr. Beyer

Just about anyone who was pre-med at the University of Michigan in the 80's and 90's probably took Biochemistry 411. It was a unique class, that used the Keller Plan, an early experiment in flipped classrooms. Professor Robert Beyer created a course book which laid out explicitly what the expectations were for each of 15 modules. Students would study on their own until they understood the expectations and then take a test demonstrating mastery of the material. If they had questions they could work with student proctors to get the answers.
It was an awesome class, it was the only A+ I ever received. The class was essential med school prep because it taught me how much crap I could stuff into short term memory for a test. You can see an overview of the class Dr. Beyers wrote for an education journal here.

Dr. Beyer offered optional lecture sessions if you wanted to learn additional ancillary information and I went to a few of them. He did an awesome lecture on the benign medical nature of marajuana. He did a lecture on the importance of free radical scavengers (he was a huge Linus Pauling fan, who he called the great brain). Here is some lay press  on some of his research on free radicals. And he had a few pet molecules that he loved, one was Co-enzyme Q10. I knew more about Co-Enzyme Q than I ever thought I would need and I was pleasantly surprised to see it pop back up as a relevant medical drug twenty years later.

Another pet molecule (or I guess, element in this case) was selenium, he gave a convincing lecture that increased selenium was the key to preventing cancer. This has not worked out so well. The Select trial randomized 35,000 men to placebo, vitamin E, selenium or both vitamin E and selenium. The lowest prostate cancer rate was with placebo. Sorry Dr. Beyer.

The Journal of National Cancer Institute this week released a nested case control analysis of the same data and found that selenium and vitamin E increased the risk of prostate cancer by 90% in some patients.

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