Category Archives: Notes from the Trail

Telling Togo’s Tale: The Iditarod…it all begins at the Mushers Banquet
Iditarod Day 1-Mushers Banquet Dallas Seavey and MJH
Dallas Seavey and Marc Heft at the Mushers Banquet.

Today is the official start of the Iditarod, The Last Great Race on Earth®. But for many, including me, the Mushers Banquet on February 28 was the real beginning of the race.

There, I met  mushers of all ages who will run the race, including several past champions, such as Dallas Seavey, who, in 2012, at age 25, was the youngest Iditarod winner ever. A bit of a rock star who was swamped by fans, Dallas, a third-generation musher, also won the 2011 Yukon Quest race and is Alaska’s first and only national wrestling champion. When asked what he thought of Togo—the sled dog who led a team over the longest and most brutal leg of the 1925 Serum Run—he said a word that very loosely translates to “guts!” I agree! Continue reading

Telling Togo’s Tale: The Iditarod and Telling of Togo’s Tale begins now!

Togo10The 1,000-mile Alaskan Iditarod sled dog race—from Anchorage to Nome—begins today at 2:00 p.m. local time (6:00 p.m. EST). The race traces its roots to the 1925 Race for Mercy or Serum Run, during which life-saving diphtheria serum was delivered to Nome by sled dog teams. All of those sled dogs were amazing, including Balto, who led the team that delivered the vaccine to Nome on the run’s last leg. He was honored in a Disney movie and Central Park statue. But the story behind the story is that it was a musher named Leonhard Sepparla and his 12-year-old undersized husky, Togo, that led a team five times further—261 miles total—over the most treacherous, unchartered territory of the run. Without Togo’s fearless efforts, those villagers would likely have perished. Continue reading

NICE value for public health

For many patients, healthcare professionals, advocacy groups, politicians or the pharmaceutical industry executives, the word NICE (the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) can be a mixed blessing. Since its inception more than ten years ago, NICE has been empowered with the responsibility of evaluating a drug’s cost effectiveness, and subsequently its availability — or lack of — through the National Health Service (NHS). A negative appraisal by NICE can sound the death-toll for otherwise promising new therapies.

However, its latest initiative is likely to draw far more supporters than detractors. Working in partnership with the National Social Marketing Centre (NSMC) and the Department of Health, NICE this week launched a website with tools designed to help UK doctors and healthcare commissioners evaluate the value for money offered by social marketing projects that are intended to help people make healthier lifestyle choices. In addition to providing information regarding direct costs to healthcare providers, the tools provide insight into the wider financial and societal costs associated with our lifestyle choices.

For example, designers of smoking cessation programs are able to find out how much money an individual who stops smoking might save through giving up smoking, the cost to the local fire service, savings on street cleaning through reduced cigarette littering and the extent of gains to employers from reduced employee absences.

The first tool, which focuses on smoking cessation, is now online and available to download ( Additional tools focusing on breastfeeding, alcohol abuse, obesity and bowel cancer are due to be published soon.

So will this significant vote of confidence in the role social marketing can play in addressing public health issues, change the way in which some currently view NICE? As the organisation’s scope continues to grow and its role diversify, will NICE ultimately win the argument that it is an enabler to access rather than a barrier? Time will tell.

Who Can You Trust?

Who Can You Trust? Your mother, father, sister, brother, spouse or significant other? Your dog, your cat? Chances are, you may not confide in the same person for everything under the sun. You may go to your girlfriend to complain about your husband. You may talk to your mom when you need to know how wonderful you are. But Continue reading

We are TogoRun

An oncologist we know once described his choice of medical specialty this way: “I graduated first in my class in pediatric medicine from Yale. But working with sick kids was so depressing I switched to oncology during residency.” Continue reading