Quartzy co-founder Adam Regelmann is an MD-PhD. He bypassed a career in gastroenterology to launch Quartzy with Columbia colleague Jayant Kulkarni. Each week Adam answers five questions about science, medicine, and pop-culture.
Would you rather be operated on by an excellent veterinarian or a terrible surgeon?
If I really had to choose, I would say vet. And the reason is, in my mind, what makes a good surgeon is someone who knows when to and when not to operate—not necessarily their technical abilities in the OR. The other thing is, a terrible surgeon can really mess you up. Preferably, the vet would specialize in non-human primates, not reptiles or birds.
Is the “5-second rule” legitimate in terms of safely eating food from the floor if it’s only been there briefly?
The 5-second rule doesn’t make any sense. I think there are a lot more factors that weigh in on whether food is contaminated. If it’s bread with peanut butter that lands face down, whether you leave it there for 5 seconds or 5 minutes probably doesn’t change the amount of debris on it. The moisture content of whatever food has landed is a factor—there’s surface tension there that will pull up the yeast and dirt and debris. The height from which food falls also matters. If it falls from a higher point, it will probably have more impact and get more debris on it. I don’t think there’s much value in the 5-second rule other than it’s easy to pick something up in 5 seconds, and if you eat something off the floor, it probably won’t really cause medical problems.
Does increasing vitamin C help either stave off colds or expedite recovery?
There is some evidence that if you take high levels of vitamin C continuously and you get a cold, the duration of the cold may be less by a small amount—maybe a half a day or a day. But if you don’t take it at high levels regularly and then you get a cold, it doesn’t do anything. The idea that vitamin C helps is questionable. Orange juice and powdered vitamin drinks have electrolytes in them and make you hydrated, which is good for you when you’re sick, but they don’t actually resolve symptoms faster.
Do doctors generally dislike being asked medical questions in social settings?
It’s kind of like, “Oh, stop it! Go on.” They like the attention—it’s flattering. Doctors, in general, study hard, and they have decent-sized egos. So, at a party, they get to feel special if people ask them medical things. Also, doctors see lots of interesting things. There’s a lot of drama in the hospital. When doctors get together, the conversation usually devolves into nonstop discussions about patients and crazy stories. They don’t identify the actual patients, of course.
If you were to see today’s Quartzy through a crystal ball back when it was merely an idea, what would most surprise you?
The origin story was really about me having to walk a requisition form from one building to another building to buy something. And I thought, in this day and age, that was silly. The idea was to create a home base for science, where I could manage my own science. I think what would be surprising if I were to go back and look forward is how focused we are on just the efficiency part—the efficiency of running a lab—and not trying to be everything to everyone. Really drilling deep into who has what in the lab, where it is, and what the lab needs. When we started, it was very much about how can we decrease pain for individual scientists, and now it’s about how we can increase efficiency for a group of scientists working together.
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