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Microbiologist explores wonders, dangers of microbial world in TEDxCharleston talk

MUSC News Center | July 2, 2013

Dr. SchmidtMUSC microbiologist Michael Schmidt explores the impact of hospital-acquired infections as one of the presenters at a recent TEDxCharleston talk.

Not one to mince words, Michael G. Schmidt, Ph.D., flashes up a slide of a wide jumbo jet and asks his audience this.

“If one full, wide-bodied jet crashed each day, every day for the foreseeable future, would any of us fly? We all know the answer to that question is no.”

Schimdt, professor and vice chair of MUSC’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, goes on to tell the TEDxCharleston audience that despite that, this is the number of people who will die from an hospital-acquired infection each day, every day for the foreseeable future in the United States, and the United States is better than most countries.

Schmidt was chosen to speak at the May event and said it took some effort to condense five papers down to 10 minutes. An anonymous person nominated him, and he was asked to write a very brief entry of what he would like to bring to the attention of the audience.

“I knew I had a great story, so it was easy to convince the producers to select my talk,” he said.

prevalence of hospital acquired infections 
Hospital-acquired infections cause more yearly deaths than AIDS and breast cancer combined. 

Doing the talk was a learning experience.

“Who knew 10 minutes would take so long to produce.  I learned much about presenting complex data in appealing ways.”  

Schmidt said he had gotten very positive reactions and feels it raised awareness about the health issue of hospital-acquired infections and MUSC’s innovative research efforts in using copper to fight this problem. A study published in the May issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology found placement of copper surfaces in intensive care unit hospital rooms reduced the amount of health care-acquired infections (HAIs) in patients by more than half. Read the story here

Schmidt asked audience members a favor during his talk - that every time they see one of the new Lincoln pennies with the shield and phrase "E Pluribus Unum," which translates from the Latin, One out of Many, that they remember the forgotten victims of hospital-acquired infections and how copper research can help lower those rates.

Schmidt said he knows he has helped develop evidence that is re-imagining health care.“People now really appreciate how MUSC is changing what's possible,” he said of MUSC’s branding statement. “It's more than a tag line, it is real.”

To see Schmidt’s talk, visit this youtube link. You can check out the other talks by clicking on the red hyperlink of each of the speakers at the TEDxCharleston site

Did you know?


Schmidt's talk is full of 'fun' microbial facts.

  • We each lose about 2 million skin cells an hour and are covered in bacteria.
  • The average adult touches up to 30 objects a minute. Eighty percent of infectious diseases are transferred by touch.
  • Bacteria account for about 3 percent of our body's weight, giving us about 7 degrees of our body’s temperature.
  • Sneezes can expel bacteria and viruses at rates between 95 to 650 miles per hour with particles of the 'goldilocks' size, where the microbes may remain aloft where they can spread from surface to person, person to surface.




  Related Video

Copper video
Dr. Michael Schmidt explores the wonders of copper in fighting HAIs

Dr. Schmidt's TEDxCharleston talk

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Video: Controlling hospital-acquired infections

Copper use found beneficial

Resources >>

MUSC Department of Microbiology and Immunology

CDC Information on hospital-acquired infections


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