I remember discussing the state of emergency medicine research at a program with a burgeoning basic science lab. My interviewer, too, was pleased with new developments, and dismissed a huge chunk of older EM publications as "cocktail party research" -- quick and easy to analyze, interesting to talk about, but ultimately nothing that will change the way medicine is conducted. He cited one of his own efforts as an example:

A retrospective review was conducted of cardiac arrest patients presenting to a New England ED during the months of October through May, from 1991 to 1994. Comparing daily frequency of cardiac arrest patients with climactic data, a 27% increase was observed in the frequency of cardiac arrest presentation to the ED on days with snowfall (P = .0004). ED physicians and staff should anticipate an increased frequency of cardiac arrest patients on days with snowfall.

I thought of his paper today with the news that David Nyhan has died.

David Nyhan, whose fiercely liberal columns for The Boston Globe made him a force in local and national politics even as his generous nature won him a legion of friends, died early yesterday at his home in Brookline, apparently of a heart attack. He was 64.

Mr. Nyhan was stricken yesterday after coming in from shoveling snow and was rushed by his wife, Olivia, to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where he was pronounced dead...

...He was scheduled to leave this week for a month-long trip to Sri Lanka to accompany and write about a group of about 50 nurses and doctors taking part in tsunami relief efforts.

If you read the opinions page of the Boston Globe in the late eighties or early nineties, you couldn't miss his presence. I was in high school then, and Nyhan's accessible, passionate columns introduced me to politics -- and addicted me to newspapers.

Every year he'd write a poignant open letter to graduating high school seniors, about not getting into one's top choice for college. I still think about his essay every few years, with each cycle of applications.

I only wish his world intersected more closely with ours. Maybe then what we refer to as cocktail party banter, what we see as obvious and unchangable, would be more widely understood and appreciated.