Epic Measures (2015) tells the incredible story of how one man, Christopher Murray, came to build the most comprehensive medical study ever assembled. Find out what motivated Murray and his dedicated team of collaborators to build a worldwide map of every disease and illness known to man – and discover how his remarkable work has revolutionized the face of world health.
If you were lucky enough to go on a family vacation when you were ten years old, you may have engaged in pleasant leisure activities, like hiking or enjoying the sights and food of another country. Christopher Murray’s family did trips somewhat differently.
When Christopher was ten years old, his parents took him and his three older siblings on a yearlong sabbatical in Niger. This was no random trip: his father was a cardiologist; his mother, a microbiologist. The family planned to work at a hospital in the Sahara desert.
The hospital needed all the help it could get. When Christopher’s family arrived, the facility was lacking running water and electricity, not to mention staff.
Luckily, the family had brought some portable equipment with them, and Chris served as an errand boy and organized supplies. Meanwhile, his older brothers worked as nurses and aides, stitching and dressing wounds.
The family worked together to fight malaria. After noticing that more people were catching the disease in the hospital than in the villages around it, they started taking blood samples of everyone in the area and studying the health statistics of their patients and visitors to figure out what was going on.
Their research showed that the malaria outbreak had begun when the hospital started distributing vitamin supplements; tests showed that these supplements increased the iron count in patients’ blood. This led the family to the conclusion that the elevated iron levels were probably attracting parasites that thrive on the mineral, which in turn promoted infection and increased the risk of malaria.
The results were published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet. This kind of tenacious research is a perfect example of the kind of work that would stay with Christopher as he grew up, pushing him to work hard to help people.
The Murrays continued to run various mobile clinics throughout Africa and fight disease. These experiences, and the teachings of his father, showed Christopher that one of the most important skills in medicine is careful analysis.