Sizzlingly Personalized Aesculapian Medicine (SPAM) E-mails

Biji T. Kurien
University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma, OK


Cartoon by Bianca A Kurien and Jasmin R. Kurien

In his 1889 book “Three men in a boat-To say nothing of the dog” Jerome K. Jerome writes about reading a patent liver-pill advertisement containing various symptoms observed when a person’s liver was out of order. He discovers that he had them all, including the chief symptom which was “a general disinclination to work of any kind”. Furthermore, he discusses his visit to the British Museum to study a mild ailment that he thought he had. He studies about his condition and then in an “unthinking moment” delves into the book to study diseases from A to Z and finds that he had all the maladies listed except for housemaid’s knee.

People living in this modern age do not have to do anything remotely close to what Jerome K Jerome had to do. This is especially so since we live in the golden age of communication arguably headed by the useful faculty commonly referred to as the electronic mail (E-mail) that links us with the uttermost parts of a computer-driven world and even the outer space typified by the International Space Station (1).  Most of us will agree that we live in the golden age of love, consideration and affection between fellow human beings, gauging by the number of E-mails that one receives from total strangers from all over the world. I have been aching for close to a decade to publicly acknowledge the genuine concern and kindness shown to me by a huge number of my “fans,” almost all of who are total strangers. I really should personally thank each of these E-pals in kind through E-mail, at least. However, with the number of E-mail “fans” that I have, it is practically impossible to placate each and every one, except through a public expression of gratitude.

Unlike Jerome K. Jerome’s case it appears that I do not have to self- diagnose problems with my body. A whole lot of people in the world seem to know that I am overtly obese, old, have most of the diseases in the world and also suffer from other things like lack of medicines, money, good home, female companionship, proper education and so on. I am completely at a loss in comprehending how they come to this kind of psychic conclusion.

Perfect strangers, who specifically state that they are truly concerned about my health, want me lose a pound a day by taking a formulation comprising extracts of a S. African prickly plant Hoodia Gordonii (apparently kills appetite), green tea extracts (said to burn more calories/day) and chitosan (blocking lipid absorption)  and other ingredients. Another group suggests that I take an “amino acid” called ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) so that I can get my arteries unclogged and live. I trust that they will not mind if I lovingly remind them that EDTA is not an amino acid.

A lot of concerned people think that specific parts of my body are small and that I would experience cell growth and tissue multiplication as well as angiogenesis within two weeks of taking a specific formulation. It will not be hard to say that, with all this high-tech capability, they should surely do something about the length of their noses and perhaps then they might not be very nosey about others this much (2). In addition, considering their acute creativity, they should also work to find a formulation that can rectify trichotillomania (3). Then, they would not be pulling this much hair to diagnose and work out cures for others. One has to admit that these guys are remarkable over-achievers and it is still a mystery as to why the Nobel committee has been ignorant of this kind of exemplary work. I just wonder if these over-achievers will take responsibility if specific body parts did not stop growing after two weeks and protect people from jail time if they get booked for indecent exposure in public.

In addition, several well meaning folks imply that I have ED, that I do stuff in a premature fashion  and provide me a formulation as a cure for these as well. The argument put forward by all these friendly strangers is that they specifically want my partner/partners to be happy because of this development. The thing that I detest most with some of these nice people is that they think that I am a good for nothing philanderer of the wildest kind and my advice to them is that they should not believe in hearsay this earnestly. Well, I also detest the fact that they get my sex mixed up occasionally. I just wonder how these well-meaning folks get in touch with my partners this easily to garner highly personal information. I simply will have to verify the complicity of my wife in all of this.

At the same time several groups try to hook me up with other girls, saying that I should date someone soon. Recently they have even started adding specific age groups as well, suggesting that I should try people over 40 years of age. It is quite possible that somehow they ran sour with my wife while making some discrete enquiries and were doing this just to avenge her. Some even go to the extent of saying that I should either look into matrimonials or even advertise in some of them so that I could get married. I just hope that this is not a plot by some well-meaning people to increase genetic diversity? Then I get very friendly emails from girls from different countries. It appears that they had seen my profile somewhere and think that I am a very good person to live with and better than all the men that they have either been with or seen. This is somewhat fishy, especially with all the negative emails that come to me suggesting that I have all these major problems. It is also fishy since I did not have a picture or a detailed profile of myself in any website at that time. This makes me wonder whether someone had placed an encrypted picture along with my profile somewhere that can be decoded only by girls everywhere. Perhaps I should forward these girls the testament of my weaknesses noted by other people elsewhere in the world, especially the emails offering me diapers. Then, they would not like me this much.

I am truly touched by all the nice emails that I receive from my very kind friends in Nigeria and other African countries. I just feel that the continent of Africa is truly blessed, being rampantly overrun by a plethora of rich folks who have inherited countless millions of dollars either from relatives who have been killed by dictators/warlords, plane crashes, or terrible diseases. All of them wholeheartedly and unselfishly want to give me 40% of their inherited wealth, sometimes even in gold bars, so that I could do whatever I wished to do with it. Perhaps they are in league with all the people who have realized that I need treatment for so many diseases that they wish to dump millions and millions on me. I just wish that someone could convince them about diversifying and sending their money to fund medical research or other good causes rather than putting all their eggs into one basket. Such an extravagant spending on one person might make the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to rethink their priorities for malaria and AIDS control in Africa. Personally I do not want to enjoy the billions of dollars that I stood to obtain by just giving my name and information. Why should I be selfish and hoard all the money myself, when countless people in Africa are suffering from diseases and for lack of food, clothing and shelter. Besides, there is a hefty tax to be paid on all income in the United States and my advice to would-be donors is that it would be only wise to invest in Africa itself.

Then, there are people who want to help me professionally by pointing out the various research products that are available for purchase. One lady noted that my research work involved the use of ceruloplasmin. However, I did not understand why she had started out her E-mail addressing me as “Dear Dr. Ceruloplasmin” (See Figure). I graciously replied, thanking her for my new name. She has failed to reply to me till date.

Even astronauts in the space station are not immune from the love of fellow human beings. They have been also known to receive libidinous or lascivious E-mails as well as E-mails from self-proclaimed space aliens while in space (4).

I have read that there are many individuals who are more lovable than I, who receive thousands of loving emails every day. I used to get about 500 each day (about 430 were removed by our institutional filter system with the option of retrieving ones needed) and of late I do not know whether I should rejoice or not since I appear to be slowly losing my reputation as a lovable person in the world (my E-mails are not steady as it once used to be). It appears that I am going down the rungs of the likeable-category ladder.

Were he living in our times Jerome K. Jerome probably would have written a stirring and lovable book entitled “The world of cyber space-To say nothing of outer space” in terms of how the world has shriveled into a single entity, moulded by the incorrigible and essential medium known as the E-mail.



  1. Kurien BT, Dorri Y, D’Souza A, Scofield RH. Four men in a space station – To say nothing of the cow! The quest for finding respite and work in the ultimate frontier. Med Hypotheses 2007; 68:1195-9.
  2. Kurien BT. Survivability with a topsy-turvy olfaction/respiration organ. Singapore Med J 2006;47:736.
  3. Kurien BT, Gross T, Scofield RH. Barbering in mice: a model for trichotillomania. BMJ 2005; 331:1503-5.



BIJI T. KURIEN, PhD, completed his studies in 1989 at the University of Madras, India. Currently, he works as Associate Professor of Research at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City. His research interests include the study of free radical-mediated damage in experimental urolithiasis, systemic lupus erythematosus and Sjögren’s syndrome as well as the role of the nutraceutical curcumin in autoimmune diseases. His has numerous publications in national and international peer-reviewed journals and has also co-edited four volumes in the Methods in Molecular Biology series.