Ask Adam: vol. 5

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.

Does hand sanitizer actually prevent sickness?

Adam Regelmann

Yes. It’s mostly ethyl alcohol. People talk about antibiotic resistance a lot—it’s a very important topic. But those kinds of chemical antiseptics—isopropyl alcohol, chlorhexidine, ethyl alcohol—work by doing things that would be very hard for any living thing to overcome, like fixing all proteins. There’s a concern that hand sanitizer leads to more resistance, and I don’t think that’s true. Don’t get me wrong: Antibiotic resistance is a huge problem, but antibiotics work via mechanisms that disrupt very specific cellular machinery, and there’s enough natural variation in the bacterial world for some organisms to be naturally resistant to that kind of disruption. Overuse of antibiotics selects for those organisms and increases their prevalence.

The biggest way we transmit viruses or antibiotic-resistant bacteria to each other is via fomites. We rub them on doorknobs after we sneeze or touch saliva, pass them by shaking hands after blowing our nose, etc. There has been evidence that shows that if you regularly hand sanitize, you get sick less and spread around the resistant bugs less. So, yes, it works.

Are most doctors good at the board game Operation?36462151_scrop

I’ve never played it with any other doctors. I would assume that surgeons are better than non-surgeons—they better be. But it is the game that is given to every single person who gets admitted into medical school. Some relative thinks, “It’s funny because you’re going to be a doctor, and you’re going to do stuff like that.”

Also, if you do something wrong in the OR, patients don’t buzz. They typically start bleeding. Or the scariest thing is they don’t do anything, you sew them back up, and post-op they start bleeding or get infected. With all those cavities open at once in the game, it’s more like a Spanish Inquisition torture than a patient surgery.

Does chicken soup really ease a cold or illness?

When you get sick, your appetite goes down and your fluid loss goes up—that can either be vomit, sweat from fever, or diarrhea. And you don’t lose just water, you lose fluid that contains electrolytes, carbohydrates—things like that. The reason something like chicken noodle soup helps is it has a lot of salt in it, and the noodles have starch, which is broken down into your body as sugar. And both of those help prevent dehydration. The sugar actually helps push the fluid into the body, as do the salts.

Chicken noodle soup is a good approximation of the World Health Organization’s oral-rehydration formula used for cholera. Most people in the U.S. don’t get cholera, and they’re not so dehydrated they could die, but things like chicken noodle soup help hydrate better than water would.

Is the stereotype that doctors have bad handwriting true?

I think it’s more a relic of paper charts and orders. I’d be interested to see what the handwriting is of the new batch of doctors that has emerged since using computers. In the old days, you needed to write so much. You have paper charts, paper orders. You’re seeing 20 patients a day. That’s a lot of writing. So there’s a shorthand that you develop, there are abbreviations you develop, and you need to write very fast. The combination of all that makes reading a doctor’s note very hard. In those days, If you went into residency with meticulous handwriting, chances are you’d leave with terrible handwriting.

Now we have electronic medical records, so I would think that your handwriting would deteriorate less over the course of your residency or career as a physician. However, because you’ve grown up in a world that no longer values handwriting, and everybody uses computers, your starting point is probably significantly lower in terms of handwriting quality. The delta is less.

When you meet a scientist/researcher, do you often end up pitching Quartzy?

Normally, I don’t pitch it. If I’m on a plane next to somebody, I would feel weird giving them a hard sell. But usually the conversation winds around to finding out they’re a researcher, and they ask me what I do, and I tell them. They’re mostly interested in the history of the company and how Jayant and I went about forming it. How I was able to do residency and do it at the same time. They’re most interested in the path rather than the features. It’s not hard to pitch. The value is pretty clear to them, especially if they’re doing life-science research.

Quartzy is the world’s No. 1 lab management platform. We help scientists easily organize orders, manage inventory, and save money. We’re free and always will be. Visit or reach out at

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Greg Schindler

Greg has a BA from Stanford (English/Football) and MS from Oregon (Journalism). He's our Director of Marketing and Pastries.

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