Making National News


Making Headlines
Faculty members at the Feinberg School of Medicine and their colleagues in the life sciences at Northwestern University frequently are quoted or featured in national and/or international news stories. Here is a selection of recent media coverage. Links to the original stories are provided but please note that you may be required to register with the news organization to access them and that they may be expired.

Literacy can be a matter of life and death

Chicago Tribune September 25, 2007,0,1922837.story

Now a study at the NORTHWESTERN University Feinberg School of Medicine reveals more frightening statistics. Dr. David Baker, chief of general internal medicine at the school, and his colleagues followed 3,260 patients older than 65 and found that one-quarter were deemed medically illiterate based on tests of their ability to comprehend common medical information such as prescription labels, appointment slips and instructions on preparing for an X ray.

This resulted in problems far greater than missed doctor visits or one too few pills swallowed: Those people with poor health literacy had a 50 percent higher mortality rate over five years compared with peers who had adequate reading skills. “I think doctors and nurses really take for granted just how difficult it is to do these things,” Baker said. “It’s a challenge for everybody. For people who read at a high level, it’s such a part of our world, it’s hard to understand someone can’t read a prescription bottle that says, ‘Take one tablet every six hours’ or can’t read an appointment slip.”.

Michael Wolf, director of the Health Literacy and Learning Program at Feinberg, described a 2006 Annals of Internal Medicine study on which he collaborated with Baker. Patients were asked to demonstrate an understanding of the instructions such as “take two tablets by mouth twice daily.” Overall, half of patients misunderstood one or more instructions. For the “take two tablets by mouth twice daily” direction, Wolf said, “one-fifth of patients with adequate literacy skills [9th grade and above] could not tell us that they would take four pills in one day, one third of those with marginal literacy skills [7th-8th grade] answered incorrectly, and two-thirds of those with inadequate literacy skills [6th grade and below] got it wrong.”.

Link Between Air Pollution, Stroke Gets Clearer
Washington Post (HealthDay News) September 20, 2007

Microscopic pollution particles spewed by diesel engines and coal-burning plants may spur blood clots that can trigger heart attacks and strokes, U.S. scientists say. Researchers at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago found that these tiny particles—which are less than one-tenth the diameter of a human hair and too small to be filtered by the nose or mouth—caused hyperclotting of the blood in animals.

The particles trigger inflammation in the lungs, which then secrete a substance called interleukin-6 that promotes blood clotting. This results in an increased risk of heart attack or stroke in people with heart disease or a previous history of stroke. While previous epidemiological studies have identified a link between air pollution and cardiovascular disease and death, this is the first study to demonstrate how pollution may actually trigger heart attacks and strokes, according to the researchers.

“This is a critical missing piece of the puzzle that has eluded scientists for decades,” study lead author Dr. Gokhan Mutlu, assistant professor of medicine, said in a prepared statement. “Now we know how the inflammation in the lungs caused by air pollutants leads to death from
cardiovascular disease.”

“Using low-dose aspirin to keep their blood thin may help protect people at risk,” Mutlu suggested. The study was published online Thursday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation and was expected to be in the Oct. 1 print issue.

This story also appeared in:
Reuters September 21, 2007
Air pollution triggers blood clots – U.S. study

Nature September 20, 2007
Stay in if you’re having a bad air day

Asian News International September 21, 2007
New target to axe heart problems triggered by air pollutants

WAND-TV (Champaign).KOMU-TV (Columbia), KPVI-TV (Idaho Falls),WPSD-TV (Paducah), WNCN-T (Raleigh), WJFW-TV (Wausau), WECT-TV (Wilmington), KLTV0TV (Tyler), WEAU-TV (LaCrosse), WWLP-TV (Springfield), WWBT-TV (Richmond), WNYT-TV (Albany), KXAS-TV (Dallas), Sept. 21.
Reference to research by Gokhan Mutlu, assistant professor of medicine, on pollution particles and heart attacks.

Genetic test’s benefits and ethics debated
Chicago Tribune September 18, 2007,0,4807477.story

Imagine a procedure by which an inherited disorder—say, hemophilia—can be permanently eliminated from a family’s gene pool. It’s not the stuff of science fiction; it’s called pre-implantation genetic diagnosis and has become a tool for fertility specialists.

Still, cautioned Dr. Eugene Pergament, professorof clinical obstetrics and gynecology at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, recent studies are casting some doubt on the overall benefits of PGD. “Conceptually it makes a lot of sense, to think you can literally reach in, remove a cell, genetically analyze it and enhance a pregnancy and pregnancy outcome,” he said. “But it’s turning out to be quite the opposite. It is not enhancing the pregnancy outcomes. It’s not even enhancing the pregnancy rates.”

That’s because PGD, which has been in use since 1990, is used not only to test for a rare inherited disease but also as a test for other chromosomal abnormalities, such as the cause of recurrent miscarriages, or for patients having IVF with advanced female age or patients of any age who have had repeated IVF failure. “The controversy about PGD,” Pergament said, “I think a large part of it is the ethicacy of doing what we call aneuploid screening.” That involves looking at and eliminating embryos carrying an abnormal number of chromosomes, which is separate from screening for inherited conditions. “Aneuploid screening is a very popular approach, and that is controversial.”

New study links food additives with hyperactivity in children
“The Today Show” (NBC) Sep. 7, 2007

Linda Van Horn, professor of preventive medicine, discusses a new study regarding food additives and hyperactivity in kids.
…JANET SHAMLIAN reporting:
You can find them in products on virtually any shelf along every aisle of grocery stores across the country. Those food additives with complicated names and a simple job, to preserve or color everything from juice to Jell-O, pickles to candy. Now, a new study finds those ingredients that add longevity and color can ignite hyperactivity in children between the ages of three and nine.

Dr. LINDA VAN HORN (NORTHWESTERN University Feinberg School of Medicine): As a nutritionist as well as a mother, this study to me represents a reason not to have snack foods and drinks that have additives in them…

America’s Double Trouble
Science and Spirit September 10, 2007

The nation’s science and religion literacy was put to the test in America’s heartland this spring, not by a battery of school tests but by the opening of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, a small town within driving distance of half the U.S. population.

After all, only 7 percent of American adults are scientifically literate and only one in five college graduates makes that mark, according to a 1998 report on “civic scientific literacy” by Jon D. Miller of NORTHWESTERN University medical school. American fifteen-year-olds rank behind their peers in twenty-two other countries-including the Netherlands, Poland, and South Korea-in scientific knowledge, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And last year’s report from the National Science Foundation indicates that the public’s scientific knowledge hasn’t improved since the 1990s—though it did in almost every European country surveyed.

Children’s Memorial announces record $100 million gift
Associated Press September 5, 2007,0,1765389.story

This story also carried in:
Daily Southtown September 6, 2007,lurie-906.article
Chicago Tribune September 6, 2007,0,6681428.story
Chicago Tribune September 5, 2007 donation,0,7802511.story
Chicago Sun-Times September 6, 2007,CST-NWS- gift06.article

CHICAGO—Children’s Memorial Hospital has announced a $100 million gift, its largest ever, from a Chicago philanthropist who is both a grateful mother and a former nurse who worked there briefly. Hospital officials said they believe Ann Lurie’s gift is the largest given by an individual to a children’s hospital in the United States.

Lurie, 62, president of Lurie Investments, has pledged $80 million to help fund the hospital’s planned new facility, scheduled to break ground next year, and $20 million for pediatric research. The site of the new building, to be called the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, is on the campus of NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and near NORTHWESTERN MEMORIAL HOSPITAL’s new Prentice Women’s Hospital.

A guide to cholesterol numbers
News & Observer (NC) September 6, 2007

Nearly 76 million Americans are living with elevated LDL, known as “bad” cholesterol, which is a major risk for heart disease—the no. 1 killer in this country. High cholesterol is also linked to hardening of the arteries and can lead to stroke. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says the safest, cheapest and best way to reduce high LDL cholesterol is through diet, physical activity and weight management. These changes can lower cholesterol by 20 percent to 30 percent in many people.

Dr. Stephen Devries, author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Cholesterol, (Warner Wellness, $14.99) and associate professor of cardiology at NORTHWESTERN University Medical School in Chicago, recommends:
–cutting back on unhealthful fats from fried foods, red meat and full-fat dairy products.
–eating healthier fats, such as nuts, avocados, olive oil, and cold-water fish.
–a 30-minute walk most days.

Research targets cancer’s fertility threat
United Press International September 6, 2007

This story also appeared in Chicago Tribune September 6, 2007,0,6698999.story

NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago will use a $21 million federal grant to target fertility threats posed by cancer treatment. The goal of the new program is to significantly alter how the medical world cares for female cancer patients and promote a new consciousness to protect their reproductive health, the university said Thursday in a release.

The program, called The Oncofertility Consortium, is headed by Teresa Woodruff, chief of the Feinberg School’s newly created fertility preservation division. “We’re trying to create a total shift in how we interact with female cancer patients to anticipate their lives as survivors and their ability to bear children,” Woodruff said. The Oncofertility Consortium is comprised of biomedical and social scientists, oncologists, pediatricians, engineers, educators, social workers and medical ethicists from NORTHWESTERN and the University of California-San Diego, University of Pennsylvania, University of Missouri-Columbia, and Oregon Health & Science University.

NORTHWESTERN said the group’s research will include “a thorough examination of the scientific, medical, psychological, legal, and ethical issues surrounding infertility and cancer.”

Teen Suicides Up Sharply for First Time in Years
Washington Post September 6, 2007 AR2007090601786.html

(HealthDay News)—Youth suicide rates rose 8 percent from 2003 to 2004, the largest annual increase in 15 years and a reversal of a decade of declines, a new government report shows. In fact, prescriptions for these drugs for teenagers have dropped by 20 percent since then, according to Dr. Benjamin N. Shain, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at NORTHWESTERN University and a liaison to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Shain believes the years of decline that preceded this sharp increase were due to the increased prescribing of antidepressants. “One major factor that changed was the prescribing of antidepressant medications,” Shain said. “Most likely, that’s [what was]responsible for the decrease in suicide rates.” But after several studies pointed to a possible increased risk of suicide among teens taking antidepressants, the FDA in 2004 mandated a black box warning on the labels of antidepressants, Shain noted. “There is a correlation between decreased antidepressant prescribing among teenagers and the increased rate of suicide, and other studies show this,” he said.

In addition
“All Things Considered” (NPR) September 6, 2007
Dr. Benjamin Shain, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, discusses teen suicide.

NIH genetic database “a good start”
The Scientist September 6, 2007

Researchers say the new NIH policy announced last week for sharing data from genome-wide association studies will increase interest in studies linking genotypes to diseases while securing the anonymity of study participants. However, some raised concerns about the specifics of the plan. A year is still a tight squeeze for publication, said Pablo Gejman, a psychiatry professor at NORTHWESTERN University in Illinois. “We will have to work harder on putting manuscripts together and rapidly publishing them,” Gejman, who collaborates on several genome-wide association studies and is also based at Evanston NORTHWESTERN Healthcare, told The Scientist. Still, he added, the databank will increase transparency in analyzing and interpreting the information…

New methods may help ‘rehab’ fried-food-loving couch dwellers
Hindustan Times September 6, 2007

Washington—Deep-fried crunchy chicken tenders, fried ground beef hamburger, a bag of Oreos or potato chips. All these savories sound scrumptious, but in reality, they can prove lethal for health. Now, a new research study has come up with innovative ways in a bid to rehab fried-food-loving couch dwellers. Researchers at the NORTHWESTERN University are investigating new methods to rehabilitate people with lousy health habits. The study was designed by Bonnie Spring, a professor of preventive medicine at NORTHWESTERN’s Feinberg School of Medicine, to make change as easy as possible.

Medical startups—for credit
Crain’s Chicago Business September 3, 2007

Swami Gnanashanmugam can’t stop the ideas from popping into his head. The fourth-year student at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine envisions an easier way to insert a patient’s breathing tube, a better method for delivering medication to psychiatric patients and the creation of tiny devices to improve heart surgery. Starting this month, Gnanashanmugam, 25, and about 80 other NORTHWESTERN graduate students will get a chance to transform such concepts into experimental devices and, ultimately, start-up companies. Or at least they’ll earn a few credit hours.

COMBINING CURRICULA, NORTHWESTERN’s new medical-innovation course is a rare melding of curricula, top faculty and money from the school’s four main graduate schools: medical, business, engineering and law. Teams of about eight students will receive up to $15,000 apiece to fund a prototype medical device, eventually presenting business plans for their gadgets to venture capitalists and executives from large health care companies.

Eleven teams will each develop a product idea for a different medical specialty, including heart and brain surgery, radiology and emergency medicine. To brainstorm ideas, students will observe surgeries and other medical procedures while batting around ideas with doctors. Patrick McCarthy, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital, who has helped put together the new course, says medical students should be a font of innovative ideas because doctors regularly cope with shortcomings in medical tools. “Instead of throwing instruments in the (operating room) because they don’t work, they’ll think about how they can change the design to make them easier to use or more effective,” Dr. McCarthy says. Engineering students will help put the concept to paper and develop a prototype. Law students can sharpen their regulatory and intellectual-property expertise. Business students will forge business plans and try to attract investors.

Drug-coated stents may be safer than thought
Reuters September 2, 2007
Also in Associated Press September 2, 2007

Drug-coated stents—tiny wire-mesh tubes used to prop open clogged heart arteries—may not be as dangerous as previously thought, Swedish researchers who had earlier raised concerns over the devices said on Sunday. Fears that patients might do worse on so-called drug- eluting stents than on older bare metal ones have led to a $1 billion slump in sales in the past year, hurting leading manufacturers like Boston Scientific and Johnson & Johnson.

But according to new four-year data from a 35,000- patient Swedish database of stent procedures, the largest in the world, patients receiving drug-coated stents are not at higher risk of dying or having a heart attack.

Bob Bonow, head of cardiology at NORTHWESTERN University and a spokesman for the American Heart Association, said doctors were now being more selective about using drug stents. “The use of drug-eluting stents on both sides of the Atlantic has declined somewhat,” he said. “There’s probably more awareness among doctors that drug-eluting stents are not for everyone.”

How to talk ‘Doc’: Communicating about your medications
U.S. News & World Report August 28, 2007

Clear communication between patient and healthcare providers is critical in establishing a successful treatment routine. Though a trip to the doctor’s office can be intimidating and medical visits may feel fleeting, remember that you can take charge. “Recognize that this is a matter of your health, and you
have every right to ask questions,” says Michael Wolf of NORTHWESTERN University. “No question is a dumb question.” To make the most of your next appointment:

Bring a list of questions. Writing down your concern beforehand will give you time to think through them without having to battle the distractions of the doctor’s office, the rush of the visit, or your nerves.

Also bring a written record of all your current medications, including over-the-counter and herbal remedies, and a list of allergies, if you have any, to your appointment. The more your doctor knows about your medical history, the better.

For each medicine you’re told to take, make sure you know why it’s being prescribed, what it does, how it should be taken, for how long, and whether there are any special instructions for taking it. If you’re prescribed a medical device, like an inhaler or a syringe, practice using it in front of your doctor to be sure you’re handling it correctly.

Many patients need help to make the medicine go down
U.S. News & World Report August 28, 2007

Cost. If cost is a significant barrier to carrying out your treatment, share your concerns with your health care providers. The medicine your doctor has prescribed might not be the only, or the cheapest, drug of its kind, says Michael Wolf, an assistant professor of medicine and director of the Health Literacy
and Learning Program at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. Find out which drugs are covered by your insurance, and whether cost-saving generics are available, says Wolf.

If you have trouble following doctors’ instructions, or are especially anxious in healthcare settings, consider bringing someone with you to the doctor’s office, hospital, and pharmacy. “It’s always good to have someone else there to help you navigate that information,” says Wolf. “Bring a family member or a friend [to act]as a support and a surrogate.”

The full text of most stories can be accessed in the Lexis-Nexis database via the Northwestern network at Stories from major newspaper, wire, television and radio sources can be obtained by selecting “News.” Stories from other media, including local outlets, can be accessed by selecting “Sources” instead of “News.” In both cases, you can search by keywords from the article’s headline. If you are searching by source, you will need to enter the name of the publication in which the article appeared before you enter keywords. Stories that include an html address with the headline can be accessed directly by clicking on the html address.

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