…From coast to coast, mentally ill people, without reliable access to the costly on-demand care they need, are left to fend for themselves. In the aftermath of the movement in the 1970s to close large mental asylums, many of today’s mentally ill are left to their own devices; they are often homeless and without full-time advocates. With government unable or unwilling to properly serve this population, the criminal-justice system is left to pick up the slack.
Contrary to what many assume, the mentally ill are most often the victimized, not the victimizers. A 2005 study by researchers at the Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN University suggested that persons with serious mental illnesses are 11 times more likely than the general population to be victims of violent crime, with perhaps as many as 1 million crimes committed against those with serious mental-health issues each year….
A Lab is Set to Test the Gender of Some Female Athletes
The New York Times July 30, 2008
..Organizers of the Beijing Olympics have set up a sex-determination laboratory to evaluate “suspect” female athletes, the official Chinese news agency Xinhua reported Sunday. The lab is similar to ones set up at previous Olympics in Sydney and Athens, and will draw on the resources of the Peking Union Medical College Hospital to evaluate an athlete’s external appearance, hormones and genes.
Some medical ethicists have said the practice is too intrusive. “Real people are going to be hurt by this,” said Alice Dreger, an associate professor in medical humanities and bioethics at NORTHWESTERN University. “Real Olympic athletes who have spent their whole life waiting for this moment.”
Although only athletes whose gender has been questioned will be tested in Beijing, the lab is a relic of an earlier Olympic era, when every female athlete was required to submit to a sex-verification test before competing in the Games….
Slowing Disease’s Mental Ravages
Chicago Tribune July 30, 2008
Hope is often scarce in research on Alzheimer’s disease, but a study released Tuesday at a Chicago medical conference offered tentative hope for a new way of slowing elderly patients’ mental decline.
The preliminary study of 321 Alzheimer’s patients from Singapore and Britain found that an old drug, previously used for urinary tract infections and other ailments, reduced the patients’ rate of mental loss by 81 percent, based on a standard measure of cognitive performance and memory…. …”This field is in sore need of a success story,” said Dr. Marsel Mesulam, director of the cognitive neurology and Alzheimer’s disease center at NORTHWESTERN University. Survive Cancer, Have Baby
The Associated Press July 28, 2008
The emerging field of oncofertility offers hope to patients who worried that they couldn’t conceive.
…Welcome to the burgeoning world of oncofertility.
As cancer survival rates climb and patients focus on quality-of-life issues, especially fertility, Dauer and others like her are forcing two very different medical specialties oncology and assisted reproduction to come together. “The narrative of cancer is no longer that it’s a death sentence; it’s a bump in your medical history that you overcome and go back to what we hope is a healthy lifestyle,” says Teresa Woodruff of NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who last fall received a first-of-its- kind $21 million NIH grant to develop ways of protecting cancer patients’ reproductive health.
Of the 125,000 people under the age of 45 who are diagnosed with cancer each year, roughly half will receive treatments that will affect their fertility. The cancers that most commonly strike the young leukemias, lymphomas and breast cancers require some of the most toxic forms of chemotherapy, which target rapidly growing and fragile cells like hair follicles, sperm and eggs….
…Up to now, few oncologists passed this vital information to patients, either because they were not aware of fertility advances, or because they were understandably preoccupied with saving lives. As the field grows (at least 50
This story was carried on the following news outlets:
Doctors Give Cancer Patients More Options to Preserve Fertility
The Kansas City Star July 13
Cancer Patients Getting More Options to Preserve Fertility
Monterey County Herald (Calif.) July 26, 2008
http://www.montereyherald.com/search/ci_10005443?IADID=Search-www.montereyherald.com-www.montereyherald.com Study Suggests New Tack in Treating, Caring for Alzheimer’s Patients
Chicago Tribune July 28, 2008
Reseachers from Kansas are offering a rare glimpse into the interior world of Alzheimer’s patients with a new study set to be presented at a major international conference in Chicago this week.
The study, while small, is highly suggestive. Key findings indicate that patients—even those who may seem
This suggests that a sense of adult identity remains intact in people with dementia, even when individuals aren’t able to remember how old they are, where they are, what day it is or which family members are alive and present.
When Darby Morhardt ran a support group for men and women in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, members would frequently talk about how painful it was when people talked down to them or “marginalized” them by leaving them out of conversations.
“They were very angry when they felt they were treated as if they were incompetent,” said Morhardt, now education director at NORTHWESTERN’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “They wanted to be treated with respect.”…
A Community Prescription: Healing MetroHealth Medical Center and Northeast Ohio’s Medical Safety Net
The Cleveland Plain Dealer July 26, 2008
…Pass a levy to help MetroHealth. Improve Medicare and Medicaid. Subsidize doctor-patient communication. Pass laws that support innovative health care and community health centers. Create a market-based system….
Communication is key—and the government needs to pay for it, says NORTHWESTERN University’s Romana Hasnain-Wynia….
…About the contributors….
…Romana Hasnain-Wynia is the director of NORTHWESTERN University’s Center for Healthcare Equity and an associate professor in the Feinberg School of Medicine.
Combo Therapy Adds Years to Lives of HIV Patients
Science Magazine (UK) July 25, 2008
Loads of studies have shown that potent combinations of anti-HIV drugs introduced in 1996 can powerfully suppress the AIDS virus, staving off disease and death. Now a report published in the 26 July issue of The Lancet offers the most comprehensive analysis yet of the impact of this new era of treatment on life expectancy. From reviewing the medical histories of more than 40,000 treated people in the United States, Europe, and Canada, the researchers found that a 20-year-old who started treatment between 1996 and 2005 can expect to live until age 63. HIV left untreated in developed countries typically causes death within 12 years….
…Frank Palella, an infectious-disease specialist at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago says a “nuance” of the new analysis is that “life expectancy increased dramatically in appropriately treated people.” HIV cripples the immune system by destroying white blood cells called CD4s, and The Lancet paper shows that people who started treatment at lower CD4 cell counts fared much worse. Specifically, a 20-year-old with less than 100 CD4s had a life expectancy of 32.4 more years versus 50.4 more years if the same person started treatment with more than 200 CD4s… “Oprah Winfrey”
(Syndicated) July 25. Alice Dreger, associate professor of medical humanities and bioethics, discusses intersex and the book Middlesex. More Cancer Lymph Nodes Analyzed at Specialty Centers
Patients with stomach or pancreatic cancer may have more lymph nodes examined for the spread of cancer if they’re treated at designated comprehensive cancer centers or at hospitals that do a high number of cancer surgeries, says a U.S. study….
…”Patients undergoing surgery had more lymph nodes examined at NCCN-NCI hospitals than at community hospitals [median midpoint, 12 vs. 6 for gastric cancer and 9 vs. 6 for pancreatic cancer],” wrote Dr. Karl Y. Bilimoria, of the American College of Surgeons and Feinberg School of Medicine at NORTHWESTERN University in Chicago, and colleagues. “Patients at the highest-volume hospital had more lymph nodes examined than patients at low-volume hospitals [median, 10 vs. 6 for gastric cancer and 8 vs. 6 for pancreatic cancer].”…
This story was carried on the following news outlets:
Pancreas, stomach cancer testing varies by hospital
Philadelphia Inquirer July 22, 2008
KYW-AM (Philadelphia) July 22. Reference to research by Karl Bilimoria, MD, assistant professor of medicine, on the chances of surviving cancer and medical centers.
Viagra Could Help Some Women, Too; Women on Antidepressants Report Fewer Sexual Problems
Chicago Sun-Times July 22, 2008
Hopes for Viagra as a magic bullet for sexual dysfunction in women have mostly fallen flat. But the little blue pill appears to do the trick for women taking antidepressants.
Premenopausal women on antidepressants reported fewer problems reaching orgasm after taking Viagra than those taking placebo pills, a study in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association found….
“It’s a hopeful finding. The issue is what it would be like over longer periods of time and treating every woman that complains of sexual dysfunction with [antidepressants],” said Dr. Kevin McKenna, professor of physiology and of urology at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “The previous Viagra studies with women were fairly disappointing.”…
Beijing Pollution Could be Deadly to Olympic Spectators
Los Angeles Times July 22, 2208
The same mechanism that makes greater numbers of people keel over dead of heart attacks and strokes when microscopic air-pollution levels spike in cities across the United States has researchers voicing their concerns about the heavily polluted air in Beijing.
And they’re not just worried about the athletes.
They’re concerned that the bad air might trigger cardiovascular problems for people in the stands. Even if the spectators survive the games, they might be at higher risk of developing a blood clot while sitting through the plane ride home.
In 2007, researchers at NORTHWESTERN University solved the mystery of why greater numbers of people were dying from heart attacks and strokes within 24 hours of a spike in the level of tiny particles that spewed from diesel trucks, buses and coal-burning factories. Scientists knew cardiovascular problems went up with air pollution levels, but they didn’t understand the mechanism.
What researchers, including lead author Dr. Gokhan Mutlu, pulmonary and critical care specialist at NORTHWESTERN Memorial Hospital, found was that the small particles—less that one-tenth of the diameter of a human hair—inflame the lungs, which then secrete a substance, interleukin-6, which causes blood to coagulate. It raises the risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke for people with coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure or a history of stroke.
Now that they know how and why it happens, they’re pretty worried about travellers to Beijing. “If you spend a few weeks in Beijing, your blood might become thicker and sticky and then when you fly 12 hours back to the U.S., that further increases your risk,” Mutlu says in a news release. “If clots migrate into the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism, that can kill you.”…
This story was carried on the following news outlets:
Beijing Pollution May Lead to Heart Attacks, Strokes
The Economic Times July 22, 2008
Could Beijing’s Polluted Air Sicken Olympic Spectators?
“Discoblog” (Discover Magazine blog) July 22, 2008
UPI July 22, 2008
Air pollution can trigger heart attack
WFLD-TV July 22. Reference to research by pulmonologist Gokhan Mutlu, MD, assistant professor of medicine, on pollution levels in Bejing.
U.S. Hits Weight Marker: 1 in 4 Officially Obese
Chicago Tribune July 18, 2008
Americans, who have been getting fatter for decades, reached an unwelcome milestone in a report released Thursday: More than one in four of us are obese….
“It’s alarming,” said Dr. Robert Kushner, professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and an expert on obesity, fitness and lifestyle. “As a country, it means we have a whole population of individuals developing increased risk for chronic illness—diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer. All of these are related to obesity.”…
This story was carried on the following news outlets:
CDC data show more than one in four Americans obese
The Baltimore Sun July 24, 2008
Kids and Statins
Chicago Tribune July 13
Most people know that heart disease can start early and so can prevention. But should that include giving kids as young as 8 powerful cholesterol-fighting drugs known as statins to shield against future heart attacks?
That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in its new guidelines released Monday.
That’s an aggressive stance. And it may strike many people—many parents—as extreme. That was our reaction. The recommendation stirred furious debate among doctors, with one proclaiming himself “embarrassed for the AAP.”
Let’s be clear about what the academy is—and isn’t—saying.
It isn’t saying that all or most or many kids who are overweight or obese be given these drugs.
It isn’t saying that the drugs are better than the proper diet and exercise for lowering cholesterol levels in kids.
It is saying that such drugs may be appropriate for a fraction of kids—about 1 in 400, according to an estimate by Dr. Irwin Benuck, a professor at Northwestern University’s medical school and a pediatrician at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Those are kids who either have very high levels of LDL—the bad kind of cholesterol—or somewhat lower levels, together with other risk factors, including a family history of premature heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Beta Blockers Help Hospitalized Heart Failure Patients
Washington Post July 11
People who are hospitalized for severe heart failure and have been taking beta blockers should be kept on those medications while in the hospital, a new study finds. “This is a very important message that beta blockers are an important therapy for heart failure,” said Dr. Mihai Gheorghiade, a professor of medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a member of the research group.
Gheorghiade was a leader of a study several years ago that showed that hospitalized heart failure patients who were not taking beta blockers benefited from having the therapy started before they left the hospital. The new study supports the view that “it is safe and effective to start beta blockers before discharge,” at least in most cases, he said.
“If there are severe signs and symptoms before discharge, you have to think twice,” Gheorghiade said. “A patient who is not severely decompensated, with a heart rate below 40 or 50, you can start the drug before discharge.”
Cancer-Specific Products: An Unnecessary Balm?
New York Times July 10, 2008
Depending on whom you ask, such products give patients one more tool to ease side effects or false hope that a cancer-specific balm is more effective than a mild drugstore lotion. It’s now easier than ever for cancer patients (and their relatives who come bearing presents) to find skin-care lines made specially for them. At least five brands are now sold in the gift shops of prominent hospitals, and some makers give free samples to oncologists for distribution to patients.
As far as cancer side effects go, far greater attention has been paid to hair loss, fatigue and nausea than to the burns caused by radiation and dry skin caused by chemotherapy. But the tide is starting to turn. Northwestern University opened the Cancer Skin Care Program, one of the first centers of its kind, in 2006. Dr. Mario Lacouture, the director of Northwestern’s Cancer Skin Care Program, sometimes treats skin conditions caused by targeted therapies with prescription corticosteroids and antibiotics. He will soon begin a study of over-the-counter products to see which best ameliorate side effects of targeted therapies. (Lindi Skin gave a $65,000 contribution to his research.)
Study: Most Patients Don’t Comprehend Instructions They Get When Leaving Hospital ERs
Orlando (Fla.) Sentinel July 7, 2008
More than three-quarters of all patients released from hospital emergency departments do not fully understand the care and discharge instructions they receive, according to a study published online today in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. Compounding the problem, most patients released from emergency departments are unaware that they do not understand what doctors have told them. “It is disturbing that so many patients do not understand their post-emergency department care, and that they do not even recognize where the gaps in understanding are,” said the study’s author, Dr. Kirsten Engel of NORTHWESTERN University. “Patients who fail to follow discharge instructions may have a greater likelihood of complications after leaving the emergency department.”
This story was carried on the following news outlets:
ER Patients Often Don’t Grasp Discharge Orders
Reuters July 22, 2008
Emergency in the ERs
Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, OH) July 8, 2008
Overloaded at the ER
Los Angeles Times July 14
High Emotions Result in Muddled ER Communication
The Baltimore Sun July 17, 2008
ABC Radio Network July 8.
Reference to research by Kirsten Engel, instructor, emergency medicine, on ER patients not understanding their after-care instructions.
WZZM-TV (Grand Rapids), KTAR-FM (Phoenix) July 8 & 9
Reference to research by Kirsten Engel, lecturer in emergency medicine, on whether patients understand their doctor’s instructions once they leave the emergency room.
KTAR-FM 92.3 (ABC) Phoenix July 14
A Northwestern University study finds that more than three-fourths of emergency room patients did not
understand the after-care instructions they were given before they left the ER.
ER Patients Often Overloaded with Information
The Kansas City Star August 18, 2008
Tinnitus Patients Have a Friend in Zebrafish
Chicago Tribune July 6, 2008
Professor Ernest Moore hasn’t named the zebrafish in his NORTHWESTERN University laboratory, where he conducts research on drugs for tinnitus (ringing of the ears). But if he did, he says, he would name his favorite one Rose, after one of his mentors. “Professor Rose not only trained me in audiology but taught me not to expect hearing problems to get a lot of attention or funding,” recalled Moore. “When you have hearing problems, you’re not bleeding. You look just fine. It is a widespread but hidden problem.” Moore should know. He has tinnitus himself, he says, thanks to his childhood hunting expeditions and his years in the military leading to too many guns fired too close to his ears.
Now, with a little help from his gilled buddies in the lab, Moore is one step closer to helping fellow tinnitus sufferers with a drug. Later this year, he plans to test his trial drugs on tinnitus patients through clinical trials with physicians. Some of the drugs, he notes, are already on the market for other purposes.
Her Skin Erupted, and the Detective Work Began
The New York Times July 1, 2008
For years, since her 20s, my sister lived with dry, irritated little brown splotches of eczema on her neck, a pesky annoyance. But two years ago, something changed. Angry red rashes began marching across her body in an onslaught of itchy misery she feared would never end. It was an odd case from the start. Chronic eczema is a complex disorder that involves an overwrought immune system and, often, a defective gene that leaves the skin barrier leaky, dry and easily irritated. Usually a childhood affliction, it seldom strikes so severely for the first time in adults.
Then again, we are talking about my sister—a 40-something Taiwanese-American who is inexplicably allergic to Chinese food. In August she sought a second opinion from another dermatologist. Along with a higher-potency topical corticosteroid, that doctor agreed to prescribe antibiotic pills, along with a bacteria-killing ointment called mupirocin—which Sis was to dab up her nose. What’s more, she was supposed to regularly dunk herself in a Clorox bath. Yes: household bleach. It turns out that scientists have long known that 90 percent of chronic eczema sufferers, unlike healthy people, carry Staph aureus on their skin. The nose, too, is a reservoir of the microbe, which touches off inflammation-stoking mechanisms that make rashes worse, according to Dr. Amy S. Paller, a pediatric dermatologist at NORTHWESTERN University.
Concerned over the rise of drug-resistant bacteria, dermatologists typically resort to antibiotics only when eczema lesions show active infection. But a cheap alternative for reducing skin microbes is a gentle bleach bath (half a cup of Clorox in a full bathtub). Dr. Paller recently completed the first study to rigorously test bleach baths against eczema, and she said the results, not yet published, were promising.
Program Enlists Austin Residents to Spread Word on Healthy Living
Chicago Tribune July 1, 2008
During a brainstorming session on ways to implement health interventions for residents of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, someone tossed out an idea that struck a chord. How about inviting small groups of neighborhood residents to meetings in intimate settings similar to the homey way families swap stories around a kitchen table? From that simple concept, Kitchen Table Interventions was born. Launched in January as a pilot project by NORTHWESTERN University in partnership with Westside Health Authority, Kitchen Table Interventions was designed to study urban health problems and help residents of the underserved West Side community live healthier lives. Taking a novel approach, project staff trained everyday people to conduct research and teach other residents healthy behaviors. Dr. Kevin Weiss, professor of clinical medicine at NORTHWESTERN and co-investigator of the project, said Kitchen Table Interventions shatters a lot of myths. “I learned how much interest [neighborhood residents]had in trying to improve their health,” he said. “All you have to do is open your ears. If you listen, you will get ideas about how to make behavior change.”
With this type of study, called community-based participatory research, the community gets an equal voice in what the research looks like, Weiss said. “My task was to work with the community and fashion [the intervention]in a way that a scientist could study,” he said.
At Random Grants and Giving
Chicago Tribune June 26, 2008
The National Institutes of Health gave $6.5 million to NORTHWESTERN’s Feinberg School of Medicine for research on fertility.
How it Feels: Ichthyosis
Chicago Tribune June 22, 2008
[The] ichthyoses, as the group is referred to, are genetic…The most common type, ichthyosis vulgaris, affects about one person in 250. Its hallmarks are scaly legs, especially in the winter, and increased lines on the palms, according to Amy Paller, MD, professor and chair of dermatology at NORTHWESTERN University’s Feinberg School of Medicine. “In the milder forms, we can do miracles using peeling agents, such as lactic acid and retinoids, in addition to moisturizers,” said Paller. More severe forms may require oral formulations of retinoids, “and even that may not be enough to help sufficiently with cosmetic appearance.”
This story was also carried on the following news outlets:
Scratching the Surface: Doctors Try to Help Patients Manage Treatment of ‘Special Skin’ Disorder
Times Leader (Wilkes-Barre, PA) July 8, 2008
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