Vital Record Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center 2015-01-26T17:04:29Z http://news.tamhsc.edu/feed/atom/ Lindsey Hendrix <![CDATA[Flores honored with American Diabetes Association LEARN Outreach Award]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22555 2015-01-26T17:04:29Z 2015-01-23T19:58:18Z Starr Flores, Director of the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center, was presented with the American Diabetes Association LEARN Outreach Award for her commitment to improving the lives of those affected by diabetes]]>

Starr Flores, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Coastal Bend Health Education Center, was presented with the American Diabetes Association (ADA) LEARN Outreach Award during the ADA Coastal Bend Appreciation Dinner in Corpus Christi, Texas.

Starr Flores, Director of the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center, holds the ADA LEARN award

Starr Flores, director of the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center, was presented with the American Diabetes Association LEARN Outreach Award for her commitment to improving the lives of those affected by diabetes.

Each year, the ADA recognizes volunteers in the community who demonstrate steadfast dedication to improving the lives of those affected by diabetes. Flores was honored with the LEARN Outreach Award for her “significant and ongoing commitment to those affected by diabetes by organizing, conducting, and facilitating Association programs and activities that provide education, raise awareness and deliver services.”

As director of the Texas A&M Coastal Bend Health Education Center, Flores oversees the center’s Diabetes Education Program, which provides education and resources to those diagnosed with diabetes and their families. The program has reached thousands of individuals in the Coastal Bend community since its inception in 2000 and has recently expanded to Kingsville, Cuero and Victoria, Texas to provide much needed services in those areas.

“I am very honored to receive this award from the American Diabetes Association,” Flores said.  “However, while my name is on the plaque, the real award winner is my team of dedicated professionals who ensure the diabetes education message continues to be heard. Without them, this award would not have been possible.”

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Elizabeth Grimm <![CDATA[Q&A: Are smartphones a pain in the neck, literally?]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22544 2015-01-23T15:52:44Z 2015-01-23T15:50:30Z While modern technology has many benefits, it can also cause some serious health issues. Bending your head to look at your smartphone puts lots of extra stress on your spine and can result in permanent harm. We sat down with Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, to find out more about the growing “text neck” epidemic]]>
Infographic displaying the different weights place on necks when the head is tilted

A recent study found that when our heads are tilted forward by 60 degrees, it’s equal to 60 pounds weighing down on the spine.

Are your thumbs your most-used appendages? Do you spend hours hunched over your phone, sending texts, answering work emails and browsing social media sites? While modern technology has many benefits, it can also cause some serious health issues. Bending your head to look at your smartphone puts lots of extra stress on your spine and can result in permanent harm. We sat down with Ranjana Mehta, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, who has conducted extensive research in the field of ergonomics, to find out more about the growing “text neck” epidemic.

Q: What is “text neck”?

A: “Text neck” is the term used to describe the overuse and fatigue of the neck muscles caused by the posture we adopt as we stare at our phones. Our heads weigh around 10-12 pounds in a neutral, upright position; however, as the head tilts forward to look down at a phone, the force that is acting on the neck muscles and vertebrae nearly doubles that amount. A recent study even found that when our heads are tilted forward by 60 degrees, it’s equal to 60 pounds weighing down on the spine.

Q: Are there any long-term, or permanent effects of “text neck”?

A: While the head is angled forward, the ligaments and tendons in the neck and back become overstretched. This overexertion can lead to an inflammation of the muscles and can cause mild to severe neck and back pain.

There are increasing reports of “text neck” causing lower back pain, which is often chronic. Other, more severe, side effects can include herniated disks in the spine, which may require surgery. And the problem is even more profound in young adults, who spend more time with their heads buried in phones.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: The typical complaints from individuals with “text neck” are sore necks, shoulders, and upper and lower backs. Some people also get headaches from spending too many hours bent over their phone.

Q: Are there ways to avoid “text neck”?

A: The main way to prevent or alleviate neck pain caused by looking down is to be more cognizant of your posture. Being aware of how long you’ve been looking down can help you make more of an effort to correct you posture.

There’s a saying in ergonomics: “Your best posture is your next posture” Movement is key. Continuously moving and changing your posture can help avoid overuse injuries like “text neck.”

Now this doesn’t mean that you have to bring your smartphone up to eye level to see the device, just remember to look up every once in a while. Breaks are important; particularly to help overstretched muscles and connective tissues recover.

There are apps you can use that record your device usage, which allow you to see how long you’ve spent on your phone. More importantly, there are interactive apps that remind you of excess screen time, some of which even have sensors—for example, Lumolift—that vibrate when you adopt poor posture.

Technology is a boon to society, but anything in excess can have negative health effects. In the end, continue to enjoy technology – just keep your head up.

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Ellen Davis <![CDATA[Health Science Center researchers to play a key role in new gulf restoration initiative]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22503 2015-01-21T14:50:17Z 2015-01-20T18:33:58Z Researchers from Texas A&M Health Science Center will play a key role in a new initiative designed to help the Texas Gulf Coast recover following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill]]>

Researchers from Texas A&M Health Science Center will play a key role in a new initiative designed to help the Texas Gulf Coast recover following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

On Jan. 16, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced the establishment of Texas OneGulf, a Center of Excellence created as part of the ongoing implementation of the federal RESTORE Act, which requires that the five Gulf states affected by the oil spill establish centers for conducting research on the Gulf Coast region. The center will serve as a hub of study into the effects of such man-made and natural disasters to help guide research and restoration efforts.

The center will be led by Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, and will draw upon expertise from the Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR), which is based at TAMHSC’s Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT). The CTEHR is a partnership between the health science center, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Baylor College of Medicine, and the University of Houston, that serves as a consortium for environmental health research aimed at improving human health.

IBT Director Cheryl Walker, Ph.D., will serve as deputy director of Texas OneGulf. This center will study sustainability, restoration, and protection of the coast and deltas; research and monitoring related to coastal fisheries and wildlife ecosystems in the Gulf Coast region; offshore energy development, including research and technology to improve the sustainable and safe development of energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico and its comprehensive observation, monitoring, and mapping of the gulf; and sustainable and resilient growth and economic and commercial development in the region.

photo of Dr. Cheryl Walker

Dr. Cheryl Walker will serve as deputy director of the new Texas OneGulf initiative.

“Texas OneGulf recognizes that humans are part of the environment and that a healthy environment, healthy economy, and healthy citizens define a Gulf of Mexico that Texas wants now and for the future,” Walker said. “The Texas A&M Health Science Center played a key role in developing the focus of Texas OneGulf on human health and well-being, which makes it unique among the other RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence.”

Texas OneGulf will be led by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, which is headquartered at A&M – Corpus Christi. In addition to Texas A&M System components, other participants in the center include the University of Texas at Brownsville, Texas State University, the University of Houston Law Center, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association, and the University of Texas Medical Branch–Galveston.

“All of us at the Harte Research Institute are very gratified and humbled to help lead a statewide effort with this Center of Excellence,” said Executive Director Larry McKinney, Ph.D. “The Center of Excellence gives us opportunities to bring together all the best Texas scientists – not just from A&M, but from the University of Texas, from the University of Houston, and leading marine institutions across Texas − to bring them together in one place to focus on Gulf problems that affect Texas. It also gives us the opportunity to make our marine research institutes and Texas more competitive in obtaining federal dollars by working together under the Center of Excellence concept. Our goal is science-driven solutions to Gulf problems that affect the health of our environment and economy, as well as the health and well-being of Texas citizens.”

The RESTORE act, which stands for Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States, is funded by penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Approximately 2.5 percent of the trust fund is going to establish a Center of Excellence in each of the five states bordering the gulf. Texas will join four other Centers of Excellence in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Depending on final judgments, $10 million to $40 million could be available to each Center of Excellence. Of that, $4 million is expected to be available immediately

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Ellen Davis <![CDATA[Planning Disaster Day gives students a chance to learn valuable leadership skills]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22492 2015-01-20T20:27:47Z 2015-01-16T14:03:52Z Disaster Day prepares students for a challenge they may encounter during their health careers, teaching them how to handle a high volume of patients and communicate effectively in a high-stakes environment

Disaster Day prepares students for a challenge they may encounter during their health careers, teaching them how to handle a high volume of patients and communicate effectively in a high-stakes environment.

Organizing an event with 800 participants is a monumental fete. But it’s even more of a fete for seniors in the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing who are balancing lectures, exams and clinical hours, all while planning Disaster Day, one of the largest disaster simulations in the country.

Now in its eighth year, Disaster Day is a completely student-run and organized event. The College of Nursing created the event to help students gain hands-on experience responding to a mass casualty disaster. Each year, a new scenario is chosen to enable students to test their emergency response skills outside the classroom. The scenario is kept secret until the day of the event in order to provide a more realistic simulation. The 2015 Disaster Day has been set for March 26.

With 300 students from across the Texas A&M Health Science Center and Blinn College, and more than 500 patient volunteers, Disaster Day is an enormous undertaking from start to finish and an invaluable learning experience for the future health care providers of Texas. The interdisciplinary nature of the event provides TAMHSC and Blinn students the opportunity to practice working together across medical specialties to develop appropriate role expectations, respect and teamwork.

“In a leadership role, you can’t be nervous about giving out ideas or delegating roles to others, which is something that you need to be able to do to be an effective nurse on the floor,” said Elizabeth Kniffin, co-chair of the Disaster Day Volunteer Committee. “It is also great for teaching time management, since we are leading and organizing Disaster Day on top of our studies and our clinical schedules.” Kniffin is a traditional Bachelor of Science senior and will graduate in May.

Students at the Texas A&M College of Nursing work together every year with students from the Texas A&M colleges of medicine, veterinary medicine and pharmacy, as well as Blinn College’s nursing, radiology and EMS students, to create and manage this enormous event. Five committees do the bulk of the organizing and preparation: Fundraising, Supplies, Case Studies, Volunteer, and Moulage, which is the art of applying mock injuries for training purposes. Each committee is led by a student chair or two co-chairs who each apply for the leadership positions. Incident commanders, appointed by College of Nursing faculty, help run the actual simulation.

Disaster Day is in late March of every year, but planning begins in the fall semester. Now in January, with less than three months until the big day, there is still a great deal of work left to be done.

“I have learned that there is a lot more that goes into the planning of Disaster Day than I ever imagined,” Kniffin said. “The success of Disaster Day is not based on just a few people, but many different disciplines, faculty members and students. Even though it is student run, we could not even think about having a functional Disaster Day without the support we get from our faculty and all the other disciplines.”

The hands-on approach of Disaster Day offers students of all medical disciplines the ultimate in simulation experiences as a means of honing their emergency management, clinical and interpersonal skills.

“I wholeheartedly believe that everyone who attends Disaster Day leaves a better person and a better professional,” said Halye Vessell, a senior Bachelor of Science major who is co-chair for the Volunteer Committee. “It enhances nurses in a way that makes them more confident in their skills and teaches them the value of working on a team. Additionally, they finally get to see everything we have learned in action! It is an unbeatable feeling.”

The entire Disaster Day runs on donations from the community and event collaborators, and as the event increases in size and scope, the fundraising efforts for Disaster Day must also increase.

“We are working very hard to get money for this event,” said Gayle Kuizon, a senior who is co-chair of the Fundraising Committee. “It means the world to us for people to give us support – whether that’s one cent or a hundred dollars, we appreciate everything. It gives our committee an additional set of professional skills to collaborate with community members and businesses to make both Disaster Day and our futures successful.”

Senior Alexis Cooper is one of five incident commanders who oversee the planning and production of Disaster Day. For her, it’s all about time management.

“I’ve learned a lot about management of time, people and organizations,” Cooper said. “It is actually very hard when you have multiple people working on multiple projects, along with managing your own classes, studies and clinicals. There is a lot of decision making, communication and record keeping that we must manage. I don’t think we would get this experience any other way.”

Disaster Day is a crucial learning experience for all its participants, but perhaps its student leaders get the most education. All the incident commanders and committee chairs emphasize a very serious, common thread to Disaster Day: teamwork.

“I’ve never been part of a team this size for such a monumental event, but we really are one big team,” Cooper said. “And what makes this team so special is that we come together to help each other out in the midst of completing our own tasks. With my fellow students and our faculty leaders I know that we will plan this Disaster Day successfully, together.”

Kuizon said Disaster Day pushed her to work with many different people to achieve one goal. “If you think about it, it’s what nurses do every day,” she said. “Their goal is to get their patients to their best level of health and to do that you work with physicians, technicians, physical therapists, speech therapists, etc. in order to attain that goal.”

Story written by Katie Hancock

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Jennifer Fuentes <![CDATA[New partnership amps up dental care for youngsters in East Dallas]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22487 2015-01-15T22:51:05Z 2015-01-15T22:43:51Z A new partnership between Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry and the Foremost Family Health Center means more dental care for East Dallas youngsters and increased training for dental students and pediatric dentistry residents alike. ]]>
Dental student Katelyn Kennedy treats a patient at the Foremost Family Health Center - Martin Luther King Jr. location.

Dental student Katelyn Kennedy treats a patient at the Foremost Family Health Center – Martin Luther King Jr. location.

Seven people huddle around their young patient, the first of the day, but the little girl doesn’t seem to mind. No older than 5 or 6, she lays still, relaxed, a plush mallard duck tucked under one arm, as the student dentists and resident discuss her care.

It’s a Wednesday afternoon, which means students from Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry fill the pediatric dental wing at the Foremost Family Health Center – Martin Luther King Jr. location. The center is a community resource providing comprehensive medical and dental services, and a new partnership with TAMBCD’s pediatric dentistry program is increasing the oral health care provided to youngsters in East Dallas.

Shalisa Garner, D.D.S., a 2006 graduate of TAMBCD who practices at the center and coordinated the partnership, estimates that children comprise more than 20 percent of the 9,000 dental patients seen each year at the clinic.

“Pediatric dentistry residents from TAMBCD are improving our operations by facilitating a process by which children who are in need of general anesthesia are treated,” Garner says. “By having the residents at our facility, they are able to begin the initial exam and paperwork for the children who need to be seen in the OR.”

Their presence also helps address pressing needs among this patient population: reducing the number of childhood decay diagnoses, educating families about the role of diet and hygiene in caries prevention and establishing recall appointment routines.

In mid-September, small groups of third- and fourth-year dental students began rotating through the clinic one afternoon a week. A pediatric dentistry resident accompanies them and provides patient care instruction, and department faculty members are present to provide oversight.

The partnership has allowed TAMBCD dental students to work in a uniquely designed six-patient, open-bay clinic concept. A row of four dental chairs is devoid of dividers, and TVs are mounted to the top of each operatory light, allowing for X-ray viewing and children’s movie watching. Two private patient rooms have full nitrous oxide capability.

“It’s a lot more hands-on,” says fourth-year dental student Katelyn Kennedy. “The open room is a great learning environment for residents and students.”

Benjamin Curtis, D.D.S., a pediatric dentistry resident, discusses patient care with dental students.

Benjamin Curtis, D.D.S., a pediatric dentistry resident, discusses patient care with dental students.

In this space they see patients as young as 6 months — those establishing a first dental home — up to teens, and dental students may perform exams and cleanings, place fillings including composites, complete pulpotomies, and undertake operative dentistry requiring nitrous oxide. During the appointment X-rays are taken, and the child’s weight and body mass index are charted.

On this particular Wednesday, Assistant Professor Kathleen Pace, D.D.S. and director of pediatric dentistry predoctoral and graduate clinics, is at the center.

“We start evaluating the child at first contact, right when he or she walks through the door,” Pace says. “We chart head to feet, and it’s all done in a seamless fashion.”

Pediatric Dentistry resident Ben Curtis, D.D.S., talks to his patient.The Foremost Family Health Center is one of two teaching sites — the other being the Healing Hands Clinic — in the college’s pediatric dentistry residency program. While residents rotate to hospitals such as Children’s Medical Center and Texas Scottish Rite, the two community locations allow them to fine-tune behavior management practices learned in dental school. In the process, they teach by example, in some cases inspiring dental students to pursue the specialty.

At the moment, pediatric dentistry resident Benjamin Curtis, D.D.S., finishes up with the group’s first patient.

He sits with her, cautioning that her loose baby teeth may fall out soon. She nods her head with a smile, the little duck still in hand.

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Holly Shive <![CDATA[Texas A&M Health Science Center solidifies growth trajectory with unprecedented research expenditures milestone]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22477 2015-01-15T21:09:29Z 2015-01-15T21:07:10Z With an unprecedented 34 percent increase in 2014, Texas A&M Health Science Center has crossed the $100 million threshold in total annual research expenditures, which includes a nearly 68 percent increase in funding from federal sources. ]]>

With an unprecedented 34 percent increase in 2014, Texas A&M Health Science Center (TAMHSC) has crossed the $100 million threshold in total annual research expenditures, which includes a nearly 68 percent increase in funding from federal sources. This latest milestone offers further evidence of the institution’s trajectory as one of the nation’s most rapidly emerging, research-intensive, innovation- driven health science centers.

In announcing the milestone, Brett P. Giroir, M.D., chief executive officer of Texas A&M Health Science Center, lauded the impressive work of the institution’s faculty, students and staff in forging leading-edge research and development efforts across diverse health science disciplines.

Filling test tube in lab

Texas A&M Health Science Center has crossed the $100 million threshold in total annual research expenditures, which includes a nearly 68 percent increase in funding from federal sources.

“Our level of growth is a remarkable accomplishment in an era when research funding, particularly from the federal government, is either flat or decreasing,” Giroir said. “Achieving this milestone is objective evidence that the focus on excellence within Texas A&M Health Science Center and the hard work of our faculty are being widely recognized and rewarded throughout the medical sciences research communities. We are quite literally bringing life-saving treatments from the lab to the people who need them most, and the entities that support such work – from the National Institute of Health to the Gates Foundation – are taking notice.”

Since assuming leadership of the institution in late 2013, Giroir immediately identified a concrete list of aspirations for the state’s youngest health-related institution to attain. Enacting this vision has included a number of initiatives intent on providing professional growth opportunities to faculty and students, including creation of an office of technology translation, designation of seed funding for targeted research projects, cultivation of numerous multidisciplinary research projects aimed at advancing discoveries from bench to bedside.

Additionally, Texas A&M Health Science Center assumed the leadership role for the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing, a $285.6 million public-private partnership established in June 2012 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enhance the nation’s emergency preparedness against emerging infectious diseases, including pandemic influenza, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.

“There isn’t another academic institution in this nation with a vaccine development and manufacturing center of this scope and scale; however, that isn’t the only element that truly sets us apart. With programs across more health professions disciplines than any other health science center in Texas and the unparalleled opportunity of leveraging the complementary scientific and academic expertise of a top tier research university, Texas A&M Health Science Center is uniquely positioned to advance interdisciplinary discoveries across a full range of basic, translational and clinical investigations,” said Gerald Parker, Ph.D., vice president for public health preparedness and response at Texas A&M Health Science Center. “This is just the beginning of a transformation that is forging new frontiers in science, medicine, public health and beyond.”

Currently, Texas A&M Health Science Center researchers are tackling some of the world’s most challenging health issues and have achieved numerous scientific breakthroughs. A few examples of recent research highlights include:

In addition, Texas A&M Health Science Center in the last year engaged in new strategic relationships with Houston Methodist, the technology giant Dell, and the Texas Medical Center in Houston; recruited a number of nationally acclaimed faculty members; launched several research centers, including a National Institutes of Health Center of Excellence focused on improving human health through integrated environmental health research; announced new degree programs within the Texas A&M College of Nursing and Texas A&M School of Public Health; expanded the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy to College Station; and had members of its faculty and administration serving in many state and national leadership positions, including directing the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response formed by Governor Rick Perry to lead the response to Ebola in Texas.

“Some might say that 2014 was an unusually busy year for this institution, but in reality we are setting a new pace that will inform the monumental efforts yet to come. From extending our burgeoning partnership with Houston Methodist in the area of discovery translations to the expanding infrastructure in Houston, Dallas and the biocorridor in Bryan-College Station, the foundation that we are laying today truly is transforming health,” Giroir said. “That’s an exceptionally exciting prospect, not just for our faculty and staff, but most importantly for our students who are training with some of the best researchers in the field today so that as graduates they are poised to serve as leaders in 21st Century health care.”

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Ellen Davis <![CDATA[Chemical found in broccoli may offer a new option for treating advanced prostate cancer]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22473 2015-01-15T21:44:56Z 2015-01-15T17:36:26Z Broccoli is frequently touted as a food that can help prevent cancer, but could it also be used to treat it?

According to research conducted by a faculty member at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology (IBT) in Houston, the answer is yes.

IBT faculty member Roderick H. Dashwood, Ph.D., has been studying whether a compound known as sulforaphane, which occurs naturally in broccoli, could be used to treat advanced prostate cancer. In a paper that was recently published in the journal Oncogenesis, Dashwood and collaborators from Oregon State University detailed how a particular enzyme in prostate cancer cells known as SUV39H1 is affected by exposure to sulforaphane.

“There is significant evidence that cruciferous vegetables can help prevent cancer,” Dashwood said. “This study, however, is one of the first to show that by altering SUV39H1 and histone methylation profiles, sulforaphane could be a new therapeutic agent for advanced prostate cancer.” Histone methylation involves small chemical modifications to the proteins that interact with DNA, and influences how genes are expressed.broccoli and pills

Dashwood is a world-renowned expert in dietary cancer prevention and epigenetics, which is the study of how alterations in gene expression can be caused by mechanisms other than changes in the DNA sequence. He joined the health science center faculty in 2013 to head the IBT’s new Center for Epigenetics & Disease Prevention, which brings together researchers from throughout the Texas A&M System who are developing preventive treatments and pharmaceutical agents using beneficial compounds found naturally in food.

Dashwood and his colleagues at the center are exploring how to take the most beneficial parts of food and use them to reverse, halt or prevent diseases such as cancer – an initiative that Dashwood likes to refer to as “field-to-clinic.” In addition to patient care, the research has the potential to reduce health care costs and improve quality of life.

Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States, and is a leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide. While treatments such as surgical removal of the prostate, radiation therapy, hormone therapy and chemotherapy are initially effective in treating prostate cancer, the cancer frequently spreads to other sites. Once this occurs, survival rates decrease dramatically and treatment options are limited.

Dashwood says further work is needed to identify the particular subsets of advanced prostate cancers that would be susceptible to sulforaphane treatment. And more research needs to be done to verify the safety of the compound when used at higher doses.

A clinical trial is currently underway to test the effectiveness of sulforaphane-rich supplements in men with high risk for prostate cancer. Early indications are that the compound is safe. Results from this trial may help demonstrate the safety of higher-dosage supplements and set the stage for a therapeutic trial.

Dashwood’s research on sulforaphane is currently funded by an $8.5 million multi-investigator program project grant (P01) from the National Cancer Institute that focuses on comparative mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention.

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Jennifer Fuentes <![CDATA[Dental students create awareness for importance of advocacy]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22228 2015-01-12T17:04:46Z 2015-01-12T17:00:16Z A group of dental students at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD) is creating unique learning experiences for their peers that they might not otherwise receive in the clinic or classroom. The topic: how state and federal legislation impacts dental students and the profession as a whole. ]]>
Officers of the dental schools's ASDA chapter gather after a Dec. 2 Mock Congress debate

Officers of the dental school chapter of the American Student Dental Association

A group of dental students at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry (TAMBCD) is creating unique learning experiences for their peers that they might not otherwise receive in the clinic or classroom.

The topic: how state and federal legislation impacts dental students and the profession as a whole. The method is an “advocacy academy,” a yearlong push consisting of educational events geared toward helping fellow dental students understand the legislative process.

“Our whole goal here is education,” says third-year dental student Stephanie Ganter, District 9 advocacy chair for the American Student Dental Association (ASDA) and a legislative liaison committee member for the TAMBCD chapter. “We are not trying to advocate for a certain politician. What we are trying to do is expose students to what is out there and to help them understand how different kinds of legislation may impact them. Our goal is to show students how policy affects them today and how it will affect them in a few years.”

The chapter’s initiative began in September 2014 with a legislative kickoff. In small groups, dental students rotated through several stations, and at each, legislative liaison committee members shared the basics behind several hot-button issues within dentistry, including student loan debt, mid-level dental providers and community water fluoridation. In December, a Mock Congress debate demonstrated how bills can be passed into law, and a student-run “Teach Me How to Lobby” lunch-and-learn event is in the works for late January.

It all culminates Feb. 25 with Lobby Day at the state Capitol. Before dawn, as many as 25 TAMBCD students — some of whom are recruited during ASDA’s advocacy events — will board a bus with approximately 50 Dallas County Dental Society members to make the trip to Austin. There they’ll join dentists from across the state as well as students from the two other Texas dental schools for meetings with representatives.

“Our biggest challenge is the ‘Who cares?’ moment,” Ganter says of interacting with legislators. “They might be thinking, ‘Why should I care about dentistry? I’ve got insurance to worry about; I’ve got education to worry about.’ Presence makes a difference. If we have a lot of people, that says more than any words.”

Danette McNew, D.D.S., 1988 TAMBCD alumna and immediate past president of the Dallas County Dental Society (DCDS), attends the event and says that during the day’s meetings every dental student is paired with a DCDS member.

“The dentists initiate the conversation with the representative, and the dental students are encouraged to share their viewpoints as well,” McNew says. “It’s very impactful. They have an opportunity to talk with representatives from a student’s perspective. That has a lot of weight.”

Once Lobby Day has passed, students will begin planning specifics for 2015-2016 advocacy events.

“It’s all about getting students interested and involved,” says Ganter. “You don’t have to have a passion for legislation and advocacy; you just have to know it affects you.”

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Rae Lynn Mitchell <![CDATA[Aggie takes rural health care reform to the nation’s capital]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22220 2015-01-15T21:45:19Z 2015-01-09T16:52:17Z Over the past 12 years, Amy Elizondo, M.P.H. has worked tirelessly with numerous government and nonprofit organizations to increase health care training, raise awareness of rural health issues and improve access to care for individuals living in rural America]]>
Amy Elizondo

Amy Elizondo

Since most Texas counties are rural, many Aggies have experienced firsthand the health care obstacles facing residents of rural communities. Often, students seek an education in public health so that they might one day have an impact on the quality of life and health care available to residents in the rural places they call home.

As a native of south Texas, Amy Elizondo, M.P.H, a graduate and board member of the alumni association of the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Public Health, has always had a passion for rural health care and sought to find ways of impacting rural and underserved communities in a positive way. Over the past 12 years, she has worked tirelessly with numerous government and nonprofit organizations to increase health care training, raise awareness of rural health issues and improve access to care for individuals living in rural America.

“My education at the Texas A&M School of Public Health provided me with a solid foundation in public health and health services practices, allowing me to set my sights on a national scope of work that I never could have imagined,” Elizondo said. “I was fortunate enough to be guided by professors who were instrumental in steering me toward the possibility of working on a national level, and the encouragement continues even today.”

Following graduation in 2002, Elizondo went to Washington, D.C., to complete an internship with the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. She managed to pack all of her belongings into her 1998 Ford Escort for the long journey to the nation’s capital.

“Having never been to Washington, D.C., this trip was my introduction into what has been one of the biggest adventures of my life,” Elizondo said.

Soon after completing her internship, Elizondo took a position serving as the primary legislative analyst for rural health care and post-acute care issues at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Office of Legislation. She would later serve as a special assistant to the director of the Medicare outreach team, working with stakeholder groups during the implementation of the Medicare prescription drug benefit.

During her time at the CMS, Elizondo had the opportunity to work on the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, a historic time in health care history. The experience also afforded her a front-row seat into how policy programs come to fruition and how they impact those working on the frontlines of health care.

Elizondo at the White House following a meeting.

Elizondo at the White House following a meeting.

“My experiences at CMS allowed me to continue to focus on rural health care while providing a bird’s-eye view of the regulatory and legislative world of health policy,” Elizondo said.

In 2006, she joined the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), a nonprofit membership organization with a mission to provide leadership on rural health issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. As the vice president of program services for the NRHA, Elizondo oversees numerous grant programs and initiatives. One such program is the Border Health Initiative, which addresses policy issues impacting rural areas along the border and highlights best practices in those communities.

“An important part of the Border Health Initiative has been the development of a National Rural Community Health Worker (CHW) Training Network, which has helped bring education and networking opportunities for CHWs practicing in rural areas of the country.”

Another initiative Elizondo helps implement is the Rural Training Track (RTT) Technical Assistance Demonstration Program as part of a national strategy in training physicians for rural practice. Funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, the program assists RTTs whereby medical residents complete training the first year in an urban setting and in rural settings the next two years with hopes they will be encouraged to practice primary care in rural areas.

“It has been an honor to work with rural and underserved areas across the country through my work at NRHA,” Elizondo said. “Washington, D.C., may currently be home, but it is through this work that I hope to make a positive impact for places such as my forever home in Mercedes, Texas, where my family still resides. I will forever be grateful for both the education and encouragement I received from the faculty at the School of Public Health to pursue this opportunity.”

 

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