Vital Record Your source for health news from the Texas A&M Health Science Center 2014-12-18T20:47:39Z http://news.tamhsc.edu/feed/atom/ Cheri Shipman <![CDATA[ACPE names pharmacy dean chair-elect for international commission]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22206 2014-12-18T20:47:39Z 2014-12-18T20:47:39Z The Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy dean was elected to serve as chair-elect for International Commission for the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education. In this role, he serves with site evaluation teams to improve and certify programs at colleges of pharmacy around the world and will represent the International Commission as chair beginning in February ]]>
Dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy

Indra K. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and founding dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy

Indra K. Reddy, Ph.D., professor and founding dean of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, was named vice chair/chair-elect of the International Commission for the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) from Feb. 1, 2015, to Jan. 31, 2016.

Since 2013, Reddy has served as an international commissioner through the International Service Program, which extends through 2016. In this role, he serves with site evaluation teams to improve and certify programs at colleges of pharmacy around the world. Beginning in February 2016, Reddy will represent the International Commission as chair during ACPE board of directors’ meetings.

“I bring my experiences as founding dean of the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy to the floor to help advance the mission of ACPE’s International Services Program, to enhance the quality of pharmacy education, training and practice in global settings,” Reddy said. “I am delighted to serve as International Commissioner as it presents a tremendous opportunity to contribute to the advancement of pharmacy education and training and to the provision of optimal patient care.”

As commissioners, the team witnesses and participates in, firsthand, the quality enhancement of pharmacy education and practices throughout the world.

In June, ACPE granted pharmacy degree program certification to programs in India, Cyprus, and Saudi Arabia. Recently certified programs include, Jagadguru Sri Shivarathreeshwara University Colleges of Pharmacy in India, Near East University Faculty of Pharmacy in Northern Cyprus, and King Faisal University College of Clinical Pharmacy in Saudi Arabia.

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Cheri Shipman <![CDATA[Texas A&M pharmacy students reach out to South Texas at Project SHINE]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22187 2014-12-18T19:02:56Z 2014-12-18T16:30:44Z Texas A&M pharmacy students, in collaboration with other health professionals, combat preventable diseases by providing free health screenings at Project SHINE (Service & Help through Interprofessional Networking Experience), targeting low-income, border communities in South Texas. The students received a grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield in the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative to provide free flu shots for the community]]>
A pharmacy student performs a health screening at Project SHINE

David Guzman, second-year professional student pharmacist at Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy, provides a blood glucose screening at Project SHINE at the Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School in Penitas, Texas, in November.

Families are sometimes faced with a difficult choice:  pay for food or visit a doctor’s office.  While many factors contribute to making this important decision, including inadequate health insurance coverage, lack of transportation or the inability to take time off from work, people put themselves at risk when they do not visit a physician regularly for routine checkups.

In fact, six of the seven leading causes of death in Texas were chronic diseases, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, according to the 2014 Health Status of Texas report. Together, these chronic diseases claimed the lives of more than 105,000 Texans.

In order to detect certain chronic diseases and combat the problem, patients need to have regular screenings in the early stages when intervention is most effective.

Professional student pharmacists at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, in collaboration with other health professionals, including the Texas A&M College of Medicine, are working to combat preventable diseases by providing free screenings throughout the year in South Texas. The screenings, many of which are part of the student-driven Project SHINE (Service & Help through Interprofessional Networking Experience), target low-income, border communities, known as colonias, that are unincorporated subdivisions often lacking access to basic infrastructure and health care services.

“Project SHINE offers an invaluable service to residents of the colonias,” said David Guzman, second-year professional student pharmacist at Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. “I experienced the dire need firsthand as a child growing up in South Texas.”

Project SHINE was developed by students from the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy to provide preventative health care services to medically underserved areas in South Texas. The project not only provides preventative care, it is an interprofessional educational opportunity for medical, nursing, pharmacy and other health professions students. Students provided cholesterol, blood glucose and blood pressure screenings, as well as immunizations, along with patient counseling – all free of charge.

In November, the interprofessional team for Project SHINE saw more than 80 patients in South Texas at the Dr. Javier Saenz Middle School in Penitas. More than 60 patients received free flu shots supported by a grant from Healthy Kids, Healthy Families, an initiative designed to improve the health and wellness of at least 1 million children through community investments.

With each person who walked into the gym of the middle school on that Saturday, Guzman saw someone like his mother or grandmother, who were in need of medical care when he was a child.

Growing up in the underserved area of Brownsville, Texas, Guzman looked up to his mother, a single parent and schoolteacher. When Guzman was 12 years old, his mother became very ill. He traveled with her 30 minutes one way for frequent doctor appointments because there was no specialist in their area.

Guzman did not witness firsthand the interaction between his mother and her primary care physician, but he did see the interaction between her and the pharmacist who provided her with expert counseling and support throughout her health care journey. This experience influenced Guzman’s decision to pursue a career in pharmacy.

“My mother would ask questions and the pharmacist would guide and teach her,” he said. “For me, seeing my mother – the teacher – being taught by someone else really impacted me.”

Now as a pharmacy student, Guzman is learning to serve in the role of counselor to the patients he encounters through Project SHINE. In one particular patient, Guzman shared the danger of having high triglyceride values. It was during this consultation that Guzman realized how important health screenings were. “I thought, ‘what if that person hadn’t come in t0day,’ what might have happened to that patient?”

The student chapter of the American Pharmacists Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) plans to have another Project SHINE health fair in the colonias area in the spring.

Guzman plans to practice pharmacy in the Rio Grande Valley after he graduates.

“Influencing a family just like that pharmacist did for my mother – and even my life – meant a lot to me,” he said. “I am proud to be part of a college that gives back to the community where I grew up and plan to live following graduation.”

Story written by Sheri Dunlap, junior journalism major at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Healthy Kids, Healthy Families began as a three-year initiative designed to improve the health and wellness of at least 1 million children through community investments by Health Care Service Corporation and its Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. This BCBS grant is an accomplishment of the school and APhA-ASP organization for Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. The APhA-ASP Project SHINE will reach more children and their families in underserved areas in South Texas with this grant.   

Group of students pose after a health fair in South Texas

Project SHINE was developed by students from the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy in collaboration with other health care professionals to provide preventative health care services to medically underserved areas in South Texas.

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Elizabeth Grimm <![CDATA[Vitamins and minerals: Helpful or hurtful?]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22168 2014-12-17T17:42:26Z 2014-12-17T17:41:59Z What do you think of when you hear the word “multivitamin?” Probably something positive; after all, we’re conditioned to take our vitamins from a young age with delicious Flintstone vitamins. Even as adults, we face the temptation of gummy multivitamins that make it hard to ... ]]>
An apple and an orange next to vitamin tablets

In some cases, taking a daily vitamin might cause more harm than good. Consult your health care provider or pharmacist about whether or not a vitamin supplement is good for you.

What do you think of when you hear the word “multivitamin?” Probably something positive; after all, we’re conditioned to take our vitamins from a young age with delicious Flintstone vitamins. Even as adults, we face the temptation of gummy multivitamins that make it hard to stop at the recommended serving size. Whatever it is that springs to mind, it’s probably correlated to improving your overall health—but what if this is a misconception? What if those vitamins you think are improving your health could actually be harming it?

“In some cases, taking vitamins can cause toxicity in individuals—especially if the person has a well-balanced diet already,” said Mary Chavez, Pharm.D., interim vice dean and professor and chair of pharmacy practice at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy.

In contrast to this, though, there are some cases in which taking a vitamin is beneficial to your overall health: such as if you have a vitamin deficiency. No matter which end of the vitamin spectrum you fall on, it is important to consult your health care provider and pharmacist before adding a daily supplement to your diet.

To help us discern from whether a vitamin is helpful or quite the opposite, Chavez offers us some parameters on when it’s a good idea (or not) to use certain vitamins:

Visit with your physician

Determining whether or not taking a vitamin is right for you starts with visiting your primary care physician. Being familiar with your lifestyle and testing your blood during your annual physical will help your physician decide if you would benefit from adding a vitamin or supplement to your daily regimen.

When vitamins may be beneficial

“In most cases, with individuals who have normal, well-rounded diets, vitamins or supplements aren’t necessary,” Chavez notes. “But there are some situations when it may be helpful to take a vitamin or mineral.”

Your physician or pharmacist might recommend taking a vitamin or another supplement when:

  • You are on a restrictive diet
  • Are pregnant or are trying to become pregnant
  • Have a vitamin deficiency

If you have a diet that limits certain nutrients, such as a strict vegan lifestyle, your physician or pharmacist may recommend adding vitamin B12 to your daily regimen. Vitamin B12 promotes healthy red blood cells. Low levels can cause anemia, numbness and tingling of hands and feet, sore tongue, muscle weakness, memory loss and mental issues. Certain medical conditions and medication could cause some people to not absorb vitamin B12.

“For women who are pregnant or are attempting to conceive, folic acid is an important supplement to reduce the chances of a neural disorder in the fetus,” Chavez stated. “And pregnant women should also take iron supplements as recommended by an obstetrician or other health care provider.”

If you have a vitamin deficiency that is interfering with your overall health, your physician or pharmacist might recommend consuming that vitamin in pill form. The most common deficiencies are vitamins D, B12 and calcium. Supplementation with vitamin D and calcium may promote healthy bone structure and density in postmenopausal women. For individuals at increased risk for developing osteoporosis or osteopenia, the National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends taking a daily supplement of both.

The risks of vitamins

You’ll hear it time and time again: Smoking is bad for you. But when it comes to vitamins, smoking may contribute to an increased risk in developing lung cancer, especially when combined with regular intake of beta carotene and vitamin A, which are commonly present in multivitamins.

“In some cases, vitamins build up in people’s systems and can lead to severe toxicity,” Chavez warned. Vitamins that are more likely to cause toxicity are fat-soluble, as opposed to water-soluble, which are not stored in the body and must be replaced each day. Among fat-soluble vitamins, vitamins A, E, D and K are the most common.

Common side effects of toxicity to look for are:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Death in extreme cases

Some vitamins may also interact with certain medications. For example, vitamin K can counteract blood-clotting medications. When deciding on whether or not a multi-vitamin is best for you, consult your physician or pharmacist to make sure that it won’t cause any harmful effects; and be sure to always include any vitamins, minerals or herbal supplements that you’re using in your medication list to avoid possible interactions.

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Jennifer Fuentes <![CDATA[Emphasis on personalized care: Calming anxieties benefits dental patients and providers alike]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22180 2014-12-17T17:44:12Z 2014-12-17T17:39:18Z An unspoken interaction takes place at the start of nearly every dental appointment. The dental hygienist or assistant brings the patient to the chair, and before it has reclined has already assessed if the patient is feeling talkative, tired or even anxious. In many cases, no words are needed for this exchange]]>

An unspoken interaction takes place at the start of nearly every dental appointment. The dental hygienist or assistant brings the patient to the chair, and before it has reclined has already assessed if the patient is feeling talkative, tired or even anxious. In many cases, no words are needed for this exchange.

“Look. First observe the patient for clues that they are affected: eye movement, breathing and other physiological manifestations,” says Laura Gene Utt, clinical assistant professor in the Caruth School of Dental Hygiene at Texas A&M University Baylor College of Dentistry. “Listen to them closely. Many will tell you they feel anxious. Some will not.”

Laura Gene Utt, clinical assistant professor at TAMBCD's Caruth School of Dental Hygiene, pictured in the college's third-floor general dentistry clinic.

Laura Gene Utt developed her thesis around how Texas dental hygienists manage patients’ dental anxieties.

Recognizing anxieties in patients and learning how to effectively address them is something Utt has fine-tuned during her 35-year dental hygiene career throughout Texas, California and Germany. In December 2014, she completed her thesis on the subject as part of her master’s in dental hygiene education.

Her research, titled “Texas Dental Hygienists’ Use of Behavioral Management Techniques for Patients with Dental Anxieties,” utilized a survey to determine what methods Texas dental hygienists use to recognize and calm dental anxieties in patients. And just as important, it measured how dental hygienists felt about their effectiveness at helping their anxious patients feel comfortable.

Nearly half of the survey respondents stated that up to 20 percent of their patients experience dental anxiety.

In those situations, some of their most commonly used techniques to help patients include:

  • deep breathing;
  • distraction (listening to music, covering up with a blanket, etc.);
  • listening; and
  • talking.

Utt found that dental hygienists who take time to determine the cause of the patient’s anxiety and give them some control over the situation help the patient relax. Empathy for patients is the best approach and decreases negative emotional labor while at work, which could be a factor in retention or attrition within the profession.

She plans to take these techniques with her in January 2015 when she moves to Stuttgart, Germany, where she has plans for teaching, consulting and private practice work.

“Bachelor-level programs in dental hygiene are just now starting in Germany, and the concepts of managing dental anxiety should be considered in the educational programs,” says Utt.

Dental anxieties as a result of personal trauma

Sometimes anxieties are present for reasons not having anything to do with the dental appointment. Previous trauma, such as domestic violence or sexual assault, abuse of the elderly and even combat military experience can present anxieties for patients.

According to statistics cited in a March 2014 article in The Journal of the American Dental Association, “Treating Patients with Traumatic Life Experiences,” the likelihood that an oral health professional will treat patients who have suffered such events is markedly high. Approximately 22 percent of women and four percent of men reported having experienced sexual assault as an adult, and 10 to 20 percent of men and up to 10 percent of women in the U.S. reported having been exposed to combat, whether as service members or immigrants who fled war-ravaged regions.

Routine aspects of a dental appointment, be it impressions, oral cancer screenings and even reclining in the chair, may seem harmless to some — and even convenient for dentists, such as in the case of a mouth prop — but they can incite fear in other patients. Whether it’s from a gag reflex, lack of breath or the fact that a patient cannot close his or her mouth, a feeling of powerlessness sometimes ensues, and with it, panic.

In TAMBCD’s Advanced Education in General Dentistry Residency Program, residents are familiarized with some of the difficulties that can occur as a result of traumatic experiences. One lecture includes a special guest speaker, an assault victim who shares with residents what it’s like to live through the aftermath of such an event, which often includes some degree of post-traumatic stress disorder. At least once during the year, fourth-year dental students also get exposure to patients with anxieties and special needs during a rotation in the AEGD clinic.

“When dentists have a basic understanding of the difficulties that survivors face, they can help to create an environment that feels safe,” says Kirsten Zitzewitz, AEGD clinic coordinator. “As a result, this can help prevent last-minute appointment cancellations as well as help the actual appointment flow in a smooth and productive manner. Most importantly, it can be a positive experience for the survivor that can aid in the survivor’s recovery.”

One of the go-to methods: informal question-and-answer sessions between the oral health professional and patient. Benefits of the initial “meet and greet” are two-fold.

“The AEGD residents learn how to communicate through empathetic listening and speaking skills to build the highest level of rapport with special patients, which does a lot to allay apprehension and raise the pain threshold,” says Dr. Charles Wakefield, professor and director of the AEGD program. At the same time, the dentist gets to know the patient on a personal level.

Regardless of the cause of anxiety, when patients’ fears are addressed in an effective manner, not only are they more likely to return for routine preventive care, but hygienists and dentists are more likely to feel rewarded from the interaction.

“The takeaway message for me is that the benefit is a two-way street,” says Utt. “The oral health care providers who practice these techniques will have a healthier and happier career. And the patients can get over their dental anxiety. When both parties benefit, why wouldn’t you want to do that? You sharpen your skill of observation, that’s so much of it.”

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Holly Lambert <![CDATA[Prockop named National Academy of Inventors Fellow]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22170 2014-12-17T17:27:23Z 2014-12-17T17:27:23Z Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine and a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, has been named a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow]]>

Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D., the Stearman Chair in Genomic Medicine and a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine, has been named a National Academy of Inventors (NAI) Fellow. Prockop will be among 170 new Fellows to be inducted during the NAI’s 4th Annual Conference on March 20 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Darwin Prockop

Darwin J. Prockop, M.D., Ph.D.

NAI Fellows are academic inventors and innovators who are named on U.S. patents and were nominated by their peers for outstanding contributions to innovation.

“The award recognizes that basic biomedical research is increasingly making discoveries that have important practical consequences in terms of their commercial value and the benefits they can bring to patients,” Prockop said. “My research group has for years worked on both the basic biology of adult stem cells and their potential use to treat patients with devastating diseases such as parkinsonism, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and brain trauma. The two lines of research are closely interconnected in that the more we learn about the basic biology of the cells, the more we discover ways the cells can be used to treat patients. The award and the multiple patent applications we have filed helps document our progress and encourages us to continue.”

Prockop directs the Texas A&M College of Medicine’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, Texas. He holds 20 U.S. patents and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Institute of Medicine.

The NAI was founded in 2010 to recognize and encourage inventors with patents issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, enhance the visibility of academic technology and innovation, encourage the disclosure of intellectual property, educate and mentor innovative students, and translate the inventions of its members to benefit society.

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Holly Lambert <![CDATA[Texas A&M’s new environmental research center awards stimulating research at Texas A&M and across the Texas Medical Center]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22161 2014-12-16T22:33:40Z 2014-12-16T22:33:16Z The Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR), headquartered at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston, has awarded its first five pilot program grants]]>

The Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR), headquartered at the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute for Biosciences and Technology in Houston, has awarded its first five pilot program grants, each intended to fund “high-risk, high-reward” science to better understand the effects of the environment on human health – with most recipients also receiving matching funds from their own organizations.

Researchers in lab

The Center for Translational Environmental Health Research (CTEHR) awarded its first five pilot program grants to researchers across The Texas A&M University System and University of Houston.

Named by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in April as the newest National Center of Excellence in Environmental Health Science, the CTEHR – a cross-institutional initiative which includes collaborators from across The Texas A&M University System, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston – serves as the cornerstone for integrated environmental health research, translation of research advances into practice and community outreach and engagement aimed at improving human health.

The Pilot Project Program, an integral component of the CTEHR, is designed to enhance the overall mission of the center by advancing and promoting early-stage environmental health research, the hardest to fund via traditional funding sources, but the most important for launching “high-risk, high-reward” science.

Texas A&M researchers receiving CTEHR pilot program grants include Clinton D. Allred, associate professor, Department of Nutrition and Food Science; Leslie Cizmas, assistant professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, School of Public Health; Gerard L. Cote, department head, Biomedical Engineering and the Charles H. & Bettye Barclay Professor of Biomedical Engineering; and, receiving a joint grant, Robin Fuchs-Young, professor, College of Medicine and Mick Deutz, director of the Center for Translational Research in Aging and Longevity. Funding was also awarded to Maria Bondesson Bolin, research assistant professor in the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling at the University of Houston.

Allred, along with co-principal investigator Arul Jayaraman, professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering, will receive a $25,000 grant to support their project titled, “The role of estrogenic compounds and their metabolites in colonic inflammation” which will be matched by the College of Engineering and Department of Nutrition and Food Science for a total project budget of $50,000.

Cizmas’ project, “A multi-step approach to assessing the toxicity of drinking water disinfection by­ products following chlorination, chloramination or a novel fen·ate disinfection process,” will receive $25,000 from CTEHR to support this research and Virender Sharma, interim department head of the Texas A&M School of Public Health Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, has committed $25,789 in matching funds.

Cote’s project, “Blood-based point-of-care system to measure radiation exposure using citrulline as a biomarker,” has a total budget of $50,000. CTEHR will provide $25,000 to support this research and Dr. Costas Georghiades has committed $25,000 in matching funds from the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station/College of Engineering.

Fuchs-Young and Deutz applied jointly for their project, “A quantifiable biological endpoint to assess the impact of an educational intervention on control of childhood asthma in the Rio Grande Valley.” CTEHR will provide $25,000 to support this research and the College of Medicine and Department of Molecular and Cellular Medicine has committed matching funds to support the total project budget of $50,000.

Bondesson Bolin will receive $25,000 to support her project titled “Modes of action of vascular disrupting compounds” and the Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling has committed matching funds, to total $50,000.

As pilot project award recipients and center members, all grant recipients will also have access to the center’s facility cores and qualify for subsidies to further leverage their research

“Through a unique team science approach, members of the CTEHR are unlocking the mysteries of environmental health through new discoveries aimed at improving human health,” said Cheryl Lyn Walker, Ph.D., director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology and director of the CTEHR. “The center aims to accelerate innovative scientific discoveries and move them from bench-to-bedside, across translational boundaries, and from the laboratory to the clinic and ultimately to communities to improve human environmental health.”

One of only 21 centers of excellence in the country, the CTEHR is poised to lead the state and nation in better understanding the effects of the environment on human health. The center’s members are focused on translating research advances in environmental causes of disease to improve detection, prevention and management of diseases induced or worsened by environmental exposures.

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Holly Lambert <![CDATA[Erwin elected to lead Texas chapter of the American College of Cardiology]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22155 2014-12-16T22:09:05Z 2014-12-16T22:06:03Z John P. Erwin, III, M.D., FACC, assistant dean for continuing medical education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple and a cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Health, was recently elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) as the ACC Governor for Texas. ]]>

John P. Erwin, III, M.D., FACC, assistant dean for continuing medical education at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in Temple and a cardiologist with Baylor Scott & White Health, was recently elected to serve on the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) as the ACC Governor for Texas. Erwin’s term will run until 2019. He will concurrently serve as the President of the Texas Chapter of the American College of Cardiology.John Erwin

In his position as a member of the Board of Governors, Erwin will join other elected Governors from across the country to facilitate communication between College leaders and their members in the state they represent. Erwin will provide input from the Texas cardiology community to the College on issues related to legislative and regulatory concerns, practice needs, and needs to help members improve patient care.

As the Texas Chapter President, he will also serve as the voice of the Texas cardiology community when advising local and state government officials, media and other professional organizations on issues related to cardiovascular disease. Erwin will also work with the Texas Chapter members to provide education, quality improvement activities, and avenues to influence legislative and regulatory issues affecting the practice of cardiology and quality patient care.

“I feel honored and privileged to represent the patients and the great cardiologists and cardiovascular professionals of the State of Texas,” Erwin said. “Texas has had a rich history of medical leadership and of pioneering cardiac innovations that have improved and saved countless numbers of lives. I look forward to carrying that torch and working alongside the many wonderful thought leaders that constitute the American College of Cardiology.”

Erwin is a graduate of the Texas A&M College of Medicine and performed his Internal Medicine residency and his Cardiovascular Fellowship training at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

 

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Elizabeth Grimm <![CDATA[Holiday stress: How to keep the joy alive during the holidays]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=22147 2014-12-15T21:39:47Z 2014-12-12T20:23:31Z The weather is cooler, the scents of pine and cinnamon fill the air and holiday music has begun its annual takeover of radio stations. Holidays are a joyous time, meant to remind us of the vital importance of family and friends. However, with all the ... ]]>

The weather is cooler, the scents of pine and cinnamon fill the air and holiday music has begun its annual takeover of radio stations. Holidays are a joyous time, meant to remind us of the vital importance of family and friends. However, with all the hustle and bustle, it’s easy for the joy of the season to turn into stress.

Christmas_stress_iStock_000021828585Large“Sometimes we get so caught up in the traditions of the season that it detracts from the true meaning of the holidays,” says Willa Decker, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing.

“In the long run, stress can have a debilitating effect on our overall health,” Decker, a mental health expert, noted. “Around 75 to 95 percent of people in hospitals are admitted due to stress related symptoms.”

We sat down with Decker to discuss ways to minimize the stress and maximize the joy this holiday season:

1. Make a list

Holidays are the time for lists: to do lists, shopping lists, grocery lists that reach the floor and more! But making a list of annual Yuletide anxiety inducers can help you keep your peace of mind. “Part of dealing with stress is acknowledging what causes it,” Decker said. Compiling a list of certain activities or traditions that bring you stress during the holiday season can help you focus on ways to relax.

“Identify what was stressful last holiday season, or maybe even this holiday season as you progress through it, and think of one or two possible solutions for each stressor you think of,” Decker advised. “Even if only a few solutions work, you can use them next year and focus on finding ways to alleviate the stress brought on by other activities.”

2. Let it go

When it comes to family gatherings, old feuds can be hard to overcome, but the best way to lessen the stress of the season is to let them go. “Try and find some way to resolve the friction for the holidays. This doesn’t mean you have to become best friends, but try to make the situation neutral,” Decker suggested.

3. Saying “no” doesn’t make you a Grinch

“We tend to overextend ourselves during the holiday season,” Decker noted. Instead of trying to do everything, try to limit your commitments to a more reasonable range.

If it’s hard for you to say no to people, but can’t devote the time for the task they ask of you, consider asking them for time to reevaluate your schedule. This strategy will bide time to brainstorm ways to gently turn them down.

Holidays don’t have to be stressful, but taking on more responsibilities than you can handle is a sure-fire way to turn you into a grumpy Santa’s little helper.

4. Break out the calendar

Sure, December is the last page of your calendar, but it doesn’t mean you should just ignore it. And just because it’s the busiest time of the year with gift giving and party planning, doesn’t mean that those everyday tasks disappear. Decker suggests using your calendar to help you keep track of events and daily tasks that you need to complete throughout the month. This will help you visualize what you need to get done and will help you from overcommitting this season.

5. Utilize your senses

If the flurry of activities and responsibilities are catching up to you, light a soothing candle or listen to your favorite holiday song. Our senses play a large part in developing our overall mood. Decker proposes trying to soothe all of our senses to help us relax – whether that means making your house smell like gingerbread or lowering the wattage of your lights to take some stress off of your eyes.

6. Reduce the clutter to a room

There are few things that can cause as much stress than feeling like Santa set up shop in every room of your house. As the old adage goes: A clean home is a happy home. Keeping the mayhem of the holidays from taking over your home may help you relax and enjoy the season.

“The clutter and mess of gifts and wrapping paper can really contribute undue stress,” Decker said. “Limiting the chaos to a single room can help ease tension.”

7. Take a step back

When you feel like your drowning in a sea of wrapping paper and ornaments, try to come up for air. “Our thoughts have a tremendous impact on how we respond to situations. Taking a step back and evaluating how we perceive a situation can help us change how we react to it,” Decker mentioned.

If the stress just becomes too much to handle, take a downbeat. “You can’t give what you don’t have, so it’s important to take care of yourself too,” Decker said.

8. Challenge traditions

Every family has their own Yuletide traditions; but if the tradition is something that only gives you a headache every year, maybe it’s time to rethink the necessity of it. Do you have to send holiday cards to that twice-removed, distant cousin, whom you’ve never met before?

“Sometimes we don’t challenge traditions enough. If it’s something that doesn’t bring you joy, you don’t have to carry out the tradition for tradition’s sake,” Decker advised.

9. Find your sense of humor

“There are great physiological benefits to humor: Over time it helps reduce our blood pressure, it massages our internal organs, it releases endorphins which make us feel better. Even forced humor can cause these benefits,” Decker said.

Decker also issued the caveat of knowing when humor is appropriate. If someone associates the holidays with a time of loss, or some other form of grief, a joke may not be the best way to relieve stress. It’s important to stay mindful of people’s feelings.

10. Identify and magnify your strengths

Maybe you’re a wizard in the kitchen, or happen to be fantastic at papier-mâché—what ever your strength is, capitalize on it. Offer to help cook at family gatherings if it’s something you enjoy, or lend a helping hand in decorations.

“People feel better when they are able to help with something they’re good at,” Decker said. Sticking to your strengths can help you contribute in a more meaningful way and feel better about it.

No matter how you celebrate the holidays, remember to take the time to relax and enjoy this holiday season!

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Lindsey Hendrix <![CDATA[Wielding Nature’s Sword: Researchers at Texas A&M discover new treatments against drug-resistant infections]]> http://news.tamhsc.edu/?post_type=post&p=21808 2014-12-15T21:38:01Z 2014-12-11T20:28:02Z Since World War II, antibiotics have been our only defense against bacterial infection, but overuse and misuse have caused some bacteria to develop resistance to antibiotics. Now, researchers at Texas A&M Health Science Center have discovered an entirely new class of antimicrobials that have the potential to kill drug-resistant bacteria]]>

Since World War II, antibiotics have saved countless lives by killing disease-causing bacteria. To this day, traditional antibiotics remain the only treatment against such illnesses, but overuse and misuse have caused some bacteria to develop resistance to commonly used antibiotics. These bacteria, known as multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs), are able to survive and even multiply in the presence of antibiotics, making treatment against them nearly impossible.

Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine

But now, after decades of using the same basic ingredients for antibiotics, a new way to treat bacterial infection is finally on the horizon. Carolyn Cannon, M.D., Ph.D., and her team at Texas A&M Health Science Center have discovered that a new set of compounds synthesized by medicinal chemist Lászlo Kürti, Ph.D., with the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, have the potential to kill MDROs. Specifically, the researchers have their sights set on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) – a bacterial infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to commonly used antibiotics, making it so hard to treat, it’s been deemed a “super bug.” This discovery is predicted to yield an entirely new class of treatments for a multitude of drug resistant infections.

“Microorganisms have been battling each other for millennia, so they have a whole armamentarium of ways to kill each other,” said Cannon, who is a pediatric pulmonologist and associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine. “It’s just a matter of us noticing and isolating those weapons and then synthesizing them for use as treatments against pathogens, the bad guys.”

Penicillin and cephalosporin – the bases for the most commonly used modern antibiotics – were first isolated from fungi. Most new FDA-approved antibiotics are simply tweaks of those original molecules. The first molecule of Cannon and Kürti’s new class of antimicrobials was originally isolated by researchers more than a decade ago from a bacterium that originates from the ocean. Then, only tiny amounts could be extracted from cultures of the bacteria with great effort. Fast forward to present day, and the current team now has developed a simple method to synthesize the molecule and tweak it.

“The beauty of the discovery is that these compounds can now be synthesized in one pot in 30 minutes. It’s a very scalable procedure that can easily yield large quantities,” Cannon said. “We have been able to take the new compounds into the lab to study their activity, and have found that they are more active against MRSA than the gold-standard treatment, vancomycin. Plus, we have found compounds with better activity than the compound made by the bacterium from the ocean.” These constitute a completely new class of antimicrobial molecules that don’t look like anything else currently used in medicine.

While modern-day antibiotics readily go into solutions that can be injected, inhaled or ingested, these new molecules are not water soluble. That factor may seem like a major barrier, but thanks to new nanoparticle technologies, what was once an obstacle has become a momentous opportunity that Cannon’s group, as part of a National Institute of Health’s Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology, has the expertise to seize.

Nanoparticles are simply particles that exist on the nanometer scale (anything up to 100 nanometers is considered a nanoparticle). As a comparison, most bacteria are on the micrometer scale, averaging about a micron or two long. Even the largest nanoparticle – one that is 100 nanometers – is merely a tenth of a micron. Because they are so small, these nanoparticles contain some very useful properties. For instance, they can be designed to slip through sticky mucus and penetrate into biofilms. They can be synthesized from polymers, large molecules composed of many repeated subunits, designed to be broken down in the body.

“Think of a microscopic baseball with a rubber center covered by yarn, then cowhide. Our otherwise insoluble antibiotic contained in the ‘rubber center’ is shielded by a water-loving hydrophilic surface, the ‘yarn,’ which renders the nanoparticle compatible with suspension in a solution. You can decorate the outside, the ‘cowhide,’ with molecules that specifically bind to the surface of bacteria to allow accumulation of the drug at the site of the infection. This nanoparticle delivery is much more targeted than traditional antibiotics,” Cannon said.

Targeting in this precise manner allows for a dramatic drop in the amount of medication that a patient needs in order to kill infection. Further, targeting may spare beneficial bacteria that are often killed secondarily by traditional delivery of antibiotics that are dispensed throughout the body. What’s more, targeting may allow for the use of more potent drugs, since the drugs would merely affect the site of infection and not the entire body.

The next step for Cannon’s team is to test nanoparticles containing the antimicrobial molecules in animal models, which, she says, is very close to happening.

This piece was originally published on October 20, 2014.

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