WVU Medicine Cabinet News Stories

WVU study examines health effects of mountaintop mining

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. –  Research has shown greater health disparities in Appalachian coal mining communities. A new study conducted by the West Virginia University School of Medicine shows that the disparities are especially concentrated in mountaintop mining areas. Those areas have the greatest reductions in health-related quality of life even when compared with counties with other forms of coal mining. The measure of health-related quality of life used in this study is a four question population-based measure developed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a telephone-based, random survey, residents in four central Appalachian states – Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia – were asked questions about how many poor mental and physical health days they experienced in the previous 30 days. “Self-rated health and health-related quality of life were significantly reduced among residents of mountaintop mining communities in the unadjusted and adjusted models,” Keith Zullig, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Community Medicine and co-author of the study, said. “Mountaintop mining county residents experience, on average, 18 more unhealthy days per year than do the other populations. That’s approximately 1,404 days, or almost four years, of an average American lifetime. When mountaintop mining and other coal mining counties were not separated in a previous study, there were 462 reduced health-related quality of life days across an average American life.” Michael Hendryx, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Community Medicine and co-author of the study, noted that this study also looked at the health effects on both men and women. A common belief is that if coal mining causes health problems, those problems are mostly occupational related problems experienced by coal miners themselves. “When analyzed by gender and age group, although the effects were slightly stronger for men, effects were present for women as well, and trends were similar for the mountaintop mining communities. So it’s not just occupational,” Dr. Hendryx said. “These findings suggest the unique contributions mountaintop mining activity makes to negative health ratings among residents in counties with mountaintop mining activity compared with residents in other county groupings.” Hendryx said that like most other studies this one is limited in respect to a lack of direct environmental quality data. “We don’t know exactly how this affects the air and water,” he said. “That’s one of the big next steps – to collect that data and relate it to human health.” Zullig said that because this study was a county-by-county analysis it is still a crude estimate and the numbers could actually be underrepresented. “The effects of mountaintop mining could actually be much stronger among populations adjacent to these mining sites,” he said. “A zip code analysis might help us isolate the effects a bit more.” The study appears in the May issue of the “American Journal of Public Health.”   [...]

Grad student seeks clues to fungal exposure

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Fungal infections can be dangerous to people with compromised immune systems. They’re also a hazard for workers in agriculture and other occupations where long-term exposure to molds and other fungi can lead to allergies or trigger allergic reactions. Ajay Nayak, a Ph.D. student in the Immunology and Microbial Pathogenesis graduate program in the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is helping researchers at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) develop an early-warning system for exposure to specific disease-producing fungi. NIOSH operates a major research facility on the University’s Health Sciences campus. Collaborations between WVU faculty and NIOSH researchers provide opportunities for students at WVU to participate in federal health and safety research. NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related illnesses and injuries. Nayak’s research mentor, Donald Beezhold, Ph.D., is the chief of the Allergy and Clinical Immunology branch at NIOSH. Together, they are working to develop biomarkers that can help identify fungal exposure among workers. The biomarkers could also help physicians diagnose the fungal infections that often develop among patients undergoing cancer treatments that suppress the immune system. “Conceptually, biomarkers are something that possibly relate to the cause of a disease,” Nayak said. “So when it comes to a fungal exposure or a fungal disease, we look for something that the fungus produces, such as a toxin or an allergen, something that can specifically identify that fungus. That is the biomarker.” Nayak is working with the mold Aspergillus terreus and trying to identify proteins as biomarkers for diagnosis of fungal infections. “It’s important to identify this fungus early, because the infections it causes are resistant to first line anti-fungal treatments,” he said. “These infections can be fatal.” So far, the studies have led to development of highly specific monoclonal antibodies to Aspergillus terreus. “Since it is expressed during early growth it may be available as an early stage biomarker for infectious disease. In addition, we have developed monoclonal antibodies to several other proteins that are actively secreted by this fungus which also hold diagnostic value,” he said. Nayak says the dynamic research environment at NIOSH is adding to his educational experience at WVU. “In Dr. Beezhold’s laboratory, I have cherished the experience of working with people of different scientific and cultural backgrounds. Rarely do you get to work in an environment with representation from each of the continents. I have always felt secure and comfortable working in this environment and that has contributed significantly in our success. We have published several articles in peer reviewed journals and are getting ready to submit a few more,” he said.   [...]

HSC students to participate in Chick-fil-A Kid’s Fair

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Students representing all the schools from West Virginia University Health Sciences plan on donating their time to Chick-fil-A during an upcoming Kid’s Fair.  It is not likely students will be serving up tasty chicken and waffle fries, but will be there providing children with smiles and helping give hope to those in need.  The Chick-fil-A located on Patteson Drive will be holding a Kid’s Fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 7.  Children who attend will be able to participate in various fun and educational events.  All the activities will be free; however, Chick-fil-A is asking that participants bring one canned food item per adult or child that will go to Bartlett House, a Morgantown shelter for homeless individuals and families. Dental hygiene student Anna Dickens explained, “We have chosen Bartlett House as the recipient of this year’s fund raiser because we are aware of their limited funding.” Dickens also emphasized that other than food donations, “There are many things that they require such as funding for maintenance, renovations, cleaning, other non-food products and the other services they provide.” Students have already raised $500 through a change drive and raffle. Health Sciences Chancellor Christopher Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., has promised to match that donation. The School of Dentistry will be providing information on dental health as well as handing out toothbrushes. Students from the School of Medicine have planned health related games.  Students from the Medical Technology, Pharmacy, Nursing, Public Health and Exercise Physiology programs at WVU will also be participating. Students will also be hosting a cake walk that will include prizes from local bakeries.    Other activities and participants include a story time sponsored by the Morgantown Public Library; fingerprinting at the DARE van; a display about donating blood from the American Red Cross; Monongalia Country Sheriff’s Department; and a fire truck from the Star City Volunteer Fire Department.   [...]

Informed, frank discussion key to dialysis decision

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No one can dispute the value of dialysis as a life-saving treatment for those whose kidneys can no longer function on their own. Short of transplant surgery, the process is universally viewed as the next best option for prolonging life. However, just as some hopeful kidney recipients can be deemed unsuitable transplant candidates, some older End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patients with other existing serious health problems may find dialysis marginally beneficial at best. Alvin H. Moss, M.D., professor in the West Virginia University Section of Nephrology and director of the Center for Health Ethics and Law, chaired the workgroup of the Renal Physicians Association (RPA) that recently updated its the recommendations for doctors treating ESRD patients. The RPA guide encourages straightforward discussion about the benefits and harms of dialysis treatments. The guidelines for discussion could also be adapted to other serious medical conditions where a positive treatment outcome is highly unlikely. Difficult but necessary questions should be raised, said Dr. Moss. He urges fellow renal physicians to look to the Hippocratic Oath when counseling those over the age of 75 whose kidneys have permanently failed to function about their treatment options. “The oath states, ‘be of benefit and do no harm,’” Moss said. “We don’t want to put people through a lot of pain and suffering if it’s not going to help them live.” Since the passage of the 1972 Medicare Reform Act, most ESRD patients whose kidneys have permanently failed to function have received Medicare coverage for dialysis services regardless of age. At the time, there were about 7,000 Americans undergoing dialysis treatment, all between the ages of 20 and 40 with few, if any, co-existing medical issues. According to the United States Renal Data System 2010 Annual Data Report, of the almost 400,000 patients now on dialysis, 60 percent have diabetes and congestive heart failure, and 80 percent of dialysis patients have high blood pressure. Adjusting for age, sex and race, the risk of death from any cause in dialysis patients is seven times higher than for individuals in the general population. The average survival for a dialysis patient is a little over three years, with about 39 percent surviving five years. “Kidney specialists are pushing doctors to be more forthright with elderly people who have other serious medical conditions,” Moss said. “It’s up to physicians to tell the patients that even though they are entitled to dialysis, they may want to decline such treatment because of the suffering involved and the fact that they may not live any longer even with dialysis treatments.” Moss emphasizes that the decision to judge whether or not treatment is appropriate should be based on the patient’s values and overall condition, ultimately resting with the individual and his or her medical caregiver. As uncomfortable as the conversation can be, joint decision-making is proving to have medical benefits of its own. “Medical treatment is provided one patient at a time in good doctor-patient relationships,” said Moss. “In the last few years, medical research has clearly shown the following benefits of end-of-life discussions by doctors with patients who have a poor prognosis due to advanced cancer or heart, lung, or kidney failure: better patient quality of life, less patient depression, less unwanted aggressive medical care, earlier referral to hospice, lower medical costs and better bereavement adjustment by the family.” For the RPA’s complete 2010 recommendations, visit www.renalmd.org. To learn more about this and other ethical issues pertaining to healthcare, please visit http://wvethics.org.   [...]

WVU Healthcare celebrates Nurses Week

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Healthcare, which employs more than 1,700 nurses, will celebrate National Nurses Week with a variety of activities and events beginning on Friday, May 6. “Nurses Week is a designated time to reflect and appreciate everything the nurses do to provide the best professional quality care,” Dottie Oakes, M.S.N., WVU Hospitals vice president and chief nursing officer, said. “Patients trust and respect nurses and depend on them to be their advocate. This is an opportunity to recognize those nurses who do an outstanding job.” Events kick off with a film festival featuring the premiere of the video “Nurses – Trusted to Care,” which features WVU Healthcare nurses sharing their personal stories. Other activities include an education fair and a food drive benefiting Project MUSHROOM (Multidisciplinary UnSheltered Homeless Relief Outreach Of Morgantown), a WVU School of Medicine program. In addition, there will be gift basket giveaways for nursing employees throughout the week, and the Friends Gift Shop will offer a one day scrub sale on Monday, May 9. Nurses Week starts on May 6 and ends on May 12, which is Florence Nightengale’s birthday. The history of Nurses Week dates back to 1953, and in 1982, President Ronald Reagan proclaimed May 6 to be “National Recognition Day for Nurses.” In 1990, the American Nurses Association Board of Directors expanded the day to a week-long celebration, and in 1993 May 6-12 were declared as the permanent dates to observe National Nurses Week.   [...]

Bonnie’s Bus to offer mammograms in Parsons and Belington

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bonnie’s Bus, a digital mammography center on wheels, will visit Tucker and Barbour counties, offering digital mammograms and breast care education to women. A service of WVU Healthcare, Bonnie’s Bus will be at the St. George Medical Clinic in Parsons from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10 and Wednesday, May 11. It will then stop at Belington Community Medical Services from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, May 12.   The mammograms are billed to insurance, Medicaid or Medicare if available. Mammograms for women who do not have insurance will be covered by the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program or through a special grant from the Susan B. Komen for the Cure Foundation. A physician’s order is needed for a mammogram. For a Bonnie’s Bus appointment in Parsons call the St. George Medical Clinic at 304-478-3339. For an appointment at Belington Community Medical Services call 304-823-2800. Last year, Bonnie’s Bus made 65 visits in 30 counties throughout West Virginia providing mammography screening to nearly 800 women. About half of those screened were medically underserved and from challenged socio-economic backgrounds and qualified for screening through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. The goal for this year is to screen at least 1,200 women. Bonnie’s Bus works in collaboration with a statewide partnership of women’s groups, clinicians, public health professionals and other community leaders working to help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer in West Virginia. Made possible by a generous gift from West Virginia natives Jo and Ben Statler to WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, Bonnie’s Bus is operated by WVU Hospitals. The bus is named after Mrs. Statler's late mother, Bonnie Wells Wilson. For information on Bonnie’s Bus, see www.wvucancer.org/bonnie. [...]

Bonnie’s Bus to offer mammograms in Man and Gilbert

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Bonnie’s Bus, a digital mammography center on wheels, will visit Southern West Virginia Health System clinics in Logan and Mingo counties this week, offering digital mammograms and breast care education to women. A service of WVU Healthcare, Bonnie’s Bus will be at the Man Clinic from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3 and in Gilbert from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4.   The mammograms are billed to insurance, Medicaid or Medicare if available. Mammograms for women who do not have insurance will be covered by the West Virginia Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program or through special grant funds. A physician’s order is needed for a mammogram. For a Bonnie’s Bus appointment at the Man Clinic call 304-583-8585. For an appointment at the Gilbert Clinic call 304-664-6270. Last year, Bonnie’s Bus made 65 visits in 30 counties throughout West Virginia providing mammography screening to nearly 800 women. About half of those screened were medically underserved and from challenged socio-economic backgrounds and qualified for screening through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Program. The goal for this year is to screen at least 1,200 women. Bonnie’s Bus works in collaboration with a statewide partnership of women’s groups, clinicians, public health professionals and other community leaders working to help reduce the number of deaths from breast cancer in West Virginia. Made possible by a generous gift from West Virginia natives Jo and Ben Statler to WVU’s Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center, Bonnie’s Bus is operated by WVU Hospitals. The bus is named after Mrs. Statler's late mother, Bonnie Wells Wilson. For information on Bonnie’s Bus, see www.wvucancer.org/bonnie. Attention reporters and editors: If you are interested in covering Bonnie’s Bus when it visits your area, please call the HSC News Service in Morgantown at 304-293-7087 in advance. Out of respect for patient privacy, please do not show up at the location without scheduling an appropriate time for interviews and/or photos. [...]

WVU Children’s Hospital recognized for excellence in lactation care

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University Children’s Hospital has been recognized by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE) and the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) for excellence in lactation care. To receive the International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) Care Award, organizations must have the board certified consultants and provide a lactation program that is available five to seven days a week for breastfeeding families. They must also demonstrate that they have provided recent breastfeeding training for medical staff that cares for new families and complete activities that help protect, promote and support breastfeeding. “This recognition highlights the efforts being made by maternity facilities all across the world to help mothers get off to a good start with breastfeeding and to support them in reaching their goals,” Cathy Carothers, president of ILCA, said. “IBCLCs have the only internationally recognized lactation credential in the world and are highly skilled in helping mothers with the questions and concerns that can arise. They are also an important part of the overall maternal and child health team by assuring that evidence-based policies and practices are in place that help mothers succeed with breastfeeding.” IBCLCs focus on preventive care, so they are available during pregnancy to assess the mother and provide information on breastfeeding. They continue that assistance after the baby is born by helping mothers latch their babies appropriately and answering their questions and continue supporting them as their baby grows. They assist mothers returning to work or school and help mothers in more unusual situations such as breastfeeding more than one baby, nursing a sick or premature infant and dealing with other challenges. As allied healthcare professionals, IBCLCs work in hospitals, clinics, public health agencies, private practice, community settings, government agencies and in research. There are currently more than 22,000 IBCLCs in 81 countries worldwide that are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners under the direction of the U.S. National Commission for Certifying Agencies. “Not only are we honored to receive this award, but more importantly, we are proud to be able to provide this service to new mothers and families, who can rest assured that they will receive the quality care they need and deserve when their babies are born,” Cheryl Jones, R.N., director of WVU Children’s Hospital, said. In addition to finding IBCLCs at WVU Children’s Hospital, mothers can also find an IBCLC near them by visiting the ILCA website at www.ilca.org. Follow the “Find a Lactation Consultant” link and search for an IBCLC by postal code, city and state or country.   [...]

Chris Martin, M.D., to lead international efforts at WVU Health Sciences

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Chris Martin, M.D., associate professor in the West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine and director of the Institute of Occupational and Environmental Health (IOEH), has been named director of international programs for WVU Health Sciences. “Our recently adopted strategic plan includes a goal to establish national and global collaborations to enhance our faculty, staff and student experiences,” said Christopher Colenda, M.D., M.P.H., chancellor for health sciences at West Virginia University, who made the appointment. “I believe that Dr. Martin will not only help us to achieve that goal but will help WVU become a leader in global health education.” Dr. Martin will work with the deans and faculty of the schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and the future School of Public Health to coordinate existing and proposed international health programs. “This position affords me the opportunity to combine my two great passions: education and international work. It’s not often that you get to combine two passions in one job,” Martin said. Martin believes that as a world-class facility, WVU should not only provide learning experiences for its students in other parts of the world, but it should also be a place that attracts the best and brightest faculty and students who are looking to teach and learn at a premiere institution. “I had the opportunity as a first-year medical student to travel to Africa. I think when you’re afforded an opportunity like that early on, it is life altering. It truly is,” he said. “Those experiences forever motivate you throughout your professional life.” Faculty members from all four Health Sciences schools lead educational missions to various parts of the world. For example, the School of Medicine’s Global Health Program, under the direction of Melanie Fisher, M.D., has formal student/faculty exchange agreements with institutions in Barbuda, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Italy, Peru and Mexico. WVU is also the key academic partner of Oman Medical College, which was established to bring U.S.-style medical and pharmacy education to students from that country and across the Middle East.  “We have many dedicated faculty and students whose individual efforts have led to amazing work throughout the world,” Martin said. “My goal is to better coordinate the great work that’s happening in all of our schools.” A native of Canada, Martin obtained his medical degree from Memorial University of Newfoundland and completed his residency training in occupational medicine at the University of Alberta. He joined the WVU faculty in 1999. A specialist in occupational allergic disorders, metal toxicology and occupational cancer, his interests include training medical students, practicing physicians and residents in public health. He is board certified in occupational medicine in both the United States and Canada. Martin’s new assignment is a part-time position that he will occupy in addition to his current responsibilities.   [...]