WVU Medicine Cabinet News Stories

First diaphragm pacemaker implanted at WVU

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Patients who suffer upper spinal cord injuries are often left unable to breathe on their own and require the assistance of a ventilator, sometimes for the rest of their lives. But a revolutionary procedure being performed at WVU Healthcare is helping to get patients off ventilators and on the road to recovery. An upper spinal cord injury breaks the connection between the brain and the diaphragm – the brain can no longer tell the diaphragm to contract. But for some people who suffer this type of spinal cord injury, a diaphragmatic pacemaker can be put into place to help them breathe. Just as a pacemaker for the heart helps to control the heartbeat, a diaphragmatic pacemaker stimulates the diaphragm to contract, allowing the patient to breathe. The surgical team at West Virginia University’s Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center implanted a diaphragm pacemaker on Feb. 14 in a patient who sustained spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries in a car accident in late January. Jennifer Knight, M.D., assistant professor in the WVU Department of Surgery and member of the team caring for the patient, said the patient made more progress in the day after the pacemaker implantation than in the prior three weeks of hospitalization with a ventilator. Most patients who could be candidates for the diaphragm pacemaker come into the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center during the summer months when ATV accidents and diving accidents occur more frequently, Dr. Knight said. She anticipates that there are other patients in similar situations who are treated at other facilities in the state who could benefit from this procedure. “West Virginians who are candidates for diaphragm pacemaker implantation don’t have to go to Baltimore or Cleveland to have the procedure done,” Knight said. “We’re doing it right here in their own backyards.” In order to move to a nursing or rehabilitation facility, patients cannot be dependant on a ventilator for breathing. The use of the pacemaker allows patients who wouldn’t be able to come off the ventilator to take the next step in their treatment. In addition, the cost of using the pacemaker versus the cost of being hooked up to a ventilator is tremendously less expensive. Knight said the batteries for the pacemaker cost about $20 to replace every three weeks whereas it can cost upwards of $500,000 for a patient to remain on a ventilator for a year. “For the patients who will benefit from this, it is life changing. Your life is totally different when you’re not hooked to a machine,” Knight said. The device, NeuRx DPS is currently being used in less than 35 cities nationwide, according to its manufacturer, Synapse Biomedical. For more information on the device, see www.synapsebiomedical.com. For more information on the Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center see http://wvuhealthcare.com/hospitals/jmm-trauma-center.   [...]

WVU students put on their dancing shoes for WVU Children’s Hospital

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University students will be putting their dancing feet to the test Feb. 26 and 27 at the Mountainlair during the 2011 Dance Marathon, benefiting the WVU Children’s Hospital. The event lasts 18 hours, most of which will be spent dancing to raise money. Volunteers will also provide the dancers with other forms of entertainment, including games and refreshments. Former patients of WVU Children’s Hospital will stop by and allow the dancers a chance to visit with people similar to the ones they are helping. “We really appreciate all the students who organize and participate in the Dance Marathon each year. Eighteen hours is a long time to dance, so these students are working really hard to help us out, and we are very grateful for their efforts,” Cheryl Jones, R.N., director of WVU Children’s Hospital, said. Last year the student-organized event raised more than $30,000 through contributions and support from the community and pledge sponsors. This will be the 13th year the WVU Children’s Hospital has partnered with the Children’s Miracle Network to host the Dance Marathon. This year’s theme is “Dr. Seuss: One Kid, Two Kids, We Dance for All Kids.”  Any business or individual interested in underwriting the event should contact Lora Edgell, Children’s Miracle Network director, at 304-598-4346 ext. 2. For more information about the WVU Dance Marathon, including information on donating, see http://www.helpmakemiracles.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.eventDetails&eventID=761.   [...]

WVU research featured on journal cover

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A West Virginia University research study that made headlines in 2010 is the cover story in the latest issue (Feb. 15) of the “American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.” The cover – a montage of three maps of West Virginia showing the distribution of rural areas in the state – is taken from data collected as a part of a landmark WVU study on asthma and obesity in nearly 18,000 children. “West Virginia is now officially ‘on the map’ of leading respiratory research,” said Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., chairman of WVU Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at WVU Children’s Hospital, who led the study. The journal, he said, is the top-ranked academic publication in respiratory science. Children of any weight who have an imbalanced metabolism due to poor diet or exercise may be at increased risk of asthma, according to new research at WVU. The findings challenge the widespread assumption that obesity itself is a risk factor for asthma. When the journal released the paper online in September 2010, the surprising results were featured on news and health websites around the world. “Our research showed that early abnormalities in lipid and/or glucose metabolism may be associated to the development of asthma in childhood,” said Dr. Piedimonte. “Our findings also imply a strong and direct influence of metabolic pathways on the immune mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of asthma in children.” “The key takeaway message for parents is this: there’s one more good reason to make sure your children eat healthy and exercise,” WVU pediatric researcher Lesley Cottrell, Ph.D., said. “Even healthy-looking children can be at higher risk for asthma if they are sedentary and have a poor diet.” The article, “Metabolic Abnormalities in Children with Asthma,” was authored by Drs. Cottrell and Piedimonte, along with William Neal, M.D., Christa Ice, Ph.D., Miriam Perez, M.D., all of the WVU Department of Pediatrics and Pediatric Research Institute.   [...]

WVU professor named Fulbright Specialist

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A Fulbright Specialist grant will send West Virginia University Occupational Therapy Associate Professor Anne F. Cronin, Ph.D., to the University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, to help university faculty design a new undergraduate degree program for occupational therapists. Though home to a large, modern medical school, there are few training opportunities for occupational therapists in that country, according to Dr. Cronin, who travels to Sri Lanka in May. “They have a tentative curriculum, but it is heavily medical,” Cronin said. “I have been asked to help them build a curriculum that reflects excellence in occupational therapy. There is only one other educational program training occupational therapists in Sri Lanka, and it is a technical program that does not include a bachelor’s or master’s degree.” Fulbright Specialist award recipients are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, and Cronin will be one of about 400 select United States university faculty and professionals traveling abroad through the program. The Specialist grant was created 10 years ago to complement the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program. Through these short-term academic opportunities, the work of Fulbright grantees supports curricular and faculty development and institutional planning at post-secondary academic institutions around the world. The Fulbright Program, America’s flagship international educational exchange activity, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Over its 60 years of existence, more than 285,000 emerging leaders in their professional fields have received Fulbright awards, including individuals who later became heads of government, Nobel Prize winners and leaders in education, business, journalism, the arts and other fields. Cronin is honored to be included among them. “After being surprised, I was excited,” Cronin said. “There are a lot of people in West Virginia whose families came from the Indian subcontinent. When we talk about supporting diversity as we train clinical practitioners, experience with issues commonly addressed by occupational therapists as they interface with these cultures will make me a better teacher and clinician.”   [...]

Flu season not over yet, doctors say

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – To those who track infectious diseases, it doesn’t matter that groundhog Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year. Regardless of weather forecasts, doctors say flu season is likely to last another several weeks. Though fluctuating temperatures don’t affect flu resistance in people, the unpredictable weather of late winter and early spring can cause biological changes in viruses, said Todd Crocco, M.D., chair of the West Virginia University Department of Emergency Medicine. Basically, healthier viruses mean more unhealthy people. West Virginia emergency rooms are welcoming a steady flow of patients displaying influenza symptoms, and flu virus infections are now at widespread levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, current case estimates are somewhat based on a little well-educated guessing, Dr. Crocco said. “We’re seeing maybe 10-12 suspected flu cases a day, but it’s hard to pinpoint exact numbers because many cases are presumed. It’s not always practical to test,” explained Crocco. “We often have to say, ‘Look, let’s assume you have it, because you have all the symptoms.’ And treat from there.” Crocco said there is usually an uptick in the number of presenting cases at this time of year, and the rising number of cases began around the start of February. “These things normally run about a six-to-eight-week stretch before we see cases really decrease,” he said. “We’re not quite halfway there.” Influenza testing is routine with more high-risk patients who display symptoms, such as the elderly, the chronically ill and the very young. Diagnosed flu cases in these groups are up this season, Crocco said. Crocco said the media attention devoted to H1N1 (swine flu) in the fall of 2009 greatly increased the number of flu shot recipients. Even though the swine flu vaccination was initially needed in addition to the regular seasonal flu shot, people made an effort to receive both – and the traditional late winter flu season saw less cases than usual. According to Rashida Khakoo, M.D., section chief of Infectious Diseases at WVU, this season’s vaccine was formulated to protect against three influenza strains, including H1N1. Khakoo said swine flu (H1N1) cases account for about half of this year’s cases, and that even late in the season, people should do all they can to avoid contracting the virus. A key preventive measure is getting a flu shot, which are still available from most doctors’ offices, pharmacies and health departments. In addition, you can prevent the spread of flu by taking a few simple but effective extra measures: •    Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. •    Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. •    Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way. •    Try to avoid close contact with sick people. •    If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) •    While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. “We cannot get complacent,” said Dr. Khakoo. “We need to continue preventive strategies.”   [...]

Gift brings kids’ vision into focus in southern W. Va.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The West Virginia University Eye Institute has received more than $50,000 in funding from Hugh I. Shott, Jr. Foundation in support of the its children’s vision services in southern West Virginia. The $50,720 grant supports the Eye Institute’s Children’s Vision Rehabilitation Program (CVRP), which provides blind and visually impaired school-aged children with tools to become independent and employable by optimizing visual function both at home and school. CVRP's mission is to provide access to the visual environment for children with incurable vision loss through medical eye care, optical devices, assistive technology, educational recommendations and support to local school systems. Children receive the clinic’s services regardless of their family’s ability to pay. The Shott Foundation was established in 1984 to help improve the social and economic quality of life in both Mr. Shott’s hometown of Bluefield, W.Va., and the state. The foundation has a long history of support for the WVU Eye Institute, predating Shott’s death in 1986. As Shott and his father each experienced vision problems, he felt the Eye Institute was deserving of his financial support. “Mr. Shott’s father was technically blind, and he himself had problems with his eyesight late in life. Because of this and the fact that his late wife, Jane McDermott Shott, was from Morgantown, Mr. Shott wanted to do something at West Virginia University to attract quality physicians to the Eye Institute,” R.W. Wilkinson, president of the Shott Foundation, said. “The Eye Institute has expanded its CVRP services in southern West Virginia, and we are pleased to help them move closer to Bluefield this year to provide eye care for children whose families cannot afford quality treatment.” “The support from this foundation will allow children with low vision and blindness opportunities and support to improve education, independence and better quality of life,” Rebecca Coakley, CVRP director, said. Each year, the WVU Eye Institute sees approximately 31,000 patients from all 55 counties in West Virginia at its Morgantown facility and various outreach clinics around the state. The Eye Institute’s patient care provides diagnosis, treatment and care for specialized medical and surgical vision conditions and diseases that without attention, could sometimes lead to long-term vision loss.   [...]

Governor signs proclamation declaring February HSTA Month

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – In a month where a special day is set aside to celebrate those we love, the state of West Virginia is showing a little love to the Health Sciences and Technology Academy (HSTA) at West Virginia University. Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a proclamation on Feb. 4 officially declaring February as HSTA Month. “We are thrilled to receive this honor. This program was built in West Virginia by West Virginians for West Virginians, so it’s very rewarding to be recognized by the state,” Ann Chester, Ph.D., HSTA director and assistant vice president for social justice at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center, said. Founded in 1994, HSTA is a community-based science and math program that encourages ninth through 12th graders in rural areas to pursue higher education. The goal of the program is to increase the number of African-American and other underrepresented high school students in West Virginia who pursue higher education and to increase the number of health practitioners in medically underserved communities in West Virginia. Students who complete the HSTA program and maintain a 3.0 grade point average earn a tuition waiver from any West Virginia state-run college. “Through HSTA, our students and alumni are building a better tomorrow by improving our education, our lifestyles, our health literacy and our communities today,” Dr. Chester said. “The program encourages aspirations, opens doors, and empowers minority and underrepresented students and communities.” The HSTA partnership brings students and teachers to campuses each summer for laboratory and classroom training and activities. It then provides the infrastructure and support for community-based science projects mentored by scientists, teachers, health professionals, students and volunteer community leaders during the school year. Over the last three years, HSTA students have worked to build a database that pinpoints the specific health needs of their families and communities while revealing issues that must be addressed. Students in 26 counties gathered more than 2,200 surveys during the course of the research project. “This is grassroots healthcare reform that communities can begin now with little cost and with the potential for gigantic savings in healthcare,” Chester said. “What we are doing is giving the communities back their information analyzed and communicated in such a way that it allows citizens to team together to invent and design plans to address their health needs that are based on the actual research from their area.” For more information on HSTA, see www.wv-hsta.org.   [...]

Love your heart

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – When you think of the month of February, you may think of cupids, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and Valentine’s Day messages. Students from the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy are also promoting a message of love — love your heart. In honor of American Heart Month, the student pharmacists will be providing a seminar on Heart Health at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17 to the residents of The Village at Heritage Point. Hannah Chambers, Pharm.D., a pharmacy resident at WVU Healthcare, will present information on common heart diseases, the signs of these diseases — that if noticed, could save your life — and how these signs differ between men and women. Dr. Chambers will also discuss blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as different ways to keep your heart healthy. Residents will be able to participate in a question and answer session with a panel of experts, led by Betsy Elswick, Pharm.D., clinical associate professor at the WVU School of Pharmacy. They will also have a chance to try various brands of blood pressure monitors and learn more about over-the-counter medications, general information about prescription medications and how to communicate with both their doctor and pharmacist. “We often ignore taking care of our hearts because we don’t see or think we are in any urgent danger, but heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.,” second-year pharmacy student Jordan McPherson said. “Part of the problem is not knowing what can be done to prevent it. It’s important to talk to your doctor and local pharmacist for information on healthy habits, common medications and warning signs for heart disease.” Through educating The Village at Heritage Point community members about heart health, the student pharmacists hope to reinforce the objectives of Healthy People 2020, a nationwide initiative that aims to improve the public’s health by working towards various objectives, including the health of older adults and heart disease, over the next 10 years. The student pharmacists were partnered with The Village at Heritage Point through the WVU Center for Civic Engagement as part of their Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience course, which promotes service to the community.   [...]

Former WVU wrestler to speak about the dangers of alcohol abuse

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A former member of the West Virginia University wrestling team will return to campus on Feb. 17 to talk about the dangers of alcohol abuse and appreciating the little things in life – lessons he unfortunately had to learn the hard way. Mike Wojcik, a 2007 graduate of WVU with a degree in physical education and health, was preparing to start his career as a middle school teacher when he was involved in an ATV accident. He was the passenger on the ATV, and both he and the driver had been drinking. Neither was wearing an appropriate helmet when the ATV crashed into a tree. Wojcik suffered severe head trauma and internal injuries. After months of physical therapy and rehabilitation, he was able to regain some functioning. He is still unable to eat or speak without assistance and has limited use of his left hand. Since his accident, Wojcik has become committed to telling his story through the use of technology and multimedia in the hopes that others will not make similar mistakes. In addition to speaking on college campuses, he maintains an internet blog (www.messagefrommike.webs.com) and is working on a book about his struggles. “We hope that Mike’s moving story will emphasize the importance of safety and responsibility when making the decision to drink alcohol,” Ruth Kershner, Ed.D., professor in the WVU Department of Community Medicine and alcohol educator for the WVU School of Medicine, said. Wojcik’s presentation will begin at 7 p.m. in the Mountainlair Ballroom. The event is sponsored by the WVU Department of Community Medicine, the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, the WVU Office of Student Affairs, WVU Greek Life, WELL WVU and the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program.   [...]