WVU Medicine Cabinet News Stories
Get the latest health news delivered to you.

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.   [...]

WVU to host nation’s first Gold Humanism Week

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Although the culture of healthcare is one centered on learning, researching and applying science, the true practice is an art form. In hopes of stimulating discussion about humanism in healthcare, the West Virginia University Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society will host the nation’s first ever Gold Humanism Week Feb. 14-18. “As the only Gold Humanism Honor Society in the state of West Virginia, we have taken our charge to promote humanistic qualities in healthcare professionals quite seriously,” Norman D. Ferrari III, M.D., senior associate dean for student services at the WVU School of Medicine said. “By setting aside a week with multiple activities we also hope to promote a greater inter-professional dialogue with our colleagues in the other Health Sciences programs. There should be an activity of interest for everyone during the week.” Dr. Ferrari is also a founding member of the WVU Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society. Acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin will officially sign a proclamation declaring Feb. 14-18 as Gold Humanism Week on Feb. 11. The week will feature a lecture series, the HeART of Gold art contest, Cans for Caritas food drive and the launch of the Golden Student Star Program. “Humanism should be present in all aspects of healthcare but is something that we are not always formally taught in training. Gold Humanism Week is designed to give students and all members of the HSC family an opportunity to learn more about humanism and celebrate the great things we already do at WVU,” Lisa Costello, president of the WVU chapter and member of the School of Medicine Class of 2011, said. The lecture series will kick off at noon on Feb. 14 when Jame Abraham, M.D., section chief of Hematology and Oncology at WVU, presents “Medicine: A Silent Art in the iPhone Age!” in the Health Sciences Center’s Fukushima Auditorium (Room 1901). Mark Wicclair, Ph.D., professor of philosophy at WVU and bioethicist at the University of Pittsburgh, will present “House, M.D. and Paternalism” from 5 to 6 p.m. on Feb. 15 in Room 1905 in the WVU Health Sciences Center. A screening of the short documentary “Rolling” by Gretchen Berland, M.D., filmmaker and assistant professor at the Yale University School of Medicine, will be held from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 in the Fukushima Auditorium. Pizza will be served. Josh Dower, M.D., assistant professor and palliative care physician at WVU, will present “Nurturing Humanism Through the Healing Arts of Palliative Care,” from noon to 12:50 p.m. on Feb. 17 in Room 1905 in the Health Sciences Center. The final lecture and highlight of the series will be held at noon on Feb. 18 in the Fukushima Auditorium. Arthur Ross III, M.D., dean of the WVU School of Medicine, will host a panel discussion called “Humanism in Healthcare.” Panel members include Shelia Price, D.D.S., associate dean for admissions, recruitment and access at the WVU School of Dentistry; Clark Ridgway, R.Ph., assistant dean of student services at the WVU School of Pharmacy; Elisabeth “Betty” Shelton, Ph.D., associate dean for undergraduate academic affairs at the WVU School of Nursing; and Dr. Ferrari. The inaugural HeART of Gold art contest will be held to provide a means to express art in healthcare. Submissions in the form of drawings, photography, painting, essay, poetry, sculpture or other form of art that expresses humanism in healthcare will be accepted from any members of the WVU Health Sciences community. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 11. Submissions can be sent to wvuheartofgold@gmail.com. First prize is a $100 Barnes and Noble gift card; the runner up will receive a $50 gift card. The Golden Student Star Program is designed to recognize Health Sciences students who go out of their way to help others. The program allows members of the HSC and WVU Healthcare communities to nominate students who display humanism in their daily actions. Each month, a selection committee will choose a Golden Student Star. That person will be recognized with a golden star lapel pin and an announcement on the School of Medicine’s website. The winner and runner up of the art contest and the first recipient of the Golden Student Star will be announced at the Feb. 18 lecture in the Fukushima Auditorium. A Cans for Caritas service drive will be going on for the entire week. Cans and toiletry items can be dropped off at the School of Medicine Office of Student Services and at the entrance of each lecture. Caritas House, located in Morgantown, is an AIDS service organization. “We hope that the HSC family and the rest of WVU community will join us for this celebration of humanism in healthcare,” Allison Lastinger, vice president of the WVU chapter and member of the School of Medicine Class of 2011, said. “This is a unique opportunity for us to join together and recognize a part of healthcare that is sometimes forgotten – the care of the patient as a human being.” The mission of the Gold Humanism Honor Society is “to promote humanism and professionalism throughout the continuum of physician education from the first day in medical school until retirement from medical practice.” The WVU Chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society was established in 2008. WVU’s Gold Humanism Week is made possible by a grant from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation and support from the WVU School of Medicine. For more information on Gold Humanism Week see www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/Students/GHHS/Gold-Humanism-Week/Default.aspx.   [...]

WVU physical therapist wins award for article

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Anne Swisher, P.T., Ph.D., of the Department of Physical Therapy at West Virginia University, will be honored by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) with the 2011 Oncology Section Stephen Gudas Award for Outstanding Publication for her article on arm and shoulder problems commonly reported by breast cancer survivors.  The article represents the first collaborative research effort of the Department of Physical Therapy with the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center at WVU.  As a physical therapist, Swisher has spent her career working with people with all kinds of medical problems. Breast cancer is a new area of her research. “I know that a lot of women who’ve undergone treatment for breast cancer have problems with their arms and shoulders, and I know physical therapy can play a role in helping alleviate those problems.” Two years ago, Swisher and her research team began working with the Cancer Center to identify the problems associated with breast cancer treatment. They surveyed breast cancer survivors using questionnaires placed in the waiting area of the Cancer Center clinic. Participants were asked if they had any problem with their arms during treatment, how severe it was, and what they did about the problem. Nearly 80 women responded to the questionnaire over a nine month period, and 75 to 80 percent of them reported they had arm, shoulder and hand problems during their treatment.  Only one-third said they had received any rehabilitation. “That showed us that there are common problems among breast cancer survivors and that they aren’t being dealt with,” Swisher said. A subsequent study headed by Swisher involved surveying physical therapists throughout West Virginia to see if they felt prepared and comfortable treating breast cancer patients. “Most of them said they had the skills and were comfortable with that, but added that they seldom see those kinds of patients.” That study is pending publication. Swisher is working with Jame Abraham, M.D., head of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Program, and Hannah Hazard, M.D., a breast cancer surgeon at WVU, to see breast cancer patients who’ve had mastectomies and who could benefit from physical therapy. She tailors exercise plans for them, and if they need extended therapy, she refers them to a physical therapist in their community. “As soon as a patient is diagnosed with cancer they are a survivor," Swisher said. "We want to help them have the best quality of life during and after treatment, and the rehabilitation aspect fits in with that.” The idea to have the Department of Physical Therapy collaborate with the WVU Cancer Center in research originated with Scot Remick, M.D., director of the Center. “I thank Scot for his vision in seeing the potential involved with collaborations and the whole issue of survivorship,” MaryBeth Mandich, P.T., Ph.D., chair the Department of Physical Therapy at WVU, said. “By maximizing our strengths, we have received a nationally recognized award and created an opportunity to really better serve individuals who are treated at the Center.” “I congratulate Anne on her achievement and look forward to building on our collaborations with the Department of Physical Therapy,” Remick said. “It is one of many disciplines at WVU that we hope to engage in collaborative research initiatives with the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center.” The article, “Frequency and Severity of Self-Reported Upper Extremity Impairments, Activity Limitations and Participation Restrictions Following Breast Cancer Treatment,” appeared in “Rehabilitation Oncology” – the APTA’s official journal that focuses on the rehabilitation of cancer patients. Mia Erickson, P.T., Ed.D., also from WVU’s Department of Physical Therapy, is co-author.   [...]

WVU Pharmacy professor receives national award

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Betsy Elswick, Pharm.D., is passionate about educating student pharmacists to become leaders in the profession, and she in turn leads by example. Dr. Elswick, clinical associate professor in the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy Department of Clinical Pharmacy, has been recognized by the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) for her work in educating important stakeholders in the state about the role of pharmacists and the profession of pharmacy with the APhA Good Government Pharmacist-of-the-Year award. The award honors pharmacists who are actively involved in professional advocacy and leadership efforts in order to better their community. “I am humbled to be recognized by my peers and colleagues with this distinguished award.  However, the award represents the work of many, including my student pharmacists, who strive to improve our profession and ultimately the lives of our patients every day,” Elswick said.  Elswick served as a member of an ad-hoc committee to the West Virginia Board of Pharmacy that was dedicated to finalizing the rules allowing pharmacists to provide immunizations in the state of West Virginia. Elswick inspired her students to get involved in the legislative process and educate legislators about the importance of pharmacists being able to provide these services to the community. Because of these efforts, in March 2008, West Virginia became the 48th state to allow pharmacists to provide certain types of vaccinations. Elswick is currently working with important stakeholders in the state including the West Virginia Boards of Pharmacy and Medicine to provide feedback on revisions to West Virginia’s Pharmacy Practice Act, a document that outlines rules and regulations for practicing the profession of pharmacy in the state.  Elswick serves as director of the WVU-Rite Aid Community Pharmacy Practice Residency, the co-chair for the WVU School of Pharmacy Wigner Institute for Advanced Pharmacy Practice, Education and Research and as the president of the West Virginia Pharmacists Association (WVPA). In 2010, she also received the Bowl of Hygeia award for outstanding community service and the National Community Pharmacists Association Leadership award. She currently serves as program faculty for the APhA Immunization Certification, a program in which she has trained approximately 300 pharmacists in the state of West Virginia to provide adult immunizations. Elswick will be presented with the Good Government Pharmacist-of-the-Year award during the APhA 2011 Annual Meeting and Exposition in March in Seattle, Wash. As part of the award, she will receive an American flag that has been flown over the U.S. Capitol.   [...]

Healthy fun for the young

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – It's clear that American children aren't participating in the same healthy activities in their everyday lives as they used to. Playing video games and munching fast food have taken over riding bikes and eating healthy food. To help kids learn to make healthier choices, second-year students at the West Virginia University School of Pharmacy hope to educate members of Big Brothers Big Sisters on how being active and healthy can also be fun. The WVU student pharmacists will be hosting a kid’s health fair at the WVU Student Recreation Center on Saturday, Feb. 5, from noon to 3 p.m. The “Be Active, Eat Right, Have Fun!” event will offer information on topics promoting different aspects of healthy living, such as tobacco awareness and nutrition. Children will also have the opportunity to participate in physical fitness activities such as climbing the rock wall and playing Wii fitness games. “Being in a healthcare field, we understand how important it is to lead a healthy lifestyle,” second-year student pharmacist Mary Ann Kuykendall said. “We hope this event will teach the kids in Big Brothers Big Sisters how important, yet fun, it is to be and get healthy.” The student pharmacists chose this activity to focus on several specific objectives of the Healthy People 2020 initiative: tobacco, fitness and nutrition. “Our goal is to provide the members of Big Brothers Big Sisters with the tools they need to make better, healthier choices,” Kuykendall said. All Big Brothers Big Sisters participants will receive educational handouts to remind them of what they learned at the health fair and goody bags that contain healthy snacks, fitness toys and T-shirts made for the event that were generously donated by Gabriel Brothers. The student pharmacists were partnered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization through the WVU Center for Civic Engagement as part of their Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) courses. The students received funding for the activity through the Mountains of Hope Cancer Coalition and UnitedHealth HEROES Youth Service of America grants. For more information about the WVU School of Pharmacy, visit www.hsc.wvu.edu/sop.   [...]

Want to stay up-to-date on the latest WVU Medicine health news?
Sign up to receive the quarterly WVU Medicine Cabinet e-newsletter