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

WVU receives grant to study nanoparticles in the workplace

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Workplaces that have heavy equipment – construction sites, mines and garages – have employees who are potentially exposed to nanoparticles from diesel engine use. A West Virginia University researcher received a grant that will allow him and his team to study what effects those particles have on workers. Mike McCawley, Ph.D., associate research professor in the Department of Community Medicine, will use the $132,000 American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to purchase new equipment for WVU's Occupational Medicine laboratories that can reproduce industrial processes that generate nanoparticles. Nanoparticles are increasingly prevalent in consumer and industrial products, but research into the health effects of these extremely small manufactured materials is just beginning. “We can learn a lot from these traditional workplaces to predict what might be seen from emerging industries that use carbon fiber nanotubes in construction of new products that are lightweight but have high strength,” Dr. McCawley said. “We can also apply the knowledge to ambient air exposures in the general population from diesel exhaust and contaminants that may be produced as a result of the reaction of common pollutant gases, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, with oxygen in the atmosphere using sunlight as the energy source. The reaction products turn into nano-sized solid particles.” The new equipment will allow WVU to improve the training of preventive medicine health professionals. Many of those who will be trained in this lab are physicians in post-graduate training in occupational medicine.  “They are very likely to see the health effects from nanoparticle exposure in workplaces that are producing these products. By increasing their awareness of the properties of nanoparticles, we hope to prepare these doctors to detect potential health problems that may develop,” McCawley said. “They will also be better prepared to assist in developing safety measures that can prevent illness or injury from nanoparticles.” For more information on the WVU Department of Community Medicine see www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/cmed.   [...]

WVU researcher receives grant to study secondhand smoke and asthma

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A West Virginia University researcher has received a grant from the American Lung Association to study how secondhand smoke leads to asthma. “Secondhand smoke is an environmental trigger factor that leads to airway inflammation and asthma symptoms in susceptible individuals,” Zhong-Xin Wu, M.D., Ph.D., research associate in the Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program, said. “The children of women who smoke during pregnancy and immediately after giving birth are at an increased risk of experiencing respiratory illnesses later in life. Studies show that the chances of developing or worsening childhood asthma increase in children of mothers who smoke.” Dr. Wu and his team will use the $100,000 biomedical research grant to study changes in the airways caused by exposure to secondhand smoke during early life. They will focus on nerve growth factor (NGF), which is essential in promoting and maintaining growth and survival of the nervous system. Disruption of normal production and release of NGF after inhaling smoke results in changes in the airways, which leads to disease-related abnormalities in the respiratory system. The researchers will study whether secondhand smoke enhances production of NGF during pregnancy and shortly after birth and examine whether these changes cause increased susceptibility to asthma in early life and beyond into adulthood. Wu said the information to be gained from this study is particularly important in West Virginia where 27.3 percent of pregnant women smoke, compared to the national average of 10 percent. The Translational Tobacco Reduction Research Program is a joint program of the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center and the West Virginia Prevention Research Center at WVU. For more information see http://www.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/T2R2/index.asp.   [...]

WVU research disputes suicide data

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Ian Rockett, Ph.D, M.P.H., professor of epidemiology and associate chair of the West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine, isn't buying the story the suicide numbers are telling. National mortality data from WISQARS, the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, show an 18 percent decline in the suicide rate between 1987 and 2000. Dr. Rockett believes this is a serious overestimate. He also believes the 10 percent increase between 2000 and 2007, the most recent data available, is a serious underestimate. “Suicides are likely being hidden within the epidemic of prescription and nonprescription drug overdoses. Most medical examiner and coroner offices are probably nowhere near well enough resourced to properly investigate intentionality of decedents,” Rockett said. “They probably do much better with homicide than suicide because of the assistance from the police. There is no equivalent agency to the police to help medical examiners and coroners investigate possible suicides.” Rockett's research indicates that any suicide misclassification related to poisoning or drug overdose mainly affects people under age 65. “From a viewpoint of more accurately reporting the full extent of injury deaths due to self-harm in the United States, it may make sense to combine official suicides and non-suicide deaths from drug overdoses. In better measuring the true burden of self-destruction from injury, this would strengthen prevention efforts to address both suicide and drug-overdose deaths, and non-fatal self-harm as well,” he said. The good news, Rockett added, is that the suicide rate for the elderly population has dropped sharply in 20 years. “There appears to have been true major declines between 1987 and 2006 in the suicide rate for the elderly, that is, the population age 65 and older,” he said. “The suicide rate for elderly men – the group with the highest official suicide rate – declined by 35 percent. The rate decline for elderly females was even more impressive at 43 percent.” Rockett published this research in a paper titled, “Suicide and unintentional poisoning mortality trends in the United States, 1987-2006: Two unrelated phenomena?,” with three colleagues from WVU and four others from the United States and overseas. WVU researchers include Alan Ducatman, M.D., chair of Community Medicine; James Frost, M.D., Department of Pathology; and Gerry Hobbs, Ph.D., Department of Statistics. Other authors include: •    Diego De Leo, M.D., Ph.D., Griffith University, Australia •    Nestor Kapusta, M.D., Medical University of Vienna, Austria •    Steven Sack, Ph.D., Wayne State University •    Rheeda Walker, Ph.D., University of Georgia The study was published Nov. 17 in the online open-access medical journal, “BMC Public Health,” which is based in London. It can be viewed at www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1471-2458-10-705.pdf.  For more information on the WVU Department of Community Medicine see www.hsc.wvu.edu/som/cmed.   [...]

Dr. Robert Gustafson honored by Children’s Miracle Network

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Robert Gustafson, M.D., who’s known as “Dr. Gus” to his young patients at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital, has helped to save the lives of thousands of West Virginia children.  Now he’s being honored with an international award for his work as the state’s sole provider of pediatric heart surgery.   The Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) recently presented the Children’s Miracle Achievement Award to Dr. Gustafson, surgeon-in-chief at WVU Children’s Hospital and chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. He is one of three medical professionals to receive the award this year. It is given in recognition of “commitment to children’s health and the notable work they’ve made in their respective fields.” A native of Keyser, W.Va., Dr. Gustafson completed his medical education, internship and residency at WVU. Following a pediatric cardiac surgery fellowship at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, he joined the faculty at WVU in 1984. “Helping children with heart problems is a way to leave a legacy for the future,” Dr. Gustafson said. “Helping these children thrive is the best gift I can give.” In nominating him for the award, Cheryl Jones, R.N., director of WVU Children’s Hospital, said, “Dr. Gus is the cornerstone and essence of our mission to serve the children of West Virginia. Through his efforts, increasing numbers of children are able to stay in West Virginia for care. He is a visionary, whose leadership has had a positive impact on children on the state, national, and international level. In his career, he has had more than 4,200 patient discharges, including those from Africa, where he gives of his time and talent to repair the broken hearts of children.” Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., chair of the WVU Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at WVU Children’s Hospital, also wrote a letter of support for Dr. Gustafson. “His reputation is built on more than just clinical skill. He is a friend, advisor and confidante of young parents in their time of crisis,” Dr. Piedimonte wrote. “He creates lasting relationships with his patients as they grow and heal. He is a leader among our faculty, and is respected and admired by our nurses and staff.” But for Dr. Gustafson, he’s just doing his job – a job that he loves. “I tremendously enjoy the interaction with the families. There’s nothing you can do in life better than to help someone else’s child get through a major problem with the outlook that that child will be normal,” he said. “It’s a tremendous calling, and therefore, the gratitude you get from the families is what it’s all about. It’s much more than an occupation.” The award ceremony, which was presented by Delta Air Lines, took place at the Children’s Miracle Network annual Celebration event, which was held Nov. 13 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.  WVU Children's Hospital provides maternal, infant and pediatric care for West Virginia and the surrounding region, giving care to high-risk mothers, premature infants and children with life-threatening conditions through adolescence to adulthood. It is the only Children’s Miracle Network hospital in the state. For information on WVU Children's Hospital, see www.wvukids.com.   The Children's Miracle Network is a fundraising program to benefit hospitals providing healthcare for children. Created by the Osmond Foundation in 1983, the Children’s Miracle Network includes 170 hospitals throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. For information on Children's Miracle Network, see www.childrensmiraclenetwork.org. Photo caption: Robert Gustafson, M.D., accepts the 2010 Children’s Miracle Achievement Award from Ramonie Smith, 2010 Children’s Miracle Network Champion Child from Indiana.   [...]

2010 Cards of Hope collection available for purchase

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Every summer, West Virginia University Children’s Hospital throws a party and provides cancer patients, cancer survivors and their siblings the opportunity to just be kids and forget about cancer for a little while. Though the party is held during the summer, it has a winter twist – those who attend design holiday greeting cards called Cards of Hope. [...]

WVU pathology labs pass rigorous inspection

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The Clinical Laboratories at West Virginia University Hospitals have been awarded a two-year term of accreditation by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), based on the results of recent unannounced onsite inspections. Lab director Peter L. Perrotta, M.D., was congratulated for achievement of this national recognition from CAP. During the accreditation process, WVU Hospitals’ lab records and quality control procedures for the preceding two years were thoroughly examined. In addition, inspectors checked management practices and lab staff qualifications, as well as equipment, facilities and safety records. Since the early 1960s, The CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program has been recognized by the federal government as being equal to or more stringent than the government’s own inspection program. Because inspections are so comprehensive, accreditation helps achieve a consistently high level of service throughout an institution or healthcare system.   [...]

WVU students donate to Scott’s Run Settlement House

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – For their fall service learning project, students in classes through the West Virginia University Department of Community Medicine donated Thanksgiving food items to Scott’s Run Settlement House. The students are in the classes of Ruth Kershner, Ed.D., professor, and Toni Morris, instructor. Pi Beta Phi sorority also contributed to the effort. In all, the students donated more than 40 Thanksgiving meals and $700 in grocery store gift certificates. “During the holiday season tough economic times are always more apparent,” Dr. Kershner said. “These students are to be commended for the incredible generosity and kindness they have shown.” Scott’s Run Settlement House, founded in the 1920s, primarily serves in-need residents located in Monongalia County and provides more than 18 different programs.   [...]

WVU breast cancer expert selected as “Pink Tie Guy”

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University breast cancer expert Jame Abraham, M.D., has been appointed to the inaugural class of the Susan G. Komen West Virginia Chapter of Pink Tie Guys. The state affiliate named eight people in West Virginia to the elite group based on their continued dedication to fighting breast cancer. Abraham, section chief of Hematology Oncology at WVU and the first Bonnie Wells Wilson Distinguished Professor and Eminent Scholar in Breast Cancer Research, was the only physician selected. “Dr. Abraham was chosen because of his commitment to breast cancer research,” said Kim Johnson, Susan G. Komen Pink Tie Coordinator. “Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan G. Komen, she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. In 1982, that promise became Susan G. Komen for the Cure and launched the global breast cancer movement to save lives and end breast cancer forever by empowering people, ensuring quality care for all and energizing science to find the cures. We hope that Dr. Abraham will continue his efforts with research and treatment to help end breast cancer.” “I am honored and proud to be a Komen Pink Tie Guy,” said Abraham. “Komen provides major financial support both at the state and national level to the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center for WVU’s Bonnie Wells Wilson Mobile Mammography Program, which is aimed at reducing breast cancer mortality in West Virginia.  By working together, we are raising the bar on breast cancer awareness and early detection, and ultimately saving lives.” Over the next year Abraham and fellow Pink Tie Guys will serve as Komen ambassadors for breast health and represent the one in eight women who will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetimes. The Pink Tie Guys were honored and given a pink tie at Komen’s first annual Pink Tie Ball fundraiser in Charleston last month.  “Seventy five percent of the money Komen raises in West Virginia stays in West Virginia supporting local programs focused on breast health needs of medically underserved and ethnic populations,” said Johnson. “The additional 25 percent goes to the national Susan G. Komen Program for funding breast cancer research.” For more information on the West Virginia affiliate of Komen see www.komenwv.org.   [...]

Bonnie’s Bus Offers Mammograms Nov. 23 in Buffalo

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The 40-foot long Bonnie’s Bus, a digital mammography center on wheels, will visit Putnam County, offering digital mammograms and breast care education to women. A service of WVU Healthcare, Bonnie’s Bus will be at Toyota Motor Manufacturing in Buffalo from 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 23. The mammograms are not free, but billing to insurers is provided.  Women who lack insurance may be matched to government or nonprofit charities. A physician’s order is needed for a mammogram. Screenings are only open to employees and their dependents. During its first year on the road in 2009, Bonnie’s Bus travelled 9,000 miles, visited 20 counties, and provided nearly 400 mammography screenings. The goal for 2010 is to make at least 60 site visits throughout West Virginia with a focus on communities that have the highest breast cancer mortality rates.  Bonnie’s Bus represents 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.hsc.wvu.edu/mbrcc/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 and HIPAA, please do not show up at the location without scheduling an appropriate time for interviews and/or photos.   [...]

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