April 2023

Reporters locally and nationally turn to the School of Medicine for expertise and research news. Here are some examples from near and far.

Sean O’Leary, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics, told CNN in December that lower rates of routine immunizations in children during the pandemic increase the risk of outbreaks of infectious diseases. “Measles is such a contagious disease that when you see those dips [in vaccine coverage], we really worry about the potential for large outbreaks,” he said. “You need to really maintain a high vaccination coverage to keep measles from spreading.”

Cristin Welle, PhD, associate professor of neurosurgery, was quoted in The New York Times in a December article about brain implants and efforts to restore function to people with disabilities or degenerative diseases. Discussing one company’s plan to seek permission from federal regulators to test its device in humans. “They basically sourced a lot of the best ideas out there in the top of the field and paid to bring them together into a new system. And I think that is exciting. Now whether they can really surmount all of these technical hurdles to demonstrate that it is in fact safe, it remains to be seen.”

Carey Candrian, PhD, associate professor of medicine, discussed with the Colorado Sun her research on how communication can affect health outcomes, particularly for older LGBTQ people. “If you grew up in this culture — where you were really trained to stay silent about who you were — of course over the years, if you continue to have these experiences, you’re going to continue to stay silent,” Candrian said in December. “They have literally developed this habit of silence to protect themselves. But in doing so, it has caused tremendous harm to both their physical and their mental health.”

Emmy Betz, MD, MPH, professor of emergency medicine, explained on Colorado Public Radio News that mass shootings are a small percentage of deaths from firearms. “We need to be looking at what’s happening every single day in urban communities and across the country, in terms of suicide, if we really want to look at where the bulk of gun deaths are,” she said in December.

Richard Johnson, MD, professor of medicine, commented on CNN on a recent study on the importance of drinking water to lower the risk of chronic diseases. “The most impressive finding is that this risk (for chronic diseases and aging) is apparent even in individuals who have serum sodium levels that are on the upper end of the ‘normal range,’” he said in January. “This challenges the question of what is really normal, and supports the concept that as a population we are probably not drinking enough water.”

Jay Lemery, MD, professor of emergency medicine, told the Boulder Weekly in November that he attended the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Egypt to promote a better understanding of the connection between climate and health. “Our role was essentially to build connectivity and awareness of the health implications of climate change,” he said.

Lotte Dyrbye, MD, MHPE, senior associate dean of faculty and chief well-being officer, was asked by The New York Times in January about professional burnout and its impact on health and relationships. “There is an overlapping Venn diagram between burnout and depression,” she said. “If you have even an inkling of a suspicion that you’re not well, that’s what your primary care doctor is for, to help you figure that out.”

Josina Romero O’Connell, MD, assistant professor of family medicine and director of the Colorado Area Health Education Center, in January discussed with the Denver Post the center’s free health screenings at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. She said providing the service is important because self-employed ranchers, farmers, and other rural residents often live without health insurance. “The last thing they want to think about is, ‘I’ve gotta spend money to go see a doctor when I need money to keep my ranch going,’” she said.

Nanette Santoro, MD, chair of obstetrics and gynecology, was quoted in February in a New York Times Magazine article about menopausal hormone therapy. “If I weren’t my own chair, I would be called to task for not doing stuff that would make more money, like delivering babies and I.V.F.,” she said. “Family medicine generally doesn’t want to deal with this, because who wants to have a 45-minute-long conversation with somebody about the risks and benefits of hormone therapy? Because it’s nuanced and complicated.”

Christopher Knoepke, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, was interviewed by Colorado Public Radio in January in a report about the use of the Colorado’s red flag law. The law allows removal of guns from people who are considered a risk to themselves or others. “Moving firearms out of the house, and making them inaccessible to the person at risk is one of the most effective ways of preventing suicide death and injuries from self-inflicted violence,” he said.

Casey Greene, PhD, chair of biomedical informatics, was quoted in Nature in February in an article about using artificial-intelligence algorithms on research papers. When Nature asked Greene and a colleague about the potential uses of chatbots such as ChatGPT, particularly in science, their excitement was tempered with apprehension. “If you believe that this technology has the potential to be transformative, then I think you have to be nervous about it,” Greene said.

Carey Candrian, PhD, associate professor of medicine, was interviewed by 9News, the NBC affiliate in Denver, in February about receiving a five-year grant to study disparities of care for elderly people in the LGBTQ community. “We know discrimination is happening all over the health care ecosystem and especially in hospice,” she said. “For example, there was a survey in 2020 of over 850 hospice professionals and 46% of the hospice staff reported directly observing discriminatory behavior of LGBT patients, things like rolling eyes when patients were holding hands to not involving the partner in major decisions and even disregarding patient wishes.”

Edwin Asturias, MD, professor of pediatrics, described why studying mosquitoes in Guatemala is a good place for researchers to identify cases where a disease crosses from animals to people. “Because they are in a crowded condition,” he told National Public Radio in February, “the ability for any pathogen to move from the animals to the human is much higher. Maybe the pig is having a cold and now, suddenly, that influenza virus is going to transfer to a little child.”

Jason Stoneback, MD, associate professor of orthopedics, in February spoke with KCUR, the NPR station in Kansas City, Mo., about rodeo injuries in a report about the youth rodeo series in Dodge City, Kan. The rodeo of today is safer than it used to be, he said. And the rate of injury among youth rodeo athletes is less than half that of their adult counterparts. “While it is a dangerous sport,” he said, “fortunately the majority of injuries are not serious.”

Joseph Sakai, MD, associate professor of psychiatry, was quoted by the Denver ABC affiliate in a February report about methamphetamine addiction. “The addiction itself can cause a huge number of consequences,” he said. “The consequences can be really massive in terms of destruction of family life, you know, folks end up being fired from jobs.”

Jason Persoff, MD, associate professor of medicine, described the working conditions clinicians are facing in March article in The Hospitalist. He said patients are becoming increasingly outspoken and dissatisfied with care due to limited visitor access to patients, increased delays in care due to overrun hospitals, and care at the hands of some burned out clinical staff. “Frustration and misinformation have further demoralized clinicians and simultaneously created an antagonistic relationship from time to time as patients argue about what is and isn’t scientific fact,” he said.

Satish Garg, MD, professor of pediatrics, was quoted by the Denver CBS affiliate in a March report about a drug manufacturer capping the price of insulin at $35 per month. “These insulins cost hardly anything to make it and patients were being charged sometimes anywhere between $200 to $600,” he said. “It's high time, man... it is a big deal.”

Joshua Barocas, MD, associate professor of medicine, commented in March in a Colorado Public Radio report about state legislation that would allow creation of sites where illegal drugs could be used under the supervision of trained staff who could reverse an overdose if necessary.  “You can’t enter treatment if you are dead,” he said. “All the data suggests that people are going to do drugs regardless. ... All we are trying to do is reverse the harm that could come from what people are already doing.”

Marc Schwartz, MD, assistant professor of medicine at CU School of Medicine, was quoted in February by the Denver ABC affiliate in a report about bone marrow donation. “The first place that we look for a potential donor is a patient’s sibling,” he said. “On average, however, about 70% of patients do not have a fully matched sibling donor. So, the next step is to look at an international registry for matched unrelated donors.”

Sarah Jolley, MD, assistant professor of medicine, discussed with Colorado Public Radio a study that found as many as 1 in 10 Coloradans may have experienced long COVID. “I think that’s what’s so unclear about long COVID and potentially concerning about those numbers is that we certainly know some people recover,” but most haven’t, she said in February.

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