Durrie Bouscaren

Health and Science Reporter

Durrie Bouscaren covers healthcare and medical research throughout the St. Louis metro area. She comes most recently from Iowa Public Radio’s newsroom in Des Moines, where she reported on floods, a propane shortage, and small-town defense contractors. Since catching the radio bug in college, Bouscaren has freelanced and interned at NPR member stations WRVO, WAER and KQED. Her work has aired on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Harvest Public Media, a regional reporting collaborative. 

Ways to Connect

Keith Carter, 53, waits to pick up a prescription for diabetes at Affinia Healthcare in St. Louis. Though he falls in the income gap, he's able to get his preventive care covered through Gateway to Better Health.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

At any given time, a half dozen people sit in the waiting room at Affinia Healthcare in south St. Louis. Two parents coo over a new baby, while a group of older patients chat along the back wall.

53-year-old Keith Carter sits alone. An embroidered polo shirt and badge show he’s just come from work.

“I seem fit. Inside, it’s just breaking down like sawdust. I just keep it in motion,” he said, as he waited to pick up a prescription to manage his diabetes.

Randy Miller, right, participates in a group therapy session at Fontbonne University's Aphasia Boot Camp.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

74-year-old John Rush is trying to find the word for a type of fruit pictured on a card in front of him. He can’t see it, but other participants in this group therapy session are giving him hints: they’re small, round, you can put them in pies…

It’s on the tip of his tongue.

“Gosh, I have some at home,” he laughs, to a roomful of encouraging smiles.

A map provided by SSM Health shows the planned location for the new medical center, just north of the existing St. Louis University Hospital.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

SSM Health will spend $550 million to build a new academic medical center to replace Saint Louis University Hospital in south St. Louis.

For sickle cell patients, opiods are often the only pain relief. But growing rates of addiction among the general public mean emergency room doctors are more cautious than ever in prescribing those powerful medications, causing challenges for sickle cell
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

It took too long for blood supplies to get to Baghdad, so Dr. Philip Spinella and his Army colleagues gave their own blood. To their surprise, it worked better.

“We started to use whole blood, out of our arms into the casualties,” said Spinella, who served as an Army doctor between 1995 and 2007. “Their shock would resolve, their bleeding would resolve a lot quicker than just using plasma and red cells that we had shipped from home.”

The Cooper House, which is operated by Doorways, has 36 private rooms that serve as emergency housing for people with HIV.
Facebook

St. Louis agencies that serve people living with HIV have seen a sharp rise in requests for emergency housing.

More than 5,900 people were living with HIV in the city of St. Louis and six nearby Missouri counties at the end of 2015, according to the St. Louis Regional HIV Health Services Planning Council.

Those that need emergency housing turn to organizations like Doorways, a St. Louis-based housing agency for people living with HIV. In 2015, Doorways provided emergency housing for 276 people, up from 180 people the year before. In the first five months of 2016, coordinators placed an average of 23 people a month, which is on pace to match last year’s increase.

Updated Sunday, June 12, with details from the march — People from throughout St. Louis marched through the Grove neighborhood in south St. Louis late Sunday to hold a vigil for the people killed and wounded in an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando.

The Meramec Caverns near Stanton, Missouri have been open to tourists since 1933.
Marcin Wichary | Flickr

Updated June 9 at 6:30 p.m. - Meramec Caverns will re-open Friday morning, months after it stopped cave tours because federal regulators measured high levels of a toxic chemical known as trichloroethylene, or TCE.

The popular tourist attraction in Franklin County installed air-lock doors and ventilation, and on Thursday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said tours in "the upper levels of the caverns" could resume.

A co-worker calls Matt Brock's service dog, Lynn, out from under Matt's desk at his Paraquad cubicle.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Update June 9 with signature: Gov. Jay Nixon signed legislation on Thursday that could expand Medicaid eligibility for Missourians who are elderly or living with a disability.

For decades, Missourians who were elderly, blind or disabled could only have $1,000 or less in savings. The bill Nixon signed would gradually raise that asset limit to $5,000 for an unmarried person and $10,000 for a married couple.

SSM Health president and CEO Bill Thompson.
provided by SSM Health

The president and CEO of one of St. Louis’ largest health systems will retire next year, after five years in the position.

Creve-Coeur based SSM Health — a  Catholic, nonprofit network of hospitals, clinics and other providers — announced Wednesday that it will begin a national search to hire a replacement for Bill Thompson.

“There’s been a lot of things that have happened in this organization over the past 36 years that I take great pride in, most of which happened not because of me," Thompson said. "But I feel great pride because I was here when they did happen."

Van Tyler checks a list of names and addresses while delivering meals in Jennings for the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

More than 200 senior citizens in north St. Louis County could soon receive daily hot meals from the local Meals on Wheels program, thanks to a cafeteria planned for the Ferguson Community Center.

The Mid-East Area Agency on Aging has been delivering frozen meals to seniors for three years because it lacks a place to heat them.

That could change soon, now that the agency has submitted plans to remodel center’s cafeteria at 1050 Smith Avenue. It also plans to open a new senior center location there as soon as August.

The John Cochran VA Medical Center in St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Next week, in-person interviews will begin for a new director of the Department of Veteran’s Affairs Health Care System in St. Louis -- for the ninth time in three years.

The challenges of finding a director who can make a long-term commitment aren't unique to St. Louis. Across the nation, the VA has had difficulty recruiting administrators, VA Under Secretary David Shulkin said Friday.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

A bill awaiting Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon’s approval would require hospitals to disclose cost estimates to patients within three business days.

State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, sponsored the bill. It links hospital costs to 17 other measures related to healthcare, including a provision that would charge Medicaid patients for using the emergency room during a non-emergency. Another would allow doctors to charge those patients for missing an appointment. Patient advocates say the latter goes against federal law.

Wikimedia Commons

The classic lab mouse is black or white, eats a precisely measured diet to keep him lean, and is relatively young — probably a teenager or young adult in rodent years. His genes are nearly identical to the others around him, the result of generation upon generation of inbreeding for research purposes.

Those specs might help a scientist standardize her experiments, but they may also be holding some research back for one type of cancer drug, two St. Louis researchers argued in a recent review. Instead, they say that pre-clinical trials should include older mice, obese mice, and mice with different types of gut microbiota.

Lydia Adams speaks during the public comment section of the Ferguson Commission meeting. Adams was one of numerous speakers who spoke during Monday's meeting, which took place in Ferguson.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

The Missouri Foundation for Health has announced that it will donate $6 million to address health issues raised by the Ferguson Commission last year. The priorities include gun violence, food insecurity and toxic stress.

Tonya Sherry, right, goes over paper work with Mary Kay Fink at the MS Center of St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

A new Medicare proposal would cut the link between the cost of many medications that are given in an outpatient clinic and how much doctors are paid to administer them.

Under current Medicare rules, drugs that have to be administered in an outpatient setting — such as chemotherapy, injections or drugs taken after an organ transplant — are reimbursed for the cost of the drug, plus six percent of the drug's price to pay for storage and handling.

Medicare has proposed cutting the reimbursement rate to 2.5 percent more than the drug's sale price, plus a flat fee of $16.80 per dose. But because of automatic federal budget cuts, for a few years doctors would be reimbursed less.

300 pixel elderly health care
National Institutes for Health

Missouri’s insurance regulator could block Aetna and Humana from offering certain insurance plans in the state if they go forward with a $37 billion dollar merger announced last year.

Army Corps of Engineers

Three former aircraft workers and seven north St. Louis County residents who say they were exposed to radioactive waste stored near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport after World War II, have filed a federal lawsuit against Mallinckrodt and the Cotter Corporation.

They hope to join a larger case, filed in 2012, that represents about 250 plaintiffs who lived or worked near the airport waste site, Coldwater Creek, and another storage site in Hazelwood

A worker does maintenance on a wastewater pump at the Bridgeton Landfill on Aug. 28.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Officials from the Environmental Protection Agency did not attend a public meeting to share updates on the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton late Monday after someone made threatening comments in a Facebook group for local advocates.

Robert C. Strunk, MD, (right) discusses results of a decades-long pediatric asthma study that involved Janae Smith, (middle) a patient and study participant, and Denise Rodgers, (left) who retired this year as a clinical research coordinator.
Washington University in St. Louis

Children who live with persistent asthma in childhood are at a higher risk of developing lung problems later in life, according to new findings from a national asthma study that began in the 1990s. A small number of patients even exhibited symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, in early adulthood.

Sam Johnson, left, assists a visitor at the food pantry he manages for St. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist Church, in north St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When Sam Johnson helps people fill grocery carts at the food pantry he manages now, he notices that the items have been picked over more than usual.

“Normally we have meat. Chicken, we might have fish. But we ran out of meat that you can cook,” Johnson said.

Instead, a fold-out table offers a selection of canned chicken, SPAM and tuna in the basement on the grounds of the St. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist Church, in north St. Louis.

In the past few years that Johnson has managed the pantry as a volunteer, he’s seen demand rise during the holidays and again in the summer. Now, he’s starting to see another group of newcomers: visitors who recently lost their public assistance benefits in the state’s latest round of cuts.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Legislators are scheduled to meet Thursday to consider a bill that would give Missouri’s regulating agency for insurers the chance to review health insurance rates before they affect consumers who use Healthcare.gov —and allow them to object if prices are about to jump too high.  

Map of the West Lake Landfill
Provided by the EPA

The owner of the Bridgeton Landfill is now on a deadline to install several components of a system that will separate radioactive waste from an underground smoldering fire.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 7 issued an Administrative Settlement Agreement Thursday that names deadlines for a heat extraction system, air monitors and temperature probes.

Project manager Miton Clayborn leads an orientation session at SLATE's offices in downtown St. Louis. Participant Sequoi Edwards sits on the right. Edwards hopes the training will help him run a youth-centered nonprofit.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

At an orientation for a new apprenticeship program to train child care workers in St. Louis, Serroge Watt signed up with his 2-year-old daughter, Korra, in mind.

Legacy nuclear waste at the West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton was thought to be contained behind this fence, but a new study has detected radiation in trees offsite.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

A lawsuit between Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and the operator of the Bridgeton and West Lake landfills has been sent back to St. Louis County’s Circuit Court by a federal judge.

In the study he led, Washington University researcher Darrell Hudson found the men in his focus groups were more than willing to discuss their experiences with racism and issues related to mental health.
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

New insight from a Washington University study could improve access to mental health care for African-American men. 

Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center

Scientists say frogs are one of the first "canaries in the coal mine" for climate change. That’s because they absorb a lot of what’s in the environment through their skin.

Phil Perino, who lives near the West Lake Landfill, listened in on a public meeting with the EPA on Monday evening.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Capping the radioactive contamination buried in the West Lake Landfill instead of moving the dirt offsite is one alternative the Environmental Protection Agency will consider this year as it determines a permanent solution for the site. But for residents in the crowd at a public meeting, it felt like a cruel round of deja vu. 

Tanjila Bolden-Myers, 38, stands in the hallway of Beaumont High School in St. Louis. She works as a behavioral health specialist, and was diagnosed with sickle cell disease as an infant.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Growing up, as the searing pain of a sickle cell crisis would spread through her veins, Tanjila Bolden-Myers would ask her mother if this time, it would kill her.  

“I ask her now to this day, ‘Mom, how did you look me in my face and not break? Every time I asked you that?’” said Bolden-Myers, now 38. “And she was like, ‘No, baby, you’re not going to die this time. You’re not going to die.’”

According to the new study, a woman's weight before her first pregnancy may have long-term effects.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases | National Institutes of Health

The economy needs babies, but working women are often told that having kids will hurt their careers. So, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have crunched the numbers: Ladies, at least when it comes to finances, waiting until you’re 31 might make a difference.

Sphalerite, or zinc ore, from the Royal Cornwall Museum Collection.
University of Exeter

Updated on April 7, 2016 at 10:45 a.m. with comments from the EPA:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined that further actions are required at the Old American Zinc Plant in Fairmont City, as plans for clean-up are in the works.  

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