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

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, speaks during a visit to NCADA's offices in St. Louis County. He leads a government task force to curb opioid abuse.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County could receive federal funds to establish a regional prescription drug monitoring database, under a new law passed by Congress that President Barack Obama has said he will sign.

The measure allows for local governments, not just states, to apply for federal grants to set up a database to alert physicians when a patient may be receiving too many opioid prescriptions. U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill said she submitted the language in a motion because Missouri is the only state in the country without a statewide system.

Washington University biomedical engineering PhD student Ali Ross and Farshid Guilak, PhD, a professor of orthopedic surgery, show a container with a prototype of a living hip replacement.
Robert Boston | Washington University in St. Louis

A St. Louis orthopedic researcher has developed a way to grow a hip replacement out of stem cells found in a patient’s fat reserves, and is now testing it in animals.

The discovery that made it possible happened by accident, said Farshid Guilak, who directs regenerative medicine research for St. Louis Shriner’s Hospital and Washington University.

Katie Rhoades is the founder and executive director of Healing Action. At 18, Rhoades began working in the sex industry, and experienced episodes of trafficking and abuse until she left age 21.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

When Katie Rhoades founded Healing Action, she made a commitment: every peer counselor she hires has worked in the commercial sex trade, and gotten out. Including herself.

“They have walked that path," Rhoades said. "They have, through help, and sometimes not so much help, have been able to come out and do something different with their lives. And that creates a sense of hope and possibility for the women that we serve.”

Healing Action is the latest addition to a regional effort to stop sex trafficking and exploitation in St. Louis.

Planned Parenthood supporters rally in 2015 outside the agency's clinic in St. Louis after a mass shooting at a clinic in Colorado Springs.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Three Democrats in the Missouri legislature plan to file bills repealing two of the state’s laws restricting abortion facilities, following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out similar measures in Texas.

Marchelle Vernell-Bettis, a trauma ICU nurse, wears a button during an informational picket for St. Louis University Hospital's nurses union.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Dozens of nurses gathered for a picket Monday morning to protest what they say are unsafe staffing levels at St. Louis University Hospital.

In advance of contract negotiations, the hospital’s chapter of National Nurses United conducted a staffing survey in 2015 and compared the data collected to staffing guidelines set by the hospital’s management. Overall, optimal staffing levels were not met on 58 percent of shifts in a 21-day period.

A crowd gathered at Ferguson police headquarters Wednesday night to stand in solidarity with Alton Sterling's community in Baton Rouge and continue to demand racial equality and police reform.
Lawrence Bryant | The St. Louis American

Near a Save-A-Lot in south St. Louis, two young men stood on Jefferson Avenue on Thursday, selling DVD’s and discussing two other men who died many miles away.

Ikane Smith, a wiry man who wore a large blue T-shirt and jeans, bounced from foot to foot. Derrek Haggins wore a white button down shirt and a black bowtie.  Both were painfully aware of the thin line separating their lives from the lives of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

Zika virus, here shown as a digitally-colorized transmission electron micrograph, can be transmitted by mosquitoes or sexually.
Cynthia Goldsmith | Centers for Disease Control

From bioengineered mosquitoes to a $5,000 seed grant, researchers in Missouri and southern Illinois are joining an international effort to stop the Zika virus. 

Scientists say Zika research has been hampered by a lack of funding. Efforts were further stalled last week when the U.S. Senate split along party lines and failed to pass a $1.1 billion spending bill that included a significant boost in money for researchers around the country — many of whom have dropped other work to focus on Zika.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources

Residents near the Bridgeton Landfill did not report significantly higher rates of asthma and other respiratory illnesses on a recent health survey conducted by the St. Louis County Department of Public Health.

“There are some concerns, but for the most part, as related to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), it is reassuring,” said Faisal Khan, the agency’s director.

A promotional photo for Wing, used during the startup's IndieGoGo campaign in 2015.
Sparo Labs

A St. Louis-based startup has received approval from the Food and Drug Administration to market a device that helps patients monitor their asthma and other lung conditions.

A marketing campaign will start in the fall for patients to buy the device  — called Wing — from the Sparo Labs website, co-founder Andrew Brimer said. Pilot programs to get the devices to local doctors and study patient reactions also are underway.

Tom, via Flickr

Local health departments are using their own resources to boost mosquito prevention efforts, as Congress remains split over a funding bill to boost preparation and research for the Zika virus.

Most preparations are well practiced after years of dealing with West Nile: health departments set traps, spray for mosquitoes, and encourage residents to wear long-sleeves and insect repellent.

There have been no cases of Zika transmitted by local mosquitoes so far in the continental United States, but the northernmost ranges of the two mosquito species that carry Zika do cross through Missouri. Seven Missourians have been diagnosed with the virus after traveling to affected areas, including two pregnant women.

A file photo of North City Urgent Care, at 6113 Ridge Avenue in north St. Louis City.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Violence in north St. Louis is prompting one of the few urgent care clinics in the area to close on the weekends.

A gun battle outside the doors of North City Urgent Care on a Saturday last month was the last straw, said Dr. Sonny Sagar, its medical director. The clinic, at 6113 Ridge Ave., sits in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood and is one of just a few urgent care facilities in the area.

Third-generation crane operator Tim Miller, 41, prepares to climb up a crane helping to build a new Barnes Hospital building.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

There’s no shortage of tall yellow cranes helping build the largest construction projects in St. Louis this summer. One listener asked the Curious Louis project how the men and women who operate those cranes get to the top, and we answered.

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.

Pages