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

Jamie Young and her daughter Maya, 3, listen to a speaker during a demonstration outside of Senator Roy Blunt's office in Clayton. The group delivered petitions in support of Planned Parenthood.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Members of Congress return to Washington on Monday after a week-long work sessions in their home districts.

Like some other around the country, St. Louis-area representatives are catching criticism for not using the break to host town hall meetings to hear from constituents.

There was one exception; Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., held a listening session Friday in Hillsboro regarding pension funds.

So where are your representatives, and why aren’t they holding public meetings? Here’s what they said.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, Ill.

Dr. Nathaniel Murdock, 79, visits the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital. Murdock delivered thousands of babies at the hospital as an OB-GYN in the 1960s and 70s.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

In the first half of the 20th century, segregation touched virtually every part of American life. Black residents of St. Louis weren't just barred from schools, lunch counters and drinking fountains reserved for whites. Even hospitals could refuse to admit black patients.

But the hospitals that were built to serve African-American patients hold a special place in medical history. The facilities employed and trained thousands of black doctors and nurses. In St. Louis, Homer G. Phillips Hospital quickly became a trusted household name. Today marks the 80th anniversary of its dedication ceremony on Feb. 22, 1937.

Longtime St. Louis resident Lucy Hamm celebrates her 109th birthday with her retirement community in Chesterfield. Hamm was born on Jan. 30, 1908.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

It might be harder than you think to find the oldest person in town.

Local governments don’t formally track the data, and voting records are often manually entered, and can contain errors. So when a listener named Sally asked our Curious Louis project to find the oldest person in St. Louis, we started looking.

After calls to county election boards and senior service nonprofits came up short, employees in the office of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay introduced us to someone who might just be the winner: 109-year-old Lucy Hamm.

Emma Minx, Logan Chiropractic Paraquad Clinic senior intern, turns on the power plate exercise machine for Paraquad participant Leon Zickrick. The machine vibrates to help break up joint adhesion in his shoulder. (July 25, 2014_
File Photo | Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

Nonprofit organizations that serve seniors and people with disabilities say their clients would be harmed by Gov. Eric Greitens' proposed cuts to assistance programs.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Missouri legislators are considering a measure that would allow the state to fold into a proposal that has become a popular GOP refrain: Convert funding for state Medicaid programs into block grants.

Mya Aaten-White poses for a portrait on Highmont Street in Ferguson, near the spot where she was shot in August 2014.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

There is one thing Mya Aaten-White remembers clearly: laying down on a hardwood floor as blood seeped out of her forehead.

Three days into the protests that erupted in Ferguson after a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, someone shot Aaten-White in the head as she walked to her vehicle after a demonstration. She survived, but still has no answers.

“I’m not guaranteed safety on any given day,” Aaten-White said. “I don’t know who shot me, so they could try again.”

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic blood disorder that alters red blood cells. A defect in hemoglobin (a protein that helps the cells carry oxygen through the body) causes red blood cells to become rigid and take on a crescent (sickle) shape.
National Institutes of Health

Improved treatments for sickle cell disease are extending the life expectancy of thousands of people in the United States, but many patients still lack adequate care.

A grant from the National Institutes of Health could help. It will fund a six-year study at eight medical centers, including Washington University in St. Louis, to identify the needs of local patients and find ways to meet them.

Hamishe Bahrani, at the restaurant she created with her husband: Cafe Natasha's. Bahrami sits in front of a wall of infused gins; her specialty.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The call came in the middle of the night; Hamishe Bahrami’s childhood friend would be unable to visit from Iran.

“Today, she was supposed to arrive in St. Louis,” Bahrami said Monday. “She was so excited to come, visit St. Louis and see my life in person. We don’t know if we’re going to see each other again.”

In Missouri, doctors do not have a database to see how many prescriptions, particularly opioid medications, a patient has filled recently. Without that information, some doctors say they look for certain behaviors to identify if a patient is pill-seeking.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri’s second-most populous county is joining a St. Louis-based effort to monitor opioid prescriptions. The program allows doctors to see how many drug prescriptions someone has filled, so they can flag patients who may be abusing opioids.

Jackson County executive Frank White Jr. signed a contract from his seat in Kansas City, finalizing the agreement to join St. Louis County’s program on Tuesday. According to the resolution passed by the county legislature, Jackson County will pay no more than $28,000 a year to participate.

“It allows a doctor to see if a patient has prescriptions through another doctor, so they can make an informed decision about what to prescribe,” said Susan Whitmore, the president of Kansas City-based FirstCall. “At the pharmacy level, it lets them see if a patient has multiple prescriptions for the same drug.”

Robin, 37, at her home in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

After three years and two rounds of in-vitro fertilization, things were finally looking up.   

Robin, a 37-year-old project manager who lives in St. Louis County, went in for a routine 21-week ultrasound with her husband this past November. The couple had no idea that something was wrong.  

Alycia Wilson with her husband and daughter in Edwardsville, a few days after the election. Wilson, a Trump voter, said she hopes for a repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Republicans in Congress and President Donald Trump have their eyes trained on the Affordable Care Act, which they plan to dismantle.

How they do so, and when, may affect health coverage for millions of Americans. A dramatic shift in policy could reverberate through hospitals, insurance markets and the rest of the health-care industry. At this point, say health law experts, the only thing that's certain is more uncertainty.

Bill cosponsor Alderwoman Cara Spencer asks Tom Buckley, general counsel for the Archdioscese of St. Louis, to clarify his position.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The St. Louis Board of Aldermen is considering a bill that would bar employers and landlords from discriminating against women who are pregnant, use contraception or have had an abortion.

If approved, the bill would add pregnancy and reproductive health decisions to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance, alongside protections based on race, sex or disability. It defines reproductive health decisions as any that are related to the use of contraception, the initiation or termination of a pregnancy, and the use of a drug, device or medical service related to reproductive health.

During public testimony at a committee hearing Wednesday, an attorney for the Archdiocese of St. Louis threatened legal action if the bill is passed on the grounds that it violates religious freedom.

The St. Louis Children's Hospital's logo, which replaces the 'n' in 'Children's' with an image of the Gateway Arch, is printed all over the hospital campus, including the entrance off Kingshighway Boulevard. Spokeswoman Abby Wuellner said the logo represe
Nassim Benchaabane | St. Louis Public Radio

Missouri hospitals are providing less charity care than they did before the Affordable Care Act, according to a report by the Missouri Hospital Association.

But that's not necessarily a sign that hospitals are being stingy. According to the report's authors, that means more people can pay their medical bills.

It’s indicative of more people having insurance,” said Dave Dillon, spokesperson for the MHA. “The numbers for 2015 show very good progress.”

Physicians, clergy, and members of 100 Black Men gathered for a breakfast held by the Prostate Cancer Coalition.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Black men are nearly two times more likely to die from prostate cancer than any other ethnic group. So when a federal agency cited several studies of mostly white American and European men to recommend against screening for prostate cancer, some St. Louis doctors challenged the decision.

“We worry that we’re going backwards,” said Dr. Arnold Bullock, a urologic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and member of the Prostate Cancer Coalition. “Prostate cancer’s the most common cancer in African-American men, and still kills around 30,000 men a year in the U.S.”

Patients entering the Planned Parenthood clinic in St. Louis are often greeted by a line of protesters.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio | File Photo

Planned Parenthood clinics in St. Louis are taking stock of the $700,000 hit they may absorb under a new state law and a shifting federal landscape.

Last year, the Missouri legislature used a budgetary measure to cut the women’s health provider from the state’s Medicaid program. The process takes several months and requires federal approval, so the rule has yet to take effect.

A plan by the Republican-controlled Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act also includes a measure that would strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, according to remarks made by House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Daisy Duarte and her mother, Sonia. The two appear in an upcoming PBS documentary, "Alzheimer's: Every Minute Counts."
The Duarte family

Daisy Duarte estimates that three quarters of her family have died from a genetic form of Alzheimer’s disease that takes hold in middle age. When her own mother became ill, Duarte closed the sports bar she owned to become her full time caregiver.

“She just had a heart of gold. And then to see her where she’s at now, it just hurts so much,” said Duarte, 41. 

Duarte and her 61-year-old mother, Sonia, appear in an upcoming PBS documentary about the search for a cure to Alzheimer’s.

FDA | file photo

After years of opposition in the Missouri legislature to a statewide program to monitor prescription drugs, St. Louis County is preparing to test its own.

By using a new database, pharmacists in the county will help flag consumers who may be “doctor shopping” for highly addictive opioid-based painkillers. Missouri is the only state in the country without such a system.

Its goal is to take away one of the easiest pathways to opioid addiction, while giving doctors and pharmacists a way to be more vigilant, said Dr. Faisal Khan, St. Louis County's health director.

Volunteer counselors Dr. Marva Robinson, left, and Adrian Wrice discuss a case during drop-in hours in the basement of the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

In the basement of the New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, clinical psychologist Marva Robinson meets with people who know of a conflict that may escalate to violence. She trains her ear to signs of previous trauma or emotional instability. The next day, she starts making calls.

“We start the next day, with trying to make contact with individuals to see how we can have a conversation about the conflict in ways that we can resolve it,” Robinson said.

New appliances sit in the unfinished kitchen at the Ferguson Community Center.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

North St. Louis County seniors will be waiting a bit longer for the opening of a new center run by the Mid-East Area Agency on Aging. The organization is remodeling an unused kitchen and common room at the Ferguson Community Center to provide hot meals and programs for older adults.

Though she had once hoped to open the center by Christmas, Executive Director Mary Schaefer said the space should be ready in the next two months.

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

About a dozen of Missouri’s mental health clinics will receive an infusion of federal money in 2017, after the state was one of eight selected to be part of a national demonstration project.

The clinics will be required to collect and report quality data and meet a set of criteria, which will determine how much money they receive. It’s part of a $1.1 billion measure to improve the quality of mental health and addiction services. The law that created the program, the Excellent in Mental Health Act, was introduced by U.S. Sens. Roy Blunt, R-Mo, and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in 2013.

Valéria Souza, 36, hugs her step-daughter in a family photo.
provided by Valéria Souza

Three in 10 Missouri adults could have difficulty purchasing their own health insurance if the Affordable Care Act the next Congress fully repeals the Affordable Care Act. That’s because one of the act’s main provisions requires insurance companies to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions — a definition that once included pregnant women, cancer patients in remission and people with such common medical issues as obesity.  

The figures come from an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which determined that about 27 percent of American adults under the age of 65 would qualify as having a pre-existing medical condition. In Missouri, the rate is slightly higher.

Drawing of child and scales of justice
Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis County will close a residential facility for young people referred by Family Court at the end of the year. On Friday, several teenagers moved out of the Lakeside Residential Treatment Center for the last time.

County officials cited the cost of repairs to the aging building and low enrollment as reasons for the closure. The 55-bed center provided housing, therapy and education for teens referred as part of their sentencing. The residents will resume classes at Marygrove, a Catholic Charities federated agency, on Jan. 3.

A cassava micro plant, grown in a Petri dish, is kept in a Danforth unit similar to a walk-in incubator.
File photo |Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center say a $10.45 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will allow them to expand a project to develop genetically modified cassava into Nigeria.

The country is the largest cassava producer in the world, and farmers there are watching closely as two plant viruses spread across central Africa. One of them, the brown streak virus, was once confined to coastal regions in southeast Africa. Strains of cassava that are genetically modified to resist the two viruses are undergoing field trials in Uganda and Kenya.

Two women walk home after a day of work at Uganda's National Agricultural Research Organisation in Namulonge.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

The world’s largest seed companies have their eye trained on Africa’s farming industry. A few, including St. Louis-based Monsanto, see drought-resistant corn as the key to an untapped market.

But some African civil service organizations are wary of the genetically modified seeds Monsanto hopes to introduce.

St. Louis Public Radio

Updated Dec. 10 with results of Senate vote — With an hour to spare before a government shutdown, the U.S. Senate approved a stopgap spending bill late Friday that allows coal workers in southern Illinois to keep their health coverage until April.

Coverage for about 16,000 employees of now-bankrupt coal companies was set to run out at the end of the year. Coal state Democrats held up a vote on the bill because they wanted a longer benefits extension.

Kevin Dietl, left, poses with his mother in a family photograph.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Legislators are making another attempt to prevent suicide among students in Missouri colleges and medical schools.

State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis, pre-filed Senate Bill 52, which would require colleges and universities to develop suicide prevention policies. It also would create a statewide research committee to prevent depression among medical students, and forbid medical schools from preventing student-led efforts to study mental health issues among their peers.

“It’s really not a controversial bill. It’s an awareness bill,” said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. “We have to begin to look at what’s happening on those college campuses, and try to have preventative measures in place before they get to that point of no return.”

Tony Twitty, 55, founded his auto shop in 1999. Before the Affordable Care Act,it was hard for him to buy health insurance on his own.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

After running on a platform that included calls to repeal the Affordable Care Act, president-elect Donald Trump will take office alongside a Republican-controlled Congress in January. This leaves an estimated 20 million people who gained coverage through the law unsure of how their coverage will change.

In the weeks since the election, the general consensus among health law experts is that it’s unlikely that congressional Republicans will repeal the law entirely without a plan to replace it, particularly because Senate Democrats have enough seats to filibuster.

Michael Velardo | Flickr

The nation’s opioid crisis is threatening to undo decades of HIV prevention work, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

In response to a national survey of intravenous drug users in 22 cities, they’re calling for wider distribution of clean needles.  

“The science shows that syringe services programs work,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. "They save lives, and they save money." 

An example of a safe sleeping practice for infants, without a crib bumper.
National Institutes for Health

A local initiative to prevent infant deaths in St. Louis is recruiting volunteers at a launch event this week.

After holding listening sessions with parents throughout the region, Flourish St. Louis has decided that transportation, mental health, and access to prenatal care are some of the main ways they can help prevent infant deaths.

“We really need moms, dads, grandparents, people from healthcare but also business, faith communities, funders, government. Anyone who feels that they want to work on any of these issues,” said Kendra Copanas, executive director of Generate Health, formerly the Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition.

In some St. Louis zip codes, the infant mortality rate is more than twice the national average of 5.8 deaths per 1,000. The leading causes of death are congenital malformations, pregnancy complications and disorders related to prematurity or low birth weight,  according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mioshi Ferrill holds a little girl named Arianna at the University City Children's Center. 11/21/16
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

In one of the baby rooms at University City Children’s Center, half a dozen infants are taking naps, drinking out of sippy cups, and trying to figure out how to roll over.

Mioshi Ferrill of St. Louis picks up a little girl with big brown eyes and plastic barrettes in her hair, and coos at her while she takes a bottle. Ferrill, 24, is halfway through her “on the job training” for a new apprentice program run by a local nonprofit, the LUME Institute. After 135 hours of classwork, 480 hours of training, and a year and a half of mentored work, she will be a credentialed provider of early childhood education. But the real payoff comes in moments, like the time she finally got a baby with stranger anxiety to go down for a nap.   

Pages