Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

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

Aids.gov

At least 5,638 people in the St. Louis region are living with HIV, according to 2013 numbers from the Missouri Department of Health. About 250 people were newly infected.  

Two out of three of those new cases affected African Americans.  

47-year-old David Whitt has a checkup at a new clinic co-located at Places for People.
Katelyn Petrin | St. Louis Public Radio

For people struggling with homelessness, addiction or severe mental illness, visiting a primary care doctor may be the last thing on their mind. But community mental health providers, including St. Louis-based Places for People, are starting to offer primary care services to their clients in the hopes of reducing rates of premature death among people with mental illness.     

Stem cell transplant recipient Samantha Carter, 30, works at her desk in the Center for Outpatient Health at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

You’ll meet them at health fairs, schools and churches: volunteers who ask for a cotton swab of DNA and your consent to join the national bone marrow registry.   

Rachel Bingham, a single mother, earns too much to qualify for Medicaid, but too little to afford health insurance for herself and her daughter.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

While rolling silverware at the City Diner in St. Louis, waitress Rachel Bingham recalled her attempt to buy health insurance for herself and her five-year-old daughter last year. She said when she signed on to Healthcare.gov, she realized she couldn't afford it. 

"They were wanting $231 a month. That was not doable," Bingham said. She’s been paying out-of-pocket for doctor’s appointments ever since: $60 for primary care, $200 for the dentist. Luckily, her daughter’s a healthy kid, she said.

Pattonville Assistant Fire Chief Matt LaVanchy discuses recent data from the Bridgeton Landfill's underground fire, which has been smoldering since late 2010. 01/23/2015
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Residents in municipalities surrounding the Bridgeton Landfill are growing increasingly frustrated with the pace of cleanup efforts and a "lack of communications" between environmental agencies tasked with overseeing the project.  

A view of the Bridgeton Landfill, taken in the fall of 2014.
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The underground fire at the West Lake Landfill Superfund Site does not produce air pollution that exceeds hazardous standards, the regional head of the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.  

“The air around the West Lake Landfill site in north St. Louis resembles the air elsewhere in metro St. Louis. There’s nothing distinctive,” said Karl Brooks, who leads EPA’s Region 7 from his office in Kansas City.

Casa de Salud sits at 3200 Chouteau Avenue in Midtown. 01/15/15
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Five years ago, an old auto repair shop re-opened its doors as a community health center to serve uninsured people, many of them Hispanic immigrants. Today, more than 400 people walk through its doors each month.  

On Friday, Casa de Salud marked the fifth anniversary of its first patient visit. Anna Castro has worked as the clinic’s receptionist since the beginning, assisting patients who don’t have health insurance due to their employer, their immigration status or lack of resources.

Ph.D. Biomedical Engineering student Suman Mondal demonstrates "cancer goggles" at Washington University's Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology. 1/14/15
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

One year after "cancer goggles" were first used in a successful breast cancer operation, Dr. Samuel Achilefu is still getting emails from surgeons all over the world, hoping for a chance to use them.  

“We’ve been inundated,” he said from his desk in Washington University’s Mallinckrodt Institute, hours before receiving the 2014 St. Louis Award for his invention.

A Level I Trauma Center at St. Louis University Hospital.
Provided by Saint Louis University Hospital

Get in a car crash, take a gunshot, or survive a farm machinery accident in rural Illinois or parts of the Metro East, and you’ll likely be taken to St. Louis University Hospital, across the river.   

“The quicker you get somebody here, the better they’re going to do,” said Helen Sandkuhl, who directs the Emergency Department. More than half of the hospital’s trauma patients come from Illinois, and the trip can be a long one. Broad swaths of the state do not have certified trauma centers within 50 miles, creating "trauma deserts" in southern and central Illinois.

Dr. Michael Rettig, research technician Stephanie Meier, Dr. Daniel Link, and Dr. Todd Fehniger, in the lab at Barnes Jewish Hospital.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Researchers at Washington University are conducting some of their first human trials for a new cancer drug that would treat one of the most lethal forms of adult leukemia. While standard leukemia treatments involve months of intense chemotherapy, this drug uses a specialized antibody to help the body’s own immune system learn how to fight back.

Adam, 37, Michaela, 3, and Kristy Frederick, 37, on a family hike in Colorado. The family moved to the state in 2013, in the hopes of treating Michaela's frequent seizures with an oil made from medical cannabis.
Frederick Family

 The state of Illinois has already missed a self-imposed deadline to license medical marijuana cultivators and dispensaries by the end of 2014.

The law allows people suffering from one of about 40 conditions to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s approval. It passed the Illinois legislature more than a year ago, but with a Republican governor soon to take office, it’s unclear exactly when state regulators will issue permits to the future suppliers.

In the meantime, patients continue to wait.

In Denver, One Family Delays a Homecoming

From  left, Stephanie Lecci, Willis Ryder Arnold, Emanuele Berry, Durrie Bouscaren. Wayne Pratt was not available for this photo.
St. Louis Public Radio

This summer, the newsroom of St. Louis Public Radio hired five people who had never lived in St. Louis. As 2014 draws to a close, we asked each to reflect on what they've discovered in their five months here.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Missouri lawmakers pre-filed more than 500 bills over the past month that they plan to take up during the next legislative session, which begins on Jan. 7. Here’s a selection of bills related to health care that St. Louis Public Radio’s Health Desk will be keeping an eye on in 2015:   

HB 282: Consumer Rate Review on Health Insurance Plans

Adrian Clark | Flickr

The state agency that provides Medicaid coverage to more than 840,000 Missourians does not have proper oversight over contractors in charge of certain aspects of payment processing, according to an audit released Monday of MO HealthNet.  

The report by the office of Tom Schweich, the Missouri state auditor, identified four areas of concern:

St. Louis County police chief Jon Belmar speaks to reporters on Dec. 24, 2014 about the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Antonio Martin by a Berkeley police officer. Berkeley chief Frank McCall looks on.
Bill Greenblatt | UPI

(Updated at 2:55 p.m., Wed., Dec. 24 with additional surveillance video)

(You can also follow live updates related to this story on our live blog).

St. Louis County police are investigating another fatal officer-involved shooting in north St. Louis County.

Adrian Clark | Flickr

Despite progress in unemployment rates, the number of St. Louis residents who were uninsured in 2013 was almost the same as it was five years ago, according to an annual report by the St. Louis Regional Health Commission.   

Protesters sit on the steps of St. Louis City Hall, as locked metal grilles bar the doors at a protest on Dec. 17, 2014
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

About 50 protesters who marched to St. Louis City Hall Wednesday were greeted with locked metal grilles barring the doors.  For approximately two hours, employees were unable to go in or out, and residents hoping to pick up paperwork were turned away.  

Protesters briefly blocked traffic at the intersection of Tucker Blvd. and Market St., before they were ordered to the sidewalk by police. Then, about 25 laid down in front of City Hall for a ‘die in,’ while others sat nearby.

The chlamydia bacteria, stained and viewed at 500 times.
National Cancer Institute | Dr. Lance Liotta Laboratory

Post updated 12/16/14 with response from St. Louis City Health Department.

A new federal report shows that the city of St. Louis had the highest rate of chlamydia and the second-highest rate of gonorrhea infections among major U.S. cities in 2013.  

"We've had persistently high rates for a long time," said Brad Stoner, who directs the St. Louis STD and HIV Prevention Training Center at Washington University. "These rates are difficult to bring down unless we develop a concerted, community-wide effort to reach out, screen and treat populations at risk." 

Louise Flick, DrPH, principal investigator for the National Children’s Study Gateway Study Center and professor at SLU School of Public Health, Edwin Trevathan, M.D., MPH, dean of SLU’s School of Public Health (center), & Craig Schmid, St. Louis Alderman
Chad Williams | Saint Louis University Medical Center

Its magnitude was ambitious and unprecedented: The National Children’s Study promised to follow 100,000 American children from before birth to the age of 21. Researchers sought a better understanding of autism, obesity and cancer by tracking links between children’s environments and their health outcomes. Since 2007, Congress has appropriated about $1.3 billion to fund planning and research; millions went to four research centers in the St. Louis region alone.  

President and CEO, Maryann Reese, stands in front of St. Elizabeth's Hospital in downtown Belleville, IL. The current building was completed in 1954.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Update 12/16/14: St. Elizabeth's Hospital has asked the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board to delay their planned vote over the hospital's move because not all board members will not be present at their December 16 meeting. The board's next meeting is January 27, 2015.

Dr. Karen DeSalvo, Acting Assistant Secretary for Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services.
US Department of Health and Human Services

If you’ve been taking your time to peruse the insurance plans on Healthcare.gov, there’s only one week left to enroll for coverage that begins on the first of the year. (The exchanges will remain open until Feb. 15, however.)

Child therapist Anita Blackwell (right) attends a workshop for Emotional Emancipation Circles on December 6, 2014 at Harris Stowe University.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

“My soul is grieving. Our collective soul is grieving,” Dr. Cheryl Tawede Grills said as she opened her training session for psychologists establishing therapy groups in a post-Ferguson world.  

The groups are called Emotional Emancipation Circles, or EEC’s, and they’re conducted in a specific way: create a safe space for people to talk about the racism they experience. Validate that experience. And give participants emotional tools to go forward.

Ryan White, the Indiana teenager who, after contracting AIDS at age 13, advocated for a more considered approach to those facing AIDS-related illnesses.
(via Wikimedia Commons/Wildhartlivie)

For people who live with HIV/AIDS, the cost of anti-retroviral medications, doctor’s visits and other medical care can quickly amount to thousands of dollars each month. Health insurance can keep these costs affordable, and the federal Ryan White program pays the cost of insurance for Missourians who meet certain income guidelines. 

But choosing a plan that works for people living with HIV can still be a challenge, and it’s a process Tom Kribben knows well.

Ka’milla McMiller (center) links arms with two other protesters to block the intersection of Kingshighway and Manchester Ave on November 26.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Thumping their chests in unison, about 125 protesters blocking a major intersection in the Grove neighborhood staged a protest that mirrored those of the past few months; but with a slightly different message.

“Trans Lives Matter!” 

After a 4 and a half minute moment of silence, the group then marched up Manchester Avenue, as bar-goers walked outside to take pictures or raise their hands in solidarity.

On South Florissant Road 1125
Willis Ryder Arnold | St. Louis Public Radio

The second day of post-grand jury protest in Ferguson unfolded in a familiar pattern. It began peacefully and ended with broken windows, tear gas and instructions to disperse. Forty-five people were arrested, the majority for misdemeanor offenses.

A mother and her son react to the grand jury decision, watched over livestream, at West Side Missionary Baptist Church in North St. Louis County.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

Audible groans murmured through the West Side Missionary Baptist Church in north St. Louis County when county prosecutor Robert McCulloch announced, via livestream, that no charges would be filed against Officer Darren Wilson.

Church leaders switched off the projector and the Rev. Starsky Wilson stood to give a sermon, calling for dissent.   

“The question is whether our faith will produce anything as an alternative witness to the system that has both broken, busted and disgusted,” Wilson said.

Ameren's coal-fired power plant in Labadie
Véronique LaCapra / St. Louis Public Radio

Post updated 11:13 a.m. on Monday, 11/24/14. 

After four years and a court order that pitted environmental groups against the coal industry, the Environmental Protection Agency is nearing its December deadline to finalize regulations for how coal-fired power plants dispose of the ash they create.  

Coal ash — which contains toxic substances like mercury, lead and arsenic — can leach into groundwater if not properly contained. That has raised concerns among environmental groups who say Missouri does not properly regulate coal ash disposal.  

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

A female nurse who was admitted to Mercy Hospital Jefferson with a fever after returning from Liberia has returned home, officials confirmed Saturday night. 

The Ebola virus, shown through transmission electron micrograph.
CDC

Updated at 6:40 p.m.

A Jefferson County woman who was showing symptoms of Ebola has initially tested negative for the virus at Mercy Hospital in Crystal City. As a precautionary measure, officials said she will remain in an isolation room for treatment and will be monitored according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Curesa Atkins sits in her apartment at the Garfield Commons.
Durrie Bouscaren / St. Louis Public Radio

When Curesa Atkins moved into her apartment at Garfield Commons, a group from her church decorated it for her.

“It was snowing, and I just thought, 'Thank God. I’m watching it from the other side of the window when there’s so, so many people out there,'” Atkins said.

Atkins, a 42-year-old former dental assistant, said she became homeless after a dealing with series of car repairs, a change in her marital status and, eventually, the loss of her job.

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