Health, Science, Environment | St. Louis Public Radio

Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Peter Raven
St. Louis Public Radio file photo

Once every three months, Peter Raven pays a visit to his dermatologist. Summers spent at 10,000 feet, hiking northern California's Sierra Nevada Mountains and roaming the sand dunes and vacant lots of San Francisco take their toll. "That did a real number on my skin. Of course, nobody thought a thing about the sun in the 1950s," Raven said, describing a boyhood spent outdoors, rearing butterflies, collecting insects and gathering plants.  

A federal judge's ruling striking down the Obama administration's policy on embryonic stem cell research could result in an immediate halt for now in this kind of medical work in Missouri and nationally, according to some local and national proponents of the research.

That view was reinforced late yesterday by news that the National Institutes of Health has imposed a nationwide freeze on grants in the pipeline. That decision could affect research underway at both Washington University and the University of Missouri at Columbia.

For many of the home visits, Jamry uses a team of nurses, shown here in his office during a weekly meeting to go over cases.
Hodiah Nemes | Beacon intern

For 15 years, Dr. William Gee operated a solo medical practice in St. Louis. "It was going quite well," Gee says. But Gee was busy, a little too busy. He felt "pressure to see more and more patients with less and less time" and experienced mounting overhead costs.

"I got tired of that," Gee said.

A new early intervention program, financed with $88 million in federal health-reform money, has the potential of breaking the poverty cycle that afflicts generation after generation of at-risk families. The idea is to give a needy kid a healthy start in life through a home-visit  program that addresses child protection, health, early education and social service issues through age 8.

Jesse Drapekin smiles in front of his final Power Point presentation.
Jo Seltzer | Beacon file photo

Lots of young people are into social networking these days. But another kind of networking has been going on for two decades in laboratories across the St. Louis area.

Each summer dozens of students participate in STARS (Students and Teachers as Research Scientists), a program sponsored by the University of Missouri-St. Louis. This year, more than 60 students spent their summer doing original research in top labs of academia and industry.

"These kids are the scientists and engineers of tomorrow," said Michael Anch of the Saint Louis University department of psychology.

As she held and examined leafy green vegetables at the new Save-A-Lot grocery store in Pagedale the other day, Coreen Davis didn't need to be reminded that she hasn't been able to walk into a new supermarket in that part of St. Louis County for 40 years.

Pagedale but for surrounding communities."

He added that it wasn't easy to make the store a reality. The process involved tax increment financing, the buyout of about 10 properties, and developing the project "in a way that the provider of the grocery store in this case can pay rent that makes economic sense."

Dr. Frank R. Burton, whose research on chronic pancreatitis helped dispel the widely held assumption that sometimes led patients to be incorrectly labeled as problem drinkers, died of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (lung disease) at Saint Louis University Hospital on Monday (Aug. 2, 2010). He was 58.

Dr. Burton, a professor of internal medicine, suffered a heart attack in June while vacationing, but was recovering well when it was discovered that he had advanced lung disease. The illnesses were determined to be unrelated.

Here are two interesting facts from a new "green economy'' report commissioned by the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association:

 -- St. Louis has added 1,000 green jobs in the past two years, despite the recession.

 -- The number of green jobs in the region grew 54 percent between 1995 and 2008, while green job growth in California's Silicon Valley was 53 percent during the same time period.

Women who are diagnosed with breast cancer may soon be helped by a discovery made in 1880 by Alexander Graham Bell.

St. Louis may have missed out this week on a share of Race to the Top stimulus funds to improve public education, but it is a big winner on the health-care front. The federal government announced Thursday that it was extending through 2014 an unusual program that has provided about $25 million a year for funding area community health centers.

The hot, unforgiving Missouri sun beats down on a lost man. Although just a few miles from home, the man does not know where he is and has no recollection of how he got to where he is. He stands, scared and confused, pondering how he lost his way, but he still can't muster a single memory of his journey there.

As Haitians look back on the earthquake devastation that remains and look ahead to the hurricane season, they clearly see that a lot of work remains.

About 1.5 million Port au Prince residents (out of the country’s population of 8 million) still sleep in tented camps and spend part of each day standing in line for purified water. Coordination among aid organizations that have been in Haiti for a long time is going well, but that’s not the case with many of the organizations that first came in after the quake.

The Missouri Foundation for Health is one of only 11 groups nationally to win grants under a new federal initiative -- the Social Innovation Fund. The foundation got $2 million of the $50 million that the fund distributed Thursday. All recipients are charged with helping local communities develop better outcomes to persistent problems confronting the poor, ranging from struggling with financial issues to coping with AIDS.

On Feb. 21, 2010, The New York Times published an article by Gardiner Harris titled "Diabetes Drug Harms Heart, U.S. Concludes."  Rosiglitazone, a product of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is sold under the brand name Avandia. Studies have indicated it could be responsible for about 500 heart attacks and 300 cases of heart failure a month.

Dr. Pat Wolff at a clinic.
Provided by Washington University

Six months after Haiti's devastating earthquake, some Haitian institutions are planning for a "new normal."

The tragedy in Haiti has steeled the determination of several seasoned St. Louis volunteers to educate, mentor and help more Haitians become self-sustaining. Haitians must serve their own people and run their own hospitals, schools and society, they said in interviews this week.

Expansions are planned in Haiti for two St. Louis-founded institutions.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Health professionals in St. Louis are paying closer attention to the sexual health of girls in foster care because data show that about half of them become pregnant or give birth while they are still teens, according to Dr. Katie Plax, a specialist in adolescent medicine at Washington University.

Homer G. Phillips Hospital closed in 1979, but has been renovated and reopened as a senior living facility.
Onegentlemanofverona | Creative Commons

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon. - Dr. Jerome Williams Sr. still feels an emotional lift when he thinks about a Monday morning 72 years ago. In 1937, he had gathered with other Boy Scouts on the city's north side that morning. Standing erect, he waited to take his place in line for a parade; and in spite of the cold of a day in late February, he was moved by the sight of hundreds of people -- doctors and lawyers, teachers and preachers, dignitaries and ordinary people -- gathering in the vicinity of Whittier Street and Kennerly Avenue.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When it comes to health-care rationing, the discussions can be anything but rational.

In the current highly charged atmosphere over changes in health care, "rationing" is one of the hottest buttons around. Yet any debate over how medical resources can be used most wisely inevitably reaches the fact that because demand outstrips supply, patients can't ever get everything they want, so some form of allocation is needed. That's what rationing is all about.

Matt and Tom Smith
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

In high school, Matthew Smith busied himself designing websites, taking photos and making pottery. His younger brother, Tom, played trombone in the school jazz band, worked on his Eagle Scout badge and concentrated on honors classes in math, physics and geometry.

Like most teenagers preoccupied with their own pursuits, they didn't really notice anything unusual about their dad. But their friends did.

"They'd say, 'Your dad doesn't have any hair on his legs. Your dad's hair is really long'," said Matthew, 23.

Michelle and Debbie Smith
Nancy Fowler | St. Louis Beacon | File photo

Growing up with three brothers in a cramped house just outside Chicago, Michelle Smith delighted in the rare chance to slip into her mother's bra and black wig. As her heart pounded, her excitement was tempered only by the terror of being discovered. Had she been caught, Michelle feared her mother would not be amused by a 6-year-old's attempt to imitate mommy.

That's because Michelle was being raised as a son.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 6, 2009 - "No woman should be lying in a hospital bed, suffering, wondering how she's going to pay for her health care," said Tricia Recker.

A 5-year ovarian cancer survivor, Recker spoke at a health care forum at the Center for Advanced Medicine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital on Dec. 30. She echoed the words of President-elect Barack Obama during the campaign, as he spoke of his own mother's battle with ovarian cancer.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 6, 2009 - Like swallows returning to Capistrano, the eagles are returning to the area north of St. Louis.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 5, 2009 - The Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau is putting a new twist on that pastime that's become a winter tradition in the St. Louis area: eagle watching.

Thanks to the CVB, eagle watchers can use their GPS units to find geo cached treasures with an eagle slant in a new sport called eagle-caching.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 2, 2009 - When women visit Dr. Andrea Stephens for the first time to discuss menopause symptoms, there's a good chance they have gathered just enough conflicting data to make them nervous about hormone replacement therapy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 31, 2008 - In an old photo, members of the American Red Cross are removing two Spanish influenza victims from a home in St. Louis in November 1918. Both are dead. About 675,000 other Americans died of flu within 18 months, the last months of the First World War.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 21, 2008 - Two-year old Maya Rideout is doing very nicely, thank you. But she wasn’t always a healthy child.

Because her mom, Reggi, developed severe eclampsia during pregnancy, Maya was born three-months early and weighed in at less than 2 pounds. She was on oxygen for 15 weeks after birth. Her muscles were weak, and she developed problems using her left hand, both from being in an incubator for so long. Thanks to physical and occupational therapy, she is fine now, but she has certainly seen her share of doctors and therapists.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 21, 2008 - Back in 1963, a collection of biological specimens from St. Louis played an important role in history. The annual increase in radioactivity in more than 300,000 baby teeth collected from local children, together with a sharp rise nationally in childhood cancers, convinced President John F. Kennedy to sign an agreement ending above-ground nuclear testing.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 17, 2008 - Scientists who study ecology view the world as a patchwork quilt of different environments, all bordering on and interacting with one another.

Consider for a moment a patch of Missouri forest, the sort of place a deer or turkey might live. Ecologists call the collection of creatures that live in a particular place a community — all the animals, plants, fungi and microorganisms that live together in a Missouri forest, for example, are the forest community. Ecologists call the place where a community lives its habitat — the soil, and the water flowing through it, are key components of the forest habitat. The sum of these two, community and habitat, is an ecological system, or ecosystem.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 8, 2008 - Dr. Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka is a leading conservationist and mountain gorilla expert as well as the founder and CEO of Conservation Through Public Health . A Ugandan nonprofit, CTPH promotes health care for wildlife and for the people in the nearby communities. She will visit the St. Louis Zoo on Tuesday, Dec. 9, and give a lecture entitled “Gorillas in Her Midst.”

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 3, 2008 - It would seem I am not alone in losing single socks. My Nov. 19 column exploring why my home seems to lose single socks -- not pairs, but single socks -- has generated a lot of phone calls and e-mails, just as it did when I wrote a similar column several years ago - much more comment than my usual weekly column elicits. In deference to the strong interest expressed by my readers in this issue, I thought it would be interesting to review the many alternative opinions my readers express.

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