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Health, Science, Environment

Health, science, and environmental news

Saint Louis University School of Medicine recently was taken off probation by the nation's accrediting body.
Wikimedia Commons

The agency in charge of licensing the nation’s medical schools has taken the Saint Louis University School of Medicine off probation.

The Liaison Committee on Medical Education informed the school in 2017 that it was putting the school on notice in part because the university could not comprehensively demonstrate and measure what medical students were learning. School officials said it’s made changes to remedy the agency's complaints.

This week, the committee decided that SLU has taken necessary steps to move off probation.

Shirley, an 80-pound Alpine milking goat, inspects a yoga student at Green Finned Hippy Farm on September 15, 2018.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Shirley isn’t familiar with the concept of personal space.

The 80-pound Alpine milking goat wanders around the yoga class, closely inspecting the other participants and occasionally stepping on a stray finger.

“I guess Shirley is going to help me demonstrate this next pose,” said instructor Alicia Davis, as the goat parks herself at the front of the class.

Michelle Pattengill, a technician at L&S Pharmacy in Charleston, Mo., holds a bottle of oxycodone, a prescription opioid.
Bram Sable-Smith| Side Effects Public Media

The number of opioid-overdose deaths in St. Louis and surrounding counties continued to rise in 2017, although the increase wasn’t as steep as in previous years.

There were 760 opioid-related fatalities last year in St. Louis, St. Louis County and eight surrounding counties, a 7 percent increase from 2016, according to the St. Louis-based National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. The year before, the number of deaths jumped nearly 40 percent.

“We have seen a major increase in access to treatment, in access to naloxone, in access to harm-reduction strategies, and that might having an impact in slowing down the increase,” said Brandon Costerison, director of the addiction prevention and education initiative MO-HOPE.

Alyson Thompson (left) and Kathryn Stinson (right) give advice and stress the importance of avoiding physical and emotional burnout.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Burnout, or the physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress, is an issue many people face in their day-to-day lives. Among those commonly susceptible to it are teachers, social service workers, activists and first responders.

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed ways in which people who are invested in emotionally draining work can avoid burnout and practice self-care. Joining the conversation were licensed professional counselor Kathryn Stinson and Alyson Thompson, co-founder of The 4A Project.

The HPV vaccine protects against nine forms of the human papillomavirus, which can cause, anong others, cervical and throat cancer. The government recently announced it works for older adults as well as adolescents.
Benjamin W. Stratton | U.S. Air Force

Gynecologists hope the federal Food and Drug Administration's decision to approve human papillomavirus vaccine for older adults could protect more people. Missouri has one of the highest rates of cancer caused by the virus in the nation.

FDA officials previously recommended the Gardasil vaccine for those between ages 9 and 26. On Friday, the agency expanded the vaccine for those up to 45.

HPV is a skin virus that’s spread through sexual contact. There are many types of HPV and some eventually cause cancer in men and women, including cervical and throat cancer.

A stretch of LeBarque Creek near Pacific Oct. 2018
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

The Nature Conservancy is rebuilding eroded streambanks in Missouri to reduce sediment pollution, which is one of the largest sources of water contamination in the state.

Since the summer of 2017, conservationists have been working with environmental engineers to stabilize streambanks at LaBarque Creek near Pacific. They're also doing so along the Elk River in southwest Missouri, where sediments have polluted the watershed. Through bioengineering techniques, they repair the streams by using deep-rooted native plants, biodegradable coconut fibers and other natural materials, such as wood, to keep the banks from depositing sediments into the water.

Ray Schultz, a Missouri Department of Conservation volunteer, is riding an Action Track Chair.
The Missouri Department of Conservation

Special motorized chairs are making it possible for people with physical disabilities to enjoy Missouri’s state parks.

Action Track Chairs, offered by the Missouri Department of Conservation, have special wheels and controls that enable users to navigate rugged trails and waterways.

Guy Vogt, the assistant outdoor education center manager at August A. Busch shooting range in Defiance, said with the fall hunting season in full swing, the chairs are equipped to do a lot.

 A photo of Oregon Avenue in Gravois Park neighborhood. The Regional Health Commission has identified the south St. Louis neighborhood as having a significant need for low-cost primary care.
Paul Sableman | Flickr

Low-cost health care centers are lacking in parts of the St. Louis region with the greatest medical need, according to a report from the St. Louis Regional Health Commission.

The growing need reflects the changing demographics of the region, Robert Fruend, the commission’s CEO said. North St. Louis was long considered the neediest part of the city. As a result, majority of the region’s low-cost health clinics are there. But “over time, over the last 20 to 30 years, that node of this concentrated circle of poverty and need that we had in our region has migrated outwards,” Fruend said.

George Smith, a retired biology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia
University of Missouri-Columbia

When retired biologist George Smith picked up the phone at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, he wasn’t expecting it to be the Swedish Academy.

“It’s kind of a common prank for your friends to put on a fake Swedish accent and tell you that you won,” Smith said. “I thought maybe it was a joke but the line was so scratchy and there was so much interference, I thought nah, it wasn’t one of my friends. They wouldn’t have such a bad connection.”

Through the phone call, Smith, a professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-Columbia, learned that he won the Nobel Prize in chemistry for developing a method called phage display in the 1980s. Bacteriophages are viruses that infect bacteria. Smith used them to create a tool that would help identify antibodies, molecules in the body that identify invading pathogens, that would be the most useful for binding to molecules that are associated with certain diseases.

This story was updated at 9 a.m. Oct. 4 to add the comments of Missouri Gov. Mike Parson and Department of Health and Senior Services Director Dr. Randall Williams. 

A federal judge has declined – at least for now — to block a Missouri abortion law, leaving the state with just one abortion provider.

The law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital or else face criminal prosecution. 

The University of Missouri has its first ever Nobel Prize.

Professor Emeritus George Smith shares the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with two other researchers, one from Caltech in Pasadena, and the other from the MRC Laboratory in Cambridge. Smith was a professor at MU for 40 years. He won the Nobel for his development of a method called phage display, in which a virus that infects bacteria can be used to evolve new proteins.

Josh Davis tends to his American mulefoot hogs on his farm in Pocahontas, Illinois on September 15, 2018.
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Josh Davis likes to name his pigs after flowers: Petunia, Iris, Violet and Daisy.

That’s not the only thing that sets him apart as a hog farmer.

For the past three years, Davis and his wife, Alicia, have been raising one of the rarest pig breeds in the world on their farm in Pocahontas, Illinois. The American mulefoot hog was a popular breed in the Midwest in the early 1900s, but now, there are only a few hundred left. The Davises are among a small group of farmers hoping to revive the breed by putting it back on the menu.

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

A St. Louis-based project that uses former drug users to convince overdose victims in emergency rooms to seek treatment will soon focus on patients who refuse emergency transport.

For two years, the Engaging Patients in Care Coordination project has enlisted peer-recovery coaches from participating treatment centers to area ERs to meet with people who have overdosed on opioids.

Starting this month, the project will send the coaches — themselves in recovery — to meet with overdose victims who refused to go to the ER.

A ruffed grouse
Missouri Department of Conservation

For the next three years, Missouri conservation officials are bringing 300 ruffed grouse into the state from Wisconsin in hopes of raising the native bird’s population.

The ruffed grouse is a stout-bodied, medium-sized bird with white, grey or brown feathers and mostly spends its time on the ground. In Missouri, the ruffed grouse lives mainly in the River Hills region, located in an east-central part of the state that covers Callaway, Montgomery and Warren counties. 

While the ruffed grouse have fairly healthy populations in the northern parts of the United States, its Missouri population has declined in recent years. In 2011, the state suspended the hunting season for the bird, in place since the 1980s.

Nurse Jordan McNab attends to a patient in the cardiac intensive care unit at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On nurse Jordan McNab’s first day at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis in 2017, a patient stopped breathing. She had to immediately start giving him CPR.

“I vividly remember with my hands on a chest and going too fast,” she said. “You just can’t prepare for it.”

For many beginning nurses, the stress of a new job can be particularly acute. Dealing daily with life, death and illness along with normal new job strain can put them at risk of burnout during the transition from school to work.

To help new nurses deal with stress and keep them in the workforce, the region’s hospitals have developed nurse residency programs that focus on their well-being.

The West Lake Landfill, in the distance, sits adjacent to the Bridgeton Landfill, right.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated at 12:10 p.m. Sept. 28 — The Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its plan to remove radioactive waste from the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.

The chosen solution will remove about 70 percent of the site’s radioactivity and dispose of the waste at an out-of-state facility. The $205 million plan is similar, though less expensive, to what officials proposed in February.

The West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton, seen from St. Charles Rock Road.
File Photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

On Thursday, the Environmental Protection Agency approved plans to clean up radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill Superfund site.

The agency plans to remove about 70 percent of the site’s radioactivity and dispose of the waste at an off-site facility. The entire process is estimated to cost $205 million and take about four and a half years to complete.

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar is the author of the new book 'Heart: A History.'
ALEX HEUER | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

The heart has symbolized human emotion and affection since ancient times. Philosophers of the past considered the heart the “seat of the soul,” believing it to be, not only a life-sustaining organ, but also a representation of our internal lives.

Dr. Sandeep Jauhar’s latest book 'Heart: A History' lends credence to the persistent cultural comparison between the physical and metaphorical heart, even suggesting that the future of heart research depends on scientists’ willingness to recognize this relationship.

Bonne Terre resident Steven Anderson sits in a kayak in the Big River next to a beach covered in legacy mine waste.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

About 55 miles southwest of St. Louis, Steven Anderson — who owns an outfitter called Cherokee Landing in Bonne Terre — routinely takes his customers to St. Francois State Park.

To a trained observer like Anderson, the beach where he launches his kayak trips offers clear signs of lead contamination. Before taking off recently, he scooped up a handful of gravel.

“See these gray and black specks?” he said, pointing at the tiny dark rocks in his hand. “There’s a lot of heavy tailings on this beach.”

The tailings are discarded mine waste from the lead mining that long took place in St. Francois County. The Environmental Protection Agency has a plan to clean up the waste along the Big River, which runs through the heart of Missouri's Old Lead Belt.

The chemical additive BPA is found in many consumer products, including thermal paper used in cash register receipts. Scientists at the University of Missouri have found a potential link to BPA and insulin production.
Derek Bridges | Flickr

Biologists at the University of Missouri have found that a chemical commonly used in consumer plastics could affect how a body reacts to and regulates blood sugar.

Bisphenol A — or BPA — is a plastic additive found in bottles, the resin lining of food cans and thermal receipt paper. An experiment by Mizzou researchers exposed a small group of people to the chemical. After the exposure, the researchers measured subjects’ insulin levels, and found people exposed to the BPA had produced more insulin.

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