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Washington University

Researchers from Washington University analyzed the records of more than 58,000 children and teenagers in the U.S., revealing stark differences in death risk and survival between Medicaid patients and those with private insurance.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

Children and teenagers diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. can have a very different chance of survival based on the type of health insurance they have, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University.

The study, which analyzed the records of tens of thousands of young cancer patients, finds those on Medicaid had a higher risk of death and shorter overall survival compared to privately insured patients. But researchers caution that these results likely reflect the complex socioeconomic challenges facing families on Medicaid, rather than the quality of the insurance itself.

June 22, 2020 Ali Araghi
Provided by the author

Ali Araghi’s debut novel, "The Immortals of Tehran," spans four decades of Iranian history — from what would prove to be the nation’s final shah taking power to the 1979 revolution. It’s a sprawling family saga, with a dose of magical realism and a few surprising twists. Who would believe the surprising role meddling cats played in Iran’s tumultuous 20th century? 

Araghi is an Iranian-born translator and writer, but he’s spent the last four years living in St. Louis, where he is a Ph.D student of comparative literature at Washington University. He explained on St. Louis on the Air that he was inspired to incorporate cats after a chance encounter on the streets of Tehran.  

Hundreds of activists gathered in downtown St. Louis to protest the death of George Floyd. May 29, 2020
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio

As a professor of political science at Washington University, Clarissa Rile Hayward had a front-row seat for the protests and disruption that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014. She paid attention as activists blocked highways, demonstrated at a symphony performance and even interrupted brunch at fancy restaurants to agitate for the Black Lives Matter movement.

And she found herself thinking about what tactics work, and why. She believed that the conventional wisdom about such protests — that they only work if they present a “stark confrontation … between good and evil” in the words of noted sociologist Doug McAdam — was incomplete. She set out to develop a new model, one that accounts for protests that disrupt “elites’ agenda-setting,” and thereby transform the political calculus.   

The pandemic forced many large buildings to close, including theaters, schools and stadiums. Researchers warn that the stagnant water sitting in the pipes of these buildings may have accumulated pathogens and heavy metals.
Nat Thomas | St. Louis Public Radio

After sitting empty for months, offices and commercial buildings in St. Louis are beginning to reopen — many with freshly installed Plexiglas barriers to protect workers from passing the coronavirus.

But researchers warn of other health risks that may be lurking in the plumbing systems of these once-shuttered buildings.

With fewer users, pipes have held stagnant water for weeks or months at a time. Some waterborne pathogens thrive in this environment, while heavy metals can slowly leach out of aging pipes. The sheer number of unoccupied buildings during the pandemic has some researchers concerned about a potential spike in waterborne illnesses. 

Poet Carl Phillips finds inspiration in everyday moments. He published his 15th collection of poems in March.  [6/5/20]
Carl Phillips

Carl Phillips was teaching Latin to high school students when a poet changed his life. 

Phillips had long been an avid reader and wrote poems casually, but he never conceived of poetry as a career path. The poet Martin Espada visited the school where he worked and led a workshop for faculty. He saw what Phillips wrote in an exercise and suggested he apply for a state grant. 

Phillips got the grant. 

Then he won a poetry contest that led to publication of his first collection, “In The Blood,” in 1992. 

The next year he secured a position on the faculty at Washington University, where he remains a professor of English and leads a workshop in the graduate creative writing program. 

Students cross Grand Boulevard on St. Louis University's campus Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.
File Photo | David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio

Universities in the St. Louis region are releasing plans to return students back to campus this fall, but they come with a warning.

School administrators say they are prepared to shift instruction online and send students home like they did this spring if coronavirus cases again spike during the fall semester. Most plan to begin the school year with in-person learning while implementing social distancing measures on campus. 

Bob Behnken will be one of the first astronauts to travel into space on a commercially-built U.S. spacecraft, as part of a joint venture between NASA and aerospace company SpaceX.
NASA

NASA is set to launch its first space mission from American soil in nearly a decade — with an astronaut from St. Louis County aboard.

St. Ann native Bob Behnken is part of a two-person crew heading to the International Space Station on the Crew Dragon spacecraft, a joint venture between NASA and the commercial aerospace company SpaceX. 

The historic mission, scheduled to launch Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is also the first time a commercially built U.S. rocket and spacecraft will carry humans to the space station.

Respiratory therapist Melissa Delavara cares for COVID-19 patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Researchers at Washington University are launching a clinical trial of 30,000 health care workers to test if the drug chloroquine prevents COVID-19 infection.
Matt Miller | Washington University

Washington University researchers are launching an international study to test whether the drug chloroquine can prevent coronavirus infection.

Chloroquine and the closely related hydroxychloroquine have been used for decades for the prevention and treatment of malaria. But researchers are now examining whether the former might also be useful in the global fight against COVID-19. The collaborative team spanning four continents will enroll tens of thousands of health care workers in the clinical trial.

William Thomas, 18, of Chicago Heights, Illinois, fills out residential housing paperwork at a Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville freshman orientation on Friday, July 28, 2017.
File photo | Ryan Delaney | St. Louis Public Radio

Colleges and universities in the St. Louis region are starting to piece together plans for how students can return to their campuses for the fall semester, with plenty of emergency escape hatches built into those blueprints.

“We will definitely have a fall semester,” Rob Wild, Washington University’s interim vice chancellor for student affairs, said in a letter to students late last month, adding, “our strong preference is to have an ‘in-person’ experience, where students, faculty, and staff can be together on campus as a full community. However, we may need to make some changes.”

Nancy Morrow-Howell is the director of the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging and a professor at Washington University.
Washington University

Even the quickest scan of statistics related to the coronavirus pandemic makes it painfully obvious the disease has hit some communities and segments of the population much harder than others. And to an expert on aging and social policy such as Washington University’s Nancy Morrow-Howell, those troubling realities come as no surprise.

But as the crisis shines fresh light on longstanding disparities on a multitude of fronts, along with the everyday impacts of systemic racism and ageism, Morrow-Howell also has some hope for real improvement — particularly when it comes to a deeper understanding of older adults as the diverse individuals that they are.

Two students walk down the long stairwell in front of Brookings Administration Building at Washington University in St. Louis in March. The university plans to furlough up to 1,300 employees by next week. (photo taken March 19, 2020)
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Washington University’s residential advisors want financial compensation after being “randomly evicted” over email while scattered across the country for spring break.

With college campuses closed around the nation and students finishing up the semester from childhood bedrooms, older students enlisted as resident advisors are no longer needed to chaperone freshman dormitories.

Two Wash U students protest the Vietnam War following the Kent State shootings. The placard at left reads in part, "Four students were killed yesterday."
Washington University Photographic Services Collection, Washington University Libraries, Department of Special Collections

As a high school student and budding photojournalist years ago, Mike Venso first took an interest in what occurred at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, through the lens of another photographer: John Filo. Filo was a student at Kent State when he captured the Pulitzer Prize-winning image of Mary Ann Vecchio grieving Jeffrey Miller, one of the four students killed by Ohio National Guard troops during a campus protest 50 years ago Monday.

Venso, who would later meet Filo, eventually left photojournalism and entered the museum field, where he now works as the Missouri Historical Society’s military and firearms curator. His interest in the Kent State shootings and related Vietnam War-era protests at colleges and universities across the country, including Washington University in St. Louis, has stayed with him.

Washington University engineering graduate student David Dhanraj is part of a team of engineers testing how well different household and hospital-grade materials block tiny particles.
Washington University

With skyrocketing demand and limited supplies of protective gear, hospital workers across the U.S. have been fashioning their own makeshift masks during the pandemic.

Though there’s an array of possible mask materials available, it’s unclear how well each one protects against the coronavirus. A team of engineers at Washington University is now testing the filtration ability of different household and hospital-grade materials — and they’ve found some to be surprisingly effective.

Two students walk down the long stairwell in front of Brookings Administration Building at Washington University in St. Louis in March. The university plans to furlough up to 1,300 employees by next week. (photo taken March 19, 2020)
File photo | Bill Greenblatt | UPI

Updated at 5:45 p.m. with comments from the chief health care officer of the Association of American Medical Colleges

Washington University’s health care system is planning large-scale furloughs to deal with financial losses, even as parts of it scramble to handle a rush of COVID-19 patients.

Furloughed employees will be off work without pay but will still receive university benefits such as health insurance. 

Furloughs could affect up to 1,300 university employees and last up to 90 days, Chancellor Andrew Martin said Monday.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and elsewhere are investigating whether transfusions of blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 can prevent or treat the disease.
Getty Images via Washington University

Updated at 2:52 p.m. with comments from Dr. Jeffrey Henderson

Washington University researchers will soon begin testing a century-old technique that could help combat COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the university’s application to test plasma transfusion: isolating and transfusing antibodies from the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to those who are at high risk or are already ill from the virus.

Michael Kinch
Washington University

Many aspects of everyday life and commerce are grinding to a halt during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the online world remains as frenetic as ever. And while virtual tools and social media platforms provide much-needed connections in these isolating times, they’ve also made it easy for harmful misinformation to spread almost as fast as the coronavirus itself.

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, we worked to combat some of the false assumptions circulating about the virus. Host Sarah Fenske talked with Michael Kinch, the director of Washington University’s Centers for Research Innovation in Biotechnology and Drug Discovery, and he fielded listener calls in addition to Fenske’s questions.

The Labadie Energy Center was one of two Ameren Missouri power plants involved in the data breach.
File photo | Veronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Ransomware attackers have stolen data from a third-party vendor that supplies utility equipment to Ameren Missouri power plants.

Dozens of data files from Ohio-based LTI Power Systems appeared on a ransomware server in late February, including equipment diagrams and schematics from two Ameren Missouri facilities. No customer information appears to have been involved in the data breach.

Painter John William Waterhouse depicts a scene from the frame story of Boccaccio's "Decameron."
Wikimedia Commons

When a plague swept 14th-century Florence, killing more than half the city’s population, wealthy Italians turned to social distancing. One small group’s retreat from a stricken city to a deserted villa became the backdrop for the classic novel “The Decameron.”

That novel is just one of the texts Rebecca Messbarger teaches in her Disease, Madness and Death Italian Style course at Washington University. But it has sudden resonance, she says — and relevance she never anticipated when she began teaching it a year ago.

Rebecca Lester is an associate professor of sociocultural anthropology and a licensed clinical social worker.
EMILY WOODBURY | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

According to Washington University’s Rebecca Lester, eating disorders are among the most misunderstood medical conditions. For instance, she says, there’s an assumption that eating disorders are only a problem for upper-middle-class white girls — while that’s not completely off base, it’s just a sliver of the story.

In “Famished: Eating Disorders and Failed Care in America,” Lester looks closely at the impact of common misconceptions of eating disorders, as well as the way the U.S. health care system often fails to provide the types of treatment needed.

The new Sumers Welcome center employees a glass, curtain wall design.  [9/27/19]
James Ewing

Updated at 8:40 p.m. March 13, with new information about St. Louis University and the University of Missouri System 

There are no known cases of COVID-19 on college campuses in the St. Louis region, but many university admistrators are taking precautions by suspending in-person instruction and transitioning to online teaching platforms for varying periods of time.

Here's how the insitutions are responding.

Postdoctoral researchers Adam Bailey and Brett Case work on a vaccine to prevent the disease caused by the new coronavirus in a laboratory at the Washington University Medical Campus in March 2020.
Matt Miller | Washington University School of Medicine

As the number of COVID-19 cases climbs in the U.S., scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine are working on a vaccine to prevent the disease. 

Researchers are using a virus that’s harmless to humans and replacing a protein on its surface with one from the coronavirus that spreads the COVID-19 disease. That strategy could generate antibodies in the immune system that would attack the virus, said Sean Whelan, head of Wash U’s Department of Molecular Microbiology.

Leonard Green is a professor of psychological and brain sciences and economics at Washington University.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

’Tis the season for attempted lifestyle changes and vice-forsaking of all sorts. For the more resolute, perhaps a new 2020 goal has really started to stick after two months of hard-fought discipline. Others, particularly many Christians, are just beginning to give something up for Lent, a 40-day period leading up to the celebration of Easter.

Or at least they’ll try to give it up, whether it be a substance such as alcohol or sugar or, say, a digital denial of the self — like completely staying off Facebook. Many people fail at these attempts, giving in before the 40 days are up.

Washington University's Clinic for Acceptance, Recovery and Empowerment (CARE) is one of two clinics in St. Louis that provides care for pregnant women facing the challenges of an opioid use disorder.
DAVID KOVALUK | ST. LOUIS PUBLIC RADIO

Washington University’s Clinic for Acceptance, Recovery and Empowerment treats women who become pregnant while dealing with an opioid use disorder. It provides prenatal care, substance abuse treatment and extended postpartum support. 

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, the clinic’s medical director said there is a high demand for these services in the St. Louis region.

“We started as a half-a-day-a-week clinic, and volume has expanded so much that we are opening a second half-day in addition to our original,” said Dr. Jeannie Kelly. “We have seen a pretty high number [of clients] in our clinic.”

Donald Hutson died after taking synthetic cannabinoids, or K2, at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center in 2018. An internal investigation by the Missouri Department of Corrections revealed officers did not follow departmental policy while restraining him.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Donald Hutson’s family had been waiting for his release from prison for decades.

But in September 2018, Hutson died at Missouri Eastern Correctional Center after taking the illegal drug K2.

St. Louis Public Radio first reported on his death last year as part of a long-term investigation examining overdoses in Missouri prisons. Our reporting uncovered disturbing details about the night Hutson died, spurring more questions. 

Darwin Aquino grew up in the Dominican Republic playing the violin before becoming a conductor and composer.
August Jennewein | University of Missouri-St. Louis

For about a year, Darwin Aquino has been serving as conductor of the orchestras at both the University of Missouri-St. Louis and Washington University. And on Tuesday evening, the two groups under his direction rehearsed together for the first time ever. Final preparations are underway for their distinctive concert this Sunday, where they’ll combine musical forces to present music from several popular video games, films and more.

“It’s the music that we hear every day, and especially our young people,” he said during Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air. “They are hearing that music while they play the video games or they see a movie. So that’s why we decided for this very special event [to] put two university orchestras together … playing the music of today.”

Tim Bono has written the book on "Happiness 101."
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Tim Bono knows what will make you happier. And it may not be what you think. “[T]he common denominator of happiness has a lot to do with the denominator itself,” writes the Washington University lecturer in psychological and brain sciences. “The happiest young adults craft lives that ensure that what they want doesn’t get larger than what they have.”

But as Bono explains in his book, “Happiness 101,” it’s not about keeping expectations low. It is about keeping them realistic — and remembering what you have by practicing gratitude.

The Rev. Deanna Hollas became the first ordained minister of gun violence prevention last year. 2/6/20
The Rev. Deanna Hollas

The first ordained Presbyterian minister of gun violence prevention is headed to St. Louis to teach elected officials and parishioners about ending gun violence. 

Washington University and Webster Groves Presbyterian Church will host a weekend-long event that will include a lecture, sermon and workshop with the Rev. Deanna Hollas. Hollas was ordained a minister of gun violence prevention through the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship last year. 

Adia Harvey Wingfield joined Wednesday's talk show.
Sean Garcia

Washington University’s Adia Harvey Wingfield, who is a professor of sociology, has long been interested in the ways that race, class and gender influence everyday workplace structures and interactions. Her most recent book, “Flatlining: Race, Work, and Health Care in the New Economy,” looks closely at the experiences of black workers in health care — as does a new study of which she is the co-author.

Focused around 60 in-depth interviews with black doctors, nurses and technicians, the study suggests that among people of color, one’s professional status within an organizational hierarchy has a significant effect on how one perceives instances of racial discrimination.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Harvey Wingfield joined host Sarah Fenske to discuss the implications of this research for the health care industry and beyond.

Illustration by Susannah Lohr | St. Louis Public Radio

As a postdoctoral fellow at Washington University, Tom Cohen realized he had a slim shot at landing a tenure-track job. But in the business world, his expertise offered lots of opportunities.

That’s why he joined the Biotechnology and Life Science Advising Group, founded by Wash U students and called BALSA for short.

It allows Ph.D.s and postdocs from universities in the area to gain industry experience while businesses commissioning projects get the work done for a fraction of the cost. 

Jameca Falconer joined Friday's "St. Louis on the Air" to talk about the types of attention and how limited attention spans can lead to hasty or irrational decision making. Steve Smith joined the conversation by phone to talk about guidelines for senators
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

This week marked the next phase of the U.S. Senate impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Eventually, the senators will have to vote whether or not to remove the president from office. Senators are in the midst of a question-and-answer period before potentially calling on witnesses to testify. 

The lawmakers sit through hours and hours of information overload during these hearings, which began Jan. 16, and are only granted a brief 15-minute recess every two hours — with a 45-minute recess for dinner at 6 p.m. The break time is decided on by the majority leader, with approval from the minority leader. 

That can take a mental and physical toll — as noted by reporters covering the hearings and illustrated by senators taking cat naps or walking out during presentations. One senator is even providing fidget spinners to colleagues. 

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