Health in the news

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100 days without Trump on Twitter: A nation scrolls more calmly

Seth Norrholm, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Wayne State University School of Medicine and an expert on post-traumatic stress, said that Twitter had offered Mr. Trump a round-the-clock forum to express his contempt and anger, a direct channel from his id to the internet. Every time he used all-caps, Professor Norrholm said, it was as if “an abuser was shouting demeaning statements” at the American people. Although “out of sight, out of mind really works well for a lot of people in helping them to move forward,” he continued, Mr. Trump has refused to go away quietly. Indeed, he has set up a sort of presidential office in exile at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, emerging intermittently to issue statements on quasi-presidential letterhead and to heap derision on Republicans he deems insufficiently loyal. “It’s as if you’re in a new relationship with the current administration, but every now and then the ex-partner pops up to remind you that ‘I’m still here’ — that he hasn’t disappeared entirely and is living in the basement,” Professor Norrholm said. “What’s going to happen over the next couple of years is that you will hear rumbles from the basement. We don’t know whether he’ll emerge or not, or whether it’s just some guy in the basement making some noise.”
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Spotlight on the News: Michigan's COVID-19 surge; what do top medical experts think?

Spotlight on the News examined Michigan's recent surge in COVID-19 cases through the eyes of two of the state's most experienced infectious disease medical experts. Guests included Professor Marcus Zervos, MD, Assistant Dean, Global Affairs, Wayne State Medical School & Division Head, Infectious Diseases, Henry Ford Health System; and Associate Professor Paul E. Kilgore, MPH, MD, FACP, Pharmacy, Family Medicine & Public Health, Wayne St. University & Senior Investigator, Global Health Initiative, Henry Ford Health System. What do they think is behind Michigan being the nation's latest coronavirus hot spot?
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What you need to know as Michigan enters third wave of COVID-19 pandemic

More of Michigan’s population is getting vaccinated as the rollout picks up steam in Detroit and across the state. Despite this, COVID-19 cases are once again climbing. “There is definitely a perception that we are through the worst of it, and we can let down our guard. I would seriously caution people against that,” says Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research at the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He says the U.K. strain is partly to blame for the spread of COVID-19 cases in Michigan. “This is definitely one reason we’re seeing a surge in cases now.”  This strain of COVID-19 can spread more rapidly and needs fewer virus particles to establish an infection in the body. For this reason, he encourages people to continue to wear a mask, even after vaccination. Mask wearing, Kilgore says, will protect the individual until the vaccination takes full effect and will also protect others who have yet to be vaccinated. Pandemic fatigue has left many eager to resume life as normal, but experts say fully reopening too soon could compromise the progress made against the virus. “There is definitely a perception that we are through the worst of it, and we can let down our guard. I would seriously caution people against that,” says Kilgore.
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Women not getting the healthcare they need during Covid-19, new survey shows

Just as women have borne the brunt of economic damage from the pandemic, a new report makes clear that Covid-19 has also disproportionately taken a toll on women’s health and access to care. According to a national survey, conducted late in 2020 by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than one-third (38%) of women had skipped preventive services, such as checkups or routine tests, during the pandemic. Nearly one-quarter (23%) had forgone a recommended test or treatment. In comparison, only 26% and 15% of men had missed preventive or recommended care, respectively. “The fact that women are more likely than men to delay their healthcare services is not surprising, as women have been disproportionately burdened with child and household care, home schooling and, in many cases, an inability to maintain employment due to the many obligations placed upon them,” said Dr. Sonia S. Hassan, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and associate vice president in the Office of Women’s Health at Wayne State University. 
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Is cold water swimming good for you?

Vaibhav Diwadkar, professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at Wayne State University School of Medicine, studies the effects of cold exposure. In a 2019 study published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, he and his collegue Otto Muzik, a professor of pediatrics and radiology also at Wayne State University, summarized a large collection of evidence to suggest that there's a relationship between stressing your body with cold exposure and your brain's response to stress. According to Diwadkar, while science has long focused on the destructive nature of stress, more emerging research shows that willfully stressing your mind and body in a controlled way helps train your system to better handle stress. He believes exposure to controlled stress releases neurochemicals in the brain that may be beneficial.
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Michiganders mental health affected by COVID

The Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Sciences has teamed with the State of Michigan to develop a comprehensive behavioral and mental health training and support program for the state’s first responders and their families to address the stress they face in their duties protecting residents. They created a program, Frontline Strong Together, and it will be available electronically and in-person to first responders and their families in nearly all 83 counties this year. The program is being developed and implemented with representatives of the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Department of Corrections, paramedics and dispatchers, according to Wayne State University. David Rosenberg, M.D and the Chair of The WSU hair of the WSU Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. “Frontline Strong Together distinguishes Wayne State University in that the research we do is not in some ivory tower. This is right in the trenches with the community, in real time, to develop evidence-based approaches to help as many people as possible,” said Rosenberg.
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Despite COVID spike, Whitmer mulls allowing more fans for Detroit Tigers

Schools have reopened, restaurants are back in business and thousands of baseball fans could soon get to enjoy an annual spring tradition: Detroit Tigers’ Opening Day. One year and a week after Michigan confirmed its first case of COVID-19, a massive vaccination effort is driving the state toward something approaching normal. But health experts warn the promise of herd immunity is still months away. And after a precipitous decline in December, January and February, Michigan is now seeing one of the fastest increases in daily coronavirus cases in the nation. “It’s a very dangerous time, because ... (more) people are vaccinated, but people are letting their guard down and not masking and not social distancing,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, an infectious disease specialist with Wayne Health and Wayne State University. “There is a lot of pandemic fatigue.” 
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Mobile Wayne Health vaccination clinic to take shots to the neighborhoods

There is plenty of excitement from people who are taking advantage of free COVID-19 vaccines offered through Wayne Health from Wayne State University and their mobile medical units. On Monday people pulled up to the New Bethel Baptist Church and they didn't even have to leave the driver's seat to get their first Covid shot. Others will get a chance to get theirs as Wayne Health visits neighborhoods as part of a new pilot program. "This is what is needed for us to get beyond on the pandemic," said Dr. Phillip Levy, Wayne Health. "We have to wear masks we have to continue to social distance. But the more people that can get vaccinated the sooner we can reach herd immunity." For months Wayne State University and its physician group Wayne Health, have taken vehicles across Detroit where they've done Covid tests and other health screenings. Now they are part of a statewide pilot program to make sure everyone has access to the vaccine. Levy, the chief innovation officer, says it's especially important to meet Detroiters where they're at. because while most drove up to Monday's clinic- not everyone has a car. "There's a lot of transportation challenges despite it being 'The Motor City,'" he said. "A lot of people don't have cars and a lot of people can't get ready access to public transportation. And they have to rely on somebody to drive them to existing vaccination sites."
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Wayne State to offer mental health program for first responders, families

Wayne State University is offering comprehensive behavioral and mental health training and a support program for the state's first responders and their families to address everyday job stress. Statistics indicate that more first responders die from suicide than from injuries sustained in the line of duty, said Dr. David Rosenberg, chair of the WSU Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences. Called Frontline Strong Together, mental health services will be available electronically and in person to first responders and their families in nearly all of Michigan's 83 counties this year, WSU said. Funded by a $2 million grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the program will offer education, training, support and treatment services. First responders include police, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, dispatchers and corrections personnel and their families. Partners include the Michigan Professional Firefighters Union, the Fraternal Order of Police, the state Department of Corrections, paramedics and dispatchers. "Frontline Strong Together distinguishes Wayne State University in that the research we do is not in some ivory tower. This is right in the trenches with the community, in real time, to develop evidence-based approaches to help as many people as possible," said Rosenberg in a statement. "We go where the data is and implement the best practices."
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How Wayne State University kept its COVID numbers extremely low

Many college campuses have been sources of community spread of COVID-19 over the past year. Big schools like the University of Michigan and Michigan State University have at times struggled to curb spread and socialization among the student body. Wayne State University, however, has had fewer than 500 cases, and only 60 cases popping up so far this year. How did the largest university in the state’s biggest city manage to pull off those low numbers? We spoke with WSU President M. Roy Wilson, who explained the measures the school has taken that have led to significantly less spread. 

J&J vaccine gets FDA emergency use approval

After receiving emergency use approval from the Federal Drug Administration, the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine has become the third COVID-19 vaccination available in the country. Authorized for individuals age 18 and older, the J&J vaccine only requires one dose and can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, which will make widespread dissemination throughout the state and country considerably easier. An ongoing randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted in the U.S., Mexico, South Africa and some of South America, within which 19,630 participants received the vaccine and 19,691 received saline placebo, has found the vaccine was approximately 67 percent effective at least 14 days after vaccination and 66 percent effective at least 28 days after vaccination in preventing moderate to severe/critical COVID-19. When it comes to preventing strictly severe/critical COVID-19, the study showed approximately 77 percent efficacy at least 14 days after vaccination and 85 percent efficacy at least 28 days after vaccination. “This vaccine is not only highly effective against severe disease in the United States, but was also highly effective against the highly transmissible South African variant that is now showing up in the United States,” said Paul Kilgore, M.D., MPH, one of the co-principal investigators of the J&J trial at Henry Ford that began in November, and an associate professor and director of research in the Department of Pharmacy at Wayne State University, in a press release. “It is 100 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths and is also equally effective across all races, including whites, African Americans and Hispanics.”
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COVID-19 blood plasma trial participation available at Wayne State University

As COVID-19 vaccines are being introduced, a researcher at Wayne State University continues work on blood plasma treatment trials that began in November. Dr. James Paxton, assistant professor in the Wayne State School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, has been the primary investigator for two outpatient studies of treatments that use blood plasma from people who have had COVID-19. The convalescent plasma, as it’s called, contains antibodies that help fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. “Not only do we have to limit the spread of this disease, but we have to be as aggressive as we can in treating it,” says Paxton, who is also an emergency physician at DMC Sinai-Grace and Detroit Receiving hospitals, both in Detroit. “I think convalescent plasma is one therapeutic option that’s going to prove to be effective. We hope it’s going to be as safe as it has been in other iterations and with other applications.” Sponsored through Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the months-long study aims to recruit at least 1,400 volunteers nationwide. Wayne State is one of 24 participating research entities and the only site in Michigan. The first study seeks to use the antibodies contained in plasma to protect people who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t yet become ill. The second will use the plasma on recently diagnosed people who have not been admitted to a hospital in hopes that it will slow or eliminate COVID-19 symptoms. The study is slated to be finished with enrollment by mid-March and will continue to seek participants until then.
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The exercise pill: How exercise keeps your brain healthy and protects it against depression and anxiety

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry, wrote an article for The Conversation about the benefits of exercise on the brain. “As with many other physicians, recommending physical activity to patients was just a doctor chore for me – until a few years ago. That was because I myself was not very active. Over the years, as I picked up boxing and became more active, I got firsthand experience of positive impacts on my mind. I also started researching the effects of dance and movement therapies on trauma and anxiety in refugee children, and I learned a lot more about the neurobiology of exercise. I am a psychiatrist and neuroscientist researching the neurobiology of anxiety and how our interventions change the brain. I have begun to think of prescribing exercise as telling patients to take their “exercise pills.” Now knowing the importance of exercising, almost all my patients commit to some level of exercise, and I have seen how it benefits several areas of their life and livelihood.
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U.S. reaches 500,000 Covid deaths, toll will continue to rise despite vaccine rollout

Dr. Paul Kilgore is an Associate Professor and Director of Research at Wayne State University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Science. He’s also a principal investigator at Henry Ford Health System and an expert in vaccine research. As the country hit 500,000 deaths from COVID earlier this week, Kilgore says that we still have a lot of work to do. “There’s no doubt about it, the vaccine will be an important tool but not the only one,” says Kilgore. He adds that it will continue to be crucial that people wear masks and practice distancing in the months ahead. He also points to other countries, including Korea, where mask wearing as a way of minimizing disease transmission is a normal part of life and would be beneficial here in the United States as well. ”We need to think very carefully about how we adopt mask wearing in this country as a permanent activity… that can really help when reducing transmission,” says Kilgore. As far as the outlook for the next several months here in Michigan, Kilgore says that he thinks ”what we’ll see as (weather warms up) is potential reduction in transmission but… if variants are causing easier transmission we will still need to be very vigilant about masking, distancing and getting vaccinated as soon as possible.” 
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Flashpoint 2/21/21: Detroit mayor steers city through pandemic; toll of COVID-19 on mental health of teens

After giving his two cents at the White House, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan returns to the city to try to steer it through the pandemic. Duggan talked about the challenges of the COVID-19 vaccine on Flashpoint. Then the “other” pandemic -- the mental health struggles of young people after a year of COVID-19. From the beginning, we’ve wondered about the toll the pandemic has been taking on all of us from a mental health standpoint. Studies are now making clear what many feared, that it’s having a deep and damaging impact on teenagers. There was a discussion on the issue with two health professionals including pediatrician Dr. Lynn Smitherman from Wayne State University and Mary Beth Garvey, a family therapist from Grosse Pointe.
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How the story of Remus Robinson relates to current racial disparities in healthcare

Dr. Herbert Smitherman, general internist at the Detroit Medical Center and vice dean of Diversity and Community Affairs at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, has been a practicing physician in Detroit for 33 years. Smitherman said he has met with several Black patients who don’t trust the COVID-19 vaccine or the health care system itself. He believes that can change if there are more Black doctors. “The race of the provider and having people that look like you, understand you, understand your concerns and your culture are very important to helping you receive needed care,” Smitherman said. A 2018 study done in Oakland, California, found that increasing the number of Black doctors could reduce the Black-white male gap in cardiovascular mortality by 19 percent. A 2016 study found that Black men and women in the U.S. have a life expectancy that was, respectively, 4.4 and 2.8 years shorter than white men and women. But Smitherman cautions that efforts to increase the number of Black doctors cannot be the only solution. “The mistrust was not created by Black physicians. It was structural racism and systemic racism within a health care system that created that mistrust, not Black physicians, but by non-Black physicians,” he said. Smitherman pointed out that issues such as where the vaccine is distributed, the times of day it’s offered, and the method for scheduling a vaccine appointment are all potential complications for the average Detroiter. He said figuring out solutions is all about having a diverse group of decision-makers at the table. “If you aren't having people of color represented in your real strategy setting and planning for vaccine distribution, we're not going to get where we need to get,” he said.
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'Many jails still do not do any testing.'

Wayne County Chief Judge Timothy Kenny has been working to stop the spread of COVID-19. Through bond reductions and early releases, he's helped to send home over 400 inmates since last March. Close quarters, limited PPE, a high population due to mandatory sentencing guidelines and old buildings with poor ventilation have conspired to make correction facilities hotbeds for COVID-19. Michigan's prison system — the Michigan Department of Corrections — has gotten the most attention around this. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 135 inmates within the MDOC have died from COVID-19. One in two of the department's inmates have tested positive since March. But jails are battling many of the same issues. In addition to Judge Kenny — and others within the Third Circuit Court — pushing to release inmates, the jail has also ramped up its testing protocol, per Sheryl Kubiak, dean of Wayne State University's School of Social Work. Kubiak has worked with Chief of Jails Robert Dunlap to create a testing and contract tracing plan. "When COVID hit and we knew that the jail was in such trouble — we made a call and said what can we do to help," said Kubiak, who explained that at the time, they were just learning that people could have no symptoms and still transmit COVID-19. Working with Wayne State University's Medical School, they did a series of mass testing to find out what the prevalence rate was, decide who to isolate and make future plans.
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Researchers receive $1,894,271 grant to address new drug targets for diastolic dysfunction

After the left ventricle of the heart contracts, it must relax efficiently to prepare to refill and supply the body with blood on the next beat.  An increasing number of patients — including nearly all patients with heart failure — suffer from impaired relaxation, which is part of a clinical syndrome known as diastolic dysfunction. Currently, treatments for impaired relaxation do not exist. A team of Wayne State University School of Medicine researchers led by Charles Chung, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology, recently received a $1,894,271 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to address the critical need for new drug targets and diagnostic indexes for diastolic dysfunction using novel biomechanical tests that ultimately can be translated into clinical practice. According to Chung, the project was inspired by his research team’s finding that how quickly the heart’s muscle moves is directly related to how fast the muscle can relax. The project will use unique experiments and imaging techniques to link mechanical properties of the heart with models of heart failure that occur in patients. “My lab’s main research focus is to understand how the heart muscle moves at the end of contraction and how this motion can speed up the force decline, or relaxation, of the muscle,” said Chung. “Major proteins in muscles called myosin, actin and titin control the force of each beat. When the heart muscle contracts, myosin binds to actin to generate force. Our lab is trying to determine if motion — and how fast the motion occurs — makes myosin let go of actin faster and make the muscle relax faster.”