Health in the news

How therapy dogs can help student with stress on college campuses

By Christine Kivlen  At a private college in the Northeast, a first-year student said it was the highlight of her day whenever she would lie on the floor of her adviser's office and cuddle with a therapy dog, a Leonberger named Stella. At a large public university in the Midwest, a graduate student spoke of how a therapy dog there provided some much-needed relief. "What stands out for me is how comforting it felt to pet the therapy dog, especially when I started to miss my family and my own dog at home," the student, who is in a demanding health professional program, told me for my study of therapy dog programs for graduate students. The student spent about 35 minutes a week with three other students who all got to spend time with the therapy dog, petting her and giving her treats. Another student in the same program said spending time with a therapy dog helped her prepare for high-stakes tests. "It was always really nice to spend time with the therapy dog before big exams," the student said. "I felt like it gave me time to relax before the stressful test." 
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Therapy dogs help students cope with the stress of college life

Christine Kivlen, assistant professor (clinical) of occupational therapy in the Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, wrote an article for The Conversation detailing the benefits of therapy dog programs for college students. As the demand for mental health counseling continues to increase, more colleges are using therapy animals as a way to improve student mental health. Such programs, more formally known as canine-assisted interventions – can improve student well-being while helping students achieve a stronger sense of belonging, cope with being homesick and lonely, and lessening their anxiety and stress. College students who spent even just ten minutes petting a dog or cat saw significantly decreased cortisol levels, which are known to indicate stress.
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COVID-19 infection increases risk for preeclampsia reported by WSU and PBR investigators

A newly published study found that women who contract COVID-19 during pregnancy are at significantly higher risk of developing preeclampsia, the leading cause of maternal and infant death worldwide. The research, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, shows that women with SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy had 62% higher odds of developing preeclampsia than those without the infection during pregnancy. The research was led by Roberto Romero, M.D., DMedSci, chief of the Perinatology Research Branch and professor of molecular obstetrics and genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine, and Agustin Conde-Agudelo, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., adjunct professor of obstetrics and gynecology. “This association was remarkably consistent across all predefined subgroups. Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 infection during pregnancy was associated with a significant increase in the odds of preeclampsia with severe features, eclampsia and HELLP syndrome,” said Dr. Romero.
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New NIH research study to investigate psychosocial determinants of cardiovascular disease risk among urban African American adults

The Biopsychosocial Health lab from Wayne State University has been awarded $3,590,488 from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to conduct a project titled “Stress and Cardiovascular Risk Among Urban African American adults: A Multilevel, Mixed Methods Approach.”  The project, led by Samuele Zilioli, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Psychology and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at Wayne State University, aims to provide a fine-grained characterization of the psychosocial factors associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk and inflammation among urban middle-aged and older African American adults.  According to Zilioli, despite the steady decline in CVD morbidity and mortality in the U.S. over the last few decades, African American adults bear a disproportionate share of CVD burden.” Most of the research in this area has focused on proximate medical risk factors — such as diabetes and dyslipidemia — for CVD risk,” said Zilioli. “Only recently, however, have researchers started to consider the role of more distal risk factors, such as psychosocial stressors.” 
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Hospitals innovate amid dire nursing shortages

By Patrick Boyle  At Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas, doctors have been stepping up for duties normally done by nurses and medical assistants, such as turning and bathing patients. At UAMS Medical Center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) in Little Rock, administrators have been recruiting new nurses with signing bonuses of up to $25,000. And at UAB Medicine in Birmingham, Alabama, nursing school faculty have been leading teams of students in turning critically ill COVID-19 patients from their backs onto their stomachs (knowns as proning) so they can breathe better. “I’ve never seen such teamwork. It’s been a mind-blowing experience,” says Summer Powers, DNP, CRNP, an assistant professor at UAB School of Nursing who helped to organize the faculty/student teams. Also never seen before are the staffing shortages that are plaguing hospitals in the latest COVID-19 hot spots, forcing them to offer eye-popping employment bonuses and draft everyone — from students to administrators to physicians — to fill in the gaps as best they can. While shortages abound across front-line jobs, nowhere is the need greater than in nursing, as hospitals hit by the current surge report unprecedented vacancies in nursing slots: 470 out of 3,800 positions at Parkland; 240 out of 1,400 at UAMS; and 760 out of 4,000 at UAB. COVID-19 has intensified some of those conditions. The first surges last year compelled many nurses and other health care workers to leave their jobs, but the vast majority battled through the exhaustion, despair, and fear out of a sense of duty and with faith that medical researchers would find ways to combat the disease. They just had to hang on until then. “When we were able to jump in with vaccinations in January [2021], there was a sense of great hope,” recalls Tricia Thomas, PhD, RN, associate dean for faculty affairs at Wayne State University College of Nursing in Detroit.  https://www.aamc.org/news-insights/hospitals-innovate-amid-dire-nursing-shortages 

Sleep debt hampers brain function up to a week later, study finds

We’ve all been there: whether it's pulling a late-night study session, nursing a newborn baby at 4 a.m., or working long hours to meet a deadline, a lot can come between you and your pillow. You may chalk up sleep debt as an inescapable part of life. But a growing body of sleep-medicine research is shedding light on just how much damage too little sleep can cause. New research suggests that recovery from sleep deprivation (many days of it, in particular) may not be so easy. The effects of sleep deprivation on the brain’s attention and cognitive processing abilities may linger as long as a week after we’ve returned to a regular sleep routine, warns a new study, published September 1 in the journal PLoS One. Ultimately, you should think twice before you pull another all-nighter. While you may feel refreshed after a subsequent good night’s rest, your body may still feel the effects of your late nights, says James Rowley, MD, a professor of critical care and sleep medicine at Wayne State University in Detroit. This research is more evidence that you can’t quickly make up for lost sleep if you’re chronically sleep deprived, he says. “In the long run, it’s better to avoid the sleep debt in the first place and try to get seven hours of sleep consistently seven nights per week.” 
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Pregnancy tests, VR goggles, pipes, 100-plus pounds of marijuana among purchases included in Michigan research grants

By Gus Burns  Pipes, virtual reality goggles, biometric tracking devices, iPads, auto insurance, lab vans, pregnancy tests and several dozen salaries are included in the budgets. Michigan voters in 2018 supported a marijuana legalization ballot proposal that included $40 million in funding over two years for U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved clinical trials “researching the efficacy of marihuana in treating the medical conditions of United States armed services veterans and preventing veteran suicide.” Marijuana advocates hope findings will scientifically justify to the FDA and other federal entities that marijuana has valuable medical use. Marijuana is currently labeled a schedule I drug by the DEA, which by definition deems it to have “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” That is not the perception shared by states, including Michigan, that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational use. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ Marijuana Regulatory Agency awarded Wayne State University (WSU) $7 million and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) $13 million to conduct their clinical trials that will take five and three years each, respectively. 
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CDC warns against the misuse of ivermectin to treat COVID-19

Overdosing on the drug ivermectin can be scary, with symptoms that can include everything from nausea and vomiting to hallucinations and even death. While ivermectin has been used to treat people with certain conditions, like head lice and rosacea, the FDA and the CDC have seen an uptick of reports of misuse and overdose. “If they’re using the veterinary formulations, you have to realize that these medications, or these formulations, specifically, are designed for animal use. And these are animals that are significantly larger than the average human if we’re talking about horses and cows,” said Dr. Varun Vohra with the Michigan Poison & Drug Information Center at Wayne State University.  
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The aching red: Firefighters often silently suffer from trauma and job-related stress

Arash Javanbakht, associate professor of psychiatry, wrote a piece for The Conversation. “Images of tragedy, loss of entire communities and the terrible destruction wrought by deadly wildfires in the West have sadly become all too common. But the public hears relatively little about the suffering of the firefighters who risk their lives and are away from their families for days and weeks at a time…While the choice to become a firefighter often stems from a passion for, and a mindset of, helping others and saving lives, being constantly exposed to death, injury and suffering comes with a cost. Cumulative stressors include the physical toll on the body, long working hours, work-related sleep disturbance and an inability to attend to daily family life. I am a psychiatrist and trauma expert who often works with first responders as well as refugees and victims of war crimes. While many people think of firefighters as the happy heroes, the real-life, day-to-day experiences of these heroes can have real consequences for their mental health that remain largely invisible to the public eye.”
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Detroit Public Schools to require masks for students, staff in new school year

Detroit Public Schools Community District will require masks be worn by all students and staff inside its buildings for the school year beginning Sept. 7. DPSCD had previously adopted a mask policy that would allow those fully vaccinated to not wear masks in classrooms but pushed for a change after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations that all people, including those vaccinated against COVID-19, should return to wearing masks at crowded indoor locations including schools. Teena Chopra, chief of infectious diseases at Wayne State School of Medicine and a Detroit Medical Center physician, said schools, particularly those in areas with elevated community spread of the coronavirus, should be mandating mask wearing given the rising delta variant. "I think it is deadly and dangerous behavior to not require masks," Chopra said. "This virus is extremely unforgiving and elementary age children, they are completely unprotected. Mask mandates have to be there until community transmission goes down. That can happen as soon as people get vaccinated. This is not the time to dwell on breakthrough infections, but to increase vaccinations across the nation," Chopra said. "Our children are going to suffer the most. We are seeing severe infections in children. There are children that are in ICUs (intensive care units) and (on ventilators). The breakthrough infections are there. Vaccines are not there to prevent breakthrough infections. They are there to prevent severe illness and hospitalization and death."
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"Just keep that person alive": Michigan's harm reduction strategies prevent opioid overdoses

While the COVID-19 crisis has held Michigan's attention for the past year and a half, a different deadly epidemic is taking an increasing number of Michiganders' lives. From 2000 to 2018, opioid overdose deaths have grown tenfold in Michigan. And according to Amy Dolinky, senior advisor of Michigan opioids strategy with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), those numbers grew by another 14% in the past year. The state has a seven-pillar strategy to combat the opioid epidemic, one of which is sometimes controversial, yet also quickly gaining recognition and acceptance for its effectiveness: harm reduction. Harm reduction involves expanding access to naloxone and sterile syringes, aiming to minimize harmful effects for those who are using opioids. With funding from MDHHS. Wayne State University professor Brad Ray has spearheaded efforts to put naloxone vending machines into Michigan's county jails and other accessible sites. "The struggle is: How do you get to the people who are going to use naloxone? Jails seemed like a really good opportunity to do that," Ray says. Ray notes that vending machines have been highly effective elsewhere in the country. Los Angeles County has distributed over 34,000 naloxone doses since it began installing vending machines in jails in 2020. So far in Michigan, jails in Monroe, Jackson, Delta, and Kalamazoo counties have the vending machines. Individuals being released can grab a naloxone kit for free, complete with instructions, on their way out. Ray has ordered 10 more of the customized vending machines. Sites in Kent, Oakland, Washtenaw, and Alpena counties are each slated to receive one. "Just keep that person alive," Ray says. "They can't get clean or in recovery if they're dead. Sometimes it takes time."
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Wayne State establishes infectious disease research center to aid in future pandemics

Wayne State University announced Monday the opening of a new center focused on the study of infectious diseases and strategies to combat future pandemics. The Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases will enhance training and research in the field of public health. The center is not a physical building but a collection of doctors, researchers and professors at the Detroit-based university. "The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered local, state and national mindsets toward infectious disease threats, including pandemic diseases," Dr. Mark Schweitzer, dean of Wayne State's School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs for the university, said in a news release. "The pandemic revealed deep and broad gaps in our clinical and public health infrastructure that responds to pandemics. "In line with the mission of WSU to support urban communities at risk for health disparities, the center will have the expertise and capacity to support and collaborate with neighborhoods, hospitals and public health agencies to deliver state-of-the-art diagnostics, treatments and preventive strategies for the benefit of all residents in Detroit and other communities." Work done at the center will focus on vaccine development, clinical vaccine evaluational, deployment strategies for the vaccine in underserved populations and research on pandemic mitigation efforts. Directors of the new center include: Dr. Teena Chopra, professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases; Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Marcus Zervos, head of infectious diseases division for Henry Ford Health System, professor of medicine and assistant dean of WSU Global Affairs. Key faculty include Dr. Phillip Levy, professor of emergency medicine and assistant vice president of translational science and clinical research at WSU, and Matthew Seeger, professor of communication.
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Here’s what you need to know about latest COVID-19 surge, delta variant

There is a new surge of COVID-19 cases being driven by the delta variant. This strain of the virus is much more contagious than the original strain that emerged in March 2020. Michigan has seen a more than 180% increase in cases over two weeks. “Even if you do get the infection, as a breakthrough case, the likelihood that you’re going to end up in the hospital or in the intensive care unit or … die, is very, very low,” says Dr. Paul Kilgore, associate professor and director of research at Wayne State University’s Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. This spike in caseloads has caused many universities — including the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University — to require staff, students and faculty to be vaccinated before the start of the school year. Just over 55% of people 16 years or older are fully vaccinated in Michigan.
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Michigan health experts worry as COVID-19 cases climb with delta variant

The United States has finally reached a goal set by President Joe Biden to get 70% of adults with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, it's coming in the midst of a surge of cases nationwide. Right now, 47 states, including Michigan, are categorized as "high or substantial" community transmission. Five states are in such bad shape, they accounted for nearly half the new cases across the country last week. Dr. Teena Chopra, a professor of infectious diseases at Wayne State University, said the delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading fast, and the viral load is 1,000 times than that of the original virus. "We need to keep moving forward and we need to move forward with our vaccinations rates faster than before because we don't want to give this virus a chance to win," Chopra said. As of Monday, 33 of Michigan's 83 counties – including Oakland, Macomb and Livingston – are considered to have substantial or high transmission rates. In these areas, the CDC advises both the vaccination and unvaccinated wear masks. Late last week, just 10 rural counties fit the CDC's criteria. Michigan health officials are worried that if the virus keeps replicating, the next variant might escape vaccination. Beaumont Health System currently has 64 COVID-19 patients admitted – 3 of whom are vaccinated. That's .06% of patients having breakthrough cases. "It's a known fact that vaccinations are the only way out of his pandemic and when we have that tool in our tool box the community has to get vaccinated and help each other through those tough times," Chopra said.
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Wayne State awarded millions in order to battle hypertension in Detroit

Wayne State University has been awarded millions of dollars to study high blood pressure in Detroit residents. The new project will deploy mobile health clinics to Detroit neighborhoods over the next four years to better understand the factors that contribute to hypertension in residents. It's part of a $20 million initiative to better understand the health disparities between Black and White Americans. The plan is to identify health plans for residents with high blood pressure and help cultivate a personal regiment that will coach them toward a healthier lifestyle. Data collected from these plans will better help researchers understand what role environmental factors contribute in the overall health outcome of Detroiters. Wayne State will be using $2.6 million for the program. A professor of emergency medicine at Wayne State that is leading the program says access to health care, food insecurity, availability of healthy food, shelter, and exercise are all major factors in high blood pressure. "To achieve health equity, effective strategies must address negative (social determinants of health) that are root causes of racial disparities in health," said Dr. Phillip Levy. Levy said that while lifestyle changes could better improve the health outcomes for people with high blood pressure, implementing these changes has not been easy.
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Wayne State University giving away free semester of classes, laptops in COVID-19 vaccine incentive drawings

Wayne State University is incentivizing students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by offering free laptops, bookstore vouchers, and even an entire semester of classes. From now through Aug. 29, students, faculty, and staff can submit proof that they have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine to be entered in a drawing. Prizes for students include $100 bookstore vouchers, $100 OneCard vouchers, a free semester of parking, laptops, a free semester of on-campus housing, and a free semester of classes. Prizes for faculty and staff include gift cards, TVs, laptops, and free parking. Wayne State has not mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for students and staff like some colleges have, including the University of Michigan and Michigan State University. However, the university said it is implementing a targeted mandate for students living in university housing for the fall 2021 semester.
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St. Clair Shores native who helped develop technology for COVID-19 vaccine honored

As a child in St. Clair Shores, Jason McLellan, Ph.D., knew he wanted to help people. McLellan said he had always thought he’d be a doctor because he wanted to help people. At Wayne State University, he excelled at chemistry and organic chemistry, which aren’t subjects many gravitate toward, he said. “The professors took notice and asked me to work in their lab performing research in organic chemistry,” he said. “I loved it, working in the lab.” He enjoyed it so much that, after publishing his first paper in organic chemistry, he switched his major from pre-med. Taking a graduate-level biochemistry class, he realized that subject fascinated him, as well. In 2003, McLellan graduated from Wayne State University and headed to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for graduate school, where he joined a structural biology laboratory that determines three-dimensional structures of proteins and other biological molecules. It was that path that eventually led him to have an impact on the COVID-19 vaccines now being administered around the world. “I was trained in a technique called X-ray crystallography,” he said. He likened it to growing rock candy, but with crystalized proteins instead. Doing so enabled him and the other researchers to be able to three-dimensional print a protein to see what it looks like and learn how it functions. The design McLellan helped to develop was used in the vaccines created by Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax. He said they also worked with Eli Lilly to create the antibody treatment to treat COVID-19. His mother, Karen McLellan, said, “He always wanted to be a pediatrician, for as long as I can remember. It changed when he went to Wayne State. Some of the professors took him under his wing, got him into his labs there. That started him on his trajectory.”
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Did COVID fuel drug overdoses? Michigan deaths surged last year

COVID-19 overshadowed the opioid crisis in Michigan last year, but newly released data suggests the pandemic may have helped fuel an increase in drug deaths. Drug overdose deaths in 2020 climbed 16 percent in Michigan over the previous year — reaching an all-time high of 2,743 deaths, according to preliminary data released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nationally, there were more than 93,000 drug deaths last year, a 30-percent jump. Experts attribute the spike to the isolation and strangeness of a pandemic that ground down the mental health of so many, but especially those who fought addiction. “Isolation, loss of job insecurity — all of those things are big-time stressors for anybody,” said Dr. Andrew King, an addiction specialist with the Wayne State University’s physicians group and an emergency room doctor at Detroit Medical Center’s Receiving Hospital. “People with substance use disorder in particular, might be at a higher risk of returning to use, potentially overdosing,” he said. The synthetic opioid (fentanyl), which is 50 times or more powerful than morphine, was found in 72 percent of the drug-overdose cases, or 208 cases. In the previous two years, it was present in about half of the overdose cases. “Any hit of heroin is like playing Russian roulette. It's potentially deadly,” said King, the Detroit emergency room doctor. “It's very rare now for me to see any patient who has not been exposed to fentanyl. Fentanyl is almost ubiquitous.” And because people were less likely to be with loved ones or friends during the pandemic, they were less likely to have someone close when they overdosed to administer naloxone, an emergency medication that’s used to reverse opioid overdoses. King tells patients that, if they’re going to use, be with someone with naloxone. “But in the case of the pandemic, if people are more isolated and not socializing, then sometimes it can be too late,” he said.
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Is your office safe from COVID?

As COVID cases drop in the U.S. and vaccinations increase, many companies are bringing their employees back to office buildings. And lots of those workers are worried: Will shared spaces remain safe as restrictions are lifted and viral variants spread? Can businesses require all employees to be vaccinated? What office and building features best minimize risk? If you’re vaccinated, you can return to work as normal (mostly). The most effective way to reduce the spread of the coronavirus at work is to make sure that everyone in the shared space is vaccinated. Current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specify that fully vaccinated people (those who are two weeks past their final vaccine dose) no longer need to wear a mask or practice physical distancing in most situations, including most office workplaces. COVID vaccines are highly effective at preventing infection and illness, so once you are fully vaccinated, “it doesn’t really matter what the vaccine status is of those around you,” says Gretchen Snoeyenbos Newman, an infectious disease physician at Wayne State University. If you’re returning to a workplace where some of your co-workers are unwilling or unable to get vaccinated or to wear a mask, the best protection you have is getting immunized yourself, she says.