In the news

Want to become a morning person? Go for a walk

Earlier this year, I came to terms with the fact that the lingering darkness of winter mornings leaves me sluggish. So, when spring sprung a few months back, I opted to try something new. I started going for a walk around my neighborhood, throwing on some athletic leggings and my trusty Saucony shoes as soon as I got out of bed. Now, most mornings I walk 4 miles to start the day. The results were nearly immediate, even though my distance started out much shorter: I have more energy, time, and footsteps logged onto my fitness tracker (if I remembered to put it on). I’m thrilled I got into the habit—let my experience inspire you, too. If you’ve ever suffered from jet lag, getting morning sunlight may even help adjust to the new time zone, says Tarama Hew-Butler, DPM, PhD, FACSM, and a professor of exercise and sports science at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. “Sunlight, or daytime, is the strongest external cue, or "zeitgeber," which sets our circadian rhythm to a regular 24-hour daytime-nighttime cycle,” she says. “So, sunlight does help us wake up.”
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How concerned should we be about COVID-19 at this stage?

Things have changed a lot in the two plus years since the novel coronavirus came on the scene. Americans have had to shelter in place, distance themselves from their loved ones, wear masks and sometimes quarantine for days to keep others safe. Although more than one million people have in the U.S. have now died from COVID-19, many are wondering what kind of precautions they should be taking around the virus, amid a simultaneous rise in transmission rates and drop in hospitalizations in southeast Michigan. Paul Kilgore is the co-director of the Center for Emerging and Infectious Diseases at Wayne State University, as well as senior investigator for Henry Ford Health System’s Global Health Initiative. He says people should still be cautious around the virus because it’s still quite transmissible. “Now we’re seeing COVID-19 being able to transmit in the summer,” Kilgore says. “The other thing that is really important to know is that as the virus has mutated it’s become much more efficient at causing infection.”

As U.S. LNG expands in Europe, a hidden threat grows

In March, President Biden and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a joint task force with the goal of getting Europe off Russian gas and onto more of America’s fracked gas. Most Russian gas reaches Europe via pipeline, so getting U.S. gas to Europe will involve liquifying it and then shipping it across the Atlantic. And as shipments of liquified natural gas (LNG) from the United States increase, so too do the threats from an unwelcome intruder inherently part of America’s natural gas mix — radioactivity. That’s because government figures indicate that much of the gas that will be shipped to Europe may come from the Marcellus and Utica, black shale formations in Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. About 40 percent of natural gas produced in the United States comes from these formations, and, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, they have particularly high radioactivity levels. Radioactivity is a problem at multiple points along the natural gas production chain, and oilfield workers and communities in the Marcellus and Utica have been beleaguered by an array of radiological concerns, such as high levels of radioactivity found on public roads near a high school football field. “It is entirely appropriate to be discussing the radioactivity levels in LNG,” says Mark Baskaran, a geologist at Wayne State University in Michigan and a world-renowned expert on radon who has studied oilfield radioactivity in the Marcellus and Utica. However, it appears nobody in the United States or European governments behind the recent LNG deal is discussing radioactivity.
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Wayne Law alumnus donates $10,000 to increase access to law professors’ book “No Equal Justice”

Wayne State University Law School alumnus Fred Harring donated $10,000 to expand the accessibility of “No Equal Justice” to the youth of Southeast Michigan, with an emphasis on Detroit. Released in February 2022, the book, authored by Professor of Law Emeritus Edward Littlejohn and Professor of Law and Director of the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights Peter J. Hammer, follows the story of George W. Crockett Jr. and how he fought racism and defended the constitutional rights of the oppressed. Harring hopes the donation will inspire a new generation of readers, historians, and social justice activists to learn about Crockett. 
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See how AR-15 style guns create ‘explosion inside the body’

Assault-style guns have been used in some of the country’s deadliest shootings. Researchers led by Cynthia Bir, professor and chair of biomedical engineering, at Wayne State University use gelatin to demonstrate how AR-15 style weapons create an “explosion inside the body” compared to handguns. “We see a lot more disruption. This round breaks apart. It does not exit, so it’s about 3,000 feet per second. All of that energy goes into the soft tissue,” said Bir. “It basically goes inside the body and creates an explosion…”    
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Fighting flooding: Detroit community leaders and academic experts meet to tackle future issues

By Sabine Bickford Last June, many residents of Detroit faced massive structural, economic, and health issues when flooding caused by heavy rainfall overwhelmed many of the city’s aging and unrepaired storm and wastewater systems – particularly in East Side neighborhoods such as Jefferson Chalmers. Researchers say that a combination of inadequate local infrastructure and global climate change meant that neither the storm nor the damage should have come as too much of a surprise. “There have been several news articles out there saying ‘Well, we’re having 500-year events every year,’” says Wayne State University civil and environmental engineering department chair William Shuster. “But really it’s off the scale, and there’s no way to really characterize these rainfall events.” May resident have been facing similar struggles for years. A collaborative study by WSU, the University of Michigan, Eastside Community Network, and several other local organizations found that over 40% of Detroit households surveyed between 2012 and 2020 reported household flooding. “This is something that everybody’s been struggling with around the country, around the world,” said Shuster. “If you’ve got a city, you’re struggling with stormwater or wastewater.” In April, Shuster joined several other researchers for a roundtable discussion at the Wayne State campus on Detroit’s recent flooding and infrastructure issues. The conversation was a part of the University Research Corridor’s Hidden Health Threats tour that brought together researchers, policymakers, and other community leaders to discuss some of the most pressing environmental issues facing Michigan communities.
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No snacks or drinks, these vending machine dispense something that saves lives

By Georgea Kovanis The newest vending machines in Michigan aren’t dispensing pop or chips, they’re doling out Narcan, the medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Popping up at strategic locations, the machines represent the latest attempt to make Narcan more available to the public in an effort to quell the staggering number of overdoses in Michigan and across the nation. Using grant money, Wayne State University’s Center for Behavioral Health and Justice has placed 15 vending machines across the state, including the university’s undergraduate library, as well as centers that provide services for drug users. Eight of the machines are located in county jails – Monroe, Jackson, Manistee, Washtenaw, Delta, Kalamazoo, Wexford and Oakland county jails – for use by inmates who are being released after serving time or, in some cases, by jail visitors. Jails are especially important locations because research shows drug users leaving incarceration are at high risk of fatal overdoses. “The data is clear about overdose rates about people post incarceration,” said Matthew Costello, program manager at the Center for Behavioral Health and Justice. “It’s been proven time and time again in state and state and site and site. So we understand that vulnerability. To ignore that is criminal in its own right.”
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Car inventory is so tight new vehicles ‘never really touch the lot’

Car buyers will need some patience this summer as new and used vehicles are still slow to get on the lot. The car buying experience will feel more like a layaway purchase than a quick exchange negotiation as most cars that land on the lot have been claimed in advance. Pre-ordering has become the norm. Deliveries to the dealership have been slow to recover, although they have tripled since the beginning of the year. The backlog is starting at the auto plants. The summer of 2022 does look better than last summer in terms of lost production, said John Taylor, chair of Wayne State University’s department of marketing and supply chain management. Alternate suppliers, flexible design and reduced functionality have boosted production this year. “Time cures a lot of problems,” Taylor said. “Eventually, we’re going to get out of this. It’s still not going to be great for 2022 and 2023, but there’s some improvement.”  

Diverse student needs must be considered in school shooting responses

Recovery following the trauma of a school shooting is not uniform – it varies by community, from school to school, across student subgroups and even among individuals. It is also impacted by factors like the availability of school counselors, barriers to accessing mental health support and pre-existing traumas. Family structure, how different communities grieve, and past experiences with gun violence and law enforcement can all inform this process as well. Because of these differences, measures commonly adopted by schools nationwide in response to school shootings — like doubling down on school police or bringing in grief counselors — should be tweaked or reconsidered to fit the needs of Black, Hispanic and immigrant communities, according to school trauma, crisis and security experts. As part of that crisis response, many lawmakers and school leaders have discussed increasing law enforcement and security in schools. However, this option may not be suitable for all students. Black and Hispanic students are already more likely to be in schools with police presence – which is associated with increased school arrests – than their white counterparts. “Schools cause trauma. And not just through school shootings, but in a myriad of ways, especially for historically marginalized and systematically oppressed groups,” said Addison Duane, a former elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology and now a professor at Wayne State University. “And I think that, in the wake of something as horrific and preventable as a school shooting, the trauma compounds.”   

When progesterone works and when it does not

The most effective intervention to preterm birth is the administration of a natural hormone, progesterone, in patients at risk for premature delivery. Two categories of patients have been eligible for this treatment: those with a short cervix and those with a previous preterm birth. But research published this week by researchers of the Perinatology Research Branch at the Wayne State University School of Medicine indicates that progesterone is not effective in reducing the rate of preterm birth in women with a history of such birth. “We have advocated that vaginal progesterone reduces the rate of preterm birth in women with a short cervix. This evidence is solid and derived from multiple studies including randomized clinical trials, meta-analyses and implementation research,” said Roberto Romero, M.D., DMedSci, chief of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development’s Perinatology Research Branch and professor of molecular obstetrics and genetics at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. “Some people believe that vaginal progesterone is effective not only in women with a short cervix but also in patients with a prior history of preterm birth. We have completed a systematic review and meta-analysis that shows that this is not the case.” 

Repeal of abortion rights could spell more deaths for Detroit women

Detroit’s maternal death rate is triple the national average. Nurses and advocates in the city say Black women in particular will face dire consequences if the U.S. Supreme Court criminalizes abortion. A leaked draft opinion suggests the high court this month is poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision nearly 50 years after it enshrined a Constitutional right to abortion without excessive government restriction. The ruling would trigger a 1931 state law banning most abortions, effectively outlawing the practice in Michigan and requiring more women to take on birth-related health risks. Researchers who track maternal mortality expect to see a corresponding increase in pregnancy-related deaths if abortion is outlawed, particularly among women of color. Black women in Michigan are three times as likely to die from pregnancy than white women. Gwendolyn Norman, a lifelong Detroiter, nurse, faculty member at Wayne State University and coordinator at the Alliance for Innovation in Maternal Health, said a large body of research has shown implicit biases and racial discrimination in the healthcare system affect Black women’s health. “The higher up on the socioeconomic level, the greater the disparity you see in birth outcomes for African American women,” Norman said. “They’re exposed to factor that are outside of their own personal control.” Norman said she’s interviewed Black women who have been ignored by healthcare providers when they bring up pain, irregular bleeding or other signs of troubles with their pregnancies. Black mothers are also less likely than white mothers to receive prenatal care, which makes them five times more likely to have a pregnancy-related death. “African Americans in general do not get the same treatment and care when walk into a healthcare institution,” Norman said. “They are regarded differently and treated differently. In critical situations where life and death decisions are being made, that disproportionately impacts people of color.”  
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Melatonin poisoning reports among kids up 530% from 2012 to 2021

Over the past decade, poison control has been getting more and more reports of kids accidentally ingesting melatonin supplements. In fact, reports of melatonin ingestions among children jumped by 530% from January 1, 2012 to December 21, 2021, according to a new study published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For the study, a team from the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, the Wayne State University School of Medicine (Varun Vohra, PharmD) and Boston Children’s Hospital analyzed data on children from the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System.

Persistent residential segregation contributes to worse diabetes health in Black youths

A new study identified a link between persistent racial residential segregation and worse diabetes health in Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes. These findings highlight the impact of residential location for young people with diabetes, Deborah A. Ellis, professor of family medicine and public health sciences at Wayne State University, said at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions. Ellis and colleagues evaluated the association between racial residential segregation and diabetes management and glycemic control among Black adolescents with type 1 diabetes. “In the world of adult diabetes, there has been a lot of focus on social determinants of health, but in pediatrics, there has been less,” said Ellis. The main outcomes measured were HbA1c and diabetes management. The results suggested that racial residential segregation was predictive of the diabetes health of Black youths with type 1 diabetes, even after controlling for effects of household income and neighborhood adversity. “It is interesting that racial residential segregation was even more explanatory than the adversity characteristics of the neighborhood,” said Ellis.
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Michigan senior’s homes, livelihoods imperiled by intensifying floods

Elderly populations are some of the country’s most vulnerable – hampered by physical and health limitations, many survive on fixed incomes with no buffer in case of an emergency. Yet when their homes flood, seniors face thousands of dollars in repairs or face living in a toxic environment if they can’t afford them. Flooding has been an issue for close to half of Detroit households. Data collected through a survey and overseen by Wayne State University and the University of Michigan determined 43% of all Detroit households experienced flooding from 2012-2020.
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Wayne State University to hold memorial for former Sen. Carl Levin

Wayne State University plans to hold a memorial service this weekend for U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan’s longest-serving U.S. senator who died last year. Sunday’s service was announced by Levin’s namesake, the school’s Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy at Wayne State University Law School. The Detroit Democrat’s family, friends and colleagues plan to honor his life and legacy at the invitation-only memorial at 1 p.m. Sunday at the university’s Student Center Ballroom.   

When chronic pain becomes who you are

For decades, psychologists and pain researchers have recognized the role of thoughts and emotions in pain. Pain begins with a signal that nerves send to the brain. But what we actually experience is the brain’s interpretation of that signal – and the brain can sometimes be an unreliable narrator. For those experiencing chronic pain, pain often persists. Some experiencing chronic pain seek online communities, which are not always supportive environments. While conducting research on online groups for people with chronic pain, Hallie Tankha, a doctoral student researching pain psychology at Wayne State University, remembers one incident in particular: One member of a chronic pain Facebook group had left his bed for the first time in days and gone out to volunteer. When he shared how the experience had relieved some of his pain, other members of the group interpreted his anecdote as unsolicited advice and an indictment of their own inability to recover.  
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Workers at 11 Starbucks stores in Michigan vote on unions

A Starbucks store in Grand Rapids last month became the first in the state to unionize amid a broader organizing effort at the country’s largest coffee chain. Now, workers at nearly a dozen other Starbucks stores in the state are poised to determine whether they’ll join a union that has racked up dozens of wins across the country in the past six months. Voting in union elections administered by the National Labor Relations Board is scheduled for Tuesday at five stores in Ann Arbor and Thursday at five others in Clinton Township, Flint, Grand Blanc, Lansing and East Lansing. A store in Ypsilanti will vote on June 17. “This is a significant movement for the labor movement as a whole and the retail industry in particular. It reflects a potential change in the climate that is more favorable toward unions, particularly among younger workers,” said Marick Masters, a professor of management at Wayne State University who is working on a book about organizing efforts at Starbucks and Amazon. “The unions have had a great deal of success so far in winning certification of elections at various sites in which they petitioned to organize.”
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2022 Michiganians of the Year: M. Roy Wilson improved graduation rates at Wayne State

By Kim Kozlowski   Wayne State University was getting national attention for having one of the worst graduation rates, especially among African American students, in 2013 when President M. Roy Wilson arrived. In the years before his tenure, WSU’s six-year graduation rate hovered in the 30% range and sunk as low as 26% in 2011. Graduation rates for Black students were markedly worse. Graduation rates were slowly improving when Wilson arrived. The year before, in 2012-13, the six-year graduation rate for all students overall was 27.6%, more than three times the 9.2% of African American students who were graduating in six years. Wayne State has since increased its overall six-year and African American graduation rate to 55.8% and 34.6%, respectively, in 2021. The APLU bestowed the 2018 Degree Completion Award on Wayne State for using innovative ways to help students complete degrees and having the most improved college graduation in the nation. The disparity among African American students leaving WSU without a degree was especially concerning, Wilson says, because beyond the impact on the student it also “has intergeneration effects if you can’t break the cycle.” “If you don’t have a diverse workforce and have one segment of society that is making it and getting the good jobs…you not only widen the income gap between minorities and non-minorities, you also widen other gaps,” Wilson said, pointing to quality of life, life expectancy and health. “It’s not just an issue of lifetime income, it’s an issue of what kind of life you are going to lead.” Before he arrived, WSU committed to investing $10 million over five years to retain students. Wilson said the university also had to change its culture. Wilson says the next step is to close the graduation gap between white students and students of color. “You bring in kids, schools are obligated to graduate them,” he said. “They incur debt and then they don’t graduate. You are doing a disservice to the students, and a disservice to society. It’s an issue of justice.”   
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What 5 previous congressional investigations can teach us about the House Jan. 6 committee hearings

By Jennifer Selin Jennifer Selin, co-director, Washington Office, of the Carl Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy at Wayne State University, wrote an article for The Conversation in which she analyzes previous congressional investigations in the context of the House Jan. 6 committee hearings which are attempting to answer the question of whether former President Donald Trump and his political allies broke the law in seeking to overturn the 2020 election results. The Jan. 6 hearings are part of a long history of congressional investigation, Selin writes. She notes that first congressional inquiry occurred in the House in 1792 and the Senate’s first investigation was conducted in 1818. “While the upcoming hearings of the House Jan. 6 investigative committee will be dealing with unprecedented events in American history, the very investigation of these events has strong precedent. Congress has long exercised its power to investigate some of the greatest problems facing the nation. In that way, the upcoming hearings fit squarely into the mainstream of American government oversight,” Selin writes.

Violent threats against schools increase after Uvalde shooting

By Naaz Modan In the week following the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, multiple school shooting threats have surfaced across the nation, prompting schools to increase security or shut down buildings entirely. Following the COVID-19 pandemic school building reopenings, administrators and staff braced for an increase in student misbehaviors, including aggression and gun violence. While school shootings dropped during building closures, they have returned to pre-pandemic levels and may have even increased, according to Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization started by the Sand Hook Elementary School parents. Following school shootings, it is common for schools to increase security, including tapping into law enforcement for help. There is also concern, though, that some security measures may actually make students feel unsafe. “There is research to support that the presence of police and school resource officers (SROs) and metal detectors and random locker checks and clear backpacks are directly linked to the psychological trauma response,” said Addison Duane, a former elementary school teacher with a Ph.D. in educational psychology who is now a professor at Wayne State University.