Health

Rethinking Depression

Growing up in New Castle, Brenda Weingartner, 53, was a teenager when she had her first of many bouts with depression. “Back then, my parents didn’t have a good understanding of mental illness and what to do for it,” she said. “My mother’s suggestion was to go talk to the minister. That was her generation’s …

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The Awe of Night

For nearly three centuries, a scientific debate lingered about the brilliant rings rotating around Saturn: Were they solid discs or made of some other matter? The debate finally came to rest in Pittsburgh, of all places. Astronomer James Edward Keeler, using a spectrograph attached to a refracting telescope with a 13-inch lens, observed that the …

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Who’s Afraid of Obamacare?

In 1998, Bob McCafferty set out to start a business that would pay the bills and give him more free time to go camping. He bought a run-down funeral parlor dating to the 1850s. For the next several years, he spent nights restoring the building while holding down jobs as an archaeologist and bartender. He …

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Three Percent of You Isn’t You

Susan Lambie was desperate. It was the summer of 2009 and her mother’s health was deteriorating rapidly. What began as a cold turned into pneumonia. Then her mom developed Clostridium difficile—a nasty bacterium that causes severe diarrhea. Each year, C. diff strikes more than a half million people, especially the elderly after taking antibiotics, as …

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Too Fat Too Young

Michelle Penn-Nored of Penn Hills has been dealing with type 2 diabetes since her late 40s. She’s determined to keep her daughter from having the same fate. Last August at 10-year-old Meccah’s wellness exam, Penn-Nored talked with the physician assistant about getting a prescription so Meccah could join Weight Watchers. She carried a lot of …

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Life Under Pressure

We’ve all experienced it: Our heart suddenly starts pounding, adrenaline courses through our legs and, unintentionally, we shout a profanity. Our body’s automatic response systems are helping us deal with a sudden stressful situation so we have the energy to act quickly, like when another driver cuts us off. “These systems are beautifully adapted for …

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Bridging the STEM Gap

If America is unable to meet our growing need for young people with STEM skills, it isn’t because we aren’t aware of the looming crisis. According to the online clearinghouse STEMconnector, more than 3,700 organizations across the country are working to bridge the STEM Gap. The problem is so Hydra-headed that it’s hard to know …

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Halting the Revolving Hospital Door

For years, hospitals focused on getting patients home as quickly as possible—and applauded themselves for short length of stays. But five years ago, a landmark New England Journal of Medicine study showed that as many as one in five Medicare patients bounced back to the hospital within 30 days of discharge, revealing that a good …

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The STEM Dilemma

When Elizabeth Roeske was growing up in the small New Jersey town of Salem, she seemed a natural for a career in science. Several members of her family are scientists, and she was planning to study chemistry and environmental science in college. But she found little peer support—”No one from my high school was planning …

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Mind Over Matter

“Let me eat chocolate.” That was quadriplegic Jan Scheuermann’s simple request when she committed to a trailblazing UPMC and Pitt School of Medicine study that would let her control a robotic arm with her mind. “The doctors asked me: ‘What is your goal?’ ” Scheuermann recalled with a laugh. “I could tell they wanted to …

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Heart Trouble in your Future?

A prominent cardiologist calls it “one of the worst examples of medicine gone wild.” Other physicians say it is a useful tool when used in the right patient for the right reason. Still others think it’s somewhat underutilized in healthcare. Not many imaging screening tests have generated such differences of opinion. The object of this …

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More Than Skin Deep

As a teen growing up in Mt. Washington, Jessica Vega Rogowicz remembers her dad being diagnosed with skin cancer. He went to the doctor to have it removed and came home with a Band-Aid on his nose. Because he had basal cell carcinoma, which rarely spreads beyond the skin, that was pretty much the end …

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Laugh Out Loud

David Russell isn’t a stand-up comedian. But without much effort, he regularly gets a room full of people laughing for a good 20 minutes or so. Russell is among a handful of certified laughter yoga leaders in the Pittsburgh area. A laugh is often the response he gets when he introduces his line of work. …

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Catching the Fall

A broken bone early in life is typically painful and a nuisance. Late in life, it can be devastating. “Among the elderly, bone fractures—particularly in the hip, wrist and back—can lead to long-term disability and death,” says Jane Cauley, professor of epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health. About 1-in-2 women …

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Can Venture Capital Help Cure Alzheimer’s Disease?

In 1988, Jeffrey L. Morby left American Express to join the management team tapped to rescue the nearly bankrupt Mellon Bank. After helping turn Mellon around, he retired at 59, but Morby has hardly been wiling away the time. He and his wife, Jacqueline, have been putting their corporate and venture capital acumen to use …

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The Cholesterol Conundrum

Cholesterol was first discovered in 1769, but it wasn’t until the early 20th century that scientists linked these oily molecules in our blood to atherosclerosis—when artery walls become thick with plaque, potentially triggering a heart attack or stroke. Since then, many have devoted their lives to understanding cholesterol. It’s a research subject that has led …

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Ancient Dig

Twelve thousand years ago, a Native American hunter left a flint spear point at a campsite beneath an overhanging rock along Cross Creek, a tributary of the Ohio River some 29 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. The three-inch by one-inch point was a re-sharpened remnant of a larger spear or arrow head. But the wear and …

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Insurance innovations

Ask someone about their health insurance plan and you wouldn’t expect to hear, “I’m having a great experience.” Health insurance is expensive and difficult to understand. And in the Pittsburgh region, many have, not surprisingly, grown tired of the very public battle between the area’s largest insurer and largest provider—Highmark and UPMC. But this very …

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Is Sitting the New Smoking?

The headlines have been frightening. CNN says, “Sitting for hours can shave years off life.” Men’s Health magazine declared in bold type, “Why your desk job is slowly killing you.” Google “sitting disease” and the first link is juststand.org, where anyone can download a free “info graphic” featuring a skeleton typing away at a desk. …

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Genomic Stimulus

Not long ago, one of the nation’s most dreaded diseases was polio, paralyzing and sometimes killing its victims. Fortunately, polio proved no match for medicine. Just as polio reached its peak in 1952 with 57,000 new cases, a University of Pittsburgh team, led by Dr. Jonas Salk, was testing a vaccine. Soon, polio all but …

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DNA Decoding: An Economic Driver

Mapping the entire human DNA blueprint was ultimately done to advance medicine, but it has had a bonus impact: giving a jump start to a stagnating economy. A May 2011 report by Battelle Technology Partnership Practice of Columbus, Ohio, said the $3.8 billion federal investment in the Human Genome Project from 1988 to 2003 drove …

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Healthful Discoveries

We brush to stave off cavities and bad breath. But it may even help us avoid major diseases. Research shows that the plaque build-up in our mouths may contribute to plaque build-up in our brains and heart arteries. In a study published in BMJ (formerly known as the British Medical Journal), British researchers found that …

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