Health

3-D Mammograms Premier in Pittsburgh

When Diana Napper gets a compliment on her crystal bracelet, she can’t help but make a life-saving sales pitch. “This bracelet is funding some of the best technology in the world,” says Napper, 58, of McCandless. The technology is digital breast tomosynthesis—more commonly known as 3-D mammography. This breakthrough in breast cancer screening can detect …

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Plastic Surgery on Your Wish List?

In Los Angeles, it’s not uncommon to hear someone boasting about her plastic surgeon. In Miami, people don’t brag so much but definitely don’t hide cosmetic work. In these parts, plastic surgery is rarely a topic of conversation but is thriving. “One of the charming things about Pittsburgh is that plastic surgery is done here …

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Healing Children for 125 Years

Each day, Dr. Patrick Dantzer, a fourth-year resident at Children’s Hospital of UPMC, walks past an indoor mural commemorating Jonas Salk and his polio vaccine discovery. Pretty big shoes to fill, but also a good way to kick start a shift. The milestones at Children’s are copious—so many medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine, so …

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Salty Debate

Salt is essential to life. The sodium found in salt regulates the heartbeat and the body’s balance of fluids. Once known as “white gold,” salt helped establish civilization with the discovery of its food-preserving ability. Roman soldiers were paid in salt (from which the expression “worth one’s salt” is thought to derive). A few centuries ago, …

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Shall We Dance?

Don Shepherd may have stumbled upon the closest thing to the fountain of youth. While millions of Americans—and Steelers fans—tuned in to watch Hines Ward glide and smile his way across the dance floor in “Dancing with the Stars,” Shepherd was leading his own dance partner. The 58-year-old Peters software salesman took up ballroom dancing …

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The Pittsburgh Project

The year is 2020. You’re driving home from work, listening to your favorite satellite radio station. An announcer interrupts with breaking news: Smallpox has broken out in Washington, D.C. Hundreds of patients are flooding hospitals, with untold more infected. The public is panicked. Local officials are scrambling to maintain control. Everything points to a terrorist …

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