Health Briefs

Health Briefs

Eradicating Polio

Creighton alumnus and board member Chris Elias, BS’79, MD’83, HON’09, delivered the Dr. Robert G. Townley Keynote Address as part of the Global Health Conference Midwest hosted by Creighton in February.

In an address titled “Beyond Medicine: How Markets, Data and Partnerships Shape Global Health,” Elias, president of global development at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recounted his experiences on the front lines of global health issues.

Elias, who has been with the Gates Foundation since 2012, oversees the foundation’s project to stamp out global polio. In 1988, when the World Health Organization announced a plan to combat the disease on an international scale, there were more than 100 countries around the world still suffering annual polio epidemics.

Since the Gates Foundation’s advent into the project in the last decade, the advances have been exponential. Thanks to partnerships with industry and dramatic improvements in the front-line distribution of vaccines, there were only 37 cases of polio worldwide in 2016.

Elias said he is optimistic we could see the last cases of polio in the world this year and the disease could be declared eradicated as early as 2020.

“These are very complex agreements,” Elias said. “Scientists in industry are like scientists in academia. They want to make a difference. It’s finding a way to lower the cost of partnership.”

Study Finds More Genes Tied to Autism

Holly Stessman, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and an expert in the identification of autism genes, was part of an international research team that helped link 38 new genes to autism or related developmental delays and intellectual disabilities.   

Researchers from 15 institutions in seven different countries recruited 13,000 people with some form of autism or other developmental delay to participate in the study. The findings were recently published in the journal Nature Genetics.

The study posits autism is distinct from other developmental delays and intellectual disabilities based on 25 genes showing a bias for autism versus intellectual disability and highlighting a network associated with high-functioning autism.

According to a 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in every 68 babies in the United States is born with autism — nearly double the rate found in 2004.

The Autism Society describes autism spectrum disorder as a complex developmental disability that affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. There is no known single cause.

Stessman was also a finalist in the “Bridge to Independence” program, sponsored by the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, which provides support to scientists just beginning their faculty careers. She will receive $450,000 over three years for her work on in vitro modeling of genetic subtypes of autism.

Cavity Free by 2023

With the mantra “Cavity Free by 2023,” Nelson Mandela Elementary School in Omaha and the Creighton School of Dentistry are partnering to help the elementary school’s 140 students improve their dental health.

At a school-wide assembly in January, Creighton dental faculty and students talked to the children about the importance of brushing their teeth. Creighton mascot Billy Bluejay joined in the presentation, to rampant cheers of “Go Bluejays!”

“Bringing dental health to the kids at school works,” said Stuart Tucker, a third-year dental student from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. “When we look at dental health, there are really two sides to it. There’s the biological side, which tells us that oral health is crucial to overall health, and then there’s a social element. Kids are more confident learners, more comfortable in what they pursue, when they have a bright, happy smile.”

Long a partner with several elementary schools in Omaha and a participant in the annual Give Kids a Smile event during National Children’s Dental Health Month, Creighton decided to take that advocacy and the one-day affair and expand it into a year-long partnership with Nelson Mandela. The partnership’s ultimate goal is to foster good oral health habits in the hope of reaching the goal of a cavity-free school by 2023.

New Dental Building Continues to Take Shape

The $84.5 million, 200,000-square-foot School of Dentistry building continues to take shape at 21st and Cuming streets, with plans to open in July 2018. Dean Mark Latta, DMD, is providing short, periodic video updates on the progress of construction and other news surrounding this state-of-the-art facility, which promises to put Creighton at the forefront among dental schools nationwide. A successful fundraising campaign is continuing to forge ahead, and alumni and friends are invited to be a part of this historic effort to shape the future of Creighton University and the School of Dentistry, and positively impact the communities Creighton dentists serve.

Creighton Opens New University Campus

At the new CHI Health Creighton University Medical Center–University Campus, located at 25th and Cuming streets, Creighton University and CHI Health are pioneering a new team-based, interprofessional approach to clinical care.

This interprofessional approach represents the future of clinical care and is an extension of Creighton’s classroom teaching, said Joy Doll, OTD’03, executive director of Creighton’s Center for Interprofessional Practice, Education and Research (CIPER).

“In academia, we’re doing a really good job of talking about team-based care, but it’s not necessarily happening in practice,” Doll said. “Creighton is on the leading edge nationally in offering our students in the health sciences — in dentistry, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, pharmacy and physical therapy, along with a developing physician’s assistant program — opportunities for interprofessional education and practice in the clinical setting. We are a front-runner in this new model of health care.”

The new 80,000-square-foot University Campus outpatient health center opened with a ribbon cutting in January. Along with an emergency room and a revamped and expanded pharmacy, the new facility extends Creighton’s pledge to serve the community surrounding the University by integrating family medicine, an imaging center, pediatrics, women’s health services, psychiatry and physical therapy in a one-stop location.

“This building really is special,” said Michael White, BS’96, MD’01, an associate professor of medicine at Creighton and the chief academic officer for CHI Health. “As a physician and a faculty member, I’m very proud of this community. We’re here to stay, we’re committed and we’re ready to go forward.”