Don’t Worry, Be Feliz: Breaking Down The Barriers That Keep Low-Income Latinos With Depression From Getting Much-Needed Treatment
Isabel Lagomasino wants people to be happy. So it seems natural that, as a clinical psychiatrist, she has chosen to target one of the major causes of unhappiness: depression. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression affects about 10 percent of the American adult population every year, and is the leading cause of disability in the United States and developed countries around the world.
“Depression is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses, yet it has effective treatments, so people can improve,” says Lagomasino, M.D., M.S.H.S., a visiting professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
Unfortunately, many people do not get treatment for their depression and continue to suffer. For the past eight years, Lagomasino has been working to understand what comes between people and the treatment that can help them. She is focusing her studies on minorities, particularly Latinos, who are among the least likely to seek help for depression.
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Premium Protection: Looking at What Lies Ahead For The More Than 9,000 Babies In This Country Who Are Born Prematurely Each And Every Week
They are our most fragile citizens, these newborns whose weight is often measured in ounces and grams rather than pounds and kilograms. They no longer live in the warm, watery darkness of their mother’s womb, but instead are thrust into a world of metal and light and beeping, hissing, clattering sounds. They need help to breathe, to eat, to keep their tiny bodies warm. They need help—oftentimes a lot of help—to stay alive. And in their earliest days, this is the main focus, the only focus, toward which neonatologists and nurses and specialists of every stripe work together.
But what worries Jack Turman Jr., Ph.D., associate professor of biokinesiology and physical therapy at USC, is what happens afterward—after the tubes and the monitors have been removed and the round-the-clock care is no longer necessary. He worries about what happens when the crisis is past. And about what happens when it is time for the baby to go about living the life for which it has been saved.
“In our effort to keep these babies alive, we often don’t think about—or even know—what we’re setting them up for down the road,” says Turman, who also has a joint appointment in cell and neurobiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
But that reasoning is about to change, if Turman has anything to say about it. Turman has spent the past five years laying the groundwork for what is now one of the Keck School’s newest centers, the Center for Premature Infant Health and Development. Its goal is to create new strategies to help medically fragile infants and their families not just survive, but thrive.
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Wrestling the Diabetes Demon: As More Americans Slide Toward Obesity, Researchers And Physicians Work Together To Give People The Power To Control Their Own Health
There is a cadre of researchers and physicians across the Keck School of Medicine of USC that not only investigates the complicated scientific aspects of diabetes, but takes its knowledge and expertise to families and communities through educational programs and outreach.
The scientific basis for their work is profound. Within the Keck School is renowned diabetes researcher Richard N. Bergman, Ph.D., the Keck Chair in Medicine and chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics, who created the widely used “minimal model,” a metabolic test that measures defects in insulin functions in humans that, in time, cause diabetes.
His colleagues include Thomas A. Buchanan, M.D., professor of medicine, obstetrics and gynecology and physiology and biophysics, whose research into the very beginnings of diabetes is showing that the disease can be delayed or prevented. Michael I. Goran, Ph.D., professor of preventive medicine and physiology and biophysics, seeks to find out what predisposes certain children to obesity and diabetes. Robert Chow, Ph.D., associate professor of physiology and biophysics, studies the cellular defects behind diabetes. And Richard Watanabe, Ph.D., assistant professor of preventive medicine, is scouring the genome for specific genetic tweaks that underpin the disease.
But the investigations do not stop there. Keck School faculty members want to turn breakthroughs in the laboratory into benefits for patients. Whether in homes, schools, churches or clinics, these scientists go the distance to get better health care to people with diabetes. These are just a few of the many Keck School physicians who are making a difference in diabetes.
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Original Skin: Dermatology Has Quietly Grown Into A Department That Is Leading Research And Comprehensive Care For Skin Diseases In Southern California
The changes in the dermatology program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC may not qualify as an extreme makeover, but the before-and-after stories are striking. In 1999, the program was a small division of the Keck School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine. It had a long clinical history but lacked research laboratories and had no National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grants.
But when David T. Woodley, M.D., arrived that same year to lead the program, he brought with him a passion for research—and a vision of a bigger and broader dermatology presence at USC. He brought two basic scientists with him, created the USC Laboratory for Investigative Dermatology and slowly began recruiting new faculty members. Today, the program is a leader in federal research funding, with eight grants, including seven from the NIH. Meanwhile, the faculty numbers 58, and the full-time clinical faculty has more than doubled in size in just the last three years.
Perhaps most importantly, this past summer the division was elevated to an individual department—the first of its kind at a medical school in Southern California. It may sound like mere semantics, but the new department status will help boost the program’s visibility and reputation, which, in turn, will help to recruit new faculty, says Woodley, professor and chair of the new department.
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Son of Celebrex: A Relative Of The Anti-Inflammatory Drug Celebrex Appears Uniquely Adept At Impairing Or Halting Tumor Growth
A close structural relative of the celebrated COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib (brand name Celebrex) is a potent tumor-fighter, able to wipe out tumor cells that are resistant to conventional chemotherapies, according to an interdisciplinary team of researchers.
Led by Axel H. Schönthal, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, the researchers have been studying the effects of an analog of celecoxib. The analog does not have its cousin’s celebrated ability to block the activity of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), an enzyme integral to the inflammatory process. Nonetheless, the scientists showed that the analog manages to halt tumor growth even in drug-resistant lines of multiple myeloma cells.
The work was published in the Dec. 15 issue of the journal Blood.
Most of the recent attention garnered by celecoxib has come as a result of its anti-inflammatory effects and the withdrawal of the two other COX-2 inhibitors on the market—Vioxx and Bextra—after data linked them to an increased risk of stroke in some patients. Only Celebrex remains on the market.
But celecoxib is more than just an anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers have begun to recognize that COX-2 can sometimes play a role in cancer; for instance, they have shown that the enzyme is overexpressed by multiple myeloma cells, and this is a predictor of a poor outcome for the patient. Researchers reasoned that a COX-2 inhibitor might be able to turn things around.
It did. In laboratory studies, the COX-2 inhibitor celecoxib showed an ability to target several of the growth pathways. Further studies, including some by Schönthal and his colleagues, showed that celecoxib’s anticancer activity appeared to be independent from its COX-2 inhibition. Schönthal’s team went on to show that the analog in question—2,5-dimethyl-celecoxib, or DMC—retains the ability to stop cancer growth despite the fact that it does not inhibit the activity of COX-2.
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Melanoma Study Finds Latinos at Rising Risk
Latinos in California are increasingly being diagnosed with melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer, according to a study by researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. The study will appear in the March 1 issue of the journal Cancer but was published early online on Jan. 23.
Since 1988, rates of invasive melanoma have been growing among Latino men, according to Keck School researchers. And more alarmingly, rates of thick tumors in particular—those with a poorer prognosis—have been rising among both Latino men and women.
“When a tumor is thick, that usually means it has been developing for a while,” said lead author Myles Cockburn, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School. “This is a disease that has a great chance of cure when found early, and routine screening can catch early cases. But in this population, the cancer is becoming more common, and it’s not being caught early enough.
“We believe that efforts must be undertaken immediately to educate Latino communities about how to prevent melanoma: not only reducing sun exposure, but getting regular skin examinations and monitoring their own skin for suspicious lesions.”
Cockburn and his colleagues conducted the study using 1988-2001 data from the California Cancer Registry, the statewide system for recording the occurrence of new cancer cases and cancer deaths. About 140,000 cancer cases and 50,000 cancer deaths are reported statewide each year.
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Study Shows Higher Rates Of Lung Cancer In African-American, Native Hawaiian Smokers
Lung cancer is more likely to develop in cigarette smokers who are African American or Native Hawaiian than in smokers who are white, Japanese American or Latino, according to a study published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Led by scientists from the Keck School of Medicine of USC and the University of Hawaii in Honolulu, the research team analyzed lung cancer incidence among 183,813 African-American, Japanese-American, Latino, Native Hawaiian and white men and women from the prospective Multiethnic Cohort Study of more than 215,000 individuals in California and Hawaii.
Between 80 and 90 percent of lung cancer cases can be attributed to cigarette smoking. Previous research has shown that there are disparities in the distribution of lung cancer risk, with African-American and Native Hawaiian smokers seeming to shoulder more of the burden than other racial and ethnic populations.
“We wanted to see to what extent population-based differences in lung cancer incidence can be explained by differences in cigarette smoking,” said Christopher Haiman, assistant professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School and lead author on the study. “This is the largest study to date to address this question.”
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