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UTHealth Top 10 stories of 2019

UTHealth Top 10 stories of 2019

A lifesaving addiction intervention program, the first new psychiatric hospital in 30 years, and the discovery of an alarming cancer trend are examples of the groundbreaking work at UTHealth in 2019 that garnered major media attention.

1) HEROES program awarded more than $2 million to continue opioid intervention outreach in Houston: UTHealth is knocking on the doors of people who have overdosed on opioids to bring the HEROES program straight to them. HEROES, which stands for the Houston Emergency Opioid Engagement System, is a clinical research program created by James Langabeer, PhD, MBA, that offers free comprehensive treatment to Houstonians dealing with opioid abuse. As of November 2019, more than 490 people were enrolled, exceeding expectations by more than 440%. More than 82% of participants stay sober for the first 90 days, a huge milestone in the fight against opioid use disorder. Now, Langabeer has been recruited by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to train other communities across Texas to create similar programs.

2) Construction underway on UTHealth Continuum of Care Campus for Behavioral Health – Additional help is on the way for thousands of people with debilitating mental illnesses in Harris County. UTHealth broke ground on the county’s first new psychiatric hospital in three decades. Slated to open in 2022, the building – designed with the care of mental health patients in mind – will be able to house as many 240 patients.

3) Clinical trial reveals potential for treating larger strokes with thrombectomy – Blood clots that reach the brain can cause irreversible damage and death, but researchers have debated whether people with larger strokes are candidates for an interventional therapy. Based on previous UTHealth published research, a team at McGovern Medical School is leading an international Phase III clinical trial evaluating a nonsurgical, clot-busting technique for these patients.

4) Anal cancer rates and mortality have risen dramatically among Americans – A first-of-its-kind study revealed that diagnoses and deaths due to squamous cell carcinoma of the anus, a type of anal cancer caused by human papillomavirus, had more than doubled in the last 15 years. The study, led by UTHealth School of Public Health researchers, also revealed that new diagnoses among millennial black men increased five-fold compared to those born in the mid-1940s.

5) Aging-in-place Smart Apartment focus of research at Cizik School of Nursing – Seniors want to stay in their homes as long as possible and UTHealth is helping them do just that. School researchers have built a living laboratory where they can test technologies designed to keep seniors safe, such as an interactive robot and sensors to detect when someone has fallen.

6) NIH funding spurs expansion of clinical and translational research in Texas – Taking a scientific discovery from bench to bedside is a long, expensive journey. To assist in that process is the Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences at UTHealth, which just received $37 million. The mission of the center, which includes four institutions in the Texas Medical Center, is to produce better health outcomes in Texas and beyond.

7) UTHealth teaches students how to make same-day crowns – The days of biting down on a tray full of goop to make an imprint are numbered. In five years, experts at the UTHealth School of Dentistry say that 80% of teeth molds will be digital. To stay ahead of the curve, the program has shifted to making digital impressions and could eventually include same-day crowns.

8) Food pouches – parents’ friend or foe? Expert weighs the pros and cons of pureed options: While convenient, food pouches may not be the healthiest choice for parents of young children looking for an easy snack. According to research at UTHealth, relying too much on puree can affect the muscular development required for chewing solids, as well as lead to becoming accustomed to fruits and vegetables laden with sugar.

9)  Clinical trial assesses telephone-based care program for at-risk homebound elderly: A simple call could be the difference between life and death for a shut-in at risk of dementia. In a pilot study, UTHealth found that an occasional call helped identify people likely to spiral to dangerous self-neglect, and helped identify caregiver burnout.

10) Bagg named TMA Student of the Year: Gun violence should be treated as a public health issue, according to a McGovern Medical School student who is calling for the creation of a gun violence research center in the Texas Medical Center. To help his classmates deal with this issue more effectively, Bagg co-created a gun violence course, which more than 100 students have attended.

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