Texas Tech University Health Science Center El Paso’s Veronique Masterson brings you this edition of Tech Talk.
Today, Veronique revisits the always-emotional white coat ceremony for Paul L. Foster School of Medicine students, again held this year at the historic Plaza Theatre.
Students in the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM)’s class of 2021 received their first white coats during a special ceremony last Saturday. The momentous event marked the beginning of the journey toward becoming a physician for each of the 103 new first-year medical students.
The White Coat Ceremony is a traditional rite of passage for fledgling medical students and signifies their acceptance into the medical field. In addition to donning a white coat for the first time, the students recited an oath acknowledging their roles as future health care providers.
The ceremony celebrated not only the hard work and discipline it took to be admitted to medical school, but also underscored the importance of humanism in medicine.
Ricardo Salazar, M.D., a physician and clinical researcher in the Department of Psychiatry, will host the session in honor of Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month.
Dr. Salazar will take questions from viewers about the symptoms and stages of Alzheimer’s disease, treatment, prevention, caregiving, and anything else viewers would like to know about the neurodegenerative disorder.
Dr. Salazar specializes in geriatric psychiatry, neurodegenerative disorders, and emergency psychiatry. His research interests include Alzheimer’s disease in the Hispanic population and the neurobiology of brain function.
Dr. Salazar received his M.D. from the Pontificia Bolivariana University in Columbia and later completed a fellowship in geriatric psychiatry at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Participants are encouraged to submit their questions to Dr. Salazar in advance and RSVP on TTUHSC El Paso’s Facebook Live Q&A event page.
This Q&A session is part of a TTUHSC El Paso initiative called The Exam Room. The Exam Room encourages the El Paso community to engage with expert health care professionals at TTUHSC El Paso.
Each month, The Exam Room will hold one or more public Q&As, each focusing on a different health-related topic and highlighting a TTUHSC El Paso health care specialist who has volunteered to answer questions on the subject.
Staff Report June 5, 2017Local NewsComments Off on TTUHSC El Paso Hosts 12th Annual Obstetrics and Gynecology Symposium821
Physicians, nurses, health care professionals, and students will gather for the 12th Annual Obstetrics and Gynecology Symposium on Friday. The conference, jointly hosted by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) and University Medical Center of El Paso, will focus on OB-GYN issues that are prevalent along the U.S.-Mexico border.
At 10:15 a.m., Vijaya Galic, M.D., will present “21st Century Gynecological Cancer Care on the Border.” Dr. Galic is chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Texas Tech Physicians of El Paso and an assistant professor at TTUHSC El Paso. She joined the institution in December 2016 and specializes in the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer, offering the latest interventions to improve survival, including radical surgical procedures, intra-abdominal chemotherapy, and precision medicine.
Dr. Galic is an expert in curative operations for women with primary and recurrent uterine and cervical cancer, including procedures to preserve fertility.
Dr. Galic earned her M.D. at the University of Washington School of Medicine and M.B.A. at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Galic later completed a joint fellowship program in gynecologic oncology at New York Presbyterian Hospital through Cornell University and Columbia University.
Additional symposium topics will include labor pain and epidurals in the borderland, risk factors for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia, and contraceptive counseling for adolescents along the Texas-Mexico border.
The event will be keynoted by Jason D. Wright, M.D., chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at Columbia University.
Staff Report May 17, 2017NewsComments Off on TTUHSC El Paso to Hold Spring 2017 Commencement Friday, Saturday436
This week, TTUHSC El Paso will graduate its fifth class of physicians and its sixth class of nurses.
Eighty-seven students from the PLFSOM are eligible to earn their Doctor of Medicine and receive their doctoral hoods Friday evening. TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., will give the keynote address.
Forty-three students from the GGHSON are eligible to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing Saturday evening. Nicholas Tejeda, FACHE, chief executive officer for The Hospitals of Providence Transmountain Campus, will keynote the ceremony.
The PLFSOM and GGHSON have graduated 241 doctors and 315 nurses to date. With the addition of this spring’s graduates, TTUHSC El Paso will have played an integral role in a total of 328 physicians and 358 nurses earning their health care degrees.
What: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) spring commencement ceremonies
Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM)
6 p.m.Friday, May 19 at the Plaza Theatre, 125 Pioneer Plaza
Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing (GGHSON)
5 p.m.Saturday, May 20 at the Abraham Chavez Theatre, 1 Civic Center Plaza
“We try to plant a seed in these students at an early age so that they can eventually enter the health care field,” says Daniel Camacho, director of the TTUHSC El Paso Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and event organizer. “There is a real health care provider shortage in El Paso and the surrounding region, and with this event, we hope to interest more of our talented youth in choosing a health care career.”
At the event, the students will hear a short talk from a TTUHSC El Paso professor of physiology before taking their teddy bears through a variety of medical booths, including nursing and vital signs, and physician’s, radiology and counseling stations. The highlight of the clinic will be a walk-through brain exhibit, a giant 18 x 14-foot-long inflatable brain that will give students an interactive opportunity to learn about brain structures and functions, and to observe examples of brain trauma and disease. The exhibit is made possible by Medical Inflatables, a private Texas corporation that generously donated the inflatable for the event.
TTUHSC El Paso medical students will help run the stations, teaching the children about the various injuries or illnesses their bears may have. The medical students will use real medical equipment to demonstrate how a doctor or nurse would handle the case in real life.
“Children typically have anxiety about going to see a doctor, but this teddy bear approach will hopefully help make them more comfortable with the thought of going,” Camacho adds.
The AHEC provides education and development services to kindergarten through college-age students throughout the year to help set the foundation for the future of health care in West Texas.
The 2017 Teddy Bear Clinic is sponsored by TTUHSC El Paso, the TTUHSC El Paso AHEC, and the Guidance and Counseling Services at EPISD.
What: Teddy Bear Clinic
When: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.Friday, May 19
Where: Gymnasium, Maxine Silva Health Magnet High School, 121 Val Verde Street
Staff Report May 2, 2017NewsComments Off on Gallery+Story: TTUHSC El Paso Breaks Ground on $83M Medical Sciences Building1,294
Tuesday morning, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) officially broke ground on the Medical Sciences Building (MSB) II, an $83 million, 219,900-square-foot facility. The five-story building will more than double the campus’ research capacity and add crucial instructional space to support its growing student population.
“This building is integral to our vision for TTUHSC El Paso,” said Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A., president of the university. “This will enable us to recruit more researchers to tackle our region’s medical challenges, increase student enrollment in our programs, and ultimately, retain some of the nation’s most well-prepared, culturally competent health care professionals right here in the borderland.”
The MSB II second, third, and fourth floors — more than 87,000 square feet — will be dedicated to research, including laboratories, offices, and research administration. The first floor will house the campus’ largest teaching auditorium yet — a 9,200-square-foot space that can accommodate up to 500 people — and will also feature a dining and food services area that will be staffed by outside vendors. The remaining space will be dedicated to a library, a reflection room for quiet space, classrooms, student study rooms and administration.
“The completion of MSB II will catalyze the development of basic and translational biomedical research at TTUHSC El Paso by providing us with new laboratory facilities to grow interconnected scientific programs that address major diseases and other problems in health care,” said Peter Rotwein, M.D., vice president for research. “We will have the opportunity to recruit new faculty, teach our students the newest aspects of biomedical investigation, and enhance our capabilities in translating discoveries into better treatments and cures.”
Like other campus facilities, the building’s exterior will mirror the architecture of the Spanish Renaissance, which is distinguished by ornate columns, red-tiled roofs, and colossal archways.
Funding for the MSB II was approved by the 84th Texas Legislature in 2015 under House Bill 100, which appropriated $75 million for the building’s construction. TTUHSC El Paso will contribute an additional $8 million, bringing the total construction cost to $83 million.
Construction of the MSB II will be complete in approximately two years. Houston-based architectural firm Perkins + Will designed the building and Sundt Construction, Inc. is contracted to build the new facility.
Staff Report April 26, 2017Local NewsComments Off on GGHSON Assistant Professor to Represent Texas Nurse Practitioners1,383
Assistant Professor Christina Blanco, D.N.P., has been elected as the North Texas state representative for the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP). In this role, Blanco will represent the Panhandle, West Texas and Dallas-Fort Worth regions.
“The AANP is the largest national organization for nurse practitioners, so it’s important to play an active role with them,” Blanco said. “Assisting regional directors with state events and initiatives is part of my role, but as a state rep, it is also crucial for me to help in developing legislative priorities.”
Since 2010, Blanco has provided testimony to various Texas State Senate committees, advocating for such issues as women’s health and indigent health care. In addition to advocating for important issues in health care, one of the AANP’s goals is improving access to NPs while improving NPs’ presence in health care.
Blanco’s one-year term begins at the close of the AANP 2017 National Conference in Philadelphia, which takes place June 25.
In honor of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month, Richard McCallum, M.D., a physician and researcher in the Department of Internal Medicine, will host the session. Dr. McCallum, who specializes in gastroenterology, or stomach ailments, will take questions from viewers about a variety of gastrointestinal topics, including IBS, acid reflux, gluten intolerance and dietary needs for those with a sensitive stomach.
Dr. McCallum received his Doctor of Medicine from The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia and completed his residency at Washington University’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. He went on to serve as director of gastroenterology at the Yale University School of Medicine and later, was recruited by the University of Virginia and the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Dr. McCallum joined TTUHSC El Paso in 2010.
Participants are encouraged to submit their questions to Dr. McCallum in advance and RSVP on TTUHSC El Paso’s Facebook Live Q&A on Tummy Aches and Ailments event page.
This Q&A session is part of a new TTUHSC El Paso initiative called The Exam Room. The Exam Room encourages the El Paso community to engage with expert health care professionals at TTUHSC El Paso. Each month, The Exam Room will hold one or more public Q&As, each focusing on a different health-related topic and highlighting a TTUHSC El Paso health care specialist who has volunteered to answer questions on the subject.
What: Live health care Q&A open to the El Paso community
Staff Report April 6, 2017NewsComments Off on TTUHSC El Paso Cardiologist Warns Against Dissolvable Stents in NEJM705
In a recent New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) editorial, Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., provides expert commentary on bioresorbable stents, an alternative to the traditional stents used in patients with cardiac conditions. In his editorial, Dr. Mukherjee encourages cardiologists to continue using conventional drug-eluting stents, instead of the newer bioresorbable option.
Dr. Mukherjee, who chairs the Department of Internal Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso), was invited to comment on the release of new clinical trial results based on his expertise in cardiovascular medicine.
Conventional stents have had their drawbacks for years. Made of stiff metal, the round, tubular structure is inserted into a narrowed artery to open up the pathway and improve blood flow. The drug-eluting stent is a step above this bare-metal structure; it’s a device coated in an anti-tissue growth medication that’s slowly released into the bloodstream upon insertion, preventing any recurrence of blockage.
“If you think about it, stents are pieces of metal that are permanently placed into the heart and people were not born with metal in their hearts; it’s not normal and it may sometimes cause problems,” Dr. Mukherjee explains. “Just by being there, the stent will affect the blood vessel lining.”
Blood clots and scar tissue are more likely to form where a stent has been placed. There’s also a possibility that the stent will fail and the artery will become blocked again at the same location, an effect known as restenosis.
“That’s why bioresorbable stents were invented,” Dr. Mukherjee says. “The premise is that you want to put in a stent that will go away completely after a few years, fixing the problem of potential side effects.”
The first bioresorbable stent was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2016. Marketed as Absorb, the device naturally dissolves in the body three years after implant, helping the artery heal more naturally.
But this up-and-coming device is not all it’s cracked up to be, Dr. Mukherjee warns.
In its most recent clinical trial, published in the NEJM in March, Absorb was tied to an increased risk of device thrombosis — a dangerous side effect where a blood clot forms on the stent itself. While thrombosis formed in just eight patients with a drug-eluting stent, it occurred in 31 patients who had an Absorb implant.
In his review of the study, Dr. Mukherjee writes, “Because the current generation of metallic drug-eluting stents is associated with excellent outcomes, there is little rationale to use bioresorbable vascular scaffolds at this time.”
“Bioresorbable stents cost more than the typical metallic stent and they take longer for cardiologists to insert,” he further explains. “They are also no more effective, and less safe. As a physician, why I am going to use something that costs me more if it can cause risk or harm to my patients?”
He adds that while long-term, increased anti-clotting medicine may reduce thrombus formation with Absorb, the side effects of bleeding risk are likely not worth the risk.
Dr. Mukherjee acknowledges that the bioresorbable stents are a good idea in theory, and hopes that the next generation of the device will have improved results. He recommends that manufacturers focus on creating stents with quicker reabsorption rates, thinner struts and improved strength.
Dr. Mukherjee is the chief of cardiovascular medicine at TTUHSC El Paso. He received his Doctor of Medicine from India’s Government Medical College and completed a fellowship in interventional cardiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
“We thought this could be a fun way to build awareness about a disease that’s often not taken seriously,” says Navkiran Shokar, M.A., M.D., M.P.H. “In fact, El Paso has some of the lowest colon cancer screening rates in Texas — That needs to change.”
The event, which is free and open to the public, encourages participants to march in their boxer shorts along a set course on the TTUHSC El Paso campus. The high point of the walk is a stroll through a fun — and educational — giant inflatable colon. The event will culminate in a contest and prize for the most creative boxers.
During the event, local colorectal cancer survivors will share their stories in both English and Spanish. Health care organizations from across El Paso, including Centro San Vicente, the Hospitals of Providence and Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe, will also have booths set up to share information about colorectal cancer screening and prevention.
The Boxer March was organized by the Southwest Coalition for Colorectal Cancer (SuCCCeS). SuCCCeS is a collaboration led by TTUHSC El Paso, University Medical Center of El Paso, the City of El Paso Department of Public Health, Project Vida Health Center, William Beaumont Army Medical Center, the El Paso Veterans Affairs Health Care System, and other major health care providers in El Paso.
*March will commence at approximately 10:30 a.m.
What: TTUHSC El Paso hosts El Paso’s first boxer walk in support of colorectal cancer awareness.
When:10 a.m. to noon Saturday, March 25*
Where: Medical Education Building (MEB) lawn (5001 El Paso Drive)
Biomedical scientist Rajkumar Lakshmanaswamy, Ph.D., has received a $1.1 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) to study how early pregnancy reduces a woman’s risk for breast cancer.
“We’ve known for centuries that women who don’t have children run a high risk for breast cancer,” says Lakshmanaswamy, a professor of biomedical sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso). “So what is it about pregnancy, particularly early pregnancy, that reduces a women’s lifetime risk of breast cancer?”
Studies have shown that if a woman gives birth to her first child before the age of 20, her risk of developing breast cancer is half that of a woman who has never undergone a full-term pregnancy, or a woman who had her first child after the age of 35. The biological processes that cause this protective effect, however, are not well understood.
With the grant, Lakshmanaswamy hopes to better understand the natural processes behind the phenomenon, which could lead to new prevention and treatment strategies for breast cancer.
The TTUHSC El Paso research team will specifically study growth hormone and prolactin, two hormones known for stimulating breast cancer growth, but that dramatically dip in women after pregnancy. Lakshmanaswamy believes this hormonal reduction in postpartum women affects tissue within the breast, causing it to permanently alter and become resistant to mammary cancer.
“If you think about it, by design, mammals are wired to make babies as soon as they achieve puberty — except humans, who choose to have babies at later ages,” he explains. “So when a woman opts to hold off on children, she may be delaying an important natural process.”
The biomedical scientist emphasizes that he does not recommend for women to get pregnant early to avoid breast cancer; he only hopes to gain more knowledge on the protective phenomenon so that it can be translated into a new therapy for breast cancer.
Lakshmanaswamy is the dean of the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at TTUHSC El Paso. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Madras in Chennai, India, and went on to conduct postdoctoral research at the Cancer Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley.
In honor of American Heart Month, the first session at 3:15 p.m.Friday, Feb. 10 will be hosted by Debabrata Mukherjee, M.D., chair of the Department of Internal Medicine. Dr. Mukherjee, who specializes in cardiovascular medicine, will take questions from viewers about all things heart-related, including heart attack, stroke, coronary artery disease, and heart failure.
Dr. Mukherjee has been named to the Best Doctors in America list for several years, has authored over 500 publications, and has edited more than 14 textbooks on cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Chambers is one of only a handful of surgeons in the U.S. who has studied breast surgical oncology. This niche specialty means a surgeon has training and experience in every aspect of breast care: pathology, imaging, biopsy, genetics, radiology, medical oncology, and breast surgery.
The breast care session will feature a special guest appearance by Associate Vice Chancellor Victoria Pineda. She’ll preview the upcoming philanthropic event Bubbles & Brunch, which will help support the TTP El Paso Breast Care Center.
Participants are encouraged to submit their questions in advance and RSVP on TTUHSC El Paso’s event pages:
As the EPCMS’s newest president, Dr. Handal brings 50 years of experience as a practicing pediatrician, and 40 years of experience as a pediatric infectious disease specialist in the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine (PLFSOM).
“Dr. Handal has an impressive track record at TTUHSC El Paso and a heart to serve the community — no matter what obstacles are in the way,” said TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange, M.D., M.B.A. “I have no doubt that he will serve as an excellent president and advocate for El Paso’s medical community.”
The pediatrician was elected president on the basis of numerous merits, including having served on a several councils within the society. In addition to his new role in the EPCMS, Dr. Handal is the Marta Cuellar-Acuña Chair for Child Advocacy in TTUHSC El Paso’s Department of Pediatrics and founding chair of the institution’s Global Health Committee — now known as the International Affairs Council.
“I am very excited to have Dr. Handal take over the reins of the El Paso County Medical Society,” said David Mansfield, M.D., the former President of the EPCMS. “His commitment to the El Paso community has been exemplary in the past and will continue going forward; he represents the ultimate bridge between the so-called ‘town and gown’ divide.”
Dr. Handal has several goals as the EPCMS president, including 1) to dramatically increase local physicians’ membership rates in both the EPCMS and the Texas Medical Association (TMA); 2) to increase PLFSOM faculty involvement in these two organizations so that TTUHSC El Paso serves as an example to other medical schools across Texas; 3) to increase local physicians’ overall involvement in specialty societies (e.g., the El Paso Pediatric Society); and 4) to enhance collaboration between TTUHSC El Paso physicians and local private practice physicians.
Dr. Handal will officially be inducted as president of the EPCMS at the Doubletree Hotel at 7:30 p.m.Wednesday, Feb. 1. The ceremony will be keynoted by Paul L. Foster, executive chairman of Western Refining.
The infectious disease specialist received his medical degree from the University of Chile in 1967, and went on to complete his pediatric residency at the University of Chile and at the University of Miami. He completed his fellowship in infectious diseases and pediatric critical care at the University of Miami. Dr. Handal is currently named to the 2015-16 Best Doctors in America® list.
The EPCMS advocates for the practice of medicine; unites physicians throughout the county and the state of Texas; elevates the standards of the medical practice; educates the public about disease prevention and the medical knowledge base; and facilitates communication both within the medical community and between the medical community and the greater public.
Staff Report January 18, 2017NewsComments Off on Video+Story: TTUHSC El Paso Research Leads to New Anti-Cancer Drug in Europe1,650
Cancer research conducted by Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso (TTUHSC El Paso) scientists is causing a stir in Europe.
Propranolol, a medication studied by Assistant Professor Brad Bryan, Ph.D., was recently granted orphan drug designation by the European Commission (EC). The designation signifies that the EC supports the use of a drug because of its significant benefits to treating patients living with rare diseases — in this case, soft tissue sarcomas.
Bryan’s research is partly credited for propranolol being granted this designation in Europe. Its ability to treat angiosarcoma, a very lethal form of soft tissue sarcoma, was originally discovered in Bryan’s TTUHSC El Paso lab.
In one study, Bryan used cell lines and animal models to show that propranolol could fight angiosarcoma and remarkably reduce the growth of tumors; the results were published in a 2013 PLOS One paper. Later, in a 2015 JAMA Dermatology article, Bryan described treating a patient with angiosarcoma — who only had months left to live — and bringing the tumor down to undetectable levels. What’s more, the treatment had little to no side effects.
Several scientists across the world have reported similar results since then, testing propranolol on their own patients with the rare cancer.
The successful results caught the attention of the Anticancer Fund. After gathering research on the drug’s effects, the nonprofit foundation — which is dedicated to expanding the range of treatment options available to cancer patients — applied to have propranolol approved as an orphan drug in Europe.
“Our ultimate objective is to have propranolol, if proven effective, fully licensed as a new standard of care treatment for angiosarcoma,” says Pan Pantziarka, Ph.D., an oncology researcher at the Anticancer Fund. “Bryan’s research was important because not only did it demonstrate the validity of this approach in animal models, but it also illustrated the effect of treatment in a patient for whom existing treatments are unlikely to be effective. These two elements were important in making the case for the clinical potential of propranolol in this rare and hard-to-treat cancer.”
In an age of soaring cancer drug prices, propranolol offers a glimmer of hope for the checkbooks of some cancer patients.
First developed in the 1960s, today, propranolol is a generic drug, meaning it’s available for a relatively affordable price. Current prescription drug therapies for sarcomas can cost patients upwards of $10,000 a month. Propranolol, however, only costs about $4 a month.
“Treating soft tissue sarcoma can easily top $100,000 to $200,000,” Bryan explains. “While propranolol will certainly not replace these treatments, our data show it improves the ability of the treatments to work — all at the cost of a generic co-pay.”
If relicensed, propranolol’s drug label could be changed to officially indicate its use in treating soft tissue sarcomas. International health guidelines could also be updated to designate propranolol as an official cancer drug, thereby encouraging physicians to use the new form of treatment.