September 2, 2014

Summit to focus on physician assistants & benefits for rural Iowa

Iowa’s two medical schools are co-sponsoring a national conference in Omaha next week that will explore the role physician assistants play in the changing world of health care, especially in rural areas. Dr. Michael Huckabee is director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s PA Education Division.

“You know there are barriers in rural primary care and a lot of this is the change that is required in health care reform and dealing with some of the misperceptions that come with that,” Huckabee says. “The PA is not in competition or making people leave their doctors. Unique to PAs, we, by state laws in every state in the country, must be linked to a physician’s practice.”

Huckabee says the increased need for health care is expected to be a burden to small communities that may not have the infrastructure and workforce to provide those services.

“There are just not enough doctors to go around,” Huckabee says. “Physician assistants, by their very name, are linked to physicians to extend that care.” The fast-evolving health care landscape has created a time of change and challenges for the entire medical profession, he says, though some people may be unclear about what it is PAs do.

“All PAs are trained in the model of primary care so they’re equipped to manage acute and chronic health care problems of all types within the scope of their physicians’ practice,” he says.

The conference is called “Advancing Rural Primary Care,” and it’s scheduled for next week (September 11th and 12th) at the Hilton Omaha Hotel. Huckbee says there will be a slate of national speakers.

He says, “All of them are here to address how PAs can effectively be utilized in rural communities to continue to extend the care of physicians.”

The conference is being co-hosted by the University of Iowa and Des Moines University, as well as Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska, the University of South Dakota and Wichita State University. The conference is tailored for those who hire and use PAs. It’s geared toward administrators, health care leaders, academicians, policy makers, physicians and PAs.

For more information on the conference, visit:>



Life jacket use recommended for final summer days on the water

It’s the last summer holiday weekend and the last chance for many to spend time on their boats. Lou An McCraken of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, says you should be sure to have a life jacket on hand for everyone. She says it’s not enough just to have it in the boat, you need to put it on.

“It’s not a burden to wear a life jacket if you find a good comfortable Coast Guard-approved life jacket…you’ll want to wear it to keep you safe and for everyone in your family who you care about,” McCraken says. McCracken is a Natural Resource Specialist who works on the Mississippi River.

McCracken says each year a number of boating accidents claim lives because someone fell into the water and underestimated their swimming ability. And sometimes swimming isn’t even an option, especially on rivers like the Mississippi. “You could have bumped your head, you could have had a medical condition that caused you to fall out, you pass out for any number of reasons, you may have hit something submerged that bumps you out of your boat,” McCraken says. “The Mississippi River is always changing, it’s such a dynamic river.”

McCracken says 9 of 10 people who drowned in lakes and river last year were not wearing a life jacket. She also says because the Mississippi is such a vast body of water, conditions vary on different sections of the river. What may be safe in one location could pose a danger elsewhere.

Grassley: government making sure ‘ice bucket challenge’ money used properly for research

As tens of millions of dollars stream into the ALS Association thanks to the viral popularity of a recent fundraiser, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley warns that charity and all others that the government is “still watching” to make sure the money goes to research, as promised.

Grassley, a Republican, says he launched an investigation into several nonprofit groups in 2003. “We heard reports initially involving philanthropic organizations set up for the 9-11 disaster in New York,” Grassley says. “The money wasn’t being used. People were raising questions about what it went to.”

The probes were broadened to include several groups that took in donations that were considered tax deductible, as it was potential federal tax dollars that were being diverted to various causes and not into government coffers. In 2013, the National Institutes of Health financed 237 areas of disease research, spending more than 30-billion dollars on medical research.

Grassley says the taxpayers deserve to know every tax dollar assigned to medical research is spent prudently, not funded and forgotten. “We changed laws for the Red Cross, as an example, because they’re chartered by the United States,” Grassley says. “We’ve had the conservation organizations that were self-dealing within their board of directors on land that was donated.” The ALS Association has taken in nearly $80 million in recent weeks through the Ice Bucket Challenge, where people dump a bucket of ice water on their heads, make a donation and challenge others, by name, to do the same thing.

Millions of videos have appeared on Facebook since July to raise money for research into ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Grassley says the ALS Association is not being singled out for an investigation and nothing is pending involving that organization. “I think the nonprofits are on top of things pretty well,” Grassley says, “but I just want every organization to know that we’re still watching.”

The senator was asked if he’s been challenged to dump a bucket of ice water on his own head. “I had an inquiry from somebody, the answer is yes, but I thought that the best thing to do would be to use my position as a United States Senator, not to be mellow dramatic, but to promote research, not just for ALS but for all diseases.”

Grassley calls the Ice Bucket Challenge a “social media sensation.” He says it’s good to see more people becoming engaged and educated about diseases that cause pain and suffering for so many. In a statement, he says: “For the families, caregivers, patients and victims of this and other incurable diseases, the increased attention and awareness are welcome signs. It means more people are empathizing with the heartbreak and hardship that comes with a medical diagnosis that so far has no cure.”

Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance wants more money for anti-tobacco campaign

A board member of the Iowa Tobacco Prevention Alliance is calling on state lawmakers to do more to counter the $90 million per year that tobacco companies are spending on marketing in Iowa. Jeneane Moody says the CDC recommends Iowa spend $30 million per year on anti-tobacco efforts.

“The most we’ve ever invested in tobacco control in a fiscal year is $12.3 million and this year we invested $5.1 million, so we’re well below where we should be with that,” Moody said. Iowa is receiving up to $70 million a year from the tobacco settlement, and according to Moody, more of that money should be used to prevent kids from taking up the habit.

“We know that every dollar we invest in prevention, we get a $5.60 return on investment,” Moody said. “We don’t want to just keep putting our finger in the hole when is comes to cessation, we need to keep kids from starting (smoking) in the first place.”

Moody spoke at a news conference today with Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, who is applauding a new national anti-smoking ad campaign which uses images of celebrities who were photographed smoking cigarettes. The ad identifies each celebrity — such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga and Kiefer Sutherland — as an “unpaid tobacco spokesperson” and states each time such photos are posted online, “big tobacco gets tons of free marketing.” Miller is a board member of the anti-tobacco group “Legacy,” which is sponsoring the ads.

Singer Tony Orlando to open U-of-I diabetes research center (AUDIO)

Tony Orlando (in black) visits US troops in Iraq

Tony Orlando (in black) visits US troops in Iraq

A singing superstar from the 1970s will be among the dignitaries in Iowa City tomorrow  for the dedication of a new diabetes research center at the University of Iowa.

Tony Orlando is a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which raised $25-million for the high-tech facility.

In a phone interview with Radio Iowa from his home in Branson, Missouri, Orlando was asked if any members of his family had diabetes.

“My mother did,” Orlando says. “My mother passed away and she had probably what we know as a diabetic stroke two Februarys ago.” The 70-year-old Orlando grew up in the Hell’s Kitchen area of New York City and says he learned early on about the difficulties that came with physical and psychological impairments.

“My sister had cerebral palsy and was mentally retarded and at a very young age, I knew when there were health challenges in the family,” Orlando says. “It’s a very important part of the support system to have help.”

Any performer who’s worth their salt as an entertainer or as a human being, he says, gives back to the community.

Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center

Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center

Orlando has been involved with entertaining since he was 16 and hit it big in April of 1973 with a sentimental pop song about a soldier returning home from Vietnam. “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree,” with the duo Dawn, was number-one on the U.S. and U.K. charts for four weeks.

Remarkably, the yellow ribbon tradition has continued for decades, welcoming American troops home most recently from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I’ve been working with post-war veterans since 1973 when ‘Yellow Ribbon’ came out,” Orlando says. “That’s over 40 years of working with veterans and raising money for veterans’ needs.”

Orlando says he’s thrilled to be a part of Saturday’s research center dedication in Iowa City. He was asked if there would be a ribbon to cut, perhaps a yellow ribbon?

“Whatever color the ribbon is, it’s worthy of being cut and cut on a joyous occasion and one to be proud of,” he says.

The variety program, “The Tony Orlando and Dawn Show,” ran on CBS from 1974 to ’76. Over the years, Orlando has sung for five U.S. presidents. Since the 1990s, he’s lived in Branson where he’s performed more than 2,000 shows.

AUDIO of Matt Kelley’s interview with Tony Orlando runs 4:35

“Visionary” new diabetes research center to open at University of Iowa

PBDB_8010 copyA new research center will be dedicated this weekend at the University of Iowa which promises to be innovative in its goal of finding treatments and a cure for diabetes, an epidemic that afflicts one in every 12 Iowans.

The center’s director, Dr. Dale Abel, says there will be 15 separate labs in the single facility that will all be working independently — yet together.

“It is very broad-based,” Dr. Abel says. “It really runs the spectrum from fundamental science and discovery at the level of molecules and genes and so forth all the way up to studies across populations. So, it really goes, as we say, from bench to bedside and hopefully, back to the bench as well.”

Each of the 15 labs will be run by a U-of-I professor who’ll have a staff of between five and 20, in addition to dozens of other researchers on the Iowa City campus who will remain in their current labs.

“The goal really is to bring together individuals who ordinarily wouldn’t spontaneously talk to each other,” Abel says. “So, within our group we have people who are eye specialists, we have people who are kidney specialists, people who are heart specialists, people who are diabetes specialists, people who are molecular biologists. We are all working together. We meet every week, for example.”

The center features 20,000 square feet of advanced research space with cutting-edge medical equipment and Abel says it will employ “visionary” techniques that will, it’s hoped, lead to breakthroughs.

“We are bringing together a broad base of people and the way that research moves forward is to bring together people who ordinarily wouldn’t talk to each other and get them to talk about their common problems,” Abel says. “That’s where the really creative ideas begin to come out which is really the way that you can leapfrog towards major advancements.”

The center will take up two floors of the new Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building. Abel says the university has devoted at least $25-million to creating the facility, in addition to a $25-million donation from the Fraternal Order of Eagles which will be devoted only to research.

The dedication ceremony will be held Saturday at 11 AM.


Ice Bucket Challenge goes viral, Iowa ALS leaders stunned (VIDEO)

IceBucketChallengeIt seems everybody’s got a video on social media lately, having a bucket of ice water dumped on their heads — captains of industry, Hollywood celebrities, Iowa’s governor (see video below), or your neighbor down the street.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was launched late last month as a way to raise awareness and funds for research into what’s known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS.

Abbi Costigan, coordinator of the Iowa chapter of the ALS Association, says the response has been completely unexpected and overwhelming.

“There is not one person from our chapters or nationwide that was even prepared for something like this,” Costigan says. “It’s been absolutely amazing to see the support of people who didn’t even know what Lou Gehrig’s disease was or that our chapters existed.”

The challenge has spread very quickly through websites like Facebook. Once challenged, you can either dump a bucket of ice water on your head and donate at least ten dollars toward ALS research and challenge three more people — or skip the challenge and donate 100 dollars.

Costigan says the first challenge she’s aware of was on July 29th, just three weeks ago. Since then, many thousands around the planet have accepted the challenge and written checks. The money is streaming in.

“I know it goes up and down because we’re getting donations every day,” she says, “but the last number I heard was about $41.8 million.”

ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It’s a motor neuron disease, first described in 1869. It usually attacks both upper and lower motor neurons and causes degeneration throughout the brain and spinal cord. Once diagnosed, life expectancy is usually only two to five years.

While the cause of ALS is not completely understood, Costigan says the last decade has brought a wealth of new scientific understanding about the disease that provides hope for the future. The sudden awareness of this killer disease — and the outpouring of support — is something Costigan can only describe as stunning.

“It gives me goosebumps,” Costigan says. “ALS has been around. We just celebrated 75 years since Lou Gehrig’s speech and to think this disease has been around for this long and it’s not until the year 2014 that we’ve had something like this go viral.”

About 250 Iowans are afflicted with ALS at any one time. Learn more about the disease and The Ice Bucket Challenge at: