Sep 19 2014
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An American in Africa

For the 25th anniversary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Summer Medical and Dental Education Program (SMDEP), the Human Capital Blog is publishing scholar profiles, some reprinted from the program’s website. SMDEP is a six-week academic enrichment program that has created a pathway for more than 22,000 participants, opening the doors to life-changing opportunities. Following is a profile of Sam Willis, MD, a member of the 1995 class.

Sam Willis

After completing medical school, Sam Willis decided his residency could wait. He wanted to see the world.

So he joined the Peace Corps and spent two years working as a health volunteer in Burkina Faso, one of Africa’s poorest countries. Living among the Burkinabé, in a mud-and-brick house with no running water, Willis learned the native language along with French. Every day, he hauled water back from a well so he could take a bath outdoors.

He talked to the villagers about sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and ways to fight malnutrition. He helped set up a food bank to tide residents over during the summer dry seasons, when the rains stopped and they couldn’t plant crops.

When he came back to the United States, it was with a different worldview.

“Learning to speak another language opened up my mind to understanding how the world works,” says Willis, who today is an assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine and practices family medicine in Houston, Texas, treating patients from disadvantaged communities.

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Sep 18 2014
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New Government Funds Will Support Health Workers, Expand Access to Care

The federal government announced new funds this month to expand primary care services and improve access to care.

On Sept. 12, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the availability of $295 million to nearly 2,000 health centers across the country.

Authorized by the Affordable Care Act, the money will support salaries for an estimated 4,750 new health care providers and other staff; allow centers to stay open for longer hours; and add new services in the areas of oral and behavioral health and pharmacy and vision services, according to an HHS statement.

The agency says the money will enable centers to reach an additional 1.5 million new patients nationwide. Today, nearly 1,300 community health centers provide care to some 22 million patients across the nation, according to HHS.

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Sep 18 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Antibiotic overuse, sexual assault nurse examiners, diaper banks, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Anthony So, MD, MPA, co-authors a piece in the News & Observer (Raleigh, North Carolina) about the need to reduce the overuse of antibiotics, in both humans and animals. Overuse accelerates the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of human antibiotic use and much animal antibiotic use is unnecessary, the article says. So calls for public policies that create incentives for farmers to decrease use of antibiotics and that limit antibiotic use in animals to disease treatment, rather than growth-promotion or as a substitute for hygiene and infection-control.

In Chicago, most children with asthma or food allergies do not have a health management form on file at school, leaving their schools without information they might need in emergencies, according to a study by RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumna Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH that was covered by Reuters Health. Researchers analyzed 2012-13 school year data on more than 400,000 Chicago schoolchildren, including 18,287 with asthma and 4,250 with a food allergy. Only a quarter of the asthmatic students and half of those with a food allergy had a health management plan on file. The study was also covered by The Chicago Tribune, Fox News, The Baltimore Sun, and Red Orbit, among other outlets.

RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars alumna Angela Frederick Amar, PhD, RN, FAAN, publishes an op-ed on Talking Points Memo about the report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault, Not Alone. Amar notes that effective response to campus sexual assault should include medical care for survivors, and that Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) are trained to tend to the medical and emotional needs of survivors and collect forensic evidence. In other institutions with high rates of sexual violence, such as the military, SANEs are considered an essential part of treatment for victims of sexual violence, Amar writes.

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Sep 17 2014
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Shifting the Dialogue: Considering Ray Rice and Intimate Partner Abuse

Thema Bryant-Davis, PhD, is an associate professor of psychology at Pepperdine University and an associate editor of the journal Psychological Trauma. Bryant-Davis is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Connections grantee who studies the intersection of trauma and culture. 

Thema Bryant-Davis

The assault perpetrated by Ray Rice, which ended in him dragging his unconscious fiancé, Janay Palmer, off an elevator, has captured wide public attention. Unfortunately, most of the dialogue has focused on blaming and shaming Ms. Palmer and other victims of intimate partner violence for staying in abusive relationships. There has also been an attempt to build sympathy for the perpetrator by questioning whether Rice’s punishment, which went from suspension for two games to permanent dismissal from his team, was fair. The most important questions have received far less attention. Why do abusive partners like Ray Rice abuse their spouses? Why does the public support intimate partner abuse either directly with words and actions or indirectly with their silence? What are the consequences of intimate partner abuse? And how can we stop intimate partner violence?

Partner abuse is an action not caused by the victim’s behavior, substance use, mental illness, or biology (being male).  People choose to abuse their partners emotionally, physically, sexually, verbally and financially to exact control over the person and because they believe they have the right to do so.  

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Sep 16 2014
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Inaugural Cohort of 16 Future of Nursing Scholars Announced

The new Future of Nursing Scholars program has announced its first cohort of 16 nurse scholars who are receiving scholarships and other support as they pursue PhDs in nursing. The students were selected by schools of nursing that have received grants to provide those scholarships.

Each Future of Nursing Scholar will receive financial support, mentoring and leadership development over the three years of her or his PhD program. They are in the initial stages of selecting the topics for their doctoral research, which range from infection control in the elderly population to the impact of stigma on people with mental illness to the quality of life of children with implanted defibrillators.

In addition to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, United Health Foundation, Independence Blue Cross Foundation, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the Rhode Island Foundation are supporting the Future of Nursing Scholars grants to schools of nursing this year. The program is located at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Read more about the first cohort of Future of Nursing Scholars.

Schools of nursing with research-focused PhD programs can apply to join the program here.

Sep 16 2014
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Stay Up to Date with RWJF!

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Sep 15 2014
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Breakthroughs in Treating Spinal Cord Injury

Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, is director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was a member of the inaugural class of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.

Roderic Pettigrew

On a fateful day in 2006, 20 year-old Rob Summers, a standout collegiate baseball pitcher at Portland State with aspirations to play in the big leagues, was a victim of a hit-and-run accident while standing in his own driveway. His injuries left him paralyzed below the chest, and his doctors informed him he would never move his legs again.

I first met Rob at NIBIB’s ten-year anniversary celebration. It had been just four years since his accident, and he had already broken new ground in spinal cord injury recovery. During the event, Rob shared his incredible story about the experimental procedure he had recently undergone as part of an NIBIB-funded research trial. In the trial, Rob became the first human to have an electrical stimulator implanted on his spinal cord with the goal of restoring some function to previously paralyzed muscles.  

Rob spoke about how, in just weeks after implantation, the stimulation enabled him to hold himself in a standing position for the first time since his injury. In addition, he began to sense when he was uncomfortable in his wheelchair. Rob went on to describe how, seven months into the trial, he discovered he was able to move his toes, ankles, and legs on command, a feat that shocked the researchers, as they never expected Rob to regain voluntary movement. 

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Sep 12 2014
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Changing the Culture of Health to Prevent Suicide

Alexander Tsai, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, a staff psychiatrist in the Massachusetts General Chester M. Pierce, MD Division of Global Psychiatry, and an honorary lecturer at the Mbarara University of Science and Technology in Uganda. He is an alumnus of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Health & Society Scholars program (2010-2012), and a member of the core faculty in the Health & Society Scholars program at Harvard University.

Alexander Tsai

When Robin Williams ended his life last month, his suicide sparked a raft of online and print commentary about the dangers of depression and the need to inject more resources into our mental health care system. I strongly agree with these sentiments. After all, as a psychiatrist at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I regularly speak with patients who have been diagnosed with depression or who are actively thinking about ending their lives.

But what if suicide prevention isn’t just about better screening, diagnosis and treatment of depression? What if there were a better way to go about preventing suicides?

It is undeniable that people with mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder are at greater risk for suicidal thinking or suicide attempts. But not everyone with depression commits suicide, and not everyone who has committed suicide suffered from depression. In fact, even though depression is a strong predictor of suicidal thinking, it does not necessarily predict suicide attempts among those who have been thinking about suicide. Instead, among people who are actively thinking about suicide, the mental illnesses that most strongly predict suicide attempts are those characterized by anxiety, agitation and poor impulse control.

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Sep 11 2014
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Recent Research About Nursing, September 2014

This is part of the September 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

Lower Hospitalization Rates Linked to Broader NP Scope of Practice

New research correlating state-by-state hospitalization rates with state policies on nurse practitioner (NP) scope of practice offers a revealing conclusion: Medicare and Medicaid patients are less likely to require hospitalization in states that allow NPs a broader scope of practice.

A team of researchers from the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing examined hospitalization data from a range of sources that sorted data by state, and then compared it with American Association of Nurse Practitioners data on state laws and regulations governing NP scope of practice. They found “a significant relationship between full practice of NPs and decreased hospitalization rates of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries in the United States and improved health outcomes of states.”

The researchers caution that the data do not prove a causal relationship between scope of practice and hospitalization rates, but write, “Our findings support the increasing call of facilitating Advanced Practice Registered Nurses [APRNs] to fulfill their full scope of practice in providing access and care to patients without direct or indirect supervision from physicians. The outcomes support the Institute of Medicine recommendation that APRNs practice to their full scope of practice including functioning as primary care providers.”

The study was published online by Nursing Outlook on August 4, 2014.

Read an abstract of the study or a news article on it in McKnight’s.

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Sep 11 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Mental health and returning service members, children of incarcerated parents, nurse turnover, more.

Around the country, print, broadcast and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni and grantees. Some recent examples:

When reserve service members return to civilian life, such stresses as marriage and health care problems are more likely to trigger drinking problems than traumatic events that occurred during deployment, according to a study reported by Fox News. When it comes to the “long-term mental health for National Guard members, what matters is what happens after they come home,” said lead author Magdalena Cerdá, PhD, MPH, an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. “Financial difficulties, re-integrating, difficulties accessing quality health care, all of those seem to matter.” But deployment stress also has an impact. “[T]he more traumatic events they are exposed to during or after combat, the more problems they have in daily life when they come home,” she said. RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient Sandro Galea, MD, MPH, DrPH, co-authored the study. Health Canal also reported on it.

An estimated 17.5 percent of newly licensed RNs leave their first nursing job within the first year, and one in three leave within two years, according to research conducted by RWJF’s RN Work Project. Advance for Nurses quotes co-directors Christine T. Kovner, PhD, RN, FAAN, and Carol Brewer, PhD, RN, FAAN. “One of the biggest problems we face in trying to assess the impact of nurse turnover on our health care system as a whole is that there’s not a single, agreed-upon definition of turnover,” Kovner said. “A high rate of turnover at a hospital, if it's voluntary, could be problematic,” Brewer added, “but if it’s involuntary or if nurses are moving within the hospital to another unit or position, that tells a very different story.” Nurse.com also covered the study.

Having incarcerated parents is associated with significant health problems and behavioral issues, and may be more harmful to children’s health than divorce or the death of a parent, USA Today reports. “These kids are saddled with disadvantages,” said Kristin Turney, PhD, author of the study that reached those conclusions. She is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars program alumna. “They’re not only dealing with parental incarceration, but also mental health issues.” The study found that having a parent in prison was associated with such conditions as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, learning disabilities, speech or language problems, and developmental delays. Turney’s study was also covered by US News and World Report, Salon, Psych Central, Healthline and Mother Jones, among other outlets. 

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