Why UTMB? About UTMB Health Awards and Accolades Choice and Satisfaction Clinical Trials and Research Studies News Quality & Safety Patient Stories Health Resource Center Support Groups UTMB Health News UTMB scientists uncover how Zika virus causes microcephalyFebruary 2/16/2017, 2017GALVESTON, Texas – A multidisciplinary team from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has uncovered the mechanisms that the Zika virus uses to alter brain development. These findings are detailed in Stem Cell Reports. There are currently 70 countries and territories reporting active Zika transmission, according to the World Health Organization. While a Zika infection typically results in mild or symptom-free infections in healthy adults and children, the risk of microcephaly in the developing fetus is an alarming consequence that has created a worldwide health threat. Babies with microcephaly can have a wide array of... more » UTMB researchers discover reason for permanent vision loss after head injuryFebruary 2/8/2017, 2017GALVESTON, Texas – Research from The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston has shed new light on what causes the permanent vision loss sometimes seen in the wake of a head injury. The findings are detained in The American Journal of Pathology. When someone suffers a head trauma, sometimes there is damage to the optic nerve that is responsible for passing information between the eyes and the brain. When the optic nerve is injured, there are tears and swelling in the affected area that causes the nerve cells to die. This type of injury is called traumatic optic neuropathy, or TON, and results in irreversible vision loss. At... more » UTMB, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas launch new affiliationJanuary 1/18/2017, 2017 UTMB, Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas launch new affiliation GALVESTON, Texas – The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas have signed a clinical affiliation agreement. This affiliation, effective Jan. 1, will build on the strengths of both organizations to provide the most advanced patient care for adult and pediatric patients in the Beaumont area and the surrounding region. Physicians, medical staff and executives from Baptist Hospitals and UTMB Health will work closely to increase quality and access to care for patients in need of multiple medical special... more » UTMB researcher is co-inventor of a faster and more accurate test for diagnosing Zika January 1/17/2017, 2017GALVESTON, Texas – Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center, have developed a new detection test for Zika that is faster and more accurate than currently available tests. The new test can detect Zika in a very small sample of blood in less than four hours. The new test is detailed in EBioMedicine. One of the obstacles to stemming the tide of the recent Zika outbreak has been the lack of a rapid, accurate test that can quickly determine whether someone has been infected with the Zika virus or not. While there is a... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Goals for healthy children in 2017Galveston County Daily NewsJanuary 1/9/2017, 2017By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Once again the magic of the holiday season is complete; we are looking forward to a new year and a new beginning. We can all wipe the slate clean and start over once again. Your children can be part of that optimistic time of year when we swear off sugar, vow to drink more water and sign up for the gym. And, while as adults, we sometimes saddle ourselves with major pressure, the goals you and your child can set are much more manageable. The goals for your child are totally attainable. 1. I will clean up my toys. 2. I will brush my teeth at least twice a day. 3. I will wash my hands after going to the... more » UTMB awarded $10 Million from CDC to help stop spread of vector-borne diseases January 1/2/2017, 2017 Will help fight diseases caused by Zika, West Nile and others GALVESTON, Texas – To help stop the spread of diseases carried by arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $10 million to The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston to establish the Western Gulf Center of Excellence for Vector-Borne Diseases. The Center’s work will protect public health in the region, the nation and beyond. “With UTMB’s unparalleled expertise in arthropod-borne diseases, we along with our partners, are uniquely positioned to improve lives all across the... more » UTMB researchers develop first chikungunya vaccine from virus that does not affect peopleDecember 12/19/2016, 2016GALVESTON, Texas – Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have developed the first vaccine for chikungunya fever made from an insect-specific virus that doesn’t have any effect on people, making the vaccine safe and effective. The newly developed vaccine quickly produces a strong immune defense and completely protects mice and nonhuman primates from disease when exposed to the chikungunya virus. The findings are detailed in Nature Medicine. “This vaccine offers efficient, safe and affordable protection against chikungunya and builds the foundation for using viruses that only infect insects to... more » UTMB develops an oral vaccine against SalmonellaDecember 12/14/2016, 2016GALVESTON, Texas – Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have developed a vaccine against salmonella poisoning designed to be taken by mouth. The findings are detailed in an article published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology. In earlier studies, the UTMB researchers developed potential vaccines from three genetically mutated versions of the salmonella bacteria, that is Salmonella Typhimurium, that were shown to protect mice against a lethal dose of salmonella. In these studies, the vaccines were given as an injection. However, oral vaccination is simplest and least invasive way to... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Recommendations for raising children in the digital media ageGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/17/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are now growing up in environments saturated with a variety of traditional and new technologies, which they are adopting at increasing rates. Although there has been much hope for the educational potential of interactive media for young children, there are also fears about their overuse during this crucial early period of rapid brain development. Research in the area still remains limited. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a policy statement in Pediatrics Volume 138, No. 5, November 2016. This statement reviews the existing studies on television, videos, and... more » UTMB receives NIH funding to implement a school-based healthy relationship program in Houston-area schoolsOctober 10/7/2016, 2016GALVESTON, Texas – The National Institutes of Health has awarded The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston a $3.07 million grant to evaluate a program designed to help teenagers to learn ways to resolve conflicts, better ways to deal with peer pressure and prevent violence. Jeff Temple, a psychologist at UTMB, will lead the study that will be conducted in Houston-area middle schools. The study calls for a rigorous evaluation of a new and enhanced version of “Fourth R,” a program previously shown to be effective in reducing risky behaviors among high school students. “Middle school is a critically... more » What's the skinny on supplements for weight loss?Galveston County Daily NewsSeptember 9/1/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA ”The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” — Chinese Proverb Recently, a newspaper reporter asked me about the use of Garcinia Cambogia for weight loss. I told her that I knew it was safe but probably not dramatically effective. I would do more research and get back to her. Still, since so many patients come to me for natural solutions to their problems, including weight loss, I figured it was time to dig into the subject more deeply. In the spirit of medical education, I turned the project over to my diligent medical students Amanda Vela and Jaime Eller, who were... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Reading truly is fundamentalGalveston County Daily NewsSeptember 9/1/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Nothing is more important to success than learning to read. Those who can’t read have fewer advantages than those that can. Reading is just as important for babies as it is for adults. Early exposure to reading increases the chances of success in school, and children who share books with their caregivers at an early age have less difficulty mastering reading once they enter school. Sharing books with children at an early age helps them to develop their vocabulary, communication skills and imagination. The U.S. Department of Education suggests that you begin reading to your baby at 6 weeks of age because... more » August is National Immunization Awareness MonthGalveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/25/2016, 2016By SELWYN ROGERS It was a typical Tuesday in my former job as chair of surgery at Temple University in Philadelphia, but that morning I felt sluggish. Although I wasn’t feeling well, I knew I had three surgical operations to perform that morning followed by an afternoon full of meetings. I trudged out of my apartment and started the 15-minute drive to work. A few miles into my commute, a feeling of illness suddenly enveloped me. I had to pull over and call my chief resident to cancel the morning’s surgeries. I turned the car around and headed back home to bed. The next three days were a blur of sore throat and fever; it was... more » Digital forms of dating violence are on the rise-what school nurses need to knowAugust 8/25/2016, 2016GALVESTON, Texas – Many teens experience physical or sexual abuse within their romantic relationships and now dating violence can also be perpetrated digitally by harassing, stalking or controlling a romantic partner via technology and social media. School nurses are often some of the first to identify such problems and play an active role in preventing them from happening in the first place. They are also in a natural position to act as first responders for victims of an abusive romantic relationship. Information on how school nurses can help these teens experiencing cyber abuse is described in a recent article in NASN School... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Backpacks not just a fashion statementGalveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/23/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Backpacks are great for kids to carry items back and forth from school to home, but backpacks that weigh more than 15 percent of your child’s body weight may cause health problems for your child. Neck, shoulder and back pain may develop from carrying a heavy backpack everyday. The spine is made of 33 bones (called vertebrae) that have disks in between them that act as natural shock absorbers. A child carrying an unusually heavy backpack leans their head and chest forward to compensate for the weight of the back, which puts stress on the back and neck. If your child uses only one strap to carry her backpack,... more » Baby’s Checkup and a Shot for MomAugust 8/17/2016, 2016A nearly $1.5 million grant will support a unique opportunity for young moms to get anti-cancer vaccine at baby’s appointments GALVESTON, Texas – In the first months of baby’s life, parents usually concentrate on their newborn’s health. But the postpartum period is also a good time for mom to catch up on an important vaccination for herself. The many doctor’s visits needed for a newborn present a convenient way for mom to get all three shots of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Many young women are missing out on the HPV vaccine, which can prevent several kinds of cancer, including cervical cancer and t... more » I'm just tired all the timeGalveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/16/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA Friday afternoon: I am covering an acute care clinic for patients needing immediate attention without an appointment ... because they just got sick in the preceding few days and need to be seen quickly. Visits are rarely long nor require heavy medical thinking: colds, urinary tract infections, sprains, refills and so on. The last patient of the day complains of fatigue. I feel an immediate sinking feeling as I review her chart. Really, how acute can fatigue be? Did you not sleep last night? Maybe the new baby kept you up or perhaps your loud neighbors did? Nope, it is nothing like that. The patient has had... more » Medical Discovery News-Few things as satisfying as a good night's sleepGalveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/16/2016, 2016By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG I can think of few things as satisfying as a good night sleep. As I age, it seems harder and harder to achieve. Sleep is extremely important to humans and there are some significant consequences to not getting enough. Sleep is essential in a diverse range of organisms ranging from nematodes, insects, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. In humans, sleep loss contributes to obesity, elevated blood pressure and metabolic disorders. It can also lead to changes in cognition, behavioral changes and neurological issues affecting judgment, reaction time and mood. The sleep cycle has four stages foll... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-How to keep your sleeping baby safeGalveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/10/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated their recommendations for ways parents can keep their sleeping baby safe. These recommendations are for healthy babies up to a year of age. There are some babies with certain medical conditions who may need to sleep on their stomachs. Your baby’s doctor can tell you what is best for your baby. Things you can do to help keep your baby safe. • Place your baby on his back every time he goes to sleep until a year of age. If the baby has rolled from his back to his side or stomach, he can be left in that position if he is able to roll from tummy to back and back... more » Oh my aching back — are there non-drug treatments?Galveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/10/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA “My back hurts, doc. What can I do?” Chronic low back pain is the fifth leading cause of visits to primary care physicians and the single most common reason adults use complementary and integrative methods in the United States. Up to 20 percent of the population will develop chronic back pain, and 35 percent of those with back pain episodes will suffer a recurrence despite any treatment. The rate of deaths from overdoses for prescription opiates has been escalating since the early 2000s. Twenty percent or more of suicide cases have opiates on board. Meanwhile, deaths from cocaine and heroin have... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Back to school tips to keep your child safeGalveston County Daily NewsAugust 8/10/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON The following is from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for returning to school in 2016. For many children (and their parents) the first day of school is upsetting. There are several suggestions for making the first day easier. • Remind your child that there are probably a lot of students who are uneasy about the first day of school. This may be at any age. Teachers know that students are nervous and will make an extra effort to make sure everyone feels as comfortable as possible. • Point out the positive aspects of starting school. She’ll see old friends and meet new ones.... more » What's for breakfast?Galveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/27/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA Last week I had the pleasure of giving a combination nutrition lecture and cooking demonstration for some first year medical students. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute staff and second year medical student, Mauli Dalal, ably assisted me. Mauli is a leader of the student initiative, Food for Thought, at the St. Vincent’s Student Run Clinic. We covered some basics of nutrition including healthy fats, types of carbs and complete proteins. We also gave the students tips on effective clinical nutritional counseling followed by preparing and sharing some tasty ways to create a healthy breakfast. One key... more » What's for breakfast?Galveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/26/2016, 2016 By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA Last week I had the pleasure of giving a combination nutrition lecture and cooking demonstration for some first year medical students. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute staff and second year medical student, Mauli Dalal, ably assisted me. Mauli is a leader of the student initiative, Food for Thought, at the St. Vincent’s Student Run Clinic. We covered some basics of nutrition including healthy fats, types of carbs and complete proteins. We also gave the students tips on effective clinical nutritional counseling followed by preparing and sharing some tasty ways to create a healthy breakfast. One key... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Pool safety tips for you and your childrenGalveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/21/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, from 1990 to 2000, drowning was the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among American children ages 1 to 19. Children ages 0 to 4 and adolescent boys are at the highest risk of drowning. Young children are most likely to drown in the bathtub or after accidentally falling into the water. Adolescent boys are 4 to 6 times more likely to drown than girls mostly because they think their swimming skills are better than they really are, and they are more likely to take risks. Teaching your child to swim does not necessarily make him or her safe in the... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-How to keep kids safe on trampolinesGalveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/15/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Trampolines are popular among children and teens and even among some adults. Although they are fun, landing wrong can cause serious injuries. Injuries can occur even when a trampoline has a net and padding and parents are watching. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a strong statement against the use of trampolines at home. More information can be found at www.healthychildren.org. If families choose to use a trampoline anyway, they should take precautions to make the experience as safe as possible. How do most injuries occur on trampolines? • About 27 to 39 percent of injuries happen... more » On preventing summer miseriesGalveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/15/2016, 2016By MARSHA CANRIGHT Correspondent No beautiful day at the beach should end in the emergency department. The number of accidental injuries goes up in summer months with common miseries like a blistering sunburn, red ant bites, food poisoning, jellyfish stings, fishhooks, dehydration and burns from outdoor grilling. There are more serious dangers too. The heat can sneak up on you and cause serious illness; car and bicycle accidents increase between Memorial Day and Labor Day, and ocean riptides can cause even strong swimmers to panic and risk drowning. Not all injuries are preventable, but trying a few safety measures may help you dodge... more » Observing life from womb to tomb: Humans depend on each otherGalveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/15/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA As a family physician, I have been blessed to stand witness to the bookends of life. From womb to tomb, it has been an incredible experience to see families bringing life into the world and supporting those who are passing on. We physicians also get to closely observe the journey in between: the shots, the first tooth, the first step, the runny nose, the hospital stay, the developing athlete, the evolving scholar, the budding artist, the graduations, first job, weddings and other major life events. Our patients truly become our extended family. Last week, I met with a group of medical students who had just spen... more » Medical Discovery News Sleep is good for the waistlineGalveston County Daily NewsJuly 7/14/2016, 2016By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG You are likely to have heard Americans are getting fatter. Eating fast and processed foods and a sedentary lifestyle are likely contributors. Today, almost 70 percent of Americans are overweight, and this is a public health disaster. Officials in New York City sounded the alarm and intervened by banning trans fats, but that is hardly enough. It is recognized that there are many other causes. By definition, you are considered obese if your body mass index is higher than 30. Another prevalent health issue in the United States is problems with sleeping. Almost 20 million people have sleep apnea, and... more » Stop your belly achingJune 6/22/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA When someone is constantly complaining, somebody else may finally have to say, “stop your bellyaching.” Well, if your belly aches, you might feel fretful and complain a lot, or you might just give someone else a bellyache or a headache. Maybe it’s contagious. When I was a medical student, ulcers, gastritis, heartburn, non-ulcer dyspepsia and other bellyaches were considered largely to be due to stress. Large bottles of Maalox and Valium were consumed, often to little effect. Surgery to cut nerves and reduce acid in the overactive stomach and to open drainage was a common procedure, the... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-How to keep your children safe in cars this summerGalveston County Daily NewsJune 6/22/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Hot weather is here. Every year there are new reports of children dying after being left in hot cars. Hopefully, this annual reminder will prevent another death. The inside of a car can heat up very quickly — even when the temperature outdoors is mild. On an especially hot day, the interior of a car can heat up to 122 degrees in less than 20 minutes, and within 40 minutes, it can get so hot that a child left inside a car for that length of time can die. Many parents think that leaving the window of the car open slightly will keep the temperature lower, but fail to realize that it will still remain too hot in... more » Going nuts about heart healthGalveston County Daily NewsJune 6/2/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA Did you know that nuts are a great nutrient for heart health? We tend to think of nuts as snacks loaded with salt, fat and calories. However, excellent research over the years has found that nuts help reduce cardiac events as much as 40 percent. Nuts should be eaten by the handful, not the bagful. A handful of nuts can pack up to 150 calories so titrate them carefully. We like to portion out our daily nut ration in a small bowl or a Saki cup. Much of the research on nuts has been done on walnuts and almonds, but good ol’ Texas pecans, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios and so on are all likely... more » Skin cancer affects young and oldGalveston County Daily NewsJune 6/2/2016, 2016By RICK COUSINS Correspondent Although everyone fears cancer in general, one type of this dreaded disease is the most likely to affect the largest number of Americans at some point in their lives: Skin cancer. And, importantly, it is among the most curable cancers as long as it is detected and treated early. Ignored, it can, at times, prove deadly. Our guide to this topic is Dr. Sharon Raimer, who chairs the Department of Dermatology at the University of Texas Medical Branch. She noted that your skin is your largest bodily organ, a fact that offers cancer a large area to aim for. Most people know that skin cancer comes in two common... more » The final journey: how to prepare for a good deathGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/26/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” — Albert Einstein, 1921 How will you handle life’s final journey? No matter your ... more » Arthritis part 2: How to take care of daily stiffness, painGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/26/2016, 2016Arthritis part 2: How to take care of daily stiffness, pain Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles providing a current overview of arthritis. While the symptoms of arthritis often wax and wane, the underlying disease is generally progressive. What’s a patient to do when bringing stiffness, pain and a limited range of motion into their busy, daily routine? Dr. Emilio Gonzalez, who serves as both director and chief of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Division of Rheumatology, explained the options. First for rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Gonzalez had good news. Recent clinical work has made it... more » Keeping Kids Healthy-Mental health as important as physical health in childrenGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/26/2016, 2016By DR. SALLY ROBINSON Like adults, children also suffer from depression, anxiety and uncontrolled behavior from time to time. What if these feelings have become an insurmountable problem for your child? When should you seek help for your child? A frank discussion with your pediatrician is a good place to begin understanding the seriousness of your child’s problem. According to the Surgeon General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “in the United States, 1 in 10 children and adolescents suffer from mental illness severe enough to cause some level of impairment. Yet, in any given year, it is estimated that... more » Part 1: What is arthritis?Galveston County Daily NewsMay 5/17/2016, 2016Editor’s note: This is the first of two articles providing a current overview of arthritis. It would be hard to overemphasize the impact of arthritis on Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention documented that just short of 50 percent of adults up to 65 years old have some form of it. For adults 65 and older that number rises to 62 percent. Surprisingly, almost 300,000 children under 18 also suffer from arthritis or a related condition. | In all, as the population ages, almost 80 million of us in the United States will be diagnosed with this disease by the year 2040. It is a problem that won’t be solved... more » Medical Discovery News-Organisms that live in, on us are importantGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/17/2016, 2016By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG Bacteria and viruses live on and in us as part of our normal flora or microbiome. In fact, microbes outnumber our own cells somewhere between 10 to 1 and 100 to 1. But there are even more creatures that we share our lives with, parasites and vermin. That sounds disgusting. Vermin? Really? Studies of these creatures are actually quite revealing about human evolution and migration. For example, all of us harbor a mite that lives in the hair follicles on our faces called Demodex folliculorum. They are tubular in shape with iddy biddy legs and live deep in our follicles. Somewhere between 23 to 100... more » A look at the role of religion, spirituality in medicineGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/17/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA A few centuries ago, religious and theological concepts dominated an era when medicine offered little to allay the ravages of plague, cholera and other diseases of mankind. Because medicine at that time was impotent and the therapies offered not only ineffective but often dangerous, traditional religion with its prayers and rituals filled the breach. More or less. If a child was ill, helpless parents could at least pray and hope for God’s mercy to deliver the child from a high fever or other affliction. Maybe the child got better. As medicine improved, we developed and understood the germ theory,... more » The soul cannot be measuredGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/11/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA As a physician, I have studied the human body intimately. Through cadaver dissections, autopsies, physical exams of tens of thousands of patients, I have seen the body through many lenses and in its manifold forms. X-rays, MRI’s, CT scans, nuclear scans, scopes of every orifice have given me astounding views of this incredible organism we call man. An engineering professor patient refers to the body as an unbelievably complex, self-regenerating machine. And yet, it is so much more than a machine. In all this looking and seeing, though, I have never caught a glimpse of the soul. Well maybe once. I might... more » Spirituality can help heal mind, bodyGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/3/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA ”Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being. Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light.” — Dr. Albert Schweitzer When things are going well in our lives, it is easy to assume that all is going to be fine forever. However, when faced by an illness, family problem, financial or job challenge, we must dip into the well of our courage and deepest values. As my patients with cancer tell me, their support in their times of stress are primarily family, friends and their faith community. This... more » Medical Discovery News-Medication used to treat withdrawal symptoms could be addictiveGalveston County Daily NewsMay 5/3/2016, 2016By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG Some who use kratom to ease their withdrawal symptoms from heroin addiction are discovering that this is also an addictive drug that can reignite the cravings for the heroin they are trying hard to conquer. The use of kratom as a painkiller or to treat depression or for the mild high it provides is gaining in popularity, but its potential dangers are not well understood. Kratom is legal in most states and is sold under a variety of names. It is available in powdered form at head shops, convenience stores and online. There are even bars that sell beverages made with kratom in Colorado, Florida,... more » When the doctor becomes the patientGalveston County Daily NewsApril 4/27/2016, 2016By DR. MICHAEL M. WARREN Doctors get sick. When we do, we have to face the same troubles that the non-physician does. We have to fill out the same forms to get into the hospital. We have to deal with our insurance companies, and we face all the old and new rules to save money. Books and movies have been produced about doctors’ attitudes before and after they develop illnesses of their own. It not only makes good reading but often educates the physician about the world of medicine, from the patient’s point of view. Nowhere that I know of in the medical school curriculum is a course about what it’s like to be a... more » Soup is ultimate soul foodGalveston County Daily NewsApril 4/26/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA My dad, whose parents had moved from the old country in Poland to the United States in the early 1900s often said, “I could live on soup.” I suspect they often had to as they were poor farmers. Cabbage soup with some salt pork may have been a meal away from starvation and scurvy. He lived to 93, by the way. Soup is the ultimate in recycling. You can take bones from other dishes (sorry Fido), wilted vegetables and cooking water to make a stock. Then add an infinite variety of nutritious ingredients. Basically, you can start with leftovers and end up with an entree that is healthy for your family, eas... more » Planning key to successful, healthy dining outGalveston County Daily NewsApril 4/19/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA ”The supreme accomplishment is to blur the line between work and play.” — Arnold J. Toynbee In last week’s article, I described the joys and health benefits of cooking at home: control of portion size, ingredients, seasonings, freshness, mindful eating. Meal preparation can even be a form of meditation as you slice, dice, stir. Cooking at home can thus be as Toynbee urged both work and play. The same day that piece was published though, a retired nurse in for her acupuncture visit reminded me that eating at home was fine but they loved dining out even more. We recently attended a... more » Antibiotics not always helpful for sinusesGalveston County Daily NewsApril 4/19/2016, 2016By RICK COUSINS Correspondent Weather patterns can sweep in copious amounts of pollen and smoke here each spring, thereby raising your risk for a seasonal sinus attack. WebMD notes that 37 million Americans will suffer along these lines annually, leading to some $5.7 billion in related costs and lost income. Since there’s no vaccine and little chance of avoiding the triggers, what’s a Gulf Coast resident to do when sinus pain and congestion strike? Dr. Julie McKee, a distinguished teaching professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said that the first step is not to rush to the doctor, demanding an... more » Victor S. Sierpina-Cooking at home helps control nutritionGalveston County Daily NewsApril 4/12/2016, 2016By DR. VICTOR S. SIERPINA “Try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun.” — Julia Child The famous chef’s words could apply to virtually any area of life. This month, we will focus on the theme of nutrition and cooking. Cooking at home gives us more control of ingredients and seasonings and allows us to adjust flavoring according to personal preference. Certainly some people do not cook out of lack of knowledge or even being afraid to cook. It does require advance planning which helps us avoid impulse eating and fast food. One reader told me not to encourage men to cook. He... more » Salad with whole grains and other traditional foods with a twistGalveston County Daily NewsMarch 3/29/2016, 2016By Victor S. Sierpina Last week, I wrote about the Seeding Galveston program, which delivers freshly picked, locally grown produce weekly to your home. You get what is in season. This will alter the way you cook and how you eat. It is healthier because fresh vegetables right from the garden retain all their nutrients and taste so good you will want to eat more of them. One example is the large variety of greens they bring. Many folks in the South have grown up with collard and mustard greens cooked by Grandma. Other types of greens that are in season and can be used much the same way are chard, broccoli greens, and kale. These are... more » Breastfeeding, vaccinations help reduce ear infection rates in babiesMarch 3/28/2016, 2016GALVESTON, Texas – In what would be considered good news for many parents a new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston finds the rates of ear infections during a baby’s first year have declined; the investigators suggested that higher rates of breastfeeding, use of vaccinations and lower rates of smoking may be the major contributors. The study was recently published in Pediatrics. The new study, led by Tasnee Chonmaitree, professor in the department of pediatrics, found that rates of ear infection have dropped significantly since similar studies were conducted in the late 1980s and 1990s. The rates of... more » Common plastics chemical BPA linked to preterm birthMarch 3/23/2016, 2016GALVESTON, Texas – Higher concentrations of the common plastics chemical and environmental pollutant Bisphenol A, or BPA, in a pregnant mother’s blood may be a contributing factor in preterm births, according to a new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. The new study, led by Ramkumar Menon, assistant professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UTMB, in collaboration with Winthrop University Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Southern California, found that pregnant women with higher levels of BPA in their blood were more likely to deliver their babies early compared with women with lower le... more » An active, diabetic lifeGalveston County Daily NewsMarch 3/15/2016, 2016By RICK COUSINS Correspondent Diagnosis of a serious, chronic life-threatening disease or disorder can push the pause button on life. It’s not unreasonable to remap one’s existence around the newly discovered illness and conform every waking minute to its demands for mitigation. But for Zach Toth, it came more like a declaration of war. After the shock of finding out that he had, and would always have, Type 1 — or juvenile — diabetes, he hit, not the ceiling, but the road. Tearing up waves with his surfboard in far-flung places in open defiance of the control the disease could have exacted on his days had he held... more » Secondhand smoke and allergies in kidsGalveston County Daily NewsMarch 3/15/2016, 2016By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG You probably know at least one child who suffers from food allergies. Scientists have been studying why so many children face this problem, and now they’ve identified another cause: secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke comes from a burning tobacco product and the smoke exhaled by someone smoking. Secondhand smoke from tobacco products is a complex mixture of thousands of different chemicals. Hundreds of these chemicals are toxic and at least 70 are carcinogenic. Even brief exposure to these chemicals is not considered safe. It can lead to molecular changes that cause cancer and changes in the... more » Women should begin mammogram screenings at 40, local experts sayGalveston County Daily NewsMarch 3/8/2016, 2016The goal of regular mammograms is to reduce deadly breast cancer by early detection, when treatment is more effective and less harmful, experts say. But experts have not agreed on when early detection should start. Some of the latest studies done by a government task force show that mammograms do the most good later in life, and women should get one every other year starting at age 50. But other health groups, including specialists from the University of Texas Medical Branch, encourage women to get mammograms every year, starting at age 40. One in 69 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in their 40s, experts... more » The global threat of antibiotic resistanceGalveston County Daily NewsMarch 3/1/2016, 2016By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG The rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is reaching epidemic proportions, and if new antibiotics aren’t created to combat even common bacterial infections, we may find ourselves without the ability to combat even the common illnesses. Can you imagine going back to the dark ages before penicillin? While first-world countries use the most antibiotics, a new report reveals that antibiotic use in second- and third-world countries is steadily increasing. While this may be good in terms of treating and preventing diseases, it has some serious consequences for the global threat of antibiotic... more » Dr. Victor Sierpina - Dangerous guidelinesGalveston County Daily NewsDecember 12/8/2015, 2015 One of my patients is a delightful, beautifully coiffed, cognitively sharp 92 year old. Her occasional spikes of blood pressure in the 170-200 range caused us anxiety despite the lack of neurological or cardiac symptoms. Tinkering with her medications caused side effects without improving the problem. Finally, she stopped checking it so much and continues to do just fine on lower medication dosages. Frankly, I shuddered at a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine recommending lowering blood pressure to below 120 systolic in those older than 75. The conclusion of... more » Dr. Victor S. Sierpina - Managing holiday stress with positive thoughtsGalveston County Daily NewsDecember 12/1/2015, 2015By VICTOR S. SIERPINA Perhaps the upcoming holiday season fills you with dread, anxiety and anticipatory stress rather than joy, light and gratitude. Many people struggle with issues at this time of year, generating a torrent of letters to Dear Abby seeking advice on holiday blues. Families try to balance where to have celebrations, who to invite, what to do with distant, poorly-behaved relatives, step-relatives, exes. All these pressures to resolve family and relational issues seem to peak at the holidays. They put more pressure on everyone rather than allowing us to simply enjoy being together. One stress-busting technique that might be... more » University of Texas Medical Branch-UTMB team develops breakthrough in life support careGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/24/2015, 2015By JOSEPH BAUCUM The Daily News Life support care could soon undergo significant improvement thanks to technology recently created by a collection of researchers and engineers led by Dr. Donald Prough, chair of the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Department of Anesthesiology. The group created an instrument that allows medical professionals the ability to more accurately localize endotracheal tubes within patients by using a pulsed laser light to generate an ultrasound signal that identifies the exact position of the tube. The development is noteworthy because endotracheal tubes are the principal component of life... more » Dr. Victor S. Siperina-Making sense of the announcement that red meat causes cancerGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/24/2015, 2015By VICTOR S. SIERPINA In a recent stunning announcement, the World Health Organization listed red meat, especially processed meats like bacon and sausage, as carcinogens. Loud wailing and gnashing of teeth was heard from wurst-lovers in Frankfurt, Germany, barbecue aficionados in the Texas Hill Country and Jewish delis in New York. To put things in perspective, the risk of colorectal cancer from eating red meat is very low. From a baseline lifetime risk of about 5 percent, those who consume red meats and processed meats might increase their risk about 1 percent to a still low 6 percent. In comparison, smoking cigarettes increases risk... more » Inside UTMB-Elliott is president-elect of Texas Academy of Family PhysiciansGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/24/2015, 2015By UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL BRANCH Dr. Tricia Elliott is president-elect of the Texas Academy of Family Physicians. Elliott, an associate professor, is the director of UTMB’s family medicine residency program. A graduate of UTMB, Elliott is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a member of the Harris County Academy of Family Physicians. The TAFP is dedicated to uniting family doctors and empowering them to provide a medical home for patients. Armendariz-Batiste honored for excellence The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses has named Josette Armendariz-Batiste into the 2016 Circle of Excellence.... more » Vaccine HeroGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/17/2015, 2015By DRS. DAVID NIESEL AND NORBERT HERZOG Vaccines are so successful, they have almost eradicated some of the diseases that they prevent, such as polio. The MMR vaccine provides effective protection against the childhood diseases mumps, measles and rubella, to the point that very few cases were seen in the United States. Unfortunately, because some parents are refusing this vaccination for their children, these dangerous diseases are undergoing a resurgence. In the 1990s, an unsubstantiated study that has since been retracted linked the MMR vaccine to autism. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health... more » Victor S. Sierpina-The healing encounterGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/10/2015, 2015By VICTOR S. SIERPINA As a patient, you might or might not expect a visit to your doctor to be a “healing encounter.” That may sound like a pretty intense event. The healing encounter is about facilitating the creation of health that transcends the physical and results in less suffering and an overall improved quality of life. I propose that every contact with any kind of health care provider ideally should offer healing, hope, and a positive way forward to each of us. This is not always easy in today’s “speed dating” type of 15-minute office or hospital visits. These encounters often feel hurried and... more » Hospital administrators: Multi-talented bureaucratsGalveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/10/2015, 2015By MICHAEL M. WARREN Leadership. The United States has a President; your local high school has a principal. IBM has a chairman of the board. And hospitals have administrators. Obviously, it takes more than doctors and nurses to run a hospital; housekeepers, food services, technicians and accountants are but a few of the services that combine to become “the hospital.” But who is the unsung organizer? Who is responsible for coordinating the multitude of services and people, to ensure that the hospital runs efficiently and that you receive the best possible health care? The hospital administrator is an integral part of... more » Do new cancer concerns mean meat should go?Galveston County Daily NewsNovember 11/6/2015, 2015By JOHN WAYNE FERGUSON The Daily News Does a new warning putting meats like bacon and hot dogs in the same health classification as cigarettes mean people should drop their favorite foods immediately? It might be a good idea in the long run to cut back on processed meats, but the excited reaction about the announcement last week could have drowned out the nuance, some health experts say. “One of the most frustrating things for the scientists that produced this paper, and for people reading, is the ridiculously sensationalized headings that we’re seeing that bacon is as bad as smoking,” said Dr. Doug Paddon-Jones, a... more » Dr. Victor S. Sierpina-Your stereotypes about aging might be killing youGalveston County Daily NewsOctober 10/27/2015, 2015By Victor S. Sierpina For many years, I have cited Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, the sage of the power of positive thinking, regarding aging. He once said, “Age does not of itself bring degeneration and disability. Rather it is the belief that this is so that brings them about.” I learned this truth as a young doctor and shared it with patients for many years, wondering if I would still believe it when I was older myself. In fact, in my observations of older adults over the years, I have found that attitudes about aging and health are closely tied to quality of life and emotional and physical health. Someone using each ache and... more » Vaccine Smarts-What vaccinations do I need to protect my grand baby?