Tag Archives: Faculty

School of Medicine announces academic appointments

The UMKC School of Medicine has announced four recent appointments to academic leadership positions: John Borsa, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiology; Adam Algren, M.D., chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine; Jennifer Elliott, M.D., interim chair of the Department of Anesthesiology; and Molly Uhlenhake, D.O., director of the Continuing Care Clinic clerkship.

Borsa adds the role of the school’s academic chair of radiology to his current position as department chair at Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City. A board certified vascular interventional radiologist, he is a national expert in procedures related to percutaneous treatment of venous thromboembolic disease.

A fellow of the Society of Interventional Radiology, he also is a peer reviewed author and international lecturer in his field. He has been honored three times as teacher of the year by residents and five times as a distinguished faculty presenter.

Borsa completed medical school and an internship at the University of Manitoba, and his radiology residency at the Mayo Clinic. He also completed an interventional radiology fellowship at the University of Washington in Seattle before joining the staff of Saint Luke’s Hospital in 2011.

Adam Algren, M.D.Algren, a 2001 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, has served as interim chair of emergency medicine since January. He is also chair of the University Health Physicians Board of Directors.

A member of the UMKC departments of emergency medicine and pediatrics since 2007, Algren has served as the chair of the School of Medicine’s Council on Selection and on the Truman Medical Centers Board of Directors.

He completed his emergency medicine residency and served as chief resident at TMC. Fellowship trained in medical toxicology at the Emory University/CDC program, Algren also served as a clinical instructor in the Emory University emergency medicine department.

Elliott, JenniferIn addition to her new role as interim chair of anesthesiology, Elliott currently serves as medical director of the Pain Management Clinic at Saint Luke’s Hospital. A 1996 UMKC School of Medicine graduate, she has served for many years as a member of the residency education committee in the radiology department.

After completing her anesthesiology residency and a fellowship in pain management at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Elliott joined the staff at Saint Luke’s Hospital. She has been a member of the hospital’s Institutional Review Board, a member of the UMKC School of Medicine Physician Promotions Committee, and the physician chair of the Saint Luke’s Health System Opioid Stewardship Committee. She completed the UMKC Physician Leadership Development Program in 2018.

Elliott has also written numerous articles and chapters on topics in pain medicine and is the primary editor of an acute pain management handbook published in 2011.

Uhlenhake, MollyUhlenhake takes on her director’s role in the school’s Continuing Care Clinic, having previously served on the Council of Selections as vice chair and the scholarship selection committee as chair. She is currently working to develop a multidisciplinary LGBT+ clinic at TMC, where she directs primary care services.

A member of the School of Medicine docent team, Uhlenhake is also medical director of Refugee and Immigration services at the Kansas City Health Department and medical director of community outreach for TMC. She is a core faculty member for the Internal Medicine-Pediatrics residency program at TMC and for Teen Primary Care at Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

After graduating medical school at Des Moines University in Iowa, Uhlenhake completed her internal medicine-pediatrics residency the UMKC School of Medicine, where she also served chief resident. Before joining the staff at UMKC and TMC, she served at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and was the medical director of adolescent medicine at the High Street Clinic in Denver.

In place of KC Marathon, Million Mile Challenge makes every mile count with free and discounted entries for SOM

The Garmin Kansas City Marathon is not alone in canceling its fall event because of the coronavirus, but its organizers are challenging runners and supporters in a new way.

UMKC School of Medicine and its hospital affiliate Truman Medical Centers are gold sponsors of the MILLION MILE CHALLENGE, KC Marathon’s running alternative for 2020. School of Medicine has 10 FREE entries available on a first-come, first-served basis, and all UMKC students, staff and faculty who register can receive a discounted entry fee.

“It was a tough call, but canceling the race was best for the safety of race participants, partners, staff and volunteers,” said Dave Borchardt, director of corporate and community relationships at the Kansas City Sports Commission, the non-profit organization that organizes the Garmin Kansas City Marathon. “Now, we are excited about the Million Mile Challenge and encouraged by the interest it’s received.”

The Million Mile Challenge is a fun and engaging way to support your local community while staying fit through training and running. Between now and Oct. 17, participants can track and log miles anytime and anywhere they walk or run, both as they train and complete their race miles (5k, 10K, half marathon or full marathon). The goal is to reach one million cumulative miles among all registered in the challenge, with key mileage benchmarks celebrated with randomly selected gift winners announced along the way.

The event concludes with a two-day, drive-through Finishers Fest Oct. 16-17 with fun photo opportunities, sponsor booths and other activities. There, participants can pick up their participant items in person, including a race-branded shirt, finisher’s medal, commemorative race bib and finisher’s certificate, Million Mile Challenger finisher item and the ultimate KC swag bag. Registrants may also have their race packets mailed directly to them (additional fees apply).

If interested in a FREE entry, contact Lisa Mallow (lmallow@umkc.edu). Registration is open through Oct. 15, and the cost is $40. UMKC students, staff and faculty save 10 percent when using the discount code UMKCMED10.

To sign up and start logging your miles today, click here.

GME office welcomes new assistant deans

Gregory Howell, M.D., and Brook Nelson, M.D., have been appointed associate deans in the School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Medical Education.

School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., and Associate Dean of Graduate Medical Education Sara Gardner, M.D., announced two additions to the schools’ Office of Graduate Medical Education. Gregory Howell, M.D., ’00, associate professor of medicine and program director for the critical care fellowship, and Brook Nelson, M.D., ’07, assistant professor of surgery and general surgery residency program director, have been appointed as assistant deans for Graduate Medical Education.

Howell and Nelson will work directly with Gardner interacting with and supporting the school’s Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and non-ACGME programs, residents and fellows.

Each brings to their new positions extensive experience in graduate medical education. They will enhance the representation of our surgical and fellowship programs on the Graduate Medical Education Council. In addition, they will oversee the central line training course.

After graduation from medical school at UMKC, Howell completed his internal medicine and pulmonary/critical care training at UMKC.  Nelson also completed her general surgery residency at UMKC as well.

White Coat Ceremony Signifies Important Next Step for Class of 2024

Her father had the honor of coating third-year medical student Nadie Elkady during the UMKC School of Medicine’s virtual White Coat Ceremony.

The physician’s white coat is one of the most recognizable symbols of the medical profession. It signifies a relationship between physicians and their patients, and the obligation to practice medicine with clinical competence and compassion.

For the class of 125 third-year medical students who took part in the UMKC School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony this year, it also signified an important next step in the journey to joining the rank of physicians.

“Soon, you will be part of this distinctive group,” said Jill Moormeier, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine.

Moormeier served as emcee for this year’s event, which shifted from its usual campus location to a virtual format because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Students participated by watching online with family and friends. In many cases, students traditionally “coated” by their new docent during the ceremony shared that honor with parents instead.

Jennifer Allen, third-year student, in her white coat.

Following the online presentation, the newest students to graduate to the UMKC Health Sciences District campus enjoyed a Zoom reception with new docent team members.

Moormeier explained that the White Coat Ceremony represents a shift in the student’s education from a focus on classroom work to bedside care. She and School of Medicine Dean Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., underscored that transition by reminding the class members of the professional responsibilities they will have as physicians.

Jackson said that six months into the pandemic, as they enter the intensive clinical phase of medical training that includes regular contact with patients, students must embrace those professional and personal responsibilities of health care providers working on the front lines of patient care. That, she said, includes following and promoting the safety precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the virus.

Steven Nguyen was all smiles after particpating in the White Coat Ceremony and joining his new docent unit.

She also spoke of the school’s commitment to racial justice in the community and throughout medical care. She encouraged students, as they don their white coats, to embrace the call to action.

“Lessons you learn along the way will guide your path to growing and developing as a healer who cares for patients with compassion and empathy,” she said. “Your white coat is a daily reminder of your commitment to patients, learning and understanding that struggle and reward are an opportunity to grow.”

Also during the ceremony, Jesica Neuhart, professor of pediatrics and pediatric hospitalist at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, was honored as this year’s Outstanding Years 1-2 docent. Each third-year class nominates a Year 1-2 docent for the award based on their teaching pursuit of excellence in medicine.

Third-year student Anna Boda said Neuhart “embodies the qualities of a perfect docent doctor, going above and beyond to provide the best educational resources for her students.” She said this year’s winner also served as a role model for teamwork and respect with all members of the health care team.

After Corrine Workman, also a third-year student, read the Class of 2024 Philosophy of Medicine, Brenda Rogers, associate dean for student affairs announced the new docent team assignments for the 2020-2021 school year.

Jackson said, “Remember, medicine is a team sport and you are part of a team.”

The School of Medicine conducted its first White Coat Ceremony for third-year students in 2003. The program is sponsored by the Arnold P. Gold Foundation to emphasize the importance of compassionate care for patients and proficiency in the art and science of medicine.

UMKC Student Volunteers Step Up to Help With COVID-19 Testing

Earlier this spring, the Kansas City Missouri Health Department received federal funding to provide COVID-19 testing. What the department lacked was the manpower to support the many testing sites across the city.

It didn’t take long for the UMKC Health Sciences Campus to fill the void. More than 80 students from the schools of dentistry, medicine and pharmacy answered the call for helpers. In May and June, they volunteered 28 three-hour blocks of time at 18 testing locations through the greater Kansas City area. Many of those were at schools and churches.

“This is a great example of a long-running collaboration with the health department,” said Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., director of the Health Equity Institute. “Especially since our students could help expand their capacity to conduct testing in communities hard hit by COVID-19.”

Stefanie Ellison, M.D., associate dean for learning initiatives at the School of Medicine, said students across the campus were eager to help.

“In 24 hours, I gave a group of students the chance to communicate the need across social media sites and get the word out,” Ellison said. “They stepped up to fill in the volunteer spots.”

UMKC students help with COVID-19 testing

The testing was offered at federally qualified health centers such as the KC Care Clinic, Swope Health and the Samuel Rogers Health Center.

Carole Bowe Thompson, project director for the Health Equity Institute, helped organize the volunteer efforts.

While workers at the testing centers did the actual COVID-19 testing, Thompson said the students worked in a supporting role, handling patient check-in and registration, providing patient education, labeling and securing specimen tubes and even directing car and walk up traffic up to the test sites.

“They did the pre-screening, going over COVID-19 symptoms and collecting health and other important intake information,” Thompson said. “The testing centers didn’t have the support they needed for taking care of traffic. They needed the students to help direct traffic.”

Many of the students said the experience helped them realize the importance of working with other health care providers and how community outreach can play a large role in public health.

“I learned that I am in a prime position to assist those in need,” said Rico Beuford, a sixth-year medical student. “I don’t necessarily need a medical degree to open up access to health care resources to vulnerable communities. I think it’s important for each us to realize how much we can impact those who are on the periphery of society and that are largely neglected by it.”

Sixth-year med student Emma Connelly was one of those who helped with the screening process, taking basic patient information and asking those being tested if they had experienced symptoms or been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus.

“Being a medical student, I am not technically on the front lines, so I thought this would be a small way to help out,” Connelly said. “I felt that it was important to help out no matter how small the task was. And if I could help prevent at least one COVID-19 positive individual from spreading it to their family or friends, it was totally worth the effort.”

Ellison said students found a wide variety of other ways to help those in need as well. Some spent time simply talking online with senior center residents to keep them company and help them feel less isolated. Students volunteered to tutor and check on grade school students who were suddenly faced with online school while their parents had to work. Others found their green thumbs to help with gardening, harvesting and distributing produce, while some provided babysitting for health care workers.

“I am so overwhelmed by our students’ efforts to help out,” Ellison said.

Thompson said she hoped the volunteer efforts would continue through the summer and pick up steam when students returned to campus for the fall semester.

“There will be plenty more opportunities,” she said. “The health department is not going to stop doing testing.”

—-

Charlie Keegan, KSHB-TV, talked with Janette Berkley-Patton and volunteers at a drive-through testing site. Read Keegan’s story and view the video about the testing and the Health Equity Institute.

UMKC Health Equity Institute Works to Halt COVID-19 Pandemic in KC

Charlie Keegan, KSHB, talked to Jannette Berkley-Patton and volunteers at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site

The UMKC Health Equity Institute facilitated volunteer efforts at drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites. The institute was formed four years ago to identify health care problems and offer solutions led by Jannette Berkley-Patton, Ph.D. Read Keegan’s story about the testing site and the Health Equity Institute.

Beams of Light to Treat Diabetes: UMKC Invention Gets Federal Funding Boost

The University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Pharmacy has been awarded a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue work on an important advancement to help treat the tens of millions of people who have diabetes.

The lifetime burden of constantly checking blood sugar and injecting insulin is significant. UMKC research has developed a way of delivering insulin to diabetics that eliminates pumps and most injections.

“We’re aiming to improve the lives of diabetics all over the world,” said UMKC pharmacy professor Simon Friedman, the principal investigator on the grant.


Normally, diabetics must inject themselves with insulin numerous times per day to enable the body to absorb blood sugar. The amount of insulin needed and timing vary with what an individual eats and their activity level. With blood glucose continuously varying, the insulin requirement parallels the amount of glucose in the blood.

The only clinically-used method to permit continuously variable delivery of therapeutic proteins like insulin is a pump. But they do so at a high cost: a physical connection to the outside of the patient, where the drug reservoir resides, and the inside of the patient, where drug absorption will ultimately take place. This connection in insulin pumps is a cannula — or needle — which can be dislodged, crimped, snagged, infected and most importantly, rapidly gets biofouled from moisture after implantation. This leads to variable and unpredictable delivery.

For several years, Friedman and his lab associates have been developing a method in which a single injection of a material called a PAD (photo-activated depot) can take the place of multiple normal insulin injections and allow for minute-by-minute automatic updating of insulin release. The material is injected into the skin like insulin, but lies dormant until a beam of light stimulates release of insulin, in response to blood sugar information.

The new grant will help make the technology more reliable for someone to use and easier to manage.

“With the improvements, we anticipate creating a new and revolutionary approach to continuously variable protein delivery, one that minimizes invasiveness and maximizes the close matching of therapeutic with patient requirements,” Friedman said.

Karen Kover, associate professor of pediatrics at the UMKC School of Medicine and Children’s Mercy, has been an integral member of the research team for years, and Friedman is grateful for her collaboration.

Reviewers of the grant application praised the work, and Friedman, who has won previous NIH funding, said this was his highest rated grant award.

“We are grateful for the enthusiastic response from the NIH study section, given the very competitive nature of funding at this time during the pandemic,” said UMKC Vice Chancellor for Research Chris Liu.

The project is supported by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases at the NIH.

In people with type 1 diabetes, the pancreas no longer makes insulin. Patients need insulin to process sugar from meals.

People with type 2 diabetes make insulin, but their bodies don’t respond well to it. At first the pancreas produces extra insulin to make up for it. But over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar at normal levels.

About 34.2 million children and adults in the U.S. — 10.5% of the population — have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 25 percent use insulin shots. About 86 million people ages 20 and older in the U.S. have prediabetes.

Complications from diabetes include heart disease and stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, nervous system damage and amputation.

People with diabetes risk more serious complications from COVID-19 than others who do not have the disease.

“Through research at UMKC, we strive to improve the health of not just our community but our entire population,” said Chancellor Mauli Agrawal. “We are proud of Dr. Friedman and his team’s innovation, which could significantly benefit people around the world.”

Making a Difference in Women’s Global Health

Faith Mueller wants to become an obstetrician/gynecologist and change the world. David John, M.D., believes she will and is mentoring her on that path. When each talks about the other, it’s clear that their inspiration is mutual.

“Early on, I became enveloped in the world of women’s liberation,” said Mueller, who is entering her last year of the UMKC School of Medicine’s six-year B.A./M.D. program. “I started reading stories of female genital mutilation, of sexual violence, of the pregnancy circumstances in areas of instability. These were stories that I could not shake, and I knew I had found my vocation.”

Faith Mueller
Faith Mueller

When she graduates, Mueller plans to find a role in women’s global health after serving her OB/GYN residency.

John, a member of the six-year program’s original graduating class in 1977, had a long career in rheumatology in Hawaii and returned to UMKC three years ago to teach and mentor students as a docent, the teaching physician for a small “docent unit” of medical students. He and Mueller met when she joined his docent unit.

“Our students are all bright and uniquely talented,” John said, “but it is rare to have a student like Faith Mueller. In addition to exceptional capabilities, Faith has the drive and the initiative, the passion, to do great things in her career. I hope to live long enough to see her early accomplishments to improve the health of women at a global level.”

“Dr. John … approaches medicine with an empathy that is sustainable and rooted in ideas of equality. He stands for a world that is better for the people he serves.” — Faith Mueller

Her drive to get started in medicine as soon as possible led Mueller to UMKC, where she could get her M.D. two years sooner than at other universities. But in John, who as a young man envisioned being a professor of English literature, she found a mentor who also emphasized the humanities and appreciated her desire to help others.

Dr. John is unwaveringly kind and takes the effort to see the humanity in everyone, no matter how they come to him,” Mueller said. “He approaches medicine with an empathy that is sustainable and rooted in ideas of equality. He stands for a world that is better for the people he serves.”

David John
David John

Her mentor’s personality and commitment also make learning medicine less daunting. “I know I can always ask questions, whether about patient care, navigating the medical field, or life in general,” Mueller said.

In turn, John said, Mueller and his other students have inspired and renewed him.

“I had become intellectually complacent, emotionally placid, professionally successful but somehow not complete,” John said. “When I was a medical student here in the 1970s, certain docents showed me what it really means to wear the mantle of the physician within society. I viewed it as a great gift. This knowledge kept me true to the profession; it kept me grateful that my purpose was to help people suffer less and live healthier. When I decided it was my turn to give back, life got exciting again.

“Faith has the drive and the initiative, the passion, to do great things in her career. I hope to live long enough to see her early accomplishments to improve the health of women at a global level.”
— David John

“As Faith’s mentor, I feel my major purpose is to be a sounding board and a cheerleader. Her accomplishments are her own; she created her own goals. Mueller said she appreciates his support: “Dr. John inspires me to live boldly. I feel like I can ‘go for the gold’ knowing that I have someone within the faculty who will have my back and advocate for my success.”

The med school’s docent system gave Mueller her opportunity to find a mentor, but she encourages other students to actively seek out mentors if a mentor relationship doesn’t develop naturally. “Keep your mind open for who would be a good mentor,” she said. “They don’t have to be in your field or occupation. Find someone that helps you grow as a person. Look for someone who inspires you.”

On a mission to bridge the health care gap

When Chancellor C. Mauli Agrawal needed someone to head the new UMKC Health Equity Institute, he didn’t have to look far. The School of Medicine’s Jannette Berkley-Patton is a leader in community health research — just the right person to direct the institute, which is charged with combining the university’s research strengths with community groups’ grass-roots involvement to identify, quantify and reduce health care gaps.

Berkley-Patton, Ph.D., a professor in the school’s Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics, might be best known for her Taking It to the Pews project, an outreach effort through local churches that gets people tested for HIV. She also is director of the UMKC Community Health Research Group, putting her in an ideal position to bring together the university’s research programs and Kansas City social services groups and agencies.

In the year since Agrawal announced the institute, Berkley-Patton has made sure it got off to a running start. The institute has helped new projects large and small, with the goal of lasting improvements in health across social and economic classes. Anything that might improve health — from providing better transportation and more-affordable care to encouraging better eating and exercise — could be involved.

“We spend billions on health care but are still one of the unhealthiest countries in the world,” said Berkley-Patton, who has degrees in engineering, human development and family life, and child and developmental psychology. “Large federal grants can help create effective programs, but we need sustainable improvements that continue when the grants end.”

Berkley-Patton also is determined to keep the institute’s momentum moving forward, despite the COVID19 disruptions to health care and the wider economy.

“In fact,” she said, “the Health Equity Institute is even more important than ever given that these underserved folks who historically have had more challenges in accessing health care services are likely to be hurt the most by the disruptions.

Get on the bus

One big project for the institute will be tracking how free bus service affects people’s health. This year, Kansas City, Missouri, plans to become the first large city with free public transit — dropping bus fares to zero to match the city’s streetcars, which already are fare-free.

The institute, recognizing a golden opportunity to measure the benefits of free public transit, has drawn up a multi-step research plan and submitted ambitious applications for grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

The CDC grant calls for research into “a natural experiment,” Berkley-Patton said, “and if ever there was a natural experiment, offering free transit is it.”

She continued, “We know from other research that people who use public transit tend to get 5 to 15 minutes more physical activity than non-riders, just getting to and from public transit. So if free bus service increases ridership, we hope to also see improvements in the health of people in low-income areas.”

The institute will start by gathering baseline data, both from comparable cities’ transit systems and from 500 current riders. The plan for identifying those people and getting data from them has been approved by UMKC’s Institutional Review Board, which ensures that research subjects are treated ethically. That data gathering is on hold over COVID-19 concerns, but the institute is ready to go when the situation improves.

The CDC grant the institute seeks calls for data on 10,000 people, which defies individual recruitment. “So, we’re proposing to collaborate with the Truman Medical Centers,” Berkley-Patton said. “We have identified 11 low-income ZIP codes, and TMC has data on thousands of people that can serve as a measure of the health of those areas.”

Of those patients, the institute hopes to have 4,000 take a brief survey, to gauge some basics about them such as income and incidence of health problems including diabetes and obesity.

The institute also plans to recruit 200 occasional bus riders to track, to see whether free service turns them into regular riders, and whether that improves their health.

Berkley-Patton says the elimination of fares should be a good incentive, saving a regular rider an estimated $1,500 in transit costs. And the research should identify other possible benefits, such as having access to more and better jobs.

“We’ve had lots of collaboration on this already to design research and make our grant proposals,” Berkley-Patton said, ticking off allies from Children’s Mercy, the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority and Public Works Department, UMKC Departments of Economics and Psychology, and the Schools of Dentistry, Medicine, and Nursing and Health Studies.

Now the institute must wait — on whether it gets CDC and NIH money to go full bore on its plans, and on when people can resume more normal living and head to jobs, doctor’s appointments and other activities.

‘They miss recess’

Another project is Youth Engagement in Sports, or YES, led by Joey Lightner and Amanda Grimes, UMKC assistant professors in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. When their proposal received an $800,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Grimes described the need to increase activity in middle school students.

“The evidence is very clear that American youth suffer from high rates of obesity, inactivity and poor nutrition,” said Grimes, who has a master’s degree in health science and a doctorate in community health.

Joseph Lightner and Amanda Grimes of the School of Nursing and Health Studies
Joseph Lightner and Amanda Grimes of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences involve students in their community health research.

“Adolescence seems to be a critical time in a child’s life where behaviors are learned or reinforced. Girls are particularly prone to low rates of physical activity during adolescence.”

The YES program will help students at two Kansas City middle schools, Central and Northeast, said Lightner, who has a master’s in public health with an emphasis in physical activity, and a Ph.D. in kinesiology.

According to Lightner, sixth- through eighth-graders are in a tough place between elementary and high school. “In talking with them, we found out they miss recess. They don’t get to play anymore. And they’re suddenly supposed to be adults, often without all the information they need on health and nutrition.”

One goal of the institute is to come up with innovative programs, and YES is certainly that.

“So after school, we’re going to give them a big, healthy snack and then there’s a physical activity intervention — they get to play,” Lightner said. “We’re going to offer competitive and non-competitive games, because we’ve found that some students gravitate to one kind of sport or another.”

By reaching out to the students and their schools, the program also embodies the institute’s emphasis on community engagement. And it draws heavily on another institute strength — collaboration.

TMC’s Mobile Market, which brings healthy foods to underserved areas, will give students a weekly bag of produce along with recipes. Children’s Mercy consulted on the program, providing its expertise with young people’s health. The Kansas City Department of Parks and Recreation will help with the sports activities.

And Lightner, as director of the UMKC Public Health Program and a new bachelor’s degree under it, has recruited undergraduate students to help gather data — and get first-hand experience in devising and tracking the sorts of programs that could become integral in their careers.

The program’s aim is to help at least 300 students at the schools in summer sessions, and then again in the fall. Of course, the level of disruption and other unknowns caused by COVID-19 make it hard to plan. But when school is back in full swing, Lightner wants YES to be making a difference.

“We know this is a pivotal time for students, especially girls,” Lightner said. “Peer groups are really important; there’s a mentality of, ‘If my friends are doing it, I’ll do it.’ So if we get them engaged in physical activity with their friends at this age, they’re likely to continue. And so many benefits, from physical and mental health to staying in school and achieving academically, have been demonstrated.”

Seeding other efforts

Another goal of the institute is to communicate across the university and among hospitals, government health agencies and community groups. A database is being compiled for training and other resources, along with opportunities to collaborate.

The institute’s new website will be a clearinghouse for everything from health indicators to grant opportunities and processes. That could help community groups connect, for example, with the Health Forward Foundation, a Kansas City fund that promotes healthy communities.

The institute also will be awarding mini-grants, with the aim of giving several community groups a few hundred dollars each for health-related training, software, added staff help and other basics.

Overcoming health disparities is a huge task, made more daunting by the COVID-19 disruptions. But BerkleyPatton and other Health Equity Institute partners have had success in the past and will keep looking for new ways to reshape access to health care.

“It will be a while before we know how much damage the pandemic has done,” she said. “But we do know that research programs that involve people in improving their own health can make a real difference, and it’s going to take all the innovative, collaborative efforts we can build to help those most affected.

14 COVID-19 Myths and Misconceptions

Mary Anne Jackson, M.D., dean of the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine, is an infectious disease expert. Also an alumna from the UMKC School of Medicine’s innovative six-year B.A./M.D. program, she served as one of six physicians statewide advising Missouri Governor Mike Parson about COVID-19, and was recently named senior advisor of public health in a five-member volunteer group on how Jackson County should spend its $122 million in CARES Act funding.

On numerous media appearances, Jackson has answered questions about evidence-based practices in dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Here are just a few examples she’s dispelled of legend and lore about COVID-19:

1. A chiropractor has been publicizing an IV vitamin C product as a possible treatment for COVID-19. Anything to that?

Jackson: While there is biologic plausibility based on the hypothesis that when an individual suffers a severe infection, vitamin C which is necessary for cellular and tissue function, is depleted, there is no scientific evidence to support the use of vitamin C in the management of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. There is no data to support its use as prophylaxis that would be given in a chiropractor’s office.

One study registered at clinicaltrials.gov, will investigate the use of IV vitamin C in SARS-CoV-2 pneumonia patients in China using a randomized control trial protocol. The randomized control trial using a standard control group receiving placebo vs. the treatment group excludes bias and allows the outcome variable to be clear. This is especially important for COVID-19 where we know many cases spontaneously improve. There have been two recently published studies that are “open label” (no control group) to study the use of vitamin C in non-SARS-CoV-2 infections where individuals suffered from shock and acute respiratory distress syndrome. Neither showed clear evidence of benefit.

What is interesting is that anti-vaxxers appear to be circulating information on social media to drive the unproven messaging around vitamin C. For treatment of disease, trust a well-trained healthcare professional who practices evidence-based medicine and has extensive clinical experience.

2. Does heat kill the coronavirus? For example, the sun? A hot bath? Drinking hot water?

Jackson: There is no evidence of a benefit to flushing the virus from your system by drinking hot water or taking a hot bath. Drinking water will keep one hydrated and that is recommended for all.

The concept that heat can affect the virus is one worth discussing. The virus that causes COVID-19 is an enveloped virus, and enveloped viruses do generally demonstrate sensitivity to temperature and therefore may be more likely to appear or disappear during certain seasons related to temperature.

Research on other enveloped viruses suggests that this oily outer coat makes the viruses more susceptible to heat than those that do not have one. In colder conditions, the oily coat hardens into a rubber-like state, much like fat from cooked meat will harden as it cools, to protect the virus for longer when it is outside the body.

Many viruses wax and wane in seasons. Influenza typically arrives with the colder winter months. So does norovirus and RSV. Measles cases drop during the summer in temperate climates, and increase when schools are in session.

But we have no information about how the virus that causes COVID-19 will change with the seasons.

For one thing, pandemic viruses often don’t follow the same seasonal patterns seen in more normal outbreaks. Spanish flu, for example, peaked in the summer, while the typical seasonal flu peaks occur during the winter.

Even if COVID-19 does show some seasonal variability, it likely will persist to some degree and not totally disappear in the summer. A dip in cases will bring benefits, however. If it decreases in the summer, it is likely to re-emerge again in the fall. But there will be fewer susceptible individuals at that point, too, so potentially fewer cases-depending on how much of the population remains susceptible after the first wave.

3. If there has been a day of rain followed by sunshine, is playground equipment safe from COVID-19?

4. Jackson: As the weather warms, people will want to be outdoors and I’ve seen more people in our community outdoor walking and running in neighborhoods and in areas of parks and trails. It’s important to be outside to keep healthy, physically and mentally. And I especially like that I’ve seen families outside with their kids, who need to be active especially since they have no school and can’t be out with friends.

CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been emphasizing that to control the COVID-19 epidemic, we must “flatten the curve” — that is, reduce the amount of transmission of the virus. We know that one proven way to accomplish this is by physical distancing — keeping six feet or more from other individuals and taking precautions to wash hands, refrain from being in enclosed spaces with other people, disinfect surfaces and other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

But do not take the kids to public playgrounds–you’ll find that all are cordoned off so that equipment can’t be accessed. Not only would open play areas encourage the kind of close contact we are trying to limit, but also, contaminated surfaces have been found to have detectable virus–including plastic and stainless steel. The duration that virus could exist on wood is not clearly known. There is no good evidence that following rain and with a day of sunshine, the playground is safe. There is no present guidance from CDC on how best to manage these spaces, including recommended cleaning and disinfection for outdoor equipment to prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

Bottom line: Avoid the playground (and play dates) for kids while you are social distancing unless it is the playground in your own backyard for your family.

4. Should you consider deliberately exposing yourself to inoculate yourself?

Jackson: In the past, some parents participated in “chickenpox parties” to intentionally expose their unvaccinated children to a child with chickenpox in hopes that they would get the disease. CDC strongly recommends against hosting or participating in these events because serious complications and even death can follow infection and one cannot predict how severe the disease will be.

Now the same bad idea has emerged related to COVID-19. On March 24, it was announced that an individual in Kentucky tested positive for the novel coronavirus after they attended a “coronavirus party” for people in their 20s.

Young people are less at risk of developing serious complications of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but they may still require hospitalization for serious symptoms. And even someone who only contracts a mild case of the disease can spread it to vulnerable people.

We need to wait for the vaccine–and until then continue social distancing.

5. Can livestock pass COVID-19 on through our food supply?

Jackson: There are some food products that can be contaminated and pose a risk for transmission to humans–like E coli, norovirus and hepatitis A. That is why there is emphasis on food preparation safety in general.

The bacteria and viruses that are transmitted by food products are those that cause gastrointestinal infection. SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory virus and there is no known foodborne risk for transmission.

There is no evidence that livestock or any other food product in the U.S. is a vector for transmission of the virus, and there is no evidence of human or animal food or food packaging to be associated with disease transmission.

There is no risk of food product recalls, and the U.S. food supply is safe.

6. Will drinking lots of water wash the virus down to your stomach where it will be killed by stomach acid? What about drinking bleach? Can you ward off the virus by eating food with higher PH level?

Jackson: Washing the virus down the esophagus will not reduce the risk of coronavirus and the virus is resistant to the diluted acid in the stomach

Gargling with water or with an antiseptic solution, compared to doing neither, did reduce reports of respiratory symptoms in a study from Japan. However, the findings don’t necessarily apply to COVID-19 – and it’s dangerous to assume that they do.

The main risk is from breathing in tiny droplets containing thousands of viral particles after an infected person coughs or sneezes within 6 feet from you.

The overwhelming evidence suggests that the best approach remains avoiding unnecessary social contact and washing your hands. So, put down the water and pick up the soap instead.

Drinking bleach is not a cure and is dangerous–it can result in vomiting, diarrhea and liver failure. Some bleach-based cleaners, however, are helpful for keeping surfaces virus-free.

7. Pets cannot spread the coronavirus, can they?

Jackson: This virus is thought to have jumped from animals to humans, but there is no evidence that it is spreading among pets or from cats and dogs to their owners. Cats have been infected, both at the zoo and in homes-but there is no evidence that cat to human transmission is a significant concern. There was one instance in Hong Kong where a dog tested positive, but the dog was well, and it was thought contaminated by secretions from the infected pet owner.

The CDC suggests letting family members without symptoms take on pet care and recommends that people with symptoms should avoid close contact such as “petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food.”

When you care for your pets, wash your hands before and after handling and feeding.

8. Does ibuprofen make COVID-19 symptoms worse?

Jackson: I first heard of the ibuprofen alert after a report from the French health minister, Olivier Veran, identified that it could be a factor in worsening the infection based on anecdotal reports from physicians treating patients in that country. Then there was a letter that was published in the British medical journal The Lancet Respiratory Medicine where it was hypothesized that ibuprofen could make it easier for the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, to enter cells. The theory is that ibuprofen could increase the levels of ACE2, which is a protein that the coronavirus uses to enter cells and might therefore increase the risk of serious infection. However, there is no evidence that ibuprofen raises ACE2 levels.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says more research is needed, but right now, there is “no evidence that ibuprofen increases the risk of serious complications or of acquiring the virus that causes COVID-19.”

There are reasons in general to avoid ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because they are known to have gastrointestinal, kidney and cardiovascular side effects, which may be especially dangerous in very ill or elderly patients or in those with preexisting conditions.

9. Does putting petroleum jelly in your nose prevent the virus from getting into pores? Will rinsing your nose with saline prevent the virus?

Jackson: In the face of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, it’s natural that we’re looking for ways to stay healthy. Washing your hands and practicing social distancing are two proven pieces of advice that are more important than ever.

A dry nose can make one more vulnerable to viruses and certainly is an irritant for those who suffer allergies. A water-based product can help. Using saline or saltwater nose rinses will not prevent the virus, but in certain people with asthma for instance, who also have nasal and sinus symptoms, a saltwater nasal wash, or nasal irrigation, can help reduce nasal symptoms that can aggravate asthma.

According to National Jewish Health, a nasal wash:

  • Cleans mucus from the nose, so medication can be more effective
  • Cleans allergens and irritants from the nose, reducing their impact
  • Cleans bacteria and viruses from the nose, decreasing infections
  • Decreases swelling in the nose and increases airflow

But do not use tap water for the nasal wash. Do not use well water. Only use distilled or sterilized water for nasal rinses. And follow the CDC water preparation guidelines for proper preparation.

Avoid petroleum jelly in the nose–it can be inhaled and cause lung injury called lipid pneumonia. Don’t use antibiotic ointment either–that type of ointment does not fight viruses.

10. Can kids die from COVID-19?

Jackson: While children have been generally spared from COVID-19, pediatric cases requiring intensive care have occurred within our state and there are rare child deaths. The burden of disease is far less for children than influenza though.

A new syndrome, recently described, called Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C). MIS-C is an inflammatory response with organ dysfunction, thought to be triggered by prior exposure to SARS CoV-2. On May 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control issued a health advisory, to alert providers to this condition, which has now been identified in at least 19 different states and Washington DC. Parents should report to their pediatric provider if their child develops fevers especially associated with a rash. While the prognosis is good, children have suffered shock and required intensive care–the syndrome is extremely rare and we are still learning more about it.

11. If you can hold your breath for 10 seconds, does that mean you don’t have the virus?

Jackson: It is true that those with serious lung disease of many types, such as emphysema, may not be able to hold their breath for 10 seconds.

Many respiratory viral infections make it difficult to hold your breath because the airway is irritated. The inability to do so does not identify those who have COVID-19.

This false claim was first attributed to someone at Stanford University Medicine–and the spokesperson at Stanford denies it came from them, and on March 12, they posted on social media that this was misinformation.

The only way to know if one is infected by SARS-CoV-2 is by testing secretions obtained by a swab placed in the nose/throat and having the specimen tested in a laboratory.

12. Is cupping a treatment for COVID-19?

Jackson: Cupping is a process whereby the skin is bruised using a suction cup over the skin, and is used in traditional Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments. It is being studied in a Chinese population convalescing from COVID-19, but there is no evidence that it is beneficial at this point.

13. Is proning a treatment for COVID-19?


Jackson:
There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 and we currently rely on supportive intensive care including oxygen, IV fluids andmechanical ventilation. Of specific therapies targeting SARS-CoV-2, none have been adequately studied, but there are some encouraging reports. Prone positioning of those with respiratory failure, meaning having the patient on a ventilator lay face down, was shown in a small study to result in better lung function with better oxygen levels and this treatment is being incorporated into care now.

Other therapies which are being examined include the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug which was shown to inhibit virus in a small study when paired with an antibiotic called azithromycin. We now know that there is no data to support its efficacy and individuals accessing chloroquine products and suffering life-threatening toxicity.

There are a couple broad-spectrum antiviral agents (one used in Ebola called remdesivir) that are being studied. Remdesivir is an intravenous drug used for those with serious COVID who require hospitalization and treated patients have shown a shortened course of disease.

Drugs that modify an inflammatory over-response seen in COVID-19 appear promising. These agents inhibit IL-6, an immune modifier, and are also being studied in severe cases of COVID-19.

14. Even though COVID is here to stay, at least for the next six months to a year, is it okay for me to go out into the community now? Can I go to the doctor for my routine care?

Jackson: We have successfully flattened the curve here in Kansas City, but COVID is continuing to circulate. The chance that you’ll be exposed to SARS CoV-2, is related to three factors:

  • what activity you are involved in
  • your proximity to others
  • the duration of exposure

Risk is greatest for indoor exposure where individuals are in close quarters with a large group of people. After a choir practice that took place in Washington on March 17, 2020, among 122 choir members, 87% of the group became infected from one infected member–it appears the act of singing amplified the spread of the virus. In contrast, if one is outdoors for a limited time, and can socially distance from others, the risk is very low.

In terms of going back to your doctor for routine appointments, every provider in our community is prepared to care for patients even while the virus is still circulating. It is especially important that infants and children visit their pediatrician and get their immunizations on time. Many pediatricians are asking parents to call on arrival to the office, and the provider will text when the office is ready to place the patient directly into an examination room. We don’t want a measles outbreak in our community while we’re still tackling COVID!