Health news from 90.5 WESA.

Women’s health advocates in Pennsylvania are calling on the Corbett administration to extend a low-income women’s health insurance program set to expire at the end of the year.

The Women’s Health Caucus sent a letter Thursday to state Human Services Secretary Beverly Mackereth asking for a one-year extension of the SelectPlan for Women program, which provides coverage for gynecological exams, emergency contraception and breast and cervical cancer screenings for an estimated 90,000 women in the commonwealth.

Pennsylvania Gets 'B' for Preterm Birth Rate

Nov 10, 2014

The dropping premature birth rate in Pennsylvania has earned the state a "B" on the March of Dimes’ annual report card, one letter grade ahead of the national average.

The grade recognizes Pennsylvania’s 10.7 percent preterm birth rate in 2013, the seventh straight year it has decreased or stayed the same. The state is on pace to surpass the March of Dimes’ goal to lower the national preterm birth rate to 9.6 percent by 2020.

More than 450,000 babies each year nationwide, one in every nine, are born prematurely before the standard 37 weeks of gestation.

Pitt Study Reveals Stem Cells In Esophagus

Nov 9, 2014

A new discovery by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine could impact the treatment of esophageal cancer and a condition known as Barrett’s esophagus.

In a study released in the current issue of Cell Reports, researchers found a pool of stem cells in the esophagus, something that was never considered before.

The study, which was done in mice, could unveil major implications if similar results are found in humans.

Diabetes Research Reaches a Breakthrough

Nov 7, 2014
Umberto Salvagnin / Flickr

After fifteen years, Harvard researchers are reporting a diabetes breakthrough. Joining us in Studio A to tell us more about this discovery and what it means for diabetes treatment is Linda Siminerio, executive director of the University of Pittsburgh Diabetes Institute.

We’ll also preview the 2014 Expo, aimed at helping people manage their diabetes with Terri Seidman, associate director of the American Diabetes Association of Western PA.

How Better Communication Can Help Patients Die with Dignity

Nov 6, 2014
Alex Proimos / Flickr

With the recent assisted suicide of a woman in Oregon named Brittany Maynard, we want to talk about how conversations on death and dying are changing, or need to change between medical professionals and terminally ill patients and their families. 

Dr. Robert M. Arnold, professor of medicine and Medical Director at UPMC Palliative and Supportive Institute says before the need for assisted suicide comes up, we need to look at how quality of life can be better for people who are terminally ill.

Changing Attitudes of Aging: 50 is the New 50

Nov 6, 2014
Ronn aka "Blue" Aldaman / Flickr


According to our guest Dr. Bill Thomas, an internationally recognized expert on elderhood and geriatric medicine, Americans need to rethink their attitudes on aging. Dr. Thomas joins us for a conversation about aging. He is also the founder of the Eden Alternative and Green House Project.

In the face of clichés like “65 is the new 50,” Thomas stresses that 50 is the new 50, encouraging people to embrace the age that they are and not aspire to something else.

Allegheny General Hospital and UPMC Presbyterian Hospital are the first in the region to offer a minimally invasive heart surgery that allows physicians to operate as the heart beats.

The MitraClip is designed to treat degenerative mitral regurgitation (MR), a heart condition where blood flows backwards through the mitral valve, forcing the heart to pump even harder to get the blooding moving in the right direction. MR causes fatigue, shortness of breath and heart failure.

With the incidence of diabetes or pre-diabetes growing in this country, the Pennsylvania Senate has approved unanimously a resolution naming November as “Diabetes Awareness Month in Pennsylvania.”

“This disease effects approximately 29 million adults and children nationwide, but tragically over 8 million cases go undiagnosed," said Sen. Matt Smith (D-Allegheny), who authored the resolution. "It is only through increased education, research and prevention that we can combat this epidemic.”

33 Genes Linked to Autism by CMU, Pitt Study

Oct 29, 2014

An international research team led by professors from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University has identified 33 genes that contribute to the risk of autism.

The team also uncovered 70 genes that are “likely” linked to autism risk, and have estimated that more than 1,000 have yet to be identified. According to the researchers, the discovery, which is the largest to date, enhances the scientific community’s understanding of how a brain with autism spectrum disorder works.

No one in Pennsylvania has been diagnosed with the Ebola virus, but the state is closely watching possible cases under the direction of the federal Centers for Disease Control.

Jonas Salk's Legacy Includes a Focus on Sustainability

Oct 27, 2014
University of Pittsburgh

We'll join the Pitt School of Public Health in celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Jonas Salk, the man who discovered and developed the first successful polio vaccine. His son Peter Salk, scientific director of the Jonas Salk Legacy Foundation, will join us to talk about the Jonas Salk Centenary Symposium on Sustainability: Survival of the Wisest.

Executive Vice President Zach Zobrist of SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania said the union is working with hospitals in the state to assure that specific protocols and procedures will protect health care workers.  

"That, to me, is the really clear thing the CDC came forward with," he said. "It’s not just providing employees with protective equipment, it’s giving them the training they would need on how to use that personal protective equipment. And that they have spotters and not just, ‘Here’s a handout on how to wear your equipment.’"

Health and breast cancer awareness advocates delivered 150,000 petitions to the Susan G. Komen offices in Pittsburgh Friday, urging the nonprofit to cut ties with the oil and gas industry.

Groups, including Breast Cancer Action, New Voices Pittsburgh and Food and Water Watch, are urging Komen to refuse a $100,000 check from oil and gas extraction company Baker Hughes, which, according to, saw a net income of roughly $1.6 billion over the last 12 months.

Flickr user Michael Goodin

According to Diane Hupp, chief nursing officer at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the neonatal unit at the hospital is running out of space.

“Five years ago, we had 31 neonatal beds. Today, we have over 60 neonates in the hospital and we are busting at the seams,” Hupp said.

That’s one of the challenges caused by the hospital’s rapid growth since its relocation to Lawrenceville in 2009, a challenge that administrators hope can be overcome with a $19 million expansion project announced Wednesday.

Ebola has killed thousands of people in West Africa — yet the absence of victims’ names and faces could be just one reason why large numbers of people have not been donating money to the fight the outbreak.

“Unlike many natural disasters that we have seen in the past with massive outpouring of donations support, we’re not seeing people making donations … it’s something that everybody’s talking about, but it’s not driving us to donate,” said Nicole Coleman, assistant professor of business and marketing at University of Pittsburgh.

Why do certain cancers spread in bones?

The National Cancer Institute has awarded $2 million over five years to the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine to answer that question.

Researchers will look for ways to repress X-box binding proteins (XBP1s), a molecule that regulates the production of other inflammatory proteins that boost tumor cell growth, in hopes of treating multiple myeloma bone disease.

Eight months after retail chain CVS vowed to stop selling tobacco products, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) is encouraging other retailers to follow suit.

In a national initiative launched today, the CTFK is asking an estimated 375,000 retailers in the United States to halt their sales of tobacco, which is the leading cause of preventable death in the country.

The campaign also wants shoppers to give their business to stores like CVS that don’t sell tobacco products.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Sen. Bob Casey joined UPMC officials Friday to assure the Pittsburgh region that area facilities are equipped to deal with any possible Ebola cases.

This as Gov. Tom Corbett announced that three Pennsylvanians are being monitored for symptoms; they were on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas with the nurse who tested positive for the virus.

Three Pennsylvanians were on a Monday flight with a nurse now known to be infected with Ebola, Gov. Tom Corbett said during a Friday news conference on the state’s response to the Ebola outbreak.

The three people were on a flight from Cleveland to the Dallas area with a Texas nurse who had a low fever at the time and was diagnosed with Ebola two days later. The plane carrying them reportedly made five more trips before it was grounded.

Corbett said state officials are making daily phone calls to the three commonwealth residents on the flight.

Ryan Loew / 90.5WESA

The Dallas nurse who contracted Ebola from a Liberian patient is reported to be in good condition. However, a second person has been diagnosed with the virus. This has heightened concerns about the spread of Ebola in the United States.

Although medical professionals think chances of an outbreak in the area are low, how is the region preparing for the possibility? We’ll pose that question to Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department.

The Pennsylvania House and Senate last week passed resolutions recognizing music therapy as a “valid therapeutic service,” which were very welcome to the state’s 400 board-certified music therapists, who serve about 41,000 state residents each year. 

Music therapists have at least a bachelor’s degree with extensive coursework in both music and psychology. They work in medical facilities, schools and in private practice. Music therapists may co-treat with physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists or work on their own.

Alzheimer's Research in an "Unprecedented Era of Innovation"

Oct 13, 2014
Clear Thoughts Foundation / Facebook


In addition to National Breast Cancer Awareness, October is also Alzheimer’s Disease  Awareness Month

Our guest, Hayley Jameson is founder and president of the Clear Thoughts Foundation which raises funds to discover drugs and treatments to stop dementia and eventually end Alzheimer’s.

Also taking part in the conversation is Dr. Susan Catalano, chief science officer of Cognition Therapeutics which is focused on finding new medicines to stop Alzheimer’s.

Rosie O'Beirne / Flickr



"The  majority of what makes the disease difficult is the emotional toll. It’s a 24hr job," says Suzanne Weessies.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can take an emotional, physical and financial toll on caregivers. We’ll address the services available and particular concerns of caregivers with Karen Schaeffer, founder of Age and Dignity, which provides education and guidance for families. Also taking part in the conversation is Suzanne Weessies Family Services Coordinator of the Alzheimer’s Association Greater PA Chapter.

For caregivers or for those suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's who need support or information, contact the 24/7 Alzheimer's Association hotline. 1.800.272.3900

The cost of hiring an interpreter or sign language specialist to communicate with hospital patients can reach up to $70 per hour, but suburban Pittsburgh hospital might have found a cheaper and more effective alternative.

Forbes Hospital in Monroeville recently starting utilizing iPad-based software called “Language You See,” which provides interpretational and sign language services at the touch of a button.

There are four automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) in the Pittsburgh City-County Building, and more than 70 on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University, but how many are in Allegheny County? That’s what the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Medicine wants to know.

The school is hosting the region’s first HeartMap Challenge, a public scavenger hunt to locate all of the county’s AEDs, which are small briefcase-sized electronic devices that can be used to help someone in cardiac arrest.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (and Lungs Too!)

Oct 7, 2014
Brett Ciccotelli / Flickr

They are invisible to the naked eye, but atmospheric particles are a critical factor in the climate equation and are responsible for many of the leading causes of death. We’ll talk about the dangers surrounding particulate pollution with Dr. Neil Donahue, professor of Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, and Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University.

SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget / Flickr

Former Good Morning America co-host Joan Lunden is the latest celebrity to go public with her diagnosis of breast cancer. 

This comes at the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. In this week’s business segment contributor Rebecca Harris turns her attention to the business of pink.

Harris explains that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was organized to increase awareness of the disease and and raise funds for research.

The Pink Ribbon was introduced by the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and then it became adopted by many other organizations and companies. Harris also talks about a term called, “pink washing” and what that means in the business of breast cancer today.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded $11.8 million over five years to the University of Pittsburgh to study the hereditary roots of cleft lips and palates.

Orofacial clefts are small gaps in the lip or palate that form in a baby’s mouth when the child doesn’t develop properly in the womb. These occur in one of every 700 births around the world, according to Mary Marazita, a Pitt professor and director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics.

A new piece of legislation aims to take a bite out of the burden placed on the “sandwich generation” – a group of adults usually in their 40s or 50s who are wedged between caring for their parents as well as their own children.

The Department of Veterans Affairs wants to fire the Director of the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System. 

A statement from the VA says the department proposed the removal of the director  “following an investigation by the Office of Accountability Review (OAR) in which allegations of conduct unbecoming a Senior Executive were substantiated.”

Terry Gerigk Wolf had been placed on paid administrative leave June 13 pending a review of the Legionella outbreak at which caused the deaths of at least six veterans sickened more than 20 others at the Pittsburgh VA Hospital.