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Expert perspective: Who delivers babies in rural hospitals?

Photo: Shanna Riley/CC 2.0/

Since late January, when the story broke about the upcoming closure of the maternity ward at the Grand Marais hospital, I’ve been thinking a lot about pregnant women, clinicians, and hospital administrators in Grand Marais, and in other rural communities in Minnesota and beyond.  For pregnant women in rural areas and for all individuals seeking care, both access and patient safety are necessary components of effective health care systems. They are not negotiable. In order to better understand how to ensure both access and safety, we need to start with relevant information for understanding both capacity and need for care in rural communities.

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area, but only about 10 percent of the nation’s physicians are practicing in rural areas. Of the 2,050 rural U.S. counties, 77 percent are designated as health professional shortage areas.  A report from the Minnesota Department of Health highlights the workforce challenges and clinician shortages in Greater Minnesota.  And this is important, because rural Americans suffer worse health outcomes than those in urban areas, having higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease.

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Research Snapshot: A new approach to programming deep brain stimulation for Parkinson’s

Photo: CC, Allan Ajifo,

About 100,000 people worldwide undergo deep brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease, dystonia and tremor  when traditional medications or treatments fail to provide symptom improvement or relief. It is also being explored as a treatment for other neurological and psychiatric disorders for which medical therapy has not been effective in alleviating symptoms.

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) involves stimulating portions of the brain through a small implanted device. After the device is implanted, a clinician programs the device to target each patient’s individual symptoms. They establish settings that determine how much stimulation is needed to improve symptoms, a process called programming.

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Improving dental therapy education in Rwanda

Photos courtesy of Karl Self

Karl Self, D.D.S., leads CPR training for faculty at the University of Rwanda

When the U.S.-based Rwanda Human Resources for Health (HRH), was tasked with rebuilding Rwanda’s only dentistry school, leaders faced a dilemma.

Dental therapists had practiced in Rwanda for several years, but their education wasn’t viewed as quite up-to-standard. HRH wanted to improve the education of dental therapy students to provide higher quality care in a clinical setting. But they didn’t have any experience with dental therapy.

They sought out Karl Self, D.D.S, Director of Dental Therapy at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry – the only dental school in the United States to train dental therapists.

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Vaccination program for pet dogs may not fully prevent lion infections in Serengeti

Photo courtesy Meggan Craft

In June 2014, Health Talk first shared that a virus carried by domestic dogs is threatening the health of wild cats like the Serengeti lion. Now, in an update to that research, new findings led by the University of Glasgow and co-authored by the University of Minnesota suggest vaccinating domestic dogs against this virus, known as canine distemper, is not enough to keep Serengeti lions and their cohabitants, the endangered African wild dog, safe from infection.

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Sexual cell fate reprogramming in mice

The sex of mammals is decided in the embryonic gonad. Until recently, scientists believed that this decision was permanent, establishing the sex of the gonad for the rest of life.

A new study led by University of Minnesota researchers shows that turning on the male sex regulatory gene DMRT1 in the ovary of mice can reprogram cell sexual identity, turning ovarian cells into their testicular counterparts, even in adults.

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UMN finding helps scientists better understand DNA binding protein’s role in vaccination success

Photo: CC 2.0/National Institutes of Health

T-cells are essential to keeping our bodies safe from infection and disease. They roam the body looking for infection, and upon discovering it, work to clean it up. Anything that can improve how effective T-cells are, or how we understand them to work is a step toward advancing human health.

In the same vein, a recent finding led by University of Minnesota researchers in collaboration with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of California unveils a new understanding of T-cell operation.

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