Category: Health News

UI Health To Open Mile Square Health Center in Drake School in Bronzeville

UI HealthThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System will renovate and operate a new federally-qualified, school-based health center at Bronzeville’s John B. Drake Elementary School in 2017.

The Drake Health & Wellness Center will serve approximately 400 students, including students from Drake Elementary, nearby schools, and Dearborn Homes, one of the last remaining public housing communities of the former State Street corridor. The center will become the 13th in UI Health’s Mile Square network of federally qualified health centers.

At a press conference Sept. 23 at Drake Elementary, Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, State Sen. Mattie Hunter and Alderman Pat Dowel joined representatives from UI Health, the Chicago Department of Public Health, Chicago Public Schools and the community to announce the new school-based center, which is funded in part by revenue from the city’s new e-cigarette tax.

“From passing a series of reforms to curb youth smoking, to increasing access to health care for children and families citywide, we are making investments that will help our kids across the city to grow up healthy,” Emanuel said in a news release. “Using revenue derived from our tax on e-cigarettes allows us to double-down on our commitment to our children’s health, funding new opportunities for families to access healthcare at no cost, and parents to get their children critical healthcare so that they can be successful in school.”

Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at UIC, said the new center embodies the University’s longstanding mission to reduce health disparities in Chicago’s underserved populations.

“UI Health has a strong commitment to improve health care delivery and health equity across Chicago,” Barish said. “The Drake Health & Wellness Center expands our reach into a neighborhood disproportionately burdened by serious health risks and with limited access to health care options.

“The city’s commitment to funding school-based clinics with e-cigarette tax revenue is an innovative approach to reducing health risk and disparity in Chicago, and I am excited that UIC is involved in the initiative,” said Barish.

The new health center will outfit existing space at the school.

Dr. Cynthia Barnes-Boyd, senior director of community engagement and neighborhood health partnerships and senior director of the Mile Square Health Center school-based health practice at UIC, said the health center will provide comprehensive care including acute and chronic illness management, nutrition services, and referral to the university’s hospital system for diagnostic and specialty care.

“We are very proud to expand our reach to the community and offer a range of services to children and families that include immunizations, physical exams, sports physicals, reproductive health care and behavioral health support,” Boyd said.

The Drake Health & Wellness Center joins 32 other school-based centers across Chicago and is one of five school-based centers operated by UI Health Mile Square.

The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is a public, academic medical center committed to providing the highest quality care for all patients and reducing health disparities. Located in the Illinois Medical District on Chicago’s West Side, UI Health is a leader in patient care, research and education, and serves as the primary teaching facility for the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, the largest medical school in the U.S. The system includes seven health sciences colleges, a 495-bed hospital, the 101-bed Children’s Hospital of the University of Illinois, an outpatient care center and 12 federally-qualified Mile Square Health Centers located throughout Chicago, including the Mile Square Urgent Care Center.

For more information on UI Health, Mile Square Health Center, or the center’s school-based clinics, visit

By Jackie Carey

Can Olive Oil And Wine Help Us Think Better?


Dr. Marian Fitzgibbon, deputy director of the Institute for Health Research and Policy

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health received a $3.8 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to study the effect of the Mediterranean diet and weight loss on cognitive function in obese older adults.

The study, which is led by the school’s Institute for Health Research and Policy, will follow a group of 180 ethnically diverse men and women for eight months to determine whether adherence to the Mediterranean diet—with and without weight loss—improves performance on cognitive tasks, such as memory and attention. Dr. Marian Fitzgibbon, deputy director of the IHRP and professor of pediatrics in the UIC College of Medicine, is principal investigator on the study.

“We know there is an association between obesity and cognitive decline, but we do not know the extent to which changes in diet can lead to better cognitive health,” Fitzgibbon says. “By looking at the Mediterranean diet in a randomized, controlled clinical trial, we will be able to learn if diet is the driver of improved cognitive function, or if the mechanism is the combination of diet and weight loss.”

The Mediterranean diet includes a high intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, unsaturated fatty acids and modest alcohol consumption — usually wine — with meals. Previous studies have shown the Mediterranean diet to be associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. But there have been no randomized, controlled trials to determine causality or suggest specific clinical recommendations.

“Identifying lifestyle-based interventions that could delay the onset of cognitive decline is a critical public health priority,” Fitzgibbon said, because there are no drug treatments to offset the mental deterioration of Alzheimer’s. An effective dietary approach, she said, would be “an incredible boon for people as they age and look for ways to prevent or slow the onset of cognitive decline.”

Co-investigator Dr. Melissa Lamar, director of cognitive aging and vascular health at UI Health and associate professor of psychology and psychiatry in the UIC College of Medicine, says cognitive neurodegeneration and the risk of dementia is a significant challenge in the U.S. and worldwide, particularly when it comes to minority groups in the U.S.

More than 20 percent of older adults exhibit signs of cognitive impairment, and the Alzheimer’s Association estimates that the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans over 65 is approximately twice that of non-Hispanic whites. The prevalence in Hispanics is approximately 50 percent greater than in whites.

To participate in the study, obese adults 55 and older will undergo an initial screen and baseline measurements, both physical and cognitive, before being randomized into one of three groups. One group will be assigned to follow the Mediterranean diet with active weight loss strategies; another group will be assigned to follow the Mediterranean diet without attempting to lose weight; and a third group will serve as a control and not make any dietary changes. During the eight-month trial, participants assigned to follow a Mediterranean diet will attend group intervention sessions and classes through the Chicago Park District that focus on changing lifestyle patterns.

Researchers will conduct an assessment of physical and cognitive health at the end of the trial and a follow-up assessment six months later. Both assessments will be compared with the baseline to determine if cognitive function has improved.

Fitzgibbon and Lamar will work with UIC College of Medicine colleagues Drs. Lisa Tussing-Humphreys, Marcelo Bonini, Giamila Fantuzzi and John Tulley.

Should babies born in areas harboring Zika be screened for eye abnormalities?

mosquito-14481285062UdShould babies without microcephaly but who were born in regions affected by Zika be tested for eye disorders that have been linked to the virus? UIC pediatric ophthalmologists will examine that question under a one-year, $30,000  grant from the Blind Children’s Center.

Dr. R. V. Paul Chan and Dr. Marilyn Miller, professors of ophthalmology and visual sciences in the UIC College of Medicine, will work with their colleagues and long-time friends Drs. Liana and Camila Ventura of the Altino Ventura Foundation in Recife, Brazil, to determine if children born in areas where the mosquito that carries the Zika virus is prevalent should be screened for eye problems.

The port city of Recife is considered ground zero for the recent Zika outbreak, which began in 2015. Between April and November of last year, 18 of the 27 states of Brazil reported cases. Since then, Brazil has seen a 20-fold increase in cases of microcephaly among newborns.

The virus is carried by Aedes mosquitos, the same genus that transmits several other tropical fevers. Symptoms of Zika infection are numerous, including neurological disorders and eye disorders. For some, the symptoms may be mild or even undetected, but infection during pregnancy can lead to devastating neurological diseases including microcephaly, or small head.

“There are so many questions we still have not yet answered about the effects of Zika infection,” says Chan, who is also vice chair for global ophthalmology at UIC and director of pediatric retina and retinopathy of prematurity service at the Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary at UIC. “We still don’t know the extent of problems that can result if the mother is exposed.

“Right now, most people just know about microcephaly,” Chan said. “And we do know that in some babies with microcephaly there are also changes in the eye, so we want to know if these eye changes can occur in babies who may have been exposed but for some reason don’t develop microcephaly.”

The Altino Ventura Foundation includes a non-profit clinic and rehabilitation center that provides eye care to low-income patients, as well as speech and occupational therapy and other services. Many of their patients include mothers and babies affected by Zika.

The Venturas were the first to publish on the eye manifestations of Zika infection, Chan said. They and their colleagues in Brazil documented changes the retina and optic nerve in about 55 percent of babies born with microcephaly during the Zika outbreak.

The Venturas will send Chan and Miller retinal photographs of all babies born at a maternity hospital near the clinic. The UIC ophthalmologists will review the images and note any abnormalities, particularly in the area of the retina where the optic nerve arises. Babies with eye abnormalities will be followed up with a pediatric ophthalmologist every three months and retinal imaging every six months to see if changes worsen or if new changes arise.

“We don’t know if the virus can sit latent in the eye, or for how long, so we need to keep checking in with these children to see if eye issues arise,” said Chan.

Blood samples will also be taken to be screened for Zika as well as a host of other infectious diseases, including dengue and chikungunya, which are also carried by Aedes mosquitos.

“If we determine that babies born without microcephaly can still have eye changes likely caused by the virus, that means that all babies born during the outbreak should be screened for eye issues,” Chan said. “If we can characterize what these changes are, and can catch them early, many of them can be treated and the risk to vision reduced.”

UI Health In The State’s Top 10 Hospitals

UI Health photoThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is ranked in the top 10 hospitals in the Chicago metro area and in Illinois for 2016-17 by U.S. News & World Report.

The hospital, which was ranked 23rd regionally and 27th in the state last year, rose to the No. 8 spot in both categories this year.

“These rankings reflect the continuous efforts of our staff to improve patient safety and outcomes and to create a better patient experience from the moment they walk in the door, to the time they leave the hospital and on to follow up care,” said Avijit Ghosh, chief executive officer, UI Health Hospital and Clinics.

“To be ranked in the top 10 hospitals in Chicago and across the state means that our patients, including a significant underserved population that has traditionally carried a disproportionate burden of disease, is getting some of the very best care available,” said Dr. Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “We’re making continued progress towards reducing health disparities that affect our local communities.”

The leap forward in the rankings can be attributed to the success of numerous programs focused on improving outcomes for both inpatients and outpatients, said Jodi Joyce, associate vice chancellor for quality and patient safety at UI Health.

“University of Illinois Hospital has initiated a number of efforts aimed at substantially improving care processes and clinical outcomes,” Joyce said. “Led by teams of physicians, nurses, and other clinical leaders and staff, these initiatives have resulted in double-digit reductions in hospital-related infections, blood clots after surgery, and patients injured from falls. We are excited that the change in our ranking is a direct reflection of improvements in the care that our patients are receiving.”

The rankings, produced by U.S. News with RTI International, a research organization based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, are now in their 27th year. They focus on 25 specialties, procedures and conditions. The ranking is based on such measures as patient survival, the number of times each procedure is performed, infection rates, and nurse staffing.

UI Health’s otolaryngology/ear, nose and throat program made the list of ranked specialty programs for the first time this year. The hospital’s nephrology program was listed as a high-performing specialty.

The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is a public academic medical center committed to providing the highest quality care for all patients and to reducing health disparities. UI Health is a leader in patient care, research and education, and serves as the primary teaching facility for the UIC College of Medicine, the largest medical school in the U.S. The system includes seven health sciences colleges, a 495-bed hospital, the 101-bed Children’s Hospital University of Illinois, an outpatient care center and 13 federally qualified Mile Square Health Centers located throughout Chicago.

New Procedure That Helps Prevent Stroke

UIH_primary_logo_notext_1cThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System is offering a new procedure that helps prevent stroke and significantly improves quality of life for patients with atrial fibrillation who can’t be treated with a blood thinner.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the heart quivers or beats irregularly, allowing blood clots to develop in the heart. These blood clots can dislodge and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. People with atrial fibrillation have a five-fold increased risk of stroke, according to the American Stroke Association.

“Atrial fibrillation is a manageable condition, but for patients who are not candidates for normal treatments, stroke is a serious risk and top concern,” says Dr. Adhir Shroff, associate professor of cardiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago and physician at UI Health.

In the new, minimally invasive procedure, physicians access the heart through a vein in the leg and implant a device that permanently seals off a small section of the heart in which clots form and enter the bloodstream.

“With this new treatment, we are able to help an increasing number of patients reduce their risk of stroke from AFib and experience a profound improvement in their quality of life,” said Dr. Henry Huang, assistant clinical professor of cardiology at UIC and physician at UI Health, who leads the UIC team implanting the devices.

Patients are able to return home and resume normal activity the next day and are not limited by the lifestyle and dietary restrictions that blood-thinning medications require.

Huang notes that the patients most likely to benefit from this treatment are the frail, the elderly, those with other conditions, and those whose professions or lifestyle make them poor candidates for blood-thinning medications.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that anywhere from 2.7-6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation and that the condition contributes to approximately 130,000 deaths each year. With the aging of the population, the CDC expects the number of cases to increase.

For more information about the department of cardiology at UI health visit:

By  Jacqueline Carey

Hops Extract Studied To Prevent Breast Cancer

hops2-172x258An enriched hops extract activates a chemical pathway in cells that could help prevent breast cancer, according to new laboratory findings from the UIC/NIH Center for Botanical Dietary Supplements Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Natural botanical dietary supplements such as hops have become increasingly popular among women for postmenopausal symptoms, as they are perceived as a safer alternative to hormone therapy, which has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer. However, the efficacy and potential toxicity of botanicals are still being studied.

Researchers led by Judy Bolton, professor and head of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy in the UIC College of Pharmacy, applied hops extract to two different breast cell lines to see if they would affect estrogen metabolism, a key mechanism in breast cancer. One compound, 6-prenylnarigenin, or 6-PN, increased a detoxification pathway in the cells that has been linked to a lower risk for breast cancer.

“We need to further explore this possibility, but our results suggest that 6-PN could have anti-cancer effects,” Bolton said.

In addition to 6-PN, Bolton and her colleagues studied 8-prenylnarigenin (8-PN), isoxanthohumol (IX) and xanthohumol (XH) for their effects on estrogen metabolism in breast cells. According to Bolton, 8-PN showed only a slight increase of metabolism in breast cells, while the other two compounds did not have significant effects in either cell line.

Breast cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in women in the U.S.; about one in eight U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over their lifetime. An estimated 246,660 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 61,000 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer are expected in women in the U.S. this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The incidence of breast cancer began decreasing in 2000, after increasing during the previous two decades. Just from 2002 to 2003, the incidence declined by 7 percent. Some think the drop was partly due to reduced use of hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, after results of the Women’s Health Initiative suggested a link between HRT and increased breast cancer risk. Estrogen exposure has long been linked with postmenopausal breast cancer risk, especially since the 2002 report, Bolton said.

The new research is published in the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.

By Sam Hostettler

UI Health Community Engagement Delivering Health Resources to Chicago Neighborhoods

OCEAN-HP-Logo-vr2The University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System prides itself on being an engaged partner.  Each year, the University of Illinois takes part in numerous community events to educate, nurture, and care for people across Chicago’s communities.

Partnerships are developed to bring together the expertise and resources from the community with that of the UI Health system to strengthen the quality of life and continuously elevate access to quality healthcare.

  • The Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships (OCENHP) brings together faculty and community scholars to support, initiate, coordinate and celebrate community and University partnerships. This can be through encouraging and sustaining a supportive environment for productive dialogue, or through active intervention to addresses communication barriers inherent in diverse community, racioethnic and institutional cultures
  • UNISON Health is the University of Illinois Survey On Neighborhood Health with extensive in-person community health assessment of 1400 local residents.
  • The Community Engaged Research Core (CERC), which is part of UI Health’s Center for Clinical and Translational Sciences, has been working with community researchers across campus to create an easy way to see what the UI Health System is doing to improve your neighborhoods.
  • The 2013 Community Health Needs Assessment for the University of Illinois Hospital and the broader health system identifies healthcare needs in our primary service area and spells out a plan for addressing the highest priority needs.

For more about the community activities engaged by UI Health, please visit the Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships.

Orphan drug allows kidney transplant from relative with mismatched blood type

Dr. Enrico Benedetti

Dr. Enrico Benedetti, professor and head of surgery at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System

Surgeons at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System have — for the first time — used an orphan drug to prevent rejection of a kidney transplanted from a living donor with a mismatched blood type.

Michelle Lee, 47, had been on dialysis for almost six months due to kidney failure from high blood pressure. When her doctors told her she would need a kidney transplant, her three sons immediately stepped up.

“We got worked up, and it looked like I was the best match for my mom,” said Marlon Lee, 22.

Except he wasn’t quite a perfect match.

Marlon has type A blood, while his mother is type O. Without treatment, antibodies in her blood would attack the mismatched organ and cause rejection.

About 15 to 20 percent of people who need a kidney transplant have a living relative who is a perfect tissue match except for the blood group, said Dr. Enrico Benedetti, professor and head of surgery at the UIC College of Medicine.

Many such patients can nevertheless get transplanted, Benedetti said. The recipient must undergo several days of plasma exchanges to remove antibodies from the blood. Usually, this pretreatment, called plasmapheresis, reduces the level of antibodies enough to allow transplantation, though some patients patients must have their spleen — a major producer of antibodies — removed during the surgery.

But for some, plasmapheresis leaves their antibody level still too high. Lee was one such patient.

“This would have caused us to cancel the transplant, except we had experience using a drug called eculizumab, which blocks the blood antibodies from reacting,” Benedetti said.

He and colleagues at UI Health had pioneered the use of eculizimab in three kidney patients with unusually high antibody levels who received cadaver organs. One patient had very high antibodies due to numerous blood transfusions; the other two had not responded adequately to plasmapheresis. All three were transplanted successfully with eculizimab.

Lee was given a dose of eculizumab the day before her May 5 transplant, during which surgeons did not remove her spleen. Just five days after transplant, she went home.

Lee will need a few more doses of eculizumab over the next few weeks, Benedetti said, and she will need to take traditional antirejection medications for the rest of her life. But her prognosis is good.

“If we can protect the organ for the first two to three weeks after transplant, we’re mostly out of the woods,” said Benedetti. “The body and organ will acclimate to each other, and antibody interactions aren’t as serious a concern.”

Benedetti said he hopes this technique will allow for more blood-type-incompatible kidney transplants to take place.

“Eculizumab can help prevent rejection among patients that have a living donor and would have otherwise been turned down for the transplant,” he said.

By Sharon Parmet

Mile Square Health Center to Treat Opioid Addiction

Mile SquareThe University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System Mile Square Health Center has received a $325,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to hire specialists in addiction for its main location at 1220 S. Wood Street.

Mile Square will add a full-time, licensed substance-abuse counselor as well as a nurse coordinator. The grant will also partially support a psychiatrist for substance abuse patients.

Treatment will include counseling, support groups and medication therapy. Social-work students from UIC’s Jane Adams College of Social Work will help link patients to care outside the clinic and provide counseling.

Medications like Suboxone, which helps opioid addicts manage withdrawal and control their addiction, are “front-and-center of the treatment plan,” says Dr. Kameron Matthews, chief medical officer at Mile Square.

More physicians are getting certified to prescribe drugs like Suboxone to address the huge population of opioid-addicted Americans, Matthews said.

“Suboxone and drugs like it can really help people with addiction get a grip on their substance abuse, so that supportive therapies like counseling can have a better chance of keeping that person functional and an active member of society,” he said.

Substance-abuse specialists will help Mile Square provide treatment for a growing number of patients identified who could benefit. The center plans to increase screening for substance abuse during primary care visits. The new substance-abuse services are expected to launch at Mile Square’s main location this summer.

The HHS funding comes amid a longterm surge in painkiller addiction and heroin use.

Opioid addiction is now a leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin and prescription painkillers like oxycodone killed more than 28,000 people in 2014. Almost two million Americans abused or were dependent on those drugs that year, with triple the rate of overdoses as in 2000.

Mile Square Health Center is made up of 13 federally-qualified health centers with primary and specialty care clinics in the Near West Side, South Shore, Back of the Yards, Englewood and Cicero areas; four school-based health centers associated with the UIC School of Public Health; and three behavioral health-focused clinics managed by the UIC College of Nursing.

By Sharon Parmet

Medicare To Cover stem cell transplantation for sickle cell disease

Medicar story graphicThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently ruled that they will pay most medical costs for clinical trials that use stem cell transplantation to treat sickle cell disease, multiple myeloma and myelofibrosis for people covered by Medicare. The expanded coverage will begin this summer.

The decision puts a new potential cure for sickle cell disease within reach of more adult patients at the University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System through an ongoing clinical trial.

The new technique, pioneered by clinicians at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, and offered only at the NIH and UI Health, eliminates the need for chemotherapy to prepare a patient to receive healthy stem cells from a donor.

Children have been cured of sickle cell disease using bone marrow stem cell transplants for many years. Their young bodies are able to handle the chemotherapy. In adults, such cures have not been possible, because the preparative chemotherapy is too dangerous.

In the new procedure, patients receive immunosuppressive drugs just before the transplant, along with a very low dose of total body irradiation – a treatment much safer than chemotherapy. Donor cells from a tissue-matched healthy sibling are then transfused into the patient. Stem cells from the donor soon produce new blood cells in the patient and eventually eliminate symptoms without the need for regular blood transfusions. In many cases, sickle cells can no longer be detected. Patients must continue to take immunosuppressant drugs for at least a year after the transplant.

“Like any other transplant procedure, the patient undergoes an extensive screening process to determine if they are a good candidate,” said Dr. Damiano Rondelli, chief of hematology/oncology and director of the blood and marrow transplant program at UI Health. Patients must have a tissue-matched donor, usually a sibling, to provide the stem cells that will be used in the transplant. Determining a patient’s ability to pay for the transplant is also a necessary part of the screening.

“Prior to Medicare’s decision, adult patients insured by Medicare weren’t able to get the chemo-free transplant because of its cost – about $200,000 for the transplant and medications,” said Rondelli. Medicare coverage, he said, “means that many more that would likely have died relatively young from the disease now have hope for a full life.”

Last September, Rondelli and colleagues published a paper in the journal Biology of Blood & Marrow Transplantation validating the NIH’s sickle cell procedure in 12 patients treated and cured at UI Health.

Patients eligible for the new coverage must be covered under Medicare. People 65 and older and those getting disability benefits from Social Security or certain disability benefits from the Railroad Retirement Board for 24 months are eligible for Medicare.

By: Sharon Parmet