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Nurses so in demand in Florida that USF program struggles to keep up

Florida is in high demand for nurses in 2012, and even with limited resources, the University of South Florida is trying its best to lower the shortage.

A February 2012 report by the research group Florida Center for Nursing found that the state of Florida will need of more than 6,750 registered nurses this year.

USF Director of Communications and Marketing Guy Engelhardt explained that with limited clinical sites, an increasing nursing faculty shortage, and a shrinking state budget, USF is only able to accept approximately 100 students total in the two pre-licensure BS majors each summer and fall semesters.

“As a limited access program, the USF College of Nursing receives many more qualified applications into the pre-licensure nursing majors than we can accept.”

This obstacle has caused many potential students to turn away from the nursing program.

Kelsey Pfaller, who was declined a spot in this year’s nursing program and recently changed her major to gerontology, said, “It came down to either switching my major or going somewhere else.”

Senior Taylor Caragan, who has a 3.67 GPA and has been denied three times from the nursing program, hopes to be accepted after she graduates this May with a bachelor’s in public health.  Caragan suggests that instead of basing undergraduate acceptance into the program solely on GPA, USF should interview finalists as well.

“Most students I know who have been accepted eventually drop out because they cannot handle it. If they interviewed the top applicants, they would be able to weed out the ones who are not meant to be nurses.”

The USF College of Nursing has been making improvements throughout the years. Since 2001, it has been able to more than double the number of pre-licensure BS students accepted due to a model of nursing education called the Clinical Collaborative Model. This model lets students receive one-on-one experiences with registered nurses in partner hospitals, including the newly added Sarasota Memorial Hospital, said Engelhardt.

USF is also working on encouraging existing registered nurses to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree or higher in nursing which will be required in 80% of hospitals by 2020. By encouraging students to receive a BS now, USF becomes one of only one-half of 1 percent of nursing programs nationally that have doctoral programs that can produce the nurse scientists who will fill nursing faculty positions into the future, said Engelhardt.

USF enforces new smoking policy on campus

Photo taken by Courtney DiFonzo

The USF Tampa campus officially implemented a new smoking policy that restricts smokers to designated areas on March 20. While this isn’t as restrictive as the widely rumored campus-wide ban, smokers are still adjusting to the new policy.

Carol-Anne Horesky, a junior majoring in elementary education who transferred to USF this semester, is getting acclimated to USF’s large campus and designated smoking areas.

“(The smoking policy) is kind of annoying because I don’t really know where the locations are,” Horesky explains.

The only thing specifying each of the 25 locations is a single green sign that can be easily overlooked.

“The problem with the designated spots, at least the ones I have seen, is that they are small spaces with little to no seating for those that are being forced to go there,” said Kyle Klassen, a junior computer science engineer major. “I feel like if they actually enforced the ‘x amount of feet from the entrance to buildings’ rule rather than forced people to be in the areas they reserved, it would be more effective.”

This new policy has been in the works for a while, beginning with the smoking ban at Moffitt and the USF Health campus. Breath Easy zones were never officially created, but signs posted near the entrances of major buildings banned smoking. A campus-wide restriction was expected.

According to the official USF website, the new policy hopes to minimize the health risks of second hand smoke and restrict waste from smoking products to certain areas for an overall cleaner, nicer-looking campus.

“I understand why (smoking would be banned) in front of the library or in front of Cooper, because people were grouped together,” said Horesky. “The only thing that really bothers me is the dorms. There used to be a table right out front but now I have to walk all the way around the building (to smoke).”

According to the new policy, the ban “includes, but is not limited to, cigars, cigarettes, cigarillos, pipes, bidis, and hookahs,” and those students who refuse to comply may be disciplined under the  Student Code of Conduct.

Faculty and staff members are not exempt from this ban, and any continuous disregard to the new policy will be handled through university processes.

“Even though they have established those smoking areas, I still see people smoking wherever they want to, so it hasn’t really done much anyway,” said Klassen.

The only exception to the smoking ban is the The Claw at USF golf course.

To help enforce the new policy and lead students into a healthier lifestyle, USF is offering free cessation classes that will begin April 5. The classes are open to students, faculty member and their families.

Smoking ban? No biggie

Two women in their twenties puffed long Black Lucky Strike cigarettes beneath some trees on the business administration building lawn. Their books and empty Starbucks cups pilled on a bench just outside a designated smoking area on the USF Tampa Bay campus.

On March 20, officials at the campus implemented the “Change is in the Air” initiative to restrict areas where students and faculty can light up. And so far, it seems that restrictions have made little impact on smokers’ regular schedules.

Sunny, who refused to give her full name, is a second year graduate student studying finance, who stood in the shade wearing jeans and a polo shirt and tight ponytail of light brown hair.

“I think it’s fine,” Sunny said, as she flicked ash from her cigarette butt into the leafy grass. “I know I’m not doing a favor to my lungs, so I might as well not do harm to others.”

She said she doesn’t smoke habitually – just to relieve stress.

“I’m not really a hard core smoker,” Sunny said. “I smoke maybe once in two or three days or when I’m feeling stress or have an exam. But I’m sure someone who smokes all the time or who is a habitual smoker and needs to smoke, I think it is inconvenient for them to go find a place to smoke.”

Sunny said most of her friends who smoke only travel to campus for classes, so they don’t spend enough time on campus to need a smoke break.

“[The ban] is more for people who smoke habitually or who don’t smoke at all,” Sunny said. “I have a few friends in the health sciences, and they really care if you smoke around them because of their major. They would obviously have concerns about it, but we don’t smoke that often.”

Sunny’s friend, another finance graduate student who wore thick eyeliner and a nose ring—declined to reveal her name—but she agreed with the sentiments.

“I’m not a regular smoker so I only smoke as a stress release or if someone else is smoking,” said the female student. “I smoke maybe once every two weeks or three weeks.”

“But you caught us on an exam day,” the woman joked.

The Tampa campus currently has 24 designated smoking areas with signs and cigarette butt receptacles.

To find out more information about the clean air initiative or to find these locations, view the press release and map from

Why can’t we cure the common cold?

Photo Credit: Sebastian Smit

We still have about a month left before the peak cold season is over. Yet, by this time most of us have probably already suffered our share of sneezing, runny noses, sore throats and all of the other symptoms that accompany the common cold.

We can put a man on the moon, the saying goes, but we can’t cure the common cold. Why?

“First of all, it’s because a cold is a virus,” said Dr. David Sheehan, University of South Florida Health Professor Emeritus. “And viruses are much harder nuts to crack.”

Basically, doctors can’t develop a vaccine to prevent all of the various strains of the common cold. There are way too many to make that practical. So that leaves us to treat the cold once we already have it.

“One of the problems with the common cold is that it usually only lasts three, four, five days max, three days probably on average. And so somebody who has had the thing for one and a half days before they realize this is what they have, it’s probably already too late and it’s running its course,” said Sheehan. “And how can you even show that a vaccine is working better than not doing anything?”

Another problem: The common cold is not just a virus but a sneaky, dynamic, powerhouse of a virus.

“The common cold is not the same infection every year. It keeps mutating,” said Sheehan. “The bug next year is different from the bug this year.”

Another viral infection that alters itself yearly is influenza, or the flu, which is why we have to get a flu shot every year. It’s changed. The manufacturers are, in essence, targeting the bug that they know is coming.  Researchers know it’s on its way by the way it moves around the world, the seasonal patterns, said Sheehan.

“They can detect the growth and rates, and then they identify those bugs, kill them, make a vaccine out of it, and then they inoculate all of us to protect us from getting it. So when we get it, we have a resistance to it.”

So vaccination against the flu is still your best bet when it comes to preventing it, said Sheehan.

And as for preventing the common cold, the simple things such as washing your hands and not sharing drinking cups or utensils are still your best line of defense.

USF student with an extra set of eyes

On the far left, Jared Debusk discussing a skit with his group. On the far right, the interpreters hands signing the groups ideas to Debusk. Photo Credit: Chloe Lykes

Jared Debusk lies on a bed in the middle of a stage at USF, using every bit of his 5-foot-8-inch frame to pretend to be the big bad wolf impersonating Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. Little Red Riding Hood says to him, “But Grandma, your eyes look so big…”

He responds with his mouth shut and hands signaling, “Better eyes to see you with, my dear.”  He delivers his lines with sign language. It’s not a silent performance though; the interpreter provides a feminine voice for the hearing students in the class, just as the wolf does in the fable to trick his victim.

Though far from a big bad wolf, Debusk was chosen out of the group of four to play the villainous character, perhaps because the rest of the group was women.

A freshman at USF with a major in film and a minor in acting, Debusk wants to move to Los Angeles when he graduates to become a film director, regardless of not being able to hear or speak.

Like a film director, he tells stories, and he’s full of them. But his narration is noiseless. Without an interpreter, sign language and pen and paper are his voice.

Voice and hearing are not required to be heard in Hollywood. At the 2012 Academy Awards, the silent film, “The Artist,” won six Oscars.  Marlee Matlin is a deaf actress who is the youngest woman and only deaf person to win an Oscar 20 years ago, but she still maintains an active presence in Hollywood today, according to her website.

Improv, Debusk’s favorite class, and his future career are based on verbal and physical performances, but he doesn’t speak because he’s been deaf since he was a baby.

He wasn’t born deaf though. Debusk said he and his family suspect a vaccination he was given when he was three months old is responsible for his and his older sister’s hearing loss. The family chose not to give their third child the vaccination, and she can hear.

Improv always begins with the students in a circle for a warm-up. He’s more fluid than other students. Due to what he calls his “four eyes,” he often transitions into the different stretches before everyone else.

Debusk explained having four eyes is a trait many deaf people learn to develop.

“Our vision is very important to us, and we can see everything around us,” Debusk said. “Hearing people always use their hearing for awareness.”

He said he does everything hearing people can do, except talk. When driving, his “four eyes” are key to avoiding emergency vehicles needing to pass. Rather than depending on noises to communicate, he keeps his “four eyes” open and alert at all times.

Past the booming, energetic music outside, Debusk walks into the Marshall Center, which is bustling with people. He goes to Sbarro and a server asks, “What can I get for you?” He walks around the people waiting for their food in line to better position himself to point to the baked ziti. She responds with a confused, almost insulted facial expression.

Another working woman intervenes, knowing what to do. She gets his food, and then asks him, “extra sauce?” She chuckles, and remembers to point to the sauce, and he nods approvingly. She mouths, “Have a nice day,” and he smiles and mouths “thank you.”

His hearing loss has not stopped him from following his dreams in film or doing the same things hearing people do everyday. Currently, he’s a model, has an agent and has auditioned for the ABC show “Switched at Birth,” which is a sitcom featuring deaf actors that he watches avidly.

He didn’t land his first audition, but this has not stopped him. He continues to try to improve his acting abilities, and improv is a start. For spring break, he’s traveling to Los Angeles for “SIGNin’ in the Street,” a two-day event featuring deaf entertainers and artists. There he will network with people involved in the deaf theater community and do another audition for “Switched at Birth.”

Acting without speaking seems like a daunting task because so much of television and film revolves around verbalization, but Debusk’s “four eyes” allow him to capture the most indicative type of communication, nonverbal communication.

One interpreter at USF, who spoke in confidence because interpreters are not allowed to discuss their student clients, has almost 20 years of experience interpreting theater for the deaf.

“Nonverbal communication communicates more than words do for both hearing and deaf people,” she said. “Generally body language and gestures reveal the tone of a scene without actually signing it.”

Since Debusk is unable to speak to the people in his  life, much of his communication depends on his and others’ expressions and actions.

He is able to capture a scene without relying on words. He uses his body and his face to its full potential, reciting script is only a small part of an actor’s job. People have communicated, mimicked, and loved in silence long before there was language.

Professor Rosemary Orlando teaches voice and body improv at USF. She has taught improv and acting classes for 30 years and has never had a deaf student in her class.

“I think everyone benefits from the experience,” Orlando said. “I have done more exercises that are less voice heavy and require students to focus more on their bodies and nonverbal communication.”

A freshman getting acclimated to his unfamiliar surroundings, Debusk spends a lot of time on campus. He shares a large dorm with a hearing roommate. From his hearing friends, Debusk gets that his roommate is a quiet, peculiar person who plays piano and depressing music, but his roommate’s dreary sounds don’t bother him much.

The transition to being an independent college student has had its challenges, but he’s persevered.  He admits that being away from his family the first semester was a bit lonely. Though he spends a couple hours each day on his studies, written assignments can be difficult due to the structural differences in his first language, American Sign Language, and English.

“My grammar sucks because we don’t use we/were/are, plural “s”, and many other things. Deaf culture uses a shorter way,” Debusk said. “I have problem with essays or English classes because I have to write a lot, and sometimes the teacher can’t understand it. I used to get frustrated.”

Tuesdays and Thursdays, Debusk and 25 students, two interpreters and a professor come together for two hours of acting. The floors of the spacious theater room are dark, dilapidated and hollow. Each step vibrates beneath their feet; Debusk feels the empty wood echo as he stretches.

After toe touching and back bending, the class warms up their voices. They chant in unison a quote by Sir Arthur, “…I can see you use, any language you choose, to indulge in impropriety.”

Almost everyone synchronizes with the quick rhythm of the quote. He indulges in another language, but no one else in the circle, including the teacher, understands.

USF receives $2.5 million National Institute of Health grant to further study antimalarial drugs

The University of South Florida Department of Chemistry and the USF Global Health Department have collaboratively earned multiple grants for the continuation of research in antimalarial pharmaceuticals this semester.

USF Chemistry professor Dr. Roman Manetsch and USF Global Health professor Dr. Dennis Kyle together earned two National Institute of Health (NIH) Research Project Grants this September, totaling over $2.5 million for research during the next five years.

Malaria is an extremely infectious, life-threatening disease that is transmitted mainly by mosquitoes.  The parasitic disease causes nearly one million deaths and affects over 240 million people each year according to Roll Back Malaria.

The newest NIH grant earned by USF is titled “Drugs targeting erythrocytic and exoerythrocytic stages of malaria.”  It provides the research group with $1.3 million over the next five years.

The grant  awarded to USF for the project Manetsch and Kyle developed  focuses on several compounds that have demonstrated potential for activity against all stages of parasitic development.

Research will focus on the development of drugs that block the relapse of dormant parasites and that can prevent transmission of the disease to mosquitoes.

“These new developments have elevated USF to one of the top research programs in the country with regards to the development of novel antimalarial pharmaceuticals,” said Dr. Randy W. Larsen, professor in the USF Department of Chemistry.

Research is still ongoing, though major breakthroughs are anticipated in the near future.

Florida takes action to reduce abuse of its ‘pill mills’

Since the early 1980s, Florida has noted an increase in the prescription and dispensation of drugs, and the establishment of pill mills, said Angela M. Hill, the Chair of Pharmacy Practice and a professor at the USF College of Pharmacy.

The New York Times reports that Florida, in 2010, dispensed 89 percent of the nation’s controlled drug prescriptions. Hill, said the reason for this trend is because people from other states troop to Florida for its cheaper street value of Schedule II drugs. And that many are willing to do anything to get their fix, even fake pain.

Lizette Alvarez of The New York Times, in an Aug. 31, 2011 article, reported that at its peak last year, Florida had more than 1,000 pain management clinics or “pill mills.”

“The concept of the pill mill is a pharmacy that is just dispensing a large quantity of medication, specifically controlled substances, inappropriately,” said Erini Serag, an assistant professor at the Department of Pharmacotherapeutics and Clinical Research.

“Pain management clinics started from a concern for alleviating pain in cancer patients. Now they fuel the circulation of Schedule II drugs, which could induce strong abuse or addiction to the drug yet have legitimate medical use as attractable street drugs,” Hill said.

Jose Borboza, an assistant professor at the College of Pharmacy said, “Florida is one of the few states that did not have a controlled substances database.”

However, in September, the state kicked off its Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and now requires all health practitioners to make use of the PDMP database.

“Prior to the prescription drug monitoring program, a pharmacist would not be able to know if the patient had a history of using controlled substances. But now there is a registry set up where one has to report within seven days of dispensing to a patient,” Hill said.

Another curbing mechanism is pharmacy consultation. Serag said that consultation and counseling would make sure that patients are taking their medication appropriately and avoiding any drug inaction or abuse.

USF researchers study brainstem cells in age-related hearing loss

Ott and Zhu at the USF Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research lab.

Monday, November 28th, 2011, 2:30 pm

TAMPA—  The University of South Florida researchers at the Global Center for Hearing and Speech Research lab are studying brainstem cells that determine age-related hearing loss. Mackenzie Ott, a Neurophysiologist, (right) and Dr. Xiaoxia Zhu, M.D., a Biological Scientist, (left) are staining sections to mount on slides in order to examine under a microscope. The slides will allow the researchers to visualize anatomical differences in brainstem cells and how they relate to age-related structural and functional changes in auditory network cells involved in Presbycusis, or age related hearing loss. Ott and Zhu are using a hematoxylin and eosin stain kit, also known as H&E stain, to conduct their research. It is the most widely used stain in medical diagnosis. Without the stain it would be difficult to see biological tissue under a microscope. The stain gives the tissue contrast and highlights particular features of interest.

Age-related diseases linked to dysfunction in mitochondria

Recent studies are pointing more toward mitochondrial dysfunction as a cause of aging and diseases associated with age.

Mitochondrial dysfunction and aging has been a topic of research for about 10 years, but just within the past few years it has also been linked to all age-related diseases, including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s.  Mitochondria deteriorate with age, but studies are now being done to develop the reasons why and to find ways to delay the process.

One hypothesis for mitochondrial dysfunction is that it is simply cumulative damage accrued over a lifespan. Patrick Bradshaw, assistant professor of biology at the University of South Florida, believes the problem is more complex than that. “Mitochondria are the central regulator of metabolism and cell function relies on them,” Bradshaw explained.

“Changes in metabolism occur with age so mitochondrial function may change, which leads to dysfunction,” he added.

Mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cell, play an important role in cell life and death. Mitochondrial dysfunction is the “point of no return” according to Bradshaw. This may help explain age-related diseases which occur alongside cell death. For example, as a result of Alzheimer’s disease, the brain shrinks because 50 percent of brain cells die, he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found that life expectancy in the United States is rising, and Bradshaw estimates the amount of healthcare dollars spent on age-related diseases will double or even triple in the next 20 years. These implications illustrate the relevance of this research on mitochondrial dysfunction.

According to Bradshaw, experiments conducted at USF by himself and colleagues on transgenic mice have yielded interesting results. Green tea, dark chocolate, and darker colored fruits and vegetables delay mitochondrial dysfunction. Exercise is also beneficial; however, they have found that large amounts of high-stress exercise can be detrimental.

Bradshaw explains that thus far there is no one chemical or practice that can directly prevent mitochondrial dysfunction, but “multi-pronged strategies like combining exercise with natural compounds” can help protect cells.

Speech Pathologist grateful for opportunity to create bond with patients suffering from impairments

Speech-language therapy has proved to be not only life-changing for patients but a rewarding career for speech pathologists.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2008 and 2018, employment of speech-language pathologists is expected to grow by 19 percent, which is faster than average employment growth.

Speech-language pathologists work individually with patients to incorporate each of their special needs. Patients are taught to improve their voices by making sounds and performing vocal exercises such as strengthening muscles, that will enhance their speech capabilities.

These exercises are helpful for babies who were born with a disorder, or shortly after birth, develop one, all the way to adults who may suffer from a stroke and lose some, or all speech abilities.

Kristen Bond, a speech-language pathologist in Hillsborough County, works at a local elementary school and at a private pediatric therapy clinic.

She works with preK-fifth grade students that are language impaired, speech impaired, autistic, developmentally delayed, ADHD and have social communication difficulties. She also runs a weekly social group for children with Asperger’s and social communication difficulties.

In the clinic setting, Bond works with individuals in their home during a 60-minute period. Depending on the diagnosis of the patient, she uses certain skills and exercises.

“Being a speech pathologist has increased my appreciation and awareness of how lucky I am to have the skills and abilities to communicate effectively,” said Bond. “I appreciate that I am able to eat a meal without struggling and I am able to tell my family ‘I love you’ without needing a picture card to prompt me.”

Bond said her greatest reward being a speech pathologist is being challenged and having the opportunity to work with a variety of disorders and disabilities on a daily basis.

“It is a blessing to see the progress the children can make,” said Bond.  “Sometimes it takes years, sometimes it takes weeks. It is a great feeling to give a parent and a child the skills to communicate and eat more effectively.”

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