USF Health

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USF enforces new smoking policy on campus

Photo taken by Courtney DiFonzo

The USF Tampa campus officially implemented a new smoking policy, which 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, which 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 the Moffitt Cancer Center and 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 secondhand 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

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.

Students sick from healthcare confusion

The people living without healthcare in an unpredictable world play Russian roulette with their health and finances.

According to the 2008 U.S Census, 15.4 percent of the population currently has no healthcare. The number of Florida’s uninsured is at 20 percent, one of the highest in the nation.

Students Programs Coordinator Susanna Perez-Field thinks that the University of South Florida students without health insurance is equal to or exceeds the national average.

She said that since USF does not mandate health insurance the school does not track information on who has it.

Last year USF considered requiring insurance. Student Programs officials placed a question on the Student Government Associations election ballots asking students how they would feel about mandated healthcare.

The idea was set aside after a staggering 75 percent of students voted against it, Perez-Field said.

USF offers students a discounted health insurance program that cost $2,570 per year. For the 2010-2011 school year only 480 undergraduate students signed up for the program.

Senior Tony Harrison feels steep prices and confusing policies are the problem with the healthcare system.

“I have health insurance but honestly I feel like it’s ripping me off. I have no idea what is covered with my plan and what isn’t. I just got whatever my mom told me to,” Harrison said.

Transfer student Tung Nguygen uses USF Student Health Services, which is free for students, as a replacement for health insurance.

“The clinic is free or cheap for check ups but if I was to really get injured I’d be in a world of trouble but I just honestly can’t afford that right now,” said Nguygen.

From renowned student to distinguished alumna, Donna Petersen honored by Johns Hopkins

USF College of Public Health Dean Donna Petersen holding her Distinguished Alumna award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Photo by Christen White

As a newly awarded distinguished alumna from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Donna Petersen, dean of the USF College of Public Health, is an example of why ambition pays off.

Ann DeBaldo, associate dean of the College of Public Health, said, “I think it’s absolutely wonderful she got this award. She has brought all the faculty, staff and students together and pushes everyone to reach their goals.”

Petersen was one of the three recipients to receive the honor this summer for exemplifying excellence in personal and professional achievements. For Petersen, the award was just another step in a life filled with hard work and perseverance to better the field of public health.

“When I went into public health education, it was completely different than it is today. It’s actually kind of remarkable,” said Petersen. “I think I was put up for the award because I was the first student in a brand new program at Johns Hopkins. It was kind of a new experiment.”

Expecting absolute rejection, Petersen applied for a master’s degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health. In 1982, the only applicants accepted were physicians, nurses or other clinical based degrees.

Instead, Petersen wasn’t denied right away, her application was forwarded to the Johns Hopkins Maternal and Child Health Department, a program with an even greater clinical focus than what she originally applied for.

“I got a call from the chair of the department saying they had been talking about creating a master’s of health science degree because they need people to run programs who aren’t clinicians,” said Petersen. “They told me I looked like a good candidate and asked if I wanted to take the offer. And of course I said yes.”

After graduating from the program, Petersen was contacted by Johns Hopkins and offered a grant to continue her education to obtain her doctorate degree. They admitted her to the program before she even officially applied.

Upon receiving her doctorate, 29-year-old Petersen got an extraordinary job with the Minnesota Department of Health as head of the state’s program for children with special needs. Petersen’s accomplishments and success in a new program at Johns Hopkins contributed widely to change in the field of public health, which she developed an incredible career from.

Petersen’s colleagues appreciate everything she has done for her community and the university. They strongly believe she deserved this award.

Peggy Smith, assistant to Donna Petersen, said, “I think she should have gotten this award a long time ago. She has done a lot so far in her career to bring public health to the forefront and let people know how important it is. She has definitely grown this college since I have been working here.”

Research shows link between men and type 2 diabetes

Photo courtesy of George Head

For George Head, riding his bike across the entire country was just another fun way to stay healthy.

“I really try to stay active, whether it is kayaking, sailing or biking.”

But he hasn’t always lived this action packed life. Thirty-six years ago, Head was diagnosed with diabetes, causing him to reevaluate his lifestyle and take control of his health.

Head is not alone among men who are at risk for the disease. The percentage of males developing diabetes is increasing faster than that of women.

A Scottish study published this September in the journal Diabetologia concludes that men are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes at a lower Body Mass Index than women are.

“Diabetes, by definition, is the body’s inability to properly use the food we eat for energy and regulate blood sugar, “ Craig Bobik, administrative coordinator for the USF Diabetes Center said.

“Type 2 usually affects adults and children who tend to be overweight and have low activity levels,” Bobik said. “The increased obesity causes the cells to be resistant to the insulin, which carries sugar from the blood into cells.”

The Centers for Disease Control tracks the start of the male-diabetes trend to 1999.

“From 1980 to 1998, the age–adjusted percentage of diagnosed diabetes for men and women was similar,” the CDC website said. “However, in 1999, the percentage for males began to increase at a faster rate than that of females. From 1980 to 2009, the age–adjusted percentage of diagnosed diabetes increased 144 percent for men and 103 percent for women.” The cause for this increased rate of male diabetes is not understood and is being researched. The Scottish study believes that men tend to carry more abdominal fat, but women are more prone to safer fat stored just under the skin.

Bobik sees how this could be linked to male diabetics.

“Studies have shown that people who are ‘apple’ shaped are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and diabetes than those who are ‘pear’ shaped,” Bobik said. “Unfortunately, men tend to store fat in the abdominal areas leading to that dreaded ‘apple’ shape.”

But Bobik also thinks that using only an individual’s BMI can be misleading in situations, so he suggests also looking at waist circumference.

Another expert on diabetes, Kendra Vehik, wants society to focus on this disease because “diabetes is a burden associated with considerable morbidity and mortality that contributes to extensive personal and societal costs.”

Vehik is an assistant professor in the USF Pediatrics Epidemiology Center.

“A person can expect to increase interaction with their physician with regular checkups and visits to an eye care specialist,” Vehik said. “They will need to adopt a healthy diet and begin an exercise regime to reduce the long-term complications associated with the disease.”

Head was sure to follow his doctor’s advice after he was diagnosed.

“I immediately became a healthy eater and an active person,” Head said. “I was only 20 when my mother was diagnosed with diabetes, and it was three years later that I was diagnosed.”

Although diabetes is trending towards the male population, it is still an issue everyone should recognize.

“Diabetes is the number 1 health problem the nation is facing,” Bobik said. “It leads to so many complications, heart attacks and strokes.  The cost to our country is incredibly high.”

Experts say as the number of new diabetics and pre-diabetics rise, it is important to take preventative measures, especially if you’re a part of a higher risk group.

“Get active Bobik said, “Walk whenever you can.  Park a little further away.  Take the stairs.  Wear a pedometer and try to reach 10,000 steps per day.

“Do this at a minimum and then try to increase your regular exercise,” Bobik urged.

Child vaccinations: parent’s choice or public right?

Some parents are choosing to not follow the recommended vaccinations for their children, causing a rift between the rights of a parent and their responsibility to their community.

According to a study published this month in the online journal Pediatrics, one in 10 parents with children younger than six are choosing to follow an alternative to vaccinations.

Erin Montera, a Tampa mother of two, is one of those choosing not to participate in public vaccination programs.

“Vaccines have the disease in them, and if your immune system is weak you could have a terrible reaction or get autism or cancer,” Erin Montera said.

But experts like Dr. Jorge Lujan-Zilbermann, think that parents like Montera are making a mistake.

“Your child can develop immunity to this vaccine and prevent an illness which in some cases can lead to death, like what happened earlier this year with an outbreak of pertussis in California,” Lujan-Zilbermann an associate professor of pediatrics in the division of infectious diseases, a part of the USF College of Medicine said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has a recommended 11 vaccines for children less than age six, parents are able to find exemptions.

Registered nurse Jessica Guzman works as the school nurse at Cypress Elementary School and sees parents exempt out of vaccinations all the time.

Children who have an allergic reaction to the first vaccine in a series can sign papers to option out of the rest of the vaccine process, Guzman said.

There are three types of exemptions: medical, religious, and philosophical. All states allow a medical exemption for weakened immune systems or allergies and 47 states allow religious exemptions.

In 18 states, including California and Michigan, philosophical exemptions are allowed if the parents have any personal beliefs about vaccinations. In many of these states parents must object to all vaccines to use the exemption, rather than a single vaccine.

Guzman warns that children can easily get the preventable diseases that the vaccines protect them from when they are not immunized or when those around them are not.

Because most of the diseases prevented through these vaccinations have not been relevant in our society for a long time, the general public lacks a fear of the disease. More often, parents fear the possible consequences of vaccinations over the actual disease.

“I’m worried about the serious lifelong health problems or death due to bad reactions to a vaccine,” Montera said.

A study published in the Lancet medical journal in 1998 by Dr. Andrew Wakefield fueled the wave of vaccination fear. The study claimed that the measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, one of the CDC recommended shots, could be linked to autism in children.

In early 2010, the journal that published the study officially retracting its results, saying that the study was unreliable and false.

The effects of this study being published, however, remain clear and drastic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, during 2008, more measles cases were reported than in any other year since 1997. More than 90 percent of those infected had not been vaccinated, or their vaccination status was unknown.

“Implanting fear is very easy and dismissing it is very hard,” Lujan-Zilbermann said. “When the hypothesis between vaccines and autism came out it was highly publicized. However when all the different disclaimers and studies showing that this link was not true came out, the media did not provide the same degree of coverage so the majority of the public are not aware of this information.”

“Your health, your family, your choice,” is the headline of the National Vaccine Information Center’s website. Their mission is to educate the public on the prevention of vaccination injuries and deaths.

Montera believes in her choice and her right to be allowed to make that choice. “The other children that are vaccinated are immune.”

Brittany Marrs, a sophomore at the University of South Florida majoring in nursing, hopes to be a pediatric nurse someday and supports the public health vaccinations.

“I would definitely encourage my future patients to vaccinate their babies, as there are developing diseases that could likely harm them or they can pass on to others,” Marrs said.

Concerned for the well being of their kids, parents are doing more of their own research now, reading medical journals and websites such as the National Vaccine Information Center.

Guzman thinks that although parents are researching, they are still poorly educated on the diseases these vaccinations are preventing.

“Everyone, doctors and patients need to focus on learning and researching vaccines and symptoms,” Guzman said.

USF students, staff discuss their connection to the transgendered community

Whether someone is a member of the USF P.R.I.D.E. Alliance or not, Jessica Pettitt made it clear that everyone has the same problems and is connected.

Pettitt,  a social justice and diversity consultant who travels across the nation, arrived at the University of South Florida campus on Wednesday to train employees in the university’s Division of Student Affairs on how to handle being approached with a trans-issue.

“When I was doing Trans 101 (in college) … participants couldn’t find themselves within the trans-conversation – so it was something external to them,” she said during the training. “But the truth is sex, gender, and sexual identity is something that we all have.”

She said everyone has to deal with sexism, which monitors sex and gender, and that everyone is trained to believe men are more powerful in the U.S.

Continue reading »

Universities to battle vector-borne diseases

The University of South Florida is teaming up with the University of Florida to eliminate vector-borne diseases.

According to Encyclopedia of Public Health, vector-borne diseases are infections passed along by organisms, such as mosquitoes, carrying pathogens from one host to another.

Cases of such diseases have popped up in Florida in the last four to five years. One Jacksonville woman caught malaria in October, and there have also been several reports of dengue fever in Key West since 2009. Prior to that there hadn’t been a dengue fever case since 1934.

Representatives from USF Health, as well as other universities across Florida, recently met with  partners of biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms at the Sanford-Burham medical Research Institute in Orlando. The conference was held to present findings on pathogen-related diseases as well as discuss methods to move new drugs into the market.

“I had dengue…when I was in Brazil, and I had malaria when I was in Brazil,” said Associate Dean of Research, USF College of Public Health Wil Milhouse in an interview with USF Health. “Neither one of them are a lot of fun.”

Video Credit Amy Marian, USF Health Communications

According to USF Health, the project is part of the New Florida Initiative: “a program geared toward diversifying the state economy by funding innovation on university campuses.” University officials hope this partnership will help to manage these diseases before they become a serious health concern. PhD Professor of Global Health at USF, Dennis Kyle also spoke to USF Health about the collaborative effort.

“We often find that if we meet people working in the same area that have different expertise, we can actually make something really big happen,” said Kyle. “Successful science is something that, you bump in to somebody who has an expertise or an idea that’s somewhat similar to yours.”

Last year, USF and UF were budgeted a half a million dollars by the state’s Board of Governors to work towards fighting these dangerous diseases. Together, they hope to make an impact on this reemerging disease across the world. Their work could benefit places like Africa, where, according to the World Health Organization, there were over 240 million cases of malaria in 2008.

Long-anticipated USF College of Pharmacy will welcome its first students this fall

The first USF College of Pharmacy plans to welcome its inaugural class in the fall of 2011.

A computer generated model of the future USF Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation. USF Health says the facility will play a large role in the university's new Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

It has been nearly four years since the university began the process of establishing a College of Pharmacy, but after some minor setbacks and miscalculations, the college will finally hold it’s first classes during the upcoming semester.

So far, there is a total of six confirmed applicants accepted for early admission.  The college is still in the process of selecting the other 46 students needed to round out its inaugural class of 2015. The students will pursue a four-year, Doctor of Pharmacy degree.

Dr. Kevin Sneed was appointed as  the college’s founding dean back in 2009.

In a welcome message posted on the USF Health website, Sneed said “Future students will greatly benefit from the collective knowledge of USF Health, and will become outstanding pharmacist clinicians of the future. Together, we will continue on our quest to transform the healthcare system for the betterment of society.”

The new pharmacy program will initially be housed within existing USF Health buildings, but the college’s website says that the the new, state-of-the-art Center for Advanced Medical Learning & Simulation will play a large role in allowing pharmacy students to interact with other types of future health professionals.

The $30 million facility is currently under construction in downtown Tampa, and is expected to open in 2012.


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