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4 posts from November 2016


More Faculty, Staff, and Student Achievements

Dorela Prifanji PharmD’17 was recognized with the Student Award from the Pennsylvania Society of Health System Pharmacists. The award is given to a student actively involved in initiatives related to advancing the practice of health system pharmacy.

Lia Vas PhD, professor of mathematics, has been granted sabbatical leave during which she has received approximately seven invitations to present at institutions in Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, and Norway while also collaborating on a research project with Dr. Roozbeh Hazrat of Wester Sydney University in Australia.  Dr. Vas said she hopes to increase visibility of research at USciences and foster new projects and future collaborations.

Paula Kramer PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, director of the post-professional doctor of occupational therapy program, gave the keynote address for the New York State Occupational Therapy Association conference on November 5.

Song Oh and Jun Baek won the SSHP Clinical Skills Competition and will represent the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy at the national competition. The semi-final round will occur on Saturday, December 3, 2016 at the ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting in Las Vegas, NV.

Mike Cawley is an author on a new research article called “Pharmacological Management and Prevention of Exacerbations of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease in Hospitalized Patients” in Pharmacy and Therapeutics

USciences Physics Students Attend PhysCon in San Francisco

Students from USciences’ Society of Physics Students (SPS) traveled to San Francisco, Calif. in November 2016 for PhysCon, the quadrennial physics conference held by the National Society of Physics Students.

From Left to Right: Caitlyn McConnell, Oberon Wackwitz, Mia Vega, Katee O'Malley, Luke Conover toured San Francisco during PhysCon.

During the trip the group attended the conference, hearing from Dr. S. James Gates, a theoretical physicist known for his work in supersymmetry, who recently won the National Medal of Science for his outstanding contributions to the field of physics, and Nobel Laureate Dr. Eric Cornell. Additionally, the students participated in workshops and presented research.

“It was great to be surrounded by 1,000 physics majors who all have different ambitions within the field,” said Katee O’Malley Phys’17.

In addition to O’Malley, Caitlyn McConnell BMS’18, Phys’18, Mia Vega Phys’19, Oberon Wackwitz Phys’17, and Luke Conover Phys’17 attended the conference representing USciences and said that the experience was eye opening and fun.

“I walked away feeling empowered,” said McConnell. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you are capable of accomplishing anything.”

The students also visited the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a two-mile long national accelerator laboratory, which has been integral to many astounding discoveries in physics.

From Left to Right: Mia Vega, Caitlyn McConnell, Oberon Wackwitz, Katee O'Malley, and Luke Conover toured the SLAC laboratory.

Vega, who is unsure about what path she wants to take upon graduation, said the best part was a workshop about the career opportunities for individuals graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics. She said it helped her recognize different job opportunities in industry, higher education, and teaching.  Vega presented at the conference on behalf of the group about the outreach that USciecnes’ SPS has done to encourage young women to pursue STEM fields.

“At the conference I saw that most schools do not have the same diversity that I see every day at USciences,” said Vega. “I am now more inspired to help create safe spaces for physics students because it is important that every young physicist, despite their skin color or sex know how valuable they are.”

Before returning to Philadelphia, the group fit in some sightseeing as well, visiting Fisherman’s Warf, Pier 39, and the Golden Gate Bridge.


USciences students get a lesson on alcohol abuse prevention, public safety

Philadelphia Police Officer #1Approximately 200 University of the Sciences students discussed the ramifications of drug and alcohol abuse, noise violations, underage drinking and the use of fake IDs at a meeting with an officer from the Philadelphia Police Department last month hosted by the Office of Student Engagement.

On Wednesday, October 26th, Lt. Derek Hawkins, commanding officer at University City District, spoke to USciences students involved in fraternities and sororities about hot topics that impact college students. Following Lt. Hawkins' presentation, a question and answer session was held giving students the opportunity to ask questions pertaining to the topics discussed.

Each semester, fraternity and sorority life hosts one educational event that is mandatory for 80% of each chapter to attend.


Big jump in PA maternal and neonatal hospital stays, need for treatment, due to opioid crisis

baby withdrawal treatment opioids neonatal abstinence syndrome drug withdrawalAddiction treatment programs in Pennsylvania generally give pregnant women first priority in access to treatment. But with the opioid crisis straining already limited budgets and program resources across the Commonwealth, more access to treatment, housing, care management, and specialized programming for mothers is needed to meet demand, according to presenters at a Maternal Care Coalition forum.

Presenters at the Philadelphia program, held in September, described the impact of the opioid crisis on maternal health to a packed room of several hundred healthcare, social services, and public health providers. Local experts presented on barriers to care, funding challenges, and best practices in medication treatment and mentoring services for pregnant and parenting women, including a moving presentation from a mother in recovery, who gave birth to a baby in jail while imprisoned due to consequences of her drug addiction. 

Now we have new data to inform policy-makers about the increasing impact of the opioid epidemic on our healthcare system in Pennsylvania. The extra costs for hospital stays connected to maternal substance use are soaring.

The increase in pregnant mothers using opioids like heroin or prescription pain medications means more babies are being born with a physical dependence that requires treatment, according to a new report by an independent state agency that studies healthcare costs in Pennsylvania: the PA Health Care Cost Containment Council (PHC4). These babies often need to stay longer in the hospital to be treated for symptoms of withdrawal.

Rates of babies in hospital neonatal units (NICUs) needing withdrawal treatment have increased four-fold from 2003 to 2013 nationwide, according to a 2015 study. The research released by PHC4 shows similar increases in newborns needing more intensive treatment in the Commonwealth.

Neonatal hospital stays connected to substance use disorders (SUD’s) increased by 250% from 2000 to 2015 in Pennsylvania. This increase in hospital days fpr babies needing extra care cost an extra $20.3 million, most paid by state and federal taxpayers, since the majority of the mothers were on Medicaid (78% of the maternal stays that were related to SUDs and 38% of other maternal stays.) Our rural western and northeastern counties had the highest rates of SUD-related maternal stays. 

Maternal hospital stays were up by 510%, and of those connected to SUDs in 2015, 51.9% involved opioids, costing an additional $1.8 million. Some positive news: maternal stays related to alcohol decreased 36% and those related to cocaine decreased 61% in the 2015 data.

We do not know what percentage of the mothers in this data might have been in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) with buprenorphine or methadone. In other words, their use of opioids was prescribed appropriately and medically monitored. The research brief doesn't break down maternal opioid use to show if it was illicit or prescribed. But in the context of the current opioid epidemic, we know that illicit use has increased at unprecedented rates and is a key driver of increased hospital costs, along with the growth in prescribing of opioids for pain management.

Treatment with prescribed methadone or buprenorphine, along with counseling and behavioral support, is clinically indicated for a mother who wants to stop illicit opioid use while pregnant, because going into withdrawal if she stopped abruptly could cause her to miscarry. Unfortunately, some of the babies of mothers on prescribed MAT may have withdrawal symptoms that need to be treated and will require a longer stay in the NICU, but the health risks to the mother and baby in a relapse to heroin use, or during a sudden withdrawal from opioid use, are significant and possibly life-threatening.

A note about appropriate language for neonatal drug withdrawal  

Almost all the media reports about this data that I saw (but not the PHC4 research brief) referred to addicted babiesin their coverage. While the journalists and headline writers may be adopting a commonly used term-- it's just wrong to describe babies with withdrawal symptoms as “addicted.”Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or drug withdrawal, do not have the compulsive behavior that is a defining aspect of addictive disorders; rather, they are physically dependent and require medically-managed withdrawal. Clinically inaccurate, emotionally laden language in stories about substance use disorders increases the stigma that people with substance use disorders face -- stigma that often deters them from seeking help. 


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