Pulse Magazine Summer 02 Issue
In this issue...
Not so long ago, the image of an "old" person was someone who was 65, sitting in a
rocking chair isolated from the world. Today, however, "old" has become more of a
state of mind than a term associated with a given age. It is not unusual to see people
who are 80 or 90 years old still living on their own and staying active.
However, as people begin to live longer, they face increasing medical challenges.
What should be a time to relax and enjoy what years of hard work have provided can
become a time filled with battling medical conditions that threaten to remove any
sense of independence.
While there are a variety of medical conditions that can affect people as they grow
older there are four that commonly affect people over the age of 55 - Alzheimer's
disease and dementia, retinal deterioration and degeneration, sensory hearing loss
"As people live into the later decades, we're beginning to face new battles against
diseases," said Randolph B. Schiffer, M.D., chair of the Department of Neuropsychiatry
at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. "These are not new diseases, but
before, they were small in scope. For example, Alzheimer's disease, which was first
reported in 1911, was thought to be extremely rare because very few people had it.
It was almost a footnote in American medicine, but as you age the risk of the disease
increases significantly, with the risk being almost 50 percent by age 95. So, as your
population ages, a disease that was thought to be trivial is a dominant medical problem.
Today, we see great numbers of patients struggling with these four conditions."
The Cruelest Twist
Alzheimer's disease and related forms of dementia can be very cruel both to the patient
and their families, often stealing the very memories that should make living longer
"The terrible thing about dementia is that it takes away the person," Schiffer said.
"It takes away what is that person. We could still be who we are if we were crippled
in an accident. I could still be fundamentally who I am even if I lost my legs. But,
with dementia, the person that you are changes and disappears.
"Not only does the individual face the loss of self, but the family and friends have
to see their loved one turn into someone else, someone who can't remember who they
are or why they should be important. I sometimes think death itself is actually easier
to handle than to see the person you love become a totally different person."
These changes occur because of the way Alzheimer's and dementia attack the brain.
Both disorders are characterized by the death of cells in the brain which inhibits
proper signal transmission within the brain. This leads to impaired judgement, memory
and thought processing. Because the cells die gradually it can take several years
for the symptoms to become noticeable.
"It progresses so slow that families and patients can't tell when it started," Schiffer
said. "They can't pick a specific start date because the disease has such a slow,
The initial signs can be very subtle, including only mild memory loss that people
often just attribute to general aging.
"What is hard to know is the boundary between age-associated memory loss and Alzheimer's
disease," Schiffer said. "All of us, as we get older, have changes in our memory,
but we adapt to compensate. People with Alzheimer's cannot compensate. They forget
the names of family members, forget major events and appointments and then, eventually,
cognitive functions can become involved. By that time, you have someone who has become
disabled, and that is a problem."
Many family members often are reluctant to admit their loved one may be having a problem,
further delaying the diagnosis, he said.
One bright spot for patients and their families is that there are now at least some
treatment options for those with Alzheimer's disease. Schiffer said there are now
two categories of drugs that have shown to be beneficial.
"We put people on these drugs almost regardless of where they are in the disease,"
he said. "Our suspicion is that they work better early on in the disease course, but
some treatment is better than nothing at all. The disease is treatable and treatment
can improve the course of the disease at least for a period of time for most people."
While it seems that everyone has a connection to someone diagnosed with Alzheimer's,
the incidence at younger ages is relatively low. Schiffer said the risk is between
3 percent and 5 percent for someone aged 65. However, the incidence rates begin to
jump significantly with each decade of life, leading to nearly half of those aged
95 or older being diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
"The average age of onset is around 76," he said. "The thing about diseases that appear
late in life is that we don't necessarily have to cure them, we only have to delay
the onset to make a tremendous impact. If we can shift the average onset ahead by
20 years to 96 instead of 76, the risk for everyone becomes that much lower. If we
could do that, a few people that lived to 96 would start to get the disease, but most
people would be able to avoid it."
Schiffer said that although he believes this to be possible, science may not be advanced
enough to attempt this yet. However, the Health Sciences Center has joined an Alzheimer's
disease research consortium with other schools in Texas to examine the problems and
issues associated with Alzheimer's.
"I would like to see us work toward identifying people at higher risk because of genetics,"
he said. "Then we can try to work on postponing the disease. That's easy to say, but
it is possible because we know enough about the disease to know that there is probably
a medicine that will work. There may even be some medicines in our homes right now
such as anti-cholesterol drugs or hormones. We don't know, but it is generally thought
that we probably have the drugs now that will postpone the disease, we just don't
know how to use them."
One of the biggest obstacles is finding funding for research, Schiffer said. "Research
does not always follow the needs of society," he said. "Some diseases become popular
politically. For example, cancer received major federal funding starting with President
Richard Nixon. Then HIV became the major issue. Alzheimer's disease gets relatively
little funding per person suffering from the disease. Also, it can be hard to swing
the purposes of medical research, much of which is focused on the genetic level. So,
the relationship between medical research and the suffering of society is kind of
While funding and research may not keep up with the demands of certain medical conditions,
it can also be true that some conditions are just beginning to be felt by large portions
of the population. Only as some diseases become diagnosed in larger numbers can research
truly be done effectively.
Such is the case with macular degeneration, which has come to the forefront of age-related
illnesses in recent years, said David McCartney, M.D., chair of the Department of
Ophthalmology at the Health Sciences Center.
"The total cases of macular degeneration in the United States is estimated to be about
1.6 million," he said. "Approximately one out of every 1,000 people will develop this
condition. There are clearly more cases of it now than there were five to 10 years
ago. Whether that is an incidence increase or just due to the increase of the number
of Americans above age 60 is uncertain."
Macular degeneration can be devastating to an older person's efforts to maintain independence
because it robs patients of their central vision, leaving them with only limited peripheral
vision. The loss of vision is caused by the death of rod and cone cells within the
retina. These cells are responsible for converting light and images into chemical
signals which can be read by the brain. As the cells die, the brain no longer receives
the chemical signals and is unable to process the images.
"This transformation is a significant metabolic process that generates a tremendous
amount of heat," McCartney said. "This heat destroys some of the structures of the
rod and cone cells. Normally, certain cells will clean up this ‘debris,' however,
there is evidence that in macular degeneration these cells are unable to keep up with
the amount of debris produced. Eventually, clumps of rod and cone material build up
and interfere with the ability of neighboring healthy cells to function, leading to
the death of the rest of the rod and cone cells."
McCartney added that current research is examining if an insufficiency in the metabolic
process may be a precursor to the build-up of the dead cell material.
Although this condition only affects an area of the retina that controls five to 10
degrees of vision, this area is also responsible for high acuity and color vision,
making it quite severe.
There is also a secondary condition that can develop causing what is known as the
wet form of macular degeneration. The typical disease process is known as the dry
form. The wet form of the disease occurs when an inner membrane in the eye becomes
rigid and tears, leading to the development of new blood vessels which grow under
the retina, destroying additional cells. Eventually, these new vessels may begin to
bleed, which is toxic to the retina.
There are treatments for the wet form, but only to reduce the bleeding in the retina.
These treatments do not restore sight, McCartney said. Treatment methods can include
lasers or surgery to destroy or remove the problematic blood vessels.
Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration, only potential methods to slow
the disease's progress. Some research has shown that zinc supplementation may be effective
in slowing the disease, as may lutein, another nutritional supplement, McCartney said.
"This is why most multivitamins contain both zinc and lutein now," he said. "What
these trials showed is that antioxidants such as zinc can slow down the disease progression.
As a group, those who took zinc had a less severe disease course."
As with Alzheimer's, macular degeneration can often progress very slowly until suddenly
a person notices they can't see anymore, he said.
"Most people will just notice that their vision isn't as clear as it used to be,"
he said. "Until it's too late."
Other conditions within the eye can affect vision later in life as well, including
glaucoma and cataracts.
A cataract is simply a clouding of one of the lenses of the eye, which leads to gradual
loss of vision. However, cataracts can be treated with a surgical procedure which
removes the clouded lens and replaces it with a prosthetic lens.
"With surgery, we can restore vision fully," McCartney said. "Most patients remark
that it is a dramatic change. They never realize how bad their sight has gotten until
they have the cataract removed."
Patients with glaucoma aren't as lucky. While their disease can be treated to stop
the progression, it cannot be cured and their vision will never return to its original
Glaucoma is a disease in which the pressure in the eye exceeds normal values - usually
between 10 and 22 - causing pressure on the structures within the eye and on the optic
nerve. It is the pressure on the optic nerve that causes the majority of the damage,
"The damage actually occurs because of the relationship between the eye pressure and
the pressure within the brain because these two pressures meet at the optic nerve,"
he said. "Glaucoma is generally a chronic condition that slowly squeezes the life
out the optic nerves."
The worst part about glaucoma, he said, is that there are often no symptoms until
the eye pressure becomes extremely high, reaching into the 40s or 50s.
"Patients can't really detect the early damage because they are slowly being robbed
of their side vision," he said.
The primary treatment for glaucoma is to lower the pressure within the eye, either
through medication, laser treatments or surgery.
"Treatment will keep the disease from getting worse, but the damage is irreversible,"
he said. "You don't get that vision back, period."
Just as much of the damage done to the eye is irreversible, so is damage done to hearing.
Sensory hearing loss, or that caused by damage to the inner ear or nerves, is another
condition that shows during the later years of life, but the damage itself is done
over the course of a lifetime.
"Hearing loss is part of aging," said Dwayne Paschall, Ph.D., associate professor
of communication disorders at the Health Sciences Center. "The inner ear is very sensitive
to changes within the body so things like high blood pressure or kidney disease can
speed up the damage. However, a great deal of damage done to the ear is caused by
the things we do earlier in life such as being exposed to loud noises."
While sensory hearing loss does affect nearly 5 percent of college-aged people, the
majority of cases are still found in older Americans, with nearly 50 percent of those
over age 75 suffering from some degree of hearing loss.
"It makes a big difference in life when you start to lose your hearing, especially
as you grow older," Paschall said. "That's a time when a great deal of change is occurring
in your life. There may be a loss of independence; things may be getting more difficult.
There are more challenges to face and you have to face them with a severe limitation.
As part of trying to preserve your independence, you have to recognize and deal with
your hearing impairment."
Paschall said this can often be a difficult thing for some people to do because they
don't want to admit they have suffered hearing loss.
"They will often blame it on others by saying they mumble or don't speak clearly,"
he said. "They may even begin to isolate themselves from new situations rather than
dealing with the hearing loss. They stick to situations where the routine is familiar
and they don't really have to try to process new information. It can significantly
affect a person's quality of life and the ability to remain socially active."
Paschall said the accusations of mumbling often come because hearing loss is actually
a two-fold problem. The first part is attenuation or the actual loss of hearing; the
second part is distortion which makes what can still be heard harder to understand.
"Hearing aids were designed to help with the attenuation," he said. "They simply make
things louder. Of course, they can make things louder in very complicated ways, but
that's still really all they do. They can't do a thing to get rid of the distortion.
The distortion can be minimized with a hearing aid, but it can't be completely compensated
for. Typically, the attenuation is two-thirds of the problem, distortion is one-third,
but people notice the distortion."
Paschall said there are still people that are very resistant to the idea of using
a hearing aid, no matter how severe their hearing loss might be. That's due, in part
he said, to the old ideas about how ineffective hearing aids could be.
"Of all the people eligible to wear a hearing aid, only about 60 percent do," he said.
"For every two people who try it and like it, there's still that one person who said
it didn't help. Those people are becoming fewer, though."
Paschall said many people also still think of hearing aids as large, ill-fitting contraptions.
However, that's no longer the case, he added. Today's hearing aids come in a range
of sizes, from something about the size of a dime to the larger models designed to
fit behind the ear.
There are also a number of devices that can be used either alone or in combination
with a hearing aid to address specific situations such as going to the movies or the
theater. There are also specific products to address home needs such as amplifiers
for the telephone.
Paschall added that there is always research being undertaken to develop hearing aids
that are more effective for everyone, especially with the increase of digital technology.
However, research has also headed in new, unexpected directions.
"There has been a shift in focus in the research," he said. "A lot of the current
research is taking advantage of the genome project and is looking at possible ways
to genetically engineer ways to treat hearing loss, maybe even earlier in life. Perhaps
there are genetic ways to prevent people from being susceptible to hearing loss."
Paschall added that there is even research underway to look at implantable devices
such as cochlear implants to stabilize and compensate for severe deterioration in
the inner ear. There has also been talk of brain stem implants, however those are
years away, he said.
"If we can figure out how the brain is encoding the message and how it wants to receive
that input, we can make major strides in helping hearing loss," he said.
Wear, Tear and Age
Hearing loss isn't the only condition for which implants are being developed. After
many years of research, doctors can now implant a variety of prosthetic joints to
replace their human counterparts as the joints become ravaged by arthritis.
Arthritis, or more correctly osteoarthritis, can become debilitating, often severely
limiting a patient's quality of life.
"The pain often becomes so severe that it limits their daily activities," said James
Gutheil, M.D., an orthopaedic surgery resident at the Health Sciences Center. "When
it becomes a quality of life issue, it becomes time to consider surgery."
Although osteoarthritis can affect any joint in the body, it is most commonly seen
in the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, hands and the spine, said William Ratnoff,
M.D., chief of the division of rheumatology in the Department of Internal Medicine
at the Health Sciences Center.
"If you look at x-rays of the spines of people over the age of 50, everyone will have
some evidence of arthritis in their spine," he said. "However, not everyone has pain."
Why everyone does not feel the effects of the deterioration of their joints is not
"We don't know the cause of arthritis," Gutheil said. "It's thought to be the result
of overuse of the joint and aging. It doesn't bother everybody, though. Some people
tolerate pain better and some just don't consider it a major problem."
Osteoarthritis is typically caused by the deterioration of the cartilage within a
joint, Gutheil said. The cartilage provides cushioning for the joint as it moves.
When this tissue is worn away, pain is caused as bones come into direct contact with
Ratnoff added it is often easier for patients to think of osteoarthritis as simply
being caused by wear and tear, but that there are often a variety of complex biochemical
changes and other factors involved as well.
"There is substantial evidence that being obese will predispose you to develop osteoarthritis
of the knees, especially in women," he said. "The knees are also susceptible to gravitational
stresses which can be worsened by the amount of load put on the knees."
For those who do suffer the pain of arthritis, there are many treatment options available,
from physical therapy and exercise to total joint replacement.
"Physical therapy can be very beneficial," Ratnoff said. "It can be beneficial in
diminishing pain, it can increase the stability of the gait and there's some evidence
that it can slow the progression of the arthritis."
Physical therapy and exercise also can be beneficial because it provides the patient
with something they can do at home to help manage their arthritis.
"Many patients have the idea that they can go to physical therapy one time and be
cured," Ratnoff said. "That's simply not the case. The patient should be learning
exercises that can be done at home. If you don't continue the exercises, you don't
get the benefits."
Often patients will think lessening the load on their joints will make the pain better
so they will begin to put themselves into a wheelchair. This, however, can actually
make the condition worse.
"They become even less active and their symptoms will actually get worse," Ratnoff
said. "It can be a very damaging thing to do. Of course, there are some exceptions.
For patients who are severely limited in the distance they can walk or those who suffer
from additional conditions, a wheelchair may be necessary."
For those patients whose pain becomes so severe they feel as though they can't function,
joint replacement may be necessary, but only after other treatments such as fluid
injections in the joint have been tried. The fluid injections are designed to replace
the lubrication provided by the cartilage.
"Joint replacement has been an option for many years," Gutheil said. "However, it
is the option of last resort. When a patient can't take the pain anymore or it interferes
with their daily life, it becomes time for surgery."
Although surgery for each joint varies greatly, all involve large incisions with highly
invasive procedures. However, the pain relief for most patients can be evident within
only a few days.
"It takes about one year before the person is completely back to normal," Gutheil
said. "But, by the time the person leaves the hospital, usually several days after
surgery, they already notice significant reduction in their pain."
Although there are treatments for these conditions, they have varying degrees of success.
That's why it's so important to continue research to find better alternatives, Schiffer
said. Many patients who battle these conditions often feel there is no hope and it
may be necessary for medical science to prove them wrong.
"These are all very painful diseases in their own ways," Schiffer said. "They make
many patients feel like they've outlived their usefulness because they can't function
on their own. They also begin to feel deprived of so many of the things they worked
so hard to have. It is our job as physicians to educate them about treatments and
to assure them there is hope."
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"I vividly remember visiting mother and seeing elderly people just lined up in the
hallway, sitting there, many of them talking to themselves. I remember walking into
mother's room and seeing her sitting there, alone. The anger our family felt when
one of the doctors told my sister ‘why should I treat a fungus infection on her toes
because she is going to die anyway.' Constantly hearing from the nursing home staff,
‘sorry, you have to understand we are understaffed.' The constant worrying that she
was not getting the proper care she deserved."
Elena Luna's concern for her mother, Teresa, who suffered from dementia for more than
10 years, is a story of thousands of Americans across the country. In Teresa's case,
her family moved her from various nursing homes across different states in hopes of
finding one that had properly trained staff and provided the best health care for
their elderly residents. Instead, in many situations they found a lack of quality
of care given by several facilities.
The nation is experiencing a boom in the elderly population and with this growth come
the questions of how the elderly are treated in all areas of health care, especially
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls it the Longevity Revolution.
Fifty-five million people in the U.S. are over 55 years of age and 34 million are
over 65 years old. In the next 10 years, 75 million baby boomers will reach the age
With the graying of America comes the growing demand on the public health system and
on medical and social services. The CDC says that almost one-third of the total U.S.
health care expenditures, or $300 billion each year, are for older adults. It is estimated
that by the year 2025 the country will need at least 31,000 geriatricians, compared
to the 1,000 practicing today. Now there are more than 70,000 centenarians; by 2006
there will be 100,000 and by 2025 there will be 2 million.
The shortage of health care professionals with specific training in geriatric care
is an issue in the United States. Out of the 125 medical schools, only three have
geriatric departments and only 14 require a course in geriatrics.
To address this shortage, the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center established
the Institute for Healthy Aging. Glen Provost, vice president for health policy and
public affairs at the Health Sciences Center, says the institute will focus on research
and education in all areas of the geriatric field.
"At the Health Sciences Center, our business is educating health care professionals.
To do our jobs well we need to be relevant to the patient base that our health professionals
will encounter in their practices. That being the case, it only makes sense, in view
of the rapidly growing elderly population, that we have health professionals educated
on the needs and concerns of the elderly."
The Health Sciences Center also has joined forces with the Sears Methodist Retirement
System Inc. to develop a state-of-the-art teaching nursing home - the Mildred and
Shirley L. Garrison Geriatric Education and Care Center.
The Garrison Center is a 72,000 square-foot nursing home facility located on the Texas
Tech campus across from the Health Sciences Center in Lubbock. It includes antique
furniture, outdoor gardens, areas where residents can cook meals if they wish and
even an old-fashioned soda shop. Therapies such as art therapy, music therapy, craft
projects, pet therapy and cooking and gardening are provided to make the residents
feel more at home.
It features a five-wing design which houses 120 beds of shared accommodations. In
two wings there are 30 beds, each for traditional nursing care. The other wings include
three different units divided into three specialized levels of dementia care. Ken
Carpenter, executive director of the Garrison Center, said the design is necessary
in order to provide the best individual care.
"A person in his or her first stages of dementia will have different needs in health
and personal care than a person in the next or even final stages of the disease,"
Luna agreed. "I remember early on my mother forgetting little things and then with
time they escalated. She never left the house without applying her face powder and
fixing her hair. At one point she didn't want to take a bath, let alone fix her hair.
Towards the end she was agitated easily. And even in the final stages she was not
the mother we all remembered."
Merritt says an assessment will be done on each resident on a regular basis in order
to determine where each individual should reside in the facility. "Our team, which
consists of the medical doctor, the nurses, social worker, activity director and the
entire interdisciplinary team, evaluates the person, sits down and talks about where
that individual is in their care and whether or not they need to be moved to another
area because their conditions and needs change."
Carpenter added, "This is high stress, very demanding work. It requires certain kinds
of people to be able to deal with our residents, especially dementia because their
confusion leads to behaviors that can be quite challenging to some of the staff. Some
people can't do that day after day."
Sears Methodist is responsible for the financing, operation and management costs associated
with the center. The Garrison Center has a payroll of about $2.7 million and employs
about 100 people. The Health Sciences Center's students observe geriatric care and
conduct research at the facility.
Provost says the Health Sciences Center recognizes the best way to train health professionals
is to expose them to real people with real health problems. "One way we have done
that traditionally is by working with teaching hospitals," said Provost. "At Texas
Tech we are taking that same successful model and applying it to our learning about
how to work with elderly patients. That was our inspiration for building a teaching
nursing home on the Texas Tech campus in Lubbock."
Texas Tech looked for an organization with a recognized reputation of excellence in
all phases of long-term care, especially Alzheimer's disease care. Pearl Merritt,
senior vice president of operations for Sears Methodist, said the relationship with
Texas Tech is a perfect fit because of mutual goals.
"We had mutual philosophies and our mission is along the same lines. Our philosophy,
our commitment, is to provide services in an environment to help others have a meaningful
quality of life," said Merritt.
She said she hopes this collaboration brings about a change in the image of a long-term
care facility. "We try to focus on the abilities rather than the inabilities of our
residents. We believe this is a place for people to live, and we want the most enriching
manner for each resident. We have so many people that thrive after they have come
into our facility. We individualize their care; we look at them as a person. And we
want them to be as self-reliant and independent as they possibly can be."
Carpenter said the Garrison Center is not just an academic situation. "All of these
disciplines working together to train new health care professionals, to find better
interventions and ultimately work together to find some permanent solutions, perhaps
even a cure is what this is all about," said Carpenter. "It requires everybody working
Provost said all disciplines are involved in the care of a resident, therefore they
should be in a setting that offers this kind of interdisciplinary education. "It is
important that the medical students know the role of nursing students or that a pharmacy
student be aware of what the allied health student's role is as well. They are all
dependent upon one another. We want to create a culture that we think will offer a
good working relationship between the disciplines after they are out of school."
Students from all schools - medicine, pharmacy, allied health and nursing - will have
the opportunity to train together in this environment. Students can watch through
an observation window to observe behaviors and interactions of the residents without
the residents seeing them.
The Garrison Center also is equipped with distance learning, two exam rooms, one primarily
for the Department of Neuropsychiatry to conduct interviews with residents that may
have dementia and the other for a traditional exam room for physical assessments.
Alexia Green, Ph.D., dean of the School of Nursing at the Health Sciences Center,
said the Garrison Center is an ideal model for training all health professionals in
a long-term care setting. "In our case, it will expose nurses to long-term care in
a positive setting that assures its' clients of quality care. And hopefully this may
lead to an interest in staying in the field."
Green said that not only will all students come away with the best education in geriatrics,
but they will have a hands-on education when it comes to the personal side of health
care. "The spiritual aspect of the humane side of care is important because it provides
a sense of quality in their life. Talking to them and making sure they have the right
social support is critical to someone who may go into a facility like this."
David R. Smith, M.D., chancellor of the Texas Tech University System, said this is
a national statement. "This is a response by Texas Tech to develop the best in health
education for all of our students. "We are in the healing arts," said Smith. "This
is not just about expanding the time of life, but the quality of life."
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The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently approved two new degree programs
in the School of Allied Health at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, a
master of science in molecular pathology (MSMP) and doctor of science in physical
The MSMP focuses molecular testing, in all its forms, is the fastest-growing discipline
in the modern clinical laboratory. Developments in the past two decades have led to
the clinical diagnostic laboratory entering a new phase of development and expansion.
For the first time in the history of the diagnostic laboratory, molecular pathology
is extending the range of information available to physicians, research scientists
and other health professions. The master's degree is a one-year intensive program
that requires a bachelor's degree to enter.
Paul Brooke, Ph.D., dean of the School of Allied Health, said, "We are very excited
by the approval of this master's degree program. The cutting edge technology of molecular
diagnostics which this program will bring to Texas Tech will add considerably to our
ability to develop clinical scientists whose knowledge and skills will benefit patients
throughout our region."
The ScDPT program gives licensed physical therapists the opportunity to pursue advanced
education that emphasizes clinical management of patients with musculoskeletal dysfunctions.
The program will equip physical therapists with the advanced skill set that is increasingly
essential for successful practice in rural West Texas. This program will provide therapists
with the opportunity to develop the advanced knowledge base, clinical skills, and
professional competencies needed for evaluation and treatment of their patients. In
addition, the program will heighten therapists' ability to successfully manage the
clinical services located in isolated practice settings in rural communities.
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Texas Tech University's new Masked Rider is breaking ground with experiences never
before seen in her predecessors. Jessica Marie Melvin, a graduate physical therapy
major from Pierre, S.D., is the first graduate student and the first Texas Tech University
Health Sciences Center student to hold the Masked Rider reins. Melvin accepted her
new position April 19 at the university's annual Transfer of Reins ceremony.
The Masked Rider Committee chose Melvin from a field of four finalists. One man and
three women passed a written examination and equestrian audition to make the final
cut. The committee used an interview process to determine the best candidate.
Alvin Davis, a Texas Tech animal science alumnus who has served on the Masked Rider
Committee since 1987, said he is delighted with the committee's final choice. "Jessica
has incredible potential to serve the university in a first-class fashion," Davis
said. "Based on her riding ability, personality and demeanor, she will carry on the
Masked Rider tradition well. She certainly has the background and enthusiasm for the
Melvin said her experience with horses has been a life-long process, as her family
has been in the horse business and active on the rodeo and horse racing circuit for
generations. "As a little girl, I competed in play days on my ponies Zippo and Taffy,
earning many awards and gaining the confidence, experience and love for competition
that would carry me through the following years," Melvin said.
Melvin attended Texas Tech University from August 1998 to May 2001, completing the
pre-requisite work necessary to apply to work on her master's degree in physical therapy
at the health sciences center. Melvin expects to finish that degree in May 2004.
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LUBBOCK - For days after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington,
D.C., millions of Americans stayed glued to their TV sets, struggling to make sense
of what they saw. For one Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center student, those
visions inspired a work of art.
Kate Baldocchi, a first-year audiology graduate student in the Department of Communication
Disorders, designed a unique Double T featuring an American flag background.
"I just saw the design in my head," Baldocchi said. "I had been watching the news
and it just came to me. Drawing is therapeutic for me. I always draw when I'm emotionally
Baldocchi's design has been seen all around the Health Sciences Center on lapel pins
and car decals that are being sold to raise money for scholarships.
Baldocchi said she was surprised the drawing ever became more than just a form of
self-expression. "I didn't expect for anything to come of it," she said. "But, it's
been really fun to see how excited everyone has become. Everyone has been really supportive.
I'm very glad my design will be able to help the Health Sciences Center raise money
for the students."
The Health Sciences Center honored Baldocchi at the Student Senate's annual awards
and installation banquet in April. A scholarship was created in honor of Baldocchi,
a first-year audiology graduate student in the Department of Communication Disorders,
in the School of Allied Health. David R. Smith, M.D., interim chancellor of the Texas
Tech University System and president of the Health Sciences Center, and Paul Brooke,
Ph.D., dean of the School of Allied Health, announced that the scholarship was named
in her honor.
To date, sales of the pin and sticker have raised more than $43,000 for scholarships.
Her design has even shown up on the lapels of Rep. Larry Combest and Pres. George
W. Bush. Baldocchi said she is excited that her form of self-expression is benefiting
"I'm very glad my design will be able to help the Health Sciences Center raise money
for students," she said.
Brooke said it is important to recognize the contributions students like Baldocchi
make to the university. "We are thrilled to honor Kate in this way," he said. "This
is just one of the many ways that she has shown her commitment to service as a student
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Donna Scott-Tilley, R.N., M.S.N., Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Nursing
at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, has been selected to participate
in the 2002 Leadership Texas program.
Leadership Texas, a program founded by the Foundation for Women's Resources, is in
its 20th year of providing Texas women leaders with essential information, an awareness
of ongoing changes, sharpened skills and the initiative, when necessary, to rewrite
The women selected for Leadership Texas are leaders in their communities and professions.
Participants attend five three-day sessions throughout the year. Each day of the session
is dedicated to interactive skills enhancement and leadership concepts expansion.
Chris Esperat, R.N., F.N.P., Ph.D., associate dean for practice and research in the
School of Nursing at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center has been appointed
to the National Advisory Council on Nurse Education and Practice of the Health Resources
and Service Administration (HRSA) for a four-year term ending Jan. 31, 2005.
The National Advisory Council makes recommendations to the Secretary of Health and
Human Services and Congress on policy matters relating to the nurse supply, education
and practice improvement. It also provides strategic directions to enhance the health
of the public through the development of the nursing work force.
Esperat brings her extensive background in research, practice and grant funding to
the National Advisory Council. She will address such topics as improving the distribution
and utilization of nurses to meet the health needs of the nation, the development
and dissemination of improved models of organization, financing and delivery of nursing
services and the promotion of interdisciplinary approaches to the delivery of health
services particularly in the context of public health and primary care.
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