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Answers to addiction: Program uses questions to help find a solution

Tony Sanchez addresses a group in Athens planning a symposium on recovery from substance abuse.

Tony Sanchez addresses a group in Athens planning a symposium on recovery from substance abuse.

Tony Sanchez has been drug-free and alcohol-free for more than a decade.

But until age 35 he smoked marijuana, free-based crack cocaine and drank alcohol on more than a regular basis. His habits and lifestyle contributed to an armed robbery conviction that landed him in prison for three years, as well as multiple parole violations that repeatedly put him back behind bars.

Today, it has been more than 13 years since he stood up among a group of strangers and introduced himself as an addict.

Sanchez credits his recovery both to the 12-step program of  Narcotics Anonymous (NA) — a well-known group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) — and to a lesser-known method that relies on motivational interviewing.  He encountered this alternative in jail when a social worker introduced him to it.

Motivational interviewing is a way of asking people questions so they come up with their own conclusions about themselves. They are not told what to call themselves (e.g., addict, alcoholic) or even whether they need help. They learn to assess, in their own terms, what changes they’d like to make in their lives.

The motivational technique resonated with Sanchez, who says it empowers people to find the power to change within themselves.

Now as the project manager at the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse and the co-founder and president of PLR Athens, a peer-led recovery center, Sanchez has a mission to help others see that they can recover from overuse of alcohol or drugs.

 

Trying whatever works

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to beating addiction. Fortunately, multiple pathways to recovery are available here in Georgia, and coordination among them is improving.  The Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, the Georgia Mental Health Consumer Network, and the Georgia Parent Support Network have teamed up to showcase the range of recovery resources available.

YouTube Preview ImageIn 2015, these groups will host nine recovery symposia across the state — in Athens, Augusta, Savannah, Thomasville, Demorest, Dublin, Columbus, and Atlanta.  Dates, times, and locations will be posted on the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse website as they are finalized.

People in Athens have a variety of places to go for help. There are roughly 18 AA meetings and four NA meetings in Athens every day. Attendance is free, although donations are accepted.

In these meetings, people from all walks of life introduce themselves to the group as alcoholics or addicts, without having to give their full names.  While many people respond well to the 12-step method, others are not comfortable with the spiritual element of the program (though it is nonsectarian). And some are uneasy with labeling themselves.

Larry Walton, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker in Athens, says some people may benefit from choosing to refer to themselves as addicts, but it’s not a label that society should place on them.

Walton is co-founder of Recovery Café in Athens. This counseling and treatment center encourages people to move at their own pace toward recovery, which may or may not include a 12-step program.

Walton and colleagues serve as a sounding board for individual clients, using motivational interviewing to help people find their own steps to freedom from drugs and/or alcohol.

 

The law gives a nudge

Sanchez and his partners at PLR Athens also believe there are many ways to overcome addiction.  The name PLR stands for “peer-led recovery,” and it’s a free drop-in center, open Mondays and Wednesdays from 1 to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 to 10 a.m.  There are no doctors, clinicians, or therapists in the organization, only people who have been through recovery and who can help others find their way.

cover“Words are extremely powerful,” says Sanchez, “and one of the biggest barriers to people getting treatment is stigma.”

Sanchez’s long-term recovery began while he was incarcerated, when he worried about transitioning back into civil society. How would he stay sober?

It’s a common problem.  The Georgia Department of Corrections says that up to 80 percent of offenders have substance abuse issues.

While Sanchez found his turning point in jail, not everyone reaches that point voluntarily.  The majority of Walton’s clients come to Recovery Cafe because a judge has ordered them to get treatment for drug or alcohol problems.  “The court system doesn’t necessarily emphasize personal choice,” Walton says.

It is a mistake to think that addiction is confined to certain socioeconomic levels.

“Addiction doesn’t have any boundaries, skin color, it doesn’t care where you’re from. When it’s your turn, it’s your turn,” says Sanchez.

Public and private agencies hope that their 2015 symposia will help coordinate community care, reduce the stigma associated with addiction so that more people will seek care, and reduce the number of people incarcerated for crimes related to drugs and alcohol.

Sanchez works tirelessly to raise awareness about people making their way toward recovery.

“We’re really quick to televise the travesties of addiction, but nobody wants to talk about the successes.  That’s why I speak so loudly about it.  We need to know that recovery is real.”

 

Ansley Stewart is pursuing her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Georgia.  She is a freelance writer, musician, and also works full time at UGA.  

 

 

Health center promotes nutrition the natural way — with its own farm

The farm at Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta went into full production beginning in July of this year.

The farm at Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta went into full production in July.

Dr. William Warren had a vision for what an almost empty one-acre plot of land could be.

The Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta was relocating to the property, and the two pecan trees on the land held the promise that the soil was fertile enough to sustain more life.

Good Samaritan Health Center provides health care to uninsured, low-income people. When the practice moved to its current Atlanta location, Dr. Warren, the founder and CEO, knew that the new site offered the opportunity to develop a more holistic approach to the health of his patients.

The inspiration to start a farm on the grounds of the health center came from wanting to integrate several goals. Dr. Warren and his colleagues wanted to make a direct tie between their medical practice and healthy, accessible food to emphasize the importance of nutrition on overall health and well-being.

Dr. William Warren

Dr. William Warren

They were also interested in introducing agriculture to an urban area and in making fresh produce available in the “food desert” in which they are located. (A food desert is an area where fresh, nutritious food is generally not available, mostly because there are no stores that stock it.)

“So we were like, ‘OK, how can we tackle all these things?’ ” said Dr. Warren.

The answer was to partner with the Southeastern Horticultural Society and begin a one-acre organic farm. The farm went into full production beginning in July of this year, offering vegetables of all kinds to patients.

“And so what we do is take some of the produce from this garden and use it in teaching demonstrations for our patients so they can learn how to cook food, prepare food and make it tasty, nutritious, as well as healthy,” said Dr. Warren.

“And then we also use some of it in our FoodRx program, a food prescription program for those people who live in this food desert and once a week come and pick up five to 10 pounds of food for themselves and for their family.”

The FoodRx program is specifically aimed at patients of Good Samaritan who are obese or overweight and suffer from major chronic illnesses such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Dr. Warren teams up with the resident nutritionist, Jerlyn Jones, to educate patients on how healthy eating can improve or prevent many of their health issues.

 

Back to the basics

There are similar FoodRx programs throughout the country. And as in many such food prescription initiatives, patients who would benefit from eating more fresh fruits and vegetables are identified by physicians at Good Samaritan, and they are then “prescribed” vouchers that they can present in exchange for produce from the Good Sam garden.

Under the leadership of Josh Fuder, a farmer, everything in the garden is grown organically.

This farm is financially feasible through a program called Community Supported Agriculture. Members of the CSA buy produce in full shares or half-shares directly from the Good Samaritan Farm. Once a week, they receive their share of vegetables, but what they give in return is more than just money.

Patients can take part in cooking demonstrations and learn lessons on nutrition in the kitchen at Good Sam.

Patients can take part in cooking demonstrations in the kitchen at Good Sam.

“You’re not only buying your vegetables for the week, but you’re also giving back to a program that we think is really, really important in the community,” said Katherine Davis, the assistant director of development for Good Samaritan in Atlanta. “Our CSA has a mission behind it, instead of just going and picking up vegetables. [The CSA members] feel like they have a part in getting our neighbors healthy and providing healthy food and nutrition.”

This year, the farm harvested only vegetables, but next year more is expected, including many fruits, herbs, and honey from their beehives. The vegetables grown are split between patients, members of their CSA and cooking demonstrations.

“And so what we do is take some of the produce from this garden and use it in teaching demonstrations for our patients so they can learn how to cook food, prepare food and make it tasty, nutritious, as well as healthy,” said Warren.

“We are targeting the most vulnerable population,” said Aisha Henry, whose job as the health education coordinator is to reach out and involve the people who need their programming at Good Samaritan the most.

Thanks to her work, students from the Boys and Girls Club just a few blocks away visit once a week as a part of their after-school enrichment program. They come to the farm to learn a little bit about farming and to spend time outside. They also take part in cooking demonstrations and learn lessons on nutrition. Senior citizens from the nearby Meals on Wheels Neighborhood Senior Citizens also come by weekly to learn about healthy cooking and eating.

 

A learning experience

The FoodRx program provides patients with about five to eight pounds of produce each week, at the steeply discounted price of $5 per week. Jones teaches patients how to cook and eat the vegetables, as well as the ins and outs of leading a healthy lifestyle and eating well.

“This is a place where patients can definitely try new vegetables, try new foods, see that they can cook and prepare foods, and it’s healthy, affordable and delicious,” said Jones. “So they definitely see that that is possible without having very expensive equipment. They just need basic cookware. And so, in the end we’re hoping that those techniques that they’re using can carry over to what they’re cooking at home, for their families.”

The Food Rx program provides patients with about five to eight pounds of produce each week.

The Food Rx program provides patients with about five to eight pounds of produce each week.

That’s what the FoodRx program provided for Lolita Anderson, who was a patient in the program’s inaugural year. By keeping a food diary, participating in the cooking demonstrations, learning to practice portion control and gaining access to fresh, healthy food through the FoodRx program, Anderson has managed to lose weight and reduce her high blood pressure with minimal use of medications. She says she looks forward to weaning herself off medicines as her health improves.

Anderson has come to understand what her body does and doesn’t need, and with increased access to a healthy alternative, her new attitude has made all the difference.

“In our community, fried chicken and corn bread is the thing, but it does not have to be the norm,” Anderson said.

As a mother of two, Anderson is now able to better provide healthy meals for her whole family and to live her life to the fullest.

“You feel like a champion,” she said. “You feel disciplined and you can just move on to the next phase of what you’ve got going on in your life, instead of focusing on your weight.”

 

 

Jodi Cash is a freelance writer and editor based in Athens, GA. As a co-founder and editor in chief of The Seed & Plate, she has a particular interest in how agriculture and food intersect with health and culture in the South. 

Voices from the front lines: How nurses feel about Ebola

Dr. Kent Brantly is congratulated by Emory University Hospital nurses and staff as he is discharged after receiving treatment for Ebola.

Dr. Kent Brantly is congratulated by Emory University Hospital nurses and staff as he is discharged in August after receiving treatment for Ebola. Photo credit: Samaritan’s Purse

When the first Ebola patient to be treated in the United States was headed for Emory University Hospital this past summer, two of the hospital’s nurses canceled their vacations to be there.

That’s how registered nurse Barbara Ribner described the dedication of the Emory nurses who deal with Ebola. Her husband, Dr. Bruce Ribner, is the medical director of the Serious Communicable Diseases Unit, which has successfully cared for four patients with Ebola.

Nurses are on the front lines of treating such deadly diseases, and have been in the forefront of the news surrounding Ebola in the U.S. Two nurses in Texas contracted the disease from a Liberian man who eventually died, and an American nurse returning from West Africa was subject to a controversial quarantine in New Jersey and Maine.

GHN talked to several Georgia nurses — some who work at Emory and some who work elsewhere — about caring for Ebola patients. The viral disease, originally identified in West Africa in the 1970s, has killed more than 5,000 people there this year, and for the first time has turned up in a few places outside Africa.

Emory nurses who cared for the Ebola patients discussed the complexity of the medical procedures at a recent conference. And at the same time, they said it was rewarding beyond their expectations.

“It’s a different feeling, because there’s this barrier between you [the nurse] and the patient,” said one nurse who preferred not to be identified. “You cannot touch your patient” to support them or help them understand that the staff is doing everything possible, the nurse said.

President Obama hugs Dallas nurse Nina Pham after she underwent successful treatment for Ebola.

President Obama hugs Dallas nurse Nina Pham after she underwent successful treatment for Ebola.

People with Ebola symptoms are contagious, and the sicker they are, the more risk of contagion they pose to others.

There is no “one size fits all,” explained another infectious disease trained Emory nurse who preferred to remain anonymous. Putting on the personal protective gear took 38 steps, while removing it took 50. These highly specialized nurses counted each step while another trained nurse watched every move.

Day after day and week after week, they could not make a misstep even once during this demanding process.

“Not everyone who went through our rigorous training passed,” said one of the nurses. Each nurse working with Ebola patients had to be 100 percent detail-oriented by following the highly complex procedures every time one of them entered or left the patient’s room.

The fear came not from getting the infectious disease, explained one Emory nurse, but “we were more afraid of giving the virus to someone else.” And for that reason, each nurse was fastidious about every procedure.

The nursing education coordinator for Emory Healthcare, Kelly Shelby, said that depending on when they started nursing, “nurses were probably frightened by other types of infectious diseases as well.” For some it might have been polio, while others feared SARS and AIDS.

 

Taking the danger seriously

 

“I think there is fear [of Ebola] because it’s a scary disease,” said Lorine Spencer, a nurse and a  CDC public health adviser. Fear of the unknown is a problem.

CDC workers and prepare to enter an Ebola treatment unit in West Africa.

CDC workers and Doctors Without Borders personnel  prepare to enter an Ebola treatment unit in West Africa.

“We are getting evidence-based, accurate information out there,” Spencer said. “We continue to learn from those that have been to West Africa to treat patients and returned safely.”

Rebecca Wheeler, an RN and past president of the Georgia Nurses Association, told GHN that “we [nurses] must seek out the latest information and evidence-based practices to respond to any emergency or infectious disease outbreak.”

Communication, training and equipment are critical. The U.S. is not accustomed to managing Ebola, so information and strategies will evolve as more experience with the disease is gained, said Wheeler.

Valdosta nurse Jody Leonard added, “The public has a much greater risk of dying from influenza [than from Ebola], so please, just get your flu shot.” When discussing the Ebola problem with family members, Leonard reminded them that the risk of contracting Ebola in the U.S. is extremely low. Not so for the flu.

 

Fear and uncertainty

 

 

The scientific information about Ebola has not changed. Experts have long known that infected people are not contagious until they have developed symptoms. That means the disease, though it poses a serious risk to people who care for ill patients, is not easily spread in casual settings.

But public fears about the disease have waxed and waned, reaching a peak last month after several Ebola diagnoses in the United States in quick succession.

Dr. Kent Brantly appears with Emory physicians, nurses and staff as he speaks to the media.

Dr. Kent Brantly appears with Emory physicians, nurses and staff as he speaks to the media.

Americans are both divided and uncertain about the threat posed by the illness, according to a recent Washington Post article. A Washington Post-ABC poll showed that just 24 percent of Republicans believed the federal government was doing all it could reasonably do to stop the disease. In contrast, 50 percent of Democrats believed the government was doing enough. But even 50 percent is not a ringing vote of confidence.

“The key is for the front line [health care providers] to have accurate information from reliable sources like the CDC. But they also need training and appropriate equipment,” said Wheeler.

Nurses and other members of health care teams need to speak up when they feel they are getting the things they need, and they must be listened to, Wheeler said.

In early October, National Nurses United stepped up the call for U.S. hospitals to immediately upgrade emergency preparations for Ebola. NNU is calling for all hospitals to immediately implement a full emergency preparedness plan for Ebola or other disease outbreaks.

Georgia health officials have not yet revealed the hospitals that are being prepared to treat Ebola patients. But infectious disease training remains ongoing for nurses and other medical professionals, as it has for years.

 

Quarantining nurses: Is it realistic?

 

October was a scary month of Ebola headlines. Thomas Eric Duncan, recently arrived from Liberia, died of the disease in a Dallas hospital. Then two nurses who had treated him were found to be infected with the virus. Then a New York doctor who had recently treated Ebola patients in Africa was diagnosed with the disease, amid media reports that he had roamed all over the Big Apple just before falling ill.

All three of those health care professionals were successfully treated — one at Emory — and all fully recovered. But officials around the country began to talk about not just isolating Ebola patients, but quarantining people who might have the disease.

When nurse Kaci Hickox returned to the United States in October after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, she was placed in quarantine by New Jersey and then by Maine.

Hickox, insisting she did not have Ebola, objected to the quarantines. In Maine, she took the matter to court. A judged ruled there were insufficient grounds for quarantine, saying Hickox should simply submit to direct active monitoring. She did, and eventually was confirmed as not infected with the virus.

An Ebola isolation tent in Newark, N.J., for Kaci Hickox

An Ebola isolation tent in Newark, N.J., set up for Kaci Hickox

After the court fight, Hickox said, “We’ll only win this battle as we continue this discussion, as we gain a better collective understanding about Ebola and public health, and as we overcome fear . . .”

The American Nurses Association opposes the mandatory quarantine of health care professionals who return to the United States from the Ebola-ravaged areas of West Africa.

On Oct. 27, Gov. Nathan Deal announced that Georgia plans to increase Ebola monitoring for all people arriving from affected countries. His directive also included the possibility of quarantines, but none have been implemented.

An open letter to Georgia’s nurses (co-authored by Public Health chief Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald and Carole Jakeway, a Public Health Department official), called for vigilance in recognizing early symptoms of Ebola. “As nurses, this is the type of situation we have been trained for,” the letter reads, while discussing the potential for anxiety and stress among Georgia’s nursing personnel.

Nurses are a good source of information about this potentially deadly disease, said Texas Nurses Association Executive Director Cindy Zolnierek.

“Also, I have advice for a concerned public: Talk to a nurse. Very likely, you have nurses in your own family or as friends,’’ she said in a statement.

“Nurses are a great resource for information and a calm voice of reason. We hope you care for nurses as much as they work to care for you.”

 

Judi Kanne, a registered nurse and freelance writer, combines her nursing and journalism backgrounds to write about public health. She lives in Atlanta.

 

Chickens do their part in school program on healthy eating

The chickens at Clarke Middle School serve as a basic introduction to agricultural animals.

The chickens at Clarke Middle serve as a basic introduction to agricultural animals.

Two Thursdays each month, the family and consumer sciences classroom at Clarke Middle School in Athens buzzes with conversations about gardening, recycling, mindful eating, and how families can reduce their carbon footprints.

Each student has an idea about what can or should be done. The sound of their excited young voices mingling together leads a visitor to the room.

Just outside the classroom there’s a chicken coop, which houses two roosters and three hens.

The classroom group, coordinated by family and consumer sciences teacher Hope Zimmerman and agricultural sciences teacher Debra Mitchell, calls itself the Sustainability Corps.

It’s an offshoot of the school garden program, which has grown rapidly since Mitchell started it in 2012.

Mitchell originally came to the school as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer. She registered the Clarke Middle School garden with the Edible Schoolyard project, which was started by chef Alice Waters and fosters healthy relationships between children and the food they eat by teaching in a school garden.

Edible Schoolyard currently has 3,797 registered garden classrooms and 476 kitchen classrooms worldwide.

It fits into the nationwide movement to encourage healthier eating, especially among children.

Farm to School, for example, is an initiative that emphasizes not only buying food from local growers, but also teaching children to raise their own vegetables in school gardens. The Georgia effort is led by Georgia Organics, a nonprofit group that promotes Georgia farms and locally grown food.

 

Cooking on wheels

 

Americans eat a varied diet, and crops are seasonal, so schools can’t rely solely on locally produced food. But in a major agricultural state such as Georgia, such food is often available. And Farm to School helps teach urban and suburban kids how important farming continues to be to our state.

The garden fits into Edible Schoolyard’s “kitchen garden” category because it grows produce that is cooked by Zimmerman’s students and is occasionally served at the cafeteria salad bar.

IMG_0594

Debra Mitchell tends to the garden at Clarke Middle School.

Mitchell and her students sell extra produce to shoppers at the West Broad Farmers’ Market, right down the street from the middle school. Mitchell and Zimmerman also hope to launch a student-run restaurant. This summer they brought in local chefs to work with students.

“It’s kind of funny,’’ said Mitchell. “It’s just serendipitous that all these people, all at once and all of these organizations, everybody’s pulling together and saying, ‘hey, well let’s just do it then.’”

School administrators and county nutrition officials actively support the program.

Zimmerman has a full kitchen set up in her classroom, but Mitchell works from a wheeled cart provided by the school. She has made pesto from herbs grown in the garden, cooked eggs laid by the school’s chickens and prepared fried green tomatoes and green beans, all on her mobile cooktop.

Mitchell and Zimmerman say that access to the garden and to fresh eggs have made students more willing to try new things.

Students who are more reserved in a traditional classroom setting gain confidence in the garden as well as the kitchen, get their hands dirty, and become more adventurous, said Zimmerman.

 

Poultry in action

 

The entire program continues to expand, with the chicken coop being one addition. All five of the chickens came to Clarke Middle by way of Hilsman Middle School in Athens.

Having the chicken coop right outside their classrooms allows Mitchell and Zimmerman to teach sustainability and mindful eating in a different way.

The chickens serve as a basic introduction to agricultural animals. Some students have never had any previous experience with livestock. Before they interacted with the little flock of egg producers, many of the children had rarely, if ever, asked questions about where their own food comes from.

Though their eggs are on the menu, the chickens themselves are not.

The students “always say, ‘You’re not gonna eat them, are you?’ and I’ll say ‘Nooooo.’ ’’ Mitchell said. “But then, it’ll be like, ‘but you do know that’s where your Chick-fil-A sandwich came from!’ ”

While the students are fond of the chickens, sometimes their excitement gets the better of them. They need regular reminders not to chase the skittish birds.

“I always tell them, ‘We’ve got to respect the chickens! They’re terrified of us!’ ” Zimmerman said.

Kids in Sustainability Corps gain knowledge and confidence from participating, and Mitchell and Zimmerman hope it continues to expand. People who would like to become involved can buy Clarke Middle School produce at the West Broad Farmers’ Market, volunteer in the garden, and — soon — eat at the student-run restaurant.

Visit Clarke Middle’s Edible Schoolyard page, Athens Farm to School on Facebook, or athensfarmtoschool.org for more information.

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Lauren Schumacker is pursuing her master’s in health and medical journalism at the University of Georgia. She also holds a certificate in culinary arts and enjoys writing about all things food-related.

Saving soldiers’ limbs: UGA researchers see promise in ‘bone putty’

U.S. Marines carry a wounded comrade for medical treatment in Iraq.

U.S. Marines carry a wounded comrade for treatment  during the  Iraq War.

War is hell on the bones of warriors. And when the long bones of the arms or legs are so badly broken that they can’t heal on their own, amputation is sometimes the only option.

But University of Georgia researchers and colleagues from other universities have developed a jelly-like substance that may help catastrophic breaks knit together. Stem cells are the key ingredient in what the scientists call “bone putty.”

Catastrophic arm or leg injuries are the No. 1 reason why U.S. troops have extended hospital stays, says Steven Stice, director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center at UGA.  And it’s all too common for a service member with a so-called “non-union” break to lose the limb.

In 2008, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency issued a call to duty for scientists: come up with a bone-healing substance for service members.

Responding to the call were Stice and John Peroni, associate professor of large animal surgery at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Kansas School of Medicine.

The UGA scientists and their collaborators have since created fracture putty, hoping that it could potentially save an injured limb, or at least allow less of it to be amputated.

They engineered stem cells using the gene for a special bone-growing protein called BMP2, bone morphogenetic protein 2.

Recovery from severely broken bones is notoriously slow, and the patient has to avoid using the injured leg or arm for weeks or even months. But there is early evidence that the fracture putty could reduce healing time by a third or even half, says Stice.

 

A recipe for healing

 

The fracture putty has three essential ingredients, and each does something different.

The stem cells calm inflammation and attract the body’s own stem cells to the site of the break.  The BMP2 gene accelerates protein production to make more bone faster.  These are incorporated into hydrogel, a jelly-like substance that glues everything together so surgeons can apply the mix to broken bones.

Steven Stice

Steven Stice

The Stice and Peroni teams are currently testing the putty on sheep.  Bones are healing faster in these experiments, but much work remains before the product can be tested in people. For one thing, a different carrier might replace hydrogel in future experiments. Other changes are possible as well.

“As a product, fracture putty must go through safety and efficacy trials before being approved as a therapeutic for use in humans,” said Robin Webb, a postdoctoral fellow in the Stice lab.

Looking ahead, if the Food and Drug Administration approves fracture putty for humans, it could be a boon to elderly people as well as to much younger military personnel.

As people age, their production of BMP2 decreases, drastically reducing bone-healing capacity.  Breaking one of the long bones in the thigh or leg is often a devastating injury for older folks, whose overall condition deteriorates when they can’t walk.  Fracture putty could potentially speed healing and get them back in the game.

Stice explains that the product may also be used in spinal fusion procedures for people with back problems, and in periodontal surgeries such as dental implants.

Pre-clinical tests are encouraging, Stice says. “The most rewarding thing so far is showing that we can get something to work that is faster, better, and could help a lot of different people in the future.  We’re excited about the potential of who could benefit from this.”

 

What’s next?

 

All technology related to the fracture putty is under the UGA research umbrella.  Scistem, a company co-founded by Stice, has licensed the patent application for the putty to be approved.  If that is granted, UGA will be able to block competitors from formulating an identical compound, and there are similar products in the research pipeline elsewhere.

For an experimental medical treatment, the journey from lab to hospital is a long one. “[A] typical therapeutic drug today takes 15 to 20 years to go through that whole process, from the time that a promising drug is discovered to the point where it’s cleared for clinical trials,” says Stice.

But he’s not discouraged.

“You know, we’re in science, and we always have great hope that things will work out.”

 

Ansley Stewart is pursuing her master’s degree in journalism at the University of Georgia.  She is a freelance writer, musician, and also works full time at UGA.  

 

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