Recently in University of Minnesota Physicians Category

U of M health policy experts talk health reform

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On 6/28/2012, the United States Supreme Court issued their decision on the Affordable Care Act.

Here is a synopsis of how the Supreme Court ruled:

1. The entire ACA was upheld.
2. The Individual Mandate was ruled Constitutional, but individuals who refuse to comply would pay a tax.
3. The Medicaid provision (expansion) was limited but not invalidated.
4. Because the whole ACA was deemed constitutional, the provision requiring insurers to cover young adults until they are 26 survives as well.

Throughout the days and weeks that follow, University of Minnesota health policy experts will discuss the ruling and its impact with regional media.

To catch up on all the latest regional media coverage featuring the University of Minnesota health policy experts you trust visit our Storify page.

Is gender neutrality critical to gender equality?

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BLOG Toy Trucks.jpgFrom pink polka-dotted outfits and tutus to wear home from the hospital to toy cars and tool sets for birthday presents, it's no secret that little boys and girls are quickly encouraged to play specific gender roles. But in a world increasingly focused on gender equality, some are saying it's time to focus also on gender neutrality.

Activists in Sweden, one of the most gender equal nations in the world, are now promoting a gender-neutral pronoun: hen. The idea initially surfaced years ago as a way to avoid space-consuming he/she writing. But now, some argue the concept could be key to encouraging a society where everyone is free to choose their own self, especially small children.

But Walter Bockting, Ph.D., a professor in the University of Minnesota's Program in Human Sexuality, isn't sure the effort is necessary in terms of child development.

"Gender generally develops in very predictable ways," Bockting said, "and for the small percentage of people who don't identify with the traditional gender categories of boy or girl, man or woman, these types of accommodations can be beneficial. But whether that identity applies is hard to determine until much closer to adolescence."

Instead of discouraging gender-oriented play, Bockting suggests parents and caregivers provide a variety of options and activities to toddlers and young children. This allows parents to focus time and energy encouraging interests of the child while remaining open and supportive, whatever those interests may be.

"As long as the interests of the child are first at hand, it's best to just let the child play and grow," said Bockting. "Given space, time and an open environment, children will discover their own interests and identity."

Photo by Horia Varlan, used via Creative Commons License,

Tired and hungry: how lack of sleep hurts your diet

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Bed A.jpg

Early morning meetings sometimes mean a doughnut from the coffee cart as you start up the computer, just as a late night out usually translates into a quick stop at the sub shop or pizza parlor. Turns out, these not-so-great food choices are a pretty universal response to lack of sleep.

New research out of New York City's St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center shows a link between a lack of sleep and craving unhealthy foods like sugars, fats and high-carb options.

Doctors surveyed 16 healthy young adults and found brain regions associated with reward and motivation were highly activated when participants hadn't slept well.

Michael Howell, M.D., a sleep medicine physician and associate professor in the University of Minnesota's Medical School, isn't surprised by the results.

"In all spheres of our lives, judgment is impaired when sleep-deprived," says Howell. "Without enough sleep, you're less able to avoid temptation."

There are a lot of other ways a lack of quality sleep can impact our waistlines, according to Howell.

Drug-induced psychosis doesn't need to be deadly

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BLOGb - CrystalMeth.jpg(Photo of crystal meth, courtesy Radspunk via creative commons license.)

A naked man, apparently high on drugs, was killed this week in Miami while attacking another man on the street. Police believe the suspect, Rudy Eugene, 31, had been high on "bath salts," a synthetic drug similar to LSD. When confronted by officers, Eugene growled at their intrusion and seemed to be unaffected by the shots fired into his body until officers were able to kill him.

Psychosis induced by drugs, particularly chemical-based drugs, is a common response to overdosing. Emergency room physicians and psychiatric care centers handle psychotic episodes on a regular basis.

"There are a number of drugs, illicit or prescription, which can lead to a psychotic episode," says S. Charles Schulz, M.D., professor and head of the University of Minnesota's Department of Psychiatry. Drugs most commonly associated with it are LSD, methamphetamine and Adderall.

While the attack in Miami is not a common expression of these induced psychotic episodes, there are a variety of symptoms that can indicate psychosis. Paranoia, frenzy and other erratic behavior can all indicate a person is heading toward significant psychosis.

So what's happening inside the body? According to Schulz, it depends on the drug ingested by the patient. Amphetamine-based drugs, like meth, stimulate the dopamine receptors in the brain, which increases paranoia and takes away the capacity for self-control. These patients can usually be treated with anti-psychotic medication. LSD, however, stimulates the serotonin in the brain, and results in patients generally needing a calm and safe place to come down from the high.

Physicians are pushing to understand the "ramping up" phase of a psychotic episode. In theory, catching someone during this building time could help stop a patient from hurting himself or others.

The University of Minnesota is focused on caring for people experiencing a psychotic episode. Check out their website to learn more about the First Episode Psychosis Program, a program dedicated to comprehensive assessment and treatment of psychotic illness.

U of M researchers hope to raise breast cancer screening awareness via cell phone

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Technology has provided a host of ways to get information into the hands of an end user. Specifically, cell phones have opened up new doors for passing along information via text message or specialized alerts.

Now, U of M researchers from the School of Social Work, Masonic Cancer Center and Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health will receive $675,000 over three years from the Susan G. Komen Foundation to develop new ways to use cell phones to promote breast cancer screening to Korean women.

Hee Yun Lee, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work and Masonic Cancer Center, will lead the project and Doug Yee, M.D., director of the Masonic Cancer Center, and Rahel Ghebre, M.D., assistant professor in both the Masonic Cancer Center and the Medical School's Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health will act as co-investigators.

Congratulations to the researchers and we'll keep readers updated on the project as it moves forward.