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Those living near oil and gas facilities may be at higher risk of cancer and other diseases

Study says health risks increase closer to oil and gas facilities.
Study says health risks increase closer to oil and gas facilities.

People living near oil and gas facilities along Colorado’s Northern Front Range may be exposed to hazardous air pollutants, including carcinogens like benzene, that could pose health risks above levels deemed acceptable by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health, Boulder County Public Health, CU Boulder, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the University of California Irvine.

The study, led by the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, used ambient air samples to estimate and compare risks for four residential scenarios. They found the lifetime cancer risk of those living within 500 feet of a well was eight times higher than the EPA’s upper level risk threshold.

“We found that air pollutant concentrations increased with proximity to an oil and gas facility, as did health risks,” the study said. “Acute hazard indices for neurological, hematological and developmental health effects indicate that populations living within 152 meters (500 feet) of an oil and gas facility could experience these health effects from inhalation exposures to benzene and alkanes.”

Dr. Lisa McKenzie
Dr. Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health

The cancer risk estimate of 8.3 per 10,000 for populations living within 500-feet of an oil and gas facility exceeded the U.S. EPA’s 1 in 10,000 upper threshold, according to study published recently in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

“Our results suggest that Colorado’s current regulations that specify a 500 foot distance between a newly drilled oil and gas well and an existing home may not protect people from exposures to hazardous air pollutants that could impact their health,” said the study’s lead author Lisa McKenzie, PhD, MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health. “Our previous work shows that thousands of people along the Front Range of Colorado live closer than 500 feet from a well and related infrastructure and that the population living close to these facilities continues to grow.”

The previous study examined the expansion of oil and gas wells along Colorado’s Northern Front Range. In the Denver Julesburg Basin, the industry is rapidly growing along with housing construction. As a result, 19 percent of the population or about 356,000 people, live about a mile from an active oil and gas site.

Colorado requires a new oil and gas well to be 500 feet from a residence and 1,000 feet from high occupancy buildings serving more than 50 people like schools and hospitals.

The study focused on the emission of non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs) that the wells emit into the air. These include benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, all considered hazardous.

Dr. John Adgate, PhD, MSPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health
Dr. John Adgate, PhD, MSPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health

The highest concentrations of hazardous air pollutants were measured in samples collected nearest to an oil and gas facility,” McKenzie said. “For example, average benzene concentrations were 41 times higher in samples collected within 500 feet of an oil and gas facility than in samples collected more than a mile away.”

The researchers noted that due to high atmospheric stability, nighttime emissions do not disperse as easily as they do during the day. That means benzene levels might be twice as high at night compared to daytime levels.

“The study provides further evidence that people living close to oil and gas facilities are at the greatest risk of acute and chronic health issues due to air pollutants emitted by those facilities,” said study co-author Pam Milmoe, Boulder County Public Health Air Quality Program Coordinator. “The results underscore the importance of having policies that require effective monitoring and reducing emissions from oil and gas facilities, particularly those near homes, schools, and recreation areas.”

Previous studies in Colorado observed that infants with congenital heart defects and children diagnosed with leukemia are more likely to live in the densest areas of oil and gas wells. Studies in Pennsylvania and Texas found associations between fetal death, low birthweight, preterm birth, asthma, fatigue, migraines and chronic rhinosinusitis and proximity to oil and gas wells.

The study acknowledged substantial uncertainties and the need for more research. Nonetheless, there is considerable evidence that benzene can cause cancer in those who work in and around it, but less evidence about its impact on non-occupational populations. The researchers also noted that air pollutants from other sources can contribute to the elevated risks, but stressed that because risks increased with proximity to wells, mitigation strategies should focus on controlling emissions from oil and gas facilities.

The study is available here https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.est.7b05983.

The study co-authors include John Adgate, Colorado School of Public Health; Benjamin Blair, Colorado School of Public Health; John Hughes, Colorado School of Public Health; William Allshouse, Colorado School of Public Health; Nicola Blake, University of California Irvine; Detlev Helmig, University of Colorado Boulder; Pam Milmoe, Boulder County Public Health; Hannah Halliday, NASA Langley; Donald Blake, University of California Irvine.

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Rockies Fantasy Camp

Chuck Powell, DDS, MS, lived his dream as an all-star MLB baseball player at the Rockies Fantasy Camp this winter. From official, personalized jerseys in recognizable Rockies purple to champagne celebration showers, the camp spared no details.

Powell, a periodontist and baseball fan since childhood, works in the University of Colorado School of Dental Medicine on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. He serves as Department Chair of Surgical Dentistry, Chair of the Division of Periodontics and Director of Postgraduate Periodontics.

Dental school professor Chuck Powell
Chuck Powell, DDS, MS, smiles by his official jersey.

Just in time for the Rockies’ home-opening day, Powell took a break from his busy schedule to share his fantasy experience with CU Anschutz Today.

Today: What exactly is the Rockies Fantasy Camp?

Powell: It’s a five-day experience (Jan. 30 through Feb. 3) that gives an individual a taste of the life of a Major League Baseball player. The camp is held at the Rockies’ Spring Training facility (at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz.). Campers get to experience all aspects of the Rockies’ facilities, including their own locker and personalized jersey, play seven games and receive coaching by former and current Rockies players and coaches.

Today: Why did you sign up?

Powell: I signed up to get an inside look at the Rockies’ organization and to have a lot of fun. It’s not often that I get the opportunity to totally forget about my responsibilities here at CU. Enjoying the warm weather on a perfectly manicured field, I couldn’t believe it when I was in a Rockies’ uniform and all I had to do was concentrate on baseball.

Today: Do participants have to be selected?

Powell: Anyone can attend the camp, and there was quite an age range, with men and women from 20 to 91 years old. However, tryouts are held where campers demonstrate their skills in hitting, fielding and pitching. The coaches held a draft, the teams were announced and the first game was played that evening “under the lights.”

Today: What got you into baseball and how long have you been a fan?

Powell: I started playing as a kid and have been a lifetime fan. Ever since the Rockies’ 2007 World Series run, my interest has grown and grown!

Today: What do you like about the sport?

At Rockies Fantasy Camp
The team gears up for a great day on the field.

Powell: The intricacies of the sport are the best parts: for example, how changing subtle aspects of swinging the bat or pitching the ball can make big differences in success. I also enjoy seeing and experiencing different ballparks. Each is unique and has a story to tell.

Today: Did the Fantasy Camp/Spring Training meet your expectations?

Powell: The camp exceeded my expectations! It was a great week with the opportunity to experience beautiful weather and play in great games on amazing fields. Having the chance to interact each day with my manager, Vinny Castilla, and exchange baseball stories was priceless. I even fouled off a pitch from Jeff Francis in the campers-vs.-coaches game! I’m surprised I even made contact with his pitch, given how fast it was. It was a surreal experience facing a former World Series pitcher. I also met many new friends. I get to reunite with my teammates this summer to play a game at Coors Field.

Today: What was the best part?

Powell: The best part was that my team, Vinny’s Cousins, had the second-best pool play record and advanced to play in the championship game. It was awesome seeing my picture on the centerfield scoreboard. Our team won the game over Chad Bettis’s team 7-2. I experienced a full championship celebration with fireworks, was sprayed with champagne on the field and received a beautiful crystal piece commemorating the championship.

Today: Will you be going to Rockies’ opening day or other games?

Powell: I will be attending opening day; my wife and I have made it a tradition over the past few years. We also like to attend games throughout the season, with the opportunity to see other teams and their stars.

 

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Shaping behavior, not changing minds, more effective in boosting vaccination rates

A comprehensive review of scientific literature surrounding the psychology of vaccinations has shown that shaping behavior rather than trying to change minds is far more effective at persuading people to get immunized.

“There is very little evidence to suggest that we can change people’s beliefs or knowledge in a way that will lead to increased immunizations,” said study co-author Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “What the evidence shows is that interventions tied to directly facilitating vaccination and changing behavior without trying to change beliefs are the most effective.”

Those interventions, she said, include things like sending vaccination reminders by calls, mail or texts, using standing orders and presumptive announcements that patients are due for vaccination in the primary care site and generally reducing barriers to immunizations. At the policy level, school and daycare vaccine requirements and more stringent criteria for vaccination exemptions have been very effective.

Increased outbreaks

The study, published Wednesday in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association of Psychological Science, comes at a time when outbreaks of influenza and other communicable diseases are cropping up with seemingly increased frequency.

While less than 3 percent of parents refuse to vaccinate their children, they can have an outsized impact on others via the media and other social networks. Others accept the science of vaccination, but fail to get the full course or get them on time.

Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine
Allison Kempe, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Kempe, who directs the Adult and Child Consortium for Health Outcomes Research and Delivery Science (ACCORDS) at the CU School of Medicine, said the study illustrates that trying to change people’s minds or worse, arguing with them, rarely works to increase vaccinations.

“Changing behavior and making vaccination as easy as possible have been shown to be effective at increasing vaccination rates,” she said. “Simply providing educational information to people about vaccines or trying to confront myths they might have heard about vaccines tend to be ineffective at changing vaccination behaviors and can sometimes backfire.”

Research shows that the best way to confront misinformation about vaccinations is to reiterate the facts clearly.

“Countering misinformation directly can actually reinforce false beliefs so we need to be careful how we do it,” Kempe said. “When correcting misinformation, research shows it is best to state clearly and often what is true in a way that matches people’s intuitive beliefs rather than directly countering their beliefs.”

One way of doing this, she said, is through motivational interviewing techniques which have shown promise as a way to better counter misinformation and possibly change vaccination behavior. These techniques involve first acknowledging a parent’s concern, then identifying potential motivations for vaccinations based on the parent’s own feelings.

Three propositions for intervening

According to the study, psychology offers three general propositions for understanding and intervening to increase vaccine rates. The first is that thoughts and feelings can motivate getting vaccinated.

“We were surprised to find that few randomized trials have successfully changed what people think and feel about vaccines, and those few that succeeded were minimally effective in increasing uptake,” the study said.

The second proposition is that social processes can motivate vaccination. Studies have shown that social norms can in fact influence immunizations, few interventions examined whether they increase vaccination rates.

The third idea is that interventions can directly facilitate vaccinations by leveraging, but not trying to change, what people think and feel. These interventions are the most influential and common in current scientific studies.

“To increase vaccine uptakes, these interventions build on existing favorable intentions by facilitating action (through reminders, prompts and primes) and reducing barriers (through logistics and health defaults),” the study said. “These interventions also shape behavior (through incentives, sanctions and requirements.)”

‘More work to do’

Kempe said she was surprised by how little information is available in the scientific literature about what actually works to persuade people to get vaccinated.

“There haven’t been a lot of good studies on how to influence parents to vaccinate their children, especially interventions that might work in a busy primary care setting, where most of the discussions are going on” she said. “I think we have a lot more work to do in this area.”

The study is accompanied by a commentary by Victor J. Dzau, President of the United States National Academy of Medicine.

He said the authors offered psychological insights into why people engage in behaviors like vaccinations.

In publishing this study, he writes, the authors “are performing a service to society by integrating the disconnected literature on psychological theories and vaccination, which can inform practical interventions to address the challenges of vaccination.”

The first author of the study is Noel Brewer of the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina and co-authors include Gretchen Chapman, Rutgers University; Alexander Rothman, University of Minnesota; Julie Leask, University of Sydney.

A link to the study is here:
“Increasing Vaccination: Putting Psychological Science Into Action”
http://journals.sagepub.com/stoken/default+domain/10.1177/1529100618760521-free/full

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A sign of the future: Bioscience 3 heralded for innovation to come

Recognized as much for its symbolism as for the structure it will become, the imminent Bioscience 3 building on the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus was hailed in high fashion during a groundbreaking ceremony on April 3.

In addition to the shoveling of dirt, state and university dignitaries joined key city and private-sector members in ushering in the newest addition to the Fitzsimons Innovation Community in Aurora, a 125-acre parcel destined for abundant growth.

“Today marks a major milestone for us,” CU President Bruce Benson told a group of more than 80 community members in the lobby of the first dedicated bioscience building on campus, Bioscience 1. “We’ve worked many years to get to this point,” Benson said.

Elliman
CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman

A building for collaboration

Recognizing the Colorado congressional delegation for its aid in pushing through tough negotiations with the original land tenants – the U.S. Army – Benson labeled the day a milestone for finally opening the doors to innovation.

The 115,000-sqare-foot, $55-million Bioscience 3 building, scheduled for completion in 2019, marks the end of 20 years of negotiations and the beginning of important expansion, expected to bring jobs and talent to the Aurora campus.

Bioscience 3 will house laboratories, research bays, open offices, office suites, and flexible warehouse and distribution space, with a construction start slated for May. A Bioscience 4, 5 and 6 are also in expansion plans.

Poised for streamlined innovation, with scientists and entrepreneurs combining efforts in bringing health care technology to the public, nearly half of the space already stands leased, Benson said. Amenities will include a 100-seat flexible auditorium, shared conference facilities, a café with outdoor seating and covered parking.

VanNurden
Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority President and CEO Steve VanNurden

A lesson in perseverance

CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman said the university has ushered in a new way of innovation. “We’ve really tried to change the culture of how we do not only intellectual property creation from our own faculty, but how we can relate that to industry and the private sector,” Elliman said, commending CU Innovations. “This campus is the facility that will allow that to happen.”

During the 2016-2017 fiscal year on the CU Anschutz campus, 20-plus patents were granted, six more start-up companies formed and invention disclosures increased by 125 percent.

Acknowledging the “immense frustration” from years of development stagnation on the property, Elliman credited two things for the positive outlook. “One was a new administration in Aurora. We couldn’t have done this without the City Council and Mayor Stephen Hogan,” he said.

“The other was the successful negotiations with the United States Army, which took a little bit longer than the creation of the Earth,” Elliman said, referring to a recent resolution allowing the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority to move forward with expansion plans. “For that we have our delegation to thank.”

Dignitaries
From left: School of Medicine Dean John J. Reilly, Jr.; CU Anschutz Chancellor Don Elliman; CU Vice President for Health Affairs Lilly Marks; CU President Bruce Benson; U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman

A concerted effort

The Fitzsimons Innovation Community, which will stretch the CU Anschutz campus’ reach northward across the old Fitzsimons Golf Course, will include science- and math-focused elementary, middle and high schools, apartments, hotels and more.

“The development of this ecosystem takes a lot of work from a lot of dedicated people, people who want to build something very special in Colorado,” said Steve VanNurden, FRA president and CEO. “At its full potential, it will be like no other place in the nation,” he said.

VanNurden acknowledged the private partners in the audience, including developer Mortenson, which, along with MOA Architects, designed the three-story Bioscience 3 building and brings experience in building biotech communities to Colorado. Mortenson developed Discovery Square near the Mayo Clinic.

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman both heralded the development of the CU Anschutz and Fitzsimons Innovation campuses for its benefits to the local and state economies and to society at large.

“Right here in the heart of Aurora is the opportunity to grow Colorado jobs, the economy and innovation,” Gardner said. The work and the breakthroughs that will happen within the building’s walls will change lives, he said.

The two current bioscience buildings house more than 65 companies and are generally at capacity.

At its full potential, it will be like no other place in the nation.  – Steve VanNurden

A sign of things to come

Coffman commended everybody involved for their tenacity in pushing through to ensure the future of biosciences research and continued growth, which the representative has seen firsthand.

“My late father was in the military, and his last assignment was here,” Coffman said. “I was 9 years old, and the largest building not just on the post, but in the City of Aurora, was Building 500. I used to think it was so huge when I was growing up, and if you look at it now, it is dwarfed by all the buildings around it,” he said. “It’s truly a great day not just for this campus, but for Colorado.”

Elliman said the groundbreaking indeed was a “momentous” occasion. “But it’s really a bigger sign of what we see as the future of our role both as a university and our role in helping health care innovation,” he said. “And if you think Bioscience 3 is a good thing,” he said, “wait until you see Bioscience 4.”

 

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new health economics graduate programs

Kris Wain, a second-year master’s of economics student at CU Denver, compares being one of the first prospective students in a brand-new doctoral program to standing at the base of Mount Everest: intimidating but exciting.

After hearing from students and questioning employers about the demand for the degrees, the CU Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences added two new programs to the Department of Economics offerings for fall 2018. The MS and PhD Health Economics programs join economics and health research and are a joint effort between CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Many of our economics students go on to pursue careers in health research,” said Brian Duncan, PhD, CU Denver economics professor. “Although our students are well-trained, they can have a problem getting their foot in the door,” Duncan said, attributing the barrier partly to a misconception of what economists are trained to do.

‘More than numbers’

More than just number-crunchers, economists learn how to analyze large and diverse data, a crucial skill in science careers.

When building the programs, Duncan and others in the department solicited feedback from companies that typically hire CU Denver master’s of economics graduates. A resounding majority of employers indicated interest in hiring students with an economics degree specializing in health, Duncan said.

Kris Wain plugs away at his economics work.

Wain, a medical research programmer for the past six years, said having the option to get a degree focused in health economics will boost him on his career path, allowing him to move into an analytic or biostatistician role. “There will be abundant opportunity to apply my education directly to my work,” Wain said, noting growth in the health care and medical research industries.

The PhD in health economics is a joint effort between the Department of Economics at CU Denver and the Department of Health Systems, Management and Policy at the Colorado School of Public Health. Students will learn a unique combination of economic theory while uncovering the inner workings of health research, including learning grant writing and study design.

Giving students a ‘leg up’

Brian Duncan, PhD, is a professor of economics at CU Denver.

“We believe that our students will have a leg up,” said Duncan. “A degree that combines economics with health is a great addition to our department. The well-established reputation of the Colorado School of Public Health will certainly help bring students in.”

All of the credits earned in the new master’s program can work toward completing the PhD program. The master’s program can also be completed full time or part time, finished in as little as 1.5 years. Most of the classes are offered in the evenings. Organizers hope the flexible qualities will add appeal for students with full-time jobs or other obligations.

“Although it would be helpful to have a degree in economics, it’s not imperative,” said Duncan.  “Anyone who is willing to ‘tool up’ for the program with a few prerequisite courses in math, stats, and economics is welcome.”

Excited about his new focus, Wain said he probably feels the way most students starting a PhD program feel. “I am at the bottom of Mount Everest looking up at the climb ahead. However, the health economics program is a perfect fit for my skillset, will offer great opportunities moving forward, and came along at just the right time. I am up for the challenge and looking forward to the climb.”

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Search for migraine relief lands Pennsylvania patient in Denver

The Blakes
Jeffery and Carol Blake pose during a walk down the shore near their Pennsylvania home.

Carol and Jeffery Blake travel 1,400-plus miles every 12 weeks for a medical procedure that takes roughly 15 minutes. And they’ve done it religiously for four years.

After launching a search for the “best of the best” to treat his wife’s debilitating migraines, a common procedure for the retired cardiologist when his family experiences medical problems, Jeffery Blake found Marius Birlea, MD, and the University of Colorado Headache/Pain Medicine Clinic. It was a match.

“He is extremely well-trained and very interested in finding alternative ways to treat this disease,” Carol Blake said of Birlea, as migraines are still a poorly understood brain disorder. “When you get a doctor who is current in the research and has the ability to treat you well, it’s like dynamite. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”

‘It scares you to death’

Blake joined the 1 billion people worldwide who suffer from migraines during her third pregnancy 36 years ago. But the headaches, which can have a hormonal connection, went away after her fifth daughter was born, even completely for a four-year stretch.

With migraines often ceasing after age 55, Blake hoped she was in the clear. No such luck. They returned. And this time, with a “vengeance,” the former writer said.  “I would sometimes get migraines four times a day. One would subside, and another one would hit.”

Her relentless episodes put her in a class of chronic migraine sufferers, defined as patients who have 15 or more migraines per month. The rarer group, which includes about 4 million of the 39 million U.S. migraine sufferers, is not a fun club.

“I would lose vision in my right eye,” Blake said, explaining her “aura,” vision changes that signal migraine onset in some patients. “It scares you to death.” For the period following the aura, which can last anywhere from hours to days, Blake couldn’t bear light or noise. She couldn’t stand the thought or smell of food. And, of course, her head pounded.

Birlea and Blake
Marius Birlea, MD, treats Carol Blake for chronic migraines.

A passion for change

“Migraine is one of the most common neurological conditions,” said Birlea, assistant professor and director of Headache Fellowship in the CU School of Medicine Department of Neurology. More than 90 percent of sufferers are unable to function during episodes, and women who have auras with migraines are at increased risk of stroke, said Birlea, known for his research on possible migraine connections to viruses, such as shingles and herpes.

Passionate about changing the way migraines are viewed by the public and in the medical field, Birlea said migraines are under-recognized and under-treated.

Since its Food and Drug Administration approval in 2010, BOTOX® injections have been the standard of care for uncontrolled chronic migraines, Birlea said. “And it’s my understanding that of the millions of sufferers, a minority of chronic migraine sufferers are receiving it.”

When you get a doctor who is current in the research and has the ability to treat you well, it’s like dynamite. You can’t ask for anything better than that. – Carol Blake

‘Like a dream’

Before finding Birlea, Blake had received minimal treatment over two months at home in Pennsylvania without real success. On her initial visit to the Aurora clinic, Dr. Birlea spent two hours in consultation with Blake and then began a battery of tests to rule out other underlying medical problems.

At the clinic on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Birlea and his staff use a comprehensive and collaborative treatment approach. Patients learn about nutritional and other triggers that can set off a migraine, such as stress, glaring lights and interrupted sleep patterns.

After discussing his extensive experience with BOTOX® and its effectiveness and minimal side effects, Birlea and Blake opted to try it. Along with the injections, Blake began taking B-12, magnesium and B-2, often effective in dealing with chronic migraine.

“That’s when we could see that we were beginning to get the headaches under control,” Blake said, adding that Birlea’s knowledge and approach made a difference.  “I know what a good doctor looks like, and it was like a dream finding him.”

Recent CU Headache/Pain Medicine Clinic news:

  • The clinic was recently chosen for a University of Colorado Hospital pilot program implementing a practice transformation model. Under the plan, medical assistants care for the patient in the exam room, taking histories, ordering lab work, transcribing for the doctors, and making follow-up appointments, steam-lining care and leaving providers to focus solely on their patients.
  • A cohort of clinic providers recently attended Headache on the Hill (HOH), an event that joins patients, scientists and caregivers from across the country at the nation’s capital to advocate for pain-management research.
  • The clinic recently became one of a select group of centers in the country to join the American Registry for Migraine Research (ARMR), expected to be instrumental in creating a better understanding of the disease.
  • With its approval expected in the next few weeks, the clinic plans to offer an antibody injection that blocks calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), a protein involved in migraines. The subcutaneous injection possibly could be self-administered.

 

‘Such faith in him’

During a recent injection procedure, after much small talk about everything from what college Birlea’s son had chosen to what traveling the Blakes had done recently, Birlea began the procedure, which, according to protocol, involves 31 tiny injections from the front to the back of the head.

“Her friends are all jealous of her forehead,” Jeffery Blake said, as Birlea worked. BOTOX®, which prevents migraines by blocking pain signals, allowing the brain to heal, also erases wrinkles.

As Birlea asked Blake to sit up from the exam table, so he could start the injections on the back of her head, she told an observing physician assistant in training: “I barely feel them. I’ve never felt much when he does it. He’s so good at it.”

Blake, who always hears the latest research news on migraines when she sees Birlea, said she was interested in a new injectable treatment to be offered soon that would not require her huge travel commitment. But she said she would remain Birlea’s patient regardless of her treatment plan.

“I’d still want to see him at least once a year. I have such faith in him. He is the essence of a really caring and competent physician.”

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Giving back is name of the game for CU in the Community

The CU in the Community program encourages faculty and staff to spend a half-day of their work week volunteering in the activity of their choice in the community. In years past faculty and staff from CU Denver and the CU Anschutz Medical Campus have rolled up their sleeves to pitch in for important community resources including Habitat for Humanity, Ronald McDonald House and Brent’s Place.

For the past three years, the university’s Staff Council has organized groups to volunteer at Food Bank of the Rockies. The food bank’s mission is to “help families thrive by efficiently procuring and distributing food and essentials to the hungry through our programs and partner agencies.”

Staff Council volunteers at food bank
Members of Staff Council pause for a photo while volunteering at Food Bank of the Rockies.

Michelle Larson-Krieg, member of the council’s Networking and Communications Subcommittee, spearheaded this year’s effort, reserving a full week at the Food Bank of the Rockies for our university’s volunteers. A total of 150 faculty and staff from both CU Denver and CU Anschutz participated – more than doubling last year’s numbers.

Volunteer activities at the food bank warehouse included building pallets, assembling food orders, working the docks and making sure incoming donations were in good order. The 600 hours of volunteer service saved the food bank over $7,000 in wages.

Staff Council would like to increase participation even more next year, so please be on the lookout for the announcement of next year’s campaign. CU in the Community usually begins in early December and continues through the end of March. Additionally, it is important to log your volunteer hours. One of Staff Council’s future goals is to have the volunteer opportunity extended to a full eight-hour day, which can be used all year long. The best way to accomplish this is to show increasing participation.

Please learn more about Staff Council here.

Guest contributor: Matt Fleming, program manager, J.P. Morgan Center for Commodities, CU Denver Business School.

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