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Same-sex marriage linked with 7% drop in US teen suicide attempts


In an editorial accompanying the paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics, Columbia University’s Mark Hatzenbuehler wrote that “stigma is one of the most frequently hypothesized risk factors”. But, he wrote, research into stigma and mental health is almost exclusively at the personal level, rather than looking at factors in society at large. “That literature has tended to overlook what we call structural forms of stigma – which include … laws and policies,” he said in an interview. “Those results really highlight the fact that the legal climate surrounding LGB adolescents really deserves greater attention,” he added.

Same-sex marriage laws linked to fewer youth suicide attempts, new study says


In the past, the denial of same-sex marriage has been motivated by false stereotypes of gay men and lesbians as unfit for marriage or parenthood, according to a 2006 paper by Dr. Gilbert Herdt, founder of the Department of Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University, and Dr. Robert Kertzner, Associate Clinical Professor at the Columbia University Department of Psychiatry. In the paper for Sexuality Research and Social Policy, Herdt and Kertzner argued that those societal attitudes added to a sense of stigma and social isolation for gay men and lesbians and detracted from their mental health. “Policymakers in the United States should be concerned about the impact the denial of marriage has on the mental health and wellbeing of gay men and lesbians,” they wrote.

ADHD is linked to delayed brain development

Washington Post

“The reliability of ADHD research has not been great, because of [small] sample sizes,” said Jonathan Posner, who did not take part in the study but who does pediatric brain imaging research at Columbia University Medical School. “So because this study was orders of magnitude higher in terms of participants, and because it involved sampling broadly and internationally, it gives us more confidence.”

Older women reduce their endometrial cancer risk with weight loss


“The majority of women with endometrial cancer are diagnosed with early-stage tumors that are associated with a high cure rate. However, despite this paradigm, not only is the incidence of endometrial cancer increasing, but the number of women who die as a result of the disease also is increasing,” Dr. Jason Wright, chief of gynecologic oncology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York Presbyterian Hospital, writes in an editorial accompanying the study.

Cooling Cap May Limit Chemo Hair Loss In Women With Breast Cancer


“These findings appear to represent a major step forward in improving the quality of life of individuals with cancer,” says Dr. Dawn Hershman, who studies the effects of cancer treatments at the Columbia University School of Medicine in New York. She wrote an editorial accompanying the studies in JAMA, the journal of the American Medical Association. But Hershman cautions that more study is needed to determine whether there is a psychological benefit in using the caps to prevent hair loss.

America’s dangerous and dwindling commitment to global health

The Hill

Craig Spencer, MD MPH is the director of global health in emergency medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine and population and family health at the Columbia University Medical Center.

Nerve Cells That Go Out on a Limb Show How the Ability to Tweet Evolved

Scientific American

The molecular-scale view provided in this latest study suggests how the wiring process may have evolved. It may also provide insight into diseases, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which begins with muscle weakness in the extremities. Study co-author Thomas Jessell, who co-directs Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, talked to Scientific American about the findings and their implications.

Brain Series: Childhood Adversity

Charlie Rose

We are joined by Deborah Temkin of Child Trends, Charles Nelson of Harvard Medical School, Kimberly Noble of Columbia University, Ken Dodge of Duke University, Michael Meaney of McGill University and Dr. Eric Kandel, a Nobel Laureate, a professor at Columbia University and a Howard Hughes Medical Investigator.

Sharp Rise Reported in Older Americans’ Use of Multiple Psychiatric Drugs

New York Times

The research team, led by Dr. Donovan T. Maust of the University of Michigan and Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University, analyzed data from annual government surveys of office-based doctors. The team focused on office visits by people 65 or older that resulted in the prescribing of at least three of a list of psychiatric, sleep and pain medications like Valium, Prozac, OxyContin and Ambien.

Time to eat? When you chow down, not just on what, can affect your heart

Chicago Tribune

“Meal timing may affect health due to its impact on the body’s internal clock,” said Marie-Pierre St-Onge, an associate professor of nutritional medicine at Columbia University in New York City, in a statement. “In animal studies, it appears that when animals receive food while in an inactive phase, such as when they are sleeping, their internal clocks are reset in a way that can alter nutrient metabolism, resulting in greater weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation. However, more research would need to be done in humans before that can be stated as a fact.”

Study shows ketamine may prevent PTSD symptoms


“Ketamine is a powerful drug, and we wouldn’t advocate widespread use for preventing or reducing PTSD symptoms,” Christine A. Denny, Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical neurobiology in the Department of Psychiatry at CUMC and lead author of the study, said in a press release. “But if our results in mice translate to humans, giving a single dose of ketamine in a vaccine-like fashion could have great benefit for people who are highly likely to experience significant stressors, such as members of the military or aid workers going into conflict zones.”

Which Genes Make You Taller? A Whole Bunch Of Them, It Turns Out


David Goldstein, a professor of genetics at Columbia University, says an expanded effort could ultimately implicate every gene in existence, and that hardly helps scientists narrow down the biological factors that contribute to height. It’s likely scientists will never be able to figure out what these hundreds of common variants do to influence height, Goldstein says. Instead, a much better strategy is what Hirschhorn used in this latest study: looking for rare variants that pack a big punch.

For heart health, it’s not just what you eat, but when

CBS News

“People who consume breakfast on a regular basis have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Marie-Pierre St-Onge, the author of the statement and a researcher at Columbia University Medical Center, told CBS News. St-Onge points to studies that show eating earlier in the day – when your body can better metabolize food – may lower heart disease risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

NYC med schools participate in day of action to save the Affordable Care Act


Meanwhile, the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons scheduled a late-afternoon “teach-in,” during which the leaders of different student-run clinics and affinity groups spoke about how the repeal of the ACA would be detrimental to the groups they serve. They then wrote down future actions they could take to help protect the ACA on note cards. According to an organizer at Columbia, the note cards will later be placed in a prominent place on campus and arranged to spell out a message: “Do no harm.”

Can Sobriety Tests Weed Out Drivers Who’ve Smoked Too Much Weed?


Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at the Columbia University Medical Center says testing a person for alcohol intoxication is a breeze in comparison to testing a person to determine if they are high. As she explains, marijuana is fat soluble, so traces of its main ingredient tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, can show up in blood long after a person has sobered up. “That just tells you somebody has smoked,” Haney says. “But you don’t know if they smoked an hour ago or if they smoked a week before or two weeks before.”

Kangaroo Care Helps Preemies And Full Term Babies, Too


Gray also points to the work of Myron Hofer, a psychiatrist with Columbia University Medical Center who studies attachment between mother and infants. Hofer coined the term “hidden regulators” that pass between mother and baby. It’s not just that mother and baby are together, Gray says, but also that the mother is in some way “programming the baby, the breathing, temperature, and heart rate.”

No pie need apply

Manhattan Times

To mark a series of landmark anniversaries on its campus this year, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) kicked off 2017 with a “Cake-Off” event, held at The Armory in Washington Heights on January 10. Local bakeries were commissioned to bake a cake for each of the four CUMC schools, which are all observing a major milestone in 2017.

Why the ‘gluten-free movement’ is less of a fad than we thought

Washington Post

What is still increasing is the number of people who have abandoned gluten for different reasons: how many have done so because it’s trendy or because they have a real allergy, researchers aren’t quite sure. Benjamin Lebwohl, the director of clinical research at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center, estimates that more than half of the 3.1 million PWAGs observed in this latest study have a legitimate, non-celiac gluten sensitivity — a phenomenon that has only emerged in the past five years in the medical literature. “An increasing number of people say that gluten makes them sick, and we don’t have a good sense why that is yet,” Lebwohl said. “There is a large placebo effect — but this is over and above that.”

How to Stay Forever Young, Really


“An important key to aging successfully is feeling that our lives are meaningful, that we have created something that will endure beyond us,” says Linda Fried, dean and DeLamar professor of public health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. “At every age we need some structure in our lives and a reason to get up in the morning. Without it, sickness and earlier death are more likely.”

How LSD Saved One Woman’s Marriage

New York Times

The risks, however, are clear, said Dr. Elias Dakwar, a psychiatrist at Columbia University Medical Center who researches mind-altering substances. LSD is sometimes adulterated or improperly synthesized, and may vary widely in potency, with someone intending to take a tiny, subperceptual dose at risk of having “a full-blown psychedelic effect when trying to do a PowerPoint presentation,” he said.

Obstetricians balk at FDA warning on anesthesia in pregnant women


Dr. Lena Sun, professor of anesthesiology and pediatrics at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, has been studying the issue in children and said she believes the FDA acted in an abundance of caution.  “We do not need to unduly alarm the public, but we want the public to be aware of this potential risk,” she said in a phone interview. “While we are pretty sure and reassured that single and brief exposures in healthy children should not raise any concerns, we cannot offer the same reassurance for prolonged and repeated exposures,” she said.

‘Hidden’ celiac disease less common now in U.S.


Dr. Benjamin Lebwohl, the director of clinical research at the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University in New York, told Reuters Health the findings are a departure from the longstanding problem of having many undiagnosed patients. Lebwohl, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email, “The numbers of patients are small, and this was only observed in the most recent two-year period, but if confirmed it may mark a turning point in our efforts to increase awareness and identify patients with celiac disease.”

One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die

New York Times Magazine

“What B.J. accomplishes is to talk about death without making it sound scary and horrible,” Rita Charon, a professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical School, says. “We know from seeing him standing in front of us that he has suffered. We know that he has been at the brink of the abyss that he’s talking about. That gives him an authority that others may not have.”

Girls from low-income families feel unprepared for puberty: Study


“Puberty is the cornerstone of reproductive development,” Marni Sommer, associate professor of sociomedical sciences at the Mailman School of Public Health, said in a press release. “Therefore, the transition through puberty is a critical period of development that provides an important opportunity to build a healthy foundation for sexual and reproductive health. Given the importance of this transition, the research is striking in its lack of quantity and quality to date.”

Mellow Drivers? Study says states with medical-marijuana laws have lower traffic fatality rates.

Washington Post

Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health found an 11 percent reduction in traffic fatalities on average when examining places that have enacted medical-marijuana laws — 23 states and the District of Columbia. The presence of medical-marijuana dispensaries also correlated with fewer traffic fatalities, the study found. Silvia Martins, a physician and associate professor who was the study’s senior author, theorized that lower traffic fatality rates in states with marijuana laws might be related to lower levels of alcohol-impaired driving as people, especially younger people, substitute weed for booze.

This Pesticide Is Prohibited in Britain. Why Is It Still Being Exported?

New York Times

But the lead author of that study, Dr. Asa Abeliovich of the Columbia University Medical Center, said in an interview that “obviously there’s a bunch of solid epidemiological studies that link paraquat to Parkinson’s disease risk, so I think there’s definitely support for that.” Dr. Abeliovich also said the paraquat studies underscored “that there are certain environmental factors that matter,” which interact “with genetic factors.”

Drug Overdose Deaths Increased Significantly in Past 5 Years

New York Times

“It’s certainly disheartening for those of us in public health,” said Katherine Keyes, a Columbia University epidemiologist who researches drug abuse issues. “Part of what has been concerning for many epidemiologists and other public health professionals is the rise in these high-dosage opioids like fentanyl that really are contributing in very pervasive ways to the overdose epidemic,” she said.

A Year of Skyline Spectacle and Joy

New York Times

The Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center, devised by Diller Scofidio & Renfro (in collaboration with Gensler), is a whimsical 110,000-square-foot exclamation mark on Columbia University’s Upper Manhattan medical campus near the George Washington Bridge. The 14-story tower’s camera-ready face looks south. It presents a cheerfully teetering stack of cantilevered terraces, indoor bleacher seats, lounges and stairs. They spill toward a handsome wood-lined amphitheater linked by steps to the sloping sidewalk. One can picture a giant pinball bouncing from the top of Vagelos and rolling down Haven Avenue.

A new type of molecular medicine may be needed to halt cancers

The Economist

Facts such as these have led many cancer biologists to question how useful the gene-led approach to understanding and treating cancer actually is. And some have gone further than mere questioning. One such is Andrea Califano of Columbia University, in New York. He observes that, regardless of the triggering mutation, the pattern of gene expression—and associated protein activity—that sustains a tumour is, for a given type of cancer, almost identical from patient to patient. That insight provides the starting-point for a different approach to looking for targets for drug development.

NYC biotech industry to get big boost from new de Blasio initiative


Several big names in the biotech field, including Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Company and Acorda Therapeutics and schools such as Columbia University said they were on board with the initiative. “The initiative will make it possible to move discoveries from academic labs to the clinic through the growth of biotechnology in the city,” Dr. Tom Maniatis, the chair of the biochemistry department at Columbia University Medical Center, said in a statement.

One in 6 American Adults Say They Have Taken Psychiatric Drugs

New York Times

Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study, said the new analysis provided a clear, detailed picture of current usage: “It reflects a growing acceptance of and reliance on prescription medications” to manage common emotional problems, he said.

Why Doctors Still Worry About Measles

New York Times

“Two of the most contagious viral infections are smallpox and measles,” said Dr. Anne Gershon, the director of the division of pediatric infectious diseases at Columbia. Before they develop that characteristic measles rash, children have high fever and respiratory symptoms, and they are therefore at their most infectious before the disease has been identified. “In the early stages of the disease there’s a lot of coughing, runny eyes and nose, but you don’t think of isolating somebody till the rash comes out and after that they’re gradually less contagious,” she said.

The Best Architecture of 2016: Structures New and Reclaimed

Wall Street Journal

In New York, Columbia University’s Roy and Diana Vagelos Education Center encapsulates with dynamic elegance some of the latest thinking on how to foster teaching and the exchange of ideas. On a sliver site in Washington Heights overlooking the Hudson River, the 14-story tower features a cascading stair flowing into promontory-like balconies, meet-up eddies, café landings and other alluring pull-out spaces for the kind of unscheduled encounters currently associated with best practices in advanced education. The architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro have applied their acute ability to translate complex needs into compelling clarity—rendered here in an energized palette of douglas-fir paneling and burnt-orange terrazzo. Originally budgeted at $70 million, the building and its interiors impart an enduring sense of quality and sophistication that should excite students (and impress alums) for generations to come.

Life Expectancy in U.S. Declines Slightly, and Researchers Are Puzzled

New York Times

Dr. Peter Muennig, a professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, said in an interview that the decline was a “uniquely American phenomenon” in comparison with other developed countries, like Japan or Sweden. “A 0.1 decrease is huge,” Dr. Muennig said. “Life expectancy increases, and that’s very consistent and predictable, so to see it decrease, that’s very alarming.”

How Physicians Pay Themselves

WNYC Radio

Miriam Laugesen, associate professor in the department of Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University and the author of Fixing Medical Prices: How Physicians Are Paid (Harvard University Press, 2016), explores the way reimbursement rates for doctors are set by their professional organizations and what that means for overall spending and care.

Heart problems tied to increased risk of suicide


Donald Edmondson, director of the Center for Behavioral Cardiovascular Health at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, told Reuters Health the study’s data are strong and people should pay attention to the results. While emergency department physicians and cardiologists are becoming aware of the psychological impact of cardiac events, there is not enough information yet to say what might lead patients to suicide, said Edmondson, who wasn’t involved with the new study.

Tracking Down One of Cancer’s Deadliest Culprits, the Ras Family of Genes


When it comes to the current state of cancer survival, Susan Bates feels like many of the rest of us. “It’s incredibly frustrating,” she says. For Bates, who treats pancreatic and other cancers at Columbia University Medical Center, the frustration is worsened by virtue of knowing her enemy—an elusive gene that “makes cancer grow very fast.”

Fear, Then Skepticism, Over Antibiotic-Resistant Genes in Beijing Smog

New York Times

“This is important work that may provide insights into the dissemination of antibiotic resistance not only in Beijing but in other cities as well,” W. Ian Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, wrote in an email. “It’s not clear that bacteria in smog are a health threat,” Dr. Lipkin wrote, noting that smog may be the more likely cause of health problems. “What is clear is that the air isn’t clear. Pollution results in damage to airways that increases susceptibility to a wide range of viruses as well as bacteria,” he wrote.

Southern Africa’s AIDS epidemic takes nosedive


“We were amazed when we saw this,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, an epidemiologist who heads an international health-strengthening program called ICAP at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, which led the survey. “It’s really a credit to these countries—and they’re not the world’s richest places.”

‘Magic mushroom’ psychedelic may ease anxiety, depression

Associated Press

The work released Thursday is preliminary and experts say more definitive research must be done on the effects of the substance, called psilocybin (sih-loh-SY’-bihn). But the record so far shows “very impressive results,” said Dr. Craig Blinderman, who directs the adult palliative care service at the Columbia University Medical Center/New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He didn’t participate in the work.

The Life-Changing Magic of Mushrooms

The Atlantic

However, psilocybin is still many years from becoming a prescribed treatment for cancer-related dread. Though researchers can acquire psilocybin for studies, it’s still illegal, adding an extra hurdle to the drug-development process. “Current laws, not based on evidence, impede research by onerous storage and security requirements, difficulty in obtaining funding, and the near impossibility of actually obtaining restricted compounds without having them synthetically produced at great cost,” wrote Columbia University psychiatrists Jeffrey Lieberman and Daniel Shalev in one of the psilocybin editorials.