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Don’t Go Fracking My Heart

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Study Links Hydraulic Fracking with Increased Risk of Heart Attack Hospitalization, Death

The Marcellus Formation straddles the New York State and Pennsylvania border, a region that shares similar geography and population demographics.  However, on one side of the state line unconventional natural gas development – or fracking – is banned, while on the other side it represents a multi-billion dollar industry. New research takes advantage of this ‘natural experiment’ to examine the health impacts of fracking and found that people who live in areas with a high concentration of wells are at higher risk for heart attacks.

“Fracking is associated with increased acute myocardial infarction hospitalization rates among middle-aged men, older men and older women as well as with increased heart attack-related mortality among middle-aged men,” said Elaine Hill, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Public Health Sciences, and senior author of the study that appears in the journal Environmental Research.  “Our findings lend support for increased awareness about cardiovascular risks of unconventional natural gas development and scaled-up heart attack prevention, as well as suggest that bans on hydraulic fracturing can be protective for public health.”

Natural gas extraction, including hydraulic fracking, is a well-known contributor to air pollution. Fracking wells operate around the clock and the process of drilling, gas extraction, and flaring – the burning off of natural gas byproducts – release organic compounds, nitrogen oxide, and other chemicals and particulates into the air.  Additionally, each well requires the constant transportation of equipment, water, and chemicals, as well as the removal of waste water from the fracking process, further contributing to air pollution levels.  Fracking wells remain in operation for several years, prolonging exposure to people who work at the wells sites and those who live nearby. 

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Researchers find breastfeeding linked to higher neurocognitive testing scores

Monday, April 26, 2021

New research finds that children who were breastfed scored higher on neurocognitive tests. Researchers in the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analyzed thousands of cognitive tests taken by nine and ten-year-olds whose mothers reported they were breastfed, and compared those results to scores of children who were not.

“Our findings suggest that any amount of breastfeeding has a positive cognitive impact, even after just a few months.” Daniel Adan Lopez, Ph.D. candidate in the Epidemiology program who is first author on the study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health. “That's what's exciting about these results. Hopefully from a policy standpoint, this can help improve the motivation to breastfeed.”

Hayley Martin, Ph.D., a fourth year medical student in the Medical Scientist Training Program and co-author of the study, focuses her research on breastfeeding. “There’s already established research showing the numerous benefits breastfeeding has for both mother and child. This study’s findings are important for families particularly before and soon after birth when breastfeeding decisions are made. It may encourage breastfeeding goals of one year or more. It also highlights the critical importance of continued work to provide equity focused access to breastfeeding support, prenatal education, and practices to eliminate structural barriers to breastfeeding.”

Researchers reviewed the test results of more than 9,000 nine and ten-year-old participants in the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study. Variations were found in the cumulative cognitive test scores of breastfed and non-breastfed children. There was also evidence that the longer a child was breastfed, the higher they scored.

“The strongest association was in children who were breastfed more than 12 months,” said Lopez. “The scores of children breastfed until they were seven to 12 months were slightly less, and then the one to six month-old scores dips a little more. But all scores were higher when compared to children who didn’t breastfeed at all.” Previous studies found breastfeeding does not impact executive function or memory, findings in this study made similar findings.

“This supports the foundation of work already being done around lactation and breastfeeding and its impact on a child’s health,” said Ed Freedman, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the ABCD study in Rochester and lead author of the study. “These are findings that would have not been possible without the ABCD Study and the expansive data set it provides.”

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School of Nursing Elevates Wharton to Associate Dean for Equity and Inclusion

Monday, January 25, 2021

Mitchell J. Wharton, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CNS, an accomplished educator, researcher, and clinician, has been named associate dean for equity and inclusion at the University of Rochester School of Nursing, pending approval by the Office of the Provost.

The appointment of Wharton, an assistant professor of clinical nursing and faculty diversity officer at the school, shatters glass ceilings at the school. When he begins his new duties on a part-time basis on February 1, Wharton will be the first male and the first person from a group underrepresented in nursing to serve at the associate dean level of senior administration.

 

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve students and colleagues by leading the mission to enhance equity and inclusive practices within our school,” said Wharton, who will transition to this position full time in July after fulfilling his current clinical and educational responsibilities for the spring semester. “I look forward to engaging members of the School of Nursing and Rochester communities as we work together to thoughtfully and respectfully develop strategies to increase diversity throughout the nursing workforce and academic nursing pipeline.”

Wharton has been an integral figure in the school’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts for the past several years. He has been co-chair of the Council for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusiveness since 2018 and the faculty advisor for the student-led Leading with Integrity For Tomorrow (LIFT) program since 2014. He has also been a co-facilitator for the school’s Racial Equity Series, served on the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Executive Committee for Diversity and Inclusion, and served as the School of Nursing’s representative to the Academic Community Engagement Collaborative. He was honored with the School of Nursing’s Mary Dombeck Diversity Enhancement Faculty Awards in 2020.

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