Friday, October 29, 2010

USA Gastroenterologist, Liver Disease Specialist Quoted in Today's Wall Street Journal

Dr. Jorge Herrera, a gastroenterologist at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was quoted in today’s Wall Street Journal article on research advances against Hepatitis C.

The article states that drug makers are currently developing new treatments for the disease -- a chronic infection that damages the liver.

Dr. Herrera, who enjoys an international reputation as a liver disease specialist, said new clinical-trial results appear to work better than the current standard treatments.

Dr. Herrera is involved in multiple clinical trials here in Mobile.

To read the entire Wall Street Journal article, click here.

Charlie Baugh Dog Day

USA Biomedical Sciences graduate students participate in this year's Charlie Baugh Dog Day on Thursday. The event is an annual celebration in memory of Dr. Charles M. Baugh, who served as dean at the USA College of Medicine on two separate occassions.

Clockwise, from left: Ashley DeCoux, Abdallah Al Zoubi, Tracy Dodd, Salina Gairhe and Alicia Waggoner Menard

New Hope for Pancreatic Cancer Patients

Dr. Carlo Contreras, a surgical oncologist with the department of surgery at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, said in the past, pancreatic cancer has been a difficult diagnosis with limited effective treatment options. Today it is different.

“Twenty years ago, patients who developed pancreatic cancer really didn’t have much hope,” Dr. Contreras said. “Today, each patient will have a cohesive team of doctors, each of whom will provide unique, complementary treatments for pancreatic cancer. Treatment involves a close partnership with the patient and a team of doctors that weigh the roles of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy.”

Dr. Contreras, who specializes in liver and pancreatic cancer, is affiliated with the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute and sees patients there. He also treats patients with a variety of skin and gastrointestinal cancers including stomach tumors, neuroendocrine tumors, melanoma and sarcoma.

Approximately 43,000 people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year in the United States alone. Because pancreatic cancer is one of the more difficult types of cancers to detect and treat, Dr. Contreras said it is important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms.

The pancreas, a soft gland that sits at the back of the abdominal cavity, produces a variety of substances that help digest food and control metabolism. The warning signs of pancreatic cancer can either be quite dramatic or very subtle, depending on where the cancer starts growing within the pancreas.

“If the cancer starts growing within the right side of the gland, than the symptoms can be rather dramatic because it can block the bile duct – a tube-like structure that is important for food digestion,” he said. “When the bile duct is blocked, the patient will develop jaundice, or a yellowing of the eyes and skin.”

Dr. Contreras said symptoms are much more subtle for cancer that starts growing in other areas of the pancreas. “The patient might have vague upper abdominal pain that radiates to the back, unusual itching of the skin, or gradual loss of appetite with weight loss,” Dr. Contreras said. “Sometimes a patient will suddenly develop diabetes, or a patient who has had well-controlled diabetes for years will suddenly have high blood sugars.”

If a patient experiences any of these symptoms, Dr. Contreras said it is important to visit a doctor. At the appointment, a doctor will perform a complete physical examination and if needed, perform a CT scan or MRI scan.

“The specific kind of treatment that a patient needs depends on what symptoms the patient is having, the size and location of the pancreatic cancer and whether it has spread beyond the pancreas,” he said. “Pancreatic cancer is a trying experience, but therapies are improving every day, which ultimately means better outcomes for patients.”

“Being diagnosed with any type of cancer is incredibly difficult,” Dr. Contreras said, “but faith, a supportive family network and a specialized team of doctors can help restore hope, dignity, peace of mind, and quality of life.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Contreras, call (251) 665-8000.

College of Medicine Research Forum: Abstract Submissions Due Monday, Nov. 1

Participants in last year's COM Research Forum

The 4th annual University of South Alabama College of Medicine Research Forum will be held Nov. 19, 2010, from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. at USA's Main Library. The deadline for abstract submission is Nov. 1, 2010.

"The Research Forum puts a spotlight on the exciting biomedical research being done in the USA College of Medicine and fosters interactions among faculty, labs and the entire College of Medicine community," said Dr. Joseph Brewer, associate professor of microbiology at USA and member of the Research Forum Committee.

Participants of the Research Forum will present their work in posters and/or short talks.

“Graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and clinical fellows are especially encouraged to present their work in the Research Forum,” Dr. Brewer said. “This is an excellent opportunity to gain valuable experience in sharing research findings and ideas with others. Certainly, for many careers in the biomedical sciences, effective communication skills are essential."

Visit for detailed instructions regarding preparation and submission of abstracts.

For more information, contact Dr. Brewer at or Dr. Donna Cioffi at

Invest in Your Health, Enter to Win a Free iPad at USA's 6th Annual Benefits Fair

Looking for an opportunity to receive free feedback on your health concerns? How about a chance to win a free Apple iPad?

Stop by and visit the USA Physicians Group booth at USA's 6th annual Benefits Fair next week. USA Physician Group providers will be on hand to answer questions regarding your health. In addition, free flu shots are available, you’ll be able to learn your body mass index, receive a free skin cancer screening, as well as other physical therapy and occupational therapy screenings.

Take time to invest in your health. Come visit us, and don't miss out on your chance to win an Apple iPad.

As a reminder, for those covered by USA Health and Dental Plan insurance, co-pays are only $10 per visit with any provider in the USA Physicians Group.

The fair's dates and times are as follows:

USA Children's & Women's Hospital -
Thursday, November 4, 2010
CWEB2 - Atlantis Room 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

USA Medical Center -
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Cafeteria 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

USA Main Campus -
Friday, November 5, 2010
Human Resources TRP III Suite 2200 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For more information on the Benefits Fair, visit .

Coming Soon: "We Run This City"

The University of South Alabama Center for Healthy Communities is organizing “We Run This City,” a childhood obesity initiative marathon program. The event is coming soon to our area.

Volunteers are needed to help with this event that is focused toward the health and wellness of youth, specifically middle school students in grades sixth through eighth.

Activities will include nutrition and wellness facts, health checks, physical endurance and fitness, and a fun run race.

The mission of the We Run This City Youth Marathon Program is to encourage healthy habits and exercise in Mobile County young people. With the running programs, they strive to teach young people to set and achieve goals, increasing their self-confidence as well as their fitness and endurance.

The Center for Healthy Communities has been designated as the lead entity within USA for coordinating community education, research, public service and health activities to help eliminate health disparities, fostering access to health care for underserved populations, and enhancing the capacity of individuals to better participate in decision making about their health.

For more information, contact the USA Center for Healthy Communities at (251) 471-7705. Stay tuned for more updates.