August 27, 2014

Summit to focus on benefits of physician assistants in rural areas

Dr. Michael Huckabee, UNMC

Dr. Michael Huckabee, UNMC

A national conference in Omaha next month will explore the role physician assistants play in the changing world of health care, especially in rural areas. Dr. Michael Huckabee is director of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s PA Education Division.

“You know there are barriers in rural primary care and a lot of this is the change that is required in health care reform and dealing with some of the misperceptions that come with that,” Huckabee says. “The PA is not in competition or making people leave their doctors. Unique to PAs, we, by state laws in every state in the country, must be linked to a physician’s practice.”

Huckabee says the increased need for health care is expected to be a burden to small communities that may not have the infrastructure and workforce to provide those services.

“There are just not enough doctors to go around,” Huckabee says. “Physician assistants, by their very name, are linked to physicians to extend that care.” The fast-evolving health care landscape has created a time of change and challenges for the entire medical profession, he says, though some people may be unclear about what it is PAs do.

“All PAs are trained in the model of primary care so they’re equipped to manage acute and chronic health care problems of all types within the scope of their physicians’ practice,” he says.

The conference is called “Advancing Rural Primary Care,” and it’s scheduled for September 11th and 12th at the Hilton Omaha Hotel. Huckbee says there will be a slate of national speakers.

He says, “All of them are here to address how PAs can effectively be utilized in rural communities to continue to extend the care of physicians.”

The conference is being co-hosted by the University of Iowa and Des Moines University, as well as Union College in Lincoln, the University of South Dakota and Wichita State University. The conference is tailored for those who hire and use PAs. It’s geared toward administrators, health care leaders, academicians, policy makers, physicians and PAs.

For more information on the conference, visit:>


Government tightening restrictions on painkillers

The government is cracking down on how doctors prescribe opioid painkillers like hydrocodone and other addictive drugs. Dr. Jeff Baldwin is the Vice-Chair of Education and a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and says this is due to an increasing number of deaths due to overdose. He says this will impact those who use the drugs but don’t abuse them.

Dr. Baldwin says physicians will need to write prescriptions for each refill and they will not be able to call them in to a pharmacy.  He says the medical community has mixed opinions of the new restrictions.

Dr. Baldwin says the medications are very effective in treating pain but unfortunately they are also very addictive. He says the addiction is both physical and psychological and the new restrictions are aimed at preventing that from happening. He says the demand for hydrocodone as a street drug is very high and theft is a real concern. He recommends those with left over medication get rid of it when it is no longer needed. There are reports of children or grandchildren swiping the medication to use or sell. There have even been reports of medication theft during an open house in an attempt to sell a home.

Sen. Dubas steps into new position with association

Sen. Annette Dubas/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Annette Dubas/Photo courtesy of Unicameral Information Office

Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton will become the Executive Director for the Nebraska Association of Behavioral Health Organizations.

It is a newly created position at the organization founded in 1983 with mental health providers and consumer groups across the state.

“Our members include rural and metropolitan area providers, hospitals, non-profit organizations, consumer groups, private practitioner groups, adult and children service program providers. The selection of Senator Dubas as Executive Director for our organization was unanimously supported within our membership and we are thrilled to have such a distinguished leader promote our focus on excellence in behavioral health service delivery,” Connie Barnes, President of NABHO and Executive Director for Behavioral Health Specialist, Inc. in Norfolk, NE, said in a written statement released by the group.

$11.3M grant will aid UNL research into the causes of obesity

Harvey Perlman talks to reporters during the news conference

Harvey Perlman talks to reporters during the news conference

An $11.3 million dollar research grant has been awarded the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study the causes of obesity and the diseases it spawns.

UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman announced the grant award made by the National Institutes of Health during a news conference on the Lincoln campus. It is a five-year grant which will expand the research being done by the Nebraska Center for the Prevention of Obesity Diseases through Dietary Molecules.

“This five-year award recognizes the strong research programs that UNL has built to address one of the greatest health challenges facing the nation: obesity and obesity-related diseases,” Perlman said during the news conference.

Researchers believe that addressing obesity at the molecular level is the key to curbing what has become a national epidemic.

The long-term goal is to become a leader in nutrient signaling and the prevention of obesity and obesity-related diseases, which would include non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, according to center director Janos Zempleni, Willa Cather Professor of molecular nutrition in the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center will collaborate in the research.

Perlman said the award is a confirmation of the university’s research.

“The center is a significant expansion of our capabilities in biomedical research. Our researchers focus on what is happening at the molecular level in obesity-related diseases,” Perlman said. “This is the kind of innovative research which attracts funding and impacts our lives.”

Be on the lookout for bats

The Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha has received hundreds of calls from concerned residents after finding bats inside their home. Vice-President of Field Operations Mark Langan says this is typical for late summer, early fall in Nebraska. He says nights are cooler and bats will try to find a warm spot and houses are an ideal spot.

Langan says if a bat gets inside your home try to isolate it in one room and call your local animal control agency. He says bats are known rabies carriers so if you think you were bitten or exposed to bat saliva make sure to contact your doctor.

Bats can fit through an opening smaller than a dime so it is important that people inspect their homes for cracks and holes. Officials suggest using calk or other filler to seal the area to prevent bats and other critters from getting inside.