National Institutes of Health pump $6.5 million into N.O. area

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on June 10, 2010 at 6:02 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An announcement from Washington, DC today will mean more money and research jobs in New Orleans. And it could mean a chance for you to be part of the latest health care discoveries.

It is a major announcement at Dillard University: The National Institutes of Health will pump $6.5 million into this area.

"We have earned a huge award, an award that is for us very, very special because it addressees the health disparities issues that are so important to us," said Dr. Marvalene Hughes, president of Dillard University.

The money will be used for a partnership between Dillard and LSU Health Sciences Center to form a Minority Health Disparities Research Center on the Dillard campus.

One area of research will be prostate cancer. What helped this area win the grant was a major discovery we first reported on in March. In the labs at LSUHSC downtown, Dr. Shahriar Koochekpour, of the LSUHSC Scott Cancer Center, became the first person to discover that black men, not white men, can inherit a genetic defect in the receptor for the male hormone testosterone. That may contribute to their higher rate of cancer in the prostate gland.

Dr. John Ruffin, the director of the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, came in from Washington, D.C. to award the grant.

"This is a multidisciplinary center which focuses on a number of disease areas that disproportionately impact minorities in particular, but not only minorities in particular, but it also centers around issues that impact poor white throughout our country disproportionately. And so to a large extent this center could serve as a (national) model," said Ruffin, of the National Institutes of Health.

Other health conditions studied will be how genetics play a role in obesity and asthma and why viruses cause more cervical cancer in black women.

"The response to the vaccine is different according to ethnicity and race, so we are going to look into this further," said Dr. John Estrada, an LSUHSC professor of pediatrics.

People in the Greater New Orleans area will be able to join groundbreaking clinical studies that could translate to better health in the community.

"The important thing for us is to assure that the community understands what clinical trials mean and how their health is improved through clinical trials and through their participation in clinical trials," said Dr. Betty Dennis, the dean of Nursing at Dillard.

There's also other health news coming out of Dillard University in Gentilly. Opening this fall will be a brand-new, first-ever student union building, and in that 15,000 square foot facility will be a new health care clinic. Doctors and nurses from other health care organizations will partner with Dillard and come and take care of those patients.

Doctors also hope the grant money and new center will encourage Dillard college students to get graduate degrees and go in to research.

 

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