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PJC health forum engages audience

Published or Revised September 10, 2014

health forum

Cutline: PJC biology instructor and biomedical sciences program coordinator Jack Brown welcomes the audience as speakers (from left), Dr. Mark Gibbs, Dr. Celeste Wilcox and PRMC COO Patti Monczewski look on.

An enthusiastic audience was on hand for a health forum offered at Paris Junior College last Thursday evening. “Frontiers and the Spirit of Exploration in Medicine” was the subject of an open discussion forum co-sponsored by PJC’s biomedical sciences program and Phi Theta Kappa, the two-year college honor society. 

The evening began with a welcome from Phi Theta Kappa representative Paula Vaughan and Jack Brown, director of the biomedical science program at Paris Junior College.

“This is an honors project for Phi Theta Kappa,” explained Vaughan. “As we researched the topic, the common question was ‘how do people find out about what is happening and what is available to them?’ We worked with Mr. Brown to develop this project and bring it to you this evening.”

PJC has a total of seven articulation agreements either completed or in the works with Texas A&M University – College Station’s Health Science Center and Biomedical Science Department inside the College of Veterinary Medicine as well as the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center – School of Health Professions, according to Brown. The programs ensure that students who successfully complete the program transfer seamlessly to high demand programs. He explained that PJC’s small class size allows for higher levels of learning by students such as using DNA from bioluminescent jellyfish to genetically transform bacteria so they glow, and running polymerase chain reactions for DNA gel electrophoresis. Due to expense and difficulty, students at four year universities often don’t get to participate in such activities until upper level courses and graduate school.

“I am very proud that PJC has invested in our science students and supported the cost of developing a strong laboratory experience for our science majors,” said Brown.

Paris Regional Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Patti Monczewski addressed new technologies such as patient bracelet bar code scanning for pharmaceuticals. This allows the hospital to check that the patient is getting the correct medicine and dosage. Other new offerings at PRMC include the Da Vinci robot that does minimally invasive surgery; a pill cam endoscopy giving doctors a view of the small intestine; a similar Bravo pH monitor that assesses heartburn and acid reflux through temporary placement in the esophagus; and a soon to open third cardiovascular operating room.

Next to speak was Dr. Celeste Wilcox with Texas Oncology, who briefly gave the history of her specialty, explaining that cancer is uncontrolled growth due to changes in cellular genetic makeup. Current cancer research has focused on targeted treatments through molecular medicine. A drug that is a magic bullet is still sought, but so far only one drug (Gleevec) has proven very effective against a specific type of cancer - chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) - and it is very costly. Developing such drugs is expensive, as are clinical trials due to the growth of regulation. Advancing medicine requires patients willing to take risks and participate in clinical trials, many of which are offered in Paris at Texas Oncology, Dr. Wilcox said, as well as serious discussions of how to pay for life-saving treatments.

Dr. Mark Gibbs from the Paris Orthopedic Center spoke of the advances from primitive bone surgery to straighten children’s legs to modern mobile CR fluoroscopy allowing a live x-ray, and implant technology moving from ivory or wooden pegs to titanium, tantalum and stainless steel. Total joint replacement has revolutionized treatment of arthritis and hospital stays are down to three days or even done on an outpatient basis. New materials under development include alternative bearing surfaces such as ceramic metals that look promising for wear reduction. Antibiotic impregnated cement is used to help control infection, which is a huge challenge for this branch of medicine. Dr. Gibbs predicted that future science will include using a patient’s own stem cells and the search for perfect joint that lasts forever would continue.

Questions were taken at the end of the program, and the audience expressed appreciation for the speakers’ time and for PJC putting on the program.

“I just want to say how much I appreciate your organization, PJC and the speakers for doing this. I’d like to see more people participating. This was great,” said audience member Charles Christian.

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