What the future holds

This summer, I have worked with Stephen in understanding more about the recently emerging bacterium, Streptococcus parauberis,  in the Chesapeake Bay. Because not much is known about the its virulence, I worked on identifying capsules present in fish and cow strains of S. parauberis. After many PCR reactions and utilizing various staining techniques, we were able to see differences in capsule types between hosts, reinforcing Stephen’s hypothesis of host-type playing the lead role in capsule expression differences. I tried using microscopy as a way of physically seeing differences in capsule sizes, however, was unsuccessful in this. After researching staining techniques, it seems as though the experiment will be more complex than previously thought. This may be due to enzymes not working properly or not creating a realistic-enough environment for the bacteria. Though I was unable to see differences, PCR reactions did lead the study in a new direction. The remainder of this project will be taking place at Norfolk State University under the direction of Dr. Ashley Haines, in hopes of understanding much more about this important emerging disease and with the possibilities of aiding vaccine designs.

[Read more…]

Abstract: health care utilization and the economic condition

The relationship between economic conditions and health care utilization is extremely important. Understanding how a recession or expansion affects a nation’s health would enable government legislators and budget officials—as major payers of health care—to better anticipate health care utilization and model the demand for health care in order to slow the upward spiral of health costs. Using quarterly panel data for Florida hospitals from 1997 to 2009, I will use a fixed effects model to estimate how the economic condition affects health care utilization. I will use the county unemployment rate to proxy for the economic condition and the number of inpatients with preventable diagnoses who are admitted through the emergency room department to approximate health care utilization. I found that even when controlling for population, hospital, and time effects, a one percent increase in the unemployment rate results in a .18 percent increase in the number of patients with preventable diagnoses who were admitted through the ED. Also in line with the literature, I found that men are also more affected by the economic condition than women and blacks are more affected than whites. The economic condition has a negative effect on the number of elective procedures ED inpatients have.

A Good Storm

All summer we have been diligently watching the radar, hoping for a storm big enough to generate runoff and give us samples to analyze. We collect samples from a channel adjacent to an agricultural field. This channel only has water in it following sizable storm events. There have been several disappointing cases already. A storm passes over our field site, we head out, and the ground is barely damp. Finally, a large storm showed up on the radar. It rained here in Williamsburg as well – you may remember it. In the middle of the mess, Dylan (one of my fellow student researchers) and I loaded up the van and headed out the Charles City County at midnight in the pouring rain. On reaching our field, we took our equipment in a wagon and trekked around the field. We were aided by the light of headlamps and the occasional flash of (fortunately distant) lightening. We reached our collection site to find only significant ponding. The rain was letting up, and the radar seemed to indicate that there was not much left to the storm. We arrived back on campus around 2:30 a.m. We were tired, wet and a little dejected. Another disappointment – or so it seemed.
A few days later we went out to our field site for a routine check of sampling equipment. Much to our surprise we found that samples had been collected! It turns out that despite the lack of indications there was a small amount of flow in our channel that began a little after 2 a.m. While it certainly would have been better to catch these samples fresh, we are very excited to finally have some good samples to analyze. The samples look a little like iced tea – which is great news for DOC. I’ll be spending the week analyzing them!