All posts by Jennifer Scott

Teen girls from rural areas more likely to have undiagnosed asthma, be depressed

Teen girls who live in rural areas are more likely than their male counterparts to have undiagnosed asthma, and they often are at a higher risk of depression, according to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

According to data collected during a three-year trial of an asthma program tailored to teens, the prevalence of asthma – both diagnosed and undiagnosed – was about the same in rural areas as it is in urban settings. But more girls had undiagnosed asthma than boys.

“There’s a lot of speculation about why females are more likely to be undiagnosed,” says Dr. Jeana Bush, an MCG Allergy and Immunology Fellow. “Maybe it’s because boys are more likely to get a sports physical for athletics and they catch it then. Or maybe it’s because girls attribute asthma symptoms to something else, like anxiety. That needs further study.”

Bush, who is presenting her findings at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology Annual Meeting, Feb. 20-24 in Houston, also found that the overall rate of depression among asthmatic teens living in rural areas was higher than national averages.

Researchers performed depression screenings using the Depression Intensity Scale Circles (DISC) questionnaire on 332 boys and girls with the disease who were living in four rural counties in Georgia. Of that number, 26 percent – or 87 boys and girls – screened positive for depression. And of that group, 67 were girls.

“The overall percentage of depression is higher than has been shown in the literature for other chronic diseases, including inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, congenital heart disease, and even among cancer survivors,” Bush says. “That was staggering.”

Scientists don’t yet fully understand the link between asthma and depression, she says, but they do know that depression is a potential barrier to diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

“Adolescents who are depressed may be less likely to talk about their symptoms or may attribute them to something else,” Bush says. “And so much of asthma treatment is about self-management – figuring out your symptoms and preventing an attack when you recognize those symptoms. If you’re depressed, you are less likely to be aware of and have the ability to interpret those symptoms.”

The data Bush used for her analysis was collected during a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-funded trial of Puff City, led by Dr. Martha Tingen, Charles W. Linder Endowed Chair in Pediatrics, and Dr. Dennis Ownby, Professor of Pediatrics. The program was aimed at helping teens who live in rural areas manage their disease and avoid potentially fatal complications.

Teens from rural areas face a number of problems that could complicate their asthma, including poor housing quality, air pollution, trouble getting to doctors, smaller, less-equipped hospitals, and more exposure to tobacco. Previous studies have shown smoking is more prevalent in rural areas than inner-cities.

Puff City, which featured a “hip” character known as DJ Puffman, approached the issue from three key points – reduction of tobacco exposure, adherence to medication, and attack readiness.

From 2010-13, data was collected from 2,523 adolescents.

Asthma, which affects more than 300 million people worldwide, is a chronic inflammation that causes a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. Those narrowings – commonly called asthma attacks – cause more than 4,000 deaths each year in the United States alone, according to the American Lung Association.

Cannabidiol trials begin this week

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Two clinical trials aimed at treating children with medication-resistant epilepsy with cannabidiol have been approved at Georgia Regents University. The first – a two-person compassionate use protocol that received authorization from both the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration – begins today at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. The second will allow for an expanded 50-person trial, initiated at GRU with planned expansion to Savannah and Atlanta.

The state, along with GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: GWPH), and officials at GRU have been working together since May to begin a study with GW’s investigational cannabidiol (CBD) product Epidiolex®, which has promising data for difficult to treat childhood epilepsies.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced in April his support for clinical research that would investigate the use of CBD, a non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, and develop rigorous data that will inform and expand the scientific community’s understanding of potential treatments.

“No one with a heart could hear the stories of these children and their parents and not want to exhaust every possibility to provide them with the treatment they need to combat this debilitating condition,” said Gov. Nathan Deal. “I believe this initiative can have a meaningful and positive impact on the health of suffering children. Georgians have expressed overwhelming support for these endeavors, and I’m committed to finding solutions for these brave families.”

GW Pharmaceuticals is a world leader in the development of prescription cannabinoid medicines, and conducts scientific research in accordance with U.S. federal law with permission from the FDA and DEA. The FDA has already authorized physician-sponsored Investigational New Drug programs with Epidiolex at 20 sites around the U.S involving over 400 children. In parallel, GW is progressing a company-sponsored formal development program for Epidiolex that is focused on the treatment of two rare and severe forms of childhood epilepsy, Dravet syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome.

“We are pleased to be partnering with the State of Georgia and Georgia Regents University in response to the significant unmet needs of children with treatment-resistant epilepsies by providing physicians with access to our medicine Epidiolex,” said Dr. Geoffrey Guy, Chairman of GW Pharmaceuticals. “In parallel with this GRU program, GW is advancing a formal clinical trial program with the FDA and has commenced placebo-controlled clinical trials designed to gain approval for Epidiolex as a prescription medicine.”

“As the state’s public academic medical center, we should be on the leading edge in the treatment of these disorders,” said GRU President Dr. Ricardo Azziz. “Georgia’s children should not have to go elsewhere. We have a responsibility to bring the medicine of tomorrow to patient care today. We are excited to partner with GW Pharmaceuticals to study investigational cannabidiol and potentially change the lives of children with medication-resistant epilepsies.”

Families of children with difficult to treat seizure disorders who are interested in enrolling in the Epidiolex trial at Georgia Regents University can contact lead investigator Dr. Yong Park at (706) 721-3371.

About GW Pharmaceuticals:
Founded in 1998, GW is a biopharmaceutical company focused on discovering, developing and commercializing novel therapeutics from its proprietary cannabinoid product platform in a broad range of disease areas. GW commercialized the world’s first plant-derived cannabinoid prescription drug, Sativex®, which is approved for the treatment of spasticity due to multiple sclerosis in 27 countries outside the United States. Sativex is also in Phase 3 clinical development as a potential treatment of pain associated with advanced cancer. This Phase 3 program is intended to support the submission of a New Drug Application for Sativex in cancer pain with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and in other markets around the world. GW is also advancing an orphan drug program in the field of childhood epilepsy with a focus on Epidiolex®, which is in Phase 2/3 clinical development for the treatment of Dravet syndrome and which is also expected to enter Phase 3 clinical trials in the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. GW has a deep pipeline of additional cannabinoid product candidates which includes compounds in Phase 1 and 2 clinical development for glioma, ulcerative colitis, type 2 diabetes, and schizophrenia. For further information, please visit

About Georgia Regents University and Health System:
Georgia Regents University is one of four public comprehensive research universities in the state with nearly 10,000 students enrolled in its nine colleges and schools, which include the Medical College of Georgia – the nation’s 13th-oldest medical school – the nationally-ranked Hull College of Business and Georgia’s only College of Dental Medicine. The clinical enterprise associated with the university includes the 478-bed Georgia Regents Medical Center and the 154-bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia. GRU is a unit of the University System of Georgia and an equal opportunity institution.


Coca-Cola executive to speak at December commencement

AUGUSTA, Ga. – More than 600 students will become the newest graduates of Georgia Regents University after fall commencement exercises, planned for 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13, at the James Brown Arena.

Thierry Roques, Vice President and Chief Finance Officer for Coca-Cola Greater China and Korea, a business unit of The Coca-Cola Company, will be the guest speaker.

Since 2008, Roques has managed finance, marketing procurement, and supplier guiding principles activities for China – Coca-Cola’s third largest market, Korea, Hong-Kong, Taiwan, Macau, and Mongolia. He joined The Coca-Cola Company in 1995 as an internal auditor and spent three years travelling around the world auditing Coca-Cola operations in every continent.

Roques moved to Asia in 1998 and held various finance positions in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand before relocating to Shanghai, China, in 2005 as deputy CFO for the China business unit. He also served on the board of the Supply Chain Management Company and China Bottler Procurement Company, two joint ventures between Coca-Cola and its main bottling partners in China.

He earned two master’s degrees – economics and political science – from Paris II Assas University in France and a Master of Business Administration from Pace University in New York.

Medical Center and Health System boards to meet Dec. 5

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Boards of Directors of MCG Health, Inc., doing business as Georgia Regents Medical Center, and MCG Health System, Inc., doing business as Georgia Regents Health System, will have a called joint board meeting at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, in the Medical Center, Hospital Administration Conference Room, BI 2077.

For more information, call Kelly Busbee at 706-721-3929.

World AIDS Day events planned

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Georgia Regents University will host a series of events Dec. 1-3. focused on the mission of World AIDS Day.

World AIDS Day is held on Dec. 1 each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died. Events at GRU are being presented by the Medical College of Georgia Section of Infectious Diseases, the GRU Ryan White Program, and Student Health Services.

Events include:

Monday, Dec. 1:

  • 11 a.m., Ribbon hanging and sidewalk chalking, Summerville campus
  • Noon, Lunch N Learn with testimonials from people living with HIV/AIDS, Jaguar Student Activities Center, Butler Conference Room, Summerville campus
  • 5:30 p.m., Luminary lighting in remembrance of those we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS, Maxwell Theatre steps, Summerville campus

Tuesday, Dec. 2

  • 5:30 p.m., Free screening of the Oscar winning film “Dallas Buyers Club,” Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Auditorium, Health Sciences campus; discussion on “Where we’ve been, Where we are, and Where we’re going in HIV/AIDS care” to immediately follow

Wednesday, Dec. 3

  • Noon, Lunch N Learn with Dr. Peter Rissing, an epidemiologist and professor of Infectious Diseases, who started the GRU HIV clinic more than three decades ago, J. Harold Harrison M.D. Education Commons, Room 1110 C, Health Sciences campus


Memorial service for body donors set for Nov. 14

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Georgia Regents University students will honor individuals who have donated their body to health sciences education at a 1 p.m. service Friday, Nov. 14 in the Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditorium of the GRU Auditoria Center.

The ceremony will include student and faculty perspectives on donors’ impact on education and musical selections performed by students. Attendees can then visit the cinerarium on campus, where donor ashes can be interred.

“Students will always remember their cadaver as their first patient,” said David Adams, Coordinator of Anatomical Donation Services. “And what the donors teach students is better than any textbook, any lecture or any video they can watch. The students have a tremendous respect for that.”

Donors are needed for medical, dental and allied health sciences education. Students begin their dissection experience with a blessing of thanksgiving by a GRU chaplain and complete the course with another prayer and by cleaning the cadavers, often placing thank-you notes in the body bags, Adams said.

The registry includes more than 10,000 people, but the average age of donors is young and the need increases as class sizes increase, Adams said.

The Uniform Anatomical Gift Act requires donors to be at least 18 but there is no upper age limit. Infectious disease can preclude donation, as can serious trauma with multiple organ damage. However, donors who’ve had common surgeries such as hysterectomies or hip replacements are welcomed.

GRU’s Anatomical Donation Program provides transportation to GRU, embalming and cremation. Ashes can be returned to the family or interred in the cinerarium. For more information about body donation contact Adams at 706-721-3731 or or visit

Veterans Day events scheduled

Georgia Regents University and its partners will host several Veterans Day events to show support for our troops and what they have done for our country.

The Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home will host its annual Veterans Day ceremony at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 11 in the courtyard. Col. Brannen C. Cohee, Commander of the 480th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group at the U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon will be the guest speaker.

The ceremony, which is open to the public, will also feature Fort Gordon’s U.S. Army Signal Corps Band and Post Ceremonial Detachment Color Guard as well as the Butler High School Drill Team.

The Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home, operated through an interagency agreement between Georgia Regents University and the Georgia Department of Veterans Service, is located at 1101 15th St. For more information, call Karen Yonce at Georgia War at 706-721-2531.

Later that day, GRU’s Office of Military and Veterans Services  will host its annual Veterans Day Barbecue from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Washington Hall Towers on the Summerville Campus.  For more information on this event, see the flier below or call Carol Giardina at 706-667-4087.

veterans-day 2014 (2)

Faculty and staff part of TEDx Augusta lineup

Four GRU faculty and staff are slated to present at the 2015 TEDx Augusta conference, planned for Jan. 30 at the Imperial Theatre.

Chris McKinney

Chris McKinney, Associate Vice President for Innovation Commercialization, will present “Creating the Future: Why Wait?”

Steven Uhles, Media and Marketing Coordinator for the GRU Cancer Center, will talk about “Creative Capital – The Inherent Worth of the Abstract.”

james rawson

James Rawson, Warren Professor and Chair of the Department of Radiology in the Medical College of Georgia and Medical Director and Chief of Radiology at Georgia Regents Medical Center, will discuss “Virtual Communities and Social Media: How Will You Use These Tools to Change the World?”


Samir Khleif, Director of the GRU Cancer Center, will present “Cancer Health for Underserved Communities, A Sustainable Model.”

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group.

Tickets are available on General admission is $75 up until the day of the conference; students, senior citizen, and military ticket prices ae $65. Visit for more details.