Monday, October 20, 2014

Where Do Chinese-American Women with Cancer Turn when Conventional Medicine Falls Short?

by Bonnie Eissner

Prayer and exercise had the highest perceived effectiveness.


In treating cancer, fire is generally used to fight fire. Common medical interventions—chemotherapy, radiation and surgery—can cause as much discomfort as the disease itself. Many cancer patients understandably pursue other avenues to healing—herbs, acupuncture, meditation, prayer, diet, etc. Yet, according to Shan Liu, Ph.D., and Yiyuan Sun, D.N.Sc., assistant professors at the College of Nursing and Public Health, few studies agree on the prevalence or effectiveness of these so-called complementary and alternative medicines or CAMs. And in most large studies, the patterns among minorities, such as first-generation Chinese immigrant women, are impossible to tease out.


Dr. Liu and Dr. Sun are working to change this status quo and have already completed a pilot study of CAM use and perceived effectiveness among Chinese- American cancer survivors in Queens and Brooklyn , New York. Dr. Liu and Dr. Sun surveyed 97 Chinese-American women on their use of CAMs while being treated for cancer and found that the more symptoms the women experienced, the more likely they were to use CAMs. The most popular CAM was exercise, such as walking, followed by the herb lingzhi, vitamins and spiritual or faith therapy—i.e., prayer. Of these, prayer and exercise had the highest perceived effectiveness.

Dr. Liu and Dr. Sun’s study showed a greater prevalence of CAM usage among this segment—87 percent—compared with other U.S. studies but lower rates than studies conducted in China, which have shown rates of 97 to 100 percent.

Traditional Chinese philosophies—i.e., how you live makes you healthy or unhealthy—may be behind the higher use of CAMs in this population, according to Dr. Liu and Dr. Sun. They also say that knowing what questions to ask is crucial. For example, lingzhi—which is less well-known in the West—can potentially interact with chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
This piece appeared in the Erudition 2014 edition.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Nazis, Psychopaths and Morals

by Bonnie Eissner 

Picture this. You’re in Nazi Germany hiding with your baby and the members of your town. Your baby starts crying. If your baby keeps crying, the Nazis are going to kill everyone. What is the moral choice?

If you’re struggling with the answer, you’re not alone, says Elsa Ermer, Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies. In her research into social cognition, Dr. Ermer has found that most people are slow to respond to this question and similar ones that test moral reasoning. Most of us have two decision-making systems—an emotional one that in this case tells us not to harm others and a rational one that tells us it’s better to save more lives. “People feel that conflict and then it takes them a while to decide what’s right,” Dr. Ermer says.

Brain Scans

Brain scans reveal that people with higher psychopathy scores have less gray matter (brain tissue that correlates with abilities and intelligence) in the regions colored blue. The color bar shows the scale of the effect. Areas that are more green are the regions where psychopaths showed greater differences from controls.

Dr. Ermer and Kent Kiehl, Ph.D., a professor at The University of New Mexico, have been asking incarcerated psychopaths how they would act in the Nazi scenario. Dr. Ermer and Dr. Kiehl bring a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner to prisons to analyze psychopaths’ brain activity while they respond. In general, psychopaths choose to sacrifice the baby to save the town, and they decide much more quickly. Their “emotional system is either damaged, not working or just working at a lower level so it’s that rational calculus that’s taking over,” Dr. Ermer says.

Prior fMRI research on psychopaths has revealed that they have less tissue in their paralimbic cortex—part of the brain where emotions are processed. People with psychopathy also show reduced activity in these areas when making moral decisions.

The moral reasoning experiments are part of a series of studies that Dr. Ermer and Dr. Kiehl are undertaking with the ultimate goal of understanding how best to treat psychopathy. While psychopaths constitute just 1 percent of the general population, they represent 15 to 20 percent of the prison population.
This piece appeared in the Erudition 2014 edition.

Friday, October 10, 2014

CHI Summer Scholar Lecture Series Kicks off October 22nd!

The Center for Health Innovation cordially invites you to meet our faculty and hear about their current work in our CHI Scholar series. Adelphi University faculty are actively engaged in improving the health and health care of our families and our communities. Light refreshments will be served.  Please join us!
Wednesday October 22, 2014
1-2 pm, Ruth S. Harley University Center, Room 211
Professor Tonya Samuel: "Finding a Place for GIS in Community Health Assessments"
Professor Thomas Virgona: "The Deployment of Geographic Information Systems into Healthcare Informatics Research"

Tonya Samuel, EdD, MSPH
Dr. Samuel is an Assistant Professor in the College of Nursing and Public Health. She has over 15 years of experience in health education and research that spans academic, public and non-profit sectors.   From Dr. Samuel's field experience in violence, diabetes and hypertension prevention; tuberculosis and tobacco control, she is able to make students aware of the realities of public health and has published papers in community-engaged research. Dr. Samuel holds an EdD in health and behavioral studies and MSPH in epidemiology.

Thomas Virgona, Ph.D.
Research Interests
• Disaster Recovery
• Information Security
• Health Care Informatics
Dr. Virgona an Assistant Professor aand Director of the Healthcare Informatics Graduate Program at Adelphi University. Prior to joining Adelphi, he was an Associate Professor at Central Connecticut State University [School of Business].  Dr. Virgona was an employee of CitiGroup on Wall Street from 1990 - 2009. As a Vice President in the technology group, some of my responsibilities included Technology Information Security Officer, Software Quality Manager, Export Licensing and Project Management.

Dr. Virgona has published a number of articles in refereed journals, including “Towards an Epistemological Definition of the Research Front of Information and Society,”  and “Graduate Nursing Student Self-Assessment: Fundamental Technology Skills,” both of which were published in 2013.  In addition, he published a book in 2008 entitled, September 11, 2001: A Study of the Human Aspects of Disaster Recovery Efforts for Wall Street Financial Services Firms, which was followed 10 years post-9/11 by the article entitled, “September 11, 2001 In Retrospect: A decade on, what business continuity and information security lessons have we learners?”