UAB Magazine Online Archive
Epigenetics Shapes the Future of Health
By Matt Windsor and Emily Delzell | Illustrations by Ron Gamble
Trygve Tollefsbol believes you can change your destiny—with broccoli. The UAB biologist, a pioneer in the booming field of epigenetics, has the data to make his case. In a widely publicized review paper published this spring in the journal Clinical Epigenetics, Tollefsbol and colleagues at UAB explained how a diet rich in broccoli, green tea, grapes, and other key ingredients can fight off cancer and other aging-related diseases.
UAB scientists are hardly the first experts to tout the health benefits of “superfoods” like leafy vegetables and wine. But epigeneticists like Tollefsbol explain how they help on a genetic level. Their investigations offer new insights on ways to slow the aging process, reduce cancer risk, and more.
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Tollefsbol, who holds doctorates in molecular biology and osteopathic medicine, has published eight books on epigenetics, with more on the way. He is a leader in a discipline that contains a heartening message of biochemical empowerment. Epigenetics is the study of factors that affect your genes without changing the underlying DNA code. To put it another way, epigeneticists try to understand how the genetic instructions contained in our DNA are carried out in the real world.
UAB Clinic Offers Centralized Care
By Jo Lynn Orr
Kirklin Clinic and the UAB School of Nursing aims to change that by replacing the poorly coordinated, episodic, acute-care focused model with a more comprehensive, proactive, team-based approach that engages patients as partners in their own health care.Sometimes a trip through the health-care system can seem like an endurance contest, requiring multiple visits to a range of specialists and other health-care providers in offices all over town. But a unique partnership between primary-care physicians at UAB’s
Six physicians at the clinic’s Internal Medicine-1 practice have joined together to establish a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH). The concept has gained popularity in recent years and is a key component of the health-care reform measures passed by the federal government in 2010. A PCMH coordinates all patient care, including referrals to subspecialties such as cardiology, orthopedics, and rheumatology; following up with patients who have been hospitalized; and providing education on managing chronic diseases.
At UAB’s PCMH, all patient information—including X rays, lab results, and hospital and subspecialist records—is available electronically at the touch of a computer keyboard, which allows all providers access to crucial information.
Nurses and Nuance
Because managing chronic disease is the medical staple of primary-care offices, the Kirklin Clinic medical home staff includes a full-time nurse practitioner and two part-time nurse practitioners who are members of the School of Nursing faculty. “In addition to their advanced nursing education and experience, they have experience in teaching, which augments the medical home’s patient education efforts relating to chronic diseases,” says Stuart Cohen, M.D., who heads up the PCMH group and is medical director of Prime Care Internal Medicine at the Kirklin Clinic.
UAB Geologist Analyzes Alabama’s Faults
By Grant Martin
Scott Brande demonstrates how rock layers react under the stress created by movement of the earth's crust.
In January, 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti. On March 11, 2011, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake off the coast of Japan—the most powerful in the nation’s recorded history—generated a massive tsunami that killed thousands and has triggered a nuclear crisis. And on August 23, 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter in northern Virginia rattled houses and nerves from Florida to Maine, damaging the Washington Monument and other historic structures (see East Coast, West Coast).
These events, plus a host of other, less well-chronicled earthquakes in Chile, China, Pakistan, and Argentina, lead to two questions: Are we seeing an unusual pattern of major quakes? And could one hit home in Alabama?
Predicting the Mega-Quakes
The spate of earthquakes seen in the past two years doesn’t likely represent a trend so much as an unfortunate coincidence, says UAB geologist Scott Brande, Ph.D. “The number of earthquakes that occur in the world larger than about 6 to 6.5 on the magnitude scale is about 120 or 130 per year—and a magnitude 6 earthquake can do significant damage in a populated area,” Brande says. “The number of quakes larger than 7 might be 10 or 15, and the number larger than 8 might be one or two per year. So these larger quakes actually occur fairly often.”
In Step with UAB’s New Bowling Coach
By Grant Martin
Michelle Carcagente Crews has spent much of her life hanging around in alleys. She bowled her first game at age 3, was named a collegiate All-American at the University of Central Florida, and earned a spot on Junior Team USA. This summer, Crews was selected to lead UAB’s latest athletics endeavor as the first coach of the university’s women’s bowling team, which will begin practice in October.
Speaking by phone from a tournament in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she was scouting potential recruits for the fledgling Blazer program, Crews talked with UAB Magazine about introducing her new hometown to the sport of strikes, spares, and the occasional sour apple.
UAB Magazine: You were born in Long Island, New York, and grew up in Florida. Did you have any connection to Birmingham or to UAB prior to accepting the job of bowling coach?
Michelle Crews: I actually had never been in Alabama at all, so I wasn’t very familiar with the university or the city before this job became available. I’ve always known I wanted to work in the bowling industry in some way, but I also wanted to be in a place where I would be comfortable living and raising a family. As my husband, Jimmy, and I began to explore the city and learn more about the university, we realized that both Birmingham and UAB have all the things we were looking for.
I really like the size of the school and the fact that it has high academic standards. It’s a place that I think will be very attractive to recruits—especially someone with interest in the medical field.
Also, my husband works for a medical supply company and is on the amateur staff of one of the bowling companies, so Birmingham is an ideal location for us.
UAB Magazine: Although most people have bowled recreationally or even in leagues, many in this area may not be familiar with college bowling. What are some basic things UAB fans will need to know to follow the team?
MC: Practice begins in October, and the NCAA championships are in April, so even though bowling is considered a winter sport, our season lasts for most of the school year.
The number of people on the team usually ranges from about seven to as many as 15. It’s just up to the coach and what the school’s budget allows. I feel like eight is an ideal number. Only five can compete at a time in a match, but you can travel with up to eight, so having eight people on the team will mean that everyone gets the experience of traveling and being at the tournaments. It always helps to have a backup or two in the wings in case of injury or other circumstances. I think that helps a lot as young players become upperclassmen to have really been a part of the team and to build a family-type atmosphere.
There will be some matches against individual teams, but most of the events we participate in will be multiteam tournaments. A team has to participate in eight events to be eligible for the NCAA championships, so we’ll definitely have eight events scheduled, and I hope to eventually get up to 12 or more.
UAB Magazine: When you’re scouting teenage bowlers, what do you look for, other than high bowling scores?