Breakthroughs | KERA News


Breakthroughs is a weekly series devoted to the latest innovations in health, science and technology — with a North Texas accent.

Explore special Breakthroughs multimedia projects: Surviving Ebola, a look at how Ebola made its way to Dallas and the lessons local hospitals and governments learned; Growing Up After Cancer, the journey of one North Texas boy with cancer; and The Broken Hip, an in-depth look at how a fall can change everything. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

If and when the technical problems on the online health insurance marketplace clear up, millions of people are expected to enroll. Not Jackie Sawicky.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

It’s been three weeks since the health insurance marketplace opened in Texas. While we don’t know exactly how many people have made it all the way to the finish line, it’s clear plenty are still stuck. As part of KERA’s series Obamacare 101: Making The Choice, we profile of a Fort Worth woman who’s been uninsured for more than a decade.

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So what's behind the traffic jam at With the help of Dallas tech guru Mark Haider, and his simple highway analogy, you'll be an expert in no time.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Obamacare could make getting access to healthcare a lot easier for the Riley’s. In the North Texas family of five, three are members of the Choctaw Nation and have special perks under the Affordable Care Act. As part of KERA’s series Obamacare 101: Making The Choice, we bring you a profile the Riley’s.

The Dallas VA Medical Center is offering new help to the most injured North Texas vets – those with multiple wounds– physical and psychological. Monday, officials cut the ribbon on a new $5 million polytrauma center.

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Research by Connecticut College students and a neuroscience professor found that Oreo cookies light up more neurons in the brains of lab rates than cocaine or morphine.

Neuroscience major Jamie Honohan says her idea was to shed light on potential addictiveness of high-fat/high-sugar foods.  Students and Professor Joseph Schroeder measured the levels of neuronal activity in the brain’s pleasure center.  They found that Oreos activiated significantly more neurons than the two illegal drugs.


It’s a big job: trying to connect more than 11,000 physicians, 140 hospitals and millions of patients to a central database. That’s the ambitious goal of the North Texas Accountable Health Partnership. Of course, linking so many electronic medical records is not only tough, but controversial, especially when it comes to privacy.

BJ Austin / KERA News

Parkland Hospital in Dallas has struggled over the past two years to correct hundreds of deficiencies found during a critical inspection, and remains under federal monitoring. But board members say the public hospital has made the required corrections and they’re ready to resume the search for a permanent CEO.

BJ Austin / KERA News

The Centers for Disease Control says one of every 20 patients gets an infection during a hospital stay.  In Fort Worth, a hospital is fighting that problem with an ultraviolet light machine that looks like one of Luke Skywalker’s sidekicks.  

Launch DFW

Good news for tech startups in North Texas: Dallas is about to get its own permanent “Shark Tank,” albeit on a smaller, less flashy stage.


Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories about the federally run health insurance marketplace: complaints about the broken website, long waits and unsuccessful sign-ups. Two pieces of good news for you: First, the glitches are getting sorted out. Second, not everyone in North Texas has to visit

Looking a little like R2D2, a portable ultraviolet light disinfecting machine is killing potentially dangerous microbes in hospital operating rooms and elsewhere.


Its symptoms suggest a number of ailments, but doctors have been diagnosing more cases of Chiari (pronounced kee-AH-ree) malformation — a condition where the brain intrudes on the spinal column. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Dr. Sabatino Bianco, a neurosurgeon with of Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, talks about the two most common forms of Chiari.


The health insurance marketplace is ten days old, and the traffic jam at still hasn’t cleared up. That’s been frustrating for Texans and the people trying to sign them up. As part of our series Obamacare 101, we take a look at some North Texas companies who are celebrating, not complaining about the Affordable Care Act.


Okay, I know. Remembering birthdays, bill payments, and where you left your keys is hard enough. But there are a few dates you should keep in mind now that the Health Insurance Marketplace is up and running (sort of) in Texas. Here’s a breakdown, courtesy of the Texas Medical Association’s “Hey Doc” educational campaign.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Imagine not having to fill out that new patient form every single time you see a different physician. Or doctors getting automatic notices when a patient is admitted to the emergency room. These are some of the promises of electronic health records.

Courtney Collins / KERA News

A handful of physics professors at the University of Texas at Arlington celebrated with high-fives at yesterday’s announcement of the Nobel Prize for Physics. It went to the two scientists behind the theory of the Higgs boson particle, sometimes called the God Particle, Francois Englert and Peter Higgs.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

For years the government has been trying to convince doctors to trade in their pads and pens for computers and tablets – and not just because their handwriting is often illegible. The switch plays a fundamental role in achieving the promises of Obamacare -- lower costs and more access. Not all North Texas physicians are taking the bait.

We’re deep into Nobel Prize season, and a brain researcher with North Texas roots is celebrating.

Dr. Thomas C. Südhof is one of three scientists who shared the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine on Monday. The Stanford professor did his prize-winning research — on “synaptic transmission,” or how brain cells communicate with chemical signals — during his 25 years at UT Southwestern in Dallas.

BlueCross BlueShield of Texas

The traffic jam of people checking out health insurance options online hasn’t completely let up. But here’s what North Texans will find once they make it past the login page: 40 plus plans to choose from. A handful are from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas — the largest provider of health benefits in the state.

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The government shutdown may allow the flu to sneak up on us as the season begins. The Centers for Disease Control’s flu tracking program is on hold because of the shutdown and employee furloughs.

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Speaking to an audience in New Jersey yesterday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called the opening of the Obamacare health insurance marketplaces a “felony” against young people.

Texas reports more than 2,300 cases of whooping cough so far this year, the highest in 50 years.  A new report on California’s 2010 whooping cough outbreak links clusters of unvaccinated people with areas that had the highest number of whooping cough cases. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

There’s been a lot of hype about the online Health Insurance Marketplace opening Oct. 1. And while it did open as planned, the traffic was intense. So intense that some people in Dallas had to go with old-fashioned paper and pen.


This fair might not have corny dogs or deep fried lattes, but it will offer a free bag of healthy groceries and an all-you-can learn Obamacare buffet.

We’re getting an idea of what health insurance may cost through the Affordable Care Act marketplace that opens in Texas next week. A report released today puts a dollar figure to ‘affordable’ health insurance.

A week from today, Oct. 1, is a make-or-break moment for the Affordable Care Act. On that day, the health insurance “marketplace” opens for business. Because Texas refused to set up its own marketplace, the federal government will run the show here. And there are still a lot of questions — including how much insurance will cost. 

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

There aren’t many places in Texas you can find sheep, ostrich, and the intestines of a reindeer together in one room. Especially not preserved to show you the inner workings of the organs and animals themselves. But that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Perot Museum of Natural Science starting this weekend in a new exhibit called “Animals, Inside Out.” 


Attention seniors, you will not lose Medicare coverage when the health insurance marketplace opens in October, nor will you have to go to the new online exchange to sign up for plans.

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A new national poll shows Americans say they would trust their doctors the most to give them information about the Affordable Care Act and the new health insurance marketplaces.  But the Kaiser Family Foundation survey says people aren’t turning to their doctors to learn more.

The Texas Medical Association wants to get doctors and patients engaged in a conversation about the healthcare law and new insurance marketplaces.  TMA has launched an online campaign called “Hey, Doc”.