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

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.

Sorry, wrong number

helloitserica /

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”.

About 100 students at Nimitz High School have been notified they could have been exposed to tuberculosis last spring.

A student at Nimitz is currently being treated for TB.  Officials are not releasing any more information about the patient. Next Wednesday, the Dallas County Health Department will do free TB testing on campus to screen for infection.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Family Clinic, in Dallas is one of 32 health centers across the country to receive an award made available in part by the Affordable Care Act. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced awards of approximately $67 million to the nation’s health centers, including $19 million made available by the Affordable Care Act, to establish new health service delivery sites.


Being a Red Cross volunteer has become a lot more than setting up cots and handing out coffee. Red Cross DFW is seeking digital volunteers, people to live-Tweet during storms or other events.


You won’t find the Marlboro Man pushing tobacco on TV anymore, but you will find other familiar faces flaunting electronic cigarettes. Celebrities includingJenny McCarthyStephen Dorff and Courtney Love have signed on to pitch the devices, and national sales of e-cigarettes have caught fire. In North Texas, e-cigarettes are big business, even though physicians worry they aren’t as benign as we’re being told.

This is by far one of the funniest fish faces in the ocean. And now it’s official. The blobfish, which lives in the waters off Australia, is the “winner” of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society’s vote to select a new mascot. Hat tip to NPR’s The Two-Way for showing me an image I’ll never forget.

At first glance, we thought it was a Star Wars character.

Here are a few of the other contenders:


The measles cases connected to a North Texas mega church may have run their course.

This morning, Tarrant County epidemiologist Russ Jones told County Commissioners there have been 21 overall cases in the cluster, 16 in Tarrant, the rest in Denton County. The onset of the latest case was August 21st, and Jones says if there are no new cases confirmed this week, that’s likely the end of the North Texas outbreak.

Lauren Silverman

Fort Worth isn’t just home to the Stockyards and Sundance Square anymore. Cowtown is now home to a plant that will produce the first smartphones ever assembled in the U.S.


In three weeks, the Texas health insurance marketplace will be open for business. There will be a variety of plans to choose from – the basic bronze and even platinum – but all of them, and many private insurance plans too – will be required to cover certain benefits like checkups starting in 2014.


If you want job security and a good salary, investing in putting an “M” and a “D” in front of your name is a pretty solid way to go. Today there is unprecedented demand for MD’s, or family physicians, in Texas and across the U.S., according to a new study led by Irving-based consulting firm Merritt Hawkins.


BJ Austin / KERA

The brain of a middle school child is a mystery. If you’re a parent, you may have found yourself saying “What were you thinking?” or “Use your brain”.  That’s just what 6th, 7th and 8th graders in West Dallas are going to do at a brain-training boot camp. Nine language arts teachers at Edison Middle School and Learning Center are using a new program to teach kids critical thinking, starting today.

We spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, but much of that function remains a mystery. Weekend Edition Sunday is asking some pretty fundamental, yet complicated, questions about why we do it and why we can't seem to get more of it.

Dr. Matthew Walker says the question of why we sleep remains "that archetypal mystery."

Walker, the principal investigator at the sleep lab the University of California, Berkeley, works with patients who suffer from sleep abnormalities. He says the complexity of sleep makes the research that much more fascinating.


Lace up your shoes and get ready to jump in — the health insurance marketplace opens in less than a month. And even though the details of the plans — or prices — available to Texans on the new site haven’t been revealed, you can still get a leg up by preparing early.

Nick Harris

Tarrant County leads Texas in the number of babies that die before their first birthday. The JPS Health Network is launching some new programs to fight that grim statistic.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

There are nearly six million people in Texas without health insurance. The majority will be able to get coverage when the state marketplace opens in October, but not everyone. Undocumented immigrants won’t be able to sign up for health care through the exchange.

Preliminary work on a proton cancer center at the site of the old Dallas Apparel Mart is expected to begin soon. And the city is making plans to kick in $7 million to jumpstart construction.  Proton technology more precisely attacks tumors with fewer side effects.   

State health officials have issued a whopping cough alert.  Dr. Lisa Cornelius, infectious diseases medical officer, calls the number of pertussis, or whooping cough cases in Texas extremely concerning.

The state is on pace to see the most cases since the 1950’s, and state officials are urging people to make sure they are vaccinated.  Texas reports nearly 2,000 cases so far this year with two deaths. Both were infants too young to be vaccinated.


Check-up, check.

Teeth cleaning, forget it.


Seniors in Texas are among the worst off in a new report ranking states by level of food security. While hunger is a problem usually associated with extreme poverty and children, the reality is we’ve got millions of seniors in the U.S. who are going hungry.

Luciana Christante / Flickr

When it comes to medical advice, most people turn to their doctor. But in some places, it’s the religious leader whose words resonate. In one North Texas community, parishioners followed guidance from pastors who said to turn to faith before medicine. And this month, more than twenty of them became sick with the measles.

The State Fair of Texas has named the eight finalists for the 2013 Big Tex Choice Awards.  Each year, eight concessionaires are chosen to compete for the top prizes of Best Taste and Most Creative. Past winners include Fried Coke, Fried Beer, Fried Cinnamon Roll with  Bacon and Deep Fried Jambalaya.

The state of Kentucky’s got ‘Kynect,’ Idaho’s got ‘Your Health Idaho’, what’s the Lone Star State going to call its health care exchange? True, the exchange will be set up by the federal government, but Texas still gets to brand it.

Here’s a few ideas:

Klara Kim

State Health officials are warning about handling ‘live’ chickens in light of an ongoing, national Salmonella outbreak. Thirty-two Texans have become ill in what health officials say is the largest ever Salmonella outbreak linked to live birds.

Texas students had to get up to date on vaccinations to return to school today – especially the measles shot. An outbreak of the viral disease in North Texas has hit Tarrant County hardest. Many of the 15 cases traced back to a person who traveled out of the country where measles is more common. In this installment of KERA’s Vital Signs, Tarrant County epidemiologist Dr. Russell Jones talks about the importance of getting vaccinated.

Stella M. Chávez / KERA News

A long line formed outside the Dallas County Health and Human Services building on Friday. Most were parents waiting to get their child immunized before the first day of school on Monday.

Schools require that students be up to date on all of their required shots, but the recent outbreak of measles in North Texas may also have prompted some parents to take immunization more seriously.

BJ Austin

A year from now, the nation’s biggest hospital construction project will be finished.  As the new, 17-story Parkland Hospital takes shape, top contractors have found themselves with additional duties: conducting hard-hat tours for a preview.

Paul Hakimata Photography /

Doctors usually clamp and cut the umbilical cord less than a minute after childbirth. But a study recently published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggests waiting longer would benefit a newborn. Dr. Sheri Puffer, an Ob-Gyn with Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, explains why in this edition of KERA’s series Vital Signs.

This is shaping up to be the worst year for whooping  cough in Texas since the 1960s. State officials report nearly 1,700 cases of pertussis so far in 2013. About half of those are in North Texas.