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. 

Low-T is back in the news, but the latest isn’t a boost for the testosterone business. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Associationshowing men taking testosterone therapy had a 29% greater risk of death, heart attack and stroke than those not on the hormone replacement.

Comanche County Medical Center

Rural hospitals provide emergency and routine care for millions of people in Texas. But over the past few decades, their doors have been closing. The Affordable Care Act was supposed to help financially-strained rural hospitals stay open – but it doesn’t look like there will be much relief for those in Texas.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

In rural Texas, finding a family practice doctor is no easy feat. There are dozens of counties without doctors, and the need for health care is only going to increase as more people buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act. So how do we convince recent medical school graduates to strap on their boots and take root in rural clinics? Give them a taste. Turns out, they often end up sticking around.

In Texas there are about a dozen different insurance companies participating in the marketplace, selling roughly 100 plans across the state. As the Texas Medical Association points out though, some areas of the state, especially rural areas, have fewer insurance options than others.

While everyone is busy watching U.S. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius try and pick up the pieces of the train wreck that’s been the Obamacare rollout, the real problems with health care reform in Texas are going unnoticed. That’s what the Texas Hospital Association argues its most recent press release.

Tarrant County still leads the state in the number of whooping cough cases this year: 562 to date. But Tarrant Public Health director Lou Brewer says there is good news: not as many children and adults are getting sick. 

“We have pretty much finished looking at the cases and reports for September, and there’s a marked decrease in the number of cases, particularly in the Hispanic population,” Brewer told county commissioners during an update on public health issues.  “So, we’re very happy to see that.”


What does the health care marketplace have in common with the Dewey Decimal Classification System? First, they both can seem extremely confusing. Second, the library is the place to go for answers.


These jack-o’-lantern scraps are the healthiest part of the whole pumpkin. Pepitas, or pumpkin seeds, pack in a serious dose of magnesium, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin E and vitamin K. Here are some creative ways to make them part of your meal.


Be Covered Texas, a statewide education and outreach initiative sponsored by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, will be hosting a free community health event Oct. 26 at the Dallas Convention Center Arena. The fair, which runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. will provide educational information on the Affordable Care Act, free flue shots and other activities.

Lauren Silverman / KERA News

Even with Obamacare, more than one million people in Texas are in health care limbo. Since the state didn't expand Medicaid, low-income people people like Sheila Anderson won’t have access to government assistance or health insurance subsidies on the marketplace.

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Parkland Hospital in Dallas and Baylor Medical Center Carrollton are among  Dallas-area hospitals that fell in an annual ranking that measures hospital acquired infections and injuries, as well as medical and medication errors.

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.