Category Archives: medical news

Texas Tech, Texas A&M battle over veterinary medicine

Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp came to the Panhandle the other day to announce plans to enhance West Texas A&M’s veterinary medicine education program.

Sharp wants to maintain A&M’s monopoly on veterinary medicine throughout the state. I cannot blame him for looking out for the university system he administers.

Oh, but wait. His plan for WT have the appearance of a sort of pre-emptive strike to prevent Texas Tech University from building a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo, which is a live option on the table for the community … and for Tech Chancellor Bob Duncan.

Duncan and Sharp have distinct differences of opinion on whether Texas Tech should proceed with construction of a veterinary college in Amarillo. Duncan came to town not long ago to pitch the case to community leaders, suggesting that Tech’s board of regents are committed to establishing a vet school next to Tech’s existing Health Sciences Center in Amarillo.

Sharp, meanwhile, is pulling out many stops to prevent Tech from proceeding. The top Aggie is a savvy enough politician to understand what the announcement that boosts WT’s role in veterinary medicine means to any potential competition. Then again, Duncan has been around the Texas political pea patch a time or two himself, so he must be acutely aware of what Sharp might be trying to accomplish.

I happen to believe that Texas — with 268,000 square miles and 27 million residents — is big enough to accommodate two schools of veterinary medicine. Duncan has high praise for the veterinary education that A&M provides. He also believes Texas Tech can provide a top-drawer education for veterinary medicine students who want to be educated here at home and who might want to remain in the Panhandle after they receive their DVM degrees from Texas Tech.

I happen to agree with Duncan.

I also believe the A&M initiative is good for West Texas A&M, it’s good for the community … but it shouldn’t forestall Texas Tech’s efforts to establish a veterinary medicine presence in Amarillo.

Mental health exams for presidents? Absolutely!

Set aside for a moment the questions that have arisen about the current president of the United States, about whether he still possesses all his marbles.

The White House doctor says he does. That’s good enough for me.

CNN polled Americans and learned that 80 percent of us favor regular mental acuity examinations for presidents. Count me as strongly in favor of that idea.

The exams could help determine whether a president is showing signs of dementia, loss of mental snap, whether he is less alert. I’m all for it!

When is it too early? I don’t think you should set a minimum age for such exams. Donald J. Trump is 71 years of age. He clearly falls into the category of Americans susceptible to loss of cognitive skill.

I’ll pass along this personal tidbit.

My dear mother died in September 1984 — at age 61 — of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She had become a mere shell of the woman she once was. She didn’t recognize anyone. She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t feed herself, bathe or dress herself. Eventually, she developed pneumonia after her brain ceased telling her lungs to breathe.

Mom was officially diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in the spring of 1980, when she was not quite 57 years of age. In truth, she had been showing some serious sign of personality disorder and loss of cognition at least three, maybe four years earlier. That meant she might have been showing early onset symptoms at the age of, oh, 53 or 54.

Most of us are still in the prime of life at that age. Not everyone is dealt that kind of good fortune. Mom clearly was dealt an extremely bad hand.

Thus, when the president of the United States is handed the nuclear launch codes and is put in command of the world’s most formidable military machine, I want to know whether he is up to the job.

By all means, we need to look inside their noggins regularly.

Tech chancellor pushes another ‘big idea’

Bob Duncan is on a mission. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.

The Texas Tech University System chancellor believes Texas is too big a state to have just a single college of veterinary medicine. He wants to establish a second vet school and he wants it to be in Amarillo.

So, here’s the simplicity and complexity of the notion he is proposing.

The Texas Panhandle is at the epicenter of large animal care, given the region’s plethora of livestock in the form of cattle and horses. “The feedlots and dairies are clustered in West Texas, not on the Brazos (River),” he said, alluding to Texas A&M University’s dominance of veterinary medicine education. A&M has the sole such college in Texas, and Duncan wants to rid the Aggies of their vet school monopoly.

In a presentation today to the Rotary Club of Amarillo, Duncan made several key points. He pointed out that Texas Tech was created in 1923 as the result of a “big idea.” He believes the school of veterinary medicine is the university’s next major step forward.

Duncan said Texas has a shortage of veterinarians, 40 percent of whom are educated out of state.

The chancellor said Texas Tech has been consulting with veterinary medicine programs at Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Colorado State and University of California-Davis. He also noted that Amarillo is closer to the vet school campuses in Kansas, Oklahoma and Colorado than it is to College Station, home of Texas A&M University’s flagship campus.

But it gets complicated.

Duncan and his Tech team have been getting serious resistance from A&M, which is led by Chancellor John Sharp, who Duncan describes as a “fine chancellor” who’s also a friend. “We just disagree on this issue,” Duncan said of Sharp.

Sharp has been resisting Tech’s push for a school of veterinary medicine because he apparently believes there’s no need for a second such school in Texas, a state comprising 268,000 square miles and 28 million inhabitants. Indeed, Texas is the second-largest state geographically and second-most populous state in the nation. And we have just a single school of veterinary medicine?

I believe Chancellor Sharp has been bitten by the protectionist bug.

Duncan said he has no desire or intention to denigrate Texas A&M or its school of veterinary medicine. “A&M is considered one of the top 10 vet schools in the nation,” Duncan said, “but A&M cannot accept all the qualified applicants who want to be veterinarians.” He noted that most of the qualified Texas vet school applicants have to go out of state to obtain their doctorate in veterinary medicine.

Texas Tech has received $4.1 million from the Texas Legislature to develop a plan for a vet school in Amarillo, Duncan said, adding that Tech plans to present that plan to the 2019 Legislature, which convenes next January.

Tech plans to locate the campus next to it existing Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and School of Pharmacy campuses in west Amarillo.

But there’s a lot more money to raise, Duncan said, citing a $90 million goal from private, public and foundation sources. He said the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has set aside $15 million in grant funds to assist in that fundraising effort.

“It’s a natural fit,” Duncan said of the vet school plan for the Texas Panhandle.

How confident is the chancellor of success? He didn’t specify.

I’ll just add that Duncan moved into the chancellor’s chair after a highly successful career in the Texas Senate. Many of his former Senate colleagues are still serving there, along with a smattering of those with whom he served in the Texas House. Moreover, Duncan also believes the Panhandle delegation — Sen. Kel Seliger, and Reps. John Smithee, Four Price and Ken King — all are lending their considerable influence to push the vet school over the finish line.

Duncan developed a high degree of respect as a legislator. I believe that respect transfers to the Texas Tech chancellor as he seeks legislative support for what he calls Tech’s next “big idea.”

Trump is overweight … enough said

I am not going to get involved in a discussion about whether Donald John Trump is merely overweight, obese, or whether the doctor who examined him is telling us the whole truth about his patient’s medical condition.

I make this declaration as someone who could stand lose a few pounds as well. So I won’t be overly judgmental, except to say that I do wonder if the president actually weighs a “mere” 239 pounds.

Dr. Ronny Jackson, the rear admiral who examined Trump, said the president is in “excellent health.” He attributes “good genes” to a diagnosis offered on someone — the president — who eats fast food, guzzles Diet Cokes and gets no exercise.

Fine, doc.

I’ll just offer this long-distance observation.

The president is overweight. He needs to lose a good bit of weight. I’ve seen the pictures of him in his golf attire. The man has a pot belly and an overly ample caboose.

He’s not an Adonis … even though he might think of himself as one.

I am in no position to determine whether he has heart disease, as CNN’s resident medical expert, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has asserted. I’ll leave that analysis to the medical community. Nor will I determine whether he has lost his marbles. If Dr. Jackson says he retains his full mental acuity, I’ll accept that, too.

However, there is zero doubt in my own mind that the president needs to take better care of himself.

I say this as one of the president’s 300 million-plus employers. He works for us.

Lose some weight, Mr. President. Do as you’re told.

‘Girther’ movement, anyone?

I have followed a longstanding policy to avoid making fun of people’s names or their appearance.

Then along came Donald John Trump, who ran for president of the United States and, yes, along the way made an annoying habit of needling his political foes over their appearance.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky? Some of the women who accused him of sexual impropriety? Carly Fiorina?

Trump said some hideous things about them.

So, the president is now fair game to those of us who, um, feel compelled to comment on some aspects of his physical appearance.

I’m howling at the idea of a new movement that’s springing up around the country. It’s called the “Girther Movement,” which is meant to call attention to the president’s ample waistline. Oh, yeah, it also reminds us all of the “birther movement” that Trump used to call attention to the lies about President Obama’s place of birth.

The White House physician, Ronny Jackson, says the president weighs in at 239 pounds; he stands 6 foot 3 inches tall and he is close to being declared “obese,” according to Dr. Jackson.

Some folks are questioning whether Trump really and truly weighs a mere 239 pounds, suggesting that he is, um, a good bit heftier.

Trump may be the smartest, richest, least racist person any of us have ever seen.

But … he is far from the fittest. He loves his cheeseburgers, Diet Cokes and doesn’t exercise a lick — or so we’re led to believe.

Girther movement? Sure. Sign me up.

Settled: POTUS isn’t losing his mind

 

I am willing to accept the words of a medical professional who has examined presidents dating back to 2013.

Donald John Trump Sr.’s mental acuity is intact. He’s not losing his mind. His butter hasn’t slipped off his noodle.

The president went through a routine physical examination. Then, at his request, he went through a cognitive examination by Navy Rear Admiral Ronny L. Jackson, the doctor who’s been the White House’s lead MD for the past five years.

He ran Trump through his paces and determined that the president is (a) overweight and needs some regular exercise and (b) doesn’t suffer from any loss of cognition.

That’s how we’re supposed to determine these matters, not with long-distance analyses offered by individuals who have either zero qualifications to make them or haven’t examined the president up close.

“I find no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought process,” Jackson said.

I am not about to give Trump a pass on the weird statements he continues to make via Twitter or verbally. I will continue to call his statements into question and will continue to criticize him when I feel it is appropriate. I also will offer a good word when it is appropriate as well.

The examination comes at an appropriate time. The president has been, um, somewhat wild in his responses to issues of the day. He blurted out that infamous “sh**hole” comment regarding immigration, then felt he had to declare that “I am the least racist person you’ve ever interviewed.”

Dr. Jackson’s assessment, though, that Trump is in complete control of his faculties is good enough for me.

The doctor cannot explain why his patient keeps yapping uncontrollably and nonsensically. It must be the Trumpian way.

Believe this. The doctor’s diagnosis doesn’t make me feel one damn bit better about the president of the United States.

No armchair diagnoses, please

You may count me as one who takes a dim view of those who think they can diagnose medical matters from a distance.

There’s a good bit of that going around these days as it relates to the behavior of the president of the United States, one Donald John Trump Sr.

Yes, he’s acting squirrely. And yes, he tweets messages that sound as if they come from a junior high schooler. He goads a dictator with nuclear bombs. He insults media representatives, politicians and a particular book author … not to mention at least one key former White House aide.

Does any of this mean the man is certifiably crazy? Is he nuts? Is he unfit mentally to be commander in chief?

I am not qualified to answer any of that. Neither are the “experts” who keep insisting the president needs to be kicked out of office on the basis of someone’s long-distance assessment of Trump’s mental fitness.

They don’t know of which they speak.

More than 50 years ago the nation had this same discussion about the late Republican U.S. Sen. Barry Goldwater, who ran for president in 1964 against President Johnson. Goldwater was deemed to be nuttier than a fruitcake because he talked openly about going to war with the Soviet Union, the world’s other great nuclear power at the time.

Someone wrote a book about Sen. Goldwater and put in writing what many were saying out loud. Goldwater sued the author for libel and won. Then came something called the “Goldwater Rule,” which disallows people from issuing medical diagnoses without examining the person about whom they are talking.

I believe we should keep that in mind as we discuss Donald Trump’s conduct of the high office he occupies.

There might be political reasons to remove this guy. They haven’t emerged; perhaps they never will emerge. Medical assessments are best left to those who get close enough to the subject to offer them.

The rest of us are just firing pot shots from the peanut gallery.

Is a vet school coming to the Panhandle?

Texas Tech University officials want to put a school of veterinary medicine in Amarillo. That’s the word from the chancellor’s office and from others within the sprawling university system.

The notion has a couple of big obstacles. One of them involves money; the other involves politics.

First, the money obstacle.

The Texas Legislature has appropriated about $4 million to Texas Tech to start researching how it can install a large-animal veterinary school that would serve the Texas Panhandle and, indeed, the rest of the state and perhaps the tri-state region.

The hope would be for Panhandle residents to get their DVM degrees and then stay home to serve the community.

But Tech needs about $90 million more, according to Amarillo Matters, a political action group formed to speak on behalf of issues and officials who want to improve Amarillo and the surrounding region. Time isn’t on the side of Texas Tech. They don’t have much time to raise the money and they’re searching for the deepest pockets possible to help finance construction and development of the school.

I happen to believe a veterinary medical school makes perfect sense for Amarillo and the surrounding region. Texas Tech, based in Lubbock, is the ideal school to establish it, given that it already has medical school and pharmacy school campuses in the city. Indeed, the Tech School of Pharmacy came to being after the community ponied up a lot of money to show Tech that it had sufficient interest in the project. It has been a successful venture.

Now for the politics of it.

Texas A&M University doesn’t want Tech to proceed with a veterinary medicine school. Aggieland is totally opposed to Tech impinging on the monopoly that A&M has on veterinary education in Texas.

This interference doesn’t make sense.

There surely must be ample opportunity for a second top-tier university system to develop a veterinary medical school. Last time I looked, I noticed that Texas is a mighty big state, comprising more than 250,000 square miles and stretching more than 800 miles east-west and north-south.

Tech and A&M apparently haven’t yet worked out their differences. My hope is that Texas Tech wins out in this battle of university system wills.

Then the Tech System needs to find the rest of the money.

Quitting smoking? No sweat! Really!

We’ve entered the Season of Resolutions.

Many of us resolve to do certain things, or not do certain things, depending on the nature of the resolutions we make.

I want to tell you about something I did 38 years ago and how it might play in today’s climate of medical disclaimers and equivocations.

I keep hearing commercials for quit-smoking aids. One of them, Chantix, is particularly interesting to me. The voice-over tells the viewer that the prescription drug carries many potential side effects. Those who use this drug to quit smoking may suffer from withdrawal symptoms that include “change of mood” or “thoughts of suicide” or “actions” relating to suicide.

I hear these disclaimers and think: Do I want to take a drug that might make me want to kill myself?

Thirty-eight years ago — it was on Feb. 2, 1980, to be precise — I quit smoking.

Cold turkey! Just like that! I took a drag on a cigarette, damn near choked on it and then tossed it and the pack from where it came into the garbage. I was done. Over. Finished.

The truth is I was a heavy smoker: about two packs daily. Remember, that was an era when cigarettes cost a whole less than they do today. I recently saw a guy spend more than $70 on a carton of smokes. Sheesh, dude! I’m trying to figure the logic in spending something you light with a match and burn to ashes.

I had developed a nagging cough. My wife was imploring me to quit. So … I did what I normally do: I followed my wife’s instructions.

I got through the withdrawal pangs immediately after tossing the weeds into the trash. I don’t recall any suicidal thoughts, let alone taking any action in that regard.

Over the years I have told others who say they “intend” to quit smoking after they finish the pack they’ve just opened that such intent won’t get the job done. I, too, intended many times to quit before I finally did.

I realized that one’s intention to quit smoking means as much as the sign that at the bar that declares “Drinks are on the house … tomorrow.”

For several years after quitting the nasty habit I was inclined to describe myself as a “former smoker.” No longer. For many years I have been a dedicated non-smoker.

I did it without quit-smoking aids that might lead to suicide. I guess I realized the habit I was quitting would kill me just as dead.

Mend, don’t end the Affordable Care Act

Donald Trump believes congressional Republicans and Democrats are going to find a way to craft a new national health care insurance plan.

That’s a bold prediction, Mr. President, given the record so far.

GOP and Democratic lawmakers couldn’t agree on the time of day, let alone a fix to the Affordable Care Act. The president didn’t help any search for common ground, mainly because he couldn’t articulate any reasonable alternatives to the ACA. Congress tried twice to “repeal and replace” the ACA, but face-planted over arguments over the cost — and the impact any replacement would have on Americans’ future health insurance availability.

I continue to believe that a total repeal of the ACA is unnecessary and draconian. Millions of Americans now have health insurance who couldn’t afford it before. Every alleged alternative to the ACA has been deemed too harsh and too punitive.

I share the thoughts of many analysts who say that if Medicare and Social Security — to other landmark legislative achievements — can be tinkered and tweaked to make them necessary to Americans’ way of life, so can the ACA.

Whether the president’s prediction comes true will depend on whether Republicans — who want desperately to remove Barack Obama’s name from this achievement — are willing to improve the ACA, rather than destroy it.

Mend it. Don’t end the Affordable Care Act.