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Mexican Americans and stroke: What BASIC means to a South Texas native

Corpus Christi, Texas is 1,500 miles from Ann Arbor, Michigan, yet there is a strong connection between the two cities that I am so honored to be a part of.Nelda Garcia

When people ask me what my job is, I’ll say, “I work for the University of Michigan.”  I usually get a funny look and then explain that I manage a stroke research study being conducted by the U-M. The study is called Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) and was started over 13 years ago by stroke neurologist Dr. Lewis Morgenstern.

What makes the BASIC study so unique is that it is the only research project in the country that is studying Mexican Americans and stroke. Being born and raised in South Texas, it gives me an even stronger sense of pride to be a part of this critical research.

We have partnered with local hospitals to collect vital information about stroke in a community that is over 60 percent Mexican American.  For those stroke patients who participate in an interactive interview, our field office research staff have the opportunity to connect with them on a one-to-one basis.  The real heroes of this story are the patients.  Their contribution to this knowledge base is beyond measure.  It’s so very rewarding to hear patients and families thanking us for the work we’re doing!

Prior to working on this project, I didn’t realize how serious a health issue stroke is in this community.  We’re proud of the significant decline in stroke since we first began, however strokes are still 36 percent higher among Mexican Americans. Young adults, who are just starting their families and careers, are most often affected.

But the strides we’re making give me hope and a better understanding of the role of research in understanding a disease and finding answers.  As busy as my days can be running the field office operations, I sometimes have to remind myself to stop and think … what we’re learning here will have an impact on many lives!  We have a very special opportunity to learn about stroke, educate our families and neighbors, and make a difference in this community, and in the country.

We have accomplished a great deal over the past 13 years:  collected data on stroke incidence, trends and outcomes.  The BASIC project continues to be very successful and has resulted in many important stroke findings, not only for the benefit of the Mexican American population, but for the public health of the whole country.

Our south Texas city is a leader in stroke research thanks to the hard work and dedication of the local research assistants who understand the importance of their work and the role they play in acquiring stroke knowledge.

As always, our goal is to save lives. The Ann Arbor investigators and Corpus Christi will always be linked in the area of stroke research and I eagerly look forward to many more years of contributing to this very important work.