Thunderstorms in the forecast: Keep these lightning safety tips in mind

With several days of thunderstorms forecasted this week in the Midwest, keep your family safe with these lightning safety tips

Lightning is a relatively simple phenomenon: a static electrical charge that builds up in a cloud during a storm.  Unlike the static electrical shocks you may feel when touching an object after walking across a carpeted floor, these discharges can carry 30,000,000 volts and 30,000 amps.  That is enough electricity to light a 100 watt light bulb continuously for three months.  The intense electrical discharge can heat the air to 50,000 degrees Fahrenheit (five times hotter than the surface of the sun)! This rapidly heating and expanding air bursts outward from the bolt and is heard as thunder.

Photo taken by Bradley Uren, M.D.

Photo taken by Bradley Uren, M.D.

Although beautiful, lightning is also deadly.  Despite our northern latitude, and the fact that we receive less storms than other states, Michigan still ranks relatively high (seventh) nationwide in lightning fatalities for the 10 year period ending in 2014. The Ann Arbor area recorded the only lightning fatality in the state of Michigan in 2014.

Often people wait too long to seek shelter when a storm is imminent.  The National Weather Service (NWS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) promote a simple slogan about lightning safety:  “When thunder roars go indoors.”  Rather than guessing the distance to a thunderstorm, this simple slogan reminds us that if you can hear thunder, you are likely within 10 miles of the storm and lightning can easily strike you at that range.  In some cases, it has been reported to strike as far as 25 miles from a storm cloud!  It’s important to remember you are at risk if you can hear thunder. Continue reading

Find your element Saturday, August 29: Learn to pave your own leadership path

Join our department of pathology for a unique "TED-like" workshop focused on leadership

Pathology_FindYourElementAre you falling into the same daily routine? Searching for inspiration? Looking for new leadership skills to use going forward in your career?

Then join our department of pathology as they host Find Your Element: Traveling the Winding Road to Leadership, a unique “TED-like” workshop focused on leadership and the road to success in health care and beyond!

The workshop will take place Saturday, August 29, 2015 from 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. at Arthur Miller Theatre (1226 Murfin Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48109) on the University of Michigan Ann Arbor’s North Campus and features an exceptional guest speaker lineup of visionaries, medical leaders and executives.

We’ll have you inspired right from the beginning of the workshop. Sir Ken Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, will serve as the keynote speaker kicking off the workshop by focusing on the often unexpected turns that characterize the road to success. Continue reading

Concussions not a death sentence for athletes

UM expert to present insight at SXSW festival

Every March, the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin, Texas becomes the epicenter of hip. At first glance, a neurology presentation doesn’t fit alongside the bands, innovative documentaries, and showcases of transformational technologies. Actually, at second glance it doesn’t either!Dejected

This is exactly why I’m partnering with Super Bowl champion and brain trauma patient advocate Ben Utecht to bring some sports neurology to SXSW. Ben is an accomplished musician and entertainer as well, so I’m hoping he can bring the hip.

Ben and I will be joined by New York Times sports contributor and Michigan State University sports journalism professor, Joanne Gerstner. Together, we hope to use the incredible social reach of SXSW to bring a well-measured, yet passionate, conversation about sports concussion to the masses. Our panel discussion “Does Playing Sports Equal Brain Damage” will be Friday, March 13, at 5 p.m. CT.

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New treatment for secondary progressive multiple sclerosis on horizon

U-M leads worldwide MS clinical trial

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a major autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the insulating
membranes (myelin) that surround the nerves within the central nervous system. MS onset is generally at the prime of life, between ages of 15 and 45. More than 500,000 people in the U.S. have MS, and there are 10,000 new cases every year. The University of Michigan Health System is actively involved in finding newer, better treatments for MS—and its related diseases.xray blog

As a physician and researcher in the area of multiple sclerosis (MS), I am often asked if there are new treatments and medications on the horizon. Thanks to years of research, the answer is yes, and I’m pleased to say that the University of Michigan is a major leader in some of the most important issues surrounding MS today. We’re trying to find the links between MS and other autoimmune diseases. We’re also conducting a new clinical trial and mechanistic study that may uncover a new treatment for secondary progressive MS. Approximately 85% of patients with newly diagnosed MS have relapsing-remitting MS . About 10-15 years after diagnosis, 50% of these patients will develop secondary-progressive MS , which is associated with significant disability. Finding a new treatment for this large group of people will make a significant impact on people’s lives. We’ve recently been given the tools to combat a disease that is a leading disabler of young adults.

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Is there a doctor in the (Big) House?

Advice from U-M’s Mark Lowell, M.D., on staying cool & healthy during early-season football games

Football season is here – but football weather? That’s weeks away.

With summer-like temperatures expected for today’s U-M football game, the doctor in charge of the Michigan Stadium first aid operation is bracing for plenty of heat-stricken fans seeking medical help.

Survival Flight helicopters over Michigan Stadium

Mark Lowell, M.D., has worked closely with Huron Valley Ambulance running the Big House medical operation for 15 years. He’s a U-M emergency physician, and medical director of the U-M Health System’s Survival Flight air medical service.

Lowell offers these tips to help fans avoid having to pay him and his team a visit during this game — or any early season game:

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Taking Control of Chronic Pain

Unlike acute pain, such as from a sprained ankle, chronic pain persists. Pain signals keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months, even years. What causes chronic pain? While we are still working to fully understand this condition, clinical investigators have tested chronic pain patients and found that they often have lower-than-normal levels of endorphins in their spinal fluid. Endorphins are hormones that reduce the sensation of pain and affect emotions.

Daniel J. Clauw, M.D.

Daniel J. Clauw, M.D.

“The spinal cord and brain set the volume control on whether people will feel pain and, for people with chronic pain, the volume is turned up too high,” says Daniel Clauw, M.D., a professor of anesthesiology and director of the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at U-M.

Dr. Clauw talked with mCancer Partner about managing chronic pain; his remarks may also help people whose pain comes from cancer.

mCancer Partner: What causes chronic pain? 

Dr. Clauw: There are three different underlying mechanisms for chronic pain:

  • Inflammation or damage to peripheral tissues
  • Nerve injury
  • Brain or spinal cord amplification of pain

There is also a familial or genetic connection to chronic pain. In addition, severe, early life trauma can contribute to chronic pain so that, once the traumatized children become adults, their volume control ‘set points’ for how the brain perceives pain are turned up. And once you have chronic pain, it feeds upon itself in a vicious cycle. It increases your stress level because you can’t do what you want, the stress contributes to more pain and to sleep loss, which causes further pain, etc. So there are consequences to pain that need to be managed, too. Continue reading