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8 tips to help you control your drinking (if you don’t want to quit), according to psychologists

One tip is to make a plan. Your approach can also include doing your best to avoid any negative consequences of drinking, said Dr. Jeff Temple with UTMB. “Plan your drinking so it doesn't affect your work or relationships,” such as only drinking on weekends and limiting alcohol to only special occasions. “The first and necessary tip is harm reduction. If you tend to become aggressive when you drink, then don't drink in front of your partner or others.”

Our Microbiome: Whose side are they on?

The microbiome has been shown to play a role in many diseases like depression, autism spectrum disorders, some cancers and in the process of human development. We are constantly uncovering new information about how the microbiome works. Recent research has shed some light on the effect of artificial sweeteners. Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel discussed that research in their recent Medical Discovery News column.

Odds are your holiday meal was vaccinated

“Unless you are vegan, odds are that your holiday meal was vaccinated,” wrote Drs. Megan Berman and Richard Rupp in their recent Vaccine Smarts column. “Whether you had prime rib, a Christmas ham or a turkey with all its fixings, vaccination was involved.”

Taking a break from (social) media

“Every January, I do not engage in social media,” wrote Dr. Sam Mathis is his newspaper column. “I invite you to consider joining me.” You could read a book or go for a walk instead. Mathis also invited readers to walk with him. “I’d like to invite you to come take a walk with me and some UTMB students on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 10 a.m. across the street from the UTMB fieldhouse as part of our inaugural Walk with a Doc Program.”

New COVID subvariants are ‘the most immune evasive yet.’ Here’s what that means

BQ and XBB present “serious threats to the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines,” according to a Columbia study. A University of Texas Medical Branch study came to similar conclusions, finding “low” neutralization of BQ.1.1 and XBB from the updated booster. The new shot is an enhanced version of the COVID-19 vaccine that targets both the original virus and omicron. But compared to its protection against the omicron BA.5 subvariant, the bivalent booster is four times less effective against the BQ.1.1 subvariant and eight times less effective against the XBB subvariant, said Chaitanya Kurhade, an author of the study.

Help Wanted: Texas’ physician growth strong, but recruitment, diversity still needed

One of the keys to increasing diversity is a strong pipeline for young students to reach medical school in Texas, says Charles Mouton, MD, executive vice president, provost, and dean of The University of Texas Medical Branch John Sealy School of Medicine at Galveston. For the school, that engagement starts as young as middle school and creates relationships that encourage qualified young people to pursue a career in medicine. Keeping students in the pipeline requires a variety of tactics like educating families about the requirements of medical school, helping students with standardized test preparation, and providing mentorship. The cost of medical school frequently discourages young people from pursuing a career as a physician, but Texas has an advantage in that area. “Texas compared to the rest of the nation has some of the best tuition rates of any state in the nation for health professionals’ education,” he said.

Coping with the holiday blues

Town Square with Ernie Manouse featured Dr. Jeff Temple for the full hour discussing how to deal with holiday stress and depression. He also answered questions about his research on how the pandemic affected adolescents’ mental health.

Virus expert warns of heightened risk from mosquitoes in Galveston County

Eastern equine encephalitis is a rare virus that has a death rate of 30 percent among infected people, said Scott Weaver, director of the University of Texas Medical Branch Institute of Human Infections and Immunity. Although the virus has been detected in Galveston County before, people should be especially vigilant now because Aedes sollicitans, also known as the eastern saltmarsh mosquito, is especially prevalent among the recent swarms, Weaver said.

UTMB researchers examining pandemic’s impact on teens’ mental health

Researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston are looking into the effects of the pandemic on young people's mental health. Jeff Temple, founder of the UTMB Center For Violence Prevention, said a mental health crisis among young people already existed before the pandemic. Students are growing up in a world with a climate crisis, school shootings, geopolitical strife, toxic social media, "and these kids aren’t stupid, they see that," Temple said.

Be aware: COVID is not done with us yet

“People are sick of hearing about COVID. So are we!” Drs. Megan Berman and Richard Rupp wrote in the latest Vaccine Smarts column. “But the truth is, the virus is not sick of us, and it’s not going anywhere. There has been nearly a 30 percent increase in COVID hospitalizations among elderly adults in the past two weeks. You should be aware of new information.”

The risk of a COVID reinfection

“There is a dangerous misconception out there concerning repeat infections with COVID,” wrote Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in their Medical Discovery News column.

Exercise snacks are key to a healthier life

A couple of recent studies support the health benefits of short bursts of exercise reducing cardiovascular and cancer risk up to 40 to 50 percent. You might think of them as exercise snacks, Dr. Victor Sierpina suggested.

Omicron boosters are weaker against BQ.1.1 subvariant that is rising in U.S., study finds

COVID shots designed to protect against the omicron variant trigger a weaker immune response against the rapidly emerging BQ.1.1 subvariant than the previously dominant strain, according to a new lab study. Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch, in a study published online Tuesday in Nature Medicine, found that the booster shots performed well against the BA.5 subvariant they were designed to target. But the boosters did not trigger a robust response when faced with BQ.1.1, the scientists found. Antibodies were about four times lower against BQ.1.1 compared with BA.5. These neutralizing antibodies prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from invading human cells. Many other media organizations reported this news.

UTMB researchers win $3.5 million to study pandemic impact on teen mental health

The National Institute of Mental Health has awarded the UTMB team with a $3.5 million grant to continue following adolescents for five more years, offering the researchers a rare chance to uncover the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on teenage mental, social and behavioral health. “We’ll be able to do that in a really unique way because we serendipitously had this data from before the pandemic,” said Dr. Jeff Temple. “So we can actually see the effects the pandemic had on these kids.”

Colorado has no mandatory training on how to investigate school sexting. Educators face prison time if they do it wrong.

The prevalence of sexting and its spread to younger ages reflects how widespread cellphone use is and how easy it is to send explicit images, said Jeff Temple, an expert in adolescent health and social media whose 2011 research popularized the term “sexting.” “The fact that 17-year-olds, 16-year-olds, 15-year-olds are sexting is not a surprise,” he said. “If we had phones back in the 1400s, those same ages would be sexting as well.”

STEM program connects medical and elementary school students in Galveston

University of Texas Medical Branch students are teaching science, technology, engineering and math to Galveston Independent School District students through a program officials hope will instill confidence in public school participants and inspire careers. Applications to volunteer in the program open up each semester and medical branch students make it known whether they’d like to be a tutor or mentor, Chris Soudah, executive president of the Connect at UTMB, said.

Nobel prize season sweeps the science community

“Scientists everywhere celebrate the Nobels with spirited discussions, banter on the deserving individuals who were overlooked and should have won and of course, admiration for those awarded,” wrote Drs. Norbert Herzog and David Niesel in their Medical Discovery News column. They also discussed other deserving science awards that get overlooked as well.

Mental health and the holidays—not always the most wonderful time of the year

“In my medical practice, I often meet with people who live alone and with little or no social support system,” wrote Dr. Victor S. Sierpina in this column. “They are geographically distanced from their families or estranged from their children or other loved ones. They often do not have a community of faith or participate in other social networks.” If you know anyone like that, send them a note, call them or take them some goodies. “Even a small drop of love and caring can be like a candle shining into the darkened corners of people’s lives. Be that light, even if you need to come out of your own corner to do it.”

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