From pioneering procedures to corrective contraptions, local health and science innovations abound.
The importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education is well-documented, but how should schools bring it to life for students? Phoenix-based STEM Sports aims to do so through a K-8 supplemental curriculum that delivers standards-aligned lessons using basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, BMX and other activities as real-life applications to tie sports to health and medicine. While playing basketball, students learn how to calculate the amount of calories they have burned. A football game lesson breaks down the way a concussion can damage the brain and relates that to the evolution of the football helmet. Founded in 2016 by the Huddle Up Group in Phoenix, STEM Sports is being used in school districts across Arizona (Scottsdale, Dysart, Mesa, Tucson, Wickenburg, Sierra Vista) and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix. It has been adopted in 47 other states and is being piloted in Canada, Morocco, Japan, Australia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Near Infrared Spectroscopy
Oxygen is essential for life – for humans in general, of course, but also specifically for our tissues. With enough oxygen, everything is healthy; without it, nerves will die, which can lead to leg and foot cramps, fatigue, cold feet, sensitive skin, burning, tingling and pain. Dr. Kerry Zang, podiatric medical director of Comprehensive Integrated Care, is using Near Infrared (NIR) Spectroscopy to determine the ratio of oxygenated and deoxygenated hemoglobin present in tissues. NIR is akin to taking a photo – it visually shows the amount of oxygen that is reaching the tissues. This technology helps discover the root of the problem and allows doctors to address it with more targeted knowledge.
Yoga Grief & Trauma Therapy
The grieving process is different for everyone – what works for one person might not help another. With this in mind, licensed marriage and family therapist and certified yoga teacher Laura Walton merged her two focuses to develop yoga therapy and counseling at The Phoenix Center for Grief and Trauma. Walton says holding grief and trauma in the body can lead to tension and pain. She uses various yoga methods to help patients connect their breath with their body to relieve discomfort and increase physical and emotional strength. Walton tailors poses to what her clients are working on – if she is increasing someone’s tolerance to sit with something that’s uncomfortable emotionally, she might have them hold an “uncomfortable” pose like Warrior 2 to show that they can do difficult things. Other times, she applies philosophical perspectives from yoga or incorporates poses into talk therapy sessions.
Robotic Whipple Procedure
Valley surgeon Albert Amini, M.D., is giving hope to pancreatic cancer patients – with robots, naturally. Recently, the Honor-Health doctor performed one of Arizona’s first robot-assisted pancreaticoduodenectomies. Also known as a Whipple procedure, the complex operation is the only known curative intervention for the fearsome disease, and performed only on non-metastatic patients in which the tumors are confined to the head of the organ. Involving the removal and subsequent reconnection of several organs, the Whipple is usually highly invasive, but has now been greatly streamlined with robotic technology, allowing for just a few small incisions in the abdomen to insert surgical instruments and a miniature camera. Five-year survival rates top 25 percent – about five times greater than general pancreatic cancer patients.
Shortly before his 20th birthday, Arizona State University graduate (then a student) Daniel Campbell suffered a spinal cord injury and was paralyzed from the chest down after a wrestling match and subsequent prank with his fraternity brother. His long road to recovery inspired his company, ReneGait, which specializes in activity-based therapy tools. Campbell’s newest tool is the Spartan, which aids physical therapists and patients in gait training by allowing them to practice stepping without upper extremity support. It helps them practice going from sitting to standing, balance, weight shifts, knee control and proper posture. The device ($1,999.99) lets the patient move their legs with the correct form and speed to create a natural stepping pattern.