Location is everything. It’s a truism that applies not only to real estate, but also to biomedical research. Located along the U.S.-Mexico border, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso provides an early glimpse of what our nation will resemble.

In El Paso, over 82 percent of the population is of Hispanic descent. This demographic faces high incidences of diseases such as diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

For this reason, it is vital to study the genetic and environmental influences affecting the health of our Hispanic population.

Physicians and students at the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine focus on understanding the fundamentals of diseases that impact not only Latinos, but all members of the community, as well as translating research findings into preventive measures and effective treatments.

At the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, our faculty train the next generation of biomedical researchers.

Below are a few examples of how TTUHSC El Paso is making a difference in biomedical research.

Preventing diabetes

Researchers led by biomedical sciences professor Dr. David P. Cistola have discovered a blood biomarker that could identify individuals at risk for Type 2 diabetes. The biomarker can be measured with a simple test using a single drop of blood.

Cistola’s research aims to develop a blood test that will allow physicians to detect metabolic changes in patients at the earliest stages, giving them a chance to make lifestyle changes or initiate therapies to prevent Type 2 diabetes.

His research is funded by a two-year, $229,500 grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Taking aim at obesity-related cancer

Assistant Professor Jennifer Salinas, Ph.D., has been awarded a three-year, $1.2 million grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas to fund an obesity-related cancer prevention program in El Paso. Almost 70 percent of El Paso County residents are considered overweight or obese, putting them at risk for obesity-related cancers.

Salinas’ Pasos Para Prevenir Cancer program combines lifestyle education and physical activities to help participants achieve healthy weights and lessen their cancer risk.

Extending health care reach

Texas Tech El Paso is making a push into telemedicine and long-distance health education thanks to two Department of Agriculture grants.

In 2016, the Gayle Greve Hunt School of Nursing received a $430,780 grant to provide long-distance health education to underserved communities in rural West Texas.

Penny Stout, D.N.P., R.N., assistant dean and chair of the school’s graduate programs, said the money from the USDA’s Rural Utilities Service program, along with matching funds from the Texas Tech El Paso health sciences center, paid for video communications equipment installed in nine rural locations in West Texas.

The Paul L. Foster School of Medicine recently received a similar USDA grant of $499,227.

The goal is to improve health care for West Texas rural communities by providing access to medical specialists through the telemedicine network developed by the Gayle Greve nursing school, according to Ogechika Alozie, M.D., M.P.H., the project’s principal investigator and TTUHSC El Paso’s chief medical informatics officer.

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