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Health / Finding new medical treatments

Researchers thank residents who volunteer for studies

By Jeff Hansel

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Retiree Hank Kliewer of Rochester says it’s a privilege to participate in clinical trials that help researchers seek new medical treatments.

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"I’m glad I can be contributing to the science. That’s why I got into it in the first place," said the retired IBMer.

So far, Kliewer has participated in several studies, including one studying autonomic nervous system response that his wife, Rose, also volunteered for.

The couple attended an event Sept. 10 at Mayo Clinic called Community Celebration: Making a Difference Through Research. Audience members were thanked by several top-level Rochester researchers.

At the event, they heard that researchers maintain high scientific standards. They first must get approval for each study from the Olmsted Medical Center Institutional Review Board or the Mayo Clinic Institutional Review Board, or both, depending on the study.

Studies can have profound, direct effects for patients, said Dr. Barbara Yawn, co-director, with Mayo’s Dr. Walter Rocca, of the Rochester Epidemiology Project, who studies, with permission, data from medical records from more than 90 percent of Olmsted County residents.

Yawn told audience members that asthma is just one example of an illness for which scientific research has allowed rapid improvements in the delivery of health care.

"National data showed a lot of people with asthma were under-diagnosed," said Yawn, who is also director of research for Olmsted Medical Center. Surveys were sent to 12,000 parents, with a 90 percent return rate. Researchers then matched those responses with data collected from medical records to learn that asthma treatment needed change.

Researchers discovered patients usually went to the doctor only when they were sick and usually had their dose of asthma medication increased during the crisis.

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But it usually wasn’t decreased afterward.

That meant patients themselves were the ones who decreased the dose, if that happened at all.

As a result of the study, health providers developed an action plan that tells how to treat a crisis.

"We’ve used this in practices here and we’ve used it in 27 practices around the country," Yawn said. "We were able to improve, considerably, patient outcomes."

Health providers want an asthma action plan to help kids in schools get the right dose of the right medicine at the right time. They’ve already worked with the school system to make sure asthma crises get treated properly.

"We think this is very important and can make a real difference for children," Yawn said.

All of this comes from looking at data provided by Olmsted County residents.

"You’re changing people’s care many, many magnitudes," Yawn said.

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Whether it’s research reviewing treatment quality, testing new drugs, studying which therapies work best or gathering basic data about aging, the researchers told the audience, volunteers are key.

"We as citizens have an opportunity to participate in discovery, and our participation is vital," Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede said.

Interested in volunteering for a research study?

Call Mayo Clinic Research Volunteer Program at 1-800-664-4542

Or call Mayo Cancer Center Clinical Trials Referral Office at 1-507-538-7623

For clinical trials in the U.S. and worldwide, go to www.postbulletin.com/weblinks.

Clinical trials in the U.S. and worldwide: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/

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