Health News Roundup

Four very different stories of homelessness in CT, the difficult reality of finding black donors for face transplants, and more


Face transplant patients endure a long and painful journey — and it’s even worse for black patients
Liz Kowalczyk, The Boston Globe, February 25
Like other patients who have sought face transplants, Robert Chelsea was injured in a horrific accident. A drunk driver plowed into his car on a Los Angeles freeway in 2013. The car exploded and the ensuing fire severely burned Chelsea’s body and face. Race matters little when it comes to kidney, liver, and heart transplants. But with faces it’s significant; there are simply fewer black donors than white donors. And, doctors said, blacks have a far wider range of skin tones than whites. Surgeons must find a donor in a relatively small group whose skin color is a fairly close match for Chelsea.

Doctors and racial bias: still a long way to go
Aaron E. Carroll, The New York Times, February 25
The racist photo in the medical school yearbook page of Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia has probably caused many physicians to re-examine their past. They hope they are better today, but the research is not as encouraging as you might think: There is still a long way to go in how the medical field treats minority patients, especially African-Americans.


Four stories of homelessness in Connecticut, told by those who have lived it
Rebecca Lurye, The Hartford Courant, February 28
They came from working-class families, poverty and privilege; from leafy suburbs and challenged cities. But at different times and by different forces, they’d each experienced homelessness in the Hartford area, and through those precarious journeys found a new voice as advocates for stable housing.


Lonely? Anxious? Depressed? Maybe your dentist can help
Ana B. Ibarra, Kaiser Health News, February 27
Dr. Huong Le spends an average of 45 minutes with each of her dental patients during their visits, so she gets to know them well. She hears about their families, stories from their home countries and, often, how lonely they feel. More than once, Le and her staff at Asian Health Services have heard their patients express suicidal thoughts. This prompted Le, a dentist of more than 30 years, to respond to her patients’ cries for help. Her dental clinic, near Oakland’s Chinatown, started depression screening for patients 65 and older in 2017. Then Le took the concept one step further last year by hiring a full-time mental health counselor and giving her an office right at the dental clinic, where she can see patients immediately, should they need it.


Facing my own mortality renewed my faith in the common struggle for universal health care
Rob Restuccia, The Boston Globe, February 25
My favorite ceramic mug goes unused these days, as I’ve lost my taste for coffee. Pancreatic cancer has taken many of my small pleasures. Yet I value this mug more than ever as I remember the young potter in Florida who made dozens in a desperate attempt to raise money for breast cancer treatment for his uninsured sister. While I can, I want to share why I have spent my life fighting to give people like the potter’s sister the health care they deserve.