ExplORer Surgical programs surgical guides to optimize OR safety and procedures

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Optimal teamwork in the operating room (OR) can be hard to achieve. Inexperienced team members, poor information transfer, mid-case handoffs, and improper room preparation can all result in delays and disruptions during the operation.

The result can cost the patient increased exposure to infection, according to Dr. Alexander Langerman, head and neck surgeon and associate professor of otolaryngology at Vanderbilt University. “If something is not in the [operating] room as it should be, then someone has to leave the room and come back to get it, and so that could translate into a higher risk of infection,” he said.

This is corroborated by a study published on American Journal of Infection Control, by authors with University of Gothenburg, Sweden. An elevated airborne bacterial counts in the surgical area is clearly linked to door openings in conventionally ventilated ORs, thereby providing the scientific evidence needed to initiate interventions aimed at preventing surgical site infection (SSI) by reducing traffic flow in the OR.

“Significantly longer operating time is also associated with a higher risk of infection,” Langerman said. Duration of operation is one of the other risk factors of SSI, according to CDC’s Guideline for Prevention of Surgical Site Infection.

Chicago-based ExplORer Surgical, an interactive surgical playbook, aims to solve these problems by providing the surgeons and their teams with detailed, real-time guidance on how to set up the room, what tools are needed when, and what steps to anticipate, boosting communication and coordination between all members of the surgical team.

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Warmer climates bring more insects, and those insects can bring illnesses

By Colleen Zewe
Medill Reports

Thanks to climate change, researchers found a new fly species buzzing through Indiana. And flies aren’t the only ones expanding their territories.

Biologists at the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science regularly collect blow flies in the area, but they were surprised to see a new species in their collection that didn’t look like the area’s more common fly species.

Disease-carrying insects are migrating to new areas due to climate change. (Animations scripted by Colleen Zewe/Medill and produced by Next Animation Studio.)

The species Lucilla cuprina ordinarily lives in humid southern states, from Virginia to parts of California. When researcher Christine Picard and her team noticed the fly in their samples, they knew something was up.
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Ja’Mal Green looks to become youngest Mayor in Chicago history

By Casey Bannon
Medill Reports

On Nov. 26, Ja’Mal Green made history by becoming the youngest person ever to file the 12,500 signatures required to make it on February’s Chicago mayoral ballot. Despite his age, the 23-year-old activist and entrepreneur is no stranger to voicing his opinion on anything Chicago-related. Now, he’s hoping to use that voice from behind the mayor’s desk. We caught up with the rising star on his campaign trail to find out why he’s running for office and how he got to this point.

Photo at top: Ja’Mal Green talks on the phone during his mayoral campaign. (Casey Bannon/MEDILL)

Illinois sees more gun trafficking from Indiana, crime data shows

By Ashley Hackett
Medill Reports

Gun regulations in Illinois have become more strict over the past five years, and guns used in Illinois crimes are coming increasingly from outside the state, a recent study shows.

Nearly 3,460 people were shot in Chicago in 2017, and the city saw 664 murders plus seven people killed by on-duty Chicago Police officers that year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Michael Coates, a doctoral candidate studying American politics at the University of Maryland, co-authored a 2017 study examining state gun control policies. Coates concluded that guns linked to crime scenes are “more likely to be purchased in states with less regulatory barriers when a state increases the stringency of its gun control laws,” so the supply market will shift out of state.

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Green Bay’s historic season ends with NCAA tournament loss to Wisconsin

By Kristen Keller
Medill Reports

Green Bay’s women’s volleyball team finished out their historic season by winning its first Horizon League volleyball championship and earning a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2003.

Although the Phoenix lost in the first round of the tournament to the Wisconsin Badgers, the team ended the season with a 20-11 overall record.

Follow the timeline and take a look at just how Green Bay made this unforgettable season a reality.

Photo at top: The Green Bay Phoenix finished a historic season with  a trip to the NCAA tournament after winning the Horizon League championship. (Kristen Keller/Medill)

Illinois farmers torn about health insurance options

By Alexis Shanes
Medill Reports

Illinois farmers, faced with exploding health care costs, are turning away from the individual health insurance market as they seek solutions to one of several ballooning financial woes.

Association healthcare plans could provide an answer, said Christina Nourie, an Illinois Farm Bureau legislative coordinator.

Association plans allow small businesses or organizations to join together to purchase health insurance on behalf of their members just as a large employer would, she said during a talk Saturday at the IFB Annual Meeting in Chicago. But legislation would be needed to authorize such plans in Illinois and other states.
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A new wave of Islam: Masjid al-Rabia welcomes women leadership and LGBTQ acceptance in Islam

By Aqilah Allaudeen
Medill Reports

To some imams, a mosque that promotes LGBTQ-affirming beliefs is almost unfathomable. Homosexuality is shunned by many conservative Muslim communities in the United States and abroad.

Kifah Mustapha, the imam and director of The Prayer Center at Orland Park, supports the conservative view. A mosque that accepts homosexuality and actively promotes acceptance of it, is not following the Islamic faith, Mustapha said.

“Homosexuality is a major sin in Islam,” he said. “To walk around and to tell everybody your sins and to ask them to accept these sins is not okay. We will not accept someone coming in and saying that this sinful act (homosexuality) has to be a part of the mosque, it doesn’t work like that.”

But a rising trend is welcoming LGBTQ members in Muslim communities.

Mahdia Lynn, a 30-year-old bisexual transgender Muslim activist, saw the need for a safe physical space for LGBTQ Muslims to practice their faith in Chicago. She founded Masjid al-Rabia, a women-centered and LGBTQ-affirming mosque in 2016. It is the first mosque in Chicago to openly welcome LGBTQ Muslims and part of a growing movement of progressive Muslim activists who are trying to open Islam to the LGBTQ community.

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Illinois embraces indigenous legacy through ethnobotany

By Katie Rice
Medill Reports

When Gina Roxas was about four years old, she was hospitalized with a diagnosis of pneumonia.

Heartbroken at being separated from her family, she ripped the IVs out of her arms, cried and refused to eat while in the hospital. Her condition deteriorated, and doctors had to restrain her.

One day, her father came to visit her and told doctors he’d see what he could do about his daughter’s illness.

“He grabbed me, wrapped me in a blanket and walked out the door,” Roxas said. “And he [carried me to] my great-grandmother’s (house) and gave me to her. And she healed me. She healed me with her prayers, with her teas and with her herbal rubs. It’s not scientifically proven that I was healed, but I’m still here, right?”
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Garcia’s fourth district win serves as milestone for Illinois immigrants

By Hannah Magnuson
Medill Reports

Democrat Jesus “Chuy” Garcia’s 4th District landslide victory on Tuesday marks the first time a Mexican-American has been elected to represent Illinois in Congress.

Garcia, a Cook County commissioner, captured more than 86 percent of the vote to defeat Republican Mark Lorch, a financial analyst who lives in Riverside. He will replace long-serving Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D), who announced last November he would not seek re-election and endorsed Garcia as his successor.

A Mexican immigrant who climbed Chicago’s ranks during his 20 years as an elected official, Garcia campaigned on immigration reform and pledged to carry to Washington the concerns of a district that is 68 percent Latino. One in three of Garcia’s new constituents was born outside the country.

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Masjid al-Rabia leads nation’s first LGBTQ Muslim prison outreach program


By Aqilah Allaudeen
Medill Reports

Hannah Fidler – a Chicago-based musician, teacher, activist and organizer – spends time writing letters to incarcerated LGBTQ Muslims across the United States every week, as part of Masjid al-Rabia’s prison outreach program based in Chicago.

She writes to them about their favorite colors, commiserates on the tendency of many Muslim communities to reject those who identify as queer, and discusses their personal hajj pilgrimages. Fidler also tells them about current initiatives run by Masjid al-Rabia, Chicago’s first LGBTQ affirming mosque.

“There are a lot of people who have expressed that the letter writing program with Masjid al-Rabia reflects the first time in their entire lives that someone was willing to hold space for both their queerness and their Muslim-ness,” Fidler said in an interview.

“Whenever someone says something like that, it makes it all worth it.” Continue reading