UTEP and TTUHSC teams to research COVID-19, cultural health disparities in El Paso and more

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Eight different research projects aimed at improving health care in the Borderland were awarded grants to be utilized by research teams from the University of Texas-El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso.

Each project has a team of one researcher from UTEP and the one from TTUHSC El Paso with each university contributing $100,000 over two years for the projects.

“This is wonderful to see the collaboration between the universities, this is new,” UTEP President Dr. Heather Wilson said. “And Dr. Lange and I decided that we would try and give some seed grass to facility to put together some larger proposals for national-level research here that neither of us could do alone.”

One of the goals of the research projects is to prepare future health care professionals to better serve the El Paso community by helping them understand the unique cultural challenges the community faces.

“In this area, we have a lot of population with unique challenges,” said Priya Harindranathan, associate director for Assessment and Evaluation at Texas Tech. “For example, there’s a lot of migrant population or people with lack of health insurance, language barriers in communicating their health issues.”

Researchers plan on looking at what is contributing to disparities in health care in El Paso, something they say is just as important to incorporate into curriculums.

“Many of our health care practitioners don’t often share, may not share the same culture as the people they’re serving. So there’s a lot of things you may not understand,” said Bill Roberts, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy at UTEP.

Another project will use blood samples from the El Paso community to study and work on creating new vaccines against infectious diseases, focusing on COVID-19.

“The vaccination program we have right now is very successful and it’s pretty obvious now. But with the emergence of the new COVID variants, it’s still a fight that we need to continue,” said Dr. Hugues Ouellet, assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at UTEP.

Other projects include research in prosthetic knee systems, acute myloid leukemia in the Hispanic population, gastroparesis, which impacts diabetic patients, earlier detection of ovarian cancer, immune response to COVID-19 and skin biopsy training system.

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