Between the Lines

Between the Lines By David Lias Look through any newspaper's archives � no matter the size, no matter what region of the country � and it's easy to find evidence that the good old days weren't always that good, especially when it came to health care.

One only has to go back about 50 years or so to find news clipping of a new outbreak of polio in South Dakota communities.

During the summer, swimming pools were closed. If the malady struck a community during the fall, schools cancelled classes and fumigated their buildings.

And, of course, young and old who were afflicted with disease were often left crippled for life.

There were, of course, no cases of polio in South Dakota in 1998. It's probably safe to say that current and future generations will never suffer the scourge of this disease again.

Thanks to research.

The story of the development of the polio vaccine by Jonas Salk and other researchers has become legendary in the annals of significant medical breakthroughs.

The development of other vaccines has practically wiped out other significant viral diseases (and their life-changing side effects), such as diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, measles, mumps and rubella.

The announcement this week that Sioux Valley Hospital is donating $10 million to The University of South Dakota School of Medicine over the next 10 years is naturally good news.

One can think of at least 10 million good reasons that the news should be viewed positively by the medical school, the university, the communities of Vermillion and Sioux Falls, and the entire state.

There's another important factor, however, that cannot be ignored, and in fact, should be shouted from the rooftops.

It isn't the large infusion of cash over a 10 year period by Sioux Valley that's of greatest importance.

The prestige that it likely is going to bring to South Dakota, in the terms of medical research, is, of course, admirable, but that's not the most important development to come out of this new, concerted research pact between Sioux Valley and the medical school, either.

What's most important is that some of the leading medical researchers in the country will soon be coming to South Dakota to wage war on one of our nation's top health problems — heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death both in South Dakota and the United States. As the nation's population ages, this trend will more than likely continue to be the case since the majority of of heart disease is largely associated with aging.

The benefits of focusing on cardiovascular research is to better understand the disease process and in turn to improve patient care for this region of the country.

By conducting research at the Cardiovascular Institute at the USD School of Medicine's Health Science Center in Sioux Falls, clinical faculty, basic scientists and science and medicine graduate students can work together on significant research.

Dr. Martin Gerdes, the director of the Cardiovascular Institute, has been conducting research into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of heart failure.

A clear understanding of these mechanisms will lead to meeting treatment needs that target the specific cause of the disease, rather than merely treating the symptoms.

The Cardiovascular Research Institute, housed in the USD School of Medicine, is currently the only institute supported by the South Dakota Health Research Foundation.

Even though great strides have been made in treatment techniques, drug development, and education on how to best live healthy lifestyles, it still isn't enough to wipe out the scourge of heart disease.

But, there are discoveries to be made.

Now, more than ever, the likelihood of finding a cure to heart disease is growing.

Someday, we may be able to tell our children about how their grandparents and great-grandparents succumbed to the disease.

But they needn't worry.

This killer's cure was found. In South Dakota.

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