Activism in all communities key message of Capra event

By Lin Lofley

The 2014 Capra Symposium’s takeaway message was clear: Academic medical centers are deeply involved in their communities.

Attendees at the symposium took part in a wide-ranging discussion called “Lending a Hand: Community Based Medicine & Research” and heard from leaders experienced in reaching out to a number of communities.

Subjects addressed included battling obesity and other chronic health conditions, screening underserved populations for breast cancer and helping those affected to navigate issues in health care systems, and even showing how fish can help achieve positive outcomes in the treatment of diabetes.

Capra Symposium presenters and sponsors
Capra Symposium presenters and sponsors included (from left) Carolyn Bradley-Guidry, and Drs. Patricia Capra, J. Donald Capra, Olga Gupta, and Heather Kitzman-Ulrich.

The three featured speakers were:

  • Dr. Heather Kitzman-Ulrich, Assistant Professor at the Texas Prevention Institute in the School of Public Health at the Fort-Worth based University of North Texas Health Science Center;
  • Carolyn Bradley-Guidry, Assistant Professor of Physician Assistant Studies, UT Southwestern School of Health Professions; and
  • Dr. Olga Gupta, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, and of Internal Medicine.

Dr. Kitzman-Ulrich, an adjunct faculty member at UT Southwestern, spoke about community-based programs to battle obesity, including her work with Native American women in Oklahoma.

Dr. Kitzman-Ulrich said researchers are faced with learning about underlying factors that can lead to obesity. Those factors include availability of physical-education facilities – recreation centers, parks, and playgrounds – as well as the availability of healthy, affordable foods. Full-service grocery stores, for instance, are in short supply in many of the areas where Dr. Kitzman-Ulrich’s study participants live.

Ms. Bradley-Guidry discussed UT Southwestern’s efforts – supported by Susan G. Komen Dallas County – to reach women in southern Dallas and other underserved populations to help with the battle against breast cancer, which is the second most common form of cancer in the U.S., according to the National Cancer Institute.

Komen support funded a community outreach education initiative titled “Screening Our Sisters.”  The program seeks to reduce late-stage breast cancer diagnoses in high-risk areas by offering education, breast cancer screenings with the UT Southwestern Mobile Mammography Unit, and assistance with follow-up services to ensure resources to help  women  overcome barriers by providing client navigation services.

The title of the presentation by Dr. Gupta was “Beta Cells and Betta Fish: A Novel Pediatric-Based Medical Approach to Improving Health Outcomes in Diabetes.” She and her team purchased the fish for children who were learning to deal with diabetes. The quickly realized hope was that the youngsters would take care of the fish in concert with their own diabetes maintenance.

“We couldn’t afford to give everyone a dog,” she said, “But we had the idea that companion animals might help create an awareness of what the children needed to do to take care of themselves.”

The symposium, held on the North Campus in the Excellence in Education Foundation Auditorium, concluded with a panel discussion.

The Capra Symposium has been sponsored annually since 1998 by Dr. J. Donald Capra and his wife, Dr. Patricia Capra.


Dr. Gupta is a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care.