Smith: Missouri’s health care business making strides in research, patient care

One week ago, I injured by knee.

The accident happened quickly. I had donated a car to our local National Public Radio station and wanted to throw in the winter tires.

Climbing onto the top of a dog crate in our garage, I stretched to dismount the tires from the wall, attempting to untie a bungie cord. The kennel’s top, made of plastic, gave way and tumbled to the ground. I heard a crunch.

Since that time, I’ve had the opportunity to sit around a lot with my leg up. Here’s what I’ve learned about the health care business in Missouri.

Missouri Orthopaedic Institute

First, the Missouri Orthopaedic Institute in Columbia is jammed with patients. My first hint was the traffic jam at 7:15 a.m. on the streets to the clinic. I made the comment that the clinic was packed, and was told that large increase in patients was due, at least in part, to the revolutionary new bio joint center.

The center is the result a discovery at the University of Missouri that allows doctors to keep bone and cartilage tissue for almost double the previous allowable time. This allows more patients to take advantage of replacing joint tissue – think knees and hips – with real cartilage and bone instead of plastics and metal.

As we all know, everything wears out – even plastic knee replacements. But a bio joint allows patients to have better and longer results because the patient’s tissue bonds with the implanted natural cartilage.

Washington University research

Zika virus

Second, I learned at a dinner party, where I sat for most of the time, that we may be on the edge of finding ways in Missouri to attack the Zika virus and many other diseases that have made this world a lesser place.

If you haven’t been watching the news, Zika is the mosquito-born disease that causes the unborn to suffer untold damage while in the womb. It has leapt from Latin America to our shores.

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are discovering the genetic pathway that the Zika virus takes from the mother to the unborn child, and studies show the disease multiplies in the womb.

There is hope of developing a vaccine that may have implications for other similar problems like West Nile, Yellow Fever and dengue. Many of the world’s leading scientists for these diseases are at Washington University.

Dr. Lewis Wall

Third, I learned about the work of Dr. Lewis Wall of Washington University. For years, he has been working to heal women who’ve been kicked out by their families and divorced by their husbands.

Their sin: They had fistulas during childbirth, and are branded as unclean by all around them.

Through a simple surgical procedure, Dr. Wall is curing lots of women.

Just as importantly, he’s educating the world about one of the most common reason for fistulas: Women having babies before their pelvic structure has fully developed.

Jeffrey I. Gordon

Fourth, I learned that Jeffrey I. Gordon has been shortlisted for the Nobel Prize on several occasions. He is a professor at Washington University’s School of Medicine. He is well known for his studies on how bacteria impacts our lives, and his work has changed our thinking on nutrition, among other things.

Partnerships for patient care

Finally, I talked about cancer with a friend who is currently battling the disease. He told me about the affiliation that the Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital in Columbia has with MD Anderson in Houston. The relationship gives doctors and patients in Columbia direct access to physicians at MD Anderson and vice versa.

The relationship was announced in 2014, but I doubt many know about this unless they’ve been treated themselves or had family at the hospital.

Of course, this is but a glimpse.

Amazing what you can learn when you bang up your knee.

Randall Smith

Randall D. Smith is the Donald W. Reynolds Chair in Business Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism and is the founder of Missouri Business Alert. He can be reached at





Tags:, , , , ,

Leave a Reply