That music has the prowess to affect our mood, psyche and overall state of wellbeing is something that most people innately understand. We reach for music in times of joy, for celebration and for comfort.

But to what extent can music influence recovery from illness? That's something that the Center for Performing Arts Medicine (CPAM) at The Methodist Hospital is eager to learn.

CPAM sits at an advantageous position to answer such a question. Nestled within the largest medical center in the country and with access to educators, world-class artists, art training institutions, art therapists, scientists and neurologists, in addition to state-of-the-art equipment, CPAM is primed to nurture collaborative partnerships to advance the field of integrative arts therapies, with the end goal to research and decode innovative strategies into practical, real-life applications.

And that expands beyond treating performing and visual artists. CPAM seeks to probe further into health, wellness and rehabilitation, as well as to study human performance.

The study assesses emotional responses through eye contact, facial expressions, body language, energy, enthusiasm and attention and catalogs them alongside specific creative activities.

In partnership with the Texas Children's Cancer and Hematology Centers' Arts In Medicine program, the National Center for Human Performance, Young Audiences of Houston (YAH) and a $18,000 grant from The Children's Fund, a research project is surveying the impact of an arts integrated component on the general mood of children and their relatives in the hospital domain.

"What we know is that these programs touch patients and their families, and bring joy and a sense of normalcy to an otherwise tense environment," Todd Frazier, CPAM program director, explains.

Titled Characterizing Arts in Medicine Performance at the Impact on Audience Engagement and Mood at Texas Children's Cancer Center, the study delves beyond qualitative observations. It assesses emotional responses through eye contact, facial expressions, body language, energy, enthusiasm and attention and catalogs them alongside specific creative activities.

The goal is to codify the value and effectiveness of precise artistic endeavors to better inform artists and performers on how to design an Arts In Medicine program with the best possible outcomes.

"We know in our hearts that what we do makes a different . . . But in a research-driven industry, you need these studies to grow arts integrated programs and to secure funding."

To do just that, the approaches of YAH puppeteer Jean Kuecher, dancer/choreographer Toni Valle from Becky Valls and Company and classical chamber ensemble WindSync will be monitored by a team of "coders" gathered and trained by Dr. Heather Taylor, director of spinal chord injury research at TIRR Memorial Hermann. These coders will be required to study the flow of each program so they can readily identify each segment, transition and interactive component.

Pre and post performance questionnaires with the children and their parents will attempt to evaluate their temperament, including fear, fatigue, overall mood and physical pain. A pre and post artist interview will archive the experience from the point of view of the service provider.

The empirical data, in turn, will serve as advocacy material to better inform health administrators of what's possible with an expertly-crafted, research-based program.

"We know in our hearts that what we do makes a different," Herron says. "We see it and we hear it from children and their parents. But in a research-driven industry, you need these studies to grow arts integrated programs and to secure funding."

The study should be completed by spring of next year. Herron sees this multi-faceted project as just a beginning, one that will open up more opportunities for further fieldwork in arts integrated models.

  • Stem cell treatments on pets is a relatively new procedure.
  • Veterinarian Dr. Mark Gasaway predicts stem cell research will lead to the endof longstanding perspectives on arthritis relief.
    Photo by Tyler Rudick
  • The $1,950 stem cell treatment, which takes only a day, is comparable to havingyour pet spayed or neutered.
    Medivet America

Arthritis a thing of the past? Stem cell treatments for pets mark new era inpain relief

humans next

For decades, older cats and dogs suffering from arthritis had few options aside from painkillers and anti-inflamatory medications. Pill therapies are costly, harmful to the liver and, at best, offer only minor relief for our beloved pets.

But a quiet revolution in animal arthritis relief is underway thanks to one of the scientific community's most controversial lines of research — stem cells. And Dr. Mark Gasaway's Yale Animal Clinic in the Heights, one of the few offices in Houston to offer cutting edge stem cell services for animals, is at the forefront of what appears to be a new era in veterinary medicine.

"I'd say about 85% of our treatments lead to our clients saying that their animal is more animated and more active," Gasaway told CultureMap in a recent interview. The veterinarian, who has performed dozens of stem cell procedures on primarily canine patients, noted that owners report improvement within several months and, in some case, as little as a week.

"I'd say about 85% of our treatments lead to our clients saying that their animal is more animated and more active," D r. Mark Gasaway told CultureMap.

Surgically speaking, the $1,950 treatment, which takes only a day, is comparable to having your pet spayed or neutered.

Your cat or dog is anesthetized while a tablespoon of fat lipids are removed. Adult stem cells are extracted from the fat at a small on-site lab using technologies developed by Medivet America, one of the major leaders in animal stem cell research. Once the stem cells are acquired and cultured, they are injected into several key joint areas — namely, the hips for most arthritic animals.

"Arthritis in dogs starts to happen between the ages of 9 and 15," Gasaway explained. "The earlier you catch it and the earlier you do the treatment, the better the outcome in most cases."

Adult stem cells have the unique ability to divide into a variety of cell types, including those in cartilage, ligaments, tendons and even bones. According to Gasaway's explanation, the stem cells contain specific chemicals that draw them towards damaged parts of the body. From there, the stem cells begin to multiply and replace the deteriorating cells.

"I graduated from vet school in 1975 and I've watched new arthritis medicines come out all the time," he explained. "In the end, they're often just another type of anti-inflamatory with results similar to aspirin. Stem cells offer a whole new way of looking at treatment."

In the near future, Gasaway predicts that stem cell research will make the longstanding reign of anti-inflamatory arthritis meds a thing of the past not only for animals, but for humans as well. And that's just the beginning.

  • Jonathan, Jenna and Julia Cobb cut the ribbon in a ceremony on Thursday, whileArts in Medicine program director Ian Cion and circus clowns looked on.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Several performers from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus joinedin on the celebration.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • Julia Cobb and her siblings selected the title for the mural: Light, Hope,Wonder.
    Photo by Whitney Radley
  • The colorful mural wraps around a gate near the front entrance of the M.D.Anderson Cancer Center.
    Photo by Whitney Radley

M.D. Anderson pediatric patients create a mural & the circus comes out tocelebrate

Light, Hope, Wonder

The scene outside of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday afternoon was a miniature circus. Literally.

Face-painted clowns and performers from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus joined pediatric patients and hospital representatives in unveiling Light, Hope, Wonder, a patient-produced mural outside of the hospital's main entrance.

The piece depicts 25 galloping horses, adorned with creative doodles, swaths of bright patterns and neon hues that would easily win Lisa Frank's seal of approval.

The result is a vibrant, energetic piece; one in which the young artists were involved every step of the way.

It is a labor of love, created over the course of two and a half months from the drawings and the input of 75 children — patients and their siblings — under the supervision of artist and Arts in Medicine Program director Ian Cion.

The result is a vibrant, energetic piece; one in which the young artists were involved every step of the way, from creating original artwork to overlaying those designs onto the horses.

"I think of [the patients'] art as if they are my collaborators," Cion told CultureMap. Collaborators that just happen to be kids, some of them sick.

The project was facilitated by a digital mobile art cart, invented by Cion, that can be moved around to different rooms and to patients' bedsides. This makes it possible for young artists to continue to work even while they are undergoing treatment.

At the grand unveiling, M.D. Anderson patient Julia Cobb and her siblings, Jenna and Jonathan, wielded the scissors in a ribbon-cutting ceremony — a privilege earned when their proposed artwork title was selected in a contest.

"I think of [the patients'] art as if they are my collaborators," Cion told CultureMap.

Other pediatric patients ventured outside to watch the clowns and listen to the accordion. An ebullient Cion greeted each of his young friends by name, leading them to the spot on the wall where their artwork was displayed.

Cion, who joined M.D. Anderson about two years ago, described plans to work with patients on a feature-length film and interest in getting more of the children's artwork on display and out into the community.

  • The San José clinic was founded in 1922 to bring coverage to the underservedcommunity.
  • Executive director Paule Anne Lewis hoped that Medicaid expansion in Texas wouldincrease coverage for the more than 1 million uninsured Houston-area citizens.

Left in need? How Obamacare & Rick Perry's Medicaid rejection hit safety-netclinics like San Jose

The New Medical Landscape

Armed with a meager $50 operating budget, courtesy of the Charity Guild of Catholic Women, and a lofty vision, conceived of by Monsignor George T. Walsh, the San José Clinic opened in 1922 to provide health access to Houston's underserved community.

Ninety years later, that safety net clinic provides primary and sub-specialty care, dental, vision, pharmacy access and laboratory services for individuals without health insurance. It has affiliations with two dozen area colleges and hospitals, running on donated medications and supplies, volunteer manpower and philanthropic dollars.

Although San José Clinic accepts neither private insurance nor government-subsidized programs like Medicare and Medicaid, executive director Paule Anne Lewis realizes that the recently-upheld Affordable Care Act has implications for the charity clinic.

"If we would have had Medicaid expansion . . . approximately one-quarter of my patient population would have had additional coverage," Lewis tells CultureMap.

This is why: A nationwide recession like the current one hits the clinic twice over, garnering increased need (jobless citizens seeking free health care) and seeing decreased support (donors cutting back on gifts).

San José must raise approximately $115 per patient per visit; the clinic sees approximately 30,000 patients a year, and that number is growing.

Gov. Rick Perry recently rejected the act's Medicaid expansion — which would have extended the program to families earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level (that 133-percent figure is currently $30,657 per year for a family of four with the poverty level at $23,050) — on behalf of the state.

"If we would have had Medicaid expansion . . . approximately one-quarter of my patient population would have had additional coverage," Lewis tells CultureMap.

That would free up services and time for other patients, decreasing the wait time and likely increasing the effectiveness of treatment.

"We're absolutely stretched thin," Lewis admits, but that won't stop San José and its cadre of practicing physicians, retired doctors and community volunteers from providing for those in need.

"It's important to remember that San José [has been around for 90 years using] pretty much the same model," Lewis says. "We will be here as long as there are people willing to respond to that need."

Was Houston truly snubbed in hospital rankings? The benefits of fragmentedhealth care

Controversy online

The U.S. News & World Report released its 23rd annual Best Hospitals rankings earlier this week, and though many Houston hospitals ranked highly in respective specialties, the 2012-2013 Honor Roll list was published with nary a nod to the health care hub that is Texas Medical Center.

Houstonians sounded off in the comment section of one article at this apparent snub, irate that Houston — which houses the largest and most comprehensive campus for research, science and patient care in the world — wasn't mentioned.

"This year, only 148 of the 4,793 hospitals evaluated met such criteria and performed well enough to rank in even one specialty," explained Avery Camarow, the heath rankings editor for U.S. News and World Report, in an article outlining the ranking process. "And of the 148, just 17 qualified for a spot on the Honor Roll by ranking at or near the top in six or more specialties."

When one looks at the hospitals topping the Honor Roll list, it's simple to see why Houston's medical mecca — fractured into 13 hospitals and two specialty institutions, plus schools and other health related practices, comprising a total of 47 medicine-related institutions, each focusing on specific areas of research and treatment — wasn't mentioned.

Massachusetts General Hospital, which unseated Johns Hopkins Hospital as No. 1 in the 2012-2013 Honor Roll, ranked higher than twelfth in each of the 16 specialties.

At No. 2, Johns Hopkins ranked in the top five nationally in 15 of 16 specialties, falling in at No. 17 in the rehabilitation sector. The Mayo Clinic, the No. 3 hospital on the honor roll, also ranked nationally in each of the 16 specialties, with only one area (a No. 14 ranking in nephrology) dropping lower than No. 7 nation-wide.

Meanwhile, the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, which ranked No. 1 among hospitals for cancer treatment, was ranked nationally in just three other specialties (No. 5 in ear, nose and throat, No. 6 in gynecology and No. 23 in urology), and performed highly in four others.

That's nothing to sneeze at, but sometimes one has to sacrifice a broad treatment spectrum in order to be the best at one.

  • Devin Duncan
    Devin Duncan/Facebook
  • One Direction
    Handout Photo

The Houston spirit: 19-year-old who's beaten cancer twice goes on a hot Britishboy band quest

Celebration's Power

Houstonian Devin Duncan has been through it all. Only 19, she has been diagnosed with leukemia twice and fought to make it through twice.

Duncan is on her way to ending a chemotherapy regiment that started in 2010 she and wants nothing more than for her favorite band, One Direction (they are British heartthrobs), to make it to her end-of-chemo celebration dinner. In an attempt to make her video to the band go viral, she has been tweeting to the boys in One Direction, everyday Houstonians and other well known figures.

Even Bachelorette villain Kalon McMahon responded in a sweet manner to her tweet with:

Devin will be returning to the University of Texas in the fall as a sophomore. She's majoring in public relations (so in sense, her quest is work experience as well).

Even though there have been some rough times, Duncan says she always tries to stay positive. She credits One Direction's music with helping her get through her cancer fights. She says she watched YouTube videos of One Direction throughout her full-day chemotherapy treatments on Mondays.

Her video doesn't come across as a plea for sympathy. Instead, it shows her positive outlook — and what the celebration dinner means to her. Cancer doctors often note how important celebrating treatment milestones are.

So far One Direction has yet to respond — but Duncan's friends and many strangers have gotten a kick out of the video and one Houstonian's fighting spirit.

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Houston Independent School District cancels classes again due to city-wide boil notice

school's out

With the issues surrounding the city-wide boil notice still unresolved, Houston Independent School District has announced all its campuses and facilities will be closed on Tuesday, November 29. This comes after classes were canceled on Monday, November 28.

"This decision has been made due to the logistical challenges caused by the notice," district staff notes in an email. "Those challenges prevent the district from being able to provide meals for its students and ensure safe water is available for students and staff."

The email goes on to add that all HISD employees will be working remotely unless otherwise instructed by the chief of their business area.

While most kids will no doubt enjoy yet another day off, HISD encourages students to "engage with digital academic resources that are available 24/7 online.

This closure announcement comes as other districts and colleges closed campuses on Monday. As CultureMap previously reported, the city was put on a boil notice after water pressure dropped below the City of Houston's required minimum of 20 PSI due to a power outage at the East Water Purification Plan around 10:30 am Sunday, November 27.

Under city guidelines and those set in part by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, city water pressure must be at least 20 DPI to ensure contaminants do not enter the flow. Notably, according to the director of Houston Water, Yvonne Williams Forrest, the city's water pressure never dropped to zero — but did fall below the regulatory limit.

Additionally, Forrest says the city boil notice could last until the early hours of Tuesday, November 29.

As reported by CultureMap news partner ABC13, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner provided a timeline for the outage on Sunday:

  • 10:30 am: East water purification plants 1 and 2 lose power
  • Plant 3 loses power, 14 sensors below 20 PSI for less than 2 minutes, 2 sensors below 20 PSI for 30 minutes, 5 sensors never fell below 20 PSI
  • 12:15 pm: Power restored to plants 1 and 2
  • 12:30 pm: Power restored to plant 3
  • 3:30 pm: All sensors back to 35 PSI

Residents expressed outrage on social media that they weren't notified of the boil notice until late Sunday night. In response that same night, several school districts — including Houston ISD — announced they would close on Monday, November 28. Parents should watch their school districts' social media for updates regarding classes resuming.

Concerned residents who are unsure if the boil notice affects their neighborhood can view this map that displays the entire affected.

Early Monday, the City of Houston announced on Twitter that the aforementioned Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) approved a plan by the Houston Public Works department to sample water and send to labs for testing.

Boil notices are nothing new to the Gulf Coast and Greater Houston areas, given the propensity for storms and flooding. But as longtime Houstonians know, there are few key things to remember when under a boil notice. These tips include:

  • Boiling all water used for food, drinking, and brushing teeth
  • Boiling the water for at least 2 to 3 minutes — even for making coffee
  • Avoiding chilled water lines from on the refrigerators
  • Avoiding ice from an automated ice machines

    The City of Houston also reminds residents to call 3-1-1 for any boil-notice-related questions.

    Beloved Houston local art showcase decks the walls for 25th anniversary with can't-miss events

    silver showecase

    Local shoppers on the hunt for that perfect gift or art loves looking to expand their collections want to be at the annual Art on the Avenue event at Winter Street Studios in the Heights on December 3.

    The noted auction features more than 500 works of art by more than 250 local artists. Celebrating its 25th year, the event celebrates the creative process and encourages collecting works created here in the Houston area.

    Fittingly for the nation's most charitable city, Art on the Avenue is also an important fundraiser for Avenue, a Houston nonprofit dedicated to developing affordable homes.

    Among the many local artists displaying works in the auction is Paperbag, who got his name from painting paper bags on people's faces. His artwork encourages others not to judge a book by its cover, and invites individuals to celebrate their unique personalities and stories. In addition to his art, Paperbag — née Dominique Silva — is also an ardent mental health supporter.

    Blossom by Paperbag Look for works such as "Blossom" by local artist Paperbag.Photo courtesy of Paperbag

    Art on the Avenue kicks off on Thursday, December 1 with a VIP preview party. A $150 ticket gives attendees an exclusive first look at the available works and the opportunity to bid on them prior to the main auction and party on Saturday, December 3. Art-inspired bites, cocktails, and entertainment by Two Star Symphony are also part of the evening's festivities.

    On Saturday, December 3, from 10 am to 1 pm, guests to see these incredible works of art for themselves and enjoy free admission.

    The auction proper begins at 6 pm, where a $35 ticket allows guests entry to the gallery space, bidding opportunities, and entertainment from vinyl enthusiast Losty Los of The Waxaholics, who will spin tunes.

    Art on the Avenue Sketches, paintings, sculptures, and more will be up for auction. Photo courtesy of Art on the Avenue

    Guests looking for a chance to dress up are encouraged to deck out in silver in honor the event's 25th anniversary.


    Art on the Avenue runs Thursday, December 1 through Saturday, December 3 at Winter Street Studios, 2101 Winter St. For tickets and information, visit Art on the Avenue.

    'Burn you twice' hot chicken chain spices up Houston with fifth fiery location

    flying into spring

    A rapidly growing chicken tender restaurant will soon arrive in Spring. Urban Bird Hot Chicken will open its fifth Houston-area store next year in January.

    Located in the former B.Good space at 2162 Spring Stuebner Rd., Urban Bird will be part of The Market, a Kroger-anchored shopping center within the the larger City Place mixed-use development. Other nearby tenants include Torchy’s Tacos, Jinya Ramen Bar, and Beard Papa’s, the Japan-based cream puff bakery.

    First opened in 2020, Urban Bird is a chicken tenders concept with different spice blends that deliver increasing levels of heat. The six options range from "country" up to "Nashville hot" and "Fire in the Hole" — which the restaurant says “will burn you twice. Available as baskets, sandwiches, or chopped up over fries, the restaurant touts that its batter went through 60 iterations prior to opening.

    Diners may pair their tenders with dipping sauces such as ranch, barbecue, or the signature Bird Sauce. Sides include fries (both potato and sweet potato), Hot Cheetos mac and cheese, street corn, and a kale salad with a dressing that includes maple syrup. Shakes and frozen custard help ease the burn.

    Urban Bird currently has locations in Katy, north Houston, Fulshear, and near Rice Village. In addition to Spring, the restaurant will soon add outposts in Webster and the Summerwood neighborhood near Lake Houston.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome this fast-growing concept to The Market and feel that it will resonate well with people who live in the area, as well as employees from City Place businesses and major office campuses,” Rip Reynolds, senior leasing agent for real estate developer Regency Centers, said in a statement. “The Urban Bird Hot Chicken team were drawn to this prime site based on its high levels of traffic, the desire for proximity to an anchor and the immediate availability of a second-generation space, the latter of which was only recently vacated.”