OSU students in the College of Health and Human Sciences work one-on-one with special-needs kids to improve skills and self-confidence.

Lai Saeturn, a student in the college, works on hand motor skills with Kaycee Settlemire
Lai Saeturn, a student in the college, works on hand motor skills with Kaycee Settlemire

Most Friday evenings, as many as 80 children and young adults excitedly congregate in the OSU Women’s Building gymnasium to do things that most of us take for granted. Catching a ball. Swinging a bat. Climbing warily atop a balance beam.

It’s part of the Special Physical and Motor Fitness Clinic offered by the College of Health and Human Sciences. Benton County United Way and Hewlett-Packard sponsor the clinic, which is designed to help children with all kinds of disabilities work on fitness, motor skills, and aquatic skills. But mostly they just have fun.

The skills these youngsters develop will help them with day-to-day life in their classrooms, on playgrounds, and at home. An even deeper imprint is made on the undergraduate and graduate students who work with children in the clinic. In the photograph, Lai Saeturn, a student in the college, works on hand motor skills with Kaycee Settlemire.

Oregon State is becoming nationally known for its Movement Studies in Disability program, and top doctoral students are lured to campus by this reputation and by outreach programs like the clinic. Undergraduate students in a variety of fields gladly give up their Friday evenings for the chance to work with the kids.

“It’s hard to say who gets more out of it–the OSU students or the kids,” says Jeff McCubbin, who directs the clinic and the movement studies program. “I think it’s safe to say everyone comes out a winner.”

An OSU research team, led by Pharmacy professor Bill Gerwick, has found algae off the coast of Venezuela that may have potential in treating pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Researcher on undersea exploration
Researcher on undersea exploration

Bill Gerwick, a professor in OSU’s College of Pharmacy, has spent much of the last decade studying marine blue-green algae. In some locales, that same algae is known as “pond scum.” The species known as Lyngbya majuscula, found in a bay near Kalki Beach off the Venezuelan coast, however, is gaining a much more dignified reputation.

Gerwick and his research team recently extracted a compound from the algae that is one of the most powerful neurotoxins they had seen. Dubbed “kalkitoxin,” the compound has the potential to lead to new treatments for pain, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases.

Gerwick said he believes the compound works by blocking sodium channels, thus preventing nerve cells from firing off their electrical signals. “Kalkitoxin is incredibly potent, which means it likely binds with greater affinity,” Gerwick said. “When that happens, there is a good chance that you can create a pharmaceutical that has greater specificity of drug action. “It is,” he said, “a valuable discovery.”

This isn’t the first time that the OSU researchers have found success in mining drugs from the sea. Several years ago, Gerwick discovered a compound called “Curacin A” in different samples of Lyngbya majusscula that had powerful anti-cancer properties. In fact, Curacin A was remarkably similar to taxol.

Since that early discovery, Gerwick has expanded his research lab and now works with a team of 10 faculty and graduate students as OSU continues to become a leader in the promising field of mining drugs from the sea.

“To think that such promising compounds come from what essentially is pond scum is amazing and ironic,” Gerwick said. “It is a great example of that old saying that one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure.”

An OSU anthropology research team has discovered that language barriers, immigration status, and lack of knowledge about the system keep many Oregonians from health care.

Sunil Khanna
Sunil Khanna

A new study by Oregon State University researchers suggests that language barriers, immigration status, and a lack of knowledge about how “the system works” prevents many uninsured Oregonians from gaining access to the Oregon Health Plan.

As a result, says OSU anthropologist Sunil Khanna, ethnic minority populations may be adversely affected.

“Many Hispanic groups in particular are perpetually uninsured,” he said. “They don’t learn about the Oregon Health Plan by reading the formal literature, or visiting the Website. They may not be able to read, or they may not have access to a computer. So they learn about the health plan informally, through friends and family, and that word-of-mouth information tends to be colored by experiences that aren’t necessarily positive.”

Khanna and a group of OSU students conducted a series of interviews from rural eastern Oregon, to Multnomah County, to coastal fishing communities. What they discovered was that many uninsured Oregonians didn’t know they qualified for the Oregon Health Plan, others couldn’t understand enrollment procedures, and still others were turned down because no physician would accept them as patients due to low reimbursement levels.

“There is an unwritten feeling among many working in the health care arena that uninsured people don’t care about their health,” Khanna said. “Instead, what we found was that this group is very, very concerned about health –not just for themselves, but for their families.”

The problems of uninsured and underinsured Oregonians are found throughout the state, Khanna said. Rural areas may have a higher number of uninsured people, in part because of the migrant worker influence, higher rates of unemployment, seasonal jobs, and fewer providers who will accept Oregon Health Plan patients. Urban areas are more likely to have safety-net clinics and there are more providers from which to choose.