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Nebraska Medicine named to 100 Great Hospitals list

by Nebraska Medicine public relations

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For the second straight year, Becker’s Hospital Review has named Nebraska Medicine, UNMC’s primary clinical partner, to its list of “100 Great Hospitals in America.”

The prestigious list includes some of the most prominent, forward-thinking and focused health care facilities in the nation.

Becker’s list

To see the complete 2015 list of “100 Great Hospitals in America,” click here.

Hospitals included on the list are home to many medical and scientific breakthroughs, provide best-in-class patient care and are stalwarts of their communities, serving as research hubs or local anchors of wellness. A version of this list has been published each year since 2011.

“It is a huge honor to again be included on this list,” said Rosanna Morris, interim Nebraska Medicine CEO. “Our health care professionals strive every day to provide serious medicine and extraordinary care to each of our patients. It’s gratifying to see that the work we’re doing here is being recognized and is paying off.”

To develop the list, Becker’s Hospital Review’s editorial team conducted research and evaluated reputable hospital ranking sources, such as U.S. News & World Report, Truven Health Analytics, Healthgrades, Magnet designation by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, The Leapfrog Group and several other resources. The final result is a group of 100 hospitals that are leaders in their region, their state and the nation in terms of high-quality patient care.

“This is a testament to the extraordinary patient care we provide at Nebraska Medicine,” said Brad Britigan, M.D., Nebraska Medicine interim president and dean of the UNMC College of Medicine. “It’s also evidence that the cutting-edge treatment we provide is on par with what is being delivered at the most high-profile medical facilities in the country.”

UNMC ranked in top 10 for primary care, PA programs

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations News0311 UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., center, and Paul Paulman, M.D., professor of family medicine, right, with medical students in the simulation lab. UNMC’s primary care program jumped two slots and is now ranked No. 4 in the country in the 2016 ranking of the nation’s top graduate schools by U.S. News & World Report. In addition, UNMC’s physician assistant program also cracked the top 10 and is now ranked No. 9 by U.S. News, up seven spots from when the magazine last ranked PA programs in 2011. In other rankings, 60th-ranked in research, up four spots from last year, and 39th in public health. “UNMC continues to be recognized for the excellence of its primary care program, which is a testament to the work of our medical students and faculty,” said UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D. “It is exciting to see both the primary care and physician assistant program counted among the best in the nation, and to see continued growth in the national recognition of our College of Public Health and our research programs. This is truly the result of clear focus and hard work.” U.S. News surveyed 130 medical schools and 26 schools of osteopathic medicine during 2014 and 2015 while compiling the rankings, which were released Tuesday. Schools surveyed were accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education or the American Osteopathic Association. “These rankings offer a reason to take pride in UNMC,” said Dele Davies, M.D., vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Our educational mission at UNMC is a vital part of what we do, and these rankings for primary care and the physician assistant program emphasize our strong commitment to that mission.” The primary care ranking included indicators such as student admission statistics (MCAT, GPA and acceptance rate), the percentage of graduates entering primary care residencies, peer assessment, assessment by residency program directors and other factors. The research ranking included the total dollar amount of NIH research grants and the average amount of those grants per full-time medical school science and clinical faculty member. (For more on U.S. News’ methodology, click here.) The rankings of the physician assistant programs, where UNMC placed ninth, are based on the results of peer assessment surveys sent to physician assistant programs accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant. Although new rankings for 2015 weren’t available in all health care categories, UNMC continues to be ranked in three other programs:

  • 93rd in biological sciences (last ranked in 2014);
  • 32nd in pharmacy programs (last ranked in 2012);
  • 34th in physical therapy programs (last ranked in 2012).

 

Officials to join Biocontainment Unit anniversary event

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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, Rep. Brad Ashford and Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert will be among the guests Friday as the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine Biocontainment Unit celebrates its 10th anniversary.

From the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Nicole Lurie, M.D., also will attend.

Students, faculty and staff of UNMC are invited to celebrate a decade of preparation and the ongoing accomplishments of the UNMC/Nebraska Medicine Biocontainment Unit team at the event. Attendees are encouraged to show up early to sign a “Congratulations” banner that will be presented to the team.

Rick Sacra, M.D., the first Ebola patient treated at the Biocontainment Unit, also will speak at the event.

UNMC/Nebraska Medicine has one of three biocontainment units in the nation that have treated Ebola patients. Having drilled for countless hours since the unit opened in 2005, the Nebraska biocontainment team was uniquely qualified to answer the call. The original team was soon joined by other experts on campus.

In February, President Barack Obama said the center had delivered “world-class care” to Dr. Sacra.

The ceremony will be held at the Truhlsen Campus Events Center, located on the first floor of the Sorrell Center at 2 p.m. on March 27. Immediately afterwards, a reception in the foyer will follow.

The event will be tweeted live at the hashtag #NEbiounit10, and it will be livestreamed here beginning at 1:40 p.m.

Parking for those guests arriving from off campus will be available in Lot 36, northeast corner of 42nd and Leavenworth streets.

New Lung Transplant Program Expected to Begin Early Summer

By early summer, leadership plans to once again perform lung transplants.

 

3-9-Heather-Strah-215x142Heather Strah, MD, Medical director of Lung Transplantation

“There is definitely a need for a lung transplant program in this area,” says Heather Strah, MD, director of Lung Transplantation at Nebraska Medicine. “The nearest programs are almost 400 miles away. This creates quite a burden on the patient and family who must relocate for three months or more during the transplant process. Some patients are turned down because they are not able to relocate.”

The lung transplant program expects to perform 10 transplants in the first year and average 35 to 40 per year by the third year, says Dr. Strah, who we introduced you to in the March 4 issue of Now.

Approximately 1,800 transplants are done in the United States each year. Approximately 35 percent of these patients have end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 15 percent have cystic fibrosis and 30 percent have interstitial lung disease or idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The remaining 20 percent have other conditions such as pulmonary hypertension or sarcoidosis.

Each patient must go through a thorough evaluation and screening process to make sure he or she is a good candidate. Lung transplants are generally reserved for individuals whose lung disease is in the most advanced stages and they are likely to die of their lung disease within one to two years despite maximal medical therapies, notes Dr. Strah. Good transplant candidates are in generally good health, other than their lung disease and have a good support system.

Lung transplants are usually performed on patients between the ages of 16 to 65. Younger patients typically fare the best, says Dr. Strah. Survival for the first year is 80 percent. Five years out, half of patients will have died due to complications related to the transplant.

“For those who have good outcomes, a lung transplant can be a life-changing experience,” she says. “I have seen patients who have been living 20 years or more with their transplant.”

Dr. Strah stresses the need to refer potential candidates early on. About half the people on the waiting list receive a transplant within a year.

“There is no such thing as a referral that is too early,” notes Dr. Strah, “but there are definitely referrals that come too late. The lung is a fragile organ and it can take a long time to find a suitable donor so early referral is best.”

Dr. Strah completed medical school at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, an internal medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a pulmonary and critical care medicine fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine-Barnes Jewish Hospital. She also completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in immunology. Washington University has one of the oldest lung transplant programs in the country and performs nearly 60 lung transplants annually.

Other members of the lung transplant team are thoracic and cardiac surgeons Michael Moulton, MD and Aleem Siddique, MD.

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Michael Moulton, MD, thoracic and cardiac surgeon

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Aleem Siddique, MD, thoracic and cardiac surgeon

UNMC to take part in Ebola treatment study

by Jennifer Routh and Vicky Cerino

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Andre Kalil, M.D.

UNMC researchers will take part in a clinical trial to obtain safety and efficacy data on the investigational drug ZMapp as a treatment for Ebola virus disease.

The study, run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in conjunction with the Liberian government, is a randomized controlled trial enrolling adults and children with known Ebola virus infection.

UNMC expects to receive approval of the study, currently being reviewed by the Institutional Review Board, in a few weeks.

“Although ZMapp has been used to treat several Ebola-infected patients in recent months, we cannot determine if the drug actually benefitted those patients because it was not administered within the context of a clinical trial,” said Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the NIAID, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

ZMapp, developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc., is composed of three different proteins called monoclonal antibodies. ZMapp is designed to prevent the progression of Ebola virus disease within the body by targeting the main surface protein of the Ebola virus.

“Our Biocontainment Unit research team has been actively involved in the development of this research protocol and looks forward to participating in the implementation of the research here in Nebraska,” said Christopher Kratochvil, M.D., UNMC associate vice chancellor for clinical research and vice president for research, Nebraska Medicine.

“The invitation to participate in this research project once again recognizes the world-class facilities at Nebraska Medicine as well as the expertise of the researchers and staff of the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit.”

Andre Kalil, M.D., professor in the UNMC Department of Internal Medicine and infectious diseases physician at Nebraska Medicine, said that the “adaptive” clinical trial will provide answers about the safety and effectiveness of ZMapp and other potential treatments in patients with Ebola virus disease.

“This is really a very important study with an innovative approach,” said Dr. Kalil, who has been involved in the design of the study with Dr. Kratochvil. “We must scientifically and rigorously evaluate the experimental treatments that have been given to date to determine what is safe and effective to our patients. We will find out what is working and what is not while the clinical trial is ongoing and adapt the study based on patients’ clinical response.”

“The idea is to discover and offer the safest and best therapies in the shortest period of time,” Dr. Kalil said. “We look forward to working with our national and international research partners.”

Routine Colonoscopy Leads to Shocking Diagnosis

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It started on the first anniversary of 9/11. Duane Johnson, a retired schoolteacher, wanted to make a difference. He stopped by a local Red Cross blood drive and rolled up his sleeves. From there on out, it became a trend.

“I pretty much donated blood every 53 days or so,” says Johnson. “It’s easy, painless and so important to the recipients. I enjoyed helping.”

But, a few years ago, a routine visit to the Red Cross left Duane a bit concerned.

“They told me my iron count was low, which had never happened before,” explains Johnson. “A couple months later, same problem. They told me to go home, eat some spinach and steak and come back. But, when I did, the same thing happened.”

Johnson was due for his annual exam at Nebraska Medicine, so he scheduled an appointment with his primary care physician, Dennis Goeschel, MD, with plans to discuss this with him. In April 2014, hospital staff ran a series of tests, including a colonoscopy. Five days later, Johnson received a shocking call from his gastroenterologist, Gary Volentine, MD.

“They found lymphoma in my small intestine. I couldn’t believe it,” he recalls. “I was puzzled by my low iron count, and felt fatigued at times, but had no inkling that anything serious was wrong. At 69 years old, I just contributed it to getting older.”

Dr. Volentine told Johnson, finding the lymphoma explained his anemia. He was immediately referred to Nebraska Medicine oncologist/hematologist Philip Bierman, MD, who was also surprised by the diagnosis.

“Lymphoma is very uncommon to find during a colonoscopy,” explains Dr. Bierman. “Typically, when we perform a colonoscopy, we’re looking for the more common types of colon cancer. Lymphoma would be an unexpected finding.”

Dr. Bierman decided the best course for treatment would be six sessions of chemotherapy. Johnson lost his hair, along with his appetite.

“At first, chemo affected my taste buds and made me feel like a groggy doggy,” jokes Johnson. “By the third week, I was doing much better. I remember telling the staff, ‘it feels good to feel good.'”

After completing the six chemo sessions, Johnson had another colonoscopy in September 2014. This time, the results were much different. Johnson was cancer free.

“It was such a relief to hear those words,” says Johnson. “My wife and I were very optimistic throughout the entire process, and that’s because we knew I was at the right place. No doubt about it. We’re really fortunate that Nebraska Medicine is here in Omaha. They did a wonderful job.”

These days, Johnson enjoys gardening and taking long car rides with Clara, his wife of 40 years. Because of his cancer diagnosis, Johnson can no longer donate blood at the Red Cross. But, he’s found a new way to make a difference. He encourages others to get a colonoscopy – especially during March, which is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.

“Starting at age 50, low risk patients should get a colonoscopy every 10 years. This includes men and women,” explains Dr. Volentine. “If you have a family history of colon cancer, it’s best to get screened earlier and have a colonoscopy every five years. Work with your doctor to develop an individualized screening plan.”

Nebraska Medicine is ranked by U.S. News and World Report for having one of the nation’s top gastroenterology programs. They offer two convenient locations for colon cancer screenings. To schedule an appointment, call (800) 922-0000.

“I cannot stress how important it is,” says Johnson. “Getting a colonoscopy saved my life. It’s the best, most thorough way of finding cancer cells. Without it, I may not be here today.”

Nebraska Ebola team draws presidential praise

by John Keenan, UNMC public relations

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From left, Angela Hewlett, M.D., Phil Smith, M.D., Rep. Jeff Fortenberry and UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

World-class care.

That’s the verdict of President Barack Obama while discussing the treatment received by Richard Sacra, M.D., at UNMC and Nebraska Medicine’s Biocontainment Unit.

President Obama was speaking Wednesday at an event to recognize the U.S. response to the Ebola crisis. He mentioned Dr. Sacra, “who received world-class care at Nebraska Medical Center.”

The event highlighted how the U.S. government has worked with other governments, international organizations, private sector leaders and non-government partners to support a focused response to the virus.

See the president speaking here.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., Phil Smith, M.D., medical director of the Biocontainment Unit at Nebraska Medicine-Nebraska Medical Center, and the unit’s associate medical director, Angela Hewlett, M.D., attended the event.

“It is both humbling and gratifying to be praised by President Obama for the level of our care in the face of this crisis,” Dr. Gold said. “This is a compliment for the dedicated health care professionals of our Biocontainment Unit, but also for the professionals of Nebraska Medicine and UNMC as a whole. We also should see it as a challenge to maintain our national and international leadership position in the worldwide fight against Ebola and other highly infectious agents as we continue our global educational efforts and regional preparedness.”

UNMC/Nebraska Medicine has one of three biocontainment units in the nation that have treated Ebola patients. Having drilled for countless hours since the unit opened in 2005, the Nebraska biocontainment team was uniquely qualified to answer the call. The original team was soon joined by other experts on campus.

Cancer center attracting top talent

by Karen Burbach, UNMC public relations

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The Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, which will open in 2017, has added five new translational cancer researchers to its staff in recent months.

The recruits hail from some of the nation’s top scientific and medical institutions. Collectively, they bring more than $5 million in cancer research funding to Nebraska. All have begun their work at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center during the past four months.

“When we launched this ambitious project to build the world’s finest cancer center right here in Omaha, we believed that it would attract the very best minds in cancer research from around the world,” said Ken Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center. “These recruits exemplify that vision. We are building a place where pioneering scientific exploration will shape the future of cancer science and medicine — and these recruits are just the start.”

They are:

Michael Green, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from Stanford University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Nov. 1.
  • $195,000 grant funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Dr. Green works to identify and understand the genetic alterations that give rise to lymphoma and allow it to evade the immune system. He is interested in the genetics of B-cell lymphoma, with the goal of using genetic profiling to understand disease biology and inform treatment decisions.
  • For more information on Dr. Green, click here.

Nick Woods, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Fla. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
  • $400,000 National Institutes of Health (NIH)/National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant in breast cancer.
  • For more information on Dr. Woods, click here.

Amar Singh, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from Vanderbilt University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
  • $1.65 million National Institutes of Health grant in colon cancer
  • Brought one other Ph.D. level researcher with him to Nebraska.
  • For more information on Dr. Singh, click here.

Punita Dhawan, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from Vanderbilt University. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Oct. 1.
  • $950,000 Veteran’s Affairs Health Grant in colon cancer
  • Recruited one additional Ph.D. postdoctoral fellow from Chicago.
  • For more information on Dr. Dhawan, click here.

Rebecca Oberley-Deegan, Ph.D.

  • Recruited from National Jewish Hospital in Denver. Joined the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center on Aug. 1.
  • $1.65 million National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute grant in prostate cancer
  • For more information on Dr. Oberly-Deegan, click here.

 

CAR T-Cell Therapy Now Offered at Nebraska Medicine

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After the T cells are collected from the patient, they are sent to a California lab to be restimulated to fight their own lymphoma. They are then returned to Nebraska Medicine to be reintroduced to the patient.

Seeking Patients with Relapsed B-Cell Lymphomas for Clinical Trial

It’s the fifth most common type of cancer for adults in U.S. For years, traditional therapies to treat non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) have included chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell/bone marrow transplant. For the first time, a promising new option will be offered at Nebraska Medicine called Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR T-Cell Therapy). It’s a way of taking the patient’s own immune system and modifying it to attack the cancer.

Dr_-Vose-135x190– Julie Vose, MD

“T cells are white blood cells that help our bodies fight infection and cancer,” explains Julie Vose, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology. “In lymphoma patients, these cells have gone haywire. They don’t fight the cancer properly. This clinical trial will allow us to take the patient’s own T cells outside the body and restimulate them to be able to fight their own lymphoma.”

From start to finish, the entire process takes about three weeks. During the first phase, the patient’s T cells are collected during an outpatient procedure at the hospital. The cells are then sent to a lab in California for processing. In the meantime, the patient receives several days of intense chemotherapy. When the cells return to Omaha, they’re placed in a specialized processing center here to complete the procedure. The patient then has their own modified T cells given back to them. A specialized team monitors the patient at the hospital for the next 7-10 days, including frequent blood tests and exams.

“It’s a great opportunity for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients who have failed every other therapy,” says Dr. Vose. “So far, this clinical trial has only been done in a few patients, but it looks very promising with high response rates.”

In the past, CAR T-Cell Therapy has only been offered at a few places, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Nebraska Medicine is one of the first hospitals in the Midwest to offer the clinical trial.

“This type of treatment can’t be done at just any hospital or center. It’s specialized with respect to what’s needed to collect and process the cells,” explains Dr. Vose. “We have a very large lymphoma program at Nebraska Medicine, which specializes in research and clinical trials. We’re hoping to attract patients from all over the region.”

The clinical trial is open to adult patients (19 years and older) with relapsed b-cell lymphomas, which is a subtype of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Because the treatment is extensive, the patient must be in good enough shape. Some of the treatment aspects are paid for by the study. Dr. Vose is looking to attract 5-10 participants over the next year, but will take more if interest is high.

“Clinical trials are very important, especially when it comes to cancer. That’s the way we discover new treatments,” says Dr. Vose. “Everything we have today is because of clinical trials in the past. Without patients on clinical trials, we wouldn’t have any cancer treatments today or tomorrow.”

To sign up for Dr. Vose’s clinical trial, call Nebraska Medicine at 402-559-5600. To learn more about the upcoming clinical trial, watch the video below.

Nebraska ranks as 10th healthiest state

by Elizabeth Kumru, UNMC public relations

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Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health, traveled the state in 2014 to talk with stakeholders about how to improve the state’s health indicators. His goal is to have Nebraska rank as the healthiest state in the U.S. by 2020.

Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of the College of Public Health, traveled the state in 2014 to talk with stakeholders about how to improve the state’s health indicators. His goal is to have Nebraska rank as the healthiest state in the U.S. by 2020.
Nebraska has moved into the top 10 among the healthiest states in the country.

In a report issued by the United Health Foundation earlier this month, Nebraska moved up one notch after ranking No. 11 last year. This marks the 25th year that UHF has issued state rankings.

About the rankings

America’s Health Rankings is the longest-running report of its kind. It provides analysis of national health on a state-by-state basis by evaluating a historical and comprehensive set of health, environmental and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. The rankings employ a unique methodology that is developed and annually reviewed and overseen by a Scientific Advisory Committee of leading public health scholars. It is published by the United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention.

The data in the report come from well-recognized outside sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, FBI, Dartmouth Atlas Project, U.S. Department of Education, and the Census Bureau.

See the rankings in full.

Use dropdown menus to narrow or expand information.
“We are heading in the right direction,” said Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., dean of UNMC’s College of Public Health. “With a real concerted effort, we can reach No. 1 by 2020.”

Since joining UNMC in July, Dr. Khan has traveled across the state to talk about how to improve the state’s health indicators. He supports UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D., and his strategic goal to work with all health systems and private and community partners to help make Nebraska the healthiest state in the union by 2020.

The report, “America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for Individuals and their Communities,” analyzed the health of the nation holistically with in-depth data and analysis. Its focus is on behaviors, community and environment, policy and clinical care to provide a comprehensive picture of the nation’s health. Indicators are: low birth weight, smoking, obesity, drug deaths, physical inactivity and adolescent immunizations.

First, the good news – Nebraska ranks:
•First – High rate of high school graduation. In the past two years, high school graduation increased 12 percent from 82.9 percent to 93 percent for incoming ninth graders. Nebraska is tied with Vermont for the highest graduation rate in the nation.
•Second – High immunization coverage among children. In the past year, immunization coverage among children increased by 9 percent from 72.6 percent to 79 percent for children aged 19 to 35 months.
•Third – Low rate of drug deaths.
•10th – In the past year, the number of children in poverty decreased by 27 percent from 19.6 percent to 14.3 percent.
•24th – In the past year, preventable hospitalizations decreased by 13 percent from 63.8 to 55.8 per 1,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Still, it isn’t all good news.

In areas that need work, Nebraska ranks:
•16th – In the past two years, the percentage of adults with diabetes increased 10 percent from 8.4 percent to 9.2 percent.
•21st – Percentage of adults who are smokers (self-report smoking at least 100 cigarettes in their lifetime and currently smoke).
•23rd – Public health funding.
•27th – Percentage of adults who are obese.
•44th – Percentage of adults who self-report drinking alcoholic beverages on at least one occasion in the last month: women – four or more drinks at one sitting; men – five or more drinks at one sitting.

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