2021 in Review: Health News

December 21, 2021

In case you missed them the first time, take a look back through some of 2021’s patient care and public health stories from the CUIMC Newsroom and other medical center sites:


Statins Could Benefit Millions of Young Adults with High Cholesterol

man putting a pill into his mouth
Getty Images

The use of statins to reduce cholesterol is recommended for only a small fraction of young adults who have extremely high levels of LDL cholesterol. A study by VP&S researchers suggests that statins would provide lifetime health benefits for adults under 40 with less severely elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, preventing or delaying many heart attacks and strokes. It would also be cost-effective, particularly for young adult men. Read more.

Ketamine Rapidly Improves Cognitive Function, Making People in Suicidal Crisis Less Likely to Harm Themselves

VP&S researchers found that a single dose of ketamine not only reduced the severity of depression in people with suicide ideation, many of whom had not responded to other antidepressants, but also made them feel safer and less likely to harm themselves. Ketamine also improved neurocognitive skills such as thinking and reasoning. Read more.

Columbia Unveils New Mobile Clinic for Community Dental Care

Columbia University mobile dental clinic
Eileen Barroso / Columbia University

The College of Dental Medicine unveiled its new mobile dental center, which will travel to Head Start centers, schools, senior centers, and other partner sites in CDM’s Community DentCare Network. The clinic will deliver health screenings and low-cost dental care primarily to patients in Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, and the South Bronx. Read more.

Just How Harmful Is Social Media?

Social media platforms are important sources of socialization and relationship-building for many young people, but they also can facilitate bullying and exclusion, promote unrealistic expectations about body image, and encourage risk-taking behaviors. In a Q&A, experts from VP&S and the Mailman School of Public Health shared their insights into social media’s effect on the mental health of young people and adults and suggest everyone should consider periodic social media vacations. Read more.

sad-looking girl looking at smart phone
Getty Images

Colon Cancer Screening at 45: What You Should Know

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, American Cancer Society, and American Society of Colorectal Surgery now recommend that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screenings at age 45 rather than 50. A VP&S surgeon explains why the change was made and what you need to know. Read more.

Five Years of Caring for Washington Heights

group photo of members of Columbia Nursing's faculty practice

In September, Columbia Nursing’s faculty practice, the Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Group, celebrated five years of serving the Washington Heights community. In that time, the group has recorded nearly 42,000 patient visits and 1,500 house calls. The group’s services include on-site mental health services and a full range of primary care services for sexual and gender minority individuals. Because the group had piloted telehealth in April 2019, all of the practice’s NPs were experienced in providing remote care when COVID hit. In 2020, the group also served as a cough and fever clinic for COVID-19 patients. Read more.

Columbia Establishes Treatment Center and Clinical Trials Network for Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases

The Cohen Center for Health and Recovery from Tick-Borne Diseases is the first in New York City to offer dedicated treatment for people with Lyme and related diseases. The center also has a national clinical trials network that will focus on identifying more effective treatments for patients with Lyme and tick-borne diseases. Read more.

Experimental Gene Therapy Reverses Sickle Cell Disease for Years

red blood cells, including sickled cell, as seen through a microscope
NIH/Janice Haney Carr

A study of an investigational gene therapy for sickle cell disease has found that a single dose restored blood cells to their normal shape and eliminated the most serious complication of the disease for at least three years in some patients. Four patients at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian participated in the multicenter study, the first to report such long-term outcomes of a sickle cell gene therapy. Read more.

Study Questions Widely Used Race-Based Formula to Define Lung Disease

New results from a long-term epidemiologic study reveal that one of the oldest racially based diagnostic formulas in medicine is no better than a race-neutral equation, suggesting the formula used to diagnose lung disease should be changed. Because the formula includes racial adjustments in defining normal lung function, Black people may be less likely to be treated with medications for COPD or diagnosed with other serious lung disorders compared to white people. Read more.

New Weight Loss Drug Approved by FDA: Is It Right for You?  

People who are trying to lose weight have a new option: A medication called semaglutide received FDA approval earlier this summer. In this Q&A, a VP&S weight loss expert explains how the drug works and who may benefit from it. Read more.

Columbia Primary Care Removes Barriers to Improve Mental Health

woman with sad expression with a therapist
Getty Images

A new program at ColumbiaDoctors embeds behavioral health specialists alongside primary care providers to care for patients’ mental health needs. The program launched in November at all ColumbiaDoctors Primary Care locations to care for patients with depression. Expansion into other behavioral health needs, such as anxiety, substance use disorders, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, is planned for the future. Read more.

Columbia University Selected as Rare Disease Center of Excellence

Columbia University Irving Medical Center with NewYork-Presbyterian has been named a Center of Excellence by the National Organization for Rare Disorders and joins a national network dedicated to improving treatment and care for people with rare diseases. Columbia was chosen as a Center of Excellence because it has experts across multiple specialties to meet the needs of patients with rare diseases and has a wide range of clinical, patient education, and research programs for people living with rare diseases. Read more.

Smarter Radiation Therapy Enhances Personalized Care for Cancer Patients

Columbia University Irving Medical Center

The latest advance in radiation therapy—using artificial intelligence to adjust treatments as needed without delay—is now available for select cancer patients at Columbia University Irving Medical Center/NewYork-Presbyterian. The new advance solves a long-standing issue in radiation oncology: the difficulty of adapting treatment to anatomical changes in the patient or the tumor that can occur during the many weeks of therapy. Read more.