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Anthony Fabio, Ph.D.

Center for Injury Research and Control Awards Grants to Study Deaths during Interaction between Suspect and Police and Gender Differences after Brain Injury

PITTSBURGH, July 18, 2001 — The Center for Injury Research and Control (CIRCL) at the University of Pittsburgh has awarded grants to study deaths during interaction between suspect and police and gender differences after brain injury as part of a program to encourage young investigators to initiate research in injury prevention.

Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability in children and young adults. In fact, injuries constitute one of the most expensive health problems in the United States, costing $75 billion to $100 billion a year directly and indirectly. Conversely, research on injury receives less than two cents out of every federal dollar for investigation on health problems. To help combat these alarming statistics, CIRCL established its small grants program.

The first grants funded through the program have been awarded to Amy Wagner, M.D., instructor in the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Pittsburgh, and to Steve Koehler, Ph.D., a forensic epidemiologist in the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office.

Dr. Wagner’s study, “Gender Based Associations with Outcome after Severe Traumatic Brain Injury,” will examine whether gender difference is an independent risk factor for poor outcome after traumatic brain injury. Dr. Wagner will evaluate specific gender differences in neuropsychological function, physical disability and outcome after hospitalization with severe

brain injury. Her study also hopes to further delineate other contributing epidemiological and event-related variables influencing the role of gender and brain trauma.

Traumatic brain injury is considered an epidemic in the United States, with an overall incidence of 200 per 100,000 total brain injuries per year. Survivors of brain injury often suffer devastating consequences, costing themselves, their families and society millions of dollars in lost opportunities.

Earlier studies conducted by Dr. Wagner showed that women with traumatic brain injury were over 2.5 times more likely to be disabled than males one year after injury. Other studies on traumatic brain injury demonstrated women also were more likely to report sleep disturbances, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, depression, missed work and relationship difficulties.

“We hope Dr. Wagner’s research will provide a framework from which to build for future studies of risks, interventions and outcomes for women with traumatic brain injury,” said Anthony Fabio, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of CIRCL and co-investigator of the study.

Dr. Koehler’s study, “Deaths During the Interaction Between a Suspect and Law Enforcement Officers: A Coroner’s Based Study,” involves a retrospective assessment of the risks of fatal injury to suspects and prisoners during the four phases of legal custody: apprehension, arrest, transport and incarceration. This will be the first study of the hazards of fatal injury by phase of legal intervention.

Deaths while in the custody of law enforcement officials have received increased attention by the media due to several high-profile cases. However, few studies have examined the risk of injury and death while in police custody.

Dr. Koehler’s study will determine the risk of death during each of the four phases by sex, age and race. His study also will clarify the manner and mechanism of death within each phase, and examine if the actions of the deceased or the actions of police contributed to events leading to death. Dr. Koehler will analyze data from the Allegheny County Coroner’s Office collected between 1995 and 1999 and examine the death certificates of all non-natural deaths within Pennsylvania during the same time frame.

“CIRCL is proud to support these young investigators and we hope their efforts will generate more interest in the field of injury prevention,” said Donald W. Marion, M.D., professor and interim chief of neurosurgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of CIRCL.

CIRCL is one of 10 centers in the United States to receive official designation of injury control research centers by the Centers for Disease Control.

CIRCL is an interdisciplinary, comprehensive program involving six schools and 18 departments of the University of Pittsburgh. The center conducts injury control research, disseminates information on injuries, provides training for health care professionals and informs the public and community leaders on injury control measures.

For more information about CIRCL and the small grants program, please access http://www.circl.pitt.edu.

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