Research Day at Touro also a day of considering local health

From the outset, it may not seem like any of Touro University’s research has much to do with the city of Vallejo, but there are ways the school has been determined to make the link between school and community.

“If you’re a university, you belong to the community and you have to give back,” Dr. Alejandro Gugliucci, associate dean for Research-COM, said. “We know we are in an area that needs a lot of help ... and now we know stuff that our own research is showing (regarding health issues) and if we keep it to ourself, we are actually doing damage. It’s an ethical thing: The first thing that we have to do is spread the word. 

Our roots have to be in the community, not only for showing off what we do, but by educating.”

The research presentations promoted only a sliver of the research the university produces as a whole, and focused on three studies addressing sugars and metabolism research. The presentations focused on obesity, diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease relating to fructose, how corporations and advertising influence the prevalence of sugar in our food and how the increase of sugar consumption leads to unforeseen health problems beyond already-known health issues. 

Along with these presentations, a group of students presented their own work on outreach into the community, focusing on how they’re spreading nutrition information to residents, continuing their student-run free health clinic in South Vallejo and working with local schools at community gardens to promote a healthy lifestyle.

“We have a series of faculty and staff and students working on issues that are really germane to what the problems in the community are: obesity and metabolic disease,” Gugliucci said. 

Comparing the numbers of what was spent on healthcare in 1960 versus the current amount spent on healthcare now, Dr. Jean-Marc Schwarz said the amount has increased and the money is being spent on chronic, preventable diseases.

“Eighty percent of our students in medical school go to primary care and they have to deal with chronic disease: Diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension,” Schwarz said. “That’s really the center of the health problem.”

Talking about the programs the school is offering to the community, Dr. Grace Marie Jones said the school is really contributing how it can — through health.

“This facility here is helping to improve people’s lives now and not just by the fact that we’re here, but we have students and facilities to go and help.”

“If we’re doing all this work, what’s the point if we’re not going out into the community and applying it?” Arpita Sinha, a student at Touro, added.

Beyond using the school’s research to improve the city, not even Touro was safe from changing its own unhealthy ways — Students in the lecture hall wondered if they couldn’t offer healthier beverages on their own campus. In light of the lectures taking place surrounding sugar and sugar-sweetened beverages, the attendees took the time to look at how they could improve their own health, too, looking at the current state of their vending machines.

A student video also encouraged the campus to take the Harter Way challenge, walking 113 steps uphill on the Harter Way staircase to reach a million steps taken in a month. It seems the school’s own research affected its own students and is improving things already.

Contact Dianne de Guzman at 707-553-6833. 

research day - chris riley

Elena Lingas talks about the characters and bright colors on cereal boxes on Wednesday during her lecture ‘Corporate Influences on What We Eat: The Sugar Industrial Complex’ during the 14th Annual Research Day at Touro University. Chris Riley — Times-Herald