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May 1, 1997


Physician divorce rates vary by specialty, psychological traits

Divorce rates among physicians vary according to specialty and psychological traits. However, they are not affected by a host of other factors, including gender, that previously were thought to be relevant, according to a study by Pitt assistant professor Bruce L. Rollman, published in a March issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The overall cumulative rate of divorce among 1,118 physicians was 29 percent by 30 years of marriage. Rollman found that psychiatrists had the highest divorce rate, 50 percent, followed by surgeons, 33 percent. For internists, pediatricians and pathologists the rates ranged from 22 to 24 percent.

Some psychological variables also proved important. Physicians who scored in the highest quarter on a test measuring anger had a 44 percent incidence of divorce compared with 27 percent for the rest of the study group. Perceiving one's self as having been less emotionally close with one's parents also was associated with a higher divorce rate.

Rollman's study debunked other factors previously thought to affect divorce among physicians, including gender, depression, religion, medical school class rank, being an only child, parental history of divorce and having a parent or parents who were physicians. While women physicians had a higher absolute incidence of divorce (37 percent versus 28 percent), after adjusting for other factors, such as specialty, female physicians had the same risk of divorce as male physicians.

Rollman drew on the Johns Hopkins Precursors Study, which tracked 1,337 people who entered the Johns Hopkins University School from 1944 through 1960. That group included only 8 percent female physicians, 2 percent Asians and no African-Americans. Excluding those who did not graduate, as well as those for whom marital and divorce information was incomplete, Rollman's study was based on 1,118 married physicians.

Rollman is assistant professor of medicine, Center for Research on Health Care in the General Internal Medicine division.


Geology prof gets two NSF grants

Rosemary Capo, assistant professor in geology and planetary science, has received two awards from the National Science Foundation.

A $126,000 grant will allow Capo to study the relationship of global climate change to chemical weathering and soil development. She and Brian Steward, also of geology and planetary science, will use an additional $275,000 grant to buy a mass spectrometer to conduct low temperature and environmental geochemistry experiments.


Nursing school offers pregnant teens who smoke free study for smoking cessation

Pitt nursing school researchers are looking for pregnant teenagers who smoke to enroll in a free research study evaluating three smoking cessation programs. Study results will help determine the best method of achieving and maintaining smoking cessation among pregnant teens that can be implemented by school or clinic nurses.

A research team led by Susan Albrecht, assistant professor of nursing, received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Nursing Research to conduct a four-year study. It will compare the effectiveness of usual care and education given to pregnant teens who are not part of formal smoking cessation programs to that of two smoking interventions tailored to pregnant teens, Teen FreshStart and Teen FreshStart Buddy. The former is modeled after the American Cancer Society's educational and motivational FreshStart for adults. Teen FreshStart Buddy adds the support of a female non-smoking peer.

Study participants must be pregnant teens under the age of 18 who smoke at least one cigarette a day. They are randomized into the three study groups and their smoking is evaluated at the start of the study, after the intervention, six weeks post-partum, then again one year after beginning the intervention. The two FreshStart courses are conducted within eight sessions in either the school or clinical setting. Upon completion of the study, participants are given a $65 stipend in addition to gifts for themselves and their babies.

For more information, call 624-BABY (624-2229).


Smoking predicts stroke risk for women

Healthy postmenopausal women who smoke are five times more likely to develop blockages in the arteries that carry blood to the brain, which intensifies their risk of stroke compared to women who have never smoked, according to a report by Pitt researchers published in March in the American Heart Association journal, Stroke.

The study is the first to monitor women's risk of atherosclerosis through menopause.

"We found that women's history of smoking is the strongest predictor of carotid atherosclerosis, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke," said researcher Holly Lassila of the Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH). Lassila and her colleagues measured history of smoking, levels of blood fats, glucose levels, blood pressure, height and weight in 200 women before menopause, one year after menopause and again at least five years later. Ultrasound pictures of carotid arteries also were analyzed at least five years after menopause.

The study is part of the Healthy Women Study conducted by GSPH and funded by National Institutes of Health.


Electrical engineering faculty get grants

Several electrical engineering professors recently received major research grants.

The U.S. Air Force awarded $300,000 to associate professors Steven Levitan and Donald Chiarulli to develop a prototype optoelectronic cache that can integrate terabit optical memories with the electronic caches associated with high performance uni- and multi-processors.

A $31,000 Ben Franklin grant will enable assistant professor Hong-Koo Kim to explore the development of reliable manufacturing technologies for III-V refractory semi-conductors.

Associate professor Robert Boston has received more than $46,000 from the National Institutes of Health for his research in measuring outcomes in pain treatment of spinal cord injuries and amputation, with the hope of preventing pain during patient rehabilitation.

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