Stroke researchers mark 20 years of health disparity research

University of Michigan earns new cycle of federal funding to examine burden of stroke among Mexican Americans

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Partners in the Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) project have earned a new cycle of funding that marks 20 years of federal support for stroke research.

BASIC primarily studies health disparities, working with patients and hospitals, to learn why minority populations, specifically Mexican Americans, have a greater burden of stroke than non-Hispanic whites. More than 9,000 stroke patients have participated in the study that’s become a global research model.

“Together we have made important clinical observations about stroke useful for stroke care,” says Lewis Morgenstern, M.D., Director of the Stroke Program at the University of Michigan, principal investigator for BASIC, and professor of neurology and epidemiology at the U-M.

Dr. Lewis Morgenstern
Dr. Lewis Morgenstern

Morgenstern (M.D., 1990) has worked in Corpus Christi since 1995 and remains committed to seeing health improvements in the Texas community.

Co-principal investigator is Lynda Lisabeth, Ph.D., interim chair and associate professor of epidemiology, School of Public Health and associate professor of neurology.

While the gap remains for higher incidence among Mexican Americans, there’s evidence of a trend for declining stroke rates among Mexican Americans and non-Hispanic Whites.

Since 2000, every stroke occurring in those age 45 and older living in Nueces County, Texas has been counted and analyzed for the project. The National Institutes of Health has continuously funded the work since 1999. The newest cycle of funding, beginning April 1, will bring BASIC’s total funding to approximately $13 million.

“These are remarkably difficult times to get federal funding for research and a fourth, five-year funding cycle is a remarkable accomplishment that everyone in our community can be proud of,” says William Burgin, Jr., M.D., local health authority for the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District.

The Health District, local hospitals and neurologists have partnered on research that has resulted in approximately 60 scientific studies and numerous presentations given in the United States and the world.

Major findings for BASIC include a higher rate of stroke in Mexican Americans compared with non-Hispanic Whites; higher stroke reoccurrence in Mexican Americans and researchers have linked air pollution and density of fast food restaurants in a neighborhood to stroke risk.

The U-M employs up to 15 local staff, led by field office director Nelda Garcia, who reside in Corpus Christi to complete the community work.

“While BASIC is the lead project for our work in Corpus Christi, it has given rise to many other NIH funded work including partnerships with the Diocese of Corpus Christi, the local school district and critically important studies looking at the association of sleep apnea and stroke which are ongoing,” says Lisabeth.

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