Angela Knapp Eggers is the Senior Director of Community Outreach at the Laura W. Bush Institute. The institute, created in 2007, funds research on sex- and gender-based medicine as well as other innovative and lifesaving missions.
There are currently seven campuses involved in the institute. The institute’s goal is to educate the public about health choices based on biological reactions to medicine.
Celeste Paulson: What is the Laura W. Bush Institute’s focus?
Angela Knapp Eggers: Our main focus is sex- and gender-based medicine, which is the difference in how men and women react to treatment.
For example, aspirin will help prevent heart attacks for men but prevents strokes in women. If you know the difference when you go to the doctor, you can get the right treatment. Another example is that osteoporosis is more prevalent in women, but men are more likely to die from it.
Ambien, the sleep drug, was put on the market 22 years ago, and 10 mg was prescribed for men and women. After 20 years, the FDA realized that when women wake up the next morning, they still have 45 percent of the medicine in their system. Now doctors only prescribe 5 mg to women.
25 years ago when they did menopausal studies, they’d use female mice without ovaries and male mice for the research. They didn’t want to deal with women’s cycles, pregnancies and hormones.
Even smartphones were tested only on men and it’s been shown that women make more mistakes in texting because they weren’t designed for women.
Most medical decisions are made by the woman of the household, but the woman usually is not good at taking care of themselves. Part of our message is to take care of yourself first so that you can better take care of others.
We are doing our best to make sure people are getting the right care for themselves.
Celeste: Tell me about the Laura Bush Institute and how it began.
Angela: We have a three-tier mission based on research, education and outreach.
We fund research. It doesn’t have to be sex- and gender-based, but it needs to be innovative. We’ll give them anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000. We want to be on the ground floor of research.
We also do education. We have an online continuing medical education series for doctors, nurses and clinical people. We are also doing a curriculum for medical students. We’re training them to be the doctors that know there’s a difference in treatment for men and women.
We do a lot of outreach. We have a program called Girl Power for young girls and their moms. We also do Power Of The Purse, which is our big fundraiser. It’s one of the largest fundraisers in the panhandle. We have a program at WT called Girls Night Out for incoming freshmen girls to talk about date rape and peer pressure.
We also did the Color Run about four years ago. We had over 14,000 people. It was one of the most fun things I have ever done. One of the girls decided to do an economic study of impact of the Color Run on Amarillo. That one event generated $1.2 million in the economy.
We are in Amarillo, Lubbock, Dallas, Corpus Christi, Abilene, San Angelo and Midland-Odessa. We are small, but we have a really big message. We have a large impact in our work. We want to go national.
Celeste: What challenges are there in educating about sex and gender medicine?
Angela: People tend to shut down if they think it’s a feminist message. They hear that women are different from men and they think they already know, but they don’t know what we’re talking about. They need to know the differences in men and women. The world is also so hyper-sensitive to the word “gender” right now. I think that’s two subliminal reasons people shut down to the idea of it.
We did an education summit where we partnered with the Mayo Clinic. We invited all of the nation’s health science centers to attend. At the summit, that’s when we can get those people together and say, “You need to be taking our curriculums and taking our pamphlets.”
We’re trying to gain a national presence. At the national level, people can get grants up to $10 million. If they aren’t using both male and female animal models and aren’t tracking those differences, they won’t get funded.
Celeste: What recent research has the institute funded?
Angela: We have a doctor here, Thomas Hale, who is the gold standard for pharmaceuticals. He has developed an app called Mommy Meds. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it will tell you what prescriptions you can take.
He’s also working on an app that tells you how much alcohol you can have and when the alcohol has left your body to breastfeed safely. He says, “If you can’t make them stop, then help then do it in the healthiest way possible.” He’s also doing a study on marijuana to create a similar app for breastfeeding mothers.
He also has an infant risk call center for people to call for prescription advice. The risk center was launched with funds from Power of the Purse.
We have a breast surgeon, Rakhshanda Rahman, who runs the Breast Center of Excellence. We just gave her funding for a cryoablation machine. She takes a tiny needle and freezes benign breast tumors and it dissipates. and the immune system will wash it out.
She is effectively eliminating lumpectomies from women. She has a patient, Maxine, who is 90 and has a malignant breast tumor. She refused to have surgery, so Rahman convinced her to have the cryoablation treatment and her tumor is already decreasing its size.
We have a researcher in Lubbock who can analyze in vitro eggs with up to 90 percent accuracy to see which egg is effective so that you don’t have to risk having several babies. We have a National Institute of Health-funded researcher who is proving that a consistent diet of green tea minimizes the onset of osteoporosis.
Little by little, we’re chipping away at people and getting our message out. We just have to keep educating the community.
Celeste: How would you define our community?
Angela: People have a stereotypical preconceived notion of what Amarillo is, and it’s so far from the truth. We are bigger than that, and we are better than that. We are more advanced. They don’t realize the impact we have going on behind the scenes.
If you think about the art scene in Amarillo, people from other places are amazed. They don’t expect what we produce in Amarillo. The talent is astounding. AISD is huge and Pantex is huge. As far as the medical community is concerned, look at the innovative, lifesaving things we are doing.
We have a lot to offer. I love it here.
Celeste: Any upcoming events?
Angela: We have a Lunch and Learn coming up in August about nutritional health. We also have Girls Night Out in September. We also have the Girl Power event in October. At that event, we’ll have the first female Hispanic flight director for NASA. We have other events at our other campuses as well.
Want to read more stories about innovators like Angela Knapp Eggers in Amarillo?
Read our interview with Dr. Russell Lowery-Hart, president of Amarillo College.