Report: Not All Cancer Care in NC is Created Equal

UNC research found that proximity to care impacts publicly insured patient's ability to continue cancer treatment. Photo courtesy National Cancer Institute

UNC research found that proximity to care impacts publicly insured patient’s ability to continue cancer treatment. Photo courtesy National Cancer Institute

The quality of cancer care you receive in North Carolina could depend on where you live. That’s the conclusion of two studies recently published in the North Carolina Medical Journal.

Stephanie Wheeler at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill analyzed people on Medicaid in the state to evaluate the frequency and availability of chemotherapy treatments, “Distance does matter, and we found that in urban areas, as we would expect, the further away that you live from a radiation provider, the lower odds you have of receiving radiation.”

One surprising outcome of Wheeler’s research – rural patients living less than 10 miles away from their provider are less likely to receive therapy than those living further away. She attributes that to the fact that people who live in rural areas are accustomed to driving further for their needs.


A separate study released this summer from the American Society of Clinical Oncology found there is a projected shortage of 1,500 physicians over the next 10 years to care for cancer patients.Wheeler also points out rural areas often have fewer specialists in close proximity. “There’s quality of care issues everywhere. I think what some of the issue might be in rural settings is that sometimes the oncologist practicing in those settings are more often generalists.”

The study also found that two-thirds of small oncology practices reported they were likely to merge, sell or close within a year. The report suggests an expansion of tele-medicine to give patients greater access to specialists and reducing the instability of payments from publicly insured patents that have a disproportionate impact on small community practices.

Women’s Equality Day Activities Planned Across North Carolina

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote 94 years ago this week. Now the anniversary of the amendment's signing marks Women's Equality Day nationwide. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote 94 years ago this week. Now the anniversary of the amendment’s signing marks Women’s Equality Day nationwide. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Today marks the 94th anniversary of the signing of the 19th Amendment – granting women the right to vote. Events are planned in cities across the state including Charlotte and Raleigh to commemorate the day. Women’s groups are also using it as an opportunity to talk about policy changes that impact women in their pursuit for equality, including education and health care.

Ashley Simons-Rudolph with the Women’s Center at NC State explains what the day means to her,”There are always going to be ebbs and flows with equality, but you know I’m really proud to be North Carolinian and really proud of my state.”

Today in Raleigh women will gather at the State Capitol in recognition of Women’s Equality Day. The event is part of a Moral Week of Action, with citizens gathering all week to urge state leadership to reconsider public policies they see as counterproductive to the wellbeing of citizens.

Tara Romano with NC Women United is coordinating the Raleigh event and says the Moral Week of Action is a platform to discuss issues like the repeal of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and the decision to not expand Medicaid, “We are excited to be a part of it because we do feel it’s an opportunity for us to talk about issues that don’t typically get talked about, like child care and women’s dual roles as breadwinners and caretakers.”

Simons-Rudolph says budget cuts to health and education programs in recent years are forcing organizations to maximize resources. “I think everyone in the state is learning to do more with less, and we just need to continue to do the good work that we’re doing. ”

Wednesday the Moral Week of Action will continue with discussion of Medicaid expansion, health care and environmental justice, and Thursday will conclude with a rally for voting rights in North Carolina.

A Little Help Please? Fewer Teaching Assistants in NC Classrooms

gr-41300-1-1School is well under way and public school teachers may be feeling the burden of a new year a little more this year. Many teachers in younger grades won’t have the help of teaching assistants this year, as North Carolina lawmakers opted to shift$105-million dollars away from a funding source for hiring teaching assistants.

Mark Jewell with the North Carolina Association of Educators says with fewer Teaching Assistants now being shared between classrooms and grade levels, it will be impossible for them to meet students’ needs,”The quality of the work that they’re able to do has been diminished. That’s a big concern for us out there, when you’re removing another highly qualified adult away from direct contact with their students out there.”

Teaching assistants work with individual and small-group learners, communicate with parents and help create materials used in the classroom.

The multimillion-dollar cut from the teacher assistant budget eliminates 22-percent of the money local schools have to hire them. It’s left school systems such as Charlotte-Mecklenberg without funding for 90 positions, and Winston-Salem with a potential loss of 125 assistants. Jewell sees this cut as part of a larger problem, “You can’t educate North Carolina children on the cheap, and this is the kind of philosophy that North Carolina has transitioned to over the past two years.”

Speaker Thom Tillis publicly defended the budget change, saying the money was shifted to a fund where schools can decide if they increase teacher pay or continue to pay for assistants. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the move makes it more difficult for schools to reallocate the money to Teaching Assistants.

Local Hospitals Earn Top Awards for Patient Satisfaction

WestCare Emergency Medical Services and Swain County Hospital Emergency Department were recently awarded for excellence in patient satisfaction in the U.S. by Professional Research Consultants, a national healthcare research firm and leader in gauging healthcare consumer perceptions.

PRC annually recognizes healthcare facilities, providers, outpatient service lines, and inpatient units scoring in the top percentages of their national client database for the prior calendar year through the National Excellence in Healthcare Awards.

WestCare EMS received the 5-Star Award, scoring in the top 10 percent of the national database.

Swain County Hospital Emergency Department received the 4-Star Award, scoring in the top 25% of the national database.

The awards are based on the percentage of patients who rated the units “excellent” for the overall quality of care question.

WestCare EMS staffs three ambulances daily, responding to over 400 calls a month, in addition to providing support for the Jackson County First Responder program as well as educational and outreach programs for a variety of local institutions. The unit is also a North Carolina Office of EMS accredited teaching institution and an approved teaching site for many of the National Association of EMT’s courses.

The Swain County Hospital Emergency Department has provided emergency medical care to residents of Bryson City and surrounding communities for many years, offering the full spectrum of emergency care. The department is staffed with physicians with special training in emergency medicine, as well as an outstanding nursing staff with many years of clinical experience.

NC Voucher Program Ruled Unconstitutional

On Thursday, a Wake County judge ruled against the state’s new school voucher program, immediately ending the transfer of millions of public education dollars to fund private schools. The judge found fault with the “Opportunity Scholarship Program,” set to begin this school year.

Chris Fitzsimon with the North Carolina Justice Center explains the reason behind the court’s ruling,  “It seems to clearly violate the constitution of using public money for a private purpose. This program allows our public taxpayer dollars to go to entirely unaccountable, unregulated schools and we have not idea where this money is going.”

Judge Robert Hobgood said the funds should be “exclusively used for establishing a uniform system of free public schools.” Supporters of the voucher program argue that it is increasing access to educational opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be available to lower-income families.

Hobgood also noted that private schools receiving the voucher funds are largely unregulated and therefore, are not obligated to demonstrate improvement in student performance.

Fitzsimon says based on the judge’s ruling, the vouchers won’t be dispersed, leaving qualified North Carolina families unclear whether there will be funding for their child’s private education this year, “The judge was clear that funds will be frozen. It’s my understanding that no funds will be dispersed until there’s either a trial that finds this program constitutional, or the Court of Appeals rescinds the stay.”

In 2013, state lawmakers allocated 10-million dollars for the “Opportunity Scholarships” to begin this fall. The vouchers are worth $4,200 dollars apiece.

Macon County House Fire Investigation Leads to Murder

Charles Cochran is considered the prime suspect in the murder.

Charles Cochran is considered the prime suspect in the murder.

According to the Macon County Sheriff’s Office, a victim that died in the August 2 house fire in the Burningtown Community has been identified as 71-year-old Day Williamson.

The body was found in the upstairs back bedroom following a fire that destroyed the home. Although the body was recovered after the fire was put out, the  medical examiner’s findings of strangulation as a cause of death means that Williamson was deceased before the fire.

The Sheriff’s Office say Cochran, the prime suspect in the case, escaped custody from the Macon County Detention Center on July 30 while on trash detail. Cochran was on the run from authorities for five days until he was captured shortly after midnight on Tuesday, Aug. 5.

Authorities indicate Cochran had ties to Ms. Williamson. Her Chevy Tracker was reportedly missing at the time of the fire.  The tracker was found abandoned about a mile away from a residence where Cochran was found. He is also a suspect in a shooting in the town of Franklin on West Palmer Street WRGC reported on a code red alert sent to residents by Franklin police urging to lock windows and doors in the early August incident.

When arrested, he was in possession of a .38 caliber revolver. The investigation also led authorities to discover a bag filled with items , was identified by Day Williamson’s grandson as belonging to the victim.

No charges have been filed yet in the case. Cochran is currently being held without bond at the detention center on charges stemming from a trespassing incident from Colorado.

NC DOT To Replace Bridges in Jackson and Haywood Counties

As part of a continuing effort to upgrade and improve infrastructure across the state, the N.C. Department of Transportation has awarded a contract to replace two Haywood County bridges and four Jackson County bridges.


The $5.5 million contract for the bridge replacements was awarded to Simpson Construction Company, Inc. of Cleveland, Tenn.


Construction can begin as soon as Aug. 25, with all six bridges completed by November 2017.


The bridges scheduled for replacement include:


Haywood County:

-Bridge on Hemphill Road over Hemphill Creek, built in 1954 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient

-Bridge on Johnson Branch Road over Johnson Branch, built in 1963 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient


Jackson County:

-Bridge on Moses Creek Road over Moses Creek, built in 1963 and considered functionally obsolete and  structurally deficient

-Bridge on Woodfin Road over Woodfin Creek, built in 1957 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient

-Bridge on Johns Creek Road over Rich Mountain Branch, built in 1961 and considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient

-Bridge on Dills Cemetery Road over Fisher Creek, built in 1963 and considered functionally obsolete


Bridges considered functionally obsolete and/or structurally deficient remain safe for the traveling public, but they were built to outdated design standards and need to be replaced to meet current and future traffic demands.

For more details about improving North Carolina’s bridges, visit NCDOT’s bridge information website.

This is one of the 11 road and bridge contracts worth $43.4 million recently awarded by NCDOT for projects across North Carolina. The contracts were awarded to the lowest bidders, as required by state law. The low bids received on the projects were 2.8 percent, or about $1.2 million, over NCDOT estimates.

Scratch That Itch: How Climate Change is Bugging Us

This time of year, it’s hard to step out into the yard without getting a bite from a mosquito, fire ant or tick. If you think these pests are becoming more common, it may not be your imagination, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.

In North Carolina, warmer temperatures, reduced rainfall and the introduction of non-native species like fire ants all are affecting whether people can enjoy the outdoors, explains report author, Dr. Doug Inkley. “It’s not our imagination. This is already happening. We must take action now, for our children’s future, for our outdoor experience future. These things are happening now.”

Inkley says deer ticks are another growing problem in North Carolina, and that warmer winters are allowing the population – known to carry Lyme disease – to spread quickly. The report recommends supporting limits on carbon pollution and alternative energy sources to curtail climate change and thereby decrease the spread of problem pests.

The EPA is in the process of establishing carbon pollution limits for existing power plants and is accepting public comment.

Morganton resident Richard Mode with the N-C Wildlife Federation says increased outdoor pests and extreme weather are reminders of how the Tar Heel State is affected daily. “These are things that impact people. It’s not political – it’s a real issue that impacts humans, wildlife, wildlife habitats, our outdoor experience, and things that we love about living in North Carolina.”

In addition to creating problems for humans, pests like fire ants are also impacting the agricultural industry.

Inkley says they damage at least 57 species of crops and other plants. “Fire ants do eat, and are pests in, various agricultural crops. They’re also a problem for our wildlife, because you know fire ants – you don’t want to ever get messed up with fire ants.”

Fire ants are believed to have been transported to the country by ship from South America in the 1930s and 40s. They bite with a venom that can cause burning and blistering, and can even be deadly to humans and animals.

Sylva Streets To Reopen Wednesday

Sylva Town Manager Paige Roberson announced on Tuesday afternoon that Sylva Streets would be open again on Wednesday following an inspection by a structural engineer who certified the walls from the fire gutted Hooper Building on Main Street were structurally sound. One lane of Mill Street and one lane of Main Street will be opened with the inside lane still being coned off for the immediate future. It was also found the walls of the adjoining buildings were also safe. Tenants were permitted into their buildings on Tuesday to remove property and inventory and commence the salvage process from items which suffered water damage. The work of the structural engineer will give credence to the desire to save the historical image of downtown Sylva and commence the renovation to the Hooper property. As mentioned several times during the “live” coverage of the fire by WRGC Radio News Reporter Roy Burnette, the fire departments were constantly watering down the walls of the building in order to keep the walls cooled as much as possible. Obviously their efforts were successful in saving the building and keeping the fire from spreading to timbers which might have been secured to the rock and block structures. The fire departments deserve even another accolade for their work.

Teenage Driver Safety in North Carolina

teendriversincarThe Highway Patrol will be focusing on education and enforcement. Troopers across the state will be educating teenage drivers by implementing teenage driver safety plans and will be working with school administrators in offering any assistance in the area of highway safety. Education however is just one part of the solution. Increased enforcement visibility in and around all school zones will be observed.

On Monday, August 25, schools operating on traditional calendars will begin with more than one million students attending North Carolina’s public schools.  Students will be traveling to and from school and school related activities during the morning and evening rush hours, which happen to be the busiest times for a teenager to be driving on North Carolina’s 78,000 miles of roadways.

Research has shown that teenage drivers lack the experience of seasoned drivers and are more likely to be distracted while operating a motor vehicle.  According to the National Highway and Transportation Traffic Safety Administration and the UNC Highway Research Center revealed some staggering facts:

Approximately two-thirds of the people killed in fatal young-driver crashes are the young drivers themselves or their passengers

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of fatalities involving young drivers occur on rural roadways

One out of four 16-year-old drivers in North Carolina is involved in a car crash every year and nearly half of these crashes are serious enough to result in injury or death according to the U-N-C Highway Safety Research Center

16-year-olds are three times more likely to die in a car crash then other drivers

Sixty-one percent (61%) of all young driver fatalities were NOT wearing their seatbelts

Fifty-four percent (54%) of the vehicle’s occupants were killed as a result of NOT being restrained

Studies have shown that the combination of inexperience and the natural impulsiveness of the adolescent years contribute to this increased risk in being involved in a fatal crash.  Given this information, it is not surprising that traffic collisions continue to be the leading cause of teenage deaths in North Carolina.

In addition, the new school year brings an increase of school buses on North Carolina highways. Motorists should be cognizant of their presence. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration an average of 24 school-age children nationwide die in school transportation-related traffic crashes each year (11 occupants of school transportation vehicles and 13 pedestrians).


Agricultural Development and Farm Land Preservation Grants Awarded for 2014

The North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund recently awarded nearly $2.3 million to help communities across the state protect farmland and promote agricultural enterprises. These grant recipients were applicants from the trust fund’s Cycle VII request for proposals. Funding resources included statewide general appropriations, Tennessee Valley Authority settlement funds and, for the first time, military funds.

The trust fund collaborated with the military to support agriculture and agribusiness in areas of the state where military bases and training are located. TVA settlement funds were distributed to a 17-county region in Western North Carolina.


The Black Family Land Trust was awarded $143,475 toward the purchase of a 20-year conservation easement on 436 acres of a livestock and horticulture farm owned by Martha Mobley of Louisburg.


The Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District was granted $362,500 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 100 acres of a livestock and crop farm owned by Andrew and Jamie Francis of Canton.

The Haywood County Soil and Water Conservation District received $87,500 toward the purchase of a 30-year conservation easement on 100 acres of a livestock and forestry farm owned by Austin and Kathy Swanger of Clyde.

The Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council was awarded $188,500 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 80 acres of a livestock and forestry farm owned by Charles and Janice Henson of Canton.

The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy was granted $135,780 toward the purchase of a perpetual conservation easement on 175 acres of a livestock, crop and forestry farm owned by Robbie Kirkpatrick


The Swain County Soil and Water Conservation District was granted $10,200 to stimulate profitable and sustainable farms through a series of educational workshops, market studies and marketing efforts.k of Candler.

Jackson County was granted $10,000 to assess whether a viable business model can be developed for a profitable red-meat slaughter and processing facility in Western North Carolina. This project will impact the TVA region.

The Southwestern N.C. Resource Conservation and Development Council received $25,000 to develop a Smoky Mountain Agriculture Economic Strategy focusing on the needs and opportunities for farmers in Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties.

The Swain County Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded $16,000 for the creation of a mobile soils exhibit that will serve as an interactive education display in order for the public to better make connections between the conditions of soils and water on quality of life. This project will impact the TVA region.

The University of North Carolina at Asheville Foundation was granted $7,000 to demonstrate the innovate use of perennial food crops on marginal land to increase small farm profitability. The program will serve Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Madison, Mitchell and Yancey counties.

WNC Communities received $25,000 to establish a system to deliver brewers grain as an alternative and cost-saving feed source to family farmers with smaller livestock herds. This project will impact the TVA region.

WNC Communities was awarded $32,500 to fund enhancements and safety upgrades to the WNC Regional Livestock Center in Haywood County. The trust fund was a partner in the construction of the center. This project will impact the TVA region.


Smoky Mountain Military Stand Down Reaches Out to Local Veterans

homelessveteranIf you know a Veteran who is struggling with homeless or perhaps just making ends meet, look no further. The Smoky Mountain Veteran Stand Down will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21, at the Macon County Community Facility Building, located at 1288 Georgia Road, Franklin.

This event is made possible by  efforts of over 50 donors, sponsors and agencies to provide one day of care and services to veterans who are homeless, at risk of becoming homeless and low-income veterans who are unable to afford basic care.

Services for veterans will include haircuts, military surplus gear, dental work, optometry, veterans benefit administration, local education services, legal services, housing support, medical and mental health services, veterans service officers and supportive services for veteran families. A hot breakfast and lunch will be served to veterans and their families.

Free transportation is available at the following locations:

— For Haywood County: 7 a.m. at the Open Door Soup Kitchen, located at 32 Commerce St., Waynesville. Call 452-3846.

— For Jackson County: 7:30 a.m. at the Jackson County Justice Center, located at 401 Grindstaff Road, Sylva. Call 586-4055.

— For Swain County: 7:45 a.m. at the State of Franklin, located at 125 Brendle St., Bryson City. Call 488-3047.

For more information, call Mark Schuler at 456-6061 or Mike Casey at 837-7407.

Cullowhee Fire Victim Identified

jennifer lee ludwigIn the early mornings hours of August 14, the Jackson County 911/Dispatch Center received a 911 call reporting a structure fire at 8357 Highway 107 in Cullowhee, North Carolina.  A positive identification has been made on the body that was located in the home.  Jennifer Lee Ludwig, also known by friends and family as JLee Mayer, age 32 was killed in the fire. The cause of death is expected to be released by the medical examiner next week.  Another resident Michael Thad Schrader was also in the home but sustained only minor injuries which were treated by WestCare.

Responding emergency personnel were from the Cullowhee Fire Department, Sylva Fire Department, Canada Fire Department, and Cashiers Fire Department.  Med West EMS provided medical support and the Jackson County Emergency Management Office also assisted.  The investigation will be joint between the Fire Marshal, Jackson County Sheriff’s and and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations.


Bullying: Protecting your child on the “Information Superhighway”

gr-41126-1-1Bullying is no longer a behavior that happens mostly on the playground or the school bus. Social media is providing online channels for negative interactions between children, with more than half of teens reporting they have witnessed online bullying.

Experts like Peggy Caruso, a life coach and author of the book “Revolutionize Your Child’s Life,” says the best way an adult can help their child is to be aware of the potential sources of bullying. “To understand and prevent negative influences, I think the biggest thing is understanding the types of bullying, the signs that you look for.”

She says those signs include a child who seems withdrawn, lacks the desire to interact with others, or exhibits extreme changes in behavior. North Carolina law prohibits bullying, and specifically prohibits the use of technology to inflict psychological distress.

In addition to increased technology providing other outlets for bullies, Caruso says it has also decreased typical communication between children, like talking and problem-solving face to face. “One of the issues with technology and social media and whatnot, is the loss of communication. So, I also teach them how to mastermind together, brainstorm with other children, and just try to bring back some things that are lost.”

To deter negative online interactions, she says advise your child to resist the temptation to respond to the bully, don’t retaliate, save any evidence and use online privacy tools and settings to block the bully.

Rural Counties Remain Killing Grounds for Traffic Deaths in NC

carHaywood County has some of the safest roads in the state, according to AAA Carolina’s 20th annual ranking of the most dangerous counties for traffic.

Rural Counties remain the killing grounds for traffic deaths in North Carolina. Despite a reduction in traffic deaths in 2013 and less traffic on the road, three people on average die every day in the state in a traffic crash, according to the study.

Pedestrian deaths represent one in six of every traffic fatality in the state, with the majority of these deaths occurring in the more heavily traveled urban areas.

Graham County had 180 crashes and four deaths, despite having less than one tenth of one percent of the total vehicle miles traveled in the state, making it the top county with highest probability of being in a fatal crash, based on AAA’s analysis of 2013 data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

Traffic deaths have been declining annually since 2010 in North Carolina – 1,162 last year, aided by safer cars, fewer miles driven and amped up law enforcement.

Graham, Alleghany, Alexander, Bladen and Vance counties top AAA’s list of dangerous counties for traffic fatalities last year. The five counties combined for 40 traffic deaths, despite having only two percent of the state’s total vehicle miles traveled.

Western Carolina University Welcomes Freshmen On Move In Day

DSC_0067Thousands of moms, dads, grandparents and siblings ascended upon Western Carolina University on Friday to help their freshmen move into the dorms. The move in process begin at 7 am and continued into the late afternoon. The system was ran like a well oiled machine. Traffic patterns were easily laid out around the campus with public safety and volunteers assisting with directing those moving in. Faculty, staff and student volunteers were there to assist the families.

Indicators are pointing to another all-time high in student enrollment, and WCU should exceed last year’s record enrollment of 10,107. Also, WCU anticipate that they will  surpass last year’s first-year student enrollment of 1,614, and could even see an entering class of 1,700 or more. The official fall enrollment will be established Friday, Aug. 29, which is the 10th class day and the census date as specified by the University of North Carolina General Administration.

A week of activities has been planned to welcome all the students for the 2014-15 academic year, including WCU’s annual Valley Ballyhoo celebration Saturday, Aug. 16. More than 5,000 WCU students typically attend Valley Ballyhoo each year to enjoy the festivities and visit information tables hosted by campus and community organizations.

Take a Deep Breath:Health of NC Children Impacted by Ozone

Luna Willhelm,5, has asthma. Her parents believe it was caused by poor air quality in the environment and the family believes someone should be held responsible

Luna Willhelm,5, has asthma. Her parents believe it was caused by poor air quality in the environment and the family believes someone should be held responsible

This school year, thousands of North Carolina children will go to school with an inhaler to treat asthma. According to the CDC, nationwide almost seven-million children have asthma, which is just over nine-percent of their population. In some cases, environment is believed to play a role in the medical condition. It’s why groups including the Medical Advocates for Healthy Air have spoken out in support of the EPA’s efforts to strengthen carbon pollution limits this year.

Rebecca Cheatham moved her family to Charlotte from New York for better quality of life and air, but she feels it was too late for her daughter, who now has to carry an inhaler. “I think that the environment was totally responsible for her developing asthma in the first place. We have no family history, we don’t smoke. There’s no known triggers. Except for when we lived in New York, she was exposed to heavy-duty amounts of particulate matter.”

In July the Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA for failing to ensure that North Carolinians are protected from lead and ozone air pollution. According to the American Lung Association, in North Carolina, more than 860-thousand people have illnesses such as asthma and pulmonary disease that may be the result of ozone pollution.

Cheatham says as a precautionary measure, they monitor air quality levels when deciding when to let their daughter play outside or participate in things such as gym class, but believe it shouldn’t have to be this way. “There’s no reason for us to have polluted air. There is no reason. There are many other ways in which we can do the things we need to do as a society that don’t pollute the air. ”

According to medical experts, children are at greater risk because of immature lungs and immune systems and breathe more rapidly than adults. The EPA will finalize carbon emission rules next June

Early Morning Fire in Cullowhee; One Dead

In the early morning hours of Thursday August 14 the Jackson County 911/Dispatch Center received a 911 call reporting a structure fire at 8357 Highway 107 in Cullowhee. An unidentified body has been located in the home.

Investigators will be working to determine the cause of the fire.  The name of the fire victim will be released when confirmation of identity is made and notification of next of kin is completed.  The cause of death will be determined after an autopsy.

Responding emergency personnel were from the Cullowhee Fire Department, Sylva Fire Department, Canada Fire Department, and Cashiers Fire Department.  Med West EMS provided medical support and the Jackson County Emergency Management Office also assisted.  The investigation will be joint between the Fire Marshal, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigations.


Endowment Attracts Medical Students in Underserved Areas

The effort to attract medical students to pursue careers in underserved rural areas of Western North Carolina is getting a boost with a $3 million endowment to help pay for scholarships.

The donation from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust will support a collaboration established last year by the UNC School of Medicine and the Mountain Area Health Education Center.

While 45 percent of North Carolina residents live in rural counties, just 18 percent of primary care doctors have primary practices in rural communities, according to the NC Medical Journal. That disparity is expected to grow worse as the population ages.

This summer, five students in the program are being mentored by physicians in Linville, Burnsville, Cherokee, Bryson City and Robbinsville. The scholarships support the second, third and fourth years of medical school and reduce student debt by $30,000 each.

Professional Development Offered to Area Math Teachers

A team of Western Carolina University faculty members and Western North Carolina mathematics teachers are establishing the Smoky Mountain Math Teachers’ Circle, a professional development community to help teachers bring new excitement and interest in mathematics to their students.

The American Institute of Mathematics announced the formation of the new circle, which is part of AIM’s network of Math Teachers’ Circles. The circles regularly bring together mathematicians and mathematics teachers to work collaboratively on problems specially selected to intrigue participants and enhance their problem-solving skills and mathematical content knowledge. The gatherings aim to help teachers find more ways to incorporate problem solving, a key part of student learning and engagement in mathematics, into their classrooms through enriching their own experience of mathematics.

The new Smoky Mountain Math Teachers’ Circle will be open to teachers from Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties. Several pilot sessions will be hosted at WCU during the 2014-15 academic year in advance of a summer immersion retreat next year.

Organizers may explore developing additional circles for elementary and high school teachers in the future and expanding to more counties.

The AIM Math Teachers’ Circle Network began in 2006 when 25 middle school mathematics teachers and five professional mathematicians from the San Francisco Bay Area came together for an intense week of work. The success led to the establishment of circles across the country. The program is sponsored by the American Mathematical Society, the Mathematical Society of America, the Educational Advancement Foundation, Math for America, the National Science Foundation and the National Security Agency.