By Kate Hunger
After her teenage son was caught vaping twice last school year, Physician Assistant Studies Assistant Professor/Clinical Tammy Harris, MPAS, PA-C, spent a lot of time thinking about ways to address the increasing use of e-cigarettes among youth.
“They are so influenced by their peers,” she said.
She thought back to a study involving respiratory care students in the School of Health Professions that used inflatable snorkel vests to simulate restricted lung disease. She wondered if it would be possible to create a vaping intervention using similar vests to demonstrate to teenagers the potential impact vaping could have on their ability to breathe.
“Why don’t we come up with a program we can implement at the high school and middle school level?” Harris recalled thinking.
The results of her inspiration are the Vaping Assessment, Prevention, and Education Project (VAPE), a study funded by a seed grant through Linking Interprofessional Networks for Collaboration (LINC), a UT Health San Antonio effort to foster interprofessional education. The project is intended to educate youth about e-cigarette addiction, safety, and possible health issues, as well as change attitudes about and behavior related to vaping, all while advancing interprofessional collaboration.
The issue is a pressing one: The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey found a 78% increase in e-cigarette use reported by high school students. The research team’s proposal noted that while there aren’t long-term studies on the effect of chronic e-cigarette use, “current literature supports the potential pulmonary, cardiac, and abnormal brain disturbances e-cigarettes impact on the younger population.”
Harris is one of seven researchers on the project. Her co-principal investigator is Ryan Van Ramshorst, M.D., chief medical officer for Texas Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics in the Long School of Medicine. The research team includes UT Health San Antonio students as well as the following associate investigators:
• Leticia Bland, DHsc, MPAS, PA-C, admissions chair and assistant professor/clinical, Department of Physician Assistant Studies
• Roland Paquette, MPAS, PA-C, associate academic coordinator, and assistant professor, Department of Physician Assistant Studies
• Meredith Quinene, DHSc, MPAS, PA-C, academic coordinator, and assistant professor, Department of Physician Assistant Studies
• Thomas Stokes, Jr., M.Ed, RRT, assistant professor, Department of Respiratory Care
• Sandeep Subramanian, BPTh, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Physical Therapy
The research team will recruit between 200 and 400 high school students from Northside Independent School District and Judson Independent School District to participate in the study.
Participants take a pre-survey and then will be divided into two groups. Both groups will receive information about vaping and one group also will receive the inflatable vest intervention to simulate restricted lung disease. Participants will then retake the survey.
“Our hope is if we can show our intervention is effective, this is something we can take to other school districts,” Harris said.
Harris said the team plans to conduct the on-campus study by October, with results available this fall.