Stories by Kristen Thometz

‘Gentle Mentals’ Takes Playful, Humorous Approach to Mental Illness

(Courtesy of Veronica Padilla)

With mental illness affecting 1 in 5 people, Chicagoan Veronica Padilla hopes addressing the topic in a playful manner will make it more accessible. “Humor can be very therapeutic. Humor has gotten me out of so many binds in my life when things got heavy,” she said.

3 Chicago Hospitals Team Up to Study Emergency Care

(Credit: Northwestern Medicine)

The University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the University of Chicago Medicine will join forces to conduct clinical trials designed to improve outcomes for patients with life-threatening emergencies as part of a newly formed national network. 

Losing Sense of Smell Puts Elderly at Risk of Dementia, Study Finds

Is there a connection between losing the ability to smell and a greater risk of dementia? A co-author of a new University of Chicago study says it “may be an important early sign.” 

Study: Low Incomes Linked to Inflammation, Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes

Low-income pregnant women are more likely than their wealthy counterparts to experience chronic placental inflammation, which is linked to preterm birth and low birth weight, a new study finds. 

Chicago Joins ‘Getting to Zero’ Initiative Aimed at Eliminating HIV

Can Illinois stop the spread of HIV infections? A statewide initiative aims to do just that. “We have a real chance of stopping the spread of HIV once and for all,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

Local Researchers Make 3-D ‘Tissue Chip’ of Female Reproductive System

EVATAR is a female reproductive tract that fits in the palm of one’s hand. Each divided compartment within the cube contains a 3-D model of a different part of the reproductive tract, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vagina and liver. The blue fluid pumps through each compartment and performs the function of blood. (Courtesy of Northwestern Medicine)

A miniature female reproductive system will help researchers better understand the cause of polycystic ovary syndrome, and advance the development of drugs to treat the disease.

UIC Researchers Create Voice-Enabled Coach to Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Meet DiaBetty, the voice-enabled diabetes coach and educator developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago to help newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes patients manage the condition.

Hugh Hefner, Playboy Founder and Chicago Native, Dies at 91

Hugh Hefner (Elayne Lodge / Playboy)

Some call him a progressive publisher. Others, lewd. But late Playboy founder Hugh Hefner was undeniably successful at building his brand. We take a look at his legacy.

2 Chicago Universities Announce New Environmental Health Center

Researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Illinois at Chicago will join forces to study the health effects of pollution on local residents, thanks to a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Rauner Vetoes Geolocation Privacy Protection Act

The governor said a bill requiring mobile apps to seek users’ permission before collecting and sharing their geolocation data would cost the state jobs without “materially” improving privacy protections.

NFL Players Kneel, Lock Arms in Unity During National Anthem

| Alexandra Silets
(Photo credit: NFL)

If you tuned in to watch any NFL game Sunday, you saw nearly all the football players in the league—and even some owners—join in a silent protest during the national anthem. Sports columnist Rick Telander weighs in on the controversy.

#BackOffColonCancer Doctor Urges Colon Cancer Screening

Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center gastroenterologist Dr. Andrew Albert rides home wearing a sign urging people to be screened for colon cancer after one of his patients died and another who had never had a colonoscopy was found to have a tumor. (Courtesy of Dr. Andrew Albert)

After losing a patient to colon cancer, a local doctor strapped a sign to his back urging people to get screened for the disease. The reaction to his unusual move was instant – and widespread.

Study: Vessels that Spread Cancer Can Also Boost Immunotherapy

A lymphatic vessel (green) inside a Braf-driven primary mouse melanoma tumor. (Manuel Fankhauser and Maria Broggi / EPFL)

University of Chicago researchers have discovered that lymphatic vessels, which are often blamed for enabling cancer to spread, can also boost a type of cancer treatment. 

Chicago Actors Use Talents to Support Groups Threatened Under Trump

Donica Lynn performs at the Chicago Actors’ Call to Action’s May event. (Ingrid Bonne)

Actors take action by taking the stage once a month to raise money for organizations that could lose funding under the Trump administration. Meet the program’s founder and find out what’s on tap in September.

Research Institutions Must Post Animal Adoption Policies Under New Law

Beagles are the most commonly used dog breed in research because of their docile nature and inherent trust of humans, according to the animal advocacy group the Beagle Freedom Project.

Universities and other publicly funded institutions will soon be required to make “reasonable efforts” to get research dogs and cats adopted once they are no longer needed.

New Law Opens Up Funding for Managing Feral Cat Colonies

Counties in Illinois will soon be able to tap into their animal population control funds to support programs aimed at reducing feral cat populations.

Geolocation Privacy Protection Act Awaits Action by Rauner

Should cellphone users be better notified when apps seek their location data? Proponents of a new bill say more transparency is needed, but opponents say the measure is bad for business.

SPARKfest Strives to Erase the Stigma of Mental Health Issues

Stacy Stoltz performs in “Walk A Mile.” (Credit: Mali Anderson)

A new theater festival takes the stage in September to share true stories about addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues related to mental health. 

New Bike Law Legalizes ‘Common’ Motorist, Cyclist Traffic Practices

(Azri / Flickr)

Drivers in Illinois will soon be allowed to pass cyclists in no-passing zones, and bicycling on the shoulder of the road will also be legal. Learn more.

Instagram Plastic Surgery Ads Can Be Misleading, Study Finds

In addition to luscious food pics and contoured abs, users of the popular photo-sharing app can find a bevy of advertisements for plastic surgery. But a new study finds that many providers are not board-certified plastic surgeons. And that, they say, is an issue.

Brushes with Cancer Celebrates Life, Art

Breast cancer survivor Janet Polson at the last year’s Brushes with Cancer gala. (Ben Kurstin)

Everyone who has been touched by cancer has a story to tell. Through Brushes with Cancer, artists find inspiration from those stories to create reflective works of art.

Welcome Blanket Knits Together Immigrant Support, Activism

(Courtesy of the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago)

To counter the divisiveness of President Trump’s proposed border wall, artist and Pussyhat Project co-founder Jayna Zweiman is seeking the public’s help to create 2,000 miles of welcome blankets to give to new immigrants.

Obama Library Construction Bids Must Include Minority, Local Enterprises

(Courtesy of the Obama Foundation)

Construction management teams bidding for a leading role in the Obama Presidential Center must commit to specific diversity and inclusion goals, the Obama Foundation announced Thursday.

6 Labor Day Weekend Ideas for a Summer Road Trip or Chicago Staycation

A waterfall in Starved Rock State Park. (Arturo Hurtado / Flickr)

The holiday weekend is almost upon us. Still haven’t made plans? We share our favorite local activities and weekend getaways. 

New Law Requires Food Allergen Safety Training for Restaurants

Illinois joins a handful of states that require restaurants to provide some form of food allergen awareness and safety training. Learn about the new rules.