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Mayville State researchers try to make bucks from bran

Andrew Haffner

Some of the tomorrow's plastics could be made from today's farm waste.

Researchers at Mayville State University have been tinkering with wheat bran to make plastic polymers fit for industrial use. An MSU press release said the researchers are exploring alternative uses for bran, which is the hard outer layer of a cereal grain.

According to the release, North Dakota wheat farmers produce 3.4 million bushels of wheat bran each year. With a little work, the MSU scientists believe the plastics that can be made from bran that might otherwise go to waste could be sold for a price of anywhere between $100 to $200.

Docs appointed

If wheat plastics are to be the future, North Dakota farmers will need to stay in shape. Two physicians associated with the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences have recently been appointed to a national organization that might help with that.

Drs. David Schmitz and Aaron Garman were appointed in late November to a rural health work group of the National Quality Forum, a major health-focused nonprofit. Schmitz, a professor and chair of the SMHS Department of Family and Community Medicine, will serve as a representative of the American Academy of Family Physicians. Garman, a graduate of the SMHS, is a family practice physician and medical director of the Coal Country Community Health Center in Beulah, N.D.

Garman will serve as co-chair of the NQF workgroup, which is tasked with identifying best practices and measures for improvement in rural health care.

Expanding rural care

Elsewhere at the SMHS, the school's Center for Rural Health has been chosen to help spearhead local efforts in a national initiative to boost rural access to care for people with life-ending illness.

As part of that effort, the center has received $75,000 from Minnesota-based nonprofit Stratis Health to cover an 11-month palliative care services project. Palliative care is an area of medicine intended to ease the suffering of patients with serious chronic illness. The care is often applied to situations like late-stage cancer and is aimed at relieving symptoms with no expectation of curing the underlying disease.

A press release from the center stated the initiative will build capacity for local palliative care options with a focus on incorporating technology. The work through UND is part of a wider three-year Stratis Health project that will lead to the launch of palliative care services in five to eight rural communities each in North Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin.

Andrew Haffner

Andrew Haffner covers higher education and general assignment stories for the Grand Forks Herald. He attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where he studied journalism, political science and international studies. He previously worked at the Dickinson Press.

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