The unexpected benefits of medical research trials


For more information about collaborating with NorTex researchers or to participate in a research study, contact Kimberly Fulda, DrPH, at 817-735-0225 or Kimberly.Fulda@unthsc.edu.

Santiago Perez assumed he was fairly healthy when he volunteered for the North Texas Healthy Heart Study, a UNT Health Science Center research project conducted from 2006 to 2009.

But the free medical examinations and a CT scan he underwent with more than 500 other volunteers led to surprising news:  Four of his arteries were clogged, a life-threatening ailment that required the insertion of four stents.

Had he not volunteered for the study, Perez said, "I wouldn’t have known until the day they rushed me to the emergency room."

Perez was one of 169 participants in the heart study who discovered they had clinically significant medical conditions ranging from leukemia to lung cancer. UNTHSC researchers say Perez’s case is an example of how participation in research studies can benefit not only medical research, but also one’s personal health. The Health Science Center offers thousands of research study participation opportunities each year.

An article about the personal benefits recently was accepted for publication by The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.

"People who didn’t know they had a serious medical condition were alerted to follow up with their physician," said Anna Espinoza, MD, senior project coordinator at the UNTHSC Texas Prevention Institute and the article’s first author. "Those conditions otherwise might have gone undetected and untreated."

The North Texas Primary Care Practice-Based Research Network (NorTex) conducted the North Texas Healthy Heart Study. When tests suggested Perez may have clogged arteries, his primary care physician made the diagnosis.  A few months later, the stents were inserted.

Today, Perez, 74, said he enjoys playing with his grandchildren and taking walks with his wife. He said he encourages friends to sign up for UNTHSC research studies.

"I am very glad I did," he said.

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