Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer WPLN

State Senator Shane Reeves of Murfreesboro says he wasn’t surprised to see his pharmacy as the top recipient of opioids in Tennessee — more than double the next highest pharmacy in the state according to a Washington Post database.

Over a six year period, more than 45 million pain pills passed through what is now named Twelve Stone Health Partners. But Reeves also rejects that his business contributed to the opioid epidemic.

Asked to explain how the company became such an outlier on opioids, Reeves insists on giving a tour of the company's new facility.


Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital Vanderbilt

Electronic medical records are starting to talk back to doctors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The hospital is test-piloting a system where computers can analyze patient health data and spit out a brief summary.

Vanderbilt has been developing this digital assistant for the exam to solve a real sore spot across the health care system — distracted doctors.

Yaa Kumah-Crystal, a pediatric endocrinologist who specializes in clinical data, is leading the creation of VEVA, Vanderbilt's EHR Voice Assistant. And the hope is that physicians will actually look up from their laptops and really pay attention to the person in front of them.


There's a summer camp for kids with disabilities in Nashville that does things a little differently. Instead of accommodating the campers' physical challenges, therapists make life a bit tougher, in hopes of ultimately strengthening the kids' ability to navigate the world.

In modern medicine, the mind and body often stay on two separate tracks in terms of treatment and health insurance reimbursement. But it's hard to maintain physical health while suffering from a psychological disorder.

Chains, saws and old logging equipment litter the back field of Wendy Norris' family farm, near the county seat of Altamont, Tenn. Norris used to be part of the local timber industry, and the rusted tools are relics from a time when health woes didn't hold her back from felling hardwoods.

"I was nine months pregnant," Norris says. "Me and my husband stayed about 10 or 15 miles in the middle of nowhere, in a tent, for a long time."

Updated May 17, 2019, 6 p.m. ET

A lawsuit over how to distribute donated livers to dying patients took some startling turns this week.

The United Network for Organ Sharing is returning for the moment to an earlier system for distributing donated livers which it had changed on Tuesday, after a federal court in Atlanta threatened to hold the agency in contempt.

The new anti-abortion tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court has inspired some states to further restrict the procedure during the first trimester of pregnancy and move to outlaw abortion entirely if Roe v. Wade ever falls. But the rush to regulate has exposed division among groups and lawmakers who consider themselves staunch abortion opponents.

When a rural community loses its hospital, health care becomes harder to come by in an instant. But a hospital closure also shocks a small town's economy. It shuts down one of its largest employers. It scares off heavy industry that needs an emergency room nearby. And in one Tennessee town, a lost hospital means lost hope of attracting more retirees.

Nursing requires hands-on training. But research has found that university curriculum often goes light on one of life's universal experiences — dying. So some colleges have gone to new lengths to make the training more meaningful.

There's a sound near the end — the death rattle. People stop swallowing. The lungs fill up. There can be involuntary moaning.

"So you get all that noise. And that's really distressing for family members," Professor Sara Camp of Nashville's Belmont University says.

Rural hospitals close when they don't have enough paying patients to care for, but they're also dinged when the same patients show up over and over again. That puts outlying medical facilities in the precarious position of needing to avoid repeat customers.

Charlotte Potts is the type of patient some hospitals try to avoid. She lives in Livingston, Tenn. — a town of 4,000, tucked between rolling hills of the Cumberland Plateau.

In the operating room, surgical masks and matching scrubs can make it hard to tell who's whom — at least for outsiders.

Patients getting wheeled in might not realize that salespeople working on commission are frequently present and sometimes even advise the clinical team during surgery.

Who are these salespeople, and why are they there?

Meribah Knight / WPLN

Williamson County businessman Bill Lee was the surprise winner of the Republican primary for governor Thursday night.

The Christian conservative and owner of the Lee Co. beat out former Economic Development Commissioner Randy Boyd, Congressman Diane Black and House Speaker Beth Harwell.

According to the uncertified election results at the end of the night, Lee won with 36.8 percent of the vote. Boyd took second with 24.3 percent — nearly 100,000 votes behind him. Black came in right behind him at 23 percent. And Harwell took a distant fourth at 15.3 percent.

Vicki Bartholomew started a support group for wives who are caring for a husband with Alzheimer's disease because she needed that sort of group herself.

They meet every month in a conference room at a new memory care facility in Nashville, Tenn., called Abe's Garden, where Bartholomew's husband was one of the first residents — a Vietnam veteran and prominent attorney in Nashville.

Suicides have been surging in Tennessee, and state health officials don’t know why — in part — because they haven't been studying them closely. The legislature is considering a proposal to review each suicide, case by case.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ELISE HU, HOST:

Country star Mel Tillis died yesterday after a long illness. He was 85. Blake Farmer of member station WPLN says the prolific songwriter's road to fame wasn't an easy one.

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