Cogle-and-Kim-White_MBF_IMG_2681-250x165Christopher R. Cogle, M.D., an associate professor of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine, talks with Kim White, who is being treated for a blood disorder known as MDS. (Photo by Maria Farias/University of Florida)

GAINESVILLE — A group of life-threatening blood disorders collectively called myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, may occur four times more often than reported by national cancer registries, according to new research from the University of Florida based on data from Medicare claims.

MDS occurs when the body’s blood factory does not produce healthy red or white blood cells or platelets. Getting a more accurate picture of the disease could lead to earlier diagnosis for patients and better guidance for public health policy. The findings, reported in the November issue of the journal Leukemia Research and in an earlier issue of the journal Blood, indicate that more women than men are overlooked.

“The data from the cancer registry is showing us a partial picture of MDS,” said Christopher R. Cogle, M.D., an associate professor of hematology and oncology in the UF College of Medicine’s department of medicine. “State cancer registries, which feed the national registries, need more resources so they can more comprehensively capture this disease and others, such as skin and gastrointestinal cancers.”

MDS is a hard-to-diagnose disease that presents itself in a wide range of ways. On the less severe end of the spectrum, it shows up as a low blood cell count, and, at the other extreme, as leukemic growths inside the bone marrow.

Seventy percent of people with MDS die of complications related to a low blood cell count. Even with low-grade disease, the average person’s survival after diagnosis is about five years.

“For those diagnosed in their 60s, we know we can do better than that,” said Cogle, a member of the UF Shands Cancer Center whose clinical and research program has been designated a Center of Excellence by the MDS Foundation. “At best, we can double survival time — but we have to know who the patients are so we can offer them the right treatment.”

Cogle and colleagues at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa noticed that their clinical practices received many referrals from local physicians trying to figure out the cause of low blood cell counts. MDS diagnoses in those cases occurred almost exclusively on an outpatient basis. But such cases are not captured by registries, which get most of their data from hospitals and laboratories.

“There was a discord between where we saw the disease and where the registry data came from,” Cogle said. “There was a mismatch between clinical practice and the data, so we tackled that discrepancy and tried to make sense of it.”

The researchers devised a new algorithm that made an allowance for the difficulty in diagnosing the disease. Previous studies used MDS insurance claims to estimate the number of cases. But that approach is error-prone because MDS is often coded as different diseases, such as leukemia, aplastic anemia or even vitamin deficiencies, before the true diagnosis becomes clear.

In the new calculation, the researchers counted only patients who had had at least two MDS insurance claims at least 30 days apart. They also included blood count and bone marrow biopsy confirmation in the one-year period before MDS insurance claims. They excluded people who were making a Medicare claim for the first time, because those people might have been diagnosed previously, while covered by private insurance.

The UF and Moffitt researchers found that in the 65-and-older age group there were 75 new cases per 100,000 people each year — almost four times the accepted estimate of 20 per 100,000 that is based on the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results cancer registry. That registry shows an overall estimate for all age groups of 3.3 new MDS cases in every 100,000 persons each year.

So who are the people being left out of the traditional database? It turns out that more women than men were omitted, and those people generally had a lower grade of disease and lower medical expenses. Cancer registries indicate that the average age of diagnosis is 71 to 76, but the researchers will use their new calculations to find out whether people are getting diagnosed at a younger age.

The researchers say the MDS underestimate prevents people with the disease from getting available care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for example, uses the low estimate of the number of people affected by the disease as part of the rationale for not paying for bone marrow transplants in MDS patients, except in approved clinical trial settings.

The low estimates also hamper research efforts that could lead to new treatments.

“These data bring the realization that the incidence of MDS is much greater than previously recognized, and that emphasizes the need for greater research funding for the disease,” said senior author Alan F. List, M.D., executive vice president and physician-in-chief at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute.

A better estimate of MDS cases could also help to galvanize funding agencies to invest more resources into patient education about the disease and about treatments.

“They can let the public know about the significance of a low blood count — not to sit on it, but to go out and get a diagnosis,” Cogle said. “If you have MDS, we have ways to help you.”

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HighSpringsDSCN1360_copy  Before dashing away to prepare for Christmas, Santa Claus greets youngsters at High Springs' twilight parade Saturday night.

HIGH SPRINGS – By the time Santa arrived, Olivia Grinstead was exhausted. The four-year-old had spent an hour waving enthusiastically at all the well-wishers in the 15th Annual Twilight Christmas Parade in High Springs on Dec. 10, and her arm was tired.

The parade is sponsored by the High Springs Chamber of Commerce to bring people into town and do something fun for the community, said Donna Mogler, chamber president. The parade featured 36 floats plus four groups from Alachua, said event manager Sandra Webb, with participants from Hardee’s Restaurant to Hare Krishnas turning out to march.

The winner of the parade was the Santa Fe High School Raider Regiment Band, sparkling with Christmas lights strung up their pants legs. Coming in second was the High Springs Girl Scouts, followed by the Santa-hat-clad High Springs Community School band.

The theme was based around pioneers, and many groups took it to heart. Tractors and wagons took over High Springs, making their way from Second Avenue and Second Street all the way to the railroad tracks on Main Street.

Lights flashed as participants waved at children, yelling “Merry Christmas!” and handing out candy. Vendors sold light-up toys and local foods, with many children tugging at the legs of their parents to bring home a holiday treat.

The chamber of commerce started taking applications in September in order to ensure they had time to assign floats and give the participants numbers. On the day of the event, members arrived at 3 p.m. and worked until 9 p.m., Mogler said.

“It’s a long day,” she added.

“We walk the whole parade at the very end, all the way up to our Christmas tree,” she said. “Then Santa gets to meet all the kids.”

The youngsters ran up to Santa Claus while he was still on the float, reaching for his hand and they followed as quickly as they could. Haley Rondello, 6, thought the whole thing was great. What was her favorite part?

“I loved the candy!” she said, sucking on the last bit of a candy cane.

***For more photos of the parade, visit us on Facebook at

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ALACHUA – A water line that is to serve the Gainesville Renewable Energy Center (GREC), better known as the biomass electric generation plant, will likely cost about $1 million, City of Alachua officials say.

On Monday, Alachua commissioners approved the ranking of proposals by engineering firms, which are seeking the contract to design and engineer the construction of more than 10,000 feet of pipeline that would connect the city’s water reclamation facility to the proposed biomass plant.

City of Alachua Public Services Director Mike New said the cost of design and construction of the pipe would likely cost between $1 million and $1.2 million.

The controversial biomass plant would involve the burning of tree and limb debris from the North Central Florida region to generate electricity.  To operate, the plant would also require some 1.4 million gallons of water per day, of which roughly 600,000 gallons would be provided by the City of Alachua.

According to a memorandum agreed to by the City of Alachua, Gainesville Regional Utilities (GRU), GREC and the Suwannee River Water Management District (SRWMD), the biomass facility must use as much reclaimed water as is available to meet the 1.4 million-gallon-per-day demand.

Each day, meanwhile, the City of Alachua outputs about 600,000 gallons of water reclaimed through the city’s wastewater treatment plant.  The water is not considered drinkable or for human consumption, but it can serve numerous other purposes in lieu of being sprayed out on an open field.

To meet its full estimated 1.4-million-gallon-per-day demand, the GREC facility would utilize water wells at the generating station site to provide the balance of water needed for operations.

Before the Turkey Creek Golf & Country Club closed earlier this year, it used about 200,000 gallons of the city’s reclaimed water daily for irrigation, New said.

The proposed connecting pipeline would likely connect to an existing reclaimed water line near Smyder Motors on U.S. Highway 441, travel under the highway, along NW 126th Avenue, under railroad tracks and then terminate at the site of the biomass plant to be located on GRU’s Deerhaven property, New said.

All of the costs for engineering and constructing the pipeline are to be paid and approved by GRU before any services commence.

New also noted that the City of Alachua has not yet set rates for the reclaimed water which would also be billed to GRU.  New said a reasonable rate would likely be about 60-75 cents per 1,000 gallons of reclaimed water provided.

The memorandum dictates that the City must complete construction of the pipeline and be ready to provide reclaimed water by Jan. 1, 2013.  Given the commission’s approval Monday, New said the City would seek an engineering proposal from the top-ranked engineering company, Causseaux, Hewett, and Walpole, Inc. of Gainesville.

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Alachua_Parade_DSCF5278_copyAlachua's 34th Annual Christmas Parade offered an eclectic mix of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs and llamas.

ALACHUA – Threatening rain and overcast skies were no match for the excitement and buzz of activity in downtown Alachua Saturday afternoon.  With the city’s annual Christmas parade slated to begin at 2 p.m., crowds began gathering around noon along Main Street in spite of the gloomy forecast.  While an occasional rain shower has fallen during previous parades causing umbrellas to launch, this was not the case Saturday afternoon as the event remained rain free.

This year’s parade theme of a “Good Life Community Christmas” offered participants a seemingly infinite range of ideas to use in decorating the colorful floats that lined up at the top of Main Street.

Starting at 2 p.m. the series of floats, people, cars and an assortment of animals, including horses, dogs and llamas, headed down Main Street as hundreds of excited spectators perched on street curbs and folding chairs waited for the show.

Former Alachua mayor Jean Calderwood, who served as the parade’s Grand Marshal, headed up the procession of 50-plus registered parade entries.

This year’s parade featured a float design contest with prizes for not-for-profit and for-profit entries.  As each participant reached the intersection of Main Street and NW 148th Place at the flashing yellow light, they paused under the watchful eyes of parade judges who jotted down scores.  Announcing each parade entry as they passed by, City of Alachua Vice Mayor Ben Boukari, Jr. served as the Master of Ceremonies.  Along with Boukari was Alachua recreation director Hal Brady and chamber of commerce member Gussie Lee, who joined in engaging participants in good natured banter as they passed by.

Excited children waited in anxious anticipation for the candy that is traditionally tossed from parade participants.  Red and white striped candy canes, green and red peppermints and a variety of other colorful candy were soon in the hands of youngsters who dashed from their perches to retrieve the sweets.  While cheery elves handed out red and white balloons to children, one woman walked through the crowd serving hot coffee to adults.

To the delight of spectators, the parade lasted well over an hour.  And unquestionably, the crowd’s favorite appeared at the end of the parade.  Perched high atop a fire truck and dressed in his trademark red suit, a jolly Santa delivered a hearty “ho-ho-ho” and a “Merry Christmas” before dashing off.

While the parade may have been over, judges Randy and Antoinette Hunt, and Alachua’s city decorator Diana Felver, weren’t finished, as they continued to deliberate their decision for the float decorating contest. In the non-profit category, 1st Place was awarded to the Santa Fe Pop Warner Football and Cheerleaders, 2nd Place was awarded to Standing United as Americans and 3rd Place was awarded to Tacachale.  In the for-profit category, Matchmaker Realty claimed 1st Place and Dollar General claimed 2nd Place with 3rd Place going to Marlowe Smith Electric.

A partnership between the Alachua Chamber of Commerce and the City of Alachua, this marked the parade’s 34th year.

*****For more photos of the parade visit us on Facebook at

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HIGH SPRINGS – In spite of a meeting that lasted past 11 p.m. last Thursday, the High Springs City Commission was unable to address all items on the prepared agenda, and scheduled a special commission meeting for Dec. 15.  Considerable debate was spent on the city’s water and sewer rates with Mayor Dean Davis, Vice Mayor Bob Barnas and Commissioner Linda Clark Gestrin voting against raising water, sewer or solid waste rates, despite that the rate increase had been factored into the City’s current fiscal year budget.

Commissioner Eric May said the increase is necessary to keep the City afloat. He said the budget was passed based on a 2 percent increase in water rates, a 1.6 percent raise in sewage rates and a $1 a month charge for all trash customers.

Not passing the increases leaves the City with up to a $70,000 deficit in the budget, finance director Helen McIver said, adding that High Springs needs $38,000 for the sewer system.

Davis refused to support the increase saying the sewer project was not handled the right way. He said all of the older homes should have been connected to the system first, instead of starting with the newer developments.

“Everything was working fine with septic tanks,” he said. “Now, not everyone is hooked up.”

May countered that saying with about half the city on the sewer system, it will continue to be expensive for users unless more of the city is hooked up. He said the fixed cost required to build the facilities is costly for a small group of people to support. If more users were hooked up, the cost would be spread among a greater number of people and the costs would go down for everyone.

Without the funding to keep working on the project, he said the rates will likely never go down.

May said the increase was the responsible thing to do for the City’s future and for residents by raising rates slowly over time rather than hitting customers with a huge increase at a later date.

“It’s not doing anything anybody enjoys doing,” he said. “I have to pay the increase, too. I just don’t want to pass the buck.”

Commissioner Sue Weller agreed, saying it would be “irresponsible” to not pass the increase.

Barnas said there are other solutions and that the City will find them.

May asked several times to hear possible ideas, but nothing was specifically discussed.

Referring to the pending budget deficit, May said, “Seventy-thousand dollars. Where are you pulling that from the budget? That’s not magic money. That’s real money that’s paying for police officers and fire fighters.”

He suggested that raising the solid waste rate by $1 a month would make a significant difference, especially because it has more users than the sewage system.

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HIGH SPRINGS – Just days before the September shooting deaths of Trenda and Anthony Hogg, High Springs police officers were called to the family’s residence, a report shows.

On Sept. 11, Police arrested 58-year-old Russell Dewayne Hogg, charging the High Springs man with killing his wife and son just hours earlier on that same day.

High Springs Police Department (HSPD) records obtained by Alachua County Today reveal that on Sept. 9, two police officers were dispatched to the Hogg home at 240 SW Poe Springs Road, just two days before the fatal shooting, which left Trenda Hogg, 48 and her 22-year-old son, Anthony Wayne Hogg, dead.

Police officers responded to the home at least twice that day because of a domestic disturbance, the report states.

One of the officers wrote of the Sept. 9 incident that when he arrived at the Hogg home, another HSPD officer was already there and, “Russell, Trenda, and Anthony Hogg were in the street yelling and screaming at one another.”

Apparently at the center of the dispute was a 2005 Ford pickup truck registered to Russell or Trenda Hogg, but driven by their son, Anthony.

Russell Hogg was reportedly angered when Anthony Hogg attempted to leave in the truck, which officers noted had an expired tag.

The HSPD officer wrote, “All parties separated.  There was no physical violence.”  The officer also reported that he was dispatched to the home again, but the disturbance was “simply verbal.”

A source has reported to Alachua County Today that during the Sept. 9 incident, officers handcuffed Russell Hogg, but never charged him, allegedly because family member weren’t interested in pursuing the matter.

Since his Sept. 11 arrest, Russell Hogg’s case has been working its way through the court system.  Most recently, the State Attorney’s office has indicated that, beginning Dec. 21, it will be conducting interviews with witnesses related to the case.

The State is taking depositions from 22 people.  The list includes nine Columbia County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) deputies, four Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) deputies, two HSPD officers and seven others connected to the case, including at least one Hogg family member.

A case management conference has been set for Jan. 19, 2012 in Gainesville for the Hogg case.  Russell Hogg has filed a waiver of speedy trial.

The State, meanwhile, has reported to the court, that it has provided evidence to Hogg’s defense attorney.  Among the evidence are CDs and DVDs containing photos, 911 audio, an interview with Hogg and in-car video from several officers.

The State is seeking the death penalty against Hogg, who has been charged with premeditated murder.

In the week following the September shooting, a grand jury indicted Hogg on two counts of first degree murder, one count of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and two counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

Hogg is being held without bail on the murder charges and on $100,000 for each of the other three charges.  His legal counsel submitted a plea of not guilty on his behalf on Sept. 22.

According to an ACSO arrest report, just before 1 p.m. on Sept. 11, Russell Hogg pulled into the driveway of the family home at 240 Poe Springs Road in High Springs.  He allegedly exited his vehicle, pulling out an AK-47 rifle and pointed it at his son stating, “I told you I was going to kill you,” to which Anthony Hogg replied, “shoot me then.”

Russell Hogg reportedly fired two rounds at his son, striking him in the torso.  The report states, “[Russell Hogg] then walked up to him and shot one round to his face.”

Upon realizing Anthony Hogg had been shot, Trenda Hogg ran outside where “Russell [Hogg] pointed the gun at her and fired several rounds at her,” the arrest record states.

Russell Hogg then threw the gun down and an eyewitness grabbed the gun and threw it under the house to prevent further access to it.  Russell Hogg then got into his car and left, officials report.

Two witnesses told investigators that Hogg stated his intentions to commit the crime beforehand.  “Russell was at their home and made the statement he “was going over to kill them.”  After the shooting, Russell Hogg allegedly returned to the witnesses’ home where he stated, “I told you I was gonna’ kill them,” the report states.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrested Russell Hogg on U.S. Highway 441 a short time after the shooting.

Hogg made several statements acknowledging that he killed his wife and son, according to Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sandra Myers.

Among his statements to investigators was that, “Tony [Anthony Russell] had gotten too big for his britches,” and that if he could have whipped his son, he would have, “rather than having to kill him.”

Myers wrote, “Russell [Hogg] also stated that it hurt him to see his wife laying there barely breathing because he did not want her to die.”

“I just killed my family and the bread winner of the home,” Russell Hogg allegedly said.

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NEWBERRY – At the last city commission meeting of this year, the Newberry City Commission set the stage for next year, and that includes improving its image by focusing on cleaning up unkempt property and by giving the nod to open-sided commercial pavilions.

In a slideshow presentation, City Commissioner Jordan Marlowe pointed out some areas around the community that seemed to be abandoned due to untrimmed shrubbery. The issue was brought to his attention by a previous mayor, Freddie Warmack.  Marlowe said when residents neglect their properties, not only does the city suffer, but also the neighbors of those properties. It was also suggested that a home’s property value might be lowered due to a neighbor’s carelessness.

City manager Keith Ashby said some residents might be hesitant to warn the city about other people’s property.  “Citizens are reluctant to come forward when it’s their neighbor,” he said.

Aside from private property, a resident suggested the city should also take care of its own neglected property. The codes enforcement committee, currently headed by fire chief David Rodriguez, will be informed since fines can be levied when residents do not maintain their properties.

Along with keeping Newberry looking clean and aesthetically pleasing, the commission approved the use of open-air pavilions, labeled as commercial pavilions in the ordinance, to be placed around the city. Since the city introduced its farmer’s market in the downtown area in November, city attorney S. Scott Walker said the city is trying to situate vendors in a particular area. The farmer’s market, which is held every Saturday, has been located around the railroad tracks, a few blocks away from City Hall.

Some residents disagreed with the pavilions, saying it could be interpreted that other local vendors’ fruit and vegetable stands are not viewed as aesthetically pleasing by the city. They are concerned that pavilions will compete and eventually force out the few remaining produce stands.

City Commissioner Lois Forte said she appreciates having local farmers selling their produce and encourages small businesses, making them a unique asset to Newberry. After her comments, she voted against the ordinance establishing open air pavilions, but the measure passed with a 4 to 1 vote.

Wrapping up the meeting, the commission announced annual holiday events, such as the Festival of Lights and a Christmas parade, both scheduled for Saturday, Dec.17.

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