Melissa Block

In rural Alaska, providing health care means overcoming a lot of hurdles.

Fickle weather that can leave patients stranded, for one.

Also: complicated geography. Many Alaskan villages have no roads connecting them with hospitals or specialists, so people depend on local clinics and a cadre of devoted primary care doctors.

I followed one young family physician, Dr. Adam McMahan, on his regular weekly visit to the clinic in the village of Klukwan.

Here's how I knew I liked Patti Trabosh.

It goes back to the very first time I called her out of the blue to ask whether I might profile her family for a story on opioid addiction. The very first words out of her mouth were, "I'm pissed off!"

Trabosh went on to explain why she was angry. First, it was the struggle to find a bed in a drug treatment program for her 22-year-old son Nikko Adam. He had become addicted to prescription painkillers and then heroin when he was still in high school. He'd been in rehab twice before, and relapsed both times.

The epidemic of opioid abuse that's swept the U.S. has left virtually no community unscathed, from big cities to tiny towns.

In fact, drug overdose is now the leading cause of injury death in this country: more than gun deaths; more than car crashes.

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The federal Medicare program for the elderly and disabled will cover two new drugs that can cure hepatitis C, a liver disease that can cause cancer and lead to death. The drugs are very expensive, but they cure hepatitis C in most cases. The government and insurers are concerned about these costs; three million Americans have hepatitis C, most of whom don't know they have it.

A deceptively simple leg brace is changing the lives of hundreds of wounded service members. Soldiers with badly injured legs who thought they'd have to live with terrible pain can walk and run again, pain-free.

Earlier this month, Army Spc. Joey McElroy took his first steps in the Intrepid Dynamic Exoskeletal Orthosis, or IDEO (pronounced: eye-DAY-oh). The device squeaked a bit as he stepped briskly on an indoor track.

McElroy was hit by a car and thrown from his motorcycle on Dec. 5, 2012.

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There's new evidence out today that's raising questions about whether women in their 40's and 50's should routinely undergo mammography to detect breast cancer. A new analysis of a big Canadian study found no evidence that regular mammograms save lives. The study even suggests that for many women, regular breast X-rays may do more harm than good.

NPR's Rob Stein joins us now to talk about this report. It appears in the British medical journal BMJ.

The home of Sean Morey bears the impressive signposts of his 10-year career in the NFL: a Vince Lombardi trophy for his Super Bowl championship with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. A hefty Super Bowl ring. A framed photograph showing Morey in midair, launching himself like a missile to block a punt. With that play in 2008, his Arizona Cardinals became the only team in NFL history to win a game in overtime with a blocked punt.

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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. We begin this hour trying to understand the soaring popularity of electronic cigarettes. Anecdotally, you'll hear ex-smokers say e-cigarettes are a godsend that helped them quit tobacco.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: I found these and I was like, wow, that'll get me there. I'll be OK.