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The Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors 2010 Study

One of the main findings from the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors 2010 Study (GBD) is that we are living longer but experiencing more disability and chronic diseases. The study, led by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington,
involved 486 experts and leaders from 49 countries and 302 institutions. The study’s results, published in The Lancet, reveal that just 50 medical diseases and causes such as violence account for 78 percent of the global health burden. While ischemic heart disease and stroke remained at the top of the list, diseases such as diabetes and lung cancer moved up, and communicable conditions such as diarrhea and tuberculosis moved down. One of the most dramatic findings is a substantial drop in child mortality, but the study showed the number of deaths in adults aged 15 to 49 rose 44 percent between 1970 and 2010, due in large part to increases in violence and HIV/AIDS. Explore the GBD with colorful, interactive data sets, and learn about the University’s partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at the IHME’s website:

Racial segregation a factor in lung cancer mortality rates

Leah Backhus, M.D., UW assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and her team found that between 2003 and 2007 the overall lung cancer mortality rate in the U.S. was 58.9 percent for blacks as opposed to 52.4 percent for whites. The study results, published in JAMA Surgery, also revealed that blacks living in counties with the highest levels of segregation had a 10 percent higher mortality rate than blacks residing in counties with the lowest level of segregation. Backhus suggests that public health initiatives in highly segregated counties should target smoking cessation and early cancer screening programs to equalize mortality rates.

Complex diseases and genetic variants: 1 million+ mutations in 5,000 years

Joshua Akey, Ph.D., UW associate professor in the Department of Genome Sciences, was co-author of a study, published in Nature, that found that the last 5,000 years have been full of change in the human genome. Using deep sequencing in a sample population of approximately 6,500 Americans, the researchers set out to gain a better understanding of how rare genetic variants contribute to risk for complex diseases. In the group of test subjects, two-thirds of whom were of European descent and one-third of African descent, they found more than one million single-nucleotide variants. Occurring in less than .1 percent of the sample population, some of these variants (approximately 14 percent) were potentially harmful; the researchers determined that 86 percent of the potentially harmful variations had
occurred in the past 5,000 years.

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Patient Care

Surviving a ventricular fibrillation: odds have improved further

The odds of a person in the U.S. surviving ventricular fibrillation, a type of heart attack, are only 2 to 25 percent if they are located outside a hospital. In the Seattle-King County area, however, the likelihood is far higher: around 56 percent for much of the region, according to a new report from the Medic One Foundation. This is a tremendous difference — in fact, it is the highest reported survival rate worldwide — and it is made possible, in part, by the practice of continuous CPR. In turn, this achievement can be attributed to Medic One and its co-founder, UW Medicine emeritus faculty Leonard Cobb, M.D. Medic One responds to nearly 50,000 calls a year, and its highly trained paramedics provide advanced, life-saving care en route to the hospital. Partners involved in this collaboration include the Seattle Fire Department, the Medic One Foundation and its supporters, and many faculty and staff at UW Medicine.

Brain cancer “cap” featured on KING5

In the last issue of the magazine, we mentioned the use of the NovoTTF-100A — a portable, non-invasive medical device that uses a low-intensity electric field to inhibit cancer-cell growth in glioblastomas, a deadly and common form of brain cancer. The story was recently covered by KING5 TV, and an accompanying video featuring patient Reggie Chan and UW associate professor Maciej Mrugala, M.D., can be found at; search for “Mrugala.” The cap is being tested on patients with recurrent glioblastoma at UW Medical Center.

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Clinical instruction residency program begins in Kenya

UW Medicine residents in advanced training who are interested in a global health experience now have the opportunity to travel to the Naivasha District Hospital in rural Kenya as part of a new, collaborative effort directed by Aliza Monroe-Wise, M.D., a chief resident in global internal medicine from UW Medicine. Residents visit for four weeks, gaining experience with common medical problems found in Kenya as well as Kenyan culture, and working within the economic constraints imposed by practicing medicine in a low-income country. Residents also interact with the hospital’s medical students, nurses, clinical officers and interns through bedside teaching, presentations, participation in morning reports, review of journal articles and curriculum development. Five residents have completed or are completing their four-week rotation at Naivasha, providing clinical instruction and support in internal medicine, general surgery, radiology, family medicine and ob-gyn. In total, 14 residents are scheduled to complete rotations by July.

Medical student earns gold medal in national poster competition

Second-year UW medical student Jacob Casey was awarded a gold medal in the Cureus poster competition for medical and health sciences students. When Casey embarked on the Medical Student Research Training Program last summer, his aim was to answer the following question: other than heart failure and sepsis, what are other complicating factors for patients with chronic kidney disease? With assistance from his mentors, Casey organized a 26,000-patient database to find out what complications lead to longer hospital stays, readmissions within 30 days after discharge — even death. He identified skin ulcers as a significant complication and submitted a poster summarizing his findings to the Cureus competition. “This project has given me greater fluency when it comes to understanding research and applying it to my clinical practice,” Casey says. Three other UW medical students — Jay Gantz, Camille Asher and Blake
Sampson — also received awards.

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(The five-state region served by the UW School of Medicine: Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.)

Quick-acting MEDEX students fight fire

First-year MEDEX Northwest
physician assistant trainees (L to R: Luke Lenehan, Christopher Varady, Ryan Frost and Dustin Golding) were awarded certificates of recognition on Jan. 8, 2013, at the Yakima City Council meeting for their selfless courage. While on a walk last October, they noticed smoke coming from a ground-level unit in their apartment complex. They called 911, pulled building fire alarms, went door to door to ensure everyone was evacuated, and employed fire extinguishers to attempt to control the fire before it spread.


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Three UW faculty members elected to Institute of Medicine

Three UW faculty members, two with faculty appointments in the Department of Global Health
(administered jointly by the schools of public health and medicine), were elected to the Institute of Medicine. The distinction, one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, recognizes outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service. These faculty include Chris Elias, M.D., MPH, UW clinical professor of global health and president of global development for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Thomas Fleming, Ph.D., UW professor of biostatistics and statistics, and Andy Stergachis, Ph.D., UW professor of epidemiology and of global health. Their election brings the total number of UW faculty members in the Institute of Medicine to 56.

Virtual reality, veterans and chronic pain

extreme pain
is the premise
behind SnowWorld,
a virtual reality video game developed by Hunter Hoffman, Ph.D., UW research scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and David Patterson, Ph.D., UW professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. While playing SnowWorld, patients can be distracted from painful medical procedures, such as the cleansing of burn wounds. Last fall, NBC produced a feature on Lt. Sam Brown, who had been badly burned on a tour in Afghanistan and used SnowWorld during his recovery. To learn more about this novel program and Brown’s inspiring story, visit and search for “Sam Brown virtual.”

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