UW Medicine Online News

Table of contents

Message from Paul Ramsey

Welcome to the new UW Medicine Online News

Dear Colleagues:

Online News has long been one of our key conduits for information about UW Medicine. With this issue, I am pleased to introduce you to a new format.

The modified format will cover the full range of our activities, including information about events, strategic plans, and accomplishments. The new Online News has four main sections. We will include a letter, either from me or from another member of the UW Medicine community, at the beginning of each issue. The next three sections -- education and training, research, and patient care -- correspond with the three primary activities associated with our mission of improving health.

If you, your department, unit, hospital, or program has news or ideas for news or issues to be covered, please forward these to Justin Reedy at mednews@u.washington.edu. And please let the staff at News, Community Relations and Marketing know if you have suggestions to improve the format or content. They are dedicated to improving communication and deserve our thanks and congratulations for a job well done.

As 2008 draws to a close, I would like to thank all UW Medicine faculty, staff, students and trainees, and our many friends and colleagues who receive Online News. Despite the global economic difficulties, 2008 has been a very good year for us in many ways. I am extremely grateful for the outstanding commitment of the thousands of talented individuals who comprise UW Medicine. Our work together is leading to improvements in health for many people, and I hope your individual work brings you profound satisfaction. Thank you and best wishes for a safe and joyous holiday season.


Paul G. Ramsey, M.D.
CEO, UW Medicine
Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs and
Dean of the School of Medicine,
University of Washington


Global childhood immunization coverage growing more slowly than officially reported rate, health metrics study finds
A new study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the UW reveals troubling gaps between the number of children reported by countries to be immunized and numbers based on independent surveys. The study, which appears in the Dec. 13 issue of The Lancet, examined immunization rates in countries receiving aid money from the Immunizations Services Support (ISS) program of the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunizations.

The study examines the number of children receiving diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis (DTP3) immunizations in 193 countries from 1986 to 2006. The analysis shows that while there have been continual improvements globally in the proportion of children immunized against DTP3, this has increased only gradually over time and not to the level suggested by countries' official reports. For example, since the launch of the global vaccine alliance in 1999, officially reported estimates showed that DTP3 coverage increased from 81 percent to 90 percent, while survey-based estimates only showed an increase in global coverage from 69 percent to 74 percent over the same period.

The study also found that the ISS program, which pays countries $20 for each additional child that countries report to have immunized, leads to over-reporting in two out of three countries. Of 51 countries receiving ISS funding, six countries overestimated the additional number of children immunized by four times; 10 countries overestimated their increase in coverage by more than double; 23 countries overestimated by less than double; and eight countries underestimated their increase in the number of children immunized.

With performance-based payments, there will be an incentive in situations like this to over-report progress, either intentionally or unintentionally, explained study co-author Christopher Murray, UW professor of global health and director of the IHME.

For more information, read the UW press release about the study here.

UW research centers in rural health and multiple sclerosis receive continued grant funding
Two major research centers at the UW, one focused on rural health, and the other on multiple sclerosis, have received competitive renewal of their grants, in spite of a tighter federal budget.

The WWAMI Rural Health Research Center this fall received four years of continuation funding from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. The UW center is now one of six such rural health research centers across the country funded by the federal government, down from eight centers in the past. The center received $2.6 million of funding for four years.

The WWAMI Rural Health Research Center, led by Mark Doescher, associate professor of family medicine, conducts national and regional policy-oriented research on issues related to rural health care and the rural health-care workforce. Some of the center's new projects include an examination of dentist supply and its impact on dental-care access and oral health, a comparison of general and specialist surgeon supply in rural areas, and a study of treatment choices for rural patients with early-stage prostate cancer.

The UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine has received a renewal of its grant for the study of multiple sclerosis, funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research in the U. S. Department of Education.

The grant renewal funds the department's Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center at the UW, which is completing its second five-year cycle. The center received $4.25 million in funding over five years. George Kraft and Kurt Johnson, professors in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, are principal investigators on the project. The interdisciplinary center, which includes rehabilitation medicine, neurology, rehabilitation psychology, rehabilitation counseling, and speech and language pathology, conducts programs focused on providing new knowledge and improving rehabilitation methodology and service delivery systems for people with multiple sclerosis.

The department also received funding for another project -- its National Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Aging with a Physical Disability. Mark Jensen, professor and vice-chair for research in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, is the principal investigator on this grant. The grant also involves $4.25 million over five years.

Six new AAAS fellows named from the UW
Six faculty members from the UW were elected as AAAS Fellows this Thursday. They were among 486 Fellows elected this year by their peers in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This honor, established in 1874, is bestowed for scientifically or socially distinguished efforts in science or its applications. The new Fellows will be recognized Feb. 14 in Chicago during the 2009 AAAS National Meeting.

The newly elected AAAS Fellows from the UW, their fields, and contributions are:

Michael Bevan - Immunology: Identified processes of positive selection and cross priming of T cells. He is also honored for outstanding mentoring. Bevan is a professor of immunology and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.

Eliot A. Brenowitz - Animal Behavior: Integrated behavioral, endocrine, aneural, and comparative approaches to animal communication. Brenowitz is a professor of psychology and biology and co-director of the graduate program in neurobiology and behavior.

Caroline S. Harwood - Microbiology: Advanced knowledge about anaerobic degradation of aromatic compounds, biological hydrogen production, chemotaxis, and biofilm formation in pathogens. Harwood is a professor of microbiology.

Rodney J.Y. Ho - Drug Delivery: Developed liposomes and other lipid-based delivery for targeted antiviral drug therapy. Ho is associate dean of the School of Pharmacy, professor of pharmaceutics, and director, DNA Sequence and Gene Analysis.

Alan M. Weiner - RNA Biochemistry: Showed that SINEs (short, interspersed repetitive DNA elements) transpose through RNA intermediaries; elucidated mammalian messenger RNA splicing; and rescued CCA-adding enzymes from premature oblivion. CCA is the sequence found at the business end of transfer RNA. Weiner is professor and chair of biochemistry.

Phyllis M. Wise - Endocrinology: Increased the understanding of hormonal influences on the brain. She is also honored for academic leadership. Wise is UW provost and executive vice president.

Founded in 1848, The AAAS is the world's largest general scientific association, and includes some 262 affiliated organizations and academies of science with about 10 million individual members. The AAAS mission is to serve society through initiatives in science policy, international programs, and science education. It publishes the journal Science.

Clinical care

Susan Stern to lead Division of Emergency Medicine
Susan A. Stern has been named head of the UW Division of Emergency Medicine in the Department of Medicine, effective April 1. Stern is associate professor and associate chair for education in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School. She will succeed Kathleen Jobe, who has been serving as acting head, and Mickey Eisenberg, who was division head from 1997 to 2003.

At the University of Michigan, Stern directs the Emergency Medicine Academic Track Program, coordinates clinical skills education, and presents numerous lectures for residents. She is PI of the Graduate Medical Education Scholars Program at the UM Health Center. She also teaches medical students and is research mentor for fellows, residents and students.

Stern's clinical and research interests include shock, traumatic brain injury, and resuscitation. She has an extensive history of grant support from the United States Department of Defense for studies of resuscitation from hemorrhagic shock and currently holds funding for investigation of hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers.

Stern is a graduate of Tufts and the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She completed a residency in emergency medicine, chief residency, and fellowship at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center before joining the faculty at Michigan in 1993. She has served on numerous academic committees in her department and school and currently chairs the University Committee for the Use and Care of Animals. She is a staff emergency physician at both the University of Michigan Medical Center and Foote Hospital in Jackson, Michigan.

Her honors and awards include the AAMC Mid-Career Women's Faculty Development Seminar, the Impact Award and the Young Investigator Award from the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine, and a Citation for Excellence in Medical Student Teaching at Michigan.

Stern's success in resident education, as well as her excellent performance in clinical care and research, will be beneficial for the UW Division of Emergency Medicine, according to William Bremner, the Robert G. Petersdorf Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine.

Francis Kim named to Kenneth Cooper Endowed Professorship in Preventive Cardiology
Francis Kim, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Cardiology, has been appointed the first holder of the Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., Endowed Professorship in Preventive Cardiology. Kim is associate professor of medicine at Harborview Medical Center. A graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, he came to the UW in 1992 for medicine residency and a fellowship in cardiology before joining the faculty. In 2006, Kim was appointed a Philip and Helen Fialkow Scholar.

Kim currently investigates impairment of endothelial nitric oxide production in diabetes/obesity and the effects of air pollution on vascular inflammation. The professorship was created with a gift from Kenneth Cooper to support development of resources for preventive medicine within the division. Cooper is an international leader in physical fitness and preventive medicine who developed the standard 12-minute fitness test and wrote the renowned 1968 book Aerobics. He began his career as an intern at Harborview and later served as a physician in both the Air Force and NASA.

Laligam Sekhar named president of two neurological professional societies
Laligam Sekhar, the William Joseph Leedom and Bennett Bigelow & Leedom Professor and vice chairman of the UW Department of Neurological Surgery, has been elected to the presidency of two professional organizations. He has been elected to serve a two-year term at the helm of the Washington State Neurological Surgeons Society and a four-year term as President of the World Federation of Skull Base Societies.

The Washington State Neurological Surgeons Society is an organization which includes most of the neurosurgeons practicing in the state of Washington, and is concerned with professional and socioeconomic issues of the practice of neurological surgery in our state.

The World Federation of Skull Base Societies is a prestigious organization that includes several skull base societies from around the world. Its mission is to promote the education of young surgeons in this field, to publicize and evaluate research, existing techniques, and new developments in the field of skull base surgery. Skull base surgery is a multidisciplinary field involving neurosurgeons, otolaryngologists, plastic surgeons, ophthalmologists, radiologists, radiation oncologists, rehabilitation specialists, nurses, and other medical professionals. Examples of skull base tumors involve meningiomas, acoustic neuromas, chordomas, and malignant tumors.

Sekhar, who is also the director of cerebrovascular surgery and co-director of skull base surgery, is a recognized international leader in the field of neurosurgery. He holds a patent for an aneurysm-detecting device and has pioneered numerous brain surgery techniques. He specializes in treating complex neurosurgical problems, particularly skull-base tumors and complex brain vascular problems, and microvascular decompression procedures for trigeminal neuralgia and hemifacial spasm. He is also an expert in the surgical treatment of vascular disorders in and around the brain, such as aneurysms and cerebral vascular malformations.

Sekhar is based at Harborview Medical Center. He earned his medical degree at Madras University in India and did his residency in neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Pittsburgh. He joined the UW faculty in 2006.

Education and Training

UW health sciences schools receive more than $1 million for training in interprofessional communication
The UW schools of Nursing, Medicine and Pharmacy have received more than $1 million in grants to use high-tech simulation labs to address one of the biggest challenges in health care - communication and patient safety.

A new three-year, $990,000 grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation and a $250,000 grant from the Hearst Foundation will help train health care professionals to communicate more effectively with each other and with patients during challenging clinical situations, with the goal of improved patient care and safety.

The project will be led by Brenda Zierler, associate professor and associate dean of Technology Innovations in Education and Research at the UW School of Nursing and co-principal investigator on the grant, and Brian Ross, professor of anesthesiology in the UW School of Medicine and director of the UW Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies. Peggy Odegard, associate professor of pharmacy, is a co-investigator on the project, along with other faculty from the UW health sciences schools.

The team will create a simulation training program focused on interprofessional communication, leadership, mutual respect, and collaboration that can be exported to other health science schools. They will also create faculty planning tools and templates for training scenarios, and they will develop and validate standardized Web-based tools to evaluate and assess team communication and performance.

In much the same way that airline pilots train on flight simulators, medical and nursing students across the country increasingly learn essential skills and complex procedures on high-tech human patient simulators. Currently, training in each discipline occurs separately. For example, at nearly every medical training center in the country, simulation training occurs in either the medical school or nursing school, with medical students or residents taking turns "playing" the nurses, and nursing students "acting" the part of the physician. The new program will use both simulation labs in the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing as the backdrops for skills practice, with the emphasis on teamwork and communication training for physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care professionals.

UW medical students present findings of community medicine projects at poster session
Medical students at the UW last month presented their work on community medicine projects at the School of Medicine's annual Medical Student Poster Session. The session covered the findings for nearly a hundred community medicine projects conducted by students in the International Health Opportunities Program and Rural/Underserved Opportunities Program (RUOP). More than 350 people from throughout the medical school took part in this year's poster session.

In addition to the presentations, the poster session includes recognition for several medical students. The Liu Be Ju Fellowship for Excellence in Women's Health was awarded to three students: Lorna Shanks, whose project covered HIV, STI & Menstrual Health Education for High School Students in South India; Rebeka Smith, whose project was called Prince of Wales Island, Alaska -- Teen Health Education on Dating Violence; and Nelly Ayala, whose project covered Providing Information for Providers & Patients on ACOG Screening Guidelines in Seattle. More information about the Liu Be Ju Fellowship is available here.

Toni Griffin was also recognized with the Rosenblatt Family Community Medicine Award for an outstanding project in community medicine. Griffin's project was Diabetes Prevention & Education for Polynesians in Anchorage, Alaska. This award was established this year by Roger Rosenblatt, professor and vice chair of family medicine and director of RUOP.

Upcoming events

The following is a listing of some upcoming events in the UW Medicine community. For the full UW Medicine events calendar, click here.

The Picture of Health
The Picture of Health: Works from the Harborview Medical Center and UW Medical Center art collections, Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave., Monday - Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Public reception 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 7.

Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Seminar:
Targeting Pathways for Cardiomyocyte Regeneration and Protection with Small Molecules, by Mark Mecola, Burnham Institute, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 4 p.m., Orin Smith Aud., UW Medicine South Lake Union Administration Bldg.

Dean's Annual Address to the UW Medicine Community:
Maintaining Focus in Challenging Times, by Paul G. Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine, executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of the UW School of Medicine, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27, Hogness Aud., UW HSC, 206-543-7718.