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March 11 issue

The UW Foster School of Business hosted the first Health Innovations Challenge March 3 and 18 teams competed for $20,500 in prize money. Read more on HSNewsBeat.

March 11 issue

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RESEARCH: In search of genes underlying rare disorders

CLINICAL: Addressing Seattle's heroin epidemic

EDUCATION: Confronting bias in curriculum

WWAMI: Getting a lesson in setting rural healthcare policy

PEOPLE: A closer look at heart-disease pioneer Chuck Murry

AWARDS: Palliative, end-of-life award; Honor for Project ECHO

EVENTS: NW Regional Conference on African Immigrant Health

and much more...

A biweekly newsletter focused on issues related to
the UW Medicine system.



Partnership with American Cancer Society: More than 60 years of innovation

Dear Colleagues,

We are accustomed to thinking of researchers as visionaries — and, of course, they are. Today, I would like to recognize another visionary: the American Cancer Society.

A high-level review of the American Cancer Society’s (ACS) grant making to the University of Washington is impressive: since 1950, the foundation has awarded more than $41 million. Browsing the list of recipients brings up many familiar names: bone-marrow transplant innovator E. Donnall Thomas, for one, and — more recently — protein design expert David Baker. And hundreds of others.

Over the past 66 years, the society has made more than 440 grants to the UW, funding a wide range of areas and opening up enormous research potential. The society has contributed to fellowships in clinical oncology, faculty awards, training in cancer nursing and research that spans chromosomal investigations, retrovirus replication mechanisms, cancer screenings and beyond.

Like all of us, the American Cancer Society is motivated by the desire to save lives — and the ACS is motivated to support promising researchers who make great progress. Geneticist and breast cancer researcher Mary-Claire King, the American Cancer Society-Walt Disney Family Foundation Professor for Breast Cancer Research, has received support from the society since 1994. With funding from the ACS and others, Paul Nghiem’s team has identified an immune therapy for Merkel cell carcinoma patients that will likely soon be the first FDA-approved drug for this cancer. And Nora Disis, who has spent years pioneering immune system solutions to cancer, was recently awarded a five-year grant to target colon cancer — as well as the title of American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor.

Together with our colleagues at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine faculty have led many major advances in cancer research. With our continuing partnership with the American Cancer Society, we anticipate making many more advances on behalf of preventing, detecting, treating and curing cancer.


PGRamsey Signature2

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

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In search of genes underlying rare disorders


The UW Medicine Center for Mendelian Genomics created the web tool to offer expertise and an advanced platform for what has been taking place informally on the internet and through social media for several years. Many families and individuals with rare disorders have been trying to connect with others who might have similar problems, who might know of gene mutations that are suspected, and who might be aware of research underway. Conditions arising from single-gene mutations are called Mendelian because of their general patterns of inheritance in families.

Michael Bamshad, UW professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Genetic Medicine, and Debbie Nickerson, UW professor of genome sciences, head the center, one of five federally funded such centers across the country. For more information, see the story on HSNewsBeat.

New understanding of coronaviruses

Coronaviruses -- the agents behind outbreaks of new kinds of pneumonia. (Image courtesy of Vessler Lab).

Coronaviruses are responsible for many colds and pneumonia as well as more fatal respiratory syndromes such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome). Results of a recent UW Medicine-led study published in the journal Nature show how coronaviruses enter cells. A research team, including scientists from UW, the Pasteur Institute in France and the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, used high-resolution cryo-electron microscopy and supercomputing to detail the infection mechanisms of coronaviruses. Analysis of the model is providing ideas for specific vaccine strategies and are outlined in the study. David Veesler, UW assistant professor of biochemistry, headed the project. For more on the story, see the article on HSNewsBeat.

More research stories involving UW Medicine:

  • Seattle’s life science disruptors take the stage on May 2, Xconomy, March 1, 2016
    Xconomy’s annual Seattle life sciences forum will feature a number of speakers, including David Baker, UW professor of biochemistry and head of the Institute for Protein Design.
  • How gut microbiota impacts HIV disease, Scientific American, March 1, 2016
    A new understanding of the role gut microbiota plays in HIV disease is beginning to emerge, suggesting potential new strategies to manage the infection. Nichole Klatt, UW assistant professor of pharmaceutics and pathobiology, is quoted.
  • Vaginal ring offers some protection against HIV, webMD, Feb. 23, 2016 (Covered in Feb. 26 issue of Insight)
    An insertable vaginal ring containing a month’s supply of a continuous-release HIV prevention drug reduced the risk of HIV in African women by at least 27 percent, a new study found. Jared Baeten, UW professor of global health, medicine and epidemiology, is quoted. Also coverage on Gizmag.
  • Long live dogs (and everyone), Popsci, Feb. 23, 2016
    A drug trial underway at UW Medicine could extend the lives of family pets and might do the same for people. Matt Kaeberlein, UW professor of pathology, is quoted.

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UW drug-abuse researcher named to heroin task force

Caleb Banta-Green, Ph.D. (Image courtesy of the UW School of Public Health)

King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced a 32-member task force charged with finding ways to better address the regional heroin epidemic. Caleb Banta-Green, a senior researcher with the UW’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute, called for a dramatic change in the public approach to treating heroin users by increasing the availability of care and access to methadone treatment centers.

Banta-Green said people being treated for opioid addiction with buprenorphine or methadone, which blocks symptoms of withdrawal and craving, are 50 percent less likely to die. For more on the story, see the article in The Seattle Times and coverage on KING-TV, among others. For more on Dr. Banta-Green, see his interview with the UW School of Public Health.

UW Memory and Wellness Center hosts new website, art exhibit

Artist Hope Lawrence, "Portrait of Paula."

UW is one of the nation’s leaders in Alzheimer’s research, and the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center has just launched a new website to showcase efforts in curing, preventing and treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, including clinical trial options. In partnership with UW Medicine, Seattle Parks & Recreation, the Washington Alzheimer’s Association and the Frye Art Museum, the center is also engaged in building dementia-friendly communities that honor the value and dignity of persons living with memory loss. The news stories and events calendar provide easy ways to learn about the center’s wide-reaching activities.

One event is a new art exhibit, now on display at Harborview Medical Center. The exhibit, “The Artist Within,” presented by the nonprofit The Art of Alzheimer’s with support from the UW Memory and Brain Wellness Center, shows off artwork created by people living with Alzheimer’s disease and related conditions that lead to dementia. The exhibit runs March 10-May 25, 2016, in the Harborview Medical Center Cafeteria, Level B Atrium. For a review of the exhibit, see article in the UW Daily.

More clinical stories involving UW Medicine:

  • Antibiotics instead of appendectomy? UW study may be ‘game changer,Seattle Times, March 6, 2016
    UW researchers will begin recruiting patients in May for a nearly $13 million, five-year study to determine whether antibiotics alone are better than surgery to treat uncomplicated appendicitis, which sends 300,000 Americans to emergency surgery each year. Also coverage on Q13 FOX.
  • How does living in space affect the human body? KOMO-TV, March 2, 2016
    Astronaut Scott Kelly is back on Earth after a year’s journey that was literally out of this world. Peter Cavanaugh, UW professor of orthopedics and sports medicine, is interviewed about the toll living in space takes on the human body.
  • Doug Clark | New treatment offers hope to family who has gone through hell, Spokesman-Review, March 2, 2016
    Cevanah, a 2-year-old with a genetic condition that causes cancerous tumors, has benefited from a new procedure called “Tumor Paint BLZ-100,” which allows surgeons to differentiate the bad cells from the good ones. It was developed by researchers at the UW and other local institutions.
  • Pediatrician: Children spend ‘alarming’ amount of time watching TV, Chicago Tribune, March 2, 2016
    On average, children now start watching TV at 4 months, compared to an average age of 4-years-old in the 1970s, Dimitri Christakis, UW professor of pediatrics, said Wednesday in his keynote at the city of North Chicago’s CONNECT initiative. Christakis is the director of the UW Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development.
  • Harborview staff helps nurse fight rare blood disorder, KING-TV, March 1, 2016
    Staff members at Harborview Medical Center are banding together for one of their own. A nurse at the Seattle hospital is battling an extremely rare bleeding disorder that can be deadly.
  • Rethinking how you sleep in Seattle, Seattle Magazine, Feb. 29, 2016
    As Seattle’s short winter days give way to 16 hours of daylight by June, we often shift our own schedules in response, bedding down later and rising earlier to take advantage of the extra rays. Michael Vitiello, UW professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, is quoted.
  • Why older kids need well-child checkups, too, U.S. News & World Report, Feb. 23, 2015
    Many children and adolescents don’t see the doctor at least annually, as recommended. Cora Breuner, UW professor of pediatrics, is quoted.

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UW Center for Global Health Nursing launches

Globally, nurses provide 90 percent of healthcare. (Image courtesy of Pamela Kohler.)

In response to huge demand by students and faculty, the UW School of Nursing has launched a center to elevate and promote global health nursing activities both locally and abroad. The center is led by Pamela Kohler, UW assistant professor in psychosocial and community health nursing and Sarah Gimbel, UW assistant professor in family and child nursing, and comes after more than a year of meetings with various stakeholders. The center already has the interest of several funders and the enthusiasm of many who view nurses as playing a critical role in promoting the health of the community. For a Q&A with the directors on their priorities, and a slideshow, see the story on HSNewsBeat.

Confronting bias in curriculum

Glenna Martin, M.D., M.P.H.

For her master’s degree in public health, Glenna Martin examined how gender and race were portrayed in the UW School of Medicine (UWSOM) curriculum; the results were published in the February 2016 issue of the nation’s top academic medicine journal, Academic Medicine. Martin, a graduate of UWSOM, and co-authors found that the images in the pre-clinical curriculum were more likely to be male (60.5 percent) and white (78.4 percent). The authors argued that medical schools must consider patient demographics when designing curricular materials and suggested improvements toward this aim. Martin’s research influenced the UWSOM’s recent curriculum upgrade.

Several faculty advised Martin on her project, including Janice Sabin, UW research associate professor in biomedical informatics and medical education. Eric Sid, a 2015 UW School of Medicine graduate, also participated. To read the full story, see the online version of Insight.

 Related education stories:

  • Editorial | GU-UW marriage is good news, Spokesman-Review, Feb. 26, 2016
    “The medical school partnership between Gonzaga University and the University of Washington is positive news after the tussle over whether Spokane would host two schools,” writes The Spokesman-Review‘s Editorial Board.
  • 60 UW med school students to study on Gonzaga campus this fall, Spokesman-Review, Feb. 24, 2016 (AP story ran in several outlets)
    Gonzaga University will host 60 first-year medical school students from the University of Washington School of Medicine this fall, the two schools announced Wednesday.
  • Gonzaga to join UW in medical school partnership, Seattle Times, Feb. 24, 2016
    The University of Washington and Gonzaga University will begin training medical school students together in Spokane beginning this fall.


Getting a lesson in setting policy for rural Americans

Julie Middleton, a third-year UW School of Medicine, Montana WWAMI student, recently attended the Rural Health Policy Institute’s Annual Conference in Washington, D.C., as part of the National Rural Health Association’s (NRHA) Fellows program. The NRHA Fellows program is a year-long intensive training to develop leaders who can articulate a clear and compelling health vision for the more than 62 million rural Americans. The program develops skills in personal, team and organizational leadership, health policy analysis and advocacy, and awareness of NRHA governance and structure.

At the conference, Middleton was elected as the Student Constituency Group Chair; she also joined the Rural Health Congress and Board of Trustees where she worked towards a better understanding of the policy process. An important aspect of her training was developing a policy statement about rural physician recruitment and retention; she worked on this statement with a practicing pediatrician from rural Oregon and a CEO from a critical access hospital in rural Kansas, under the guidance of Dave Schmitz, program director for the UW Family Medicine Residency of Idaho. Many of their findings, such as recruiting medical students with an interest in rural health and providing rural experiences for medical students and residents, are what the UW School of Medicine is already doing through programs like RUOP (Rural Underserved Opportunities Program), WRITE (WWAMI Rural Integrated Training Experience) and TRUST (Targeted Rural Underserved Track).

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A look at pioneering heart-disease researcher Chuck Murry

Dr. Chuck Murry, founding director of the UW Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM). (Image by Clare McLean/UW Medicine.)

Chuck Murry, UW professor of pathology, bioengineering and medicine (cardiology), has become instrumental in discovering new therapies that could help those suffering from the same heart issues that have affected his own family. Murry helped found the UW Institute for Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine (ISCRM), and his lab develops stem-cell therapies to combat the effects of heart disease.

Recently, his team demonstrated that damaged heart muscle in non-human primates can be repaired with human stem cells. If upcoming clinical trials succeed, this therapy might transform the treatment of heart failure, prolonging the lives of people who have suffered major heart attacks and improving their quality of life. For a look at his path to heart-disease research, see the story on HSNewsBeat.

Note: The Puget Sound Business Journal awarded Murry with a 2016 Leader in Healthcare Award and called him, “A worldwide leader in the field of regenerative medicine.”

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John Scott receives state award for work on telehealth

Dr. John Scott is a recipient of the 2015 Warren Featherstone Reid Award for Excellence in Health Care.

Gov. Jay Inslee has chosen John Scott, UW associate professor of medicine (allergy and infectious diseases), as a recipient of the 2015 Warren Featherstone Reid Award for Excellence in Health Care. Scott is awarded for his work on a telehealth program called Project ECHO (Extension for Community Health Outcomes), which was introduced in the Pacific Northwest in 2009. The program allows primary care physicians in rural areas to consult with experts at UW through weekly videoconferences on topics including hepatitis C, chronic pain, integrated addictions and psychiatry, rheumatology, HIV/AIDS, dementia, complex care, palliative care, women’s health/genomics, children and youth epilepsy, and endocrinology. Scott was given the award March 4.

The award is named after Warren Featherstone Reid, a longtime aide to Sen. Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) who later chaired the Washington State Board of Health. The award recipient is chosen annually by the governor in conjunction with the secretary of health. The secretary asked the Washington Board of Health to serve as a standing advisory committee to review nominations and recommend recipients.

Rashmi Sharma awarded for her work in palliative, end-of-life care

Dr.  Rashmi Sharma is recipent of the 2016 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Award.

Rashmi Sharma, UW assistant professor of medicine (general internal medicine), was one of five physicians nationwide to receive a 2016 Hastings Center Cunniff-Dixon Physician Award. The awards are given by the Cunniff-Dixon Foundation, whose mission is to enrich the doctor-patient relationship near the end of life, in partnership with The Hastings Center, an independent, nonpartisan and nonprofit bioethics research institute founded in 1969. The nomination and selection process was administered by The Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life.

There are five annual prizes totaling $95,000: one prize of $25,000 for a senior physician, one prize of $25,000 for a mid-career physician and three prizes of $15,000 for early-career physicians. Sharma is an early-career physician. For more about the awards and a video of what winners have accomplished, see the award website.

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In the News
Articles that involve UW Medicine and Health Science faculty staff, students and trainees.

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