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November 18, 2011

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Message from Paul Ramsey

Paul G. Ramsey

Multiple Sclerosis Society honors George Kraft with Lifetime Achievement Award

Dear Colleagues:

I am very pleased to report that George Kraft, UW professor of rehabilitation medicine and adjunct professor of neurology, has received the 2011 Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He received the award at the society’s national conference in Dallas on November 3 for 35 years of outstanding service.

George has had a profound influence on the field of multiple sclerosis. On the UW faculty since 1969, he has served as director of the Western MS Clinical Center since 1979. He is also the principal investigator of the Multiple Sclerosis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (MSRRTC) that was initially funded in 1998. He is the Alvord professor of Multiple Sclerosis Research; the professorship is named for the late Buster Alvord, former head of neuropathology at the UW’s Department of Pathology and a recipient of the George KraftMS Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.

George’s research has focused on a number of areas, including rehabilitative techniques to improve function and reduce handicaps of individuals living with MS and understanding the effects that MS has on individuals over time. One of the early key findings from the MSRRTC was the recognition in the early 1980’s of fatigue as an important symptom of MS.

In addition to his research, clinical and administrative activities, George has been a tireless volunteer on behalf of MS. He has served in many leadership and advisory roles in the National MS Society for a number of years. His dedication to the field of MS is exemplary, and we are fortunate to have him on our faculty. Please join me in congratulating George for this wonderful and well-deserved honor.


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




Study shows that new medication effectively treats underlying cause of cystic fibrosis

Bonnie Ramsey A new study has confirmed that the drug, ivacaftor (VX-770), significantly improves lung function in some people with cystic fibrosis (CF). The results of the phase III clinical trial study, A CFTR Potentiator in Patients with Cystic Fibrosis and the G551D Mutation, led by Bonnie W. Ramsey, UW professor of pediatrics and director of the Center for Clinical and Translational Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, were published Nov. 2, in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Ivacaftor, also known as VX-770, was developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals with financial support from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The oral medicine targets the defective protein produced by the gene mutation called G551D that causes CF. Researchers found that patients carrying G551D – approximately four per cent of all CF patients – who were treated with VX-770 showed a 17 per cent relative improvement in lung function that was sustained over the course of 48 weeks.

Patients with G551D treated with VX-770 showed improvements in other areas critically important to the health of people with CF. Study participants experienced significant reductions in sweat chloride levels, indicating an improvement in the body’s ability to carry salt in and out of cells – a process which, when defective, leads to CF. They also experienced decreased respiratory distress symptoms and improved weight gain. Those who received VX-770 gained on average seven pounds compared to those in the placebo group who gained approximately one pound. This is significant because many people with CF have difficulty gaining and maintaining weight due to reduced lung function and chronic infection.

"Our study shows that we are now able to improve the quality of life for cystic fibrosis patients with the G551D mutation with the administration of VX-770,” said Ramsey, who holds and an endowed chair in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) in the Department of Pediatrics.

Ramsey and co-investigators evaluated lung function in patients 12 years or older who carry at least one copy of the G551D mutation. The study included 161 patients at multiple healthcare centers who received at least one dose of VX-770 or placebo. The study is the third and final in a series designed to assess VX-770’s effectiveness and safety before it is approved for public use.

Read more in UW Today.   

UW students win International Genetically Engineered Machine competition

Twenty-three UW students and their advisers won the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) World Championship at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston Nov. 7. The  competition  is the premiere undergraduate synthetic biology competition.

The students’ work included months of lab work and genetic engineering of microbes – one to produce diesel fuel and another to help treat the difficult digestion problems for people with gluten intolerance.

“We were so excited. We were sitting there on pins and needles,” said Liz Stanley, a senior majoring in microbiology. UW Today interviewed the students by phone while they waited to board a plane in Boston for their triumphant return to Seattle.

UW undergraduate members came from the departments of biochemistry, microbiology, bioengineering, materials science and computer science, which reflects the interdisciplinary nature of synthetic biology. This year’s faculty advisers were Eric Klavins, whose research investigates how bacteria and other systems can self-organize; David Baker, a UW biochemistry professor who predicts proteins’ 3-D structures in order to design new proteins and Herbert Sauro, a UW bioengineering associate professor who performs computer-aided design of biochemical interactions.

Read more in UW Today.

Temple Grandin, animal behaviorist and autism spokesperson, to lecture at UW Nov. 30

Temple GrandinWorld-renowned animal behaviorist and autism spokesperson Temple Grandin will give a special lecture, titled Improving Animal Welfare, at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 30, at Hogness Auditorium, A-420 Health Sciences Center, UW.

Grandin has been called revelatory and revolutionary in her ability to describe the mental consciousness of autism and then apply her own autistic awareness to the enhancement of animal welfare.

Born in 1947, Grandin exhibited early behavior that is now considered classic for people with autism. Her mother devoted the next 30 years of her life to ensuring that her daughter had every opportunity for educational success. Through gifted teachers, patient relatives and extreme personal effort, she excelled. In 1970, Grandin received a bachelor’s degree (with honors) in experimental psychology from Franklin Pierce College (now Franklin Pierce University), in Rindge, New Hampshire; a master’s degree in animal science from Arizona State University in 1975; and a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois – Urbana in 1989.

Grandin’s research has resulted in the refinement of livestock handling facilities and slaughterhouses worldwide in order to minimize animal stress. Her description and scientific validation of pictorial thinking by animals and autistics alike has resulted in more than 400 scientific and lay publications, six books, and numerous awards and accolades, including being named a “Hero” of 2010 among TIME Magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Grandin was also the subject of the 2010 HBO docudrama entitled Temple Grandin. The program, starring Claire Danes as Grandin, received seven Emmy Awards.

The lecture, sponsored by the UW Health Sciences Administration in cooperation with the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research, is free and open to the public.

Contact Layne Norlund, associate director of the UW Office of Animal Welfare, at 206.221.8075 or lnorlund@uw.edu.

Clinical Care

Washington business leaders launch CEOs Against Cancer

CEOs Against Cancer2Washington business leaders, including Paul Ramsey, chief executive officer of UW Medicine, launched the Washington Chapter of CEOs Against Cancer with an inaugural breakfast at South Lake Union Oct. 26.

Ramsey, who is also executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the UW, and Phyllis Campbell, J.P. Morgan Chase, vice chairman of the Pacific Northwest Region, are co-chairs of CEOs Against Cancer in Washington.

The chapter is part of a national initiative by the American Cancer Society to involve business leaders in the fight against cancer. The American Cancer Society CEOs Against Cancer offers leaders four distinct ways to impact the course of cancer in their companies and nationally:

  • Create a culture of health throughout their workforce and lines of business by ensuring that employee health and wellness benefits include evidence-based, comprehensive cancer prevention programs and high-quality support for cancer screening and care.
  • Provide accurate and current information to help employees who are facing cancer understand their disease and make informed decisions about their health. Incorporate information about American Cancer Society support programs and services into your health and wellness communications and offerings.
  • Invest in groundbreaking research that will help understand cancer’s causes, determine how best to prevent it, and discover new cures.
  • Encourage your employees to join more than three million grassroots volunteers who work tirelessly to support people facing cancer and their families through their cancer journey, advocating for cancer-fighting legislation, and participating in inspiring community events that help save lives.

The event included remarks by Chuck DeGooyer, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, Great West Division, Inc., and two keynote addresses. Jeff Seffrin, national chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, gave an address, titled The Business Side of Cancer, and Lorenzo Romar, UW Men’s Basketball coach, talked about Coaches vs. Cancer. The roundtable discussion on what the executives were doing about the health of their employees and ways to prevent some of the most preventable cancers – lungs, colon and breast cancer – was led by Jeff Harris, director of the UW Health Promotion Research Center.

Other members of the Washington chapter include Bill Ayer, Alaska Air Group; Gubby Barlow, Premera Blue Cross; Dave Caple, Aboda; Rick Cooper, Everett Clinic; Steve Cooper, TrueBlue; Melanie Dressel, Columbia Banking System; Marc Galvagno, AVL, Inc.; Dr. Mitch Gold, Dendreon; Dan Fulton, Wyerhaeurser Co.; Dan Hansen, United Healthcare; Jonathan Hensley, Regence; Rodney Hochman, Swedish Health System; Gary Kaplan, Virginia Mason Medical Center; Stein Kruse, Holland America Line, Inc.; John McAdam, F5 Networks; Blake Nordstrom, Nordstrom; and Joe Wilczek, Franciscan Health System.

(Photo, left to right: Chuck DeGooyer, Bill Ayer, Paul Ramsey and John Seffrin.)

Harborview Medical Center and Northwest Hospital & Medical Center named Level 1 Stroke Centers

The Department of Health and the state of Washington have designated Harborview Medical Center and Northwest Hospital & Medical Center Level 1 Stroke Centers. The hospitals are two of only four facilities in King County to qualify as Level 1 Stroke Centers.

The Level 1 designation was created by the new Washington State Emergency Cardiac and Stroke System, which seeks to reduce the time it takes for people having a heart attack or stroke to get medical care. The system also establishes Level 2 Primary Stroke Centers and Level 3 Acute Stroke Capable designations. These facilities include UW Medicine’s Valley Medical Center (Level 2) and UW Medical Center (Level 3).

A Level 1, or Comprehensive Stroke Center, is a facility or system with the personnel, infrastructure and expertise to diagnose and treat stroke patients who require intensive medical and surgical care, specialized tests, or interventional therapies. Level 1 Stroke Centers are also treatment and educational resources for other facilities in regions that may have more limited stroke capabilities.

Harborview and Northwest have been long-time leaders in stroke care. They have participated in studies that resulted in the most current treatment standards, including the three-hour window immediately following a stroke, when medical intervention is most effective.

“Our board-certified stroke specialists and multidisciplinary specialty care teams have been at the forefront of developing protocols for the emergency treatment of stroke, including those now endorsed by the new Washington State Emergency Cardiac and Stroke System,” said David Tirschwell, co-director, UW Medicine Stroke Center at Harborview, a member of the state’s Emergency Cardiac and Stroke Technical Advisory Committee; and UW associate professor of neurology.

Victor Erlich, medical director of the Northwest Hospital Stroke Program said: “We’re dedicated to improving the recovery rates of our stroke patients through rapid response, comprehensive clinical capabilities, a standardized plan of care, family support, rehabilitation and ongoing stroke education.”

In addition to their stroke designations, Harborview Medical Center, Northwest Hospital, Valley Medical Center and UW Medical Center are Level 1 Cardiac Centers.

Modern Healthcare ranks Valley Medical Center as a top place to work 

Modern Healthcare magazine has given Valley Medical Center the second highest ranking for a large employer in its Best Places to Work supplement, Oct. 24, 2011.

Four years ago, the magazine began identifying the top 100 best places to work in healthcare. In the first year, Valley Medical Center was ranked 34th overall; in years two and three, it was ranked 10th overall. Four years ago they began their process to identify the top 100 best places to work in healthcare. Many of the highest rated organizations are not hospitals but instead are other types of healthcare-related organizations, such as medical software companies and clinics. This year, the Valley Medical Center was the second highest ranked large employer on the list. It is also the only hospital/medical center in Washington to have ever been on this national Best Place to Work list.

The rankings are based on eight categories: leadership and planning; culture and communications, role satisfaction, working environment, relationship with supervisor, training and development, pay and benefits, and overall employee satisfaction.

The magazine contracts with a group of independent judges that review these criteria in conjunction with a 40 percent response rate from all employees on the payroll. Staff input is confidentially solicited from Modern Healthcare via email addresses from all employees.

Read the article about Valley Medical Center in Modern Healthcare. View the rankings 



Education and Training

W. Robb MacLellan to head Division of Cardiology 

Robb MacLellanW. Robb MacLellan of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has been appointed head of the Division of Cardiology in the UW Department of Medicine. He succeeds Richard Page, now chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, and James Caldwell, who had been acting division head since Page’s departure.

Prior to joining the UW faculty, MacLellan was professor of medicine and physiology, Maud Cady Guthman Chair in Cardiology, associate chief of the Division of Cardiology, and director of the Cardiovascular Fellowship Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. He is also president of the Western Society for Clinical Investigation and a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation.

MacLellan is highly regarded for his excellence as a teacher, clinician and researcher. He received his medical degree from the University of Toronto, where he also completed residency in internal medicine. He completed a fellowship in cardiology and in molecular cardiology at Baylor University before joining the faculty there and then moved to UCLA in 1998. He has earned several teaching awards as well as research prizes and fellowships.

MacLellan is a prominent investigator in cardiovascular regenerative medicine and directs the Cardiovascular Stem Cell Research Center at UCLA. His research focuses on cardiac hypertrophy, cell cycle control, and stem cell biology. His clinical expertise is in heart failure, and he headed the left ventricular assist device program for advanced heart failure treatment at UCLA. He will establish his new laboratory in the Brotman Building at South Lake Union.

UW course on clinical management of HIV wins global health prize

A UW graduate course in HIV has been awarded a global health prize that recognizes the most original project conducted to alleviate poverty-related chronic and/or infectious disease in the last year.

The course, Global Health 573 “Clinical Management of HIV,” received the Velji Award for Global Health Project of the Year. The award, given annually by the Global Health Education Consortium (GHEC), honors Pari Velji, a physician born in a Tanzanian village who lost siblings to diphtheria because of an impoverished healthcare system. The course is directed by Nina Kim, UW assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We believe this course, by creating a wide-reaching virtual classroom with web-based technology, offers a real solution to the global disparities in human resources and clinical training,” says Kim. “We’re grateful for the recognition.”

Since 2007, Global Health 573 has delivered free HIV training to more than 1,000 health professionals and has been webcast in 21 countries with the technical assistance of Treatment Research and Expert Education, a training program of the Department of Global Health established by Michael Chung, UW assistant professor of medicine and global health and international course director. Most of the distant students have been health professionals from countries in Africa, India, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The 10-week, three-credit course consists of lectures delivered by UW faculty members who present their topic from the perspective of an expert working in both developed and resource-limited settings.

The course also has led to several new partnerships with medical schools in Ethiopia and South Africa as well as with hospitals in resource-constrained settings, with the goal of fostering medical education and on-site HIV clinical mentorship.

The course organizers will receive a plaque, as well as $1,000 to support ongoing volunteer global health activities and recognition on GHEC's website.

eLearning content experts honored

Larry Robinson and Gene PetersonUW Medicine’s Learning Gateway Committee has recognized 18 content experts for their contributions to the development of eLearning online training modules designed to improve patient safety and enhance the quality of care throughout UW Medicine. The experts were honored at a recognition event Nov. 2.

The online training modules are used by all residents and fellows, by MEDEX students, and by some medical students. The online training also is available to new attending physicians. The committee, a collaboration between the School of Medicine’s Graduate Medical Education and the medical directors’ offices at UW Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center, is appointed by the UW Medicine Quality and Patient Safety Committee.

Gene Peterson, associate medical director of the Center for Clinical Excellence; Thomas Staiger, medical director of UW Medical Center; Byron Joyner, associate dean for graduate medical education; and Amity Neumeister, assistant dean and director of graduate medical education, spoke at the recognition event and expressed their gratitude to the content experts for making the training modules outstanding learning tools.

Lawrence Robinson, vice dean for clinical affairs and graduate medical education, presented certificates of excellence to each of the following content experts:

  • Error Disclosure: Cindy Jacobs, R.N., J.D.; Richard Goss, M.D., M.P.H.; Thomas Gallagher, M.D.; and Thomas Staiger, M.D.
  • Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation: Donna Henderson, B.S.N., M.H.A.; Gene Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.; Sara Kim, Ph.D.; and Theodore Bushnell, M.D.
  • Infection Control: Timothy Dellit, M.D.; Anneliese Schleyer, M.D.; and Estella Whimbey, M.D.
  • Patient Safety: Donna Henderson, B.S.N., M.H.A.; Gene Peterson, M.D., Ph.D.; and John Bramhall, M.D.
  • Patient Safety Net: Pat Tennent
  • Physician’s Documentation: Anneliese Schleyer, M.D.; Donna Henderson, B.S.N., M.H.A.; Gail Barnard, C.P.C.; and Sara Kim, Ph.D.
  • Respiratory Protection: Estella Whimbey, M.D., and Mary Dessel, R.N., B.S.N.
  • Teaching Skills: Mark Wicks, Ph.D., and Thomas J. Halverson, Ph.D. 
  • Venous Thromboembolism: Ann Wittkowsky, Pharm.D. and Richard Goss, M.D., M.P.H.

Contact Simona Lazar, director of eLearning, at slazar@u.washington.edu  or 206.543.2115 for more information. 

(Photo: Lawrence Robinson, left, and  Gene Peterson.)



WWAMI Regional News

Internationally acclaimed biologist Hermann Schatzl joins University of Wyoming

Hermann SchatzlWhen Hermann Schatzl could not find a disease he wanted to study in Europe, he came to the University of Wyoming.

“I had some collaboration with people in Canada and the United States, and we studied chronic wasting disease, but it’s basically impossible in Europe,” he says. “By chance I heard about this possibility here, and if the mountain does not come to the prophet, the prophet must go to the mountain.”

Schatzl is a prion biologist who once worked with 1997 Nobel laureate Stanley Prusiner. Schatzl studies diseases that involve the abnormal folding of proteins in the brain. Those diseases include chronic wasting disease, a fatal affliction of deer, moose, and elk, and mad cow disease. Both are found in the United States, but not in Europe.

Schatzl studies diseases generally known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies. These diseases are characterized by the abnormal folding of prion proteins in the brain that lead to fatal brain damage.

His research in the field of infectious neurodegenerative diseases is recognized internationally and covers diseases that affect humans and animals. These diseases include Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, fatal familial insomnia and Gerstmann-Straussler-Scheinker of humans. In animals, this is the same class of prion proteins that underlie chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer and elk, as well as, bovine spongiform encephalopathy of cattle and scrapie in sheep.

“As a long-term goal, my main challenge is to develop something that really helps to contain the spread of chronic wasting disease,” Schatzl says. “If it’s not transmitted to the human, it’s good, but in case it is transmissible, worst-case, you have to be prepared for mid- and long-term. It’s incredibly difficult to develop something that really helps, but there is some good indication in our animal models. So for many groups it’s worth it to try.”

Schatzl received his medical degree in 1991 from the Department of Virology at the Max von Pettenkofer Institute for Microbiology and Hygiene. He later completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Nobel Laureate S.B. Prusiner at University of California, San Francisco, followed by research at the University of Munich, the Gene Center in Munich and the Technical University of Munich in Germany. He came to the University of Wyoming in January of 2010, shortly after his recognition as Wyoming Excellence Chair in Prion Biology in 2009. The UW Wyoming Excellence chairs are nationally and internationally recognized leaders in their fields. This chair position combines state needs with basic neuroscience research. Schatzl has produced many peer reviewed publications and reviews from these projects and has trained many students.

Dr. Schatzl, a member of the WWAMI faculty,  teaches virology to the first-year medical students in the College of Health Sciences. His primary faculty appointment is a split between the Departments of Veterinary Sciences and Molecular Biology at the University of Wyoming. He also serves as the head of the Clinical Virology Section at the Technical University of Munich in Germany.

(Content provided courtesy of University of Wyoming Magazine.) 


Upcoming Events

The following is a listing of events that may be of interest to the UW Medicine community.

Amica Seattle Marathon, Nov. 27

UW Medicine is a lead sponsor of the annual Thanksgiving weekend marathon tradition. Our physicians and other medical staff volunteer at the Seattle Marathon, ensuring that runners and walkers finish strong and healthy. This year’s race will include more than 20,000 runners, eight medical tents, and more than 80 volunteer UW Medicine doctors, nurses, physical therapists and other staff. Mark Harrast, clinical associate professor of orthopaedics and sports medicine, is the Seattle Marathon medical director. If you would like to volunteer for the race, contact Maribeth Capeloto, UW Medicine assistant director of strategic outreach, at 206.616.6674 or capeloto@uw.edu  or visit the Seattle Marathon website.

2011 Presidential Entrepreneurial Faculty Fellows Lecture, Nov. 29

Cures for Cancer – Hidden in Plain Sight? An Enterprise to Accelerate their Discovery by Carla Grandori, UW professor of pharmacology, 8 a.m., Tuesday, Nov. 29, Walker-Ames Room, Kane Hall, Seattle campus. The lecture is the last of the Wake up to the Possibilities series, hosted by the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) in partnership with the Office of the President and the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (Foster School). Visit the lecture series webpage for more information.

Science in Medicine Lecture, Dec. 7

Biobehavioral Perspectives On The Effects Of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure On Children’s Development by Tracy Jirikowic, UW assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine, noon, Foege Auditorium, Foege Building, Seattle campus. The lecture will be simulcast at several locations. Visit the Science in Medicine website for more details.

Paul Ramsey’s annual address, Feb. 9, 2012

Paul G. Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine, executive vice president for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, University of Washington, will give his annual address to the UW Medicine community at 4:00 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 9, in Hogness Auditorium at the Magnuson Health Sciences Center. The talk is open to all faculty, staff, students, trainees, and others. A reception will follow the address. For more information, contact Julie Monteith at 206.543.7718 or jspiro@uw.edu.

Continuing Medical Education

Visit Continuing Medical Education for more information on upcoming classes.

2011 Online News Readership Survey, Oct. 28 - Dec. 2, 2011

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In the News

UW Medicine magazine 

The 2011 fall edition of UW Medicine magazine is now available online. This magazine for alumni and friends of UW School of Medicine includes articles on Team Science, Translated, Burn Care in Bhutan, the 40th anniversary of WWAMI, and more.

Media coverage of UW Medicine    

Online News Archives  

UW Medicine website


* The next issue of Online News will be published Friday, Dec. 2.