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January 23, 2015

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Message from Paul Ramsey

UW Medicine moves forward on addressing WWAMI recommendations with new role for Suzanne Allen

Dear Colleagues:

Last spring, UW President Michael Young convened a Council on Medical Education Access and Affordability, chaired by former Gov. Dan Evans, to ascertain how WWAMI can best meet the healthcare and workforce needs of the state. After a series of state-wide meetings and site visits, the council issued a report in December 2014 with five recommendations: expand the WWAMI medical school class in Spokane; pursue regional expansion opportunities in additional communities across the state; pursue research and commercialization activities in conjunction with WWAMI program expansion; expand regional residency training; increase WWAMI stakeholder engagement; and address WWAMI program infrastructure and operations support needs.

The report provides valuable guidance for the future of the WWAMI program and we are carefully assessing and acting on all the council’s recommendations. We are already on a path to increasing the number of medical students training in the state of Washington and we remain steadfast in our intention to expand the program to meet state workforce needs. We also are fully committed to graduate medical education expansion in the state, as outlined in my October 24 message. In addition, we are developing plans to expand research between the University of Washington with higher education partners and business and industry in and near Spokane.

Suzanne Allen
Suzanne Allen

As a major step in addressing WWAMI program infrastructure and operations, I have asked Suzanne Allen, currently vice dean for regional affairs, to serve in a new administrative position. Effective Feb. 1, Dr. Allen will assume the new position of vice dean for academic, rural and regional affairs. In her new role, she will lead the operations of both academic affairs and regional affairs. The integration of operations through this new position will provide many opportunities to improve support for our medical student program across WWAMI.

Dr. Allen will consult broadly with faculty, staff and students over the coming months and develop plans for enhancing the excellence of the combined activities of academic affairs and regional affairs.

Please join me in welcoming Suzanne Allen to her new position and provide her with your thoughts about steps to ensure a bright future for the education of health professionals to meet our regional workforce needs.

P.S. Also, please note, I will be hosting a series of Town Hall meetings in place of my annual address. The first one will take place at  4-5 p.m. Thursday Feb. 5 in Hogness Auditorium. See below for more dates and times.


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: Some rejected donor hearts are transplant-viable

Despite a dire shortage of organ donors, transplant teams turn down about one in four hearts from brain-dead donors because their hearts appear to pump poorly.

If the organ is given time to recover, however, as many as half of these hearts may be suitable for transplant, according to new research from the University of Washington's Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

"This is a small study," said study co-author Dr. Vijay Krishnamoorthy, UW acting assistant professor of anesthesiology. "But it suggests that we shouldn’t decide whether to use a heart on the basis of just one early evaluation, particularly in young people who are unlikely to have heart disease. Instead, if the initial echocardiogram detects heart dysfunction, we should maintain these patients with optimal supportive care and check again in one or two days. In many cases, the heart will have recovered and be suitable for transplantation." For more on the story, see the article in HSNewsBeat.

53% of counties lack access to opioid-abuse treatment

Shaded areas indicate at least one licensed provider of buprenorphine; white counties indicate no providers. (U.S. DEA data, 2012)
Rural Opioid Map

An often-effective treatment exists for people who want to stop abusing prescription opioid painkillers or escape heroin addiction, but that treatment is unavailable in most rural areas, according to a study led by the late UW physician and teacher Roger Rosenblatt, who was professor and vice dean of family medicine. He died in December.

The drug, buprenorphine-naloxone, cannot be prescribed without a waiver from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. Researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine found that, as of 2012, only 2.2 percent of U.S. physicians had obtained the waiver and, notably, 90 percent of those physicians practiced in urban counties. For more on the study, see the article in HSNewsBeat.

Clinical Care

‘The benefits of telepsychiatry: An interview with John Fortney, PhD’

John Fortney (left)
Fortney Telemedicine

Telepsychiatry has become one of the most talked about areas of psychiatry as it provides a way for patients who live in areas far from mental health professionals to receive needed therapy through remote video sessions. John Fortney, a UW professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, spoke recently to Psychiatry Advisor about the growing interest in this field.

Fortney had an important study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Psychiatry in November about how psychotherapy delivered remotely through video sessions benefited military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He has now become one of the nation’s foremost experts on using telemedicine-based interventions to improve care for rural patients. He recently joined UW’s Advancing Integrated Mental Health Solutions (AIMS) Center. For more on the Q&A with Fortney, see the article.

UW Medicine Virtual Clinic expands telemedicine program

A patient uses the virtual clinic. (Photo by Clare McLean/UW Medicine).
Virtual Clinic

UW Medicine launched its virtual clinic Jan. 21, giving Washington state residents access to care of minor illnesses from the convenience of their home or office, 24 hours a day, for a flat fee of $40.

Board-certified physicians and nurse practitioners based in Seattle consult with patients via phone, tablet or computer using online video applications such as Skype. Patients will receive a medical diagnosis, information about how to treat the issue at home, a referral for additional care and prescriptions, if appropriate. People who lack a regular primary-care provider can receive referrals to one based on their preferences. For more information, see the story in HSNewsBeat.

Education and Training

UW School of Medicine builds up Spokane leadership team and potential partnerships, including Gonzaga University

William G. Sayres
William Sayres

The UW School of Medicine is building up its Spokane leadership team and exploring opportunities that will advance medical education and research in Spokane, including potential partnerships with local institutions such as Gonzaga University. UW Medicine has named Spokane physician Dr. William G. Sayres, Jr., UW clinical assistant professor in family medicine, to lead its new medical school classroom curriculum in Spokane, as assistant dean. UW has also engaged with Mike Wilson, former CEO of Providence Sacred Heart in Spokane, to explore local partnerships.

Mike Wilson
Mike Wilson

In his new role, Sayres will coordinate, oversee and lead faculty in the UW School of Medicine for Spokane-based medical students during their first and second years of classroom instruction. Sayres currently teaches second-year UW medical students in Spokane and has led a team of clinicians in pioneering an innovative active-learning curriculum for the UW School of Medicine in Spokane. He will continue seeing patients at Group Health and will also continue serving as president of the medical executive committee at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Along with leadership from the UW School of Medicine, Mike Wilson has been engaged in numerous community-based discussions with Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh and others in Spokane regarding enhancing medical education and research. These ongoing discussions are focused on development of a potential partnership between Gonzaga and the UW School of Medicine. For more information, see the article in HSNewsBeat.

65 educators meet to refine School of Medicine new curriculum

Curriculum retreat. (Photos by Rob Steiner).
View photo essay of seven images 
Curriculum Retreat

Sixty-five medical educators throughout the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) region gathered January 12-13 to advance the new UW School of Medicine curriculum scheduled to start in August 2015.

Michael Ryan, associate dean for curriculum, took a lead role in planning and implementing the retreat with the help of Kellie Engle, curriculum director.

The educators from WWAMI partner universities worked in teams representing their particular block (e.g., Molecular and Cellular Basis of Disease, Invaders and Defenders, Circulatory System, Energetics and Homeostasis, Blood and Cancer, Mind Brain and Behavior, Lifecycle and Reproduction, Foundations of Clinical Medicine) or thread (Pathology, Human Form and Function, Pharmacology). Faculty also integrated several themes lifelong learning, professionalism, ethics, diversity, health equity, population health into the blocks.

The two-day meeting was characterized by considerable collaboration and negotiation across blocks, threads and themes to create an integrated curriculum that cuts through department silos that have existed in the past.

The event, held at the UW Husky Union Building, included an evening reception at the Vista Café in the Foege building, which allowed educators to informally exchange notes on teaching sites, courses and experiences. Another all-WWAMI retreat is planned in the spring.

The curriculum renewal process has been underway at the UW School of Medicine for several years but is now at a critical period of course development, refinement and integration. As medical educators nationally consider the possibility of a standard curriculum for the nation’s medical schools, the WWAMI experience can serve as a national model for the ability to successfully build and implement a common curriculum across a number of sites. No other medical school offers medical education for a five-state region.

The proposed curriculum is an innovative, competency-based model with three integrated phases: a scientific foundations phase, a patient care phase and a career exploration and focus phase. Important themes like professionalism and diversity will be offered throughout the four-year curriculum. For more on the new curriculum, see the May/June article in WSMA Reports, a publication by the Washington State Medical Association. Or visit the Curriculum Renewal and Development website.

WWAMI Regional News

Montana to host 10 medical students in WRITE from end of September through March 

Montana sites
Write Trust MT

Starting next academic year, the WWAMI Rural Integrated Training Experience Program or WRITE will host 10 medical students in Montana from the end of September through March. This is a significant change from previous years when students started their WRITE experience in January and stayed until June. The shift in timing will allow more students to participate in the WRITE program across the WWAMI region.

The WRITE program, piloted in 1996, was created to expand primary care and rural training options and provide more physicians for rural practice in the Pacific Northwest. The success of this 18-22 week program is due to the integration of community involvement, continuity of experience and a proven curriculum. In Montana, there are seven WRITE sites: Butte, Dillon, Hardin, Lewistown, Libby, Livingston and Miles City.

So far, five graduates of the program are now practicing at WRITE sites. Dr. Christina Marchion, a 2007-2008 WRITE student, is just setting up practice in Lewistown. “Though my life’s journey has been intertwined with people who have been instrumental in my education and the paths I have taken, my mentors and the community in Lewistown were pivotal,” she said. “I spent hours in the rural ER learning to diagnose and manage diseases that I would later see again in the Harborview Emergency Room, and I marveled at being able to take care of patients from birth to death.”

Throughout the program, WRITE students have the opportunity to develop their practice styles while learning how to treat a broad range of medical, surgical and psychological problems. Learning experiences emphasize the rural physician’s responsibilities and roles of diagnosing, treating and managing the majority of health problems on a longitudinal, continuing basis, while calling upon all the healthcare resources available in the community.

Student accumulates skills and memories during 6-week stints in Montana and Alaska

Jamie Oh on pediatric rotation in Anchorage. (Photo by Brian Donohue).
Jamie Oh

On the heels of examining Cyrus Clendanie, an 8-year-old who’d passed out and conked his head the day before, Jamie Oh posed conditions that might’ve spurred the event. Hypotension? Vasovagal?

Oh, a University of Washington medical student on rotation in Alaska, bounced ideas off of Anchorage pediatrician Willow Monterrosa. She gently queried him about each suggestion’s likelihood and evidence. Cyrus was one of about 150 children that Oh and Monterrosa saw during a three-week outpatient rotation that ended just before Christmas. For more insight into a third-year medical student's experience in one of the WWAMI sites, see the article in HSNewsBeat.


Jeffrey Chamberlain
Jeffery Chamberlain

Dr. Jeffrey Chamberlain, UW professor of neurology and the McCaw Endowed Chair in Muscular Dystrophy, was elected a fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science  –  the only faculty member from the UW to be selected this year. Chamberlain’s award citation is for, “For distinguished contributions to understanding and developing therapies for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.”

Chamberlain has dedicated his career to finding a treatment for this and other muscular dystrophies. These  muscle-wasting diseases often lead to severe movement and breathing difficulties in childhood or early adulthood. At present there is no cure and only limited treatment options for these disabling, life-shortening disorders.

Chamberlain is the director of the new Sen. Paul D. Wellstone Muscular Dystrophy Cooperative Research Center at UW  a collaborative venture between scientists and clinicians at the UW, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Children’s Hospital and the University of Rochester (N.Y.) funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, a branch of the National Institutes of Health. Additionally, Chamberlain has accepted a role on the scientific advisory committee of Solid Ventures, a biotech company based in Cambridge, Mass., focused on advancing treatments and finding a cure for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Jason Rockhill

Dr. Jason K. Rockhill, UW associate professor of radiation oncology, was named the clinical director of the Alvord Brain Tumor Center at UW. The center was established in 2009 to promote, develop and coordinate interdisciplinary brain tumor care and research among physicians and scientists in a variety of fields and named after the late Ellsworth “Buster” Alvord, the former head of neuropathology in the UW Department of Pathology and a Seattle philanthropist. Alvord and his family funded five endowed chairs in five different UW Medicine departments to create a multidisciplinary brain cancer research center.

Rockhill received his MD and PhD from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, and completed his radiation oncology residency at the University of Washington in 2004. He has a long track record of excellence in the area of neuro-oncology and a deep passion for the care of patients with neurologic tumors.  He served for many years as the co-director of the Gamma Knife Center at Harborview Medical Center and, more recently as the clinical co-director of the Alvord Brain Tumor Center. He has been ranked as “Top Doc” by the Seattle Magazine.  He has published numerous scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, several book chapters, and has been a frequent invited speaker in his areas of expertise in neuro-oncology and neuro-radiation oncology at national and international meetings. 


28th Annual Hans Neurath Lecture, Department of Biochemistry, Jan. 29

Joan A. Steitz, Sterling professor of molecular biophysics and biochemistry with the Yale School of Medicine, will lecture on “Noncoding RNAs: with a viral twist.” The lecture is at 2:30 p.m., Thursday Jan. 29 in T-625 Health Sciences Building. Refreshments at 2 p.m.

Department of Family Medicine Research Seminar Series (first Tuesday of the month), Feb. 3

The UW Department of Family Medicine is launching a new monthly research seminar series. The seminar Feb. 3 is on “Design of a pilot randomized controlled trial to test the effectiveness of a systematic colorectal cancer screening program in a community health center,” with Allison Cole, assistant professor in family medicine. The lecture will take place from 1-2 p.m. in the Roosevelt 1 Building, conference room 357 (4225 Roosevelt Way N.E.).

Department of Epidemiology Seminar, 'Global Burden of Disease study: The view from 10,000 feet,' Feb. 3

Jeff Stanaway, acting assistant professor in global health with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, is part of the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) research study team. The GBD study seeks to develop a comprehensive set of estimates of death disability for 301 diseases and injuries for 188 countries. The event is from 3:30-4:50 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3 in K-069 Health Sciences. 

Mini-Medical School, Feb. 3-March 10

UW Medicine’s 2015 Mini-Medical School takes place at 7 p.m. on consecutive Tuesdays from Feb. 3 through March 10 in Hogness Auditorium. Session topics: Feb. 3) Scalpel. Clamp. Sutures. What does it take to become a surgeon? Feb. 10) Depression and anxiety – What your neighbors (and society) are not talking about. Feb. 17) The healthy brain – Live smart and stay sharp at any age. Feb. 24) Tackling twin epidemics: New innovations to fight obesity and diabetes. March 3) First Responders – Saving lives when minutes matter! March 10) One Health: Animals, humans and the environment. For more information and to register, please see the Mini-Medical School website.

Town Hall meetings with Dr. Paul Ramsey, CEO, UW Medicine, Feb. 5-April 

Paul Ramsey, CEO of UW Medicine and dean of the UW School of Medicine, will host a series of town hall meetings to give an overview of the progress and plans for UW Medicine and then answer questions. The meetings will replace the annual address for 2015.
* Health Sciences Building, 4-5 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, Hogness Auditorium
* Northwest Hospital, 3-4 p.m. March 19, E-Wing Auditorium
* UW Medical Center, 2:30-3:30 p.m., March 23, Hogness Auditorium
* Seattle Children’s, April 15, time TBD
* Harborview Medical Center, date and time TBD

Please contact Julie Monteith with any questions at jspiro@uw.edu.

Science in Medicine lecture, 'Decoding the human genome,' Feb. 12

John Stamatoyannopoulos, UW associate professor of genome sciences and medicine (oncology), directs a lab focused on decoding the regulatory circuitry of the human genome through the application of high-throughput molecular and computational technologies. He also directs the UW ENCODE Center, the Northwest Epigenome Center and the High-Throughput Genomics Center at UW. The lecture is from 11 a.m.-noon, Thursday, Feb. 12, Foege South, S060, UW Genome Science Building.

Washington Global Health Alliance lecture series, 'Scaling up mental health services in challenging environments: Liberia, A case study,' Feb. 23

Thomas H. Bornemann, director of the mental health program for The Carter Center, will give the lecture from 5-6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 2, Foege Auditorium, 060, UW Genome Science Building. Bornemann has spent his entire career in public mental health working in all aspects including clinical practice, research, research management, policy development and administration at the national level, including as senior adviser for mental health for the World Health Organization.


Rising Stars career development program application deadline Feb. 2

Rising Stars is a faculty career-development program that provides promising early-stage investigators from the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho) region with a high-quality, targeted and structured career development package for two years. The package includes components such as research funding up to $15,000, mentoring, peer-to-peer networking and review services. For more information about applying, see the Institute for Translational Health Services site.

Pilot funding for projects on prostate cancer research, March 2

The Pacific Northwest Prostate Cancer SPORE is a group of four prominent research institutions working together toward a common goal of eradicating prostate cancer. Funding priority will be given to proposals that are multidisciplinary, likely to lead to submission of grant applications for independently funded investigations and have translational potential. For more information, please see the website.

Continuing Medical Education

Visit Continuing Medical Education for information on upcoming classes.

In the News

  • Medicaid rates fall for some providers, Vancouver-Columbian, Jan. 16, 2015
    Unless state legislatures decide to extend enhanced rates, providers will continue to be paid less to care for Medicaid clients than they are for Medicare and commercial insurance patients. UW research is cited. 

  • The talking cure, New Yorker, Jan. 12, 2015
    The poorer parents are, the less they talk with their children. The mayor of Providence is trying to close the "word gap." Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, is quoted. 
  • Education, mental health among upcoming budget challenges in Olympia, Spokesman Review, Jan. 11, 2015
    The Spokesman-Review looks at the knottiest problems that the legislature faces this year. The article notes that Gov. Inslee's budget does not include funding for either the UW or WSU proposal for medical education in Spokane. 

  •  Beethoven may have composed masterpieces to his own irregular heartbeat, Huffington Post, Jan. 11, 2015
    The unusual rhythms found in some of Beethoven's most iconic works may be linked to the heart condition cardiac arrhythmia, which he is suspected to have had, research from the University of Michigan and University of Washington suggests.
  • Experimental MS treatment halts disease in its tracks, Seattle Times, Jan. 11, 2015
    A promising clinical trial has found high-dose immune-suppressing drugs and stem-cell transplants may stop the progress of the disease in those who've failed usual care. George Georges, associate professor of medicine, comments. 

  • UW met enrollment goal, Spokesman Review, Jan. 10, 2015
    In a letter to the editor, Suzanne Allen, vice dean for regional affairs for the School of Medicine, clears up some misconceptions in a Spokesman-Review Dec. 28 editorial "WSU medical school makes sense." 

  • From vertigo to tinnitus, ear ailments are new focus for drugs, New York Times, Jan. 9, 2015
    A growing cadre of startups is pursuing drugs for the ear, an organ once largely neglected by the pharmaceutical industry. Edwin Rubel, professor of otolaryngology and cofounder of a start-up called Oricula Therapeutics, is quoted. 

  • Is arrhythmia at the heart of Beethoven's music? Los Angeles Times, Jan. 8, 2015
    A study on the music of Beethoven treats shifting rhythms as a sort of musical electrocardiogram. Where most merely hear greatness, they hear cardiac arrhythmia. Zachary Goldberger, acting assistant professor of medicine and paper co-author, is quoted.