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May 14, 2010

Table of contents

Message from Paul Ramsey

Seattle celebrates Nobel laureates' achievements

Dear Colleagues: 

A dinner coordinated by the Consulate of Sweden in Seattle last week honored six Nobel laureates based at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Those recognized were Hans G. Dehmelt, E. Donnall Thomas, Edwin G. Krebs, Edmond H. Fischer, Leland H. Hartwell, and Linda B. Buck. Of these six individuals, five are or were faculty in the University of Washington School of Medicine. I would like to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our colleagues who have had worldwide impact through their medical discoveries.

E. Donnall Thomas, UW professor emeritus of medicine and director emeritus of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson, was awarded the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, with Joseph E. Murray of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, for discoveries concerning organ and cell transplantation for treatment of human disease. Thomas was working with Murray when they performed the first successful human organ transplant. This stimulated Thomas to consider the possibility of bone marrow transplant for leukemia. In 1956, Thomas was the first to show that marrow could be safely infused into a human patient. Later, he was the first to treat acute leukemia patients with marrow transplantation.

Edmond Fischer and Edwin Krebs shared the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. They were honored for their groundbreaking discovery that an enzyme that helps to liberate energy in muscle cells was activated by a chemical reaction with phosphate and de-activated by its removal. It is now widely known that phosphorylation/de-phosphorylation governs the function of proteins for relaxing and contracting muscles, for many aspects of cell metabolism, for release and reception of hormone and nerve signals, for learning and memory, for cell shape, motility and division, and for transcription of genetic information and the manufacture of proteins. Fischer, UW professor emeritus of biochemistry, recently celebrated his 90th birthday; a symposium was held in his honor and in memory of Edwin Krebs. Krebs, who was UW professor of pharmacology and led that department for many years, died in December 2009.

Leland Hartwell, president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and UW professor of genome sciences, shared the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Paul Nurse and Timothy Hunt, both of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London. The three were honored for their discoveries of key regulators of the cell cycle. Hartwell discovered the universal mechanism that controls cell division in nucleated organisms. Using yeast as a model organism, he was among the first to harness the tools of genetics to study how cells function, in this case to determine which genes cause cells to divide.

Linda Buck, who is a member of the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson and a UW affiliate professor of physiology and biophysics, received the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with Richard Axel. The two were honored for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system. Buck studies how odor molecules in the environment are detected by specialized receptors in the nose and then are translated by the brain into specific smells. Her research has provided important insights into the mechanisms underlying the sense of smell.

These individuals have been recognized worldwide for their remarkable achievements and impact on the face of medicine and science. Each has exemplified creativity, collaboration and exceptional dedication. It is a great honor to have had each of them as part of our community of scientists.


Signature of Paul G. Ramsey


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




Mary-Claire King awarded Dawson Prize in Genetics 

Mary-Claire King

Mary-Claire King, the American Cancer Society Research Professor at the UW School of Medicine and renowned geneticist, has received the 2010 Trinity College Dublin Dawson Prize in Genetics. She was presented with the award by the college’s Smurfit Institute of Genetics after she gave a public lecture on Genetics and Breast Cancer: Progress in Personalised Medicine last month.

During her address, King discussed how genetics can help in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and how the latest discoveries in genetics have led to the development of personalized medicine in which drugs and therapies are more carefully chosen for each patient.

King was the first to locate a gene associated with hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1).  Her finding led to a better understanding of breast cancer. In addition to King’s breast cancer research, she is responsible for significant findings in molecular evolutionary biology and has provided evidence of a 99 percent genetic link between chimpanzees and man. She has also worked with the United Nations using DNA evidence to identify victims of war crimes in various parts of the world, including Central and Southern America, Rwanda, the Balkans and the Philippines. Her research demonstrated how genetic technology can directly benefit humanity through disease prediction and treatment, and illumination of human evolution and early history.

King has served on the behalf of various government panels and private organizations, including the National Cancer Institute’s Breast Cancer Task Force, the United Nations War Tribunal, UN Forensic Anthropology Team and Amnesty International. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and has received numerous other awards for her works in genetics and for promoting the participation of women in science.

The Dawson Prize in Genetics was established by a gift from George Dawson, the late founder of the Trinity College Dublin Department of Genetics. The prize can be awarded every two years to a geneticist of international prominence.

Alfred Berg receives Curtis Hames Award for Research 

Alfred O. Berg, UW professor and immediate past chair of the Department of Family Medicine, received the Curtis Hames Award for Research at the recent meeting of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine in Vancouver, B.C. This is the highest research recognition in family medicine, awarded jointly by the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the North American Primary Care Research Group. 

The award is named after the late Curtis G. Hames, a family physician and a pioneer in the epidemiologic study of heart disease and stroke whose studies of Evans County residents attracted international attention from the scientific community and nearly 40 years of funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Berg was honored for his research in clinical epidemiology and for his work with evidence-based consensus panels. He has chaired such groups for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and the Institute of Medicine.  He helped develop standards for systematic reviews and for writing clinical practice guidelines while serving on and chairing the United States Preventive Services Task Force for over 12 years. He currently chairs a committee on genetic testing for the Centers for Disease Control, and an Institute of Medicine committee setting standards for the conduct of systematic reviews.



Clinical Care

Pain Medicine garners APS Center of Excellence Award

The UW Division of Pain Medicine in the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine has received the 2010 American Pain Society’s (APS) Center of Excellence Award, the most prestigious award in pain medicine. The award was presented at the 2010 APS Annual Conference in Baltimore last week.

The annual award recognizes pain-care teams that provide exemplary care for people with chronic pain disorders, acute pain after surgery or trauma, and in palliative care settings for pain from cancer and other terminal conditions.

The APS award honors the Division of Pain Medicine’s excellence in the following areas:

• Patient-centered, state-of-the-art, evidence-based and safe care
• Appropriate multidisciplinary and multimodal care
• Pain management in systems of care that relate to the program
• Innovation and serving as a model of excellence in structure, processes and outcomes that are critical for excellence in pain management
• Collaboration with health-care organizations, providers and the community to improve the quality of pain management across the continuum of care
• Commitment to advancing and applying current scientific knowledge related to pain and disseminating relevant information to patients, colleagues and the public

Alex Cahana, chief of UW Pain Medicine, said the award underscores the division’s excellence as well as leadership.

“This award not only confirms our excellence in care, research, education and patient advocacy, but also recognizes that in these days of reform and uncertainty, we are the leaders,” Cahana said. “UW Pain Medicine is not only a place doing the right things, but also is the place showing everyone else how to do things right.”

The UW Division of Pain Medicine is dedicated to predicting, diagnosing and preventing pain from becoming a disabling disease. Clinicians evaluate risks of developing chronic pain after injury, surgery and disease; and use precise diagnostic technology to permit target-specific treatment while identifying obstacles to recovery.  Clinicians also promote patient education and patient advocacy.

In March, Cahana and the division were instrumental in the passage of House Bill 2876. The legislation that was signed into law by Gov. Chris Gregoire, strikes a balance between providing lawful access to pain care and battling public health challenges related to prescription drug abuse.

The UW Division of Pain Medicine provides inpatient and outpatient services at UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle Children’s, VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, and the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Thanks to a generous gift from the Millennium Laboratories Inc., the Division recently opened the Center for Pain Research on Impact, Measurement and Effectiveness (C-PRIME) that will lead the implementation of the National Pain Registry (C-PAIN™).

Emergency medical services save lives when minutes count

The American Heart Association estimates that more than 95 percent of cardiac arrest victims die before reaching the hospital. Fortunately, survival rates improve when early cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and rapid defibrillation are provided in combination with advanced pre-hospital medical care.

For more than 40 years, Seattle and King County have been home to a pioneering system for delivering emergency medical services. The system got its start when Leonard Cobb, UW professor of cardiology, and the late Seattle Fire Chief Gordon Vickery established the Seattle Medic One program at Harborview in the late 1960s.

Early milestones included the training of the first class of firefighters as paramedics (1970) and the first mass training of citizens in CPR (1972). Called Medic 2, this effort was organized by Cobb and provided instruction to more than 100,000 people during its first two years. In 1974, these programs gained national prominence when a correspondent on CBS’ “60 Minutes” famously stated, “If you have to have a heart attack, have it in Seattle.”

Today, King County continues to set the standard for paramedic training and pre-hospital emergency care in the United States and worldwide. Its 1.8 million residents are served by a network of dispatch centers, paramedic providers (Bellevue Medic One, Redmond Medic One, Seattle Medic One, Shoreline Medic One, South King County Medic One and Vashon Medic One), fire departments and hospitals that provide a continuum of care for people in need of emergency medical services.

The county has more than 280 certified paramedics, who learn lifesaving skills directly from UW School of Medicine physicians at Harborview. In 2007, Seattle and King County firefighters and paramedics responded to more than 172,000 emergency medical calls, including 51,000 that required advanced life support treatment by paramedics.

Community-based programs have been established to educate residents about the “Chain of Survival” for cardiac arrest: early 9-1-1 access, early CPR and early defibrillation. These programs can help save a family member by teaching how to give CPR and how to use an automatic external defibrillator. They also provide information on recognizing medical emergencies, calling 9-1-1 for medical assistance, injury prevention, health education and disaster preparation. Visit King County’s community-based programs for more information.

Emergency Medical Services Week will be observed May 16–22 to show appreciation for the lifesaving work of paramedics and emergency medical technicians and to promote public education and safety programs.

This article was adapted from an article published by the Journal Media Group. It was written by Steve Butler, UW Health Sciences/UW Medicine News, Community Relations & Marketing, www.uwmedicine.org.


Education and Training

John Clark to lead Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairs

John Clark

John I. Clark, UW professor and chair of biological structure, has been selected as the President Elect of the Association of Anatomy, Cell Biology, and Neurobiology Chairs (AACBNC).  He will begin his term in January 2011. Clark was appointed chair of biological structure in 2004.

After receiving a doctoral degree in biological structure from the UW in 1974, Clark was a postdoctoral fellow in anatomy at the Harvard Medical School and in chemistry at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He was appointed assistant professor in the Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) and held faculty appointments in the Department of Anatomy at Harvard Medical School, and the Department of Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before returning to join the UW Biological Structure faculty in 1982. 

Clark was a visiting scientist at the Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Universite Paris SUD, Orsay, France and in Ciba-Geigy GmbH, Basel, Switzerland. While in the HST program he received research awards from the Whittaker Foundation and the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association Foundation for his work on the regulation of cytoplasmic phase transitions in lens cell transparency.

The Clark laboratory studies the development of lens cell transparency, a fundamental problem in cell biology that is determined by unique structural, molecular, and biophysical constraints of the optics of the visual system and the physical properties of light.


Sharon Dobie to receive Sterling Munro Public Service Teaching Award  Sharon Dobie

Sharon Dobie, UW professor of family medicine, will receive the 2010 Sterling Munro Public Service Teaching Award for exceptional dedication to students and community.

The Sterling Munro Award recognizes a faculty member who has demonstrated exemplary leadership in community-based instruction, including service learning, public service internships and community partnership projects. Dobie has been a leader in such initiatives as the Community Health Advancement Program and the Underserved Pathway in the School of Medicine.

The Community Health Advancement Program (CHAP) sponsors student-initiated and directed, extracurricular community direct service projects, educational programs and a seminar series addressing the health needs of underserved communities (those who experience barriers in accessing quality health care because of such factors as ethnicity, gender, disability, socioeconomic status and life circumstances).

The Underserved Pathway prepares future health-care professionals to work with a variety of underserved populations by providing a foundation of a knowledge base and real-world experiences.

Dobie will receive an honorarium of $5,000.  The award will be presented at the Awards for Excellence (formerly the Recognition Ceremony) on Thursday, June 10, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., in Meany Hall Auditorium. A reception will follow immediately in the lobby. The event is free and open to the public.

The awards have been presented to outstanding members of the UW community for their performance in teaching, mentoring, librarianship, public service and staff support for 40 years.


Brian Kobilka to give the Edwin G. Krebs Lecture, May 25  

Brian Kobilka, professor of medicine and molecular and cellular physiology at Stanford University School of Medicine, will present the 23rd annual Edwin G. Krebs Lecture in Molecular Pharmacology at 4 p.m., Tuesday, May 25, in T-625, Health Sciences Center. The title of the lecture is Structural Insights into the Dynamic Process of G Protein Coupled Receptor Activation. A reception will follow.

Kobilka is a leader in studies of the beta-adrenergic receptor signaling pathway. As a research fellow with Robert Lefkowitz at Duke University, Kobilka cloned the gene for the beta-adrenergic receptor and determined its primary structure. This was a major advance for molecular pharmacology, as it gave the first view of the structure of a G protein-coupled receptor for hormones and neurotransmitters.

In his laboratory at Stanford, Kobilka has studied the cell biology of the beta-adrenergic receptor, including its biosynthesis, desensitization, and internalization, and he has analyzed the physiological and pathophysiological effects of deletion of the genes for beta-adrenergic and alpha-adrenergic receptors in mice. He made a major effort to develop novel methods to express, purify, and stabilize beta-adrenergic receptors in order to determine their structure by X-ray crystallography. He achieved a dramatic breakthrough in these studies with determination of the three-dimensional structure of the beta-adrenergic receptor at high resolution in 2007. His structures reveal new details of ligand binding and receptor function at atomic resolution and provide a molecular template for future analysis of this crucial family of signaling proteins.

Kobilka has served as a member of the editorial boards of Molecular Pharmacology and the Journal of Biological Chemistry and as associate editor of Molecular Pharmacology. His research has been recognized with numerous awards including the John Jacob Abel Award and the Julius Axelrod Award of the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

Kobilka earned his medical degree at Yale University School of Medicine and served as an intern at Barnes Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. He has been on faculty at Stanford since 2000.


Upcoming Events

Visiting Professor Valerie Rusch to give Cardiothoracic Surgery lecture, May 14

Creating the 21st Century Thoracic Surgeon by Valerie W. Rusch, chief of thoracic surgery and the William G. Cahan Chair of Surgery, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, 3:30 p.m., Friday, May 14, Health Sciences Center, K-069. A reception will follow. Rusch is Cardiothoracic Surgery’s 19th annual visiting professor and will also be involved in teaching rounds with residents and research presentations. Contact Georgia Barroso at georgie@u.washington.edu  or 206.543.3093 for more information.

Washington Global Health Alliance Discovery Series Lecture, May 19

Male Circumcision for HIV Prevention: Science and Policy by Stephen Moses, professor, Department of Community Health Services, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, 6 p.m., Wednesday, May 19, Hogness Auditorium, A-420 Health Sciences Center. Reception follows. For more information, contact the Global Health Resource Center at ghrc@u.washington.edu or 206.685.7362.

Pathology Presents lecture on treatable blindness, May 26

Window of Opportunity: Artificial Cornea Development for Treatable Blindness Worldwide by Tueng T. Shen, associate professor, UW Medicine Eye Institute, 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 26, K-069 Health Sciences Center. Treatable blindness, such as cataract and corneal blindness, are a significant burden on developing countries that lack the technology to apply the most common treatments. The recent development of artificial corneas and drug delivery systems are possible solutions. Contact Steve Berard at 206.543.1140 for more information. Or visit www.pathology.washington.edu.


In the News

UW Medicine magazine now available online

The latest issue of UW Medicine magazine is now available online and in print. The biannual magazine for UW Medicine alumni and friends includes features about the doctor shortage, genomic medicine, and MEDEX care in the WWAMI region, as well as the annual Report to Donors.  

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