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August 23, 2013

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Message from Paul Ramsey

Paul G. Ramsey

UW School Medicine submits 2013 progress report to Washington State Medical Association 

Dear Colleagues:

Each year, I have the pleasure of preparing a summary report for the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) about the past year’s activities in the UW School of Medicine. The attached report for 2012-13 was recently submitted to the WSMA and summarizes the many advances made in our teaching, research and patient care settings. It also highlights the vital role that the WSMA and its members play in advancing health for the state and in helping the UW Medicine community to achieve our mission of improving health. 

The WSMA and its members play an essential role in multiple areas. These include their outstanding work with the legislature to advance healthcare initiatives and priorities; their essential role in teaching and role-modeling for our medical students, residents and other health professions students in their practices; their leadership, partnership and collaboration on countless health projects, initiatives and policies; and a large number of other vital functions that are critical to the health of our state and nation. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Washington State Medical Association for its many contributions to improving health for our citizens and for being an outstanding, valued partner in our work together.


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




UW researchers report on genome of aggressive cervical cancer that killed Henrietta Lacks

 Henrietta and David Lacks

David and Henrietta Lacks

A team from the University of Washington has unveiled a comprehensive portrait of the genome of the world’s first immortal cell line, known as HeLa. The cell line was derived in 1951 from an aggressive cervical cancer that killed Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African-American tobacco farmer and mother of five — the subject of the 2010 New York Times best-seller, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” They will also be the first group to publish under a new National Institutes of Health policy for HeLa genomic data, established through discussions with Lacks’ family.

The Lacks’ family has never been compensated for the use of the cells that created a multimillion-dollar industry. And they had never had a say in how the information is used — until now.

“The generated whole-genome sequence of the HeLa cell line is a valuable resource that may lead to new biomedical insights based on research that use these cells,” said Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute within the NIH. “We are grateful to the Lacks’ family for agreeing to a framework that makes these valuable data available to researchers.”

The UW study, published in the Aug. 8 issue of Nature, pieced together the complicated insertion of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, genome, which contains its own set of cancer genes, into Lacks’ genome near an “oncogene,” a naturally occurring gene that can cause cancer when altered. The researchers showed that the proximity of the scrambled HPV genome and the oncogene resulted in its activation, potentially explaining the aggressiveness of both Lacks’ cancer and the HeLa cell line.

“This was in a sense a perfect storm of what can go wrong in a cell,” said Andrew Adey, a graduate student in genome sciences at UW and a co-first author on the study. “The HPV virus inserted into her genome in what might be the worst possible way.”

Scientists had long tried to reproduce cells in a culture, but they eventually died. However, the HeLa cells, taken from Lacks in 1951, reproduced an entire generation every 24 hours and never stopped.

HeLa cells have since been named in nearly 76,000 PubMed abstracts and are considered one of the biggest medical miracles in the last century. The cells allowed scientists to perform experiments without using a living human and led to major medical breakthroughs, including the polio vaccine, cloning and helping develop drugs for treating major illnesses such as herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia and Parkinson’s disease.

Read more in UW Today.   

Photo: Courtesy of the Lacks Family/Wikimedia Commons.

Dementia risk linked to blood sugar level, even with no diabetes

Paul Crane
Paul Crane

A joint Group Health–University of Washington study published  in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that higher blood sugar levels are associated with higher dementia risk, even among people who do not have diabetes.

Blood sugar levels averaged over a five-year period were associated with rising risks for developing dementia, in this report of more than 2,000 Group Health patients age 65 and older in the Adult Changes in Thought (ACT) study. The study follows adults age 65 and older to identify risk factors for cognitive decline with aging and related conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. Men and women with no cognitive impairment were randomly selected and invited to participate.

For example, in people without diabetes, risk for dementia was 18 percent higher for people with an average glucose level of 115 milligrams per deciliter compared to those with an average glucose level of 100 mg/dl. And in people with diabetes, whose blood sugar levels are generally higher, dementia risk was 40 percent higher for people with an average glucose level of 190 mg/dl compared to those with an average glucose level of 160 mg/dl.

“The most interesting finding was that every incrementally higher glucose level was associated with a higher risk of dementia in people who did not have diabetes,” said first author Paul K. Crane, UW associate professor of medicine, and affiliate investigator at Group Health Research Institute. “There was no threshold value for lower glucose values where risk leveled off.”

“One major strength of this research is that it is based on the ACT study, a longitudinal cohort study, where we follow people for many years as they lead their lives,” said senior author Eric B. Larson, a senior investigator at Group Health Research Institute who also has appointments at the UW Schools of Medicine and Public Health.

Crane emphasized that these results come from an observational study: “What we found was that people with higher levels of glucose had a higher risk of dementia, on average, than did people with lower levels of glucose,” he said. “While that is interesting and important, we have no data to suggest that people who make changes to lower their glucose improve their dementia risk. Those data would have to come from future studies with different study designs.”

More research is planned to delve into various possible mechanisms for the relationship between blood sugar and dementia. “This work is increasingly relevant,” Crane said, “because of the worldwide epidemics of dementia, obesity, and diabetes.”

Read about the study in the New England Journal of Medicine and the New York Times.   

Quarterly research funding report: April – June 2013

UW Medicine’s top research awards have been listed for April through June 2013The list draws from all awards, including those for new projects or for an additional installment to an existing project. Awards granted during January through March 2013 are also available online.



Clinical Care  

John D. Scott appointed UW Medicine Telehealth medical director

John D. Scott
John Scott

John D. Scott, UW assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been appointed medical director of UW Medicine Telehealth effective Oct. 1. In the newly created role, Scott will manage the UW Medicine telehealth program. As medical director, Scott will plan, design, monitor, direct, coordinate and evaluate the performance of UW Medicine’s telehealth programs consistent with the medical system’s strategic plan.

Scott is also UW assistant director of the Hepatitis and Liver Clinic at Harborview Medical Center. In 2009, he launched Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) in Washington state. The innovative telehealth program helps clinicians in rural and underserved areas with the evaluation and treatment of hepatitis C. It has since expanded into the areas of chronic pain, HIV/AIDS, psychiatry and addictions. 

Scott graduated with a degree in human biology from Stanford University, attended Georgetown University's School of Medicine (graduating cum laude), completed a residency in internal medicine at Stanford University Hospitals and then trained in infectious diseases at UW.

UW Medicine annual report shows passion for changing the world

2012 Report to Community
Report to Community

UW Medicine’s 2012 Report to the Community highlights a year of achievements in patient care, research and teaching. With a letter from Paul Ramsey, CEO, short articles, fast facts, and dramatic photography, the report also presents an overview of our Patients Are First strategies for becoming an accountable care organization.

The report reaches a large audience of UW Medicine employees and stakeholders, local and regional WWAMI partners, healthcare leaders, and city, county and state government officials. For online viewing, readers can scan a QR code that goes directly to a landing page on UW Medicine's website.

For more information, visit uwmedicine.org/report. This page includes links to a PDF copy and “read more” opportunities for many of the feature articles. To request print copies, please contact UW Medicine Strategic Marketing & Communications at 206.543.3620 or uwmmktg@uw.edu.




Education and Training 

J. Randall Curtis receives 2013 Sojourns Award

J. Randall Curtis
R Curtis

J. Randall Curtis, director of the UW Palliative Care Center of Excellence, professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, and holder of the A. Bruce Montgomery-American Lung Association Endowed Chair in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, has been selected to receive the 2013 Sojourns Award from Cambia Health Foundation (CHF) for his work in palliative care. The Foundation seeks to promote and recognize leaders who have an impact on the field through program innovations, clinical practice, patient and family care, policy, research, training education and advocacy.

Curtis is an internationality known physician, researcher and educator in the field of palliative care. Author of more than 200 peer-reviewed articles, over 100 editorials and editor of a textbook, Curtis’s research has led to a number of innovations in education, communications and palliative care in the ICU.

The Sojourns Award honors exemplary leaders and organizations in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington, who strive to advance the access, quality and understanding of palliative care locally and nationally. Recipients of the Sojourns Award receive a $50,000 grant to advance their work.

Cambia Health Foundation awards UW $697,106 to pilot a new interdisciplinary curriculum

The Cambia Health Foundation has awarded $697,106 to the UW to develop a collaborative Palliative Care Training Center over the next three years. The center will bring together palliative care stakeholders, including hospitals, hospices, nursing facilities and families from Washington to identify educational needs, goals, approaches and outcomes for a Palliative Care Training Center. The UW will use the funds to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum that will be implemented by expert faculty and to create a business plan that will sustain the center for the long term. Expert faculty includes two former Cambia Health Foundation Sojourns Award recipients: Anthony Back, professor of medicine in the Division of Oncology, and co-director of the Palliative Care Center of Excellence, and Darrell Owens, nurse practitioner and assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Geriatrics and Palliative Care. Owens is also director of the Outpatient Primary Palliative and Supportive Care Programs for UW Medicine. 

"The Cambia Health Foundation is committed to collaborating with other industry leaders on partnerships like this that will help prepare today's health care workforce to serve the palliative care needs of patients and their families in the future," said Peggy Maguire, president and board chair of the Cambia Health Foundation. "We are pleased to partner with a recognized leader like the University of Washington and others to realize our vision for creating an innovative palliative care training program that will last well beyond this initial pilot phase."

"I deeply appreciate Cambia Health Foundation's support and vision," said Stuart J. Farber, professor of family medicine and clinical operations chair for the UW Palliative Care Center of Excellence. "The successful implementation of the grant will have a tremendous impact on our region by providing a uniformly high standard of palliative care practice throughout the State of Washington. Our team is excited for the opportunity to collaboratively work with palliative care providers across the state to create a Palliative Care Training Center that provides cutting edge interdisciplinary education that can serve as a successful national model."

Other partners in the effort include the Washington State Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (WSHPCO), the Washington State Medical Association (WSMA) and Washington State Hospital Association.

Read more in the Puget Sound Business Journal.

Corrections to faculty promotions

The following corrections have been made to the faculty promotions list in the Aug. 9 Online News:

Sharona Gordon was promoted to professor of physiology & biophysics, not psychiatry & behavioral sciences.

Fangyi Zhang was promoted to associate professor of neurological surgery, is spelled Zhang, not Shang.

Thomas Walsh was promoted to associate professor of urology, not surgery.




WWAMI Regional News  

Wyoming WWAMI announces leadership changes and awards

The Wyoming WWAMI program has new leadership for the 2013-14 academic year.  J. Richard Hillman retired as Wyoming WWAMI assistant clinical dean. During his 12 years of service, Hillman significantly expanded clerkship opportunities in Wyoming.  Larry Kirven succeeds Hillman in the position. Kirven is a family physician in Buffalo and has been the site director for the required third-year family medicine clerkship since the clerkship started in Buffalo.

Matthew D. McEchron, the first-year director of the Wyoming WWAMI program, left that position in July to become director of scholarly projects at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.  Tim Robinson has been appointed interim first-year director. Robinson is a professor of statistics at the University of Wyoming and has been the course coordinator for medical informatics and decision making for the last several years.

In other Wyoming WWAMI news, a faculty development workshop was held for Wyoming clinical preceptors in conjunction with the Wyoming Medical Society’s annual meeting in Laramie. UW School of Medicine faculty Hugh Foy, professor of surgery and head of the Wind River College; Heidi Combs, assistant professor of psychiatry and psychiatry clerkship director; and Suzanne Allen, professor of family medicine and  vice dean for regional affairs, gave presentations on integrating students in the clinical setting, feedback and evaluation. 

Several Wyoming WWAMI students received scholarships this year. Derrek Wille, Andrew Maertens, Michael Sanderson and Jory Wasserburger received $1,000 scholarships from the Wyoming Medical Society Centennial Scholarship fund for their scholastic efforts in their first year of medical school.  As the Outstanding WWAMI Graduate of the Class of 2013, Eric Howell received a $1,500 scholarship.

Justin Hopkin, a UWSOM graduate who practices in Lander, received the Richard M. Tucker Regional Internal Medicine Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award. He has played a significant role in teaching students in the Wyoming WWAMI program.




Upcoming Events

The following events may be of interest to the UW Medicine community:    

Save the Date: Faculty Development Workshop, Teaching Interprofessional Learners, Sept. 17

Teaching Interprofessional Learners, 1:30 to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 17, Health Sciences Building, Turner Auditorium, Room D-209. Each health sciences school has new accreditation requirements for interprofessional learning and team-based care. Meet faculty from other schools to: form an enthusiastic and engaged interprofessional teaching and learning community; understand Interprofessional Education Collaborative competencies for team-based care, and identify methods and opportunities for teaching these competencies; and learn strategies for engaging diverse inter professional learners and for navigating common pitfalls, such as stereotypes, divisive humor, and very quiet students. Register online.

Presented by: Health Sciences Deans Steering Committee for Interprofessional Education, the Center for Medical Education and the Center for Health Sciences Interprofessional Education, Research and Practice. Contact Karen McDonough (kmcdonou@uw.edu) or Brenda Zierler (brendaz@uw.edu) with questions.

Colin Powell to give keynote address at Prostate Cancer Survivors Celebration Breakfast, Dec. 5 

Former U.S. Secretary of State and retired four-star U.S. Army Gen. Colin Powell will be the keynote speaker for the 2013 Prostate Cancer Survivors Celebration Breakfast, which supports the Institute for Prostate Cancer Research, a collaboration between UW Medicine and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The 2013 Prostate Cancer Survivors Celebration Breakfast will take place at the Seattle Sheraton Hotel, from 7:30 to 9 a.m., Thursday,  Dec. 5. For more information, visit the Prostate Cancer Survivors Breakfast site.

Continuing Medical Education 

Visit Continuing Medical Education for information on upcoming classes.


In the News

Medical students at UW learn practical skills with unique tools

The Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS) at the University of Washington was featured in The Seattle Times, Aug. 19. ISIS uses a variety of methods to simulate patient care encounters that allow students to practice techniques.

The State of US Health, 1990-2010

Christopher Murray, UW professor of global health and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, and collaborators published their study, The State of US Health, 1990-2010, Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors, in JAMA, Aug. 14, 2013. The study measured the burden of diseases, injuries, and leading risk factors in the United States from 1990 to 2010 and compared the measurements with those of the 34 countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

Precision medicine offers promise of personalized care

Thomas Montine, UW professor and chair of the Department of Pathology, and Wylie Burke, UW professor and chair of the Department of Bioethics & Humanities, wrote a guest column in the Aug. 12 Puget Sound Business Journal on recent scientific breakthroughs that have doctors and researchers taking a new, personalized precision medicine. They discussed the promise of personalized care to healthcare that promises improved diagnoses, treatments and disease prevention.

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