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February 1, 2016 issue

Elizabeth Swisher, UW professor of obstetrics and gynecology, talks to KOMO-TV ABC 4 on why now is an exciting time for ending cancer.
February 1, 2016 issue


and much more...

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



Fond farewell to Johnese Spisso: Her imprint on UW Medicine is permanent

Dear Colleagues,

Johnese Spisso has been a valued leader and colleague at UW Medicine for the past 22 years.  On February 4, we will say goodbye to Johnese as she moves to UCLA on February 8 to serve as president of UCLA Health, CEO of UCLA Hospital System, and associate vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences.  This is a remarkable opportunity and Johnese is very well-qualified for this role.

Johnese Spisso was named Outstanding Health Care Executive by Seattle Magazine in 2014. (Photo by Hayley Young.)

It is impossible to describe in a brief message Johnese’ s many accomplishments at UW Medicine. She began at Harborview Medical Center in 1994 as assistant administrator for Patient Care Services, quickly rising to chief nursing officer and associate administrator for Patient Care Services and then, from 2000-2007, chief operating officer of Harborview. She also served twice as acting executive director of Harborview. In her work, Johnese demonstrated her characteristic passion for ensuring the best possible care for all patients combined with a remarkable ability to advance the operations of Harborview through process improvements and a focus on effective, efficient and high-value care.

While based at Harborview, Johnese played a key leadership role in establishing and implementing the Washington State Trauma System. This involved working with 75 regional hospitals, the Washington State Legislature, the Department of Health and many other agencies, organizations and individuals. The result is an outstanding state trauma program that is an exemplar for the nation and world.

In 2007, I asked Johnese to serve as chief health system officer for UW Medicine and vice president for medical affairs. In that capacity, she assumed leadership for UW Medicine’s hospitals and clinics. Her leadership in that role resulted in multiple major accomplishments, including playing a central role in the following:

  • Leading the oversight committee for the ongoing UW Medicine Strategic Plan;
  • Launching, refining and providing model leadership for UW Medicine’s patient-centered care approaches that are designed to place patients first;
  • Integration of Northwest Hospital & Medical Center and Valley Medical Center into UW Medicine;
  • Addition of UW Neighborhood Clinics at Ravenna, Northgate, Ballard, Olympia and Arlington;
  • Launching other clinical facilities, including the UW Medicine Maternal-Fetal Medicine Clinic at Yakima Memorial Hospital and in Arlington, the Sports Medicine Center at Husky Stadium, the UW Medicine Eastside Specialty Center and the Memory and Brain Wellness Center at Harborview;
  • Initiation of the UW Medicine Board Patient Safety and Quality Committee;
  • Operational oversight of the UW Medicine IT system;
  • Continuous focus on implementing system-wide process improvements at UW Medicine’s hospitals and clinics.

Johnese has been widely recognized for her accomplishments; most recently, she received the King County Healthcare Coalition Excellent in Leadership Award in 2013 and the Outstanding Healthcare Executive Award from Seattle Business Magazine in 2014.

While it is difficult to say goodbye to Johnese, her imprint on UW Medicine is permanent.  Please join me in thanking Johnese and wishing her the very best in her new leadership role!


PGRamsey Signature2

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

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Center for Mendelian Genomics enters next phase

Center for Mendelian Genomics at UW Medicine was founded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The Center for Mendelian Genomics at UW Medicine will receive four more years of federal funding – up to $12 million – to systematically identify the genomic causes of rare, inherited disorders that tend to be caused by mutations in a single gene. The center, run in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, was founded in 2011 with funding from the National Human Genome Research Institute. The principal investigators are Deborah Nickerson, UW professor of genome sciences, Michael Bamshad, UW professor of pediatrics, and Suzanne Leal, Baylor professor of molecular and human genetics.
Several thousand Mendelian disorders are known (i.e. Huntington’s disease, cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy) and many more remain to be recognized. See coverage on HSNewsBeat.

Looking for cancer in free-floating DNA

Jay Shendure, a geneticist at UW Medicine. (Photo courtesy of SystemsBio.)

UW Medicine‬ research, featured recently in The New York Times, suggests that a blood test using cell-free DNA might be able to test for cancer in the future rather than the need to use invasive biopsies. In a study published in the journal Cell, Jay Shendure, UW professor of genome sciences, and his colleagues took some important steps toward identifying the origins of free-floating DNA, which could allow doctors to know where in the body the DNA originated. See coverage in The New York Times, HS NewsBeat. 

More research stories involving UW Medicine:

  • Study tells of cancer patient’s unprecedented level of care, HSNewsBeat, Jan. 25, 2016
    32 researchers at 14 institutions joined to identify personalized treatment options for woman with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer
  • Mitochondrial troublemakers unmasked in lupus, HSNewsBeat, Jan. 21, 2016
    Drivers of autoimmune disease inflammation discovered in the traps of pathogen-capturing white blood cells. The research team was jointly led by Keith B. Elkon, UW professor of medicine and head of the Division of Rheumatology, and Mariana J. Kaplan, chief of the Systemic Autoimmunity Branch of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
  • Veterans of Iraq, Afghanistan show brain changes related to explosion exposure, Scientific American, Jan. 14, 2016
    Researchers at the UW pinpointed the cerebellum as particularly vulnerable to blast injury after studying combat veterans. David Cook, associate professor of pharmacology, and Elaine Peskin, professor of psychiatry, at the UW are featured. Also coverage in Tech Times, and KIRO Radio.

Clinical Bar

Depression recommendations revised

New guidelines emphasize importance of screening for prenatal and postpartum women. (Photo by Stefan Pasch Creative Commons.)

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force continues to recommend screening all adults for depression. Its latest recommendations released Jan. 26, specifically mention the importance of depression screening for prenatal and postpartum women. They also say screening should be implemented with adequate systems in place to ensure accurate diagnosis, effective treatment, and appropriate follow-up. William Phillips, UW endowed professor of family medicine, and David Grossman, Group Health Permanent physician and UW professor of health services, were two of the 16 members on the Task Force.  The report, including recommendations, evidence, patient information, and an editorial, were published in JAMA. Related news coverage: NPR, New York Times, TIME.

Now there’s an app for that

Dr. Heather Evans

Heather Evans, UW associate professor of surgery, led development of a web application that enables patients to share photos, symptoms and concerns about post-operative infections directly with healthcare providers over a mobile phone or computer. The application, mPOWEr, stands for Mobile Post-Operative Wound Evaluator. With the app, providers can securely monitor patients’ wounds and communicate directly. See coverage on HSNewsBeat.

In remembrance of Dr. Douglas Green

Douglas Green, a UW Medicine radiologist, died recently in an avalanche while skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon, Utah. He was 49. Green co-directed the body CT team at UW Medical Center. Norm Beauchamp, UW chair of radiology said there is not a more caring person in the world. "His genuiness, selflessness, and unmatched devotion to teaching and patients serves as an inspiration to all." Our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues. For more information, see article in HSNewsBeat, which links to first-person story of a friend's final ski outing with Dr. Green.


More clinical stories involving UW Medicine:

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'This plane is flying' – new curriculum hits milestone

First-year medical students learning how to perform vitals on their first day of instruction in Spokane-WWAMI. (Photo by Clare McLean/UW Medicine.)

The new UW School of Medicine curriculum hit a major milestone in December with the completion of Term 1. Over three months,  246 UW first-year medical students at regional sites in Seattle, Spokane, Laramie Wyo., Anchorage Alaska, Bozeman Mont., and Moscow, Idaho, completed an intensive multi-week clinical immersion and orientation followed by two blocked courses and a longitudinal course:  Molecular and Cellular Basis of Disease, Invaders and Defenders and Foundations of Clinical Medicine.

In a recent debriefing with about 90 faculty involved in developing and teaching the curriculum from across the WWAMI region, the mood was upbeat.  One faculty member smiled and declared, “This plane is flying!” For more on the story, click here.

Related education stories:

  • Diversity training helps docs provide culturally aware care, HSNewsBeat, Jan. 19, 2016
    A UW-led study, surveying 253 surgeons from six hospitals in Washington’s Puget Sound region, found that diversity training was the most important contributor to improving oncology surgeons’ ability to provide “culturally congruent” patient care. The study was published Jan. 15 in the Journal of Oncology Practice. Lead author was Ardith Doorenbos, UW professor of nursing.


Alaska's first TRUST student: Monica Cox

Monica Cox

Monica Cox, a UW medical student talks about why she decided to become a physician and what attracted her to the WWAMI program:

While completing my undergraduate degree at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I worked full-time as an emergency department scribe at Providence Alaska Medical Center. There, I found inspiration to become a physician and received my first introduction to the healthcare challenges we face in the state of Alaska.  Since so many patients were being transferred to our ER from rural communities around the state, I found myself interested in learning more about medical care in access limited areas.

I chose to apply to the WWAMI program because of the small class size, opportunity to learn medicine in my hometown, and the encouragement to return and practice in Alaska – which is my ultimate goal.  For the first time last year, the AK WWAMI program allowed applicants to apply to the TRUST (Targeted Rural Underserved Track) program. I found the prospect of rural community involvement in my home state to fit my goals as a future physician, and I was ecstatic to apply.

I was assigned to work in Ketchikan and Craig in southeast Alaska and immediately found comfort in the community. I  was impressed by the critical access hospital, PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center.  My preceptors, Dr. Andrew Sanders, Dr. Peter Rice, and Dr. Patrick Ballard, welcomed me into their practice and I quickly found myself learning how to interview patients and help with examinations.  This unique opportunity to have a hands on experience even before officially starting medical school has not only improved my confidence, but has helped to develop my clinical skills.

Since starting the TRUST program, I have come to better understand and appreciate the unique challenges Alaskans face when it comes to healthcare access.  The opportunity to integrate continuity into my medical education is proving to be an incredible blessing, and I am excited to see what I will learn next.


People Bar

Brit flourishes in UW Medicine residency

Ashwin Soni, right, gets a fist bump from UW Medicine surgical colleague Roni Prucz. (Photo by Emily RasinksiUW Medicine.)

Ashwin Soni, a UW Medicine resident from the United Kingdom, known for his pocket squares, persistence and surgical skills, talks about why he took the unusual to study in the United States rather than the UK.  While all his classmates were getting jobs in medicine, Soni moved back home, volunteered at a hospice and looked for research jobs in the United States. After two year-long stints at other hospitals, he was one of 10 people interviewed for a six-year plastic surgery resident spot at UW.

When he was accepted, Soni said it was one of the best days of his life. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so emotional, but I had to control myself on the phone. We are quite proper in the UK and I didn’t want my future boss to think he’d hired a lunatic.” Soni said you can’t match the experience at UW, which covers the entire Northwest. See story on HSNewsBeat.


Awards Bar

UW Medicine researchers among most influential scientific minds

IHME Director Christopher Murray listed as one of the nation's hottest scientists. (Photo by Erika Schultz/The Seattle Times.)

UW is among the top 20 institutions internationally in cited research, according to a report released by ThompsonReuters Jan. 14. The company compiled this year’s most influential researchers by analyzing citation data from 2003-2013. ThompsonReuters also identified “hot researchers,” authors of papers published between 2013 and 2014 that were immediately cited at extraordinarily high levels.

Of the 19 scientists named as the world’s hottest researchers of today, four are from the UW Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME): Christopher J. Murray, director of IHME and UW professor of global health; Alan D. Lopez, UW affiliate associate professor of global health and University of Melbourne, Australia, associate professor; Theo Vos, professor of global health and Mohsen Naghavi, professor of global health. For more on the story and who was selected as leaders in their field, see coverage on HSNewsBeat.

Congratulations to MLK awardees

UW SACNAS members (from left to right) Daniel Chee, Monica Sanchez, Zoi Sychev and Joe Camacho. (Photo by Andrew Tat for UW Daily.)

At the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., celebration among UW Health Sciences schools January 13, several people and groups were honored for carrying the ideals of the slain civil rights leader. UW Medicine awardees were the UW chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) and Nancy Dolan, a program support advisor for the UW Medical Center.

SACNAS received a Community Volunteer Recognition Award. Founded in 2009 ago with only five initial members, UW’s SACNAS chapter has grown rapidly, winning high-ranking awards, advancing the careers of its members upon graduating, and holding the national SACNAS conference in 2012. (See more about SACNAS in the UW Daily).

Vivian O. Lee, a retired nurse and 1958 graduate of the UW School of Nursing, received the top honor during the celebration, the Distinguished Service Award.

Events Bar

  • Zika: Should you be alarmed? Center for Infectious Disease Research, Feb. 2,  2016 (12-1 p.m.)
    The Center for Infectious Disease Research will host a public forum to learn more about the Zika virus from a panel of infectious disease and public health experts.Speakers: Jeffrey Duchin, UW professor of medicine in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Disease and Health Officer at Public Health- Seattle & King County, where he serves as Seattle and King County’s chief epidemiologist; Marilyn Parsons, UW affiliate professor of global health and author of article (Jan. 26, 2016) in TIME, We’ve neglected diseases like the Zika virus for too long;” and Ashley Vaughan, principal scientist for the Center for Infectious Disease Research. The seminar is being held at 301 Westlake Avenue. For more information, see the Center for Infectious Disease Research website.

  • There's still time register for UW Medicine's Mini Medical School
    UW Medicine’s popular Mini-Medical School runs this year 7-9 p.m.on Tuesdays from  Feb. 2-March 8, and is filling fast. The free sessions give a quick, but in-depth look behind some of the important medical issues of the day. For the first session on Feb 2, Renato Martins, UW professor of medicine (oncology) will be joined by Douglas Wood, acting chair and professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, to discuss current tools and resources available to physicians and patients to develop comprehensive cancer treatment plans. For more information, see the Mini-Med website.

  • What really happens at an NIH study review, SLU, Feb. 4, 2016 (3-4 p.m.)
    Institute of Translational Health Sciences presents a career development event. Dr. Paul Martin will leverage his experience as a seasoned National Institutes of Health grant reviewer, including his tenure as chair of the Cancer Immunopathology and Immunotherapy Study Section, to provide insight into the workings of NIH study sections. RSVP here. 

  • Diabetes Research Center seeks applications for research awards and graduate fellowships, (Deadline Feb. 16, 2016.)
    The UW Diabetes Research Center is soliciting applications for the Pilot & Feasibility Research Awards and Stroum Graduate Fellowship Awards. The required forms are available at their website. Letters of Intent and reviewer nomination forms are due by Jan. 4, 2016. The deadline for applications is Feb. 16.

  • Science in Medicine Lecture Series, Health Science Building K-069 Feb. 18, 2016 (11 a.m. - noon)
    Nancy Maizels, UW professor of biochemistry and immunology, will give the talk,  “Targeting gene therapy to DNA nicks.” For more on the lecture, view the Science in Medicine website.

  • Science in Medicine Lecture Series, Health Science Building K-069 Feb. 25, 2016 (11 a.m. - noon)
    Colin Studholme, UW professor of pediatrics and bioengineering, will give the talk,  “Mapping living human brain structure and function before birth.” For more on the lecture, view the Science in Medicine website.

  • 2016 Northwest Regional Conference on African Immigrant Health, UW, March 19-20, 2016
    The theme of the 2016 conference is "Addressing the Social Determinants of African Immigrant Health.” Hosted by U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Regional Operations and Office of Minority Health, Region X and EthnoMed, a joint program of Harborview Medical Center and the UW Health Sciences Library.  To register and for more information.

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

  • Suicide prevention education day, KOMO-TV ABC 4, Jan. 25, 2016
    Forefront, a suicide prevention group based at the UW, placed 1,111 mock tombstones on the lawn of the capitol building in Olympia to represent the people that took their lives in 2014. Also coverage on KIRO-TV CBS 7. 

  • Kids embracing healthy lunches, Q 13 Fox News This Morning, Jan. 18, 2016
    School lunches are making kids healthier. In 2010 the federal government overhauled school lunch requirements. A new study from the UW shows the new policy is helping the kids get proper nutrition.

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