UW Medicine Online News webpage header

May 15, 2015

Table of contents

Message from Paul Ramsey

UW Prof. Randall Moon, founding director of UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, deserves special recognition

Dear Colleagues:

We have many outstanding and extremely productive faculty at UW Medicine. Even with this very high bar for excellence, Randall “Randy” Moon, professor of pharmacology, is a standout. I am delighted to inform you that Randy Moon is among this year’s inductees to the National Academy of Sciences. The NAS recently announced its annual election of new members and foreign associates in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Randy joins 34 other UW Medicine faculty who have been elected to NAS.

Randall Moon
Randall Moon

Randy, also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, is the founding director of the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Research (ISCRM), where he also holds the William and Marilyn Conner Chair.

Since the late 1980s, Randy’s research has focused on the roles of Wnt signaling in stem and progenitor cells in regenerative processes. Wnts are a family of secreted proteins that activate multiple receptor-mediated signal transduction pathways in both embryos and adults. His most recent work has yielded insights into disease mechanisms and identified new therapeutic avenues through the regeneration of nerve and heart tissue. His lab is also looking at modulating Wnt signaling in cancer as a potential therapeutic target, particularly for melanoma.

Throughout his very illustrious career, Randy has been an example and role model for researchers and trainees. He is an impeccable investigator who strives for excellence in everything he does. His work and that of his colleagues has had a significant impact. Randy is a wonderful person who shares his insights freely and widely and who cares deeply about advancing science and creating collaborative partnerships. He has been an outstanding leader of ISCRM.

Spring 2015 issue of UW Medicine magazine
Best of Both Worlds

We are very proud of Randy’s election into this prestigious group of scientists. Congratulations Randy for this well-deserved honor!

  • The spring issue of UW Medicine magazine is now online at uwmedmagazine.org. Several of the stories are highlighted below.


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


Stem cell research advances-from UW researchers

Artist's rendition of a stem cell
Stem Cell
  • Cells dying as the result of radiation exposure or chemotherapy can send a warning to nearby stem cells. The chemical signal allows the stem cells to escape the same fate, UW researchers report in the May 11 issue of Nature Communication. See story in HSNewsBeat.
  • UW Medicine’s 2014 Innovator of the Year Award winner David Russell, UW professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology, is working on a universal stem line engineered to avoid detection by the immune system. Since the body will reject cell lines it does not recognize as its own, this approach may facilitate getting therapies into the clinic. See story in UW Medicine magazine.

UW researchers using optogenetics to help diabetics

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

UW researchers, who were the first to demonstrate you can normalize blood sugar in the absence of insulin, are now using a tool called optogenetics to understand which neurons of the brain are affected by stimuli. Understanding the neurocircuitry in diabetes could make it possible to treat patients with a designer protein to permanently change its function. See story in UW Medicine magazine.

Sugar intake culprit for obesity, not lack of exercise

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study is cited in several stories of how sugar is the culprit for obesity, not lack of exercise. See stories in Forbes, Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Consumer Affairs, among others. Also, the Washington Post uses the GBD data to look at which country is the most obese (U.S. is No. 27). And the GBD study is highlighted in a CNN story by Fareed Zakaria, “What in the World: A study of death around the globe.”

For more research stories, see HSNewsBeat.

Clinical Care

UW professor and surgeon takes on politics to protect patients from lung cancer

Dr. Douglas Wood testifying before U.S. Senate. Photo courtesy of the Lung Cancer Alliance
Douglas Wood

UW Professor Douglas Wood, chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery, played a key role in getting private insurers and Medicare to cover lung cancer screenings. The cure rate of lung-cancer patients, at all stages, is currently only 16 percent, he said, but if the cancer is identified early and the tumor is small, the chance of cure rises to 70-80 percent. And patients seen in lung-cancer screening programs have an 80-85 percent chance for a cure, he said. See more on the story in HSNewsBeat.

In related news, the School of Public Health just produced a short video on a UW Tobacco Studies Program that has a goal to end the global tobacco epidemic.

New state law elevating role of pharmacists

Don Downing, in red tie at left, is among stakeholders who watched Gov. Jay Inslee sign the Washington state bill. Photo by Sarah Guthrie
Don Downing

Under legislation signed into law May 11, 2015, by Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington is the first state in the nation to require pharmacists to be included in health insurance provider networks. Pharmacists, as with nurse practitioners and physician assistants, will be compensated for the patient care they provide within their scope of practice. Studies have shown that when a pharmacist is included in a healthcare team, the patient's outcome improves. See story in HSNewsBeat.

KUOW talks with UW Prof. of Pharmacy Don Downing about the new law and why he worked for 15 years to get it passed.

Also, Grace Marx, M.D. (’10), MPH reports on working in the Ebola holding unit at Connaught Hospital in Freetown, Sierra Leone. And Greg Davis, UW assistant professor in otolaryngology, answers questions about his sinus surgery on a 425-pound gorilla. See stories in UW Medicine magazine.

Education and Training

UW School of Nursing creates tribute site for Nurses Week

School of Nursing offers tribute to nurses
Tribute to Nurses

To celebrate Nurses Week (May 6-12 in honor of Florence Nightingale’s birthday), the UW School of Nursing created a microsite featuring great photography and profiles of nurses. The site includes a heartwarming video filmed at the Pike Place Market Senior Center on their weekly “Dance Day.” Also, the School of Nursing started a hashtag, #huskynurse, and asked people to hold up signs, "Im a Husky nurse" and tweet it out or post on Instagram.The campaign received more than 40 responses in two weeks. The School of Nursing will be celebrating nurses throughout May. See more.

Students changing the world while earning their degrees

Prof. Paul Ngheim and Ph.D. student Olga Afanasiev. Photo by Clare McLean
Paul Ngheim

Olga Afanasiev, Ph.D. (’13) worked with UW researchers Profs. David Koelle and Paul Nghiem on a therapy to shrink tumors in patients with Merkel cell carcinoma, a lethal skin cancer. Afanasiev is part of UW Medicine’s Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), an eight-year educational program in which students earn both an M.D. and a Ph.D. Caitlin Milligan, another MSTP student finishing up her Ph.D., is looking at why some babies contract HIV from their mothers, but others not. See more on their story in UW Medicine magazine.

WWAMI Regional News

Wyoming WWAMI students spend a day learning politics

Wyoming WWAMI students at state legislature
WWAMI Conference

Wyoming WWAMI students spent a day in February immersed in politics, meeting with Wyoming state legislators, the governor and U.S. senators as part of the annual legislative luncheon hosted by Wyoming WWAMI. At the Wyoming state capitol, the students were recognized on the floors of both the House and Senate and State Sen. Jeff Wasserburger (R-Gillette) gave a rousing speech to the students about their importance to the future of healthcare in Wyoming.

The luncheon was attended by both of Wyoming’s U.S. senators, Mike Enzi and John Barrasso, as well as many Wyoming state legislators, third- and fourth-year medical students, WWAMI physicians, clerkship preceptors and healthcare organizations. Sen. Barrasso, an orthopedic surgeon, reminded students of the need for physicians to advocate for their patients and the need for their services in Wyoming when they complete their medical education. After the luncheon, the Wyoming WWAMI class went to the Wyoming state capitol where they were introduced. The students also met with Gov. Matt Mead and had a discussion about Medicaid expansion and other healthcare issues in Wyoming.

The Wyoming WWAMI legislative luncheon brings together everyone in Wyoming involved with the WWAMI program and serves as an opportunity for the students to thank the Wyoming legislature for their support of the Wyoming WWAMI program.

WWAMI student receives $15k Scholar Award

Karren Lewis
Karren Lewis

Karren Lewis, a M.D./M.P.H. student at the School of Medicine through the University of Wyoming WWAMI program, is one of 85 doctoral students nationwide selected to receive a $15,000 Scholar Award from the P.E.O. Sisterhood. The P.E.O. Scholar Awards was established in 1991 to provide substantial merit-based awards for women of the United States and Canada who are pursuing a doctoral level degree at an accredited college or university. The P.E.O. Sisterhood was founded Jan. 21, 1869, at Iowa Wesleyan College.


UW Medical Center makes list of top hospitals

UW Medical Center is ranked No. 11 in the 25th edition of U.S. News & World Report’s annual best hospitals rankings. The ranking includes key information on nearly 5,000 medical centers nationwide. See more.

UW ranks among top programs for global equity and biomedical research

University Report Card
Global Grades

UW ranked third out of 59 universities in its approach to global equity and biomedical research, earning a B+ “grade.” The University Report Card ranking was published in late April by Universities Allied for Essential Medicines, a student-led group focused on access to medicine and health-related technologies. See article in The New York Times, “University grades are mixed on research for the poor” (May 11, 2015).

Chair of Psychiatry appointed to national advisory council on mental health

Prof. and Chair of Psychiatry Jürgen Unützer was appointed by Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to a four-year term on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Center for Mental Health Services National Advisory Council.

School of Medicine inducts 44 into Gold Humanism Honor Society

Gold Humanism Awardees
Humanism Awardees

The Gold Humanism Honor Society Chapter at the University of Washington School of Medicine held its fourth annual induction ceremony May 8 where 35 students, seven residents and two faculty were selected for membership. Approximately15 percent of the fourth-year class is inducted each year. Student inductees are chosen by a selection committee and based on peer evaluation. Faculty and resident members are nominated by students. Induction into the society recognizes dedication to the principles of humanism in medicine, including excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to service. Students spend their fourth year promoting the practice of humanism in medicine at UW Medicine institutions and in the community.

Student and faculty member selected for special recognition in compassion

Nicole Kim
Nicole Kim
Jill Watanabe
Jill Watanabe

In addition to the Gold Humanism Honor Society, the Gold Foundation also sponsors the annual Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Awards for a graduating student and faculty member at each of its participating medical schools. This award is presented to the student and faculty member who best demonstrate the foundation's ideals of outstanding compassion in the delivery of care, respect for patients, their families and colleagues, as well as demonstrated clinical excellence. The 2015 student recipient is Nicole Kim who, following graduation, will begin her internal medicine residency at University of California, San Francisco. The 2015 faculty recipient is Jill Watanabe, UW associate professor in the Department of Medicine.



The Nepalese Student Association and the Nepal Studies Initiative are coordinating earthquake relief efforts at the University of Washington. To donate, please go to http://students.washington.edu/nepaluw/.

Videos from the 2015 UW Mini-Medical School are now available on Youtube

The Division of Pain Medicine’s Annual State of Pain Address, May 19, 2015

The address will be presented by David J. Tauben, chief of the UW Division of Pain Medicine, with opening remarks by Johnese Spisso, UW Medicine chief health system officer. A reception will follow. The event will take place at 5 p.m., Tuesday May 19, Health Sciences building, D-209.

UW Dept. of Bioengineering hosts 27th Annual Robert F. Rushmer Lecture, May 19, 2015

The high-profile lecture, “Breakthroughs in Imprint Lithography and 3D Additive Fabrication,” will be given by Joseph M. DeSimone, Ph.D., who is the chancellor's eminent professor of chemistry at the University of North Carolina (UNC), and the William R. Kenan, Jr., distinguished professor of chemical engineering at North Carolina State University and of chemistry at UNC. The lecture is from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m., Tuesday May 19, William H. Foege Auditorium (South Foege Bldg. Room 0-S60). View more information.

Annual Science in Medicine Lecture, “Radical reprogramming of organs, organisms and ecosystems,” May 28, 2015

Lecturer George Church is professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and director of PersonalGenomes.org, which provides the world’s only open-access information on human genomic, environmental and trait data. The lecture is from 12 -1 p.m., Thursday May 28, Hogness Auditorium, Health Sciences Building. View more information.


Continuing Medical Education

Visit Continuing Medical Education for information on upcoming classes.

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