Members of the Cuban-American Biotech Conclave from a UA visit in June 2016 (left to right): Marvin J. Slepian, MD; Milton Sanchez-Parodi, MD; Luis Herrera, MD; Carlton Anderson, PhD; Mayda Mauri Perez; Ruben Ramos; Eulogio Pimentel, director, Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Havana; David G. Armstrong, MD; Luis M. Alcalde, and Samuel Riega. Read more below...
Faculty and trainee activities, achievements and awards for the final quarter of 2016 reflected well on the UA Department of Medicine. A number of these were included in DOM Chair Monica Kraft, MD’s “2016 Year-in-Review” article from Dec. 14. Most are new. Among those many recognitions and accomplishments from October through December 2016 are the following:
DOM VICE CHAIR OF EDUCATION
For Education in the Department of Medicine, former educational research and development director Guadalupe F. “Lu” Martinez, PhD, had one paper accepted for publication and an oral abstract accepted for presentation in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The first, “Academic Medicine: Vice Chairs’ for Education Perceptions of Departmental Culture,” is coauthored by Elle Ross, DO, PhD, an assistant professor in the Division of Geriatrics, General Internal Medicine and Palliative Medicine, and Kenneth S. Knox, MD, former DOM vice chair of education and pulmonary division chief. Accepted Nov. 10, it will be published by the Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice in its first issue of 2017.
She also will present on “The GME program conundrum: A grounded theory of valued characteristics” at the Association of American Medical Colleges – Western Group on Educational Affairs Academic Meeting in Salt Lake City on Feb. 25-28. Her co-authors include Dr. Knox, Karen Spear-Ellinwood, PhD, Kevin Moynahan, MD, and Conrad Clemens, MD, MPH.
Dr. Martinez thanked the Academy of Medical Education Scholars at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson for a 2015 grant award that supported her work. She and Dr. Knox left the department in December to head the Office of Faculty Affairs and Development at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix as assistant and associate dean, respectively.
Another kudo for the education office UA Internal Medicine Residency Program - South Campus third-year resident Jessica August, MD (right), being honored Nov. 4 as Arizona Chapter Resident/Fellow of the Year for the American College of Physicians.
In the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, there were several highlights in the fourth quarter:
Perhaps the biggest was new certification in October for the Adult Lung Transplant Program by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson. Pulmonary and Critical Care team members Steve Knoper, MD, and Josh Malo, MD, (right) were among those given credit for the achievement.
Next would be the National CHEST Challenge win Oct. 25 by a team of three fellows in the UA Pulmonary & Critical Care Fellowship Program—Huthayfa Ateeli, MBBS, Naser Mahmoud, MBBS, and Muna Omar, MBBS. (left with Fellowship Director James Knepler, MD at the event). The medical knowledge competition was part of the American College of Chest Physicians’ annual conference, CHEST 2016, in Los Angeles.
Newly appointed division Interim Chief Sairam Parthasarathy, MD (on right at left), not only celebrated an open house for the new UAHS Center for Sleep and Circadian Sciences, of which he’s director, but started his term as chairperson of the Sleep Research Network—made up of more than 300 researchers representing 70+ U.S. institutions who successfully competed for $20-million-plus in federal research grants in the organization’s first six years. (See photo galleries of the center’s Dec. 2 open house, as well as the DOM Precision Medicine Town Hall, Dec. 7, and DOM Research Seminars on Nov. 10 and Dec. 8.)
DOM Chair Monica Kraft, MD (above left), was the invited speaker Nov. 17 at the 18th Annual Roland H. Ingram, Jr., Lecture at Atlanta’s Emory University. This highly prestigious event honors Emory’s Dr. Ingram as an esteemed leader in pulmonary and critical care medicine. It’s an enduring acknowledgment of his commitment to excellence in teaching, patient care and research. Each year since 1999, it has featured a distinguished physician to share expertise in the clinical investigation and basic science of lung disease. Dr. Kraft is a renowned physician-scientist, asthma expert and past president of the American Thoracic Society. Her topic was “Asthma 2016 – Beyond the Guidelines.”
Adult Allergy Program Director Tara F. Carr, MD (on left at right), was chosen as president of the Tucson Asthma Society and secretary-treasurer for the Arizona Allergy and Asthma Society.
Sachin Chaudhary, MBBS (above right, center), was appointed director of Interstitial Lung Disease Program at UA College of Medicine – Tucson and Banner – University Medical Center Tucson and South.
UA Associate Professor Janet Campion, MD, MPH (above right), received the third installment in a PACE Award she won from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as the first Adult Cystic Fibrosis Program director for Banner – UMC Tucson and South. The grant was valued at a total of $81,000 over three years.
Omavi Bailey, MD, MPH, a resident in the UA Family and Community Medicine Residency Program whose mentor is Dr. Parthasarathy, received admission into a three-year Post-Doctoral Excellence in Research and Training program funded by a K12 grant. The grant was awarded to the UA Department of Neuroscience and Center for Insect Science Regent’s Professor Nicholas Strausfeld, PhD, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Baily’s acceptance was announced in October. His work includes sleep studies.
In Gastroenterology representing the UA Liver Research Institute, internal medicine residents Sehem Ghazala, MD (Tucson Campus), and Kai Rou Tey, MBBS (South Campus), presented at November’s The Liver Meeting®, the annual conference of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), in Boston.
Dr. Ghazala’s topic was “Predictors of 30-Day Readmission in Patients Hospitalized with Decompensated Cirrhosis in a Large State Based Inpatient Sample.” He noted readmission was about 25 percent at 30 days in a large cohort of individuals with cirrhosis and its complications. Factors among this group included race (with African Americans more likely to be readmitted), Medicaid insurance coverage, renal complications, fluid volume overload and multiple comorbidities. His research also earned him a GME Resident Excellence and Leadership Award from the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Office of Graduate Medical Education announced in November.
Dr. Tey (pictured right with mentor Archita Desai, MD, of the Liver Research Institute) was presented with an AASLD Emerging Liver Scholar Award at the Liver Meeting. Her project title that she presented on was “Hospitalist-based Healthcare Delivery Model in Cirrhosis – A Comparative Effectiveness Study in Management of Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding.” It focused on the quality of care provided to the patients with cirrhosis at Banner – University Medical Center.
“Our findings provided insights on how different delivery models (hospitalist vs. traditional group) influence the quality of care delivered to cirrhotic patients and how this affects different clinical outcomes like mortality, length of stay and readmission rates,” she said. “We aim to identify factors that influence adherence/non-adherence to evidenced-based measures and ascertain methods to close the quality gap between different providers.”
Earlier in 2016, Dr. Tey won the UA Gastroenterology Resident of the Year Award and placed among the top five in the Medical Research Abstract Competition at the American College of Physicians National Meeting in Washington, DC. She also won a 2015 GME Resident Excellence and Leadership Award.
Among other 2016 GME Resident Excellence and Leadership Award winners from the UA Internal Medicine Residency Programs were: Radhamani Kannaiyan, MD, PhD (South Campus), and See Wei Low, MBBS (Tucson Campus). Dr. Kannaiyan’s research topic recognized was “The Role of Neucleoplasmins in Multiple Myeloma” and Dr. Low’s was “Improving Smoking Cessation Education and Referral in the Ambulatory Setting.” For all 2016 GME award winners, click here [PDF].
UA cardiologist Marvin Slepian, MD, the professor, Sarver Heart Center member, associate department head for Biomedical Engineering, McGuire Scholar at the Eller College of Management, and director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation at the UA, was busy in the fourth quarter of 2016.
“We had much press for my two papers in Science journals,” he noted. “Both the Science Translational Medicine paper—featured on the cover—and the Science Advances article had huge media coverage and are still getting attention.”
In all, he had five articles accepted or published for which he was author or co-author, won several awards for his work and was an invited speaker at 18 events, not including one at the White House in December where he was asked to participate in a discussion about “U.S.-Cuba Science, Technology and Medicine Collaborations.”
This last event in Washington, DC, was a follow-up to David Armstrong, DPM, MD, PhD, and Dr. Slepian’s trip to Cuba to pursue potential collaborations on diabetic wound therapy earlier this year as well as his plenary keynote lecture at the 2016 International Cuba Congress: Controlling Diabetes and Its More Severe Complications in Veradero, Cuba, in December.
Dr. Slepian’s articles included:
- “Shear-mediated platelet activation in the free flow: Perspectives on the emerging spectrum of cell mechanobiological mechanisms mediating cardiovascular implant thrombosis,” Journal of Biomechanics, Jan. 4, 2017.
- “A multiscale biomechanical model of platelets: Correlating with in-vitro results,” Journal of Biomechanics, Jan. 4, 2017.
- “Effect of Balloon-Expandable Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement Positioning: A Patient-Specific Numerical Model,” Artificial Organs, Dec. 2, 2016
- “A soft, wearable microfluidic device for the capture, storage, and colorimetric sensing of sweat,” Science Translational Medicine (cover story), Nov. 23, 2016.
- “Epidermal mechano-acoustic sensing electronics for cardiovascular diagnostics and human-machine interfaces,” Science Advances, Nov. 16, 2016.
Three of the above articles included co-authors from the UA Health Sciences and other UA investigators.
Dr. Slepian’s work won several awards, including:
- 2016 – First Place Award – Achievement in Medical Devices – Influential Health and Medical Leaders Awards, Tucson Local Media/Inside Tucson Business
- 2016 – Finalist Awardee – Achievement in Medical Research – Influential Health and Medical Leaders Awards, Tucson Local Media/Inside Tucson Business
- 2016 – Medscape Top Ten List (Topol) – for Wearable Electronics, Featured Paper in Science Advances (see above)
- 2016 – Fast Company, Most Innovative Company Award, for MC10 (Slepian) – Stretchable Electronics (connects to UANews feature and video on “UA Researchers Go the Distance for Fluid Analysis Via Sweat”)
Among his other achievements were:
- Served as Technology Shark Tank Judge, Transcatheter Therapeutics (TCT) 2016, Washington, DC, November 2016
- Fostered, established and formalized (signed) Inter-University Collaboration and Inter-change program between Politechnico di Milano and University of Arizona, December 2016
- Established Innovation and International Collaboration (Meetings and Lecture), The Interdisciplinary Center, a research university in Herzliya, Israel, Dec. 4, 2016
- Selected as 2016-17 Program Chair for ASAIO Annual Meeting, American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, Chicago, June 2017.
In other Division of Cardiology news, Raj Janardhanan MD, associate professor of medicine and medical imaging, medical director of non-invasive cardiac imaging and director of echocardiography at Banner – UMC Tucson and South, and a Sarver Heart Center member, won a Reader’s Choice Award in India for an article he co-wrote with Senthil Anand, MD, a resident with the UA College of Medicine Internal Residency Program – South Campus.
The article, “Role of Cardiac MRI in Nonischemic Cardiomyopathies,” appeared in the May-June 2016 issue of the Indian Heart Journal. The award was presented to Dr. Janardhanan at the 68th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India in Kochi, India. The piece was one of the most downloaded articles of the journal in 2016.
Earlier in 2016, Dr. Janardhanan was among three DOM physicians (along with Hem-Onc’s Andrew Yeager, MD and Dermatology’s Gerald Goldberg, MD) to get a featured article in Tucson Lifestyle magazine’s Top Doctors issue. Dr. Anand also was on the winning team in the Doctor’s Dilemma™ Medical Student contest at the 2015 ACP Arizona Chapter Scientific Meeting, earning a trip to the ACP Nationals in May 2016 where it placed third.
Cardiologist Vijay Arun Doraiswamy, MD, an assistant professor and 2014 graduate of the UA Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program, also just completed his Master’s in Business Administration degree from the UA Eller College of Management.
Frank Marcus, MD, professor emeritus, former chief of cardiology at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, and founder and first president of the Arizona Chapter of the American College of Cardiology, had three articles for which he was co-author or author published in the fourth quarter:
- “Multicenter Cardiovascular Studies and Trials: Lessons Learned From 35 Years of Productive Collaboration,” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, November 2016 (as part of the Multicenter Research Group).
- “My Approach to the Diagnosis and Treatment of Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy/dysplasia (ARVC/D),” Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, November 2016.
- “Risk Stratification in Arrhythmic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy Without Implantable Cardioverter-Defibrillators,” JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, October 2016.
For more, click here (or on image at left) to view the recently released Winter 2016-17 Sarver Heart Center Newsletter that highlights the center’s 30th anniversary and key accomplishments. The newsletter provides updates on current accreditations and investigator awards. It also recognizes multiple presentations by Cardiology faculty and fellows at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in November. In addition, Kwan Lee, MD, is recognized for serving on a Society of Cardiac Angiography and Interventions delegation to Vietnam and China, lecturing at fellows’ courses at the National Vietnam Congress of Cardiology in Hanoi and the Great Wall International Congress of Cardiology in Beijing.
Division of Endocrinology fellows Sukhampal Sidhu, MD, and Gisell Sanchez, MD, were both accepted to the Endocrine University® — a week-long course held every spring at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., sponsored by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE). Since 2002, over 3,200 endocrine fellows, representing more than 130 programs across the country, have attended the course.
The curriculum is specially designed to help prepare final year fellows for entering clinical practice by enhancing their exposure to key areas of clinical endocrinology.
In addition, Dr. Sanchez participated in the Baylor College of Medicine 15th Annual Symposium on Advanced Diabetes Management for Endocrine Fellows in November 2016. The event involved three days of talks and classes.
In Nephrology, Division Chief Prabir Roy-Chaudhury, MD, PhD, was appointed to the Medical Advisory Board of the CardioRenal Society of America and editor for interventional nephrology for the journal Clinical Nephrology. Dr. Roy-Chaudhury participated in the National Medical Evidence Generation (EvGen) project chaired by U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Robert Califf, MD, in December in Washington, DC, as well in an inter-agency meeting of the Kidney Health Initiative (KHI) for developing a Roadmap for Innovations in Renal Replacement Therapy—he is KHI co-chair for the American Society of Nephrology. He also chaired an NIH Small Business Study Section for Pathobiology of Kidney Disease (PBKD) on Nov. 29-30. And he was awarded the Academic Excellence Award from the American Nephrologists of Indian Origin.
UA Associate Professor Amy Sussman, MD (below right), repeated as winner of a UA College of Medicine – Tucson Annual Faculty Teaching Award for the third time (as did Pulmonary’s John W. Bloom, MD). Dr. Sussman also repeated as a medical student mentor in the STARS Program at Kidney Week 2016, the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology, Nov. 15-20 in Chicago. And she was appointed to the Medical Executive Committee of BUMCT.
Bijin Thajudeen, MD, an assistant professor, took a second foray into book publishing with publication of a chapter in another book, Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation - Advances in Therapy, published by InTech. Dr. Thajudeen was co-author of Chapter 17, “Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation and Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy.” Click here to download the entire open access volume, which was edited by Michael. Firstenberg, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon in Akron, Ohio. In August, Dr. Thajudeen also was co-author of Managing Diabetic Nephropathies in Clinical Practice, which was published by Adis, a unit of Springer Nature. That book offers an overview of diagnosis, treatment and long-term management of diabetic-related kidney disease. He wrote the chapter entitled, "Introduction and disease overview." In addition, Dr. Thajudeen was named the local site principal investigator (PI) on a Baxter clinical trial for “Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy” and also local site PI for a Kidney Health Initiative project on “Patient Perspectives in Hemodialysis.”
Nephrologist Sireesha Koppula, MD, MPH, was named medical director for BUMCT quality initiatives, a position she had been serving in for most of 2016.
And Hannah Tiu, MD, started a new nephrology clinic at the Green Valley Physician Offices of Banner – University Medical Group on Nov. 29, which is the first expansion beyond BUMCT and Banner – UMC South for clinics focused on seeing chronic kidney patients.
- Usman Ajaz, MBBS, Poster Presentation, “Asymptomatic Coccidioidomycosis in Patients with Rheumatic Disease: 8 Years of Experience”
- Internal medicine resident Adam Berlinberg, MD, et al., Poster Presentation, “Knee Physical Exam Findings and Self-Reported Symptoms Are Associated with MRI-Detected Effusion-Synovitis Among Participants with or at Risk for Knee Osteoarthritis: Data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative (OAI)”
- Integrative Medicine’s Randy Horwitz, MD, PhD, ‘Meet the Professor’ Presentation, “Complementary/Alternative Therapies in Rheumatic Disease”
- Internal medicine resident Manjinder Kaur, DO, Poster Presentation, “Knee Pain and Patient Preference for Knee Replacement: Healthcare Access Matters”
- Division Chief and Center Director C. Kent Kwoh, MD, Poster Presentation, “MRI-Detected Cartilage Damage, Meniscal Damage, and Meniscal Extrusion Prior to Incident Radiographic Osteoarthritis and the Subsequent Trajectory of Joint Space Loss”
- Dermatology’s Drew Kurtzman, MD, Podium Presentation, “Case-Based Discussion of Anti-Melanoma Differentiation-Associated Gene 5 (MDA-5) Dermatomyositis”
- UA College of Pharmacy’s Wei-Hsuan Lo-Ciganic, PhD, Poster Presentation, “Analgesic Use and Subsequent Risk of Falls in Participants with or at Risk of Knee Osteoarthritis”
- Internal medicine resident Jaren Trost, MD, Poster Presentation, “Evidence for TMJ Pain as a Component of a Generalized Pain Phenotype”
- Ernest R. Vina, MD, Poster Presentation, “Racial Differences in Self-Reported Pain and Disability: A Longitudinal Study of Knee Osteoarthritis”
Drs. Kwoh and Vina also had a book chapter on osteoarthritis published in the Seventh Edition of Hazzard's Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology, edited by Jeffrey B. Halter, MD, et al., for McGraw-Hill.
HEMATOLOGY & ONCOLOGY
David Alberts, MD, Robin Harris, MD, PhD, and Rick Kittles, PhD, were awarded a 5-year, $1,394,252 T32 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that replaced the R25 Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC) postdoctoral training program that concluded in August.
This is a T32 training grant to fund four postdoctoral positions per year for 2-year training periods. The goal is to train a total of 10 postdoc trainees over 5 years in cancer prevention and control health disparities. The overall aim of this CPC Health Disparities T32 Training Program is to create a diverse workforce of cancer prevention and control scientists working in underserved populations to reduce cancer health disparities.
It’s designed to address the needs of Arizona's unique population (25.5% Hispanic, 4.1% African-American, and 5.8% Native American residents). Over the past 10 years, the CPC Postdoctoral Fellowship at the UA Cancer Center has published over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles. Dr. Alberts is the principal investigator (PI).
Agnies Witkiewicz, MD, is the project PI on a $744,675 NCI administrative supplement to fund the project "Collaborative Research Efforts to Enhance Preclinical Drug Development and Preclinical Clinical Trials Utilizing Patient Derived Xenograft (PDX) Models." It is one of six scientific areas supplemented in September 2016 as part of President Obama's Precision Medicine Initiative. The pancreatic research team at the UACC, including Emad Elquza, MD, Taylor Riall, MD, PhD, and Erik Knudsen, PhD, was instrumental in the application process.
In mid-October, the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel presented its report Vice President Joe Biden on behalf of the National Cancer Advisory Board. On June 29, the UA Cancer Center hosted a Regional Cancer Moonshot Summit, one of more than 270 held across the country. About 100 people participated in the initiative locally to spur discussions and new collaborations to advance prevention, diagnosis, treatment and the search for a cure. Click here for the full report and here for a summary.
On Oct. 28, Arizona Week on PBS Channel 6 Tucson spotlighted progress in the battle of breast cancer survivor Jaque Lamadrid, a 32-year-old mother of four. Participating in the program were the UA Cancer Center’s Karen Weihs, MD, Joyce Schroeder, PhD, and registered dietitian Tracy Crane. (To watch, click image below and drag red dot to12:05-minute mark where segment starts).
In the Division of Integrative Medicine, Esther Sternberg, MD, professor of medicine and psychology, center research director and director of the UA Institute on Place and Wellbeing, had a busy quarter at the end of 2016.
She was a panel member at the Nano-Bio Manufacturing Consortium’s Blood Sweat & Tears III Workshop in Arlington, Va., in November, among nine invited lecture engagements for the year. And she’ll give the keynote address at the upcoming 15th Annual Living Healthy With Arthritis Conference on Jan. 28 with a theme based on one of her books, "Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Wellbeing."
Dr. Sternberg submitted a patent through UA Tech Launch for newly discovered isomers/metabolites in sweat that serve as “Stress Biomarkers and Related Non-Invasive Detection Methods” related to work she’s involved in partnership with other UA researchers (including Drs. Slepian and Armstrong) through the FlexTech Alliance to develop wearable devices that provide real-time digital feedback information on the wearer’s health.
She also continued ongoing federal grant-funded work for which she’s the principal investigator supported by the U.S. General Services Administration and U.S. Air Force Research Labs (UES) related in part to that stress biomarker research. Funding in 2016 totaled nearly $1.5 million on those two projects.
UA Associate Professor and Integrative Medicine Medical Director Randy Horwitz, MD, PhD (above left), completed his two-year term as the inaugural chair of the American Board of Integrative Medicine (ABOIM), which he helped found.
ABOIM is a Member Board of the American Board of Physician Specialties. It was established in 2014 to establish more uniform standards of certification for integrative medicine physicians, and is the first board of certification for integrative medicine specialists recognized by a multispecialty certifying organization.
Dr. Horwitz also was appointed by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) to serve on the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Test Material Development Committee for Microbiology and Immunology. The USMLE is responsible for development of the licensing tests for all U.S. medical students and residents.
In Inpatient Medicine, Division Chief Tejo Vemulapalli, MD, graduated along with Drs. Kadambi, Elquza and Kwan Lee, from Banner Health’s 2016 Advanced Leadership Program for Physicians. He and Division Associate Chief Anil Potharaju, MD, also were presented by Banner CEO Peter Fine with an Amazement Award for hospitalists’ efforts during the transition from UA Health Network to Banner – University Medicine at the Banner – UMC Tucson and South hospitals. And Dr. Vemulapalli was presented with an EEE Award by Banner UMC Tucson and South CMO Gordon Carr, MD, and the nursing staff.
The UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence—affiliated with this division and led by John Galgiani, MD—celebrated its 20th anniversary with the launch of a redesigned website and a UA Expertise on Valley Fever webpage to act as a UANews media resources guide for coccidioidomycosis. The center and department also hosted Mayo Clinic Scottsdale’s Janis E. Blair, MD, speaker Nov. 16 for the 21st Annual Farness Lecture, which resulted in several newspaper articles on Valley fever in December in parallel with a Center for Health Journalism Collaborative effort on the topic. This is in addition articles generated by a U.S. Congressional Valley Fever Task Force press conference Oct. 17 at Banner – UMC Phoenix that spotlighted clinical trials on early detection and treatment efforts as well as additional research to develop a Valley fever vaccine. The center also received a $300,000 annual grant from the J.T. Tai & Co. Foundation, it’s 11th from the organization for a total of $3.3 million to date.
With an inter-institutional and inter-disciplinary team, Christina Laukaitis, MD, PhD, medical director of the Genetics Program within the Division of Geriatrics, General Internal Medicine and Palliative Care (GGP), won an $800,000 grant from the Wallace Research Foundation to study the genetic basis of the Joint Hypermobility type of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
Often referred to as “EDS,” the syndrome is a collection of inheritable connective tissue disorders. This translational award will facilitate research activities and collaborative efforts to improve the clinical care of these complex patients, who suffer from symptoms that can include overly flexible joints that can dislocate, and skin that's translucent, elastic, and bruises easily.
In addition to her GGP post, Dr. Laukaitis is an assistant professor of medicine and nutrition, director of Genetic Consultation and Counseling Services, UA Health Sciences Center for Applied Genetics and Genomic Medicine, and a member of the UA Center on Aging and UA Cancer Center, where she’s also medical education director for the Partnership for Native American Cancer Prevention.
The grant was approved in November and received last month. The research team includes UA Cancer Center research technician Corina Mauss, Division of Rheumatology partners Dominick Sudano, MD, and Eric Gall, MD, and co-principal investigator is Peter Byers, MD, from the University of Washington.
“I have a lot of patients who are very excited about the work,” Dr. Laukaitis said. “Dr. Karen Herbst, from the Division of Endocrinology (who heads the Treatment, Research and Education of Adipose Tissue, or TREAT Program), is involved as well, adding to the clinical relevance of the project.”
Dr. Herbst’ research focuses on treatment of adipose tissue disorders such as lipedema and Dercum’s disease, where fatty tissues grow on the trunk, upper arms and legs that are virtually irresponsive to reduction via exercise or diet. She also suffers from joint hypermobility.
Valley fever & border infectious diseases
Anne M. Wertheimer, PhD, another GGP assistant professor, also likes to cross academic lines as her work this past fall demonstrates. In addition to her GGP post, she’s a member of the UA Center on Aging, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Immunobiology, and director of graduate studies in Diagnostic Laboratory Sciences for the Applied Biosciences Graduate Interdisciplinary Program (GIDP).
“My lab was one of three sites involved in commercial assay validation of the PathoGene® Valley Fever assay—a molecular-based, rapid diagnostic for Coccidioidomycosis—in collaboration with the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence,” she said. This assay is a highly sensitive real-time PCR assay that reduces clinical diagnosis of Valley fever from 21 days to four hours. The assay is being submitted to the FDA for 510k clearance as “safe and effective” in early 2017.
Dr. Wertheimer also received a new Interagency Service Agreement (ISA) with the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) for Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Testing. In collaboration with the ADHS, she has begun border community vaccination surveys to obtain crucial influenza and pneumonia vaccination rates within the adult and elder community.
And she served as dissertation committee chair (a major advisor) for two master’s degree candidates in last year’s final quarter for a total of four master’s students conferred degrees in 2016 through the GIDP in Diagnostic Laboratory Sciences.
“I supervise an additional 19 master’s students currently matriculating through the program,” Dr. Wertheimer added. “These students are our future mid-level medical professionals, providing critical diagnostic and medical services in Arizona hospitals as well as hospitals and medical diagnostic facilities nationwide.”
Pulmonary hypertension & oxidative stress
Dr. Kraft announced in the department newsletter The Pulse’s November issue that researchers in the Division of Translational and Regenerative Medicine Olga Rafikova, MD, PhD, and Ruslan Rafikov, PhD, won two K01 research grants worth a total of $3.84 million from the NIH’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to look at different aspects of oxidative stress that contribute to pulmonary arterial hypertension, a form of high blood pressure affecting arteries between the heart and lungs that leads to an enlarged right heart and eventual heart failure. The husband-and-wife research team reported on their work in November 2015 at the Society for Redox Biology and Medicine annual meeting and Dr. Rafikova also presented on it at last summer’s inaugural CDA Research Symposium hosted by the BIO5 Institute. Both focus on precision medicine approaches to treatment and therapies.