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December 2007

URMC to Lead International Muscular Dystrophy Research Effort

Richard T. Fields (center) dons a white coat at the announcement of the new Fields Center for FSHD & Neuromuscular Research. Fields donated $7.1 million to the Medical Center to help fund the center. Assisting him is School of Medicine and Dentistry Dean David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D. (left) and Medical Center CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D.

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) recently announced it received a $7.1 million gift from New York developer and philanthropist Richard T. Fields for neurological research and care. The gift – the largest private donation for a specific disease program in the Medical Center’s history – will create a research and clinical center of excellence for facioscapulohumeral dystrophy (FSHD), a form of muscular dystrophy.

The new Fields Center for FSHD & Neuromuscular Research will be an international collaboration between the Department of Neurology and Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. The long-term, uninterrupted funding will accelerate what has generally been an uncoordinated and fragmented research effort, enabling URMC to become a national referral center for patients with the disease. Professor of Neurology Rabi Tawil, M.D., will direct the Fields Center.

“I want to express my deep gratitude to Richard Fields for his generous gift and his vision to bring together the people and resources necessary to find new ways to understand, treat and perhaps even cure this disease,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., CEO of URMC. “Our scientists strongly believe that new breakthroughs are within our grasp and Richard’s support will help catalyze their efforts.”

Fields is chairman and founder of Coastal Development, which co-developed the Seminole Hard Rock Casino and Hotel resorts in Florida. Fields also is an active philanthropist and serves on the boards of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Farm Aid, and is a major donor and supporter of the New York City Police Foundation and Good Shepherd Service.

“I have a personal family connection to FSHD, so I know the impact it has on families throughout the United States and the world,” said Fields. “The physicians at the University of Rochester have long been leaders in muscular dystrophy research, so they were a natural fit to establish a center to focus on genetic and clinical research to FSHD patients. I see this gift as a significant step in giving this disease the medical attention it deserves, and hope that the Fields Center will be a center for leadership and innovation in the field for many years to come.”

FSHD is one of the more common forms of muscular dystrophy. Most symptoms do not appear until the teen years, though the disease can also arise in very young children and infants. The condition, which is genetic in origin, is characterized by a progressive weakness of muscles starting in the face, shoulder blades and upper arms. The age of onset, progression, and severity of FSHD vary and most individuals with the disease have a normal lifespan. However, as the disease progresses it can become debilitating; some 30 percent of patients eventually become wheelchair bound. Over time, the muscle weakness can also spread to other parts of the body.

While the disease is understood to be genetic in origin, the precise mechanism is unknown.

“This is a very difficult disease to figure out in terms of what is going on,” said Tawil. “Research has been hampered by the fact that there are very few centers involved and centers that are don’t have access to patients and resources necessary to move research forward.”

The Fields Center will be the hub of an international network of scientific talent and resources necessary to propel FSHD research through greater coordination, collaboration, financial resources, and access to patients with the disease.

URMC’s Department of Neurology is home to the National Registry of Myotonic and FSHD Patients and Family Members. The registry – which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) – will enable Fields Center researchers to reach out to a large number of patients and recruit them into research projects.

Health Care Workers Urged to Get the Flu Shot

Strong Memorial’s Director of Infection Control and Prevention Paul Graman, M.D., receives his annual flu shot from Susan Antenozzi, R.N., of University Health Service.

In late October, Strong Memorial leadership stepped up to the plate to be one of the first at the hospital to get their annual flu shot. Strong Memorial once again is running its InFLUence campaign, which aims to increase influenza vaccination rates among SMH health care workers.

Health care professionals are at risk of both transmitting and being exposed to flu from patients. They also play a special role in preventing the deadliest cases of this disease because they directly interact with those at greatest risk of experiencing serious complications from the flu.

Last year, about half of Strong Memorial employees received the flu shot, putting us above the national average of about 40 percent of health care professionals who routinely receive a flu vaccine. This year, our goal is to increase vaccination rates to 60 percent.

Strong Memorial employees can receive a flu shot through mobile vaccination carts and peer vaccination programs. For more information, visit the InFLUence website off the Medical Center’s intranet.


Wilmot Cancer Center Links with Arnot Health’s Falck Cancer Center

Arnot Health’s Falck Cancer Center in Elmira has established an affiliation with the James P. Wilmot Community Oncology Network, bringing together Rochester’s largest cancer center and the Southern Tier region’s primary cancer center to improve cancer care and research.

“This type of collaboration will benefit our patients who are battling cancer,” said William Muuse, M.D., director of the Falck Cancer Center at Arnot Health. “With teams of oncologists working together to advance research efforts toward a cure, people with cancer in our communities will be better served.”

Through the affiliation, patients at Falck Cancer Center will have access to the newest therapies and cutting-edge treatments and educational programs through Wilmot. In addition, they will opportunities to participate in the hundreds of clinical trials available at the Wilmot Cancer Center through the Southwest Oncology Group, the nation’s largest cooperative research organization. Arnot Health oncologists also may join the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry faculty and participate in educational and training programs at the Wilmot Cancer Center.

“This is an excellent opportunity for both Wilmot and Arnot Health to work together to provide the quality cancer care that people expect,” said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center and vice president for clinical services at the Medical Center. “We have a history of cooperation and collaboration and this solidifies that relationship in the Southern Tier.”

The Wilmot Community Oncology Network, established in 2004, broadens Wilmot’s clinical research efforts and provides cutting-edge care throughout upstate and western New York. Arnot Health’s Falck Cancer Center is the second organization to join the Wilmot Community Oncology Program. Interlakes Oncology and Hematology, P.C., joined the program three years ago. Interlakes provides care in locations from Geneva to Brockport and at Canandaigua’s F.F. Thompson Hospital.

Medical Center Seeks Approval for New Ambulatory Surgical Center

Aiming to provide more appropriate care to the growing number of its patients needing outpatient surgery, the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Strong Memorial Hospital has submitted an application to New York State’s Department of Health to open and operate an off-site ambulatory surgical center (ASC).

If approved, Strong’s ASC would contain 10 operating rooms and two procedure rooms, as well as space for pre- and post-operative care, a materials processing unit for instrument sterilization and preparation, and patient/family waiting room areas. The 52,000-square-foot facility is planned for 180 Sawgrass Drive, just off Westfall Ave.

The proposal has received unanimous backing from both the Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency and the Community Technology Assessment Advisory Board, or CTAAB. The application is now being reviewed by the Department of Health’s State Hospital Review and Planning Council.

According to Strong Memorial Hospital CEO Steven I. Goldstein, like the hospital itself, Strong Memorial’s 33 operating rooms run at capacity each day, making it increasingly difficult to accommodate both its inpatient and outpatient cases.

“As the region’s tertiary and quaternary referral center, regional trauma center, and regional children’s center, about 20 percent of our surgical cases are emergency cases that need to be performed immediately due to patient urgency,” Goldstein said. “As a result, every day we have patients awaiting elective procedures who are being bumped from the schedule, resulting in significant delays for our patients and family members.”

Over the years, Strong has managed the excess demand for its operating rooms by having Medical Center faculty surgeons work out of private surgicenters. In 2006, Strong estimates that its faculty surgeons performed more than 5,000 procedures at such surgicenters. Nationwide, outpatient surgeries continue to climb in number, fueled by new minimally invasive technology and other surgical innovations. In 1980, about 10 percent of all hospital surgeries were outpatient procedures, a number that jumped to 65 percent in 2005. Strong’s surgical cases totaled 24,301 in 2006, with 49 percent of them being outpatient procedures.

Michael Maloney, M.D., associate professor of orthopaedics, who would serve as director of the proposed new surgical center, said that outpatient surgical centers have defined a new standard of care that patients have come to expect.

“Outpatient surgical centers have created an efficient model for handling surgeries in a way that optimizes the care and service for patients,” Maloney said. “Because they handle only elective, pre-scheduled surgeries, they aren’t forced to shift schedules to accommodate emergencies. This allows them to run very efficiently and in a manner that more and more patients are coming to expect.”

Goldstein added that Medical Center faculty provide the majority of specialty care to Medicaid recipients across the region. The new ASC will allow Strong to quickly schedule all types of surgical cases, regardless of type of payer.

“As the largest surgical provider in the region, this is a natural next step for us,” Goldstein said. “If approved, our new ambulatory surgical center will allow us to provide the current standard of care for our patients -- something that cannot be achieved in hospital settings, which are designed and staffed to handle all types of surgeries.”

If the project is approved, Strong will shift cases from its operating rooms and from local surgicenters to the new ASC. Build-out of the new location would take approximately one year, and could begin as early as spring ’08.


Smoke Free Initiative Hits One-Year Mark

November marks the one-year anniversary since the University of Rochester Medical Center became a Smoke FREE institution, and in that time, we have seen very positive changes at our institution.

• We have been successful in achieving our original goal of moving smokers away from our entrances and main access points. We do not have 100 percent compliance, nor did we expect to. Our enforcement efforts are ongoing.

• Many of our employees have used this as an opportunity to reduce their smoking habits or quit altogether. Employee Health Services reported a year ago that 13 percent of our employees listed themselves as using tobacco in their annual health assessments. One year later, only 10 percent of employees report using tobacco.

• We have a process that regularly intervenes with inpatients who smoke, offering them smoking cessation or nicotine replacement therapy during their stay. Our pharmacy has tracked a four-fold increase in our use of nicotine replacement therapy, and on any given day, about 125 inpatients are now using NRT rather than smoking. Studies show that this often provides a jump-start to permanently quitting.

“When we put the new policy in place a year ago, we were realistic that this change would be a process that would take a long-term commitment. As a result, there still are a number of areas in which we continue to work with our employees and visitors who smoke, and our neighbors to develop solutions,” said Kathy Parrinello, Strong Memorial’s chief operating officer and chair of the 30-person taskforce that designed and implemented the new policy.


Faculty Spotlight

Media Clips


Anton Porsteinsson was mentioned in a Nature (Nov. 20) article about the role of pharmaceutical firms in medical education.

Research by a team led by Charles Thornton that shows promise at reversing the symptoms of muscular dystrophy was covered by the BBC (Nov. 15).

Research by Emma Robertson Blackmore about job stress and support by colleagues was mentioned in an article in the New York Times (Nov. 12).

Janet Casey spoke with Newsday (Nov. 10) after the ear infection superbug she and Michael Pichichero have been studying developed into meningitis for a Toronto child.

John Treanor talked with the Wall Street Journal (Nov. 8) about whether booster shots are always necessary.

Anderson Cooper’s CNN show (Nov. 8) spotlighted Shanna Swan’s work looking into links between chemicals in plastic and physical changes in baby boys.

The University’s research into a possible link between herpes and Alzheimer’s was featured in the BBC (Nov. 1).

Karl Kieburtz spoke with WebMD (Nov. 5) about new findings that show that painkillers such as ibuprofen may protect against Parkinson’s disease.

When the American Academy of Pediatrics announced it recommends universal screening for autism, Susan Hyman talked to Newsday (Oct. 30) about the benefits of finding affected children early.

James Aquavella’s pioneering work giving sight to blind children through corneal transplants was featured on television broadcasts across the country (Oct. 29).

Obituaries for Nobel Prize winner Arthur Kornberg ran in publications across the country (Oct. 27), (Oct. 29).

C. Michael Haben was featured (Oct. 24) in stories about a new laser procedure to remove tumors from vocal cords.

Sadhna Kohli’s work looking at potential solutions to “chemo-brain” was featured in several broadcasts (Oct. 23) nationwide.

Francisco Tausk was quoted in a story in Science (Oct. 23) and elsewhere about a broccoli ingredient potentially fighting skin cancer.

The debate over whether mercury in fish cause developmental problems in children rages on, and Gary Myers spoke to the Washington Post (Oct. 23).

Katrina Korfmacher was featured in stories at NBC affiliates (Oct. 22) across the country, talking about the limitations of store-bought, lead-testing kits.

Randy Rosier’s work identifying SMURFs as a potential culprit in osteoarthritis was featured by UPI (Oct. 22).

Michael Pichichero’s research into the rise of an ear infection superbug was widely featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation (Oct. 19).

Work by Craig Jordan and Monica Guzman about work on a new leukemia drug was featured by ABC News (Oct. 9).


Thomas V. Caprio, M.D., a geriatrician from the University of Rochester, was named President-Elect of the State Society on Aging (SSA) of New York, an organization dedicated to the promotion of knowledge about aging and the enhancement of the quality of life for older adults throughout New York State. A senior instructor in the Division of Geriatrics and Aging, Caprio currently serves on the SSA board of directors and is Co-Chair of the SSA Social Policy Committee.

Peter J. Papadakos, M.D., director of Critical Care Medicine and professor of Anesthesiology, Surgery and Neurosurgery, participated as faculty at the 2nd International Masters Class on Acute Respiratory Failure in the Netherlands. Also released at that meeting was Papadakos’ fourth textbook: Mechanical Ventilation Clinical Applications and Pathophysiology. A number of Medical Center faculty also contributed to the book including Michael Apostolakos, M.D., associate professor of Medicine; Mark Utell, M.D., professor of Medicine and of Environmental Medicine; Irene Perillo, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine; Gary Dudek, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine; Sanjeev Chhangani, M.D., associate professor of Anesthesiology; and Denham Ward, M.D., professor of Anesthesiology and Biomedical Engineering.

Several Medical Center oncologists and surgeons were included in America’s Top Doctors for Cancer, an authoritative resource for patients seeking the best cancer care. Faculty included in the guide include Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center and URMC vice president for clinical services, who is internationally recognized for his lymphoma care and research; Regis O’Keefe, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, a specialist in cancers of the bone, muscle and soft tissue around the skeleton; Louis “Sandy” Constine, M.D., professor and vice chair of Radiation Oncology, internationally recognized for his expertise in acute and chronic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy on normal tissues; David Korones, M.D., associate professor of Pediatrics and Hematology/Oncology, a pediatric and adult brain tumor expert; Kristin Skinner, M.D., chief of Surgical Oncology and director of the Multidisciplinary Breast Cancer Program, recognized for surgical expertise in the removal of breast cancer, as well as her research work into biologic markers of breast cancer risk; Thomas Watson, M.D., associate professor of Surgery and chief of Thoracic Surgery, an expert in foregut (esophageal/stomach) and pulmonary surgery.

Associate Professor of Pharmacology and Physiology, Oncology and Biochemistry and Biophysics Alan V. Smrcka, Ph.D., recently was honored with the Davey Memorial Award for Outstanding Cancer Research during the 12th annual Scientific Symposium sponsored by the .James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. Smrcka, who studies the function of disease-relevant cell signaling molecules at atomic resolution, was honored for his research into the machinations of proteins and cells that could lead to development of new therapies for cancer and heart disease.

Tim Mosmann, Ph.D., director of the David H. Smith Center for Vaccine Biology and Immunology, recently won the 2008 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize. The prize, which includes with a cash award of 100,000 euros, is awarded each year by a German organization to recognize achievement in Ehrlich's fields: immunology, oncology, haematology and microbiology (Ehrlich also developed the first modern chemotherapy). Mosmann received the award for his discovery of how the human immune system “decides” which cells and chemicals need to be deployed to destroy a cellular invader, a theory which continues to suggest new treatment approaches for diseases from asthma to parasitic infections.

Ashok N. Shah, M.D., professor of Medicine in the Gastroentrology and Hepatology Division, was awarded a Mastership – the American College of Gastroenterology’s highest award – for his contributions to clinical gastroenterology at the College’s Annual Meeting in October. Shah is one of only 103 physicians to earn a Mastership in the 75-year history of the College.

Catherine Lyons, R.N., M.S.; associate director for cancer services at the Wilmot Cancer Center, Margaret Carno, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor of Nursing; and Jill Quinn, Ph.D., R.N., assistant professor of Nursing, all were recently inducted into the National Academies of Practice. Membership to this prestigious organization is only granted to those who have made substantial contributions to practice either through direct patient care, or through education and research related to the care of patients.

The American Red Cross recently introduced Red Cross ReadyRN, an on-line disaster education and training program for health professionals, authored and developed by Tener Goodwin Veenema, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S., C.P.N.P., an associate professor at the School of Nursing and a nationally recognized expert in emergency nursing and disaster preparedness. Veenema customized the program to help the Red Cross enhance its ability to prepare for and respond to complex public health emergencies in communities across the U.S. Veenema also recently published her second textbook, Disaster Nursing and Emergency Preparedness: for Chemical, Biological and Radiological Terrorism and Other Hazards.

Robert C. Block, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor, Division of Epidemiology, Department of Community and Preventive Medicine, recently earned a designation as a specialist in lipidology from the American Board of Clinical Lipidology. Block is one of only 300 physicians nationwide who have achieved this credential. Lipidologists specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of cholesterol disorders, which may cause atherosclerosis and heart disease.

Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and medical director of the Ruth A. Lawrence Poison & Drug Information Center, is one of 22 area women who have been named finalists for this year's Women’s Councils’ Athena Award. The award recognizes a Rochester-area professional woman who has demonstrated significant achievements in business, community service and the professional advancement of women. Lawrence’s nomination focuses on her pioneer work in the field of breastfeeding medicine, on her work laying the foundations for the nation’s second-oldest poison center, and on her constant efforts to champion other women, whether they be Girl Scouts or colleagues in science and medicine.

Jinjiang Pang, Ph.D., a post-doctorate fellow within the Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute, won the American Heart Association’s Cournand and Comroe Young Investigator Prize in Cardiopulmonary and Critical Care for her work on the genetic mechanisms that control how blood vessels form in the lungs of a developing fetus. Her efforts could eventually lead to better treatment for premature infants treated with ventilators.

Thomas G. Rodenhouse, M. D., associate professor of Neurosurgery, recently was honored with the 2007 Noonan Award recipient. Given by the McQuaid Alumni Association, the Noonan Award recognizes and honors the achievements of outstanding alumni. Rodenhouse specializes in cerebrovascular malformations, aneurysms, and skull based tumors, such as acoustic neuromas.

Moira Szilagyi, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics, was named the second recipient of the Calvin C. J. Sia Community Pediatrics Medical Home Leadership and Advocacy Award by The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Council on Community Pediatrics. The award recognizes a pediatrician who has demonstrated clinical excellence, community action and advocacy for children with unique care needs. Szilagyi was honored for her work as medical director at Starlight Pediatrics, a specialty clinic for foster care children and adolescents.

The Deaf Wellness Center at the University of Rochester Medical Center has received the Bronze Achievement Award from the American Psychiatric Association at a recent event in New Orleans. Robert Pollard, Ph.D., the centers director and an associate professor of psychiatry, accepted the award. The award credits the Deaf Wellness Center for its work in specialized mental health services to the deaf community and its research and education related to mental health and deafness.




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Last updated: 06/23/2009 10:00 PM