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The University of Rochester Medical Center will open one of the nation's largest centers for heart research, made possible by the recent purchase of a Henrietta research facility formerly occupied by Wyeth-Lederle Vaccines and Pediatrics.
More than 120 scientists and technicians from the Medical Center will be relocated to the facility. The University will begin to re-outfit the 84,000 square-foot facility to fufill the research needs for studying cardiovascular disease, and researchers will begin moving to their new home in early 2005.
"Establishing this research facility is an important step toward making the University of Rochester Medical Center one of the nation's premier centers for the study of cardiovascular disease," said C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., CEO of the Medical Center and Strong Health. "Our goal is to make discoveries that will open the door to new treatments for heart disease, and to bring that work to the clinic so that patients in Rochester are the first to benefit."
When the Medical Center announced the second phase of a half-billion-dollar expansion of its medical research programs in 1999, it selected cardiovascular disease as one of six areas of research that it would seek to bolster by investing in new facilities and recruiting scientists. Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., a Rochester native and 1981 graduate of the School of Medicine and Dentistry, was named to head the newly established Center for Cardiovascular Research in the Aab Institute of Biomedical Sciences. Since his appointment in 1999, Berk has recruited 13 researchers and tripled to more than $15 million the amount of grant funding the medical school receives annually for cardiovascular research from the National Institutes of Health.
These expanded research programs, which are currently housed in several buildings across the Medical Center's Elmwood Avenue campus, will be brought together under one roof at the Henrietta facility. Researchers at the Medical Center are currently conducting more than 100 research projects to gain new understanding of cardiovascular disease, ranging from clinical trials to test the effectiveness of new heart medications, to laboratory studies of how plaque builds up in the coronary arteries, a process known as atherosclerosis.
In addition, Mark Taubman, M.D., Paul N. Yu Professor of Cardiology and chief of the Cardiology Unit, leads a research group studying the formation of blood clots – also called thrombosis – and the link between atherosclerosis and thrombosis in heart disease. A third research area, led by Arthur J. Moss, M.D., professor of Medicine, is electrophysiology, or the study of the electrical signals that regulate the heart beat.
Researchers in the new facility will study these aspects of heart disease using the latest scientific tools – including microarrays that can reveal which genes are turned on inside a cell at a given moment, and a powerful two-photon microscope that lets scientists watch the inner workings of living cells. These and other tools will help researchers in their central task: identifying molecules that cause heart disease.
"As we identify the molecules involved in heart disease, we can begin targeting them with drugs," says Berk.
That scientific hunt – for the molecular culprits of heart disease and for new drugs that target them – may have economic implications locally. The University recently has filed several patent applications related to discoveries made by its cardiovascular researchers. If those discoveries lead to successful therapies, new local companies may be created to develop them.
That path from university research to product development led to the construction of the Wyeth building more than a decade ago. The facility was built in 1993 by American Cyanamid to continue the commercial development of the vaccine against Haemophilus influenza type b, or "Hib," that had been pioneered by two URMC scientists, David Smith and Porter Anderson.
Longtime faculty member Kanakadurga R. Poduri, M.D., has been appointed chair of the Division of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) within the Department of Orthopaedics at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). PM&R was recently restructured as a division of Orthopaedics to join the strengths of both disciplines to improve education, research and patient care.
With more than two decades of association with PM&R, Poduri has worked diligently on its residency program. Her peers credit her for substantially improving the School's PM&R residency by making the program more educationally robust, larger and more competitive. Under her leadership, the residency has earned full accreditation as an integrated, 4-year program from the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Those achievements will serve as a solid foundation for working with her orthopaedics colleagues.
"Dr. Poduri is the best possible choice for this role," said David Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., dean of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "She has earned the respect of her peers as an outstanding clinician and educator. Working together with Orthopaedics, she now has the opportunity to bring the overall functioning of PM&R to a new level."
A graduate of Karnatak Medical College, Hubli, India, Poduri completed her internship and residency experiences at St. Mary's Hospital and Strong Memorial Hospital. In addition to serving as chief resident in Rehabilitation Medicine at Strong, Poduri did a fellowship in geriatric rehabilitation at Monroe Community Hospital. She joined the URMC faculty as a clinical instructor in 1981, and rose through the ranks to associate professor of PM&R. She also serves as chief of Clinical Services for PM&R at Strong.
With PM&R now officially aligned within Orthopaedics, enhancements in overall operations and patient care can be streamlined. For example, residents from each discipline will be able to do rotations in both areas, enhancing their overall education, while plans are underway to combine appointment–scheduling functions.
With Election Day only weeks away, now is the time to make sure that you are registered to vote. To be eligible to vote in the upcoming election, your registration application must be postmarked no later than October 8.
To encourage faculty, staff, patients and visitors to vote, Strong Memorial and the Rochester Voters Alliance (RVA) are sponsoring a nonpartisan voter registration drive through October 1. Volunteers from RVA will staff booths at locations throughout the Medical Center, including the Behavioral Health atrium, the gift shop, the main cafeteria and by the silver elevators in the Ambulatory Building.
"Many individuals mistakenly think that they are registered to vote," said Susan Ruhlin, M.S.W., who is leading the voter registration effort at Strong. "If your address has changed since you last registered, you must re-register. If you simply aren’t sure, it’s best to take a few minutes and re-register."
Applications can be filled out in less than five minutes, and volunteers are available to answer questions. Within three to four weeks, the Board of Elections will send participants information confirming their registration and identifying their polling place.
In a move projected to bring greater purchasing potential to the University while yielding substantial savings, the University recently tapped MedAssets Supply Chain and Services Group as its new group purchasing organization (GPO). Overall, the University spends $400 million in purchases annually, with the Medical Center and Strong Health affiliates making up more than half of that volume, at $288 million.
Key to the new relationship is the ability to provide customized contracts based on faculty and staff preferences. Through the use of an expansive clinical cost database of pricing information for similar medical centers across the United States, physicians, for example, can compare purchasing costs for the same products nationwide to help negotiate better prices and contracts for their product of choice.
"MedAssets was selected as a key business partner because of its ability to provide a customized approach to the diverse needs of our entire institution," said Phil Profeta, corporate director of purchasing for the University.
Profeta does not anticipate any of the core purchasing processes currently in place to change with the switch to MedAssets, nor will faculty and staff be forced to make changes in product purchases. Instead, staff will be encouraged to take an active role in utilizing the pricing information provided by MedAssets' database to help the University achieve savings either through improved price initiatives or through objective information supporting a change.
Profeta is forecasting substantial savings, upwards of $20 million, over the course of the University's five-year contract with MedAssets. A great deal of this savings is expected to be derived from medical devices, which account for 40 percent of the $288 million spent by the Medical Center.
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