University of Pennslyvania Health Systems
Office of Public Affairs
399 South 34th Street, Suite 2002, Penn Tower, Philadelphia, PA 19104-5653

January 31, 2008


Holly Auer
O: (215) 349-5659C: (215) 200-2313

African Americans Less Likely to Choose Epidurals for Post-Operative Pain Relief, Penn Research Finds
Disparity Poses Risks for Long-Term, Chronic Pain and Other Complications

PHILADELPHIA – Jonathan A. Epstein, MD, Chairman of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Co-director of the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, participated in a panel discussion following the WHYY-TV pre-screening of “Mapping Stem Cell Research: Terra Incognita,” in December.

Delving into one of the hot button political issues for 2008, the film describes the personal experience of stem cell researcher Jack Kessler of Northwestern University when his daughter lost the use of her legs in a skiing accident. National airing of the film starts on January 15 and is slated to air on WHYY-TV 12 at 10:00 PM EST on Thursday January 17 (

“Touching on issues such as stem-cell research in film in a personal way helps bring understanding to a difficult and complicated topic and puts a human face on the need for research,” says Epstein.

When Kessler was invited to head up the Neurology Department at Northwestern, his focus was on using stem cells to treat the neurological complications of diabetes. However, soon after his move to Chicago, his daughter, Allison, then age 15, was injured in a skiing accident and paralyzed from the waist down. In the moments following the accident, Dr. Kessler made the decision to change the focus of his research to begin looking for a cure for spinal cord injuries using embryonic stem cells. The film follows his alternately frustrating and exhilarating research, as well as two young women whose lives were devastatingly altered by spinal cord injuries.

Penn’s Epstein specializes in exploring the molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular development, especially their implications for understanding and treating human disease. Epstein is also the William Wikoff Smith Chair in Cardiovascular Research and the scientific director of the Penn Cardiovascular Institute. He practices medicine in the cardiac intensive care unit at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Veteran Administration Hospital.
Dr. Epstein will be available for comment on the film. Please contact Karen Kreeger to set up an interview.


PENN Medicine is a $3.5 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.

Penn's School of Medicine is currently ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's survey of top research-oriented medical schools; and, according to most recent data from the National Institutes of Health, received over $379 million in NIH research funds in the 2006 fiscal year. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals — its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center — a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.

Release available online at