Penn Medicine Magazine

2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | 2000

Penn Medicine is published three times a year for the alumni and friends of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania by the Department of Communications.

Editor: John Shea, PhD
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2014

Current Issue: Winter

Winter 2014
Beatrice Hahn and George Shaw have contributed to nearly every aspect of HIV research. They have also worked to develop methods to identify and characterize a "transmitted founder virus." That allows them to infer what molecular and genetic traits are necessary and sufficient for a virus to cross a mucosal barrier and establish an active infection.

2013

Summer

Summer 2013
Penn's Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics draws on principles from economics and psychology to look at how people make choices in complex contexts such as personal finances and health. As Kevin Volpp, M.D., Ph.D., the center's director, points out, in those situations, "we often are our own worst enemies."

Spring

Spring 2013
Charles C. Branas, Ph.D., had been studying gun violence and its connection to geography and place since coming to Penn in 2000. “I really wanted to turn the corner and start doing something to improve health and safety.” To do so, he’s employed one of epidemiology’s oldest tools – maps.

2012

Fall

fall 2012
David Dinges, Ph.D., professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, has been working with NASA for more than 20 years on one of the most challenging problems of space exploration: how to keep astronauts alert, active, and able to do their enormously complex and dangerous jobs in the most extreme conditions human beings will ever face.

Summer

summer 2012
The old formula was raise the "good" cholesterol and lower the "bad." Thanks to Daniel J. Rader, M.D., we now know it's more complicated than that. For example, he's shown that it's not certain that all HDLs of any type are good. And he's investigating the "efflux" process, which he believes makes HDL protective.

Spring

Until recently, scientists believed that gene mutations were the only source of human diseases but it turns out to be more complicated. As Shelley Berger, Ph.D., director of the Penn Epigenetics Program, explains, "Epigenetics is a layer of regulation over our genes that is key to how genes are turned on and off."

2011

Fall

When the University's first medical program opened in 1765, gross anatomy was a part of it. Even with today's "virtual curriculum" and other technical and educational advances, medical students continue to learn essential lessons in such courses. Taking gross anatomy is a rite of passage and more.

Spring

At Penn Medicine, physician-scientists are creating new DNA vaccines that hold great promise for fighting disease more effectively, with fewer side effects. Less like a drug in a bottle or a vaccine in a vial, they are "more like a next-generation blood transfusion." But the new vaccines are expensive, and funding can be hard to find.

Winter

Studies show that, even today, women in academic medicine are severely underrepresented in the ranks of tenured professors and in leadership positions. Achieving equity is a not-so-simple matter of changing the culture of medical schools. A recent grant will help Penn investigators explore strategies for doing exactly that.

2010

Summer

As a summer volunteer at Sulayman Junkung General Hospital in The Gambia, Kathryn Hall witnessed how sorely the hospital needed dependable power. For patients, electricity could mean the difference between life and death. Now a Penn medical student, Hall founded an organization that has funded construction of a lifesaving solar-energy system for the Gambian hospital.

Spring

Autism is very much in the news, but today there is still no cure for it and no significant understanding of its causes. The Center for Autism Research, which brings together experts from Penn Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, integrates a variety of specialties to better understand and treat a complex neurological disorder.

Winter

As the national debate on health care reform continues, experts at Penn Medicine have been following the issue closely. The CEO of Penn's Health System discusses reform's likely impact on academic medical centers – and beyond. Faculty members engaged in comparative effectiveness research explain what part CER can play in reforming health care.

2009

Summer

The Transformation of Transfusion Medicine — At Penn, a critical mass of experts and sophisticated new technologies has helped transform transfusion medicine. Although it continues its diagnostic function, transfusion medicine is increasingly involved in therapy – for example, in collecting and purifying lymphocytes that will be re-engineered to combat specific infections or attack cancer cells.

Spring

Regenerative Medicine: Ready to Take the Lead — Although embryonic stem cells were the focus of scrutiny – and controversy – in recent years, many scientists continued to explore other ways to generate or reprogram cells for therapeutic use. Now with one of the pioneers in the field as its director, Penn's Institute for Regenerative Medicine seeks to establish itself as a leader among such programs.

Winter

Hair Brained — George Cotsarelis, M.D. ’87, has drawn wide – and sometimes fervent – interest for his research on hair loss. So far, his team has succeeded in generating new hair in mice. But the interim step may prove more significant: By generating hair follicles that produce the hair, the researchers accomplished the first successful regeneration of a mammalian organ.

2008

Summer

Gene Therapy Restores Partial SightSome 20 years after the idea first came to them, Jean Bennett, M.D., Ph.D., and Albert M. Maguire, M.D., have used gene therapy to restore partial sight to patients with Leber's congenital amaurosis (LCA). A severe form of retinal degradation, the condition leads to total blindness. The preliminary results set the stage for further studies of an innovative treatment for LCA and possibly other retinal diseases.

Spring

The F.D.A. has referred to the "New Era of Personalized Medicine" and last year supported it with $277 million. Some private groups see its enormous potential for making money. Many physicians are enthusiastic about its clinical impact. Although some questions about cost and privacy remain, the movement toward personalized medicine is very strong. At PENN Medicine, cancer specialists are among those taking the lead in this new paradigm.

2007

Fall/Winter

Four years ago, the School of Medicine established the Office of Corporate Alliances. Its mandate: to bring Penn scientists and clinicians together with industry scientists, marketing people, and managers. Going beyond some surface differences, they often find reasons – and ways – to collaborate.

Summer

For the first time last fall, the School of Medicine divided its incoming class into teams of six and seven. The idea is that, to be effective as doctors, students will have to learn how to work well in teams and learn how to lead them. Most health care today is not provided by solo practitioners; and in hospitals, patients are often cared for by multiple doctors and teams of professionals.

Winter

A Critical Period : Three of Penn's schools were prominently involved in an initiative to gather the latest information about adolescent mental health. In all, nearly 150 experts in a variety of fields and from around the country helped evaluate what we know — and don't know — about this important topic. The results include a massive book for specialists, a series of books for parents, and a series for teens with mental illnesses.

2006

Fall

Positive Imaging: With R. Nick Bryan, M.D., Ph.D., at the helm, Penn's Department of Radiology has weathered some difficult times and undergone substantial growth and development. Armed with an array of cutting-edge imaging equipment, Penn radiologists are seeing more patients and advancing knowledge in the field. Residencies and fellowships are highly sought after. Among the nation's radiology departments, Penn's remains near the top in receiving research funding from the National Institutes of Health.

Summer

Professing Humanism: Professionals adhere to established standards, keep up with advances in medicine, and accept their obligation to give back to society. Humanists put their patients first, making empathy as important as technical skill. With a new position of associate dean of professionalism and humanism and an innovative program that pairs medical students with patients from the very start of their education, Penn's School of Medicine has been a leader in fostering these concepts in its curriculum.

Winter

The Immersion Method: The School of Medicine's revitalized programs in global health provide intense experiences for the students who take part. The credo: The only way to understand another country "is to got there and immerse yourself."

2005

Fall

Prescription: Better Information Technology for Better Health: Across the nation, hospitals are implementing specialized computer information systems to reduce costs, reduce medical errors, and improve the quality of care. The Federal guru of health information technology, David J. Brailer, M.D., did his training at Penn.

Summer

A Matter of Potential: An AAMC study pointed out that only 12 percent of full professors at academic medical centers were women. At Penn, FOCUS on Health & Leadership for Women has broadened its mandate to include initiatives in leadership mentoring and professional development for women faculty. It is also helping women to balance the many varied responsibilities they bear.

Spring

America the Super-Sized: Over the last four decades, Americans have become dramatically heavier, creating talk of “an epidemic of obesity.” And it’s not a matter of aesthetics — it’s a matter of health. The professionals in Penn’s Weight and Eating Disorders Program are studying the causes of this trend, evaluating the available treatments, and helping their patients lose weight in healthy fashion.

2004

Fall/Winter

Room for Thought: A Penn team discovered a mutation in the protein myosin that appears responsible for the development of smaller jaw muscles in humans as compared to non-human primates. Did this mutation lift an evolutionary constraint on brain growth in early humans?

Spring

What Makes Lee Sweeney Run?: In scientific circles, H. Lee Sweeney, PhD, chair of Penn's Department of Physiology, has built a reputation investigating Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. But he is best known in the wider world for his work with "mighty mice," treated to gain muscle mass and stave off many of the effects of aging. That work has drawn much attention — from The New York Times Magazine to competitive weight-lifters.

2003

Fall/Winter

A Champion for Survivors: Advances in cancer treatment over the last decades have led to a rapidly growing population of cured patients. Anna T. Meadows, MD, professor of pediatrics at Penn, was one of the first oncologists to examine the aftermath of radiation, cancer drugs, surgery, and transfusions on this special population, who may experience second cancers, organ dysfunction, decreased fertility, and emotional problems.

Summer

Fighting the Bullet: C. William Schwab, MD, and Therese S. Richmond, PhD, CRNP, had seen more than enough in the trauma centers — several hundred victims of gunshot wounds, year after year. Schwab and Richmond wanted to halt the violence, but they knew they needed impeccable scientific data to support intervention efforts and policy changes. So they created FICAP, the Firearm Injury Center at Penn.

Winter

Changing Their Minds: You don't have to be a practicing Buddhist to reap the benefits of mindfulness meditation, says Michael Baime, MD '81, who teaches the technique to both patients and other health-care professionals. According to Baime, mindfulness meditation can help people reduce stress and cultivate a greater sense of well-being. In the past few years, he's gained a lot of believers.

2002

Fall

Changing the Future of Research: After the tragic death of a volunteer in one of its genetherapy trials, the University of Pennsylvania made a commitment to improve the way clinical trials involving humans are conducted and regulated. One tangible result is the Office of Human Research, which assists researchers in developing protocols and monitoring the trials. Top administrators describe the changes as a "revolution"; standards are now much more rigorous.

Spring

Brain Injury: The Silent Epidemic: Tracy K. McIntosh has been the first person on the scene of an automobile accident a half dozen times in his life, and he knows how often the human brain suffers traumatic injury in such events. As director of Penn's interdisciplinary Head Injury Center, he also knows how research can help in the prevention, understanding, and treatment of brain injury.

2001

Summer

The Science of Addiction: In his 30 years as director of Penn's Treatment Research Center, Charles P. O'Brien, MD, GME '69 PhD, has witnessed changes in the way scientists understand addiction, thanks to advances in neurochemistry, neurophysiology, and genetics. Despite resistance among many who deliver treatment, the trend in research today is to focus on using medication to treat addiction.

Spring

A Man of Many Parts: Early in his career in Ireland, Dr. Garret FitzGerald may have struggled to establish his own reputation – he shared a name with one of that nation's most famous politicians. Now, FitzGerald, a busy department chair at Penn Med, has made a name for himself through his medical and pharmacological research. But he believes in the necessity of collaboration, arguing "Art is I; science is we."

2000

Fall/Winter

Studies show that, even today, women in academic medicine are severely underrepresented in the ranks of tenured professors and in leadership positions. Achieving equity is a not-so-simple matter of changing the culture of medical schools. A recent grant will help Penn investigators explore strategies for doing exactly that.