By Lisa Brown

Medical Campus Celebrates Promotions

May 21st, 2015 in Uncategorized

MED, SPH profs move up the ranks

Doctors can prescribe the treatment, but it’s up to their patients to follow their advice. A. Rani Elwy, a recently promoted School of Public Health associate professor of health policy and management, studies the reasons some patients seek medical help while others don’t. Elwy, who has won four SPH teaching awards and is an investigator with the Bedford VA Medical Center’s Center of Innovation, specializes in the study of patients’ perceptions of their health, doctor-patient communication, and how complementary and alternative therapies can be tailored to improve engagement and access to care.

“As a health psychologist, I felt that the patient role was not being investigated enough,” says Elwy. “Patients bring a whole host of cognitive, emotional, and cultural beliefs to the health care setting, and providers need to know these in order to facilitate appropriate care….Our job as researchers is to work collaboratively with patients and provider—learning from them, not imposing our views on them—which enables us to develop innovative methods to address these complex health care problems.”

Elwy’s work has been rewarded with a promotion to associate professor, making her one of 11 Medical Campus faculty members to be recently promoted (find Charles River Campus faculty members who have been recently promoted here).

“These promotions…mark an especially proud moment for the BU community, as we’ve had the pleasure of watching these talented women and men develop from promising junior faculty into scholars and teachers of national impact and recognition,” says Karen Antman, School of Medicine dean and provost of the Medical Campus. “We see great things ahead for them and are pleased they have chosen BU as the place to launch their independent careers.”

As well as A. Rani Elwy, promoted were:

Renee Boynton-Jarrett, School of Medicine associate professor of pediatrics

Boynton-Jarrett specializes in the study of social determinants, such as early life adversity, and their long-term impact on health outcomes for populations. A principal investigator on privately funded studies exploring child abuse prevention and early puberty and adolescent obesity, she codirects the Academies of Investigation and the Academic Development Block for the Boston Combined Residency Program in Pediatrics, which brings together the training programs of Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital. She is a faculty mentor for the program’s Urban Health Advocacy Track for the Community Health Mentorships Group.

Christopher Connor, MED associate professor of anesthesiology

Connor, anesthesiology department director of research, specializes in inventing new technologies to improve patient safety and postoperative outcomes, such as critical care and pain management. Considered among the world’s top investigators in airway management and new technology studies, he holds the distinction of being the only scientist/innovator in his field to earn four out of the five national safety awards over the last five years. Connor has a joint appointment in the College of Engineering’s department of biomedical engineering, where he is an assistant professor.

Alik Farber, MED professor of surgery and radiology

A specialist in vascular disease, Farber is chief of the division of vascular and endovascular surgery at Boston Medical Center (BMC), where he directs the vascular surgery training program. He is a co–principal investigator on a $25 million National Institutes of Health award comparing outcomes of open vascular surgery and endovascular surgery in patients with critical limb ischemia (a severe blockage of the arteries in the legs or feet).

Devin Mann, MED associate professor of medicine

Mann is BMC’s associate chief medical information officer for innovation and population health and the physician lead on a project to standardize health information across 61 specialty clinics. He studies new ways to enhance health care delivery through novel technologies and the integration of multiple disciplines, including bioinformatics, behavioral medicine, and human-computer interactions. A presidential appointee to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s health information technology policy committee, he has written more than 50 scholarly publications.

Paul Monach, MED associate professor of medicine

Monach researches and treats vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, with an emphasis on genetics and the development of biomarkers. He is the director of the Vasculitis Center, a regionally recognized resource for patient care and research, and of the BMC rheumatology fellowship program. He is an active member of several prominent vasculitis consortia and is co–principal investigator and site investigator on a major National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases study.

Rebecca Perkins, MED associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology

Perkins has dedicated her career to cervical cancer prevention and promoting the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine into clinical practice. A member of the Society of Gynecologic Investigation, she has worked to identify social and educational barriers to vaccination coming from parents and health providers and piloted interventions to increase vaccination rates and acceptance. She has published consistently in top journals and been awarded four grants as a principal investigator and two as a coinvestigator.

Frederick L. Ruberg, MED associate professor of medicine

Ruberg is the director of MED’s cardiovascular medicine fellowship training program and is an attending cardiologist and director of the advanced cardiac imaging program at BMC. He specializes in amyloid heart disease and the use of advanced imaging technology to assess cardiomyopathy (a disease of the heart muscle). He is principal investigator of an American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant and was recently site principal investigator for an NIH-funded study on the evaluation of chest pain.

Shannon Wiltsey Stirman, MED associate professor of psychiatry

Named a “rising star” by the Association for Psychological Science, Wiltsey-Stirman has been actively funded as a principal investigator since 2007, amassing more than 1,000 citations for her work, which includes a study on technology-enhanced psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Specializing in implementation science, she focuses on the integration of evidence-based interventions into practice settings, including VA and community health clinics.

Ann Zumwalt, MED associate professor of anatomy and neurobiology

Zumwalt is an expert on perceptual changes that occur as people grow from naïve learners to experts and in pedagogical approaches that bridge the gap between basic science and clinical education. A recognized leader within her program, she has been honored with MED’s Preclinical Educator of the Year Award. She has published extensively on science education, serves in leadership posts for numerous national organizations for anatomists, and is director of her department’s Vesalius Program, which applies principles of neurobiology to education.

Edward A. Ruiz-Narváez, SPH associate professor of epidemiology

Ruiz-Narváez studies how molecular, nutritional, and cardiovascular disease epidemiology intersects, and how it can identify genetic risk factors for a variety of diseases among African American women. A principal investigator or coinvestigator on five major grant awards, including two from the National Cancer Institute, he has earned widespread recognition for studies covering diseases that disproportionately affect black women, including breast cancer, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

This BU Today story was written by


BUSM Graduates: Influencing Lives Every Day

May 16th, 2015 in Uncategorized

IMG_5552_“There will be few days in your lives as exciting and momentous as this one,” shared Howard Bauchner, MD, MED ’79 and editor-in-chief of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), who delivered the commencement address at the 168th Boston University School of Medicine Commencement on Saturday, May 16. Friends and family screamed, cheered and applauded from the stands of the Agganis Arena as newly minted graduates were hooded and received their diplomas.

BU Medical Campus Provost and BUSM Dean Karen Antman, MD, reminded graduates and their families, “Commencement is the end of the beginning of your education. The diploma you get today is really a license to learn. It is a credential that grants you entry to the next stage of your education. We really hope you have acquired the most important tool of all–the capacity for continued, disciplined inquiry and lifelong learning.”

The ceremony marked the culmination of the academic journey for 144 members of the Class of 2015 receiving the MD; six the MD/PhD; 11 the MD/MPH; four the MD/MBA and 27 the PhD. “Physicians and scientists can influence many aspects of our daily lives, including the political process. Speak up, use your voice to effect change,” urged Bauchner, who also is a BU professor of pediatrics and community health sciences. He has served as the vice chairman of the department of pediatrics at BMC/BUSM and assistant dean, alumni affairs and continuing medical education at BUSM.

Bauchner reminded graduates to take time out of a busy day for a few unplanned, unscripted minutes with people important to them; to make note of good things that happen over the course of a day; and to always remember that, “relationships will sustain you throughout your life, be they with a mentor, a colleague, a friend, a spouse or a child. They must be nourished. “

Elizabeth Stanford spoke for her fellow doctoral students when she said, “All of us started this journey because of an end goal; we wanted to improve the quality of lives of others by learning more about our field of interest. This is a new beginning for us, in which all of our dreams are now a possibility due to our education from Boston University. We are now doctors of philosophy!”

Megan Janeway, who will be a sixth-generation physician, spoke on behalf of the medical students. She provided a balance of light-hearted humor and sage advice. “It has truly been a privilege to learn with you and to learn from you. More than anything it has been a privilege to laugh with you, it has carried us through the last four years.  I know that you will push the envelope and challenge the hierarchy to better medicine for your patients.”

“No single profession other than health care can so impact the lives of individuals and their families,” Bauchner said. “Medicine is an extraordinary profession, filled with challenges, disappointments and anxieties, but the one constant is the ability to influence the lives of individuals every day.”

Take a look at our Facebook album for more photos.

A Special Day for GMS Graduates

May 15th, 2015 in Uncategorized

IMG_5219“If you want to make a difference, think boldly, out of the box and take a chance. If we learn from our mistakes, they aren’t mistakes, they are learning experiences. Over the past two years our job has been to prepare you for professional success. Until now your job has been to answer our questions correctly. Now you have a new job. It’s time for you to start asking the right questions,“ Associate Provost for Graduate Medical Sciences (GMS) Linda Hyman, PhD, told graduates at the GMS commencement on Friday, May 15, at Metcalf Hall in BU’s George Sherman Union.

Faculty members dressed in colorful regalia lined the staircase and filed into their seats joining 341 master’s degree candidates. “Today is a day of traditions: the organ, the processional, the gathering of your mentors, friends and family. Today is a very special day. The traditions of today are important. They help us connect the dots, punctuating milestones in our lives. “

Three student speakers provided perspective on their GMS experiences and their hopes for their classmates.

According to Peter Foster, who earned a master’s in Medical Sciences, “We are all about to embark into a rapidly changing landscape of health care and health policy. Whether you go into research, business, law, medicine, public service or education, neither you nor society can continue to survive or prosper simply by implementing what is already known. Somebody is going to have to come up with meaningful new ideas, creative new approaches and important new discoveries. That ‘somebody’ is you. We owe it to our future patients, clients and colleagues to never settle for anything but our very best. “

Receiving her master’s in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practices Bianca Bracho-Perez, shared her thoughts. “GMS allows for and encourages the cross-pollination of disciplines creating an environment where partnerships grow and innovation flourishes…It is when we open our work to those not in our field that we gain perspective and create the greatest impact.”

Michael Hendrickson a candidate for a Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling and Behavioral Medicine questioned, “But what do this diploma and our hoods really represent? To me, and my hope is that this extends to every graduate who crosses the stage today, our diplomas represent not only professional but personal growth. My hope is that we will each continue to encounter those challenges that make us question everything. For that is when we can grow as clinicians and as individuals.”

Take a look at our Facebook album for photos from the day.

Two BUMC Students Named Schweitzer Fellows

May 13th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Two Boston University Medical Campus students have been selected as 2015-16 Boston Albert Schweitzer Fellows. Amanda M. Alon, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and Aline Souza, Boston University School of Medicine, Physician Assistant Program will spend the next year learning to effectively address the social factors that impact health, and developing lifelong leadership skills. In doing so, they will follow the example set by physician-humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, for whom their Fellowship is named.

Schweitzer Fellows develop and implement service projects that address the root causes of health inequities in under-resourced communities, while also fulfilling their academic responsibilities. Each project is implemented in collaboration with a community-based health and/or social service organization. Fellows come from a range of academic disciplines—medicine, physical therapy, dentistry, pharmacy, and other allied health fields. Boston Fellows have contributed nearly 100,000 hours of service since 1992 to vulnerable populations in Massachusetts.

The 16 Boston Fellows will join approximately 220 other 2015-16 Schweitzer Fellows working at 13 program sites, 12 in the US and one in Lambaréné, Gabon at the site of The Albert Schweitzer Hospital, founded by Dr. Schweitzer in 1913. Upon completion of their Fellowship year, the 2015-16 Boston Schweitzer Fellows will become Schweitzer Fellows for Life and join a vibrant network of more than 3,000 Schweitzer alumni who are skilled in, and committed to, addressing the health needs of underserved people throughout their careers. Fellows for Life routinely report that ASF is integral to sustaining their commitment to serving people in need.

Amanda M. Alon, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine

Amanda Alon

Amanda Alon

Alon is addressing oral health inequities by creating an education program for early intervention in childhood caries in low income populations in the Greater Lawrence area. The program will teach parents, caretakers, and children the importance of at-home care as well as provider care. The program aims to improve the oral health of the area as well as inspire the youth to make a difference in their community. She hopes to take small steps in order to make a big difference for an at-risk community.
Community Site: Greater Lawrence Community Action Council Child Care Center

Aline Souza, Boston University School of Medicine, Physician Assistant Program

Aline Souza

Aline Souza

Souza is working to increase awareness about chronic cardiac conditions through Healthy Hearts wellness groups with homeless individuals of Boston. These groups will provide a collaborative environment with stress relieving exercises and educational activities. Souza will also address health education in this community by holding individual sessions for those interested in learning more about how to care for your heart and maintain a good quality of life when faced with the obstacles of homelessness. The goals of the project are to increase awareness, improve medication compliance, and allow individuals from an underserved community to come together and take ownership of their health.
Community Site: Boston Healthcare for the Homeless

Register for BUSM+ Medical Education Digital Badge Program Summer Course

April 22nd, 2015 in Uncategorized

BUSM+The BUSM+ Medical Education Digital Badge Program that is targeted to healthcare professionals provides the opportunity to learn the fundamentals about teaching and learning that they may have missed in their professional careers or now want to review to enhance their teaching. The online, open admissions, asynchronous program is conveniently offered 24/7 during your selected time. Take a session or sign up for a competency badge with CME credit and join the global BUSM+ learning community. The 10 sessions include video chats with teaching tips from the Boston University School of Medicine faculty and zipinars on the latest technologies and pedagogies.  Registration is open now until May 30, 2015 and the first session starts June 14, 2015.  Free for all  BU/BUMC/BUSM faculty, staff, and students who teach at BUSM.

Do you have your badge? A digital badge is an electronic symbol embedded with your accomplishments in completing a project, mastering a skill, or documenting an experience in Blackboard that is distributed through Mozilla Open Badge to your CV, social networking sites, ePortfolio, or signature line.

For more information and to register, please go to . The Teaching and Learning course begins June 14, 2015 and registration is open until May 30, 2015.

BU Team Takes Innovation Award at Global Health Case Competition

April 2nd, 2015 in Uncategorized

Global Health Competition 2015A creative and effective interdisciplinary team represented Boston University at the 2015 International Emory Global Health Case Competition in March. The five women representing the Schools of Medicine, Public Health and Business won the “Innovation Award” for their presentation, “Un Cuerpo Unido: Transforming the Judicial System in Honduras to Improve Effectiveness and Access.”

Ariel Falconer, SPH ‘15; Liz Nerad, QSB/SPH ’15;  Kim Principe, QSB ‘15; Tess Timmes, BUSM ’17; and Karen Foo, MMSc, BUSM ’17, joined 24 teams representing academic institutions from Denmark, Australia and the US to develop recommendations for the President of Honduras to reduce rates of gun violence in that country by 2020.

The Global Health competition is designed to raise awareness of and develop innovative solutions for 21st century global health issues. Teams receive a global health-related case that requires an interdisciplinary approach to formulate recommendations that may involve issues such as health care policy, public health implementation and planning, business partnership/investment, medical research, logistics management, faith/cultural understanding, and international law.

GSDM Students Provide Dental Care in Panama

March 24th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Raman Samra DMD 15 cares for a young Panamanian patient
On January 15, 2015, Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) students Christopher Chan and Raman Samra (both DMD 15) traveled to Penonomé, Panama, to provide dental care. The trip was sponsored by North East Volunteer Optometric Services for Humanity (NEVOSH), a Rhode Island based organization dedicated to providing health care to those in need around  the world. In addition to the dental and optometry volunteers, many other medical professionals and students comprised the NEVOSH group.

Along with Chan and Samra, three GSDM alumni (Christina Thompson DMD 06, Jose Alamo DMD 06, and Frank Casarella DMD 88), a Georgetown School of Dentistry alumnus, a hygienist, and several dental assistants comprised the dental team. With the help of a local rotary club, the clinic was set up at an elementary school—two computer labs provided a functional workspace with ample power sources to run the generator for the makeshift dental operatories. One room featured 12 oral surgery chairs and the other room consisted of two operative chairs and a hygiene chair. “We saw a lot of serious issues. It was like nothing Raman or I had ever seen before,” said Chan. ”It was pretty obvious that it had been a long time, or maybe never, since many of the patients had visited the dentist.”

The dental team was able to see 868 patients ranging from 2- to 80-years-old. “One of the great things about this experience was that we got to see a diverse group of people from the village and city of Penonomé,” said Samra, who felt that the language barrier posed the biggest challenge of the trip. “Thankfully we had a great group of students from a local college that dedicated their free time to help us with translation.”

When not at the clinic, Chan and Samra visited the Panama Canal, the historic quarter of Casco Viejo in Panama City, and a tourist village up in the mountains. “The people of Panama were extremely welcoming,” said Samra. “We were met with open arms everywhere we went.”

After leaving Panama on January, 26, 2015, both students looked back at the externship as an eye-opening and rewarding experience. “Seeing so many patients and learning from a great group of dentists—the experience was something I will remember for the rest of my dental career,” said Samra. They both agree they’d like to take part in a similar, future mission trip.

“I’m very proud of Christopher and Raman for their hard work at the clinic in Penonomé,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “I’m also very pleased to see our alumni continuing to make time to take part in mission trips after graduation. It is gratifying to know that service to our global community is a commitment that our graduates learn here and take out into the world with them as they enter the profession.”

Photos are available on Facebook and Flickr.

Submitted by GSDM Commmunications.

Mass. Life Sciences Grants LSC Grants Awarded to BLCS and CReM

March 20th, 2015 in Uncategorized

MLSC logoBoston University’s (BU) Biomedical Laboratory and Clinical Sciences (BLCS) Program and the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) were awarded grants from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center as part of a $17M package targeted for capital projects, equipment and supplies.

“We are delighted that both the Center for Regenerative Medicine (CReM) at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine as well as the Biomedical Laboratory and Clinical Sciences (BLCS) Program have received this honor from the Massachusetts Life Science Center,” said Karen Antman, MD, dean of Boston University School of Medicine and provost of Boston University Medical Campus. “Their investments in these programs will help patients with pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis, and acute lung injury as well as provide students with the necessary equipment as they train for careers in the biotechnology field,” she added.

CReM was awarded $1.7 M to launch an expansive Lung Regeneration Initiative (LRI) as part of their Center for Regenerative Medicine. The goal of the LRI is the clinical application of recent BU-led discoveries in stem cell research, such as the treatment of lung diseases with personalized therapeutics, as well as the ultimate reconstitution of diseased lung epithelia in patients with emphysema. The LRI also aims to define and launch treatments for pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, cystic fibrosis and acute lung injury from inhaled pathogens.

The BLCS Program, which is offered by BU’s Metropolitan College in collaboration with the School of Medicine, received $180,000 in funding to enhance the quality of the training and add to the competencies of the students. The funding from MLSC will enable the BLCS program to obtain essential equipment: a small bioreactor, an HPLC protein chromatography unit and a small bench top fluorescence activated cell analyzer, as well as to implement an electronic laboratory information and management system to train students for the changing environment for record keeping in the biotech industry.

Debating the Ethics of Experimental Drugs

March 18th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Bioethicist Arthur Caplan to deliver this year’s SPH Shine Lecture

Noted bioethicist Arthur Caplan will discuss the need for creating a transparent public policy in determining who gets access to unapproved and unproven drug interventions under “compassionate use” in the SPH 2015 Shine Lecture.

Noted bioethicist Arthur Caplan will discuss the need for creating a transparent public policy in determining who gets access to unapproved and unproven drug interventions under “compassionate use” in the SPH 2015 Shine Lecture.

In March 2014, seven-year-old Josh Hardy lay critically ill in St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., with a life-threatening adenovirus infection. His weakened immune system was unable to control the infection, a complication from a bone marrow stem cell transplant that the young cancer patient had received.

After efforts to treat the infection failed, his parents took to social media to lobby a small biopharmaceutical company to supply Josh with an unapproved virus-fighting drug still in clinical development, under what is known as a “compassionate use” exception. The company resisted, but eventually caved under pressure from a Twitter “#SaveJosh” campaign that gained national media attention. The boy received the drug and was discharged home.

Happy ending?

Yes, for Josh—but not so much for the rest of the world, according to bioethics expert Arthur Caplan, who will deliver the annual School of Public Health Cathy Shine Lecture tomorrow on the Medical Campus. The lecture, sponsored by the SPH health law, bioethics, and human rights department, is endowed by the family of the late Cathy Shine in recognition of the work of George Annas, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and health law, bioethics, and human rights department chair. Shine, a strong advocate for human rights, died in 1992 from a severe asthma attack. Annas wrote about Shine’s experience and the importance of respecting patients’ rights in a much-cited article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Caplan, the Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor of Bioethics at the New York University School of Medicine and founding director of the Division of Medical Ethics at the NYU Langone Medical Center Department of Population Health, will present a talk titled The Right to Try: Compassionate Use of Experimental Medicine.

“Social media is a wild card in compassionate use,” Caplan says, speaking of the Josh Hardy case and others like it. “When you have an adorable, photogenic seven-year-old boy, it can be very effective. If you’re appealing on behalf of a 70-year-old alcoholic, things are not going to turn out as well.

“If we’re going to talk about fairness in providing experimental drugs, we can’t have a system that favors those who are savvy with social media or who have resources.”

Caplan, a Boston native who attended Brandeis University before earning a PhD from Columbia University, is a leading voice in the national discussion about when and if patients facing death or irreversible disease should be granted access to unapproved and unproven interventions.

He notes that such “compassionate use” access to treatment is now unregulated by federal authorities, is subject to disparate corporate decision-making, and could potentially derail an effective research and clinical drug trial system.

BU Today spoke with Caplan about his views on the so-called “right to try” experimental drugs:

Social media is a wild card in compassionate use,” says Caplan. “When you have an adorable, photogenic seven-year-old boy, it can be very effective. If you’re appealing on behalf of a 70-year-old alcoholic, things are not going to turn out as well.” Photo courtesy of NYU School of Medicine

Social media is a wild card in compassionate use,” says Caplan. “When you have an adorable, photogenic seven-year-old boy, it can be very effective. If you’re appealing on behalf of a 70-year-old alcoholic, things are not going to turn out as well.” Photo courtesy of NYU School of Medicine

BU Today: Is “compassionate use” an appropriate response in cases when dying patients have no hope with approved treatments?

Caplan: Yes, I think it is. I think morally, we owe it to desperately ill and dying people to try interventions that might help them, certainly when there are experimental drugs and vaccines that we have enough information about to know they might help. Some, we know, have been used and are relatively safe. We may also know that scientifically, the logic of how a certain drug works makes sense. There may be other drugs that have been effective against certain kinds of cancer in adults, so it makes sense to try them with a child. There is a likelihood, at least, that they will have some impact on the disease. We saw this during the AIDS epidemic.

The problem you run into is that sometimes there are kooks or quacks who will peddle unproven drugs only to make money. We saw this with drugs like Laetrile. It’s a crapshoot, whether the drug being sought has any science behind it. Who’s making those determinations, and how they’re made, is where some of the concerns lie.

Who is making those decisions?

Right now, there is no clear process or guidelines. Biotechnology companies have no legal or regulatory obligation to provide access to unapproved treatments on the grounds of compassionate use. Some companies allow access under the guidance of well-thought-out policies; other companies decline to allow access. This lack of uniform policy is confusing to those seeking unapproved treatments.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a pathway for compassionate use, but it does have some problems. Still, the agency isn’t an obstacle to those seeking compassionate use and usually defers to the company developing the treatment.

But a system that relies on the discretion of a corporate entity to make humanitarian decisions—with conflicting pressures of costs, investors pushing their agendas, and potential impacts on the formal drug-approval process—is not a system that is fair, thoughtful, or efficient. For some companies, there’s the fear that, ‘If you die on my drug, I’ll be held liable.’ Or if there’s an adverse event with the drug, that the FDA could hold that against you in the approval process.

The larger issue is one of balance. The need to provide access and a chance at rescue for individual patients in desperate straits must be thoughtfully balanced against the reality that society is best served when drugs and vaccines are carefully tested.

Absent a clear process, is there any public movement to expand compassionate use?

Some states would simply like to get the FDA out of the way and turn this over to the public. Eight states—including Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, and Missouri—have passed “right to try” laws that say that patients who have exhausted all other treatment options can gain access to experimental drugs as long as they have a physician’s recommendation.

One of the major problems is that none of these laws obligates anyone to actually do anything. They don’t require drug companies to agree to provide the drug or get anyone to pay for the treatment. They create a feel-good impression that you can get treatment. It appears they’ve been catching on lately because the emphasis on personalized medicine and genetically engineered drugs has given people more things to ask for. In truth, they create more false hope than reality. I refer to them as “right to beg” laws, not “right to try.”

The other problem is that they open the door to irresponsible physicians who might not have pure motives. There’s a risk of that, when you take the FDA out of the picture. Unfortunately, some experimental drugs may not only do nothing—they may make you die quicker.

Isn’t there always going to be a subjective component in who gets experimental drugs? Look at Ebola, for example.

Ebola is a good example, yes. Western health care workers got more compassionate use of experimental drugs like ZMapp here than in Africa. Who gets a possible therapy shouldn’t be decided on the fly, just because some group knows how to strike a deal with a pharmaceutical company.

An ethical case can surely be made that an organization that puts health care workers in harm’s way should be able to acquire access to experimental drugs and bring staff home to get the best possible care. But that is neither a fair nor a just policy for deciding what to do when an emergency arises and rationing is the only option.

I think one of the values we have to look at when rationing access to an experimental drug is whether we can learn from the people we’re giving it to. That favors people who are not on the verge of certain death, who can be followed, who have access to hospital facilities. When selecting people under terrible circumstances, part of the drive is to try to help them—but part of the drive is to learn whether something is useful.

Other questions we have to think about are: who will pay for the unapproved drugs, who can give consent for using them, and how will companies be protected from liabilities should the drugs have harmful side effects.

It is long past time to have a transparent public policy about what to do when not everyone gets a chance to live. Much more work needs to be done to create a sound infrastructure for compassionate use in humanitarian emergencies.

Arthur Caplan, the Drs. William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Professor of Bioethics at the New York University School of Medicine, will give the 2015 Cathy Shine Lecture, The Right to Try: Compassionate Use of Experimental Medicine, tomorrow, Thursday, March 19, at noon in the School of Medicine Instructional Building 
Bakst Auditorium, 72 East Concord St. The lecture is free and open to the public and will be followed by a reception.

This BU Today story was written by Lisa Chedekel. She can be reached at

BUMC Art Days March 30-31

March 18th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Submissions due March 27

Art Days 2013

Art Days 2013

Exhibit Monday-Tuesday, March 30-31
BUSM Instructional Building, 14th floor Hiebert Lounge

All students, faculty and staff at the Boston University Medical Campus are encouraged to submit artwork of any medium to the 25th annual “Art Days”, founded by former BUSM Dean Aram Chobanian to foster the support and growth of the creative arts at BUMC. The exhibition is mounted by the Creative Arts Society.

This is the fourth year of a university-wide arts initiative with an annual Keyword to be used as a thematic organizer for various courses and events. The Keyword for this year is INTERSECT. There may be a special section at Art Days for display of works addressing Intersect. However, it is also fine to submit work not related to the Keyword.

Submissions are due March 27.  Paintings, photos, poetry, sculpture, needlework, etc. will be accepted. Pieces should be framed if possible. Security will be provided. Works will be returned April 1. Specific instructions will be sent at a later date to those who respond to this announcement.

To be placed on the submit list or if you have any questions please contact Keith Tornheim, PhD, 638-8296 or