Category: Featured

Medical Campus Celebrates Promotions

May 21st, 2015 in Awards & Honors, Faculty Affairs, Featured

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

Catching Lung Cancer Early

May 19th, 2015 in Featured, Research

New test may prevent invasive procedures and save lives

Lung cancer is responsible for the most cancer deaths in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, it will kill an estimated 158,000 people in 2015, more than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined. Because lung cancer grows and spreads so quickly, many healthy (and former) smokers undergo diagnostic screening CT scans of the chest, which can detect small lesions in the lungs that may be an early sign of the disease. But abnormal results often lead to painful and invasive biopsies. Now, Avrum Spira has found a better path to diagnosis.

For more than a decade, Spira, a Boston University School of Medicine (MED) professor of medicine, pathology and laboratory medicine, and bioinformatics, has been developing molecular tests to detect lung cancer early, without invasive biopsies. The work has been done together with Jerome Brody, MED professor of medicine, and Marc Lenburg, MED associate professor of medicine. In May 2015, the molecular diagnostics company Veracyte, Inc. released a new, noninvasive test for the disease based on biomarkers developed by Spira and his collaborators. The test, called Percepta™, fared well in clinical trials and could be available to patients in less than a year. The results of the trials were announced in the New England Journal of Medicine on May 17, 2015.

Spira, who is also a pulmonologist at Boston Medical Center, has wrestled firsthand with the difficulty of early detection. “It’s a growing problem in our clinical pulmonary practices: smokers, either current or former, have something abnormal found on a CT scan of the chest, and we’re worried it might be lung cancer,” he says. A doctor may follow up with a bronchoscopy, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that allows the doctor to examine a patient’s airways with a flexible tube.

While bronchoscopy is a useful tool, it’s not always effective at finding small tumors that are buried deep within the lung. “So often we don’t get a diagnosis,” says Spira, “and then we don’t know what to do next: to biopsy it or not.”

When a bronchoscopy is inconclusive, doctors and patients often err on the side of caution, opting for a lung biopsy—either via CT-guided needle biopsy or surgery. About one-third of lung biopsies come back negative. “So one-third of the time we’re taking a piece out of someone’s lung unnecessarily,” says Spira. “That can have complications for the patient and obviously has huge costs to the health care system. Our test can identify which patients don’t have lung cancer, and therefore don’t need that procedure.”

PerceptaTM early lung cancer detection device

During the Percepta test, which is performed at the same time as a bronchoscopy, the doctor uses a small brush to sample normal-looking cells in the upper airway, which are then sent to a lab for genetic testing. Spira discovered that these cells, while appearing healthy, are in the “field of injury” damaged by cigarette smoke and contain genomic markers that signal a high likelihood of cancer elsewhere in the lung. The 23 markers in the test indicate different things: some show protective genes being turned off, while others show genes associated with cell growth being turned on.

“The ability to test for molecular changes in this ‘field of injury’ allows us to catch or rule out the disease earlier, without invasive procedures,” says Spira. “Conceptually, this has implications for other diseases.”

The genomic markers were validated in two clinical trials, involving 639 patients at 28 sites in the United States, Canada, and Ireland. Researchers collected upper airway cells from people who were undergoing a bronchoscopy, then checked them one year later to see if they had been diagnosed with lung cancer. The Percepta test, when used in conjunction with bronchoscopy, identified 97 percent of the lung cancers, compared to 75 percent for bronchoscopy alone. “Our test showed very high sensitivity for detecting lung cancer in both studies,” says Spira. “So if the test is negative, that gives you a high level of confidence that person does not have lung cancer.”

The Percepta test is not yet widely available, nor is it covered by insurance. Veracyte has launched the test in an early access program, offering it in a limited number of medical centers in the United States to gather feedback on how the test is used and its clinical impact. If this trial launch is successful, the Percepta test could be made widely available in early 2016.

For Spira, it’s been gratifying to see the work he began over a decade ago finally helping patients. “Just knowing that somebody may benefit from the product, that’s the most satisfying piece,” he says. “It’s really about impacting patient care and helping people.”

This BU Research story was written by Barbara Moran.

No Link Found Between PTSD and Cancer Risk

May 13th, 2015 in Featured, Research

In the largest study to date that examines Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a risk factor for cancer, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), have shown no evidence of an association.

The study, which appears in the European Journal of Epidemiology, is consistent with other population-based studies that report stressful life events generally are not associated with cancer incidence. In addition to corroborating results of other studies, this large population sample allowed for important stratified analyses that showed no strong evidence of associations even among select groups of the population.

The association between stress and cancer has been discussed in scientific literature for more than 70 years. Despite plausible theories that would support this association, findings from clinical research have been mixed.

Researchers compared the rate of various cancer diagnoses among people with PTSD with the standardized cancer rate from the general population in the same time period using data from the Danish national medical and social registers. They found PTSD was not associated with an increased risk for cancer.

Jaime gradus

Jaimie Gradus

“The general public may have a perception that stress contributes to cancer occurrence and given the ubiquity of PTSD and cancer and their costs to individuals and society, any observed associations could have meaningful public health implications,” explained corresponding author Jaimie L. Gradus, DSc, MPH, assistant professor of psychiatry and epidemiology at BUSM and an epidemiologist at the National Center for PTSD. “This study, however, provided no evidence that a severe chronic stress disorder such as PTSD is associated with cancer incidence.

According to the researchers, the large sample and long study period allowed them to examine associations that have not been studied previously as they were able to look at rare cancer outcomes and associations among important subgroups.

Funding for this study was provided by the National Institute of Mental Health (1R21MH094551-01A1).

BUSM’s Eric Hardt and Thea James Lead Team for Mother’s Day Walk for Peace

April 22nd, 2015 in Events, Featured

On Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 10, Boston University School of Medicine faculty members Eric Hardt, MD, and Thea James, MD, will be participating in the 19th annual Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.  They welcome students, academic colleagues, BMC staff and friends to join them.

Thousands of people will walk 3.6 miles through Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood in support of creating a more peaceful and violence-free community. Funds raised through this event support the efforts of the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute and other community organizations working to stop the violence.

BMC Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP) staff

BMC Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP) staff

James, associate professor of Emergency Medicine and assistant dean in the Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, also serves as director of Boston Medical Center’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP), which provides support services for victims of trauma that are treated at BMC.

“The Mother’s Day Walk for Peace represents a collaborative effort to raise awareness about a topic that affects all citizens of Massachusetts. The loss of young lives is missed opportunities to make positive contributions to communities, society and to the Commonwealth,” said James.

Founded in 1996 by parents still grieving the loss of their son to violence, the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute has been a healing center, training resource and an educational program for the city of Boston and surrounding communities. The Institute is a resource for families, crisis management protocol for professionals and curriculum development for children.

Learn more about the Mother’s Day Walk for Peace.

BUSM Opens New Clerkship Sites in California

February 1st, 2015 in Announcements, Featured

Boston University School of Medicine has developed an affiliation with Northern California Kaiser Permanente to offer two new clinical clerkship sites for our third-year medical students.

kaiser-permanenteBeginning in May 2015, 12 third-year students will begin their clerkships at Kaiser Permanente Medical Centers in San Jose and Santa Clara. After an orientation with their classmates in Boston, six will stay for a full year, while six will stay for six months. Students will rotate in family medicine, OB/GYN, internal medicine, psychiatry and neurology at the San Jose site and  in pediatrics, surgery, radiology and psychiatry at the Santa Clara site. Although this program is new for BU, Kaiser has a strong and well-established medical education framework that includes students from Stanford, UC-San Francisco, UC-Davis and Drexel.

In addition to an excellent clinical experience, the Kaiser Campus Third-Year Curriculum Program will expose students to Kaiser’s healthcare technology, preventive medicine and progressive healthcare delivery model. Students will participate in quality improvement training programs, master their electronic health system, and develop their own quality improvement projects.

Kaiser has revolutionized health care and health-care technology, providing more immediate and responsive patient care. A leader in patient safety and quality improvement, the Kaiser system has been the model for the future of medicine. Their focus on preventive care and an outpatient-centered care model reduces hospital admissions and testing.

“We are delighted to offer our students the opportunity to work in another innovative and evidenced-based system that is committed to high-value, high-quality medical care,” said Karen Antman, MD, BUSM dean and provost of the BU Medical Campus.

Despite the distance from Boston campus, students will receive uniform didactic instruction. Program Manager Monica Parker-James is coordinating the online educational experiences. Recorded lectures can be reviewed at the student’s convenience. The students also will be able to participate in live small-group discussions and case vignettes with Microsoft Lync access.

Microsoft Lync is a platform for unified communications including online meetings, instant messaging, audio and video calls, availability info and sharing capabilities.

Dr. Harley Goldberg, who has a long history of service in the Kaiser system and is involved in quality evaluations at San Jose, will coordinate the training and supervision of our students in California. He will work with students via video conferencing prior to June and will orient and mentor the students during their time in the Kaiser facilities. He has worked closely with the BUSM Kaiser Committee and clerkship directors to provide a seamless transition for the students.

Assistant Dean Paige Curran in the Office of Student Affairs will monitor student mental and physical health and support academic and career development through online communication and quarterly visits to California.

The BUSM students will have faculty support while in California and many will also be close to family and friends. In addition, we are planning a California BUSM alumni network for additional student support, mentoring and career development. Several alumni have already expressed interest, including Veronica Santini, BUSM class of 2000, an assistant professor of neurology at Stanford.

“We are impressed by how vested our counterparts in California are in making this a successful partnership,” said Anna Hohler, MD, assistant dean of academic affairs at BUSM. “This collaboration is a win-win. Kaiser will work with students who are smart, dedicated and professional. Our students will train in a leading health care system that shares our commitment to high-quality medical education, devotion to diverse patient populations and a vision for excellence in health care. We are thrilled to be able to offer this opportunity to our students.”

Football: Child’s Play, Adult Peril?

January 29th, 2015 in Featured, In the Media, Research

sternBU Today

Robert Stern, PhD, neurology, neurosurgery, CTE Center; Julie Stamm, PhD candidate

As the 100 million viewers tuning in to this Sunday’s Super Bowl can attest, Americans adore football. And for many, the love affair begins in childhood: Pop Warner Tiny-Mites start as young as age five, and many adults retain warm memories and friendships from their youth football days.

But a new study from BU School of Medicine researchers points to a possible increased risk of cognitive impairment from playing youth football.

Experts’ quotes:

“This is one study, with limitations,” adds study senior author Robert Stern, a MED professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and anatomy and neurobiology and director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s Clinical Core. “But the findings support the idea that it may not make sense to allow children—at a time when their brain is rapidly developing—to be exposed to repetitive hits to the head. If larger studies confirm this one, we may need to consider safety changes in youth sports.”

“Sports are important, and we want kids to participate in football,” says Stamm. “But no eight-year-old should play a sport with his friends and end up with long-term problems. We just want kids to play sports more safely.”

Read the full article.


A Sacred Privilege: Caring for Patients

August 8th, 2012 in Featured

Members of the School of Medicine Class of 2016 sport both new white coats and big smiles after taking the Hippocratic Oath at the school’s White Coat Ceremony. BU Today photo by Chitose Suzuki

Members of the School of Medicine Class of 2016 sport both new white coats and big smiles after taking the Hippocratic Oath at the school’s White Coat Ceremony. BU Today photo by Chitose Suzuki

In two lines they marched, the 164th entering class of BUSM, greeted by the smiles and clicking cameras of family and friends. With a white coat draped over their arm, they entered the tent raised for the White Coat Ceremony held Monday, August 6. The white coats signify the students’ entry into the profession of medicine.

“The White Coat ceremony marks a major life transition, the beginning of your formal medical education,” said Dean Karen Antman. “When you put on your white coat for the first time today, the message is not that you are expected to become a professional, but that, as of today, you are now already a part of the profession. When you see your first patients in the coming weeks, you represent the profession.”

The 181 members of the entering Class of 2012 were chosen from a pool of 11,780 candidates. They represent 80 undergraduate institutions. Forty-four percent are women. Thirty-five percent hold a graduate degree at the Master’s level or above, and some have more than one advanced degree.

“All of you have met academic and personal challenges; all of you have had successes and failures; all of you have sacrificed much and accomplished a great deal to reach this moment,” noted Robert Witzburg, MD ’77, associate dean for admissions, as he presented the class for matriculation. “As you move into the next phase of your journey, your entry into the sacred trust that is the profession of medicine, each of you will struggle. What will sustain you in these difficult moments will be your own skill and talent, your own resilience and strength of character, the support of your classmates, the love of your family and friends, and the commitment of your teachers and mentors.”

For the first time at a BUSM White Coat Ceremony, the class was grouped by their Academy of Advisors. BUSM medical students are assigned an academy to which they will belong throughout their medical education. Each of the six academies provide students mentoring and career development and offer ongoing guidance and support from experienced faculty members, educators, and role models of professionalism to the students.

Douglas Hughes, MD, associate dean for academic affairs, called the students to podium, while faculty and deans helped each one don their white coat to begin their journey where upon the newest members of the BUSM community recited the Hippocratic Oath led by Samantha Kaplan, MD, assistant dean for diversity and multicultural affairs.

As the guest speaker, Kenneth Grundfast, MD, assist dean for student affairs and chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, addressed the dramatic change about to take place in their lives as they transition from student to physician. “By the time you finish medical school, you will be ready to accept the weighty responsibility that comes when people look to you to help alleviate their suffering, to cure them of cancer, to help restore their mental health, to help them give birth to their children and to be the doctor for their children. It is a sacred privilege to be given the opportunity to take care of patients. I loved it as a medical student and just as much today.”

View pictures from the ceremony on facebook.

AAMC President and CEO Visits BUMC

June 14th, 2012 in Featured

Darrell Kirch, MD, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), visited the Boston University Medical Campus on June 13, during which he presented “The Role of Boston University School of Medicine in Transforming Health Care” before a full Keefer Auditorium crowd.

Darrell Kirch

Darrell Kirch

Dr. Kirch focused on the evolution of health care research, education and delivery in the US. He explained that he is looking for institutions to serve as the catalysts to initiate change. According to Dr. Kirch, BUSM is well positioned to be part of the solution that transforms the unsustainable healthcare system currently in place.

Key points from Dr. Kirch’s lecture include

  • Academic medical centers, like BUSM, have an excellent opportunity to transform health care delivery in the US.
  • The AAMC is making changes to the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) that will include a broader list of criteria that place value on candidates with the skills necessary to “practice medicine.” This is a departure from the current focus of recruiting candidates with the scientific aptitude to successfully complete the first two years of medical school.
  • There is a need to connect the broader medical education community including undergraduate premedical studies, formal medical education, residencies, fellowships and practicing physicians. This would enable a true continuum of medical education.
  • Transforming academic medicine will require a new view of excellence. Success will be measured by aligning to institutional mission; serving the community; recruiting students with attributes in addition to scientific aptitude; valuing educational quality; improving research outcomes; and focusing on wellness and prevention.
  • BUSM’s mission is clearly demonstrated in the work being done on the Medical Campus, in the community and abroad.

Slides from Dr. Kirch’s lecture are available for viewing  6-13-12 BU FINAL

BUSM Student Receives AMA Foundation Research Seed Grant

March 27th, 2012 in Featured

Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) student Alexander Lankowski, class of 2013, was awarded a $2,499 grant from the American Medical Association (AMA) Foundation’s Seed Grant Research Program. Established in 2000, the program provides small grants to medical students, physician residents and fellows to conduct basic science or clinical research projects.

Lankowski is one of 43 individuals nationwide who received a seed grant this year. He is currently finishing a yearlong fellowship through the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and Harvard Medical School. Lankowski will be applying for residency programs in internal medicine or pediatrics, hoping to pursue a career in academic medicine, infectious diseases, and global health. He will use the funds to study HIV/AIDS treatment outcomes in Uganda.

Patients in sub-Saharan Africa frequently cite difficulty obtaining transportation from home to clinic as a significant barrier to receiving HIV care. His research project aims to evaluate transportation barriers to HIV care in rural Uganda. It will more precisely characterize the association between transportation barriers and treatment outcomes in hopes of better informing programmatic decisions regarding decentralization of HIV care and expansion of rural clinics.

Alexander Lankowski, showing Ugandan people how to maneuver a GPS.

Alexander Lankowski, showing Ugandan people how to maneuver a GPS.

The Seed Grant Research Program was created to encourage more physicians to consider research as a career option. The program not only supports the scientific discoveries of researchers, but also gives young investigators a positive grant experience early in their careers.

The Role of Health Reform in Addressing Mental Health Disparities, March 29 Psychiatry Grand Rounds

March 2nd, 2012 in Featured

Join David Satcher, MD, PhD, 16th U.S. Surgeon General and director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute as he presents on “The Role of Health Reform in Addressing Mental Health Disparities” at the Psychiatry Grand Rounds on Thursday, March 29, 2-3 p.m., in Keefer Auditorium.

David Satcher

David Satcher

Dr. Satcher’s has deep experience in improving public health policy and is committed to eliminating health disparities for under-served groups, such as minorities and the poor and shedding light on neglected issues, such as mental and sexual health.

In 1998, Dr. Satcher was sworn in as the 16th Surgeon General of the United States and served as Assistant Secretary for Health in the Department of Health and Human Services from February 1998 to January 2001, making him only the second person in history to have held both positions simultaneously. He also served as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Administrator of the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry from 1993 to 1998.

This program qualifies for continuing education credits for physicians, psychologists and social workers. For more information, please contact

Psychiatry Grand Rounds

  • The Role of Health Reform in Addressing Mental Health Disparities
  • Presented by: David Satcher, MD, PhD, 16th U.S. Surgeon General and director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute, Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Date: March 29
  • Time: 2-3 p.m.
  • Location: Keefer Auditorium, BUSM