Thea James, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at BU School of...
Thea James, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at BU School of Medicine, is the recipient of the 2014 Schwartz Center Compassionate Caregiver Award, which recognizes health care providers who demonstrate extraordinary compassion in caring for patients and families.
One of the region’s most prestigious honors, recipients are chosen based on how well they embody the characteristics of compassionate care, including effective communication, emotional support, mutual trust and respect, involving patients and families in health care decisions, and treating patients as people, not just illnesses.
James is an attending physician in Boston Medical Center’s (BMC) Emergency Department and Director of BMC’s Violence Intervention Advocacy Program (VIAP). She also cofounded Unified for Global Healing, an organization that seeks to improve health outcomes across the globe.
“Dr. James interacts with patients in a truly authentic and compassionate manner. She sees the person behind each injury and searches for that person’s story. Her sensitivity, communications skills, optimism and kindness have deeply impacted the lives of her patients and families. We’re so pleased to honor her and our extraordinary finalists,” said Schwartz Center Executive Director Julie Rosen when presenting James with the award.
Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is one of the most prevalent medical conditions in adult dogs. It is so common, most dogs will start to show signs of damage to their teeth and gums by three years of age. If this disorder is left untreated, it can lead to pain, gum damage and even tooth loss. This past month, the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) awarded two research grants for the improvement of oral health in dogs. One of the research grants was awarded to Paola Massari, PhD, a research assistant professor in the Section of Infectious Disease at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).
Currently treatment for dogs with gum disease is manual removal of plaque and tartar. This method does not provide a cure and only delays the disease progression. Massari’s research focuses on prevention, stopping the disease before it has a chance to cause damage. She will be using the grant to develop a vaccine against the most common types of bacteria that lead to periodontal disease in dogs.
Massari received her PhD and post-doctoral training at the University of Naples “Federico II” and Chiron-Biocine in Siena, Italy. She is the author of numerous publications in the field of Infectious Diseases, with a special interest in understanding how interactions between bacteria and their hosts lead to the manifestation of disease. She chose to expand her research into companion animal health, in order to help fill the gap that currently exists in veterinary research.
Submitted by Amanda Macone, MD.
The neuroprotective drug memantine, used to treat Alzheimer’s Disease, may reduce the addictive and impulsive behavior associated with binge eating.
Binge eating disorder is a prevalent illness in America, affecting more than 10 million people. It is characterized by periods of excessive uncontrolled consumption of food, followed by uncomfortable fullness and feelings of self-disgust. New evidence indicates that changes in brain chemistry reflecting the addictive nature of binge eating may parallel drug and alcohol addiction.
Boston University School of Medicine’s Pietro Cottone, PhD, led a group of researchers who used an experimental model to simulate binge-eating behavior. They identified the nucleus accumbens as the area of the brain associated with binge eating and then suppressed the behavior by applying memantine directly.
“We found that memantine, which blocks glutamate NMDA receptors, blocks binge eating of junk food, blocks the strength of cues associated with junk food, and blocks the compulsivity associated with binge eating,” explained Cottone, an associate professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.
This research opens new avenues for binge eating treatment especially since memantine is a drug already approved for other indications. “Individuals with binge eating disorder have a very poor quality of life and decreased lifespan. Our study gives a better understanding of the underpinning neurobiological mechanisms of the disorder,” added coauthor Valentina Sabino, PhD, assistant professor of pharmacology and psychiatry at BUSM and co-director of the Laboratory of Addictive Disorders.
The study appears in the journal Neuopsychopharmacology.
The American Heart Association (AHA) awarded its 2014 Population Research Prize to Vasan R. Ramachandran, MD, at Scientific Sessions 2014 in Chicago. Ramachandran is the Chief of the Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology and Cardiology in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Professor of Medicine at BUSM and Senior Investigator of the Framingham Heart Study.
Ramachandran was recognized, “for brilliantly seizing upon opportunities to translate cutting-edge bench science into an epidemiological context, thereby making fundamental contributions to identifying systemic markers for cardiovascular risk, both here and in developing countries.”
His award was presented by Association President Elliott Antman, MD, who said Ramachandran “is widely admired as a role model for trainees and early career faculty as well as for his many important findings in translational epidemiology. “ His numerous contributions include the publication of approximately 560 peer-reviewed articles in high-impact journals and in 2013, his work was cited 6,145 times.
Throughout his career, Ramachandran has made a significant impact in the field of cardiovascular epidemiology. His work is focused on systemic markers of cardiovascular risk, hypertension, congestive heart failure, risk re-classification and diseases in developing countries. He has conducted research in both the U.S. and India and his work has provided valuable insight into heart failure and its progression – a step that is required in moving forward with medical therapies focused on prevention.
Submitted by Amanda Macone, MD.
As if the fourth year of medical school is not busy enough, Brian Honeyman, (MED’15) chose to spend October interning at the editorial office of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).
This four-week elective, offered by NEJM for medical students from Massachusetts medical schools, exposed Honeyman to the world of medical publishing and allowed him to learn how editorial decisions are made. Honeyman wanted to get a sense of how novel and innovative medical findings are reviewed and disseminated to the medical community.
During his internship Honeyman supported individual NEJM editors, worked on a number of pieces including a letter to the editor, summaries and critiques of potential articles, and a decision letter. He also prepared a piece for NEJM’s online blog “Vaccination and Pneumococcal Disease in South Africa,” which reviewed the importance of vaccination in US communities through the lens of pneumococcal vaccination in South Africa.
Submitted by Adil Yunis, MD
A new study has found it is possible to distinguish between different hemorrhagic fevers, including Marburg (Ebola cousin) and Lassa before the person becomes symptomatic.
The study, which appears in the journal BMC Genomics, will allow for the development of better diagnostics, especially during the early stages of disease, when treatments have a greater chance of being effective.
Hemorrhagic fevers include Lassa, which is endemic in Western Africa and Marburg, which causes sporadic outbreaks in Africa associated with high rates of mortality. The early symptoms of these viruses (fever, flu-like symptoms) are not unique, making it difficult to diagnose properly. More disease-specific symptoms and the ability to spread the virus from person to person, do not begin until virus has accumulated in the blood. Current diagnostics detect the virus after it spills out of primary sites of infection into the blood. The ability to identify the infection prior to this point would significantly aid early intervention and containment, and could improve outcomes.
Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) approached the diagnostic dilemma by trying to “see” infection prior to the point where viruses enter the blood stream. Collaborating with researchers at the U.S. Army Medical research Institute (USAMRIID), they used two experimental models: one that had involved Lassa virus, and one that involved Marburg virus infection. The researchers extracted genetic material (RNA) from a sample of white blood cells from each infection group at multiple times after the models were infected. Using next-generation sequencing techniques, gene expression changes in hosts cells that “recognize” early stages of infection were identified. This was seen prior to clinical symptom onset and before the models became infectious.
According to the researchers, distinguishing between these viruses early can guide treatment and containment efforts. “The ability to distinguish between different types of infection before the appearance of overt clinical symptoms has important implications for guiding triage and containment during epidemics,” explained corresponding author Nacho Caballero, a PhD candidate at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). “We hope that our study will help in the development of better diagnostics, especially during the early stages of disease, when treatments have a greater chance of being effective,” he added.
As exciting as the prospect of this testing is, the research team is setting a realistic time line. “We want to stress that this is not a finding that can be translated into a test tomorrow. This study supports the idea that early markers of infection are there, but significant work will still need to be done to extend these findings,” said Caballero.
This work was supported by the United States Army contracts W81XWH 100-02-0008 and 11-02-0130. NC was supported in part by the Fulbright Commission Spain and the Regional Government of Andalusia.
Gen Guyol and Janine Petito took a break from their busy schedules as second year medical students at BUSM to raise money for Boston Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics.
On Sept. 20, they joined Team BMC in the sixth annual Rodman Ride for Kids, a fundraiser for children’s charities. Joining more than 50 other riders representing BMC—including physicians, residents, staff, BUSM students and friends—Gen and Janine each rode 50 miles and together raised more than $3,000 for the department.
Gen also took the time to encourage other medial students to take part in the charity by riding or becoming virtual riders. Overall, her group raised more than $5,000 for pediatrics. Their donations will be earmarked toward medical student initiatives within the pediatric department.
The BU Arts Outreach Initiative, BUSM Office of Multicultural Affairs and Diversity, and the BMC Neurology Department announce the third annual “When Patients Heal You” concert on Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. in Keefer Auditorium. A creative collaboration between neurology patients and BU/BUMC musicians, the concert features musical performances by patients of the BMC Neurology Department accompanied by the BU Jazz Combo and BUMC Band.
Discover the talents of this group of patients and enjoy jazz, French, Creole and Latin music performed at its best. “When Patients Heal You” is an opportunity for these musicians to celebrate and thank their care givers.
Admission is free and a reception follows the performance.
The stethoscope is considered the symbol of medical professionals. On Tuesday, Oct. 28, each member of the BU School of Medicine’s MD Class of 2018 received one as a gift from a BUSM alum.
“This is a special day for first-year medical students as they receive their medical equipment that will serve as their clinical tools for years,” says Nanette Harvey, MD, BUSM course director for the Introduction to Clinical Medicine course and coordinator for the medical equipment distribution to first-year students. “When we announced to the class that they would all be receiving their stethoscopes compliments of the School’s graduates, they broke into applause. They are so appreciative of alumni generosity.”
More than 160 alumni participated in the Stethoscopes for Students program, now in its seventh year and coordinated by the BUSM Alumni Association. Along with the stethoscope, the distribution of medical equipment included a blood pressure cuff, ophthalmoscope, otoscope, reflex hammer, tuning fork and a CD of heart sounds. Harvey notes that by the School organizing the distribution of medical equipment for the students, the difficulty and worry about purchasing the tools has been alleviated for them.
Students wrote thank-you notes to the alumni who purchased their stethoscopes.
“What makes this gift so meaningful is that it is something we will carry with us for our entire medical careers,” said first-year student Gareth Marshall. Tovah Koswosky noting the milestone of receiving her stethoscope also was especially gratified, “that she received this from alumni who were in my exact shoes at one time. This makes them present.”
Alan Alda, famous for his roles in M*A*S*H* and PBS’s Scientific American Frontiers, made a guest appearance on the Medical Campus – via video recording, that is. On Oct. 21, the School of Medicine welcomed faculty from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science for a one-day workshop to help BU scientists communicate their work more effectively to the public, policymakers, funders, policymakers and colleagues.
Forty-one scientists from the Medical and Charles River campuses learned how to communicate their work, connect with their audience, and speak clearly and conversationally about why their work matters by attending two three-hour workshops on improvisation and message delivery.
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs Suzanne Sarfaty, MD, previously had attended a workshop at the Alda Center at Stony Brook University in New York and was eager to bring the workshop to the Medical Campus. “I was so impressed with the thinking behind and the power of the program,” she said. “I knew it would be a valuable experience for our scientists and would enrich the BU community.”
During the “Distilling Your Message” workshop, participants had to explain their research as though they were pitching their story to a TV show producer, a non-scientist. The scientists practiced finding common ground with an audience, speaking at different levels of complexity for different audiences, and answering questions about their work. Later, the “Improvisation for Scientists” workshop used improv theater techniques to help participants speak more spontaneously and responsively with their audience.
The improvisation exercises were particularly helpful for Isabel Dominguez, PhD, assistant professor of hematology and medical oncology, who says she was excited to share the ideas and techniques with her lab colleagues and trainees. “This was a very valuable workshop that I feel will make me better at explaining my work and better able to train others in my lab to be more effective in telling their ‘stories’ as well,” she said.
The exercises challenged BU scientists, through both discussion and practice, to pay close attention to others and be aware of the two-way nature of communication.