Courtesy image mkhmarketing.wordpress.com.
MPH Programs List.com has ranked BUSPH in the top five among public health schools for social media use.
The site evaluated 61 public health schools across the country to identify the 50 most social media-friendly schools. There were 100 points possible, with 24 for Facebook, 20 for Twitter, 18 for LinkedIn, 15 for YouTube, 11 for Flickr, 6 for Pinterest, and 6 for Google Plus.
BUSPH received a total score of 82.0 for fifth place, beating out other public health schools such as Columbia and Emory.
MPH Programs List.com launched in February of 2012 as a free resource for students interested in graduate public health, public administration, public policy, and health administration programs.
Jasmine Chobanian remembered as a patron of the arts and a humanitarian.
Jasmine Chobanian, who was regarded as the “First Lady” of Boston University during the many years that her husband Aram V. Chobanian, MD, served in University leadership, both as dean of the School of Medicine and the ninth president of Boston University (2003–2005), died last Friday after a brief illness.
“Jasmine was our beloved first lady of the Medical Campus,” says Karen Antman, provost of the Medical Campus and dean of the School of Medicine. “She was a smart, savvy, warm person who started out life in the technical sciences but clearly also was deeply committed to the arts. We on the Medical Campus will miss her.”
Jasmine Chobanian was a much-loved patron of the arts and a humanitarian. She served on the board of trustees of Boston Ballet and was active in efforts to provide aid to the people of Armenia. In November 2005 the University’s Women’s Council announced the establishment of the Jasmine Chobanian Scholarship Fund and sponsored a gala honoring Chobanian for her many contributions to the University. Boston Ballet dancers Melanie Atkins, Pavel Gurevich, Roman Rykine, and Larissa Ponomarkenko performed selections from The Nutcracker, and then-provost David Campbell sang four lieder, accompanied by his wife, pianist Claude Hobson.
“Jasmine was a vivacious and caring emissary for Boston University, as she supported Aram in his roles as longtime dean of the School of Medicine and then president of Boston University,” says President Robert A. Brown. “The University has lost a true friend.”
A graduate of Brown University, Chobanian was a talented painter, and studied with Conger Metcalf at the Boston Museum School, now the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She worked for many years as a researcher at Thorndike Memorial Laboratories at Boston City Hospital. Chobanian is being remembered by friends as someone who lived life to the fullest: a world traveler, voracious reader, fascinating raconteur, nature lover, bird watcher, and sports fan.
Caroline Apovian, professor of medicine and pediatrics at the School of Medicine, says Chobanian “was at the center of the movement on the Medical Campus to unite the arts and the sciences. She encouraged many of the faculty and students to pursue their creativity, specifically in music, but also in the other arts as well. She will be deeply missed by many.”
Robert Witzburg, associate dean and director of admissions at the School of Medicine says Jasmine Chobanian was a remarkably warm and caring person. “She had her own presence at BUSM and the University, quite independent of her prominent husband, Aram,” says Witzburg. “Her smile would light up a room, and she had that rarest of attributes: the ability to respect everyone she met and to instantly put them at ease. All of us who were privileged to know Jasmine will miss her dearly.”
Jasmine Chobanian was born in Pawtucket, R.I., the daughter of the late Charles and Zabel (Russian) Goorigian. She is survived by her husband of 59 years, Aram V. Chobanian (Hon’06), president emeritus of BU, and their children, Karin Chobanian Torrice of Natick, Mass., Lisa Chobanian Ramboeck of Bronxville, N.Y., and Aram Chobanian, Jr. of Brookline, Mass. She is also survived by her grandchildren, Marc and Vanessa Torrice; her sisters Nectar Lennox of Cumberland, R.I., and Marie Vartanian of Agawam, Mass.; and her sister-in-law, Ruth Chobanian of Cambridge, Mass., as well as a large number of nieces, nephews, and friends.
Funeral arrangements are being made through the Bedrosian Funeral Home, 558 Mt. Auburn Street, Watertown, Mass. A wake will be held at St. Stephen’s Armenian Church, 38 Elton Avenue, Watertown, Mass., tomorrow, Tuesday, July 29, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Funeral services will take place on Wednesday, July 30, at 11 a.m. at St. Stephen’s Armenian Church. Burial services will be private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Chobanian Scholarship Fund at Boston University School of Medicine, c/o Development Office, 72 East Concord St., L219, Boston, MA 02118; St. Stephen’s Armenian Church; or The Fund for Armenian Relief, 630 Second Ave., New York, NY 10016. A memorial service to celebrate her life will be held in September at a date and place to be announced.
This BU Today story was written by Art Jahnke.
Universal health coverage and changes in the way Massachusetts funds clinics that test for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have led to a shift in patients accessing testing that has both positive and negative implications, a study led by BU researchers says.
The study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases and led by Mari-Lynn Drainoni, associate professor of health policy and management at BUSPH, found that reductions in state funding and the imposition of fees at STI clinics in 2009 led to a 20 percent decrease in clinic visits. At the same time, STI visits to primary care providers doubled, while there was no increase in visit volume to the emergency room or OB/GYNs.
The authors speculated that, once insured, patients chose to seek STI care in a general, primary care setting, rather than in a designated STI clinic. They noted that most of the increase in STI primary care visits was among women, while STI clinic patients tended to be male.
Drainoni and colleagues said some aspects of the shift were encouraging: “Increased use of health insurance for STI-related care in the ‘medical home’ may help remove some of the stigma associated with use of these services in segregated specialty clinic settings.” But they also found that the drop in patients seen in the STI clinic was not offset by increases in other settings.
“Patients formerly seen in the STI clinic may be delaying or forgoing care, potentially putting themselves and others at risk for disease transmission,” the researchers said, noting that past studies have found that even the imposition of small copayments could discourage patient visits.
The authors also noted that about half of patients who came to the STI clinic paid the fixed fee, rather than bill the visit to insurance.
“Whether anonymity, specialty expertise, or some other factor or combination of factors motivates patients to continue to seek and pay out-of-pocket for STI care in STI specialty settings, it seems that even access to health insurance will not lead all patients to use the medical home (PC) for STI clinical services.”
The authors said their findings indicate that shifting funds from direct service to insurance coverage may have unintended consequences.
“Politicians and policy analysts have argued that such shifts are appropriate because ‘everyone will have insurance’ for necessary services. Our study calls this assumption into question,” they said.
“Rather than conceiving of financing of STI clinical services as all-or-nothing public versus insurance-only options, the focus should be on lowering barriers to quality STI clinical care through various shared-cost mechanisms in multiple settings that allow health care consumers greater choice.”
Besides Drainoni, authors on the study included Drs. Meg Sullivan, Shwetha Sequeira and Katherine Hsu, from the BU School of Medicine, and Janine Bacic, a PhD student at BU.
Submitted by Lisa Chedekel.
HIV Non-disclosure, Stigma, Incarceration Are Possible Predictors of Poor Follow Up in Research Trials
A collaborative effort between American, Russian and Ukrainian researchers offers new insight into a well-known barrier to high quality, longitudinal HIV research: loss of participant follow up. This study, led by researchers at the BU Schools of Medicine and Public Health, explored the factors that contributed to attrition in large HIV trial in Russia, a country in which increasing amounts of HIV-related research is being conducted. Their results were published in the June 2014 issue of HIV Clinical Trials.
Any research study that experiences significant loss of participants is at risk for bias: the possibility the missing individuals were not lost randomly. For example, a medication trial of a 100 people, in which 30 people cannot follow up because they are hospitalized due to severe side effects, will look artificially positive if outcomes data are based on the remaining 70 individuals. Accordingly, the quality of a study will suffer and its findings may be called into question.
This is a particular problem in Russia, as injection drug use (IDU) represents a relatively higher cause of HIV transmission, which has in some studies been associated with factors that negatively impact follow-up: younger age, depression, mental illness, and concomitant alcohol use. However, this has not been a consistent finding, and other relevant factors like HIV non-disclosure status, perceived HIV stigma, and incarceration history have not been thoroughly explored until now.
The researchers analyzed the data from the HIV’s Evolution in Russia – Mitigating Infection Transmission and Alcoholism in a Growing Epidemic (HERMITAGE) study, in which patients were asked to return for six and 12 month assessments. Of the 660 participants in the study surviving until follow-up, 168 (25.5 percent) did not return for their 12 month follow up visit, and 101 (15.3 percent) never attended any follow-up visit at all, despite extensive retention strategies. Their analysis revealed that participants with current IDU and HIV status non-disclosure missed their first study at approximately 40 percent higher rates than those who did not. They also observed binge drinking was more likely to affect loss to follow up in men than in women, that that a history of incarceration was a stronger predictor of the same in women than in men.
BUSM Postdoctoral Fellow Tetiana Kiriazova, a Ukranian National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Invest research fellow at the BMC Clinical Addiction Research and Education (CARE) Unit in the department of medicine, and lead author on this study, concluded that “understanding and addressing potential predictor of attrition may improve participant retention in longitudinal clinical research studies of HIV-infected persons, particularly in important but resource-limited research settings.”
Submitted by Ravi Pandit, MD, MPH
A significant percentage of completed drug clinical trials, especially those funded by industry, are not disclosed to the public, years after being completed—a trend that “threatens the validity of the clinical research literature in the U.S.,” according to a study led by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher.
The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that close to 30 percent of 400 randomly selected clinical trials completed in 2008 had not resulted, four years later, in either publication in a journal or the posting of results to the ClinicalTrials.gov (CTG) web site.
Studies that were funded solely by industry, or that involved smaller sample sizes, were less likely to be published, the research shows.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Christopher Gill, director of BUSPH’s Pharmaceuticals Program and an associate professor of global health, said the review raises ethical, as well as scientific, problems.
“Individuals who volunteer for clinical trials often do so out of a sense of altruism,” said Gill, a researcher with BU’s Center for Global Health and Development. ”I can imagine that many would be dismayed to learn that the results of a study that they participated in, that they took physical risks for, might never generate results known beyond the company that sponsored the trial.
“Science learns from mistakes, as well as successes,” he said. “If we only learn about the scientific success stories, we are really only seeing part of the picture.”
Gill and a former student, Hiroki Saito, found that 118 of the 400 clinical trials did not result in publication within four years of completion. The median length of time from completion to public disclosure was 602 days.
Among industry-funded studies, rates of posting to the CTG site were high for phase 3 or 4 studies, but extremely low for phase 2 studies.
“As an overall synthesis, these findings provide strong evidence of reporting bias,” Gill and Saito wrote. They said the associations between publication or posting rates and funding sources “merit further consideration, and may reflect differing motivations” among researchers.
Among academics working under a “publish or perish” model, and who represent the majority of non-industry funded studies, the study phase “may be less critical than the need to publish research findings in journals,” Gill and Saito said. By contrast, the pharmaceutical industry may publish more results for products that have advanced to phase 3 or beyond and are perceived to be commercially viable.
Gill and Saito suggested that regulatory requirements could be driving the differences in rates of posting results to the CTG. Among industry-funded, phase 3 or 4 studies, the majority of researchers posted their results at about one year from completion – coinciding closely with a one-year deadline established in 2007 by the Food and Drug Administration Amendments Act (FDAAA).
Regardless of the reasons, Gill and Saito said, transparency in clinical trials is “an essential public health good. The public must be informed if the premise of a clinical trial was confirmed or invalidated, and expects that, once a study involving human subjects is completed, its results will be published in the medical literature or posted to some other open-access platform.”
They said that in order to maintain the public’s faith in clinical research, and to protect the fidelity of the scientific literature, “it is essential that the research community unite around the common goal of maximizing transparency. “
In 2012, Gill reported that among US-based, industry-funded phase 2 or higher clinical studies, less than 25 percent had posted their results to CTG within a year of completion. Another study found that, among National Institutes of Health-funded trials, 32 percent remained unpublished after the median follow-up of 51 months from completion.
Emergency Medical Service (EMS) responders felt better prepared to respond to an active shooter incident after receiving focused tactical training according to a new study in the journal Prehospital and Disaster Medicine. This is the first study to specifically examine the EMS provider comfort level with respect to entering a scene where a shooter has not yet been neutralized or working with law enforcement personnel during that response.
Incidents such as the Columbine High School shooting, the Virginia Tech campus shooting, the 2009 Fort Hood shooting, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and more recently, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting remind us of the relative frequency of these events compared to most other mass casualty incidents for which EMS trains and prepares.
For this study, EMS providers responded to an anonymous survey both before and after a four-hour training session on joint EMS/police active shooter rescue team response. Survey questions focused on individual provider comfort level when responding to active shooter incidents compared to conventional HAZMAT incidents; comfort with providing medical care in an active shooter environment; perception of EMS provider role in an active shooter incident; and the appropriate timing of EMS response at the scene.
The survey results showed that more participants felt adequately trained to respond to an active shooter incident after focused training (87 percent) compared to before the training (36 percent) regardless of a providers prior tactical experience. Additionally, more EMS providers felt more comfortable working jointly on rescue operations with law enforcement personnel in response to an active shooter incident after training participation (93 percent) compared to before the training (61 percent).
According to the researchers, despite rapid deployment of law enforcement to neutralize an active shooter, it is not uncommon for a significant amount of time to pass before law enforcement has rendered the scene “safe.” “Unfortunately this unintentionally prolongs the time before victims can receive life-saving care on the scene, as well as at a definitive care facility,” explained lead author Jerrilyn Jones, MD, a clinical instructor of emergency medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and EMS Fellow at Boston EMS. “Our study showed that after receiving appropriate training, EMS providers felt better equipped to work on joint rescue operations even if an active shooter was still present,” added Jones, who also is an emergency room physician at Boston Medical Center.
The researchers recommend further studies be undertaken to determine the significance of such training as well as the mortality impact on patient outcomes.
A chronic disease afflicting more than 27 million Americans and 630 million worldwide, osteoarthritis occurs as the protective cartilage coating on joints in the knees, hips and other parts of the body degrades. No cure for osteoarthritis exists, but treatments can slow its progression, reduce pain and restore joint functioning. Now a team of researchers led by Professor Mark Grinstaff (BME, Chemistry, MSE) has developed a sensitive imaging method that promises to enhance diagnosis of osteoarthritis and enable improved care through earlier detection and more targeted treatments.
The method combines nanotechnology, engineering and medicine, and exploits new, biocompatible nanoparticles as contrast agents to image surface and interior regions of articular cartilage (the smooth, water-rich tissue that lines the ends of bones in load-bearing joints) — regions that traditional X-ray illumination cannot detect. The research, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health, is described in the June 30 issue of Angewandte Chemie.
“In the short term, these contrast agents could be used to image cartilage over time to monitor the efficacy of proposed osteoarthritis drugs,” said Grinstaff. “With continued development, they may enable clinicians to diagnose and stage the disease so that the most appropriate course of treatment could be followed.”
Two members of Grinstaff’s lab, MD/PhD student Jonathan Freedman (Pharmacology) and Postdoctoral Fellow Hrvoje Lusic (BME and Chemistry), synthesized a new nanoparticle contrast agent made of tantalum oxide that diffuses into the cartilage, thus enabling clinicians to use CT-scans to assess cartilage thickness and pinpoint lesions and injuries in osteoarthritic tissue. Guided by their clinical collaborator, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center/Harvard Medical School physician Brian Snyder, Freedman and Lusic used the nanoparticles to successfully image rat articular cartilage in in vivo and ex vivo experiments, as well as in a cadaverous finger joint.
They chose tantalum as a contrast agent material because it absorbs a greater fraction of X-rays produced at clinical scanning voltages than traditional materials. In addition, the tantalum nanoparticles’ positive charge automatically directs the particles to the cartilage, which carries a negative charge. Building on their initial success, the researchers plan to conduct additional in vivo experiments in animal models.
The impetus for exploring new and better contrast agents came from Snyder, who sought better ways to diagnose and assess treatment of osteoarthritis. Grinstaff sees the new method as especially promising for early detection of the disease.
“Today we have very poor capability to detect early stage osteoarthritis,” said Grinstaff. “Most patients come into the clinic at stage three when the pain becomes significant, but if diagnostics based on our method is done proactively, many patients could get the treatment they need much earlier and avoid a lot of discomfort.”
Submitted by Mark Dwortzan
Practices used in policing injection drug users in Russia might contribute to HIV transmission and overdose mortality.
A study, conducted by researchers from Boston University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, in collaboration with St. Petersburg Pavlov State University, sought to discover the effect police arrests had on the health outcomes of a cohort of HIV-positive people with lifetime of injection drug use.
Those who were arrested by police were more likely to share needles—increasing HIV transmission—and to overdose, according to the study published in the Journal of the International AIDS Society. Their research also found no indication that police arrests reduce drug use.
“We already know that addressing individual risk behaviors is important in reducing HIV transmission among people who use drugs, who are most at risk for HIV infection,” said lead author Karsten Lunze, MD, MPH, DrPH, a BUSM assistant professor of medicine. “Our study adds that drug laws and policies, and the way they are enforced, are also important to prevent the spread of HIV.”
By linking the impact of police tactics with health outcomes of injection drug users, the researchers identified the need to create prevention programs for modifying individual behaviors and to address policing practices as part of the HIV risk environment.
“Instead of arresting people who use drugs, there should be more of a focus on facilitating access to treatment,” said Jeffrey Samet, MD, MA, MPH, a professor of medicine and community health sciences at BUSM and BUSPH who also led the study. “Public health and public safety working together can help address the increasing problem of HIV among people who use drugs.”
Further research needs to relate these findings to the operational environment of law enforcement and to understand how police interventions among injection drug users can improve, rather than worsen, the HIV risk environment, the researchers said.
The full text of the study: Punitive policing and associated substance use risks among HIV-positive people in Russia who inject drugs.
BU Researchers and Collaborators Receive $12.6 Million NIH Grant to Study Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease
Researchers from the Biomedical Genetics division of the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) are part of a five-university collaboration receiving a $12.6 million, four-year grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), to identify rare genetic variants that may either protect against, or contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk.
At BUSM, the Consortium for Alzheimer’s Sequence Analysis (CASA) is led by Lindsay A. Farrer, PhD, Chief of Biomedical Genetics and professor of medicine, neurology, ophthalmology, epidemiology, and biostatistics, who is the principal investigator. Other Boston University investigators include Kathryn Lunetta, PhD, professor of biostatistics; Gyungah Jun, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, ophthalmology and biostatistics; and Richard Sherva, PhD, research assistant professor of medicine.
CASA investigators will analyze whole exome and whole genome sequence data generated during the first phase of the NIH Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Program, an innovative collaboration that began in 2012 between NIA and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), also part of NIH. They will analyze data from 6,000 volunteers with Alzheimer’s disease and 5,000 older individuals who do not have the disease. In addition, they will study genomic data from 111 large families with multiple members who have Alzheimer’s disease, mostly of Caucasian and Caribbean Hispanic descent to identify rare genetic variants.
“This is an exciting opportunity to apply new genomic technologies and computational methods to improve our understanding of the biological pathways underlying this disease,” said Farrer. “The genes and pathways we identify as integral to the Alzheimer process may become novel therapeutic targets,” he added.
Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, has become an epidemic that currently affects as many as five million people age 65 and older in the United States, with economic costs that are comparable to, if not greater than, caring for those of heart disease or cancer. Available drugs only marginally affect disease severity and progression. While there is no way to prevent this disease, the discovery of genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s is bringing researchers closer to learning how the genes work together and may help identify the most effective interventions.
This effort is critical to accomplishing the genetic research goals outlined in the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease, first announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in May 2012 and updated annually. Developed under the National Alzheimer’s Project Act, the plan provides a framework for a coordinated and concentrated effort in research, care, and services for Alzheimer’s and related dementias. Its primary research goal is to prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025.
With the current award, CASA joins the NHGRI Large-Scale Sequencing and Analysis Centers program, an NIH-supported consortium that provides large-scale sequence datasets and analysis to the biomedical community. CASA researchers will facilitate the analyses of all Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP) and additional non-ADSP sequence data to detect protective and risk variants for Alzheimer’s disease.
“We are delighted to support the important research being accomplished under this broad-based, collaborative effort. A team effort is vital to advancing a deeper understanding of the genetic variants involved in this complex and devastating disease and to the shared goal of finding targets for effective interventions,” said NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD.
“Alzheimer’s disease research is appropriately one of our highest priorities,” said BUSM Dean Karen Antman, MD “We need more to better understand the genetic and environmental mechanisms that will come in part from CASA to develop more effective treatments or even better, to prevent the disease,” she added.
CASA is a collaboration of Boston University School of Medicine and four other American universities. Jonathan Haines, PhD, will lead the project at Case Western Reserve University; Richard Mayeux, MD, at Columbia University; Margaret Pericak-Vance, PhD, at the University of Miami; Gerard D. Schellenberg, PhD, at the University of Pennsylvania; and Lindsay Farrar, PhD, at Boston University.
This research is supported by the NIA grant UF1-AG047133.
Fifteen volunteers from the BU Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) joined together with twelve volunteers from BU School of Medicine (BUSM) to provide health care services to children and their families at the second annual Interprofessional Spring Wellness Fair at the East Boston YMCA for Healthy Kids Day last April 26.
Oral Health Promotion Kathy Lituri and Farhan Khan AS 15 organized GSDM participation in the wellness fair. The GSDM faculty sponsors were Drs. Ana Keohane and Gladys Carrasco. The GSDM student volunteers were: William Alvarez (pre-dental), Michelle DaRocha DMD 15, David Garazi DMD 15, Siavash Golaby Sanajany DMD 15, Farhan Khan AS 15, Jeongyun Kim AS 15, Andrea Lugo (pre-dental), Reefat Malhotra AS 15, Ashish Papneja DMD 15, Abdul Rahman Addas AS 14, Richa Rashmi AS 15, Neeha Sood AS 15, and Bernadette Therriault AS 15. Dr. Suzanne Sarfaty served as the BUSM faculty liaison and Samih Nassif MED 17 was team leader for the medical students.
Despite a rainy day, volunteers were in high spirits and worked efficiently. The GSDM students promoted oral health by offering oral screenings as well as information on oral health topics, such as good oral hygiene practices, healthy eating, prevention of cavities and gum disease, dry mouth, denture care, smoking cessation, and the prevention of oral cancer. GSDM had five tables set up. They provided 26 screenings to children and adults.
The BUSM students offered screenings for blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol and measured body mass index. They also provided individualized nutrition information.
Co-organizer Farhan Khan said, “In exchange for a Saturday morning, we believe that we were able to raise awareness and help those individuals make positive health and wellness choices.” Khan continued, “Moreover, we had an excellent opportunity to be active and responsible members in our neighboring community.”
Khan noted that, in addition to giving back to the community, a secondary focus of the wellness fair was to strengthen inter-professional communication between medical and dental students. Their aim is to build a foundation of collaboration, which will be essential in a future of team-based and patient-centered health care.
Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter said, “I am very pleased to see members of the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and School of Medicine community joining together for a common cause.” He continued, “Thank you to the volunteers who contributed to the success of this community outreach event.”