Category: Uncategorized

In-Utero Methadone or Subutex Exposure Could Alter Gene Expression, Cause Severe Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

August 20th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Pregnant BellySome infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) secondary to in-utero opioid exposure have a more difficult time going through withdrawal than others, but the underlying reasons are not well understood. While genetic and epigenetic (when genes are turned on or off) changes have recently been identified as potential factors, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) conducted a first of its kind study to identify some of these epigenetic changes that may influence symptom severity.

The researchers focused on how exposure to opioids such as methadone or subutex may alter expression of the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene, which is known as a primary site of action for narcotics in the nervous system and plays an important role in opioid dependent adults.

Looking at data from 86 infants whose mothers took either methadone or subutex during pregnancy, the results showed that infants with higher levels of the DNA modification called DNA methylation had more severe NAS symptoms. This meant that they required more medication(s) over a longer period of time to get through withdrawal. The researchers hypothesize that this may be due to a decrease in number of opioid receptors due to the silencing of the OPRM1 gene.

Future research in this area will focus on comparing methylation levels of mothers and infants to evaluate if the epigenetic changes are passed on from mother to child. The implications are that this very early in-utero and neonatal exposure to opioids may lead to lasting epigenetic changes that may alter one’s future sensitivity to opioid and other addictive medications.

“What makes these results so intriguing is that these epigenetic changes could be passed on from mother to child, resulting in these children potentially having future issues and sensitivities around opioid and other addictive substances,” said Elisha Wachman, MD, a staff neonatologist at BMC and assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM.

This study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics and was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health under notice of grant award numbers DA024806-01A2, R01DA032889-01A1, DA018197-05 and DA026120; the Tufts Medical Center Natalie Zucker and Susan Saltonstall Grants; the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; the Toomim Family Fund; the Boston University Genome Science Institute; and the Alpert Foundation.

Read the full study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Boston University/Boston Medical Center CTSI Pilot Funding Awards Announced

August 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized

The recipients of the CTSI pilot grants for 2014 have been announced by BU Medical Campus Provost and BU School of Medicine Dean Karen Antman, MD.

Funding for these grants come entirely from BU, BMC and the VA this year for the first time, without relying on NIH funds, an accomplishment meeting the goals of the NIH’s CTSA program.

Eleven $20,000 grants support School of Medicine faculty, including seven funded by the School of Medicine four of which come from the Wing Tat Lee (WTL) endowment to promote School of Medicine and Chinese university collaborations, three by Boston Medical Center, and one by the VA Boston Healthcare System

Three $20,000 grants were funded by BU Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and nine grants totaling more than $90,000 were funded by BU School of Public Health.

The CTSI solicits pilot grant applications annually and are reviewed by panels of BU researchers. Between 2008 and 2013 the CTSI pilot award program, in collaboration with other BU/BMC schools, departments and centers, awarded more than $1.3 million to 55 investigators for 57 projects across five schools and 23 departments/sections. These pilot grants have led to 28 additional grants from external funders totaling more than $9.4 million, greater than a seven-fold return on investment-to-date.


BU Researcher Awarded Lupus Foundation Fellowship

August 7th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Recent BU graduate and current researcher Su Shi.

Recent BU GMS graduate and current research assistant Shi Su.

Shi Su, who received her master’s degree from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) Division of Graduate Medical Sciences in May and currently is a research assistant at BUSM’s Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, was awarded a fellowship from the Lupus Foundation of America to conduct research on lupus, an unpredictable and misunderstood autoimmune disease.

Under the mentorship of Tamar Aprahamian, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, Su will conduct her study entitled, The Role of Retinaldehyde and Adipogenesis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

“I am honored to receive this fellowship,” says Su. “After working on this topic for my thesis project at BU, I discovered that there was a lot more research to be done. With the help of this fellowship, I will be able to work more on the question of how retinaldehyde impacts lupus.”

Su is among the six 2014 recipients of the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship, which seeks to develop the next generation of lupus scientific thought leaders. The fellowship program was established more than 25 years ago by former foundation president, the late Dr. Sergio Finzi, in memory of his daughter Gina, who passed away from lupus.

Su joins the ranks of more than 200 Finzi Student Fellows that the foundation has supported since the program’s inception.

BUMC Students to Enjoy Newly Renovated Space on 11th Floor Alumni Medical Library

August 7th, 2014 in Uncategorized

A recently completed renovation on the 11th floor of the Alumni Medical Library now provides a state-of-the-art, 220 seat testing center. The testing center is among the first of its kind, and will serve to both facilitate the administration of exams while at the same time enhancing the quality of study space for BUMC students.

Testing Center interior

Testing center interior

Renovations include a new ceiling with improved sound-proofing qualities, energy-efficient lighting, new carpeting and flooring, newly painted walls, new chairs and tables with power outlets at every seat, and club seating and cube tables in the hallway outside the floor-to-ceiling glass walls of the testing center.  The heating and air conditioning system was upgraded, and a more powerful wireless system is provided throughout the testing center, as well as some wired network connections.

The testing center is equipped with a video monitoring system and an audio system for proctor announcements. During exams, proctors will have video monitoring controls to observe activity throughout the space via iPad. The testing center serves a dual-purpose as student study space when not reserved for exams.

Hall outside of Testing Center

Hall outside of testing center

Medical Library Computing & Systems offices are located on L-11, and staff will provide on-site technical support for student laptops and laptop loaners during exams.  A new state-of-the-art computer classroom with 26 PCs will also serve as a public computing lab when classes and exams are not scheduled.  A coffee/vending lounge includes additional club seating, group study tables, PCs, a scanner and print release station.  The elevator lobby was renovated and a new LCD monitor and signage have been installed throughout the floor.

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Battling Ebola: How Ebola Kills

August 5th, 2014 in Uncategorized

MED’s John Connor is devising diagnostics to spot Ebola and antivirals to treat the disease

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the first of two sickened American health care workers was flown from Africa to a special containment unit at Emory University. Despite the risk of infection, medical personnel continue to travel to West Africa to help bring under control the worst Ebola outbreak on record, which has killed more than 900 people to date. The World Health Organization plans to spend $100 million to fight the outbreak, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send 50 more aid workers.

In this Special Report, BU Today talks to Boston University researchers in several fields about why medical personnel confront the risks; the ethical and political dilemmas presented by the outbreak; how the virus kills; efforts to design effective therapies; and other aspects of this unprecedented outbreak of Ebola.

John Connor, a researcher at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), says the immune system’s response to Ebola is “totally out of whack” compared with its responses to other viruses. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

John Connor, a researcher at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL), says the immune system’s response to Ebola is “totally out of whack” compared with its responses to other viruses. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

The Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia has now infected more than 1,600 people, according to the World Health Organization. To learn about how the virus kills and efforts being made at BU to devise diagnostics and therapies to treat it, BU Today spoke with John Connor, associate professor of microbiology at the School of Medicine and a researcher at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL). Connor, whose research is funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, studies the tricks that viruses use to dominate their cellular hosts. He has been working collaboratively with researchers at BU and at other research institutions, with a particular focus on the Ebola virus.

BU Today: What aspect of the Ebola virus is the focus of your work?

Connor: My lab is interested in several different approaches to try to understand and stop diseases caused by viruses like Ebola. This includes the development of antivirals, vaccines, and point-of-care diagnostics, in collaboration with the Photonics Center and the lab of Selim Unlu, College of Engineering associate dean for research and graduate programs in the department of computer and electrical engineering.

Another thing we are looking at is what goes wrong with the immune response during viral infection. Our bodies are so good at responding to so many diseases, and in most cases we get sick for a couple of days and then we get better. Our response to Ebola is totally out of whack. The immune system appears to deliver a much more aggressive response than is necessary, one that causes a lot of damage to the body. That overreaction is a significant part of what makes infection with this virus so deadly.

What kind of damage is done by the overreaction?

The response is so strong that it triggers other pathologies. This can include diffuse intravascular coagulopathy, which is why the virus is often called a hemorrhagic fever virus. Normally, coagulation is constantly serving your body, so if you get cut you get a nice blood clot that seals you up. It’s a great way to keep your blood from leaking out. In the case of Ebola, you get clotting in inappropriate places, such as organs like the liver. The problem is, you have a finite number of clotting factors in your body, and they get depleted from the inappropriate clotting. When that happens, you have a hole in your body that needs clotting but won’t stop bleeding. All the small things that happen on a daily basis that are normally taken care of by coagulation are not working.

Do other viruses cause the same coagulation problems?

Ebola is one of the viruses that are most associated with that type of response. The Marburg virus, a cousin of Ebola, can also cause that response, and Lassa fever viruses can as well. Dengue virus can also cause a hemorrhagic disease, in rare cases.

Does every victim of Ebola hemorrhage?

No, but it happens a lot of the time, whereas in other viral infection such as the common flu, it does not happen.

Why is it that some people infected by Ebola get much sicker than others?

That’s one of the things we are trying to learn, but it’s hard. One of the problems of studying a virus like this is that you don’t have large pools of people to work with. Outbreaks of Ebola are sporadic. If you are studying HIV/AIDS, the prevalence of the disease means that you can readily identify 10,000 people. Ebola outbreaks are not predictable and, thankfully, most previous outbreaks were small. This makes other approaches to understanding the course of disease important to try. We are now collaborating with people at other labs who are using animal models of the disease.

What are you learning about how the virus works?

One of the things we’ve been surprised by is how early the immune system response begins and how robust it is. When we compare this response to other viruses, it appears that the response to Ebola is much stronger than to other types of disease. Also, it appears that specific types of responses are associated with survival from the disease. We are investigating whether this early immune response can be used to develop a diagnostic for early disease. Can we look very early, even before symptoms show up, and identify an immune system response to an Ebola infection?

How is the immune response of survivors different from that of people who die?

We have learned that it’s not just the intensity of the response. It also appears to be the type of responses that develop. One of the things we see in animals that succumb to the disease is one type of immune cell—a type of neutrophil—accumulates, whereas in animals that survive, that immune cell is not as abundant.

Are there any therapies that are effective?

There are no Food and Drug Administration–approved therapies. People are beginning to develop some therapies, and information from those studies says that the earlier an individual is treated, the better their survival.

If we can find ways to diagnose infection early, that will directly help effective therapy. And with early diagnosis, if you identify one patient that is symptomatic, suggesting that their course of disease is far along, early tests like the one we are developing will allow rapid testing of contacts of that first patient and early treatment of those infected with the disease.

We are really trying to understand what this very overactive immune response is and how we can start damping it down. Our lab is also developing antivirals that work against Ebola, and we are working on diagnostics that will be at the point of care. We have been focusing on developing a diagnostic for Ebola, Marburg, and Lassa, where point of care is a high priority. We are doing this with the Unlu laboratory at BU, with collaboration from BD Technologies and a spin-out company, NeXGen Arrays, which was started by BU alums and is primarily interested in developing these assays. We are also developing second-generation vaccine viruses in collaboration with Tom Geisbert, former associate director of the NEIDL. The collaboration started when Tom was at BU and has continued since his move to the University of Texas Medical Branch.

This BU Today story was written by Art Jahnke. He can be reached at

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Battling Ebola: Heading Into the Outbreak

August 4th, 2014 in Uncategorized

NEIDL’s Nahid Bhadelia to care for patients, share expertise

On Saturday, Aug. 2, the first of two sickened American health care workers was flown from Africa to a special containment unit at Emory University. Despite the risk of infection, medical personnel continue to travel to West Africa to help bring under control the worst Ebola outbreak on record, which has killed more than 900 people to date. The World Health Organization plans to spend $100 million to fight the outbreak, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will send 50 more aid workers.

In a weeklong Special Report, BU Today talks to Boston University researchers in several fields about why medical personnel confront the risks; the ethical and political dilemmas presented by the outbreak; how the virus kills; efforts to design effective therapies; and other aspects of this unprecedented outbreak of Ebola.

Nahid Bhadelia (right) in protective gear with Dr. Guillermo Madico, at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Boston, where she directs infection control. This equipment is slated to be donated to the Ebola-fighting efforts in Sierra Leone when she travels there in mid-August. Photos by Jackie Ricciardi

Nahid Bhadelia (right) in protective gear with Dr. Guillermo Madico, at the National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory in Boston, where she directs infection control. This equipment is slated to be donated to the Ebola-fighting efforts in Sierra Leone when she travels there in mid-August. Photos by Jackie Ricciardi

If all goes as planned, Dr. Nahid Bhadelia will soon head straight into the heart of the Ebola outbreak that has already killed more than 800 people in western Africa, including at least 50 health care workers. Global and US health authorities announced Thursday that they would ramp up efforts to bring the epidemic under control, but that it would likely take at least three to six months.

Bhadelia is director of infection control at Boston University’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory, an assistant professor of infectious disease at BU School of Medicine, and an associate hospital epidemiologist at Boston Medical Center. With funding provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), she’s slated to travel to Sierra Leone in mid-August, to share her expertise on infection control and also care directly for Ebola patients. We spoke about the growing crisis.

WBUR’s CommonHealth: This is the biggest Ebola outbreak ever, as far as we know. Is it notable in other ways?

This is the first time Ebola has been present in these three countries: Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. Because these countries haven’t seen the infection before, that impacted their ability to recognize and manage the infection early on.

Also, because of the recent travel of the American Patrick Sawyer to Lagos [where he died of Ebola], I think it has raised a lot more concern about transfer of Ebola abroad, which has not been much of an issue in the past.

A lot of the US media coverage has focused on, “Could it come here?” Part of that fear seems to stem from the sense that Ebola, with its hemorrhages and high death rate, is particularly horrible. Is it?

In some ways yes and in others no. Ebola Zaire, the strain we’re seeing right now, is one of the most deadly strains; it’s been shown in the past to have 90 percent mortality when no treatment is given. But in some ways, it’s much harder to transmit at a population level compared to respiratory viruses we’ve been hearing about such as SARS or MERS. It requires close contact with bodily fluids. So, for example, there’s been a lot of concern about travel of folks from the areas impacted to the developed world, and I think the reason it’s less likely to spread is because it’s limited to people who come into contact very closely with the person who’s impacted.

So many health care workers have been getting infected. Do you have a sense of why? Are there practices that might be easily correctable that you could have an impact on?

There are a lot of talented people there in the field already, not just from international organizations but people who’ve been working there a very long time. In Sierra Leone, for example, though they haven’t had Ebola before, they’ve dealt with Lassa fever, another viral disease that causes hemorrhagic fever, at Kenema—one of the places where Dr. Sheik Umar Khan, the leading physician who just died of Ebola, worked. That center has dealt with Lassa fever for over 25 years, and there are nurses there who have long experience. The issue is the amount of patients. You have nurses there who were taking care of maybe a dozen Lassa patients and now they have to see 70 Ebola patients. I think the major issue is the fact that the health care system is so overwhelmed.

One of the major ways to alleviate that would be the presence of more personal protective equipment and more sterile medical equipment in general. I know that the PPE—the personal protective equipment—is a major concern because there’s a dearth of it right now in the field.

Also, we understand that the virus can be transmitted from surfaces—so if someone comes into contact with bodily fluids with the virus in them on a surface, that’s another way to get it. The virus can live outside the host for a couple of days. So this contamination of the environment is another important component—and that’s very difficult if you can imagine 70 patients in a small space. Ebola is not hard to kill, so it’s easy to avoid contamination in general. It’s only because of the number of people and poor health infrastructure that it becomes difficult.

14-7999-BHADELIA-( Portrait = Full Name)

Still, it’s so baffling that these leading, incredibly knowledgeable doctors are getting infected. How can that happen?

The number of patients plays a major role, and the lack of resources is a major concern. Also, here, when we train people to take care of patients with highly communicable infections, specifically Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers, we always say that you can’t be in that heavy protective equipment for more than a short amount of time, and you can’t be on shift for more than four hours. And that’s with one patient, maybe. Now you have docs who are taking care of 40 patients and they’re doing it in seven-hour shifts or even longer. That could definitely contribute to infection among health care workers.

What’s it like to wear that protective equipment? Can it be compared to space suits?

What’s currently being used in the field is a full-body gown, masks, face shields, head covers, double gloves, and then rubber boots with covering booties over them.

All this material is a barrier to any transmission of any fluids, but a lot of times it also, as you can imagine, blocks air exchange and it can get extremely hot, especially given the heat in the countries that we’re talking about. I’ve read accounts from some of the folks who are down there, and you can get very dehydrated; you can lose a lot of your body fluids from being in that protective equipment for a long time.

Is there any new technology that you could bring that could help?

It’s not so much the need for more advanced equipment as much as just needing the proper amount of the equipment they already have down there.

In the US, we have equipment—the space suit you mentioned—which is basically the powered air-purifying respirators—what we call PAPRs—and that’s the headgear you see with the air filter attached to it. The issue with that is, A, it’s expensive—though it would be ideal to get it down there—and B, it requires electricity, and in the field it can be difficult to have a reliable source of electricity.

Do you feel confident that when you go to Sierra Leone, you’ll be able to avoid getting infected?

I think you’re asking me if I’m afraid at all. Yes, I have fears for my safety, I think it would be cavalier not to have a healthy amount of fear, but it’s that fear that drives us to be careful and to follow the protocols. I have extensive training and I have a background in infectious disease and particularly with these pathogens.

I’m reminded of the Hillel quotation, “If not me, then who, and if not now, then when?” The need is great. The health care workers are overwhelmed, and more help can make it safer for everyone involved. I think we all face risks when we walk out in the morning…

14-7999-BHADELIA-( Portrait = Full Name)

Not from Ebola!

Right, but then there are those of us who regularly face risk at work: Firemen leave the station knowing they could get hurt. Police officers patrol the streets knowing there might be a violent altercation. Even regular doctors go to work knowing they’re at risk for exposure to blood-borne pathogens and multi-drug-resistant organisms. But I think it’s very rare that we’re asked to give something back based exactly on our skills and knowledge, and I think I can contribute, and that’s why I’m going.

I also feel strongly about going in order to bring clinical acumen home with me stateside. Although doctors in the US are taught about Ebola, not many of us have seen patients with viral hemorrhagic fevers. The National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratory (NEIDL) plans to conduct research with virulent pathogens, including Ebola, and my job is to run the medical response program in the very, very unlikely event of an exposure. My experience in Sierra Leone will allow me to pass along on-the-ground expertise to health care providers locally at Boston Medical Center.

You have those skills and that knowledge. What can other people do?

We can contribute to education and awareness about this infection and what’s real versus what’s irrational fear—in terms of how this virus is transmitted and why it’s a big issue there and less likely to be an issue here.

Two aid workers, Kent Brantley and Nancy Writebol, were infected down there, and usually health care workers are “extracted” and brought home for care, but their extraction was delayed because countries were not allowing the government to fly them through their air space. That’s irrational fear.

Another way would be personal protective equipment: it’s very much needed and I understand the issue is just getting it into the countries and getting it distributed. Those who have the ability to contribute that, that’s a powerful way to help.

And if you’re a health care worker who has experience in caring for patients such as these, or who has training in biosafety procedures, you can volunteer…

So is this Ebola outbreak the shape of the future, somehow?

What comes to my mind is the T. H. Huxley quote: “The question of questions for mankind, the problem that underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other, is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in Nature, and of his relation to the universe of things.” Huxley was a biologist—he spoke at the time when Darwin was presenting his theory of evolution—and now there are more than 7 billion of us seeing to find balance with our surroundings.

Since 1970, we’ve seen the discovery of over 40 infectious diseases that impact humans. As we become a larger population, we encroach into ecologies we haven’t previously explored; we come into contact with endemic animals and this allows the pathogens to make a cross-species exchange more easily. So if the past 20 or 30 years are any indication, I think this may become more of an issue in the future.

A version of this BU Today story was originally published on WBUR’s CommonHealth blog on Aug. 1, 2014.

Carey Goldberg is the cohost of WBUR’s CommonHealth.  She can be reached at

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Conference: Personalized Medicine & Intellectual Property

August 1st, 2014 in Uncategorized

Join the BU School of Law on Monday, Aug. 25, for a conference focused on personalized medicine and intellectual property.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Myriad that a human gene implicated in breast and ovarian cancer was not patentable subject matter. In Prometheus, the Court also recently ruled that a method for optimizing certain drug therapies was not patentable subject matter.

BU School of Law will host a conference to examine the potential impact of these rulings on medical research. The Kauffman Foundation will fund the conference, which will bring together legal, business, medical, and economic experts to discuss the impact of these cases, and generally the impact of patent and trade secret law on the incentives for innovation in the field of personalized medicine.


When: Monday, August 25, 2014; 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Where: Boston University School of Law
Sumner M. Redstone Building
765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

R.S.V.P.: Register by email.

For more information and a list of speakers, visit the BU Law website.

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SPH Ranked in Top 5 for Social Media Use

July 31st, 2014 in Uncategorized

Courtesy Flickr user:

Courtesy image 

MPH Programs 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 launched in February of 2012 as a free resource for students interested in graduate public health, public administration, public policy, and health administration programs.

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Saying Goodbye to BU’s Former “First Lady”

July 30th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Jasmine Chobanian remembered as a patron of the arts and a humanitarian.

Jasmine Chobanian with Aram Chobanian (left) and playwright Edward Albee at Commencement, May 2010. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Jasmine Chobanian with Aram Chobanian (left) and playwright Edward Albee at Commencement, May 2010. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

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

Health Care Funding Changes Impact STI Testing, Study Finds

July 29th, 2014 in Uncategorized

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