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May 2010 Archives

Scientist Michael Lee, Ph.D., searches for a cure. (Photo: Scott Streble)

For Mike Trok to pursue his avocation as a volunteer eagle handler, he must overcome what he terms the "siren call" of Parkinson’s disease: "Not today. Just don't go out today." He explains, "Parkinson’s has a way of wanting to draw you back, to make you a recluse, because it’s harder to go out in public."

Jerrold Vitek, M.D., Ph.D.

Jerrold Vitek, M.D., Ph.D., in July will become the new head of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Neurology. Vitek, an internationally renowned neurologist who specializes in the surgical treatment of movement disorders, comes to the University from the Cleveland Clinic, where he directs its Neuromodulation Research Center. Cleveland Clinic recruited him from Emory University in 2004 to expand and improve its program in deep brain stimulation (DBS).

Thumbnail image for Ataxia researcher Harry Orr, Ph.D., says partnerships through the new Institute for Translational Neuroscience will help bring researchers closer to finding a treatment for ataxia.

Ataxia research at the University of Minnesota aims to bring hope and relief to 150,000 Americans who suffer from the neurological disease, which damages the cerebellum and affects coordination, walking, swallowing, and other essential functions. The most steadfast supporter of these investigations is the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center (BAARC), an affiliate of the Minnesota Medical Foundation.

Eric Newman, Ph.D.

For many people with diabetes, vision loss is a major concern. A condition called diabetic retinopathy, which can affect people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, results when blood vessels in the eye’s retina are damaged. It can lead to gradual vision loss and, eventually, blindness. The retina, considered part of the central nervous system, is a layer of tissue at the back of the eye that transforms light into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain, which interprets the signals as the images we see.

Carol and Scott LeDoux. (Photo: Stephanie Dunn)

Minnesota boxing legend Scott LeDoux faced world champion Muhammad Ali in the ring in 1977. Today, LeDoux is fighting an even fiercer opponent—amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the neurodegenerative illness also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. "Boxing is a physical fight," says LeDoux. "ALS is an emotional fight."

Twins players Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. (Photo: Stephanie Dunn)

Thanks to everyone who helped make the fifth annual Diamond Awards a success. This year’s event, held January 28 at the Hilton Minneapolis, attracted more than 500 guests and raised nearly $205,000 for neurodegenerative and neuromuscular disease research and care at the University of Minnesota.

Taking the bite out of pain. (Illustrations: Dave Cutler)

"The worst pain a man can suffer: to have insight into much and power over nothing." — Herodotus

If Herodotus was right about the connection between pain and power, research into chronic pain has been hurting until recently. We've long known much about the nervous system’s mechanisms that communicate and register pain, but we have lacked the power to treat and end chronic pain in many patients. This shortcoming produces sobering consequences: About 30 percent of Americans experience chronic pain from a variety of causes, leaving them in continual distress and handing our economy an annual loss of nearly $100 billion.

Second-year family medicine resident Sankari Kasi, M.D., examines first-grader Hamsa Abdala at Smiley’s Clinic in south Minneapolis. (Photo: Scott Streble)

At Smiley’s Clinic in south Minneapolis, first-grader Hamsa Abdala, 7, waits with his mother, brother, and a Somali language interpreter to see a doctor. He hops up on the exam table, flashes a bashful smile and says that he’s glad to miss a school fieldtrip that day because of his checkup. His class was going ice skating, he explains—he prefers golf.

Hamsa is one of six pediatric patients that Sankari Kasi, M.D., a second-year family medicine resident at the University of Minnesota, will see that week for a clinical research study she’s working on as part of her residency.


Every week, University of Minnesota neurologist John Day, M.D., Ph.D., sees muscular dystrophy patients in the clinic, and every week, he says he gets a "kick in the rear."

Day conducts research aimed at understanding and eventually curing muscular dystrophy. But as he sees his patients' disease progress weekly, he is reminded that research can't move fast enough.

A molecule called beta-hydroxybutyrate helps the hibernating ground squirrel survive the winter with extremely low oxygen levels and blood flow. (Photo: Dan Schlies)

Major blood loss is a medical conundrum. Lose enough blood and the brain, heart, and other organs starve for oxygen and die. Even if you survive the blood loss, restoring normal blood and oxygen levels—called reperfusion—can cause as much harm as the blood loss itself.

But three University of Minnesota scientists have developed a drug that prevents both from happening, a discovery that could save thousands of lives in trauma centers and on battlefields worldwide — thanks to a squirrel.

Medical students Ncha Xiong and Melissa Sherman (second and fourth from left, respectively) conduct a mock exam of stand-in patient Megan Tucker, while David Power, M.D., M.P.H., observes. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

Minnesota’s medical schools and teaching hospitals had more than an $8.4 billion impact on the state’s economy in 2008, according to an Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) report on its member institutions.

Those institutions include the University of Minnesota Medical School and Mayo Medical School as well as Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Hennepin County Medical Center, Regions Hospital, Saint Marys Hospital, and University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview.

Thumbnail image for Daniel Garry, M.D., Ph.D., is excited that a new collaboration grant will connect the University to a nationwide network of other leading stem cell scientists. (Photo: Scott Streble)

The University of Minnesota has been awarded an $8.6 million contract to help speed the development of novel stem cell- and immune cell-based therapies from the laboratory to clinical trials through the Production Assistance for Cellular Therapies (PACT) program.

Shalamar Sibley, M.D.

University researcher Shalamar Sibley, M.D., found that people with higher levels of vitamin D in their bodies while on low-calorie diets may lose more weight—especially in their midsections.

Sibley and her colleagues measured the levels of two forms of vitamin D—the precursor and active hormonal forms—in 38 overweight men and women. Most had what many experts would consider insufficient vitamin D levels. Study participants were then monitored for 11 weeks while on diets that limited their daily caloric intake to 750 calories fewer than their estimated daily needs.

Alzheimer’s disease researcher Karen Hsiao Ashe, M.D., Ph.D., cuts the ceremonial ribbon at the Medical Biosciences Building opening December 1, while scientist Harry Orr, Ph.D., and Medical School Dean Frank Cerra, M.D., look on. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

A chat between colleagues in the hallway can spark the beginnings of a major medical discovery. For researchers at the University of Minnesota whose offices may be scattered across campus‚ bouncing ideas off of one another in person just got easier.

In December, the University opened a $79.3 million, 115‚000-plus-square-foot Medical Biosciences Building to house scientists who are studying Alzheimer’s disease and other brain-related diseases as well as the immune system.

William T. Browne, M.D.

William T. Browne, M.D., Barbara Gold, M.D., and David Rothenberger, M.D., have accepted new leadership roles with University of Minnesota Physicians (UMPhysicians), the group practice of University faculty physicians.

Browne will serve as senior vice president for clinical operations, Gold as senior vice president for clinical quality, and Rothenberger as senior vice president for leadership development and clinical mentorship. A critical care specialist, he has spent his 30-year career in the U.S. Army, serving as deputy commander for clinical services at the Eisenhower Army Medical Center and internal medical consultant to the U.S. Surgeon General.

Thumbnail image for Brain scans performed by cancer researcher Michael Garwood, Ph.D., in the late 1980s showed the advantage of high-resolution 4 Tesla images over 1 or 1.5 Tesla, then thought to be the optimal magnetic field for research and clinical us

Individuals who consumed two or more soft drinks per week increased their risk of developing pancreatic cancer by nearly two-fold compared with those who did not consume soft drinks, according to a University of Minnesota study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.


University faculty from the College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Public Health, Medical School, and other collegiate units will be on the front lines of a global collaboration to fight emerging zoonotic pandemics—diseases that can spread between animals and humans.

Through the project, called RESPOND, faculty are joining a multidisciplinary team that will implement a U.S. Agency for International Development cooperative agreement with funding of up to $185 million, $55 million of which will go to the University’s Academic Health Center over the next five years.

Martin J. Stillman, M.D., J.D.

Last year, we started hosting informal dinners that offered first-year medical students and alumni a chance to network and learn from one another. We received so much positive feedback from students and alumni alike that we have planned more of these dinners. The next one will take place on May 25 at True Thai in Minneapolis.

When medical students told us that they wanted more opportunities to connect with alumni, we at the Medical Alumni Society (MAS) responded.

Thumbnail image for Medical School associate deans Paul White, J.D., and Kathleen Watson, M.D., say new admissions standards reward such qualities as compassion, tolerance, and resilience. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Nominate a deserving physician for one of the following Medical Alumni Society awards: Harold S. Diehl Award, the Distinguished Alumni Award, or the Early Distinguished Career Alumni Award.

Thumbnail image for University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital is one of three buildings in the country to use these distinctive metal panels that reflect blue, green, purple, maroon, or gold, depending on how the sunlight hits them.

Thank you to the nearly 700 readers who responded to the Medical Bulletin readership survey conducted last spring and summer via mail. Your input is extremely valuable, and we've already made changes to the magazine in response to your suggestions.

Will Nicholson, M.D

As a family medicine resident at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood, Will Nicholson, M.D., saw every day how health insurance coverage affected the care his patients received. Patients wouldn't get the medicine he'd prescribe because they couldn't afford it. Or when they had health concerns that needed follow-up, they'd be charged for another office visit and often any diagnostic tests that were done.


An elegant, bespectacled brunette—acclaimed local actor Angela Timberman—took the makeshift stage at the Mill City Clinic in Minneapolis. But it was the voice of a loopy schoolgirl, in a riotous reading of Shel Silverstein’s poem "Sick," that greeted the audience at this theatrical pageant in mid-November.

"I cannot go to school today,"
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
"I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I'm going blind in my right eye. ..."

So began Hippocrates Café, the brainchild ofJon Hallberg, M.D. (Medical School Class of '92), the Mill City Clinic’s medical director.


Lots of medical students come from medical families. But few can match Geoff Rutledge’s family legacy. When Rutledge graduates from the University of Minnesota Medical School in May, he will be the fourth generation Rutledge to do so and the fifth-generation physician in his family.

Thumbnail image for Class of 2000 alumni Julie Anderson, M.D., Peter Lund, M.D., Shannon Parkos, M.D., and Eric Haug, M.D., share a smile. (Photo: Tim Rummelhoff)

Save the date for this fall’s Medical School Alumni Reunion, September 23-24, and a chance to reconnect and reminisce with friends and former classmates while enjoying social activities, a medical education forum, tours, lectures, an all-class reception, and your class dinner.

Second-year medical student Curt Nordgaard spends some of his free time organizing fundraising events to benefit health-related projects overseas. (Photo: Scott Streble)

Music, literature, travel, foreign languages, and simple curiosity. These were some of the things W. Albert Sullivan, M.D., valued most, says his widow, Theresa Sullivan.

She helps administer the Albert Sullivan Endowed Scholarship fund, created by an anonymous Medical School alumnus to honor the longtime educator and associate dean of student affairs, who died in 1990. The scholarship helps support students who are not only promising future physicians but also "well-rounded people," says Theresa, who contributes regularly to the fund.


We remember Medical School alumni who have recently passed away and honor their contributions to improving health and advancing medicine.

Kara Roberts (left) called loved ones with the news that she had matched in internal medicine at Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. “I’m relieved,” she said. “I haven’t eaten or slept in two days.” Looking on, Jennifer Vesely, who ma

Anxious students from the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Class of 2010 gathered at the McNamara Alumni Center on March 18 for this year’s Match Day ceremony. Surrounded by family, friends, and Medical School staff and faculty, the students learned where they would complete their residency training.


When a group of four University of Minnesota Medical School students and two faculty members visited hospitals in Israel in 2008 through an International Medical Education and Research (IMER) program, they weren't sure exactly what to expect.

They knew not to expect the same Israel they'd seen on the news. They knew not to expect third-world conditions. They just weren't expecting the huge, leading edge simulation center they saw at the country’s largest hospital, Chaim Sheba Medical Center, near Tel Aviv.

Paul G. Quie, M.D.

After his first international medicine experience in China in 1981, Paul G. Quie, M.D., couldn't turn back. Quie, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert who has been on the Medical School faculty since 1958, was struck by the glaring health-care disparities between these countries and the United States.

"That and hearing the 90-10 rule," which, Quie explains, estimates that 90 percent of the world’s wealth spent on health care belongs to 10 percent of its population.

In 25 years, the Center for Bioethics faculty has grown from three core members to 11 faculty and 14 affiliate faculty across the University today. (Photo: Courtesy of the Center for Bioethics)

Never doubt that a small group of committed students can make a far-reaching and lasting impact. Indeed, it was a small group of students that provided the initial spark for the University’s Center for Bioethics, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary.

Today the center is widely regarded as one of the few "top-tier" bioethics programs, says Arthur Caplan, Ph.D., who was its first director, from 1987 to 1994, and now heads the bioethics program at the University of Pennsylvania.


University of Minnesota and Minneapolis VA Medical Center researchers have identified a biological marker in the brains of people exhibiting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The research, published January 20 in the Journal of Neural Engineering, used a noninvasive technology called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to measure magnetic fields in the brain.

At the Raiter Clinic in Cloquet, Medical School alumna Victoria Heren, M.D., mentors medical student Brock Urie as part of the University’s Rural Physician Associate Program, which is designed to encourage students to practice in rural areas after they

Forty years ago, when rural family physicians were in short supply and the problem was getting worse in Minnesota, state legislators established a two-year medical campus in Duluth that would specialize in educating students committed to practicing in rural communities and who would complete medical school on the Twin Cities campus.

Jacqueline Dunlap (Photo: Emily Pillsbury)

If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard of neurofibromatosis (NF). Neither had JoAnne Pastel and Bill Dunlap, of Wayzata, until their 5-month-old daughter, Jacqueline, was diagnosed with the tumor-causing disorder, for which there is no known cure. Although NF is more common than type 1 diabetes, patients can find treatment at only four U.S. clinics. Thankfully for Jacqueline and her family, two national NF leaders—pediatric hematologist-oncologist Chris Moertel, M.D., and cancer geneticist David Largaespada, Ph.D.—work at the University of Minnesota.

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