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November 2010 Archives

Taranto and Friedman

It’s an exciting time for us at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital as we prepare to move into our new, state-of-the-art facility on the University’s Riverside campus this spring. But first, we must say good-bye to our current home. Our patients and families know the University’s current hospital and clinics well because we treat so many children who have serious or complex medical conditions requiring several follow-up visits.

Joseph Neglia, M.D., M.P.H.

Professor Joseph Neglia, M.D., M.P.H., will become chair of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief of University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital beginning January 3. The change comes as current chair Aaron Friedman, M.D., takes over as Medical School dean and vice president of health sciences.


Philanthropy makes a real difference in the lives of children with debilitating diseases and disorders. Because of Alfred and Ingrid Lenz Harrison’s $1 million challenge gift to the University of Minnesota’s Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Initiative in 2007, for example, researchers here are digging deeper into the causes and possible therapies for autism and related conditions.

Erik Nichols.

Christopher Meyer, M.D., loved her career as a pediatric critical care doctor at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare. It was an intense job that required her to be on her feet all day, but she was continually amazed at the strength of the families she met. But a childhood spine condition made it difficult and often painful for Meyer to stand for hours on end. She had several surgeries, trying to alleviate the pain, and each had a rather long recovery period when she couldn't work at all.

University researcher Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., with Keric Boyd, who underwent an experimental bone marrow transplant to treat his EB. Now Keric can ride his bike -- something he was never allowed to do before. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

Physician-scientists at the University of Minnesota have for the first time demonstrated that a lethal skin disease can be successfully treated with stem cell therapy. Medical School researchers John E. Wagner, M.D., and Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D.—in collaboration with researchers in Oregon, the United Kingdom, and Japan—used stem cells from bone marrow to repair the skin of patients with a fatal disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (EB).

Minnesota Vikings players join community kids for a swim to encourage exercise as part of the Vikings Fitness Playbook program.

An alarming 32 percent of children today are considered overweight. About 16 percent are considered obese, and up to 6 percent are considered extremely obese. These statistics carry considerable health implications. Obese children have an increased risk of prematurely developing many serious chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Deanna (center) and Brett Favre present a $200,000 check to University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital pediatrician-in-chiefelect Joseph Neglia, M.D., M.P.H. (far left); president Kathie Taranto; and vice president of facilities and operations

Football legend Brett Favre and his wife, Deanna, made a surprise visit October 29 to announce their commitment of $200,000 to University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital through the Favre 4 Hope Foundation. The gift is directed to the Adopt A Room program, which will provide kids in the new hospital facility with a customized, private room that’s designed to give kids more control of their environment and accelerate healing.

Cameron Cassidy colored a picture of the new children's hospital. (Photo: Brady Willette)

The University of Minnesota andFairview Health Services have launched a $175 million campaign to support pediatric research, education, and care at the new home for University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

The campaign, led by the Minnesota Medical Foundation, already has raised $84 million — nearly half of its goal.

Bernhard Hering, M.D., director of the Schulze Diabetes Institute and a pioneer in islet transplanta

Ten years ago, the University performed a successful islet cell transplant on Lorna Zaworski to treat type 1 diabetes as part of a clinical trial. Today, Zaworski remains insulin independent—demonstrating that islet cell transplants can offer a cure. Islet cells, which are located in the pancreas, are the body’s only cells that produce insulin. The body mistakenly destroys them during the onset of diabetes.


This is a story about the power of love and the promise and limits of science. It is a story in which politics, ethics, and advances in reproductive genetics collide. It is a story of the group of physicians who took our family to the outer edge of science and into the whirlwind of national controversy. It is a story about a family's search for a miracle, and the children who lived to tell the story. Finally, it is a story of a remarkable little boy who taught me and countless others what is important and what just doesn't matter at all; who showed me how to live well and laugh hard even in the face of odds you'd have to be crazy—or full of hope—to bet on.

Thumbnail image for Medical resident Ashley Balsam, M.D., got to know the children in Jalapa. (Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Balsam)

An excerpt from Ashley Balsam’s blog, Thursday, 15 April, 2010

“Sweat drips down the mothers face she fans her young child who is cuddled up on her lap, sweating as well, but clinging to the security of a familiar warm place to rest his head. The mother and child are crammed into a small room with one crib and 3 beds, all occupied by similar scenes. Our group of twelve enters the room prompting some mothers to light up with anticipation of possible departure, while others show fear and distress at the continued illness of their child. Though one would expect the depicted scene to be accompanied by a montage of complaints about the unrelenting and suffocating heat, not a single negative comment is muttered, and the mothers simply continue to use papers to move the stagnant air around their diaphoretic young ones and graciously thank us as we explain the medical plan for the day. This is rounds on the infectious disease wards in La Mascota in Nicaragua.


The University of Minnesota opened its doors to health sciences training in 1888, when it established the Department of Medicine. A precursor to the modern academic health center, it had clinical facilities in St. Paul and was composed of the College of Medicine and Surgery, the College of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery, and the College of Dentistry. A few years later, in 1892, dentistry became a stand-alone college, and the Department of Medicine gave way to what would become the College of Medical Sciences.

Reconstructive surgeon Peter Hilger, M.D. (right), helps people experiencing facial nerve paralysis regain at least some movement in their faces—including the ability to smile. (Photo: Scott Streble)

In February 2007, 23-year-old Katie Salomonsen woke up with the right side of her face red and swollen. She went to Fairview Southdale Hospital, where doctors found an abscessed wisdom tooth. Three days later, an oral surgeon extracted the tooth. During the surgery, he discovered that the entire roof of Salomonsen’s mouth was black and scattered with ulcers. He had never seen anything like it and he biopsied the tissue.

Image courtesy of Hyperion.

Laurie Strongin’s uneventful pregnancy belied the reality of her firstborn’s medical condition. Born in 1995, Henry had Fanconi anemia, and Laurie and her husband, Allen Goldberg, quickly learned that a matched sibling blood and marrow donor was his only hope.

In 1996, while Laurie was pregnant with their second child—healthy but not a genetic match—the couple learned about the possibility of using preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), guaranteeing a healthy child and a match.

Thumbnail image for University of Minnesota undergraduate student Wanda Vue says the Minnesota’s Future Doctors program provides a straight path to her goals.

A more diverse medical school isn’t just better for students who’ve historically lacked access; it increases cultural competency in all students—and it’s an important step toward combating health disparities, says Paul White, J.D., director of admissions for the University of Minnesota Medical School. A 2008 Journal of the American Medical Association study affirmed that assessment, concluding that diversity in medical schools helps prepare students to serve today’s varied patient population.

Daniel Weisdorf, M.D., is leading a clinical trial that uses a relatively simple genetic analysis to help reduce relapse rates for people who have acute myeloid leukemia. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

Few people would describe cancer as an orphan disease—a rare illness that’s ignored by drug companies because producing and marketing medications to treat it likely won't turn a profit. But University of Minnesota cancer geneticist David Largaespada, Ph.D., argues otherwise.

Frank Cerra

No one told senior vice president for health sciences and Medical School dean Frank Cerra, M.D., that the average tenure for a medical school leader in this country is only three and a half years. But then there’s been nothing average about Cerra since the day in 1981 when he arrived at the University of Minnesota as a tenured faculty member in the Department of Surgery.

Thuy Nguyen-Tran HOMETOWN: Richfield, Minnesota DEGREE : Biochemistry and physiology, University of Minnesota  IN HER SPARE TIME: Teaches traditional Vietnamese dance, wants to start a rock band (she’s a drummer). (Photo: Kelly Mac Williams for Reach ma

As an undergraduate biochemistry major at the University of Minnesota, Caroline Lochungvu knew she wanted to study in Bangkok. Since the U didn't have a study abroad program there, she simply designed her own and set off for Thailand.

Premedical student Thuy Nguyen-Tran wanted to learn more and help educate others about the medical challenges faced by immigrants and refugees. Not finding an on-campus group devoted to exploring such subjects, she created a nonprofit organization, Circle of Giving, to do precisely that.

Research by Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D., and John E. Wagner, M.D., moved quickly from mouse studies in the laboratory to showing success in patients. (Photo: Emily Jensen)

Medical School researchers John E. Wagner, M.D., and Jakub Tolar, M.D., Ph.D.—in collaboration with researchers in Oregon, the United Kingdom, and Japan—have used stem cells from bone marrow to repair the skin of children with a fatal skin disease called recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (RDEB).

It’s the first time researchers have shown that bone marrow-derived stem cells can repair the skin and upper gastrointestinal tract and alter the natural course of the disease. Until now, bone marrow has only been used to replace diseased or damaged marrow.


The University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview and University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital are again among an elite group of hospitals named the nation’s best by *U.S. News & World Report*. The annual rankings are based in part on reputation, death rate, and care-related factors such as nursing and patient services.


As two high-level University of Minnesota leaders' retirement dates draw near, the Academic Health Center (AHC) and Medical School are making plans for the transition. Frank B. Cerra, M.D., who currently serves as the University’s senior vice president for health sciences and dean of the Medical School, will retire December 31 (see related story on page 19). University President Robert H. Bruininks, Ph.D., plans to retire June 30.

The Medical School–Duluth Campus specializes in educating students committed to practicing primary care and serving the health-care needs of rural communities. (Photo: Courtesy of Jennifer Vesely)

The University of Minnesota Medical School-Duluth Campus ranks first among schools graduating M.D.s who practice in rural areas and second among the 18 allopathic and osteopathic medical schools reviewed in a study published in the April issue of Academic Medicine. The authors examined a 10-year group of practicing M.D.s and D.O.s who graduated from medical school between 1988 and 1997.

Philip McGlave, M.D.

Two leading physician-scientists at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center have won major grants totaling almost $26 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Philip McGlave, M.D., and Jeffrey Miller, M.D., received word about their renewed five-year program project research grants this fall.

Stroke specialist Adnan Qureshi, M.D., envisions a day when stroke diagnosis can start in an ambulance—shaving off important minutes before treatment begins. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

Adnan Qureshi, M.D., knows the harm and sorrow that a stroke can leave behind. His mother died of a hemorrhagic stroke when she was 39 years old.

Her death fueled Qureshi’s determination to improve treatment for stroke patients. Today Qureshi, a professor in the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Neurology, heads the University-affiliated Stroke Center. The center is a national leader in advancing clinical care and crossdisciplinary research on stroke.

Win and Maxine Wallin.

In recognition of a lifetime of support, the University of Minnesota in June named the newest building in its Biomedical Discovery District the Winston and Maxine Wallin Medical Biosciences Building.

The growing district is a biomedical sciences research park located on the University’s East Bank campus near TCF Bank Stadium. In addition to their generous financial support, the Wallins — both University alumni — have contributed their time and talents to the advancement of higher education, particularly in the health sciences.

Neurosurgeon Stephen Haines, M.D., and otolaryngologist Samuel Levine, M.D., work together on a procedure that requires expertise from both specialties. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

Is brain surgery a team sport? Two University of Minnesota faculty members are making a good case that it is.

They're joining forces to treat acoustic neuromas—small tumors that grow on nerves that connect the inner ear with the brain—using new technology to preserve the patient’s hearing.

Anita Kunin, Barbara Forster, and Sally Kling led a fundraising effort for the Minnesota Women’s Healthy Aging Project. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

What makes us age? What happens when women, in particular, grow older?

Nobody yet knows which combination of health factors contributes to the rate, variation, and quality of aging, but acquiring that elusive information could allow us to foresee the path we'll follow as we age and perhaps change that path for the better.


When children are diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), they often receive only one part of their recommended therapy—the medication component. But alone, that’s not the most effective treatment, says University of Minnesota psychiatry professor Gerald August, Ph.D.

The recommended treatment plan—and especially the behavioral therapy component—often gets left behind because families don't have the time or resources to apply it, he says.


Don't miss Minnesota’s premier baseball charity event and the chance to celebrate the Twins' inaugural season in their new home! Join the 2010 division champion Minnesota Twins at Diamond Awards to celebrate a riveting season and honor players for their outstanding performances. Event highlights include a silent auction with rare baseball memorabilia and a televised awards ceremony. Proceeds support the University of Minnesota’s innovative research and patient care in ataxia, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Thumbnail image for UMACH_GolfTourn_0259.jpg

The ninth annual Karen’s Hope Ataxia Benefit, held June 14 at the Oak Marsh Golf Course in Oakdale, Minnesota, raised $35,200 for the Bob Allison Ataxia Research Center at the University of Minnesota. Longtime supporter Connie Bakken contributed an additional $25,000 through the Whitney ARCEE Foundation, bringing the event’s nine-year total to more than $500,000.

Thumbnail image for 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. (P

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and three other collaborating academic medical centers have received $26 million from the National Institutes of Health to identify risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease and related forms of cognitive decline.

Tufia Haddad, M.D., describes the I-SPY2 study to patient Mary Kittelson. (Photo: Richard Anderson)

A leading-edge clinical trial that started at the University of Minnesota in September aims to improve breast cancer survival rates—and it will garner answers in a much shorter than usual timeframe. Called I-SPY2, the study will compare the effectiveness of several potential new breast cancer medications at once and almost immediately evaluate whether they’re working.

John Ohlfest, Ph.D., used a grant from the Shaver fund to test a vaccine on a currently untreatable type of brain tumor.

Could a personalized vaccine help treat people who have brain tumors? This fall scientist John Ohlfest, Ph.D., and pediatric neuro-oncologist Christopher Moertel, M.D., are launching a clinical trial to find out.


The more obese people are, the higher their risk of stroke—regardless of race, gender, and how obesity is measured, according to a study published in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

Lead author and University of Minnesota visiting associate professor Hiroshi Yatsuya, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues evaluated the health of 13,549 middle-aged black and white men and women in four American communities (including one in Minnesota) from 1987 through 2005 as part of the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D., M.P.H.

Indoor tanning is linked to an increased risk of melanoma, according to a new study from the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Cancer Center and School of Public Health.

"There was no safe tanning device," says DeAnn Lazovich, Ph.D., M.P.H., leader of the study and coleader of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Prevention and Etiology Research Program. "We also found—and this is new data—that the risk of getting melanoma is associated more with how much a person tans and not the age at which a person starts using tanning devices. Risk rises with frequency of use, regardless of age, gender, or device."

Scientists Angela Panoskaltsis-Mortari, Ph.D., and Andrew Price say their research could be a step toward supplementing the supply of donor lungs for transplant. (Photo: Jacob Portnoy)

University of Minnesota scientists have achieved another research "first"—creating breathing lungs in the laboratory. This innovation comes two years after a different group of University researchers used a similar technique to create a beating heart in the laboratory.


In a recent study, University of Minnesota researchers discovered that a combination of two cancer drugs may be an effective treatment for HIV. The drugs—decitabine and gemcitabine—are both already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now used in cancer therapy. When tested in mice, the two drugs together caused the HIV virus to mutate itself to death—an outcome researchers call "lethal mutagenesis."


The University of Minnesota Medical Alumni Society has selected four exceptional physicians to receive two of its awards in 2010. Please join us in congratulating and thanking these deserving doctors for their work in the service of the medical profession. New this year, the Minnesota Medical Foundation is recognizing alumni for philanthropic support of the Medical School as well. All awardees were honored at an alumni celebration banquet on October 15.


Though he had long wanted to become a physician, John E. Larkin, M.D., admits that he spent most of high school focused on football rather than academics. But when Larkin entered the University of Minnesota in 1949, a General College faculty member recognized and fostered his potential. Larkin thrived, earning his bachelor’s degree in science education in 1953.


Medical School alumnus Martin Stillman, M.D., J.D. (Medical School Class of 1997), has found many ways to give back to the University of Minnesota but says the Connections Physician-Student Mentoring Program offers a unique way to help students.

"Serving as a mentor keeps you in touch with today’s students and the Medical School on a personal level," says Stillman, president of the Medical Alumni Society. "And when I'm helping my mentee, I'm always learning."


For three decades, medical examiner Janis Amatuzio, M.D., made her hard job even harder—voluntarily—because she believed it was the right thing to do. "My father inspired me to look at forensic medicine with a compassionate heart," says Amatuzio, a member of the University of Minnesota Medical School Class of 1977. "For me, that became talking to the families after the death of a loved one."


After 26 years as a teacher and steward of the Duluth Family Medicine Residency Program, Thomas W. Day, M.D., has stepped down as program director and is now practicing family medicine with the SuperiorHealth Medical Group in Duluth.

The family of Nancy English, M.D., established a scholarship for nontraditional women students in her memory. (Photo: Courtesy of Hilary Crook)

When second -year University of Minnesota, Duluth medical student Anya Gybina, Ph.D., joined the Dr. Nancy English Memorial 5K Walk/Run on July 31, she was running in the footsteps of someone a lot like her.

Gybina is the first medical student to receive the Nancy I. English, M.D., Scholarship, which was designated for a woman medical student on the Duluth campus by English’s daughters, Hilary and Emily Crook; husband, Thomas Crook; and father, Blake English. Nancy English, a member of the Medical School Class of 1992, died suddenly in August 2008.

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)

Excitement runs high in September at the University of Minnesota with the return of students and events of all types. On September 23, 24, and 25, Medical School alumni joined the fun when members of eight classes reconnected at the Medical Alumni Society’s Reunion Weekend.


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

A mother keeps a close watch as her baby is treated for jaundice in one of the phototherapy boxes Balsam and her colleagues built. (Photo: Courtesy of Ashley Balsam)

After finishing a 30-hour hospital shift, Ashley Balsam, M.D., a third-year internal medicine and pediatrics resident, doesn't go straight to bed. "I'm going to play soccer," she says. That energy is typical of Balsam. Her normal routine includes doing rotations at University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, playing soccer on a team with other residents, and caring for her new puppy, Chopper. She also finds the time and passion to volunteer with local outreach programs and travel to Nicaragua, where she’s studying the long-term effects of neonatal jaundice.

John E. Wagner, M.D., performed Molly Nash’s controversial transplant. (Photo: Scott Streble)

In most ways, 16-year-old Molly Nash is a typical teenager. She argues with her parents. She bickers with her younger brother and sister (but admits to loving them, too). And she is a budding actress, recently portraying Chip the teacup in Beauty and the Beast. The science that came together 10 years ago to give Molly these opportunities was revolutionary, controversial, and for her family, intensely personal.

Joseph Neglia, M.D., M.P.H.

Professor Joseph Neglia, M.D., M.P.H., will become chair of the University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief of University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital beginning January 3. The leadership change comes as current chair Aaron Friedman, M.D., takes over as Medical School dean and University vice president of health sciences. Frank Cerra, M.D., who currently serves as the University’s senior vice president for health sciences and Medical School dean, is stepping down December 31.


Landyn and Steve Hutchinson hosted more than 25 patients and their families at the first Hutchinson Halloween Huddle on October 26 at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital. The Hutchinsons recruited Minnesota Vikings players Adrian Peterson, Jeff Dugan, John Sullivan, and Freddie Brown to help host the festivities.

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