November 2012 Archives
It’s taken personal tragedy, years of research, and a mysterious late-night epiphany for Marie Guion Johnson, Ph.D., to develop a promising new medical device that can detect coronary-artery blockage. Her invention, called the CADence™, is a noninvasive handheld tool that she hopes eventually will be used as a functional test for people at high risk of developing heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.
You could call it a long-term, heartfelt commitment. In addition to its large, ongoing research contract, Medtronic recently committed another $350,000 to the University of Minnesota’s Visible Heart® Laboratory—the only place in the world where human hearts (donated, not suitable for transplantation) are reanimated so scientists can see exactly how they work from the inside.
On September 2, 1952, a sickly Jacqueline Johnson came to the University of Minnesota Hospitals for help. Jacqueline, the 5-year-old daughter of traveling carnival workers, had an atrial septal defect that needed repair—a repair that had never been done before. But pioneering University surgeon F. John Lewis, M.D., Ph.D., took the bold move of attempting the fix.
Betty Jayne Dahlberg of Deephaven, Minn., has seen the devastating effects of brain cancer firsthand. Her late son-in-law, James “Jimmy” Disbrow, lived with glioblastoma for four years before he died in 2002 at age 54. Disbrow suffered a great deal in those four years—despite valiant attempts to arrest his cancer through experimental therapies. He was an award-winning figure skater, a career he pursued until 1982, when he founded the Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant company with his brother. Dahlberg says she does not want others to endure a similar ordeal, and she has a special concern for children who suffer from brain cancer.
When Leaetta Hough talks about her late mother, Hazel Hough, she emphasizes the courage and grace with which she endured the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease for more than 35 years. That’s why, when Hough asked her mother what she would like done in her honor after her death, she rejected the idea of having a building named for her in her hometown of Bagley, Minn. Instead, Hazel supported Hough’s proposal to contribute money to Parkinson’s disease research at the University of Minnesota.
Attention-grabbing specters like bubonic plague, Ebola, or the slim possibility of anthrax attacks make for compelling headlines, and the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) keeps tabs on all of these — along with other nightmarish, if distant, threats. Recently, CIDRAP has made headlines for its work on a more familiar, yet potentially devastating, peril: influenza.
Cancer was a topic of immediate concern to Roger and Lynn Headrick in the 1990s when John Kersey, M.D., asked them to help fund a new cancer research center at the University of Minnesota. A former executive with Exxon, Pillsbury, and the Minnesota Vikings, Roger Headrick had recently joined the boards of two California biotech companies that were examining the links between genetics and cancer.
Russ Scheffler enjoyed medical students. For the two-and-a- half years he lived with cancer of the appendix, he befriended, quizzed, and “tormented” several of them, recalls his wife, Kathy. He recognized the teaching value of his illness, and welcomed the presence of aspiring physicians in the room. “He liked all the attention, he liked that interaction,” Kathy Scheffler says. When his University of Minnesota surgeon, Todd Tuttle, M.D., mentioned plans to bring a student on an upcoming medical mission trip to Honduras, Russ offered to pay for the student’s trip. That was news to Kathy, but she loved the idea.
For most students, committing to medical school comes with a hefty price tag, the weight of which can be overwhelming. Enter Avera Marshall. For six years, the regional medical center in southwestern Minnesota has been working to lift that weight in hopes of inspiring future doctors to return to the area.