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The News Room

Advances in Precision Medicine and Translational Research: PPH and CCTS Pilot Award Symposium

On December 2, 2015, lead investigators of interdisciplinary teams will present their research toward advancing customized healthcare. Each team is the recipient of a seed grant from University of Utah’s Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS) and Program in Personalized Health (PPH) pilot program designed to combine talent, resources, ...

Study Shows Benefits of Intensive Blood Pressure Management

Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial could impact medical guidelines for treating hypertension, but questions remain See also: How Low to Go for Blood Pressure? Lower Target Could Affect Millions of Americans SALT LAKE CITY - Patients whose blood pressure target was lowered to reach a systolic goal of less than 120 mmHg ...

Crash Risk: Study Highlights Lifestyle, Occupational Factors That May Put Truck Drivers in Danger

SALT LAKE CITY - Truck drivers who are frequently fatigued after work, use cell phones while driving, or have an elevated pulse pressure – a potential predictor of cardiovascular disease - may be at increased risk for getting into truck accidents, according to a study by the Rocky Mountain Center ...

Why Elephants Rarely Get Cancer

Potential Mechanism Identified That May Be Key to Cancer Resistance Listen to an interview with Dr. Joshua Schiffman on The Scope Radio Watch a video with Dr. Schiffman and the elephants who inspired him SALT LAKE CITY - Why elephants rarely get cancer is a mystery that has stumped scientists for decades. A ...

Technology to Crowdsource Complex Triggers of Pediatric Asthma

Interdisciplinary University of Utah team awarded $5.5 million from NIH to accelerate investigation of impact of air quality, other environmental exposures For many doctors, figuring out what caused a kid’s asthma attack means opening up regional air quality databases and applying a lot of guesswork. While pollution from cars and other sources ...

National Panel Makes Recommendations to Prevent Medical Diagnostic Errors

(SALT LAKE CITY)—It’s unknown how many errors are made diagnosing medical diseases and conditions each year, but research has shown that such mistakes contribute to approximately 10 percent of patient deaths and account for 6 percent to 17 percent of adverse hospital events, according to a report from the National ...

Health Care Transformation

Utah Health System Leads in Asking: What Does it Cost?

Price is one thing, but what does it actually cost to provide health care? What does a minute in an M.R.I. machine cost, or an hour in the operating room? University of Utah Health Care is among a few health systems in the country able to answer those questions, reports Gina Kolata of The New York Times. A cost data-mining project set into motion years ago by Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, Vivian Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., is attracting national attention, saving money and improving care, writes Kolata. “While costs at other academic medical centers in the area have increased an average of 2.9 percent a year over the past few years, the University of Utah’s have declined by 0.5 percent a year.”

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Could Peer Pressure Improve Care?

"A basic principle of health care is that everyone strongly favors transparency—for everyone but themselves," wrote Thomas H. Lee in the Harvard Business Review, extolling the virtues of the University of Utah's pioneering move to publish patient satisfaction scores on its Find-A-Doctor website. The U. was the first academic medical center in the U.S. to put patient reviews online, complete with comments and an accessible five-star ranking system. Doctors were justifiably nervous. But the U. was "richly rewarded for its creativity and courage," wrote Lee, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at Press Ganey Associates, the nation's leading provider of patient surveys.

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First Do Less Harm

Hospitals have been surveying discharged patients for years, asking them things like how well providers communicated or catered to their emotional needs. But it’s not clear what many do with the data, except at places like University of Utah Health Care (UUHC), writes The New York Times reporter, Gina Kolata. By posting its physician reviews online, UUHC made it clear that each patient visit was “a high-stakes interaction.” Doctors responded by being the kind of doctor their patients wanted them to be, and patient satisfaction scores soared.

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Since 2012, Algorithms for Innovation has been asking questions and searching for solutions to some of the most impossible problems facing health care today. We believe there's an unprecedented opportunity to invent a new vision for health care, and academic medicine is poised to lead the way. Algorithms for Innovation is designed to spark conversations, highlight best practices, and foster collaboration to help transform the future.

Vivian Lee

Vivian S. Lee
M.D., Ph.D., MBA

Senior VP for Health Sciences
Dean, School of Medicine
CEO, University of Utah Health Care
@vivianleemd +Vivian Lee



Punching Holes in Health Care’s Glass Ceiling

No one wants to admit their biases. We’d all like to believe that we’re blind to gender, race and ethnicity. I challenge you, though, to look at these photos and then ask yourself: Are these the images that first come to mind when you hear the words “CEO,” “surgeon,” or “scientist?”

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Health Care is Changing, but our Values Remain the Same

All too often, reimagining health care takes a back seat to the immediacy, or busy-ness, of health care. It’s a challenge we face daily at the University of Utah, in spite—indeed, partly because—of efforts to create “value” for our patients by providing better care and service.

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The One Thing

Recently I was asked by a recruit, “What’s the ‘one thing’ you are trying to achieve for the University of Utah Health Sciences?” I suppose he was alluding to the book by Gary Keller, which has been very popular of late among the business set.

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Research Roundup

Brain Circuits Disrupted in Mice Missing a Gene Implicated in Autism, Intellectual Disabilities

Author: Megan Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy
Co Author: E Anne Martin, Department of Neurology, Shruti Muralidhar, Department of Neurology, Zhirong Wang, Department of Neurology, Diégo Cordero Cervantes, Department of Neurology, Raunak Basu, Department of Neurolog, Matthew R Taylor, Department of Neurology, Jennifer Hunter, Department of Neurology, Tyler Cutforth, Columbia University, Scott A Wilke, Columbia University, Anirvan Ghosh, Columbia University
Journal: eLife, Nov. 17, 2015
Date: 11-18-2015

Alterations to brain circuits underpinning intellectual disability, autism and other neuropsychiatric disorders appear to be related to subtle cellular changes that occur when a gene is disrupted in the hippocampus–a major part of the brain needed for learning and memory, new research with mice has shown. Variations in the Kirrel3 gene are associated with autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability and Jacobsen syndrome, a rare developmental disorder. In light of this association, Utah researchers studied how changes in Kirrel3 damage brain circuits that people need for learning and memorization. Their study found that the gene helps form part of the mossy fiber synapse, a large synapse in the hippocampus. Synapses are connectors that help brain cells, or neurons, to communicate through electrical and chemical signals. Any cognitive task a person undertakes–from tying shoelaces, to memorizing the alphabet, to solving complex problems–requires neurons to communicate with each other. The researchers found that in developing mice lacking the Kirrel3 gene part of the mossy fiber synapse was malformed, causing the hippocampus to become overactive. It has long been thought that intellectual disabilities arise from altered brain functions following even tiny changes to synapses. But what we do still do not understand, is exactly where these tiny changes occur. according to Megan Williams, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurobiology and anatomy and lead author on the study. In addition to the hippocampus, Kirrel3 is expressed in other areas of the brain that may also have impaired synapses that could contribute to neurodevelopmental disorders. Autism spectrum disorder, which affects the social and intellectual development of an estimated one in 68 U.S. children, according to recent studies.

View article in eLife, Nov. 17, 2015

Research Lab Website

Physical Therapy May Help Speed Lower Back Pain Recovery, But Problem Often Resolves Over Time

Author: Julie M. Fritz, Ph.D., PT, professor of physical therapy, associate dean for research, College of Health
Co Author: John S. Magel, Ph.D., PT, research assistant professor of physical therapy, Molly McFadden, M.S., Department of Physical Therapy, Carl Asche, Ph.D., University of Illinois College of Medicine at Pretoria, Anne Thackeray, Ph.D., PT, research assistant professor of physical therapy, Whitney Meier, DPT, adjunct instructor of physical therapy, Gerard Brennan, Ph.D., PT, adjunct associate professor of physical therapy
Journal: Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 13, 2015
Date: 10-22-2015

It’s estimated that 70 percent of people will experience low back pain (LBP) at some point in their lives. People with LBP often visit their primary care doctor in search of a prescription to end their pain. Sometimes this involves Physical Therapy (PT). University of Utah researchers found that while PT may hasten recovery somewhat, for many the problem will resolve itself with time. In a trial with 220 people with LBP, the researchers found that 108 patients who underwent physical therapy soon after the problem appeared received limited, short-term improvement in disability compared with 112 who received usual care–meaning no PT. When participants were evaluated at the end of three months, the early physical therapy group showed a slight improvement in the ability to carry out daily tasks and were somewhat more likely to be satisfied with their progress compared to the no-PT group. But a follow-up at 12 months showed no significant functionality difference between the two groups, nor was there a difference in pain intensity at four-week, three-month or one-year follow-ups with patients. Overall, patients in each group improved rapidly and the modest difference in disability relief between those who received early physical therapy and those who didn’t was not considered clinically important. While the overall difference in ability to function between the two groups was not significant, PT did benefit some patients, the study found. The researchers concluded that PT may be helpful for patients who want or need a little assistance in recovering from LBP, but patients can be optimistic that they will improve with time even if they do not receive PT.  

View article in Journal of the American Medical Association, Oct. 13, 2015

Pharmacist-led Telemonitoring Aids Diabetes Patients in Lowering A1C

Author: Laura Shane-McWhorter, Pharm.D., Professor (Clinical) Pharmacotherapy, University of Utah
Co Author: Carrie McAdam-Marx, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Pharmacotherapy, University of Utah, Leslie Lenert, M.D., Chief Research Information Officer, Medical University of South Carolina, Marta Petersen, M.D,. Vice-chair Dermatology, University of Utah; Medical Director, Utah Telehealth Network, Sarah Woolsey, M.D., Medical Director, HealthInsight, Salt Lake City, Jeffrey M. Coursey, PA-C, Associate Instructor, Family and Preventive Medicine University of Utah, .Thomas C. Whittaker, M.D., Lead Clinician, Central City Community Health Centers, Inc., Salt Lake City, Christian Hyer, PA-C, Physician Assistant and Medical Director, Community Health Centers, Inc., Salt Lake City, Deb LaMarche, BS, Associate Director, Utah Telehealth Network, Salt Lake City, Patricia Carroll, MS, Outreach Coordinator, Utah Telehealth Network, Salt Lake City, Libbey Chuy, MS, Transformation/Telehealth Coordinator, Association for Utah Community Health, Salt Lake City
Journal: Journal of the American Pharmacists Association
Date: 09-27-2015
Diabetes patients whose disease management was overseen by a pharmacist via telemonitoring significantly lowered their A1C levels compared to those who received standard diabetes care, a study with 150 patients has shown. The researchers divided the study participants into two groups of 75 patients each. The group whose care was led by a pharmacist via telemonitoring saw an A1C decline of 2.07 percent from their baseline levels compared to a 0.66 percent baseline decrease in the standard-care group. The study lasted six months. Telemonitoring sessions were held once a day Monday through Friday and lasted five to 10 minutes. Telemonitoring patients received one of two devices for the study. They used their own glucometers to measure A1C levels as well as a digital scale provided to them to monitor their weight and blood pressure monitors that came with the telemonitoring device or were given to them. A1C and LDL levels, as well as weight and blood pressure readings, were transmitted electronically to the pharmacist, who checked to ensure they were within ranges determined to be acceptable at the outset of the study. Patients also answered several questions during each telemonitoring session, incuding whether they had taken their medication. While A1C levels in the telemonitoring group decreased significantly at the end of six months, declines in blood pressure and LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol were not statistically significant between the two groups. Studies by other researchers have shown, however, that pharmacist-led care can result in lower blood pressure. Patients also received weekly diabetes care education sessions. The study showed not only that pharmacist-led diabetes care could result in better disease management but also that diabetes patients could improve their own management of the disease.

View article in Journal of the American Pharmacists Association

Chlamydia Associated with Fourfold Risk of Gastroschisis in Newborns

Author: Marcia Feldkamp, Ph.D., Research Associate Professor, Medical Genetics, Department of Pediatrics
Co Author: Elena Enioutina, M.D., Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Pediatric Clinical Pharmacology, Department of Pediatrics, Lorenzo D. Botto, M.D., Professor, Pediatric Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, Sergey Krikov, M.S., Bioinformaticist, Pediatric Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, Janice L.B. Byrne, M.D., Professor, Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics, William M. Geisler, M.D., Professor, Infectious Diseases, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine
Journal: Journal of Perinatology, Sept. 17, 2015
Date: 09-26-2015

Positive antibody tests for chlamydia trachomatis in pregnant women were associated with almost a fourfold higher risk for gastroschisis in their newborns, a pilot study found. The study included 33 pregnant women whose prenatal ultrasounds showed their fetuses had gastroschisis (cases), a protrusion of the intestine, and sometimes other organs, through a hole in the abdominal wall, and a group of 66 pregnant women (controls) whose ultrasounds showed no fetal abnormalities. Evidence of a recent chlamydia infection in the mothers-to-be was confirmed by blood tests. The researchers also found that cases were significantly more likely to be younger than controls, less educated, smoke cigarettes, report having a previous sexually transmitted disease and, among those who’d been pregnant before, report a different sexual partner with their current pregnancy. Cases also reported a lower median age when they became sexually active and a greater number of sexual partners than controls, putting them at greater risk for getting a sexually transmitted disease.  Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease. It can cause infertility and is becoming a public health issue as its occurrence increases. This study was the first step to better understanding the relationship between chlamydia infections and gastroschisis. Future research will investigate chlamydia-related inflammation. 

View article in Journal of Perinatology, Sept. 17, 2015

In Utah, you can truly have it all. Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas offer newcomers diverse neighborhoods, great schools, arts and entertainment, and endless possibilities for sports and recreation. A strong economy and low cost of living make Utah a perfect choice to call home.

University of Utah Health Sciences

University of Utah Health Sciences is an economic engine unlike any other in Utah. With more than 14,000 faculty and staff it is one of the state's largest employers and contributes millions of dollars in net tax revenue to Utah every year. But University of Utah Health Sciences' impact goes beyond the balance sheet. Its bottom line includes the health and well being of Utah residents in every corner of the state and from all walks of life.

University of Utah Health Sciences is the only university health care system in the state of Utah and provides patient care for the people of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and much of Nevada. It is also the training ground for most of Utah's physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists, and other health care professionals.

Named as one of theTop 10 in QualityBy University Health System Consortium for six years in a row

Named the No. 1 hospital in Utah by U.S. News and World Report

Half our providers rank in the top 10%, and a quarter rank in the top 1% for patient satisfaction

Health Sciences Received$270 Million In GrantsDuring Fiscal Year 2015