Research

Intranasal insulin may mitigate memory loss

Researchers at UW Medicine, the VA Puget Sound Health Care System and Saint Louis University have discovered that insulin delivered high up in the nasal cavity goes to the brain — not the bloodstream — and aids memory function. This discovery could benefit the estimated 44 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. William Banks, M.D., UW professor of medicine, is the principal investigator of this study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Autism: clues to risk and diagnosis

A new study that included 2,377 children with autism, their parents and their siblings finds evidence of inherited genetic risk, especially between mothers and sons. Mothers who harbor certain gene mutations that produce abnormal proteins remain unaffected, but pass along an increased risk of autism to their male offspring. Niklas Krumm, Ph.D. ’14, and Tychele Turner, Ph.D., researchers in the Department of Genome Sciences, were lead authors of the study; Evan Eichler, Ph.D., UW professor of genome sciences, was the senior author. Their findings were reported in Nature Genetics. In related news, UW Medicine investigators will be part of a new multi-center study to identify biological markers in children with autism spectrum disorder. Identifying biomarkers will help physicians make early diagnoses and find the most effective treatment for each patient.

Cancer cells, communicating

Cells dying from radiation exposure or chemotherapy can release a protein that binds to nearby mother stem cells, allowing them to survive until they can reproduce and regenerate tissue. This process aids the body in growth and recovery. Researchers believe a similar process is at work with cancer cells: dying daughter cells send protective warnings to tumor-initiating cells, enabling their survival and the return of cancer. By blocking these signals, more effective cancer drugs could be developed. Yalan Xing, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the departments of biology and genome sciences, is the lead author of the study, published in Nature Communications, and Hannele Ruohola-Baker, Ph.D., UW professor of biochemistry and associate director of the UW Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine, is the senior author.

Patient Care

UW Medicine hospitals ranked high by U.S. News & World Report

UW Medical Center (UWMC), Harborview Medical Center and Valley Medical Center were all recognized in U.S. News & World Report’s 2015–2016 “Best Hospitals” rankings. UWMC ranked No. 1 in Seattle and No. 1 in Washington state. Several of UWMC’s specialty areas — rehabilitation and cancer — were ranked in the top 10 nationally, and neurology and neurosurgery received a national “high-performing” designation. Valley Medical Center ranked No. 4 in Seattle and No. 6 in the state, and Harborview ranked No. 6 in Seattle and No. 11 in the state. Additionally, Harborview performs high in orthopaedics nationally.

UW Medicine pioneers stroke-fighting heart device

The UW Medicine Regional Heart Center is one of the first programs in the nation to deploy the “Watchman,” a device that prevents strokes. The Watchman is designed for people with atrial fibrillation, a condition in which the heartbeat quickens and goes out of sync, possibly leading to blood clots which can travel to the brain and cause a stroke. The device forms a permanent, protective barrier, stopping blood clots from forming.

Health Care Authority chooses UW Medicine to offer new healthcare option

The Washington Health Care Authority has chosen the UW Medicine Accountable Care Network as a new healthcare option for employees in the Public Employees Benefit
Board program. The state chose UW Medicine’s network to help achieve the goal of better health, better care and lower costs for its employees.

Education

University of Washington No. 3 in the world

The University of Washington was again ranked No. 3 in the world in “clinical medicine and pharmacy,” by the Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), compiled by researchers at the Center for World-Class Universities at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. More than 1,000 universities are evaluated every year as institutions overall and by five broad subject areas, including clinical medicine and pharmacy.

A federal award aims to close the diversity gap in the health professions

The UW School of Medicine’s Center for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (CEDI) and the UW Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity received a grant totaling nearly $2 million from the federal government for a project called the UW Health Professions Academy. This project will prepare undergraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds with the skills and experiences to compete for entry into health professions schools, with the aim of closing the diversity gap in the health professions workforce and improving health access. Leo Morales, M.D. ’90, MPH, Ph.D., chief diversity officer and director for CEDI, will lead the project.

Expert mentors recognized

Wylie Burke, Ph.D. ’74, M.D. ’78, Res. ’81, Fel. ’82, and Dawn Ehde, M.D., Res. ’00, Ph.D., the recipients of the 2015 UW Medicine Excellence in Mentoring Award, which recognizes the vital importance of mentoring faculty, especially women. Burke is a UW professor in the Department of Bioethics and Humanities, and Ehde is a UW professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine. In addition, congratulations go to Frederick Rivara II, M.D., MPH, UW professor in the Department of Pediatrics, the 2015 recipient of the UW Minority Faculty Mentoring Award.

WWAMI

First Alaska track pediatric residents complete training

The Alaska track of the University of Washington Pediatric Residency Program graduated its inaugural group of primary-care physicians: Patti Clay, M.D., Res. ’15, Theresa Dulski, M.D., Res. ’15, Eric Foote, M.D., Res. ’15, and John Hawes, M.D., Res. ’15. During their residency training, these doctors spent four months each year for the past three years in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Bethel, while traveling to see patients in remote villages. Alaska has a chronic shortage of
physicians and ranks near the bottom in the U.S. in its pediatrician-to-child ratio. The Alaska track is a possible model for residencies in other fields facing shortages of rural physicians.

A legacy of wisdom, a future of excellence

Two UW Medicine representatives — CEO Paul G. Ramsey, M.D., and Leo Morales, M.D. ’90, MPH, Ph.D., chief diversity officer — were pleased to be featured speakers at the Association for American Indian Physicians’ (AAIP’s) 44th Annual Meeting and National Health Conference, held in July in Marysville, Wash. The conference’s theme was “coming back to the heart of medicine: a legacy of wisdom, a future of excellence,” and it was attended by approximately 300 people.

Notable

Jay Shendure appointed to national panel

Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced the creation of the Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort to create more precise and varied treatments for human illness, especially cancer. As a part of the initiative, Jay Shendure, M.D., Ph.D., UW professor of genome sciences, was appointed to the Precision Medicine Initiative Working Group, which advises the director of the National Institutes of Health. The group was charged with developing a framework to create a cohort of approximately 1 million Americans willing to share medical and other information to inform major research efforts into illness and precision medicine. Their first report, issued this September, includes suggestions on recruitment, data collection and other topics.

Bearing witness: Donald Reay honored

“I’m not a witness for the defense or for the prosecution. I am a witness for the dead.” So said Donald Reay, M.D., UW professor emeritus in pathology and former King County medical examiner, in an interview with The Seattle Times. Reay, known locally and nationally for his objectivity, intelligence and curiosity, will receive the Milton Helpern Laureate Award this fall from the National Association of Medical Examiners.

UW Medicine professor awarded global honor for cell signaling discovery

Peter Greenberg, Ph.D., UW professor of microbiology, is one of two researchers awarded the prestigious 2015 Shaw Prize in life sciences and medicine. He shares the $1 million award with Bonnie Bassler of Princeton University. The two are being honored for elucidating the molecular mechanism of “quorum sensing,” a process whereby bacteria communicate with each other and which offers innovative ways to interfere with bacterial pathogens or to modulate the microbiome for health applications.

UW Medicine launches institute with help of NFL, community

Earlier this fall, the National Football League made a contribution to help establish the UW Medicine Sports Health and Safety Institute at Harborview Medical Center. And on Oct. 10, 2015, a generous community — at a benefit held for the institute — came together to raise even more, for a total of more than $9.25 million. The institute aims to advance research, education and advocacy to prevent sports-related concussions and to study how to make sports and activities safer for all athletes.