Mar 22 2012

It’s all in the Genes

Identifying ‘disease genes’ helps patients and families prepare

An expectant mother in her forties worries about Down syndrome. A woman whose mother and grandmother died of breast cancer wonders if she will get it. The family of a man with heart disease wants to explore how they can prevent the same fate. Our genes, after all, determine our future health to some extent. 

All of these people can benefit from genetic counseling, which translates complex medical information about heredity into understandable terms and addresses the implications for the individual and family. 

Genetic counseling is available right here at the Health System. 

“The availability of the genome sequence has revolutionized the identification of disease genes, the development of genetic tests and the provision of genetic counseling,” says Medical Genetics Counselor and Clinic Coordinator Wendy Uhlmann, M.S., C.G.C., clinical assistant professor of internal medicine and human genetics. 

Today, the Health System offers genetics services in many clinics (see sidebar). The clinics diagnose genetic conditions, provide care, assess risks and implications, determine testing options, coordinate genetic testing, identify supportive resources and provide genetic counseling. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 5 2012

Better Health Around the Globe

Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation makes progress toward 2012 opening

In an effort to improve the health of people around the world, researchers from all over U-M, along with private partners, will be part of the new Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. The Institute is expected to become the largest university-based Health Services Research organization of its kind, and will open this year at the North Campus Research Complex.

The IHPI’s mission is to enhance the health and well-being of people locally, nationally and globally through innovative, interdisciplinary health services research. Partnership among health services researchers is key, so more than 500 of the Institute’s researchers and staff will be located on the NCRC campus. Researchers will likely begin moving in late spring or early summer 2012.

Not all members will be located at the NCRC, but they will still be active participants in the Institute. Those researchers outside of NCRC will be able to find “touch-down” space or frequently visit the Institute to share and benefit from each other’s work. Joe Zogaib, NCRC Project Leader for the IHPI, says traditional offices and private work stations will be complemented by conference areas and informal seating areas once rennovations are complete around June.

Rodney Hayward, M.D., Interim Director and professor of Internal Medicine, says the IHPI will become an influential leader. The environment, opportunity for collaboration and the focus on some of the most challenging health problems of our world may help U-M attract and retain the best and brightest researchers in the field.

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 16 2012

Donor as First Patient

Anatomical Donations Program gives students foundation for careers in medicine

Medical student Halley Crissman’s first patient was an 80-year-old male with a history of cancer. But before she even began her basic anatomy class, the patient gave Crissman an amazing gift: his body for study.

“We were told by our professors on the first day that the body we were receiving for anatomy was our first patient,” says Crissman. “My experiences learning anatomy through my donor have been humbling and moving.”

Crissman is one of several hundred U-M undergraduate students, medical students and researchers who benefit every year from body donations to U-M’s Anatomical Donations Program. Anatomy, the study of the structure of the human body, is one of the most important courses in the education of physicians, dentists, and other health professionals such as nurses and physical therapists. In most of these fields, the study of anatomy comes first in the curriculum and serves as the foundation for other courses.

“Working with the body . . . it’s easy and hard at the same time,” says the first-year medical student. “You’re working on the hand, for instance, and you realize this is someone who used their hands for all kinds of things. It does take you aback. But to view the internal structures—there’s no comparison. There’s an amazing difference between looking at the real thing and an artist’s rendition.” Read the rest of this entry »

Oct 27 2011

A Fine Line: Treating the Enemy

Thomas Fluent, M.D., provides psychiatric care to Health System patients, U.S. soldiers and enemy detainees overseas

Thomas Fluent, M.D., says a key factor in his success as a military psychiatrist was to never lose sight of the humanity of the people he treated, nor of his own humanity. This approach served him well during a recent nine-month tour in Afghanistan where he was charged with the wellbeing of more than 1,000 detainees at Bagram Airfield as well as the U.S. soldiers tasked with guarding the often violent and dangerous men. 

Thomas Fluent, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at UMMS and medical director of ambulatory psychiatric services at UMHS.

“A cynic might say, ‘who cares, they’re the enemy,’” says Fluent, a clinical professor of psychiatry at UMMS and medical director of ambulatory psychiatric services at UMHS. ”But part of the mission was also to fight the insurgency by demonstrating to these men and their communities that our way was really the better way, our values the better values.” 

Fluent, also a captain in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps with more than 20 years of active duty and reserve service, quickly realized that as a highly visible, high-ranking officer, his behavior spoke volumes to both the detainees and the guards.  Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 27 2011

Collaboration with China

U-M Medical School Peking University Health Sciences Center Joint Institute for Translational and Clinical Research

Progress on the new joint institute between the U-M Medical School and the Peking University Health Science Center is moving as quickly as China itself.

In the mere eight months since it was created, the joint institute has already launched six pilot studies, created and established a joint Institutional Review Board for human research subjects, began researching the science of collaboration, and planned an annual joint symposium in Beijing that will take place in September. The joint institute also exchanges faculty, medical students, fellows and other researchers, and will conduct large-scale clinical trials.

From top left: Joseph C. Kolars, M.D., UMMS, Xiuying Zhang, Ph.D., M.D., PUHSC, Yipeng Du, Ph.D., M.D., PUHSC, Ning Shen, Ph.D., M.D., PUHSC, Airong Luo, Ph.D., UMMS, Ran Fei, MSc, PUHSC, Weixian Xu, Ph.D., M.D., PUHSC

The joint institute focuses its research on pulmonary, cardiovascular and liver diseases, all areas of mutual interest at UMMS and Peking University. Researchers from the two universities are now working together on studies of viral hepatitis and obesity, hypertension and coronary artery disease, and lung disease and smoking. Read the rest of this entry »