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 15 2012

Game on!

Geriatric Center gaming group helps members fight memory loss through laughter, trivia and Wii

It’s a workout regimen without treadmills, dumbbells and mats.

Instead, the participants who meet at the Turner Senior Resource Center every week use a stack of games like Apples to Apples, Balderdash and even Nintendo’s Wii Sports to exercise their core target area: the brain.

John Siefert, of Grand Blanc, and Laura Berg, of Ann Arbor, play a game of Connect Four during a session of Mind Works, a gaming group offered through the Geriatrics Center’s Silver Club program.

The four-year-old gaming group, Mind Works, is one of the U-M Geriatrics Center’s popular Silver Club programs and a place where members can connect socially, share laughter and have fun while fighting a serious struggle many face: memory loss.

“What we’re doing is mental gymnastics,” says regular attendee John Siefert, 68, a retired chemist for the Michigan State Police who drives from Grand Blanc each week. “When I hurt my shoulder, I went to physical therapy for help. This is helping our minds.

“And when we play games, we laugh a lot. We’re like a bunch of kids in here.”

Members, whose ages range from mid-fifties to eighties and whose diagnoses include everything from mild memory loss and cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease, gather weekly to try a new game that flexes many areas of cognitive and memory function, including short-term memory, long-term memory and motor memory. Read the rest of this entry »

Mar 12 2012

A healing touch

U-M’s Massage Therapy Program aims to treat the whole person

When Angela Walker was diagnosed with leukemia last year, she braced herself for four weeks of inpatient chemotherapy as questions swirled in her mind about the new treatment and diagnosis.

Like many cancer patients at the Health System, the U-M Health System’s Massage Therapy Program gave Walker a much-needed respite from procedures, tests and waiting. Therapists visited her room for scheduled appointments and worked around IV poles and medical equipment to help her relieve stress. Walker credits the program as a major factor in helping her get through those difficult first weeks.

“During my treatment, it was nice to have massages on my schedule to look forward to. It was also helpful to have therapists trained in oncology massage who could coordinate directly with my medical staff about any safety concerns,” Walker says. 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 »