health improvements just around the corner
Research funding needed
an emotional segment of the U.Va. Health System forum on the
future of medicine, Brian Collins, right, introduces his 4-year-old
daughter, Daniele (center), to former U.Va. professor and
1998 Nobel Laureate in Medicine Dr. Ferid Murad, whose research
saved her life. Daniele was born with pulmonary hypertension,
a condition that damages the lungs, and was treated with nitric
oxide. Dr. Murad, won the Nobel Prize for discovering nitric
oxide's properties. Daniele, strong and healthy, thanked the
researcher Oct. 23. Also pictured is Mary Wooley of Research!America.
Kathleen D. Valenzi
medical research centers like the U.Va.
Health System are closing in on some extraordinary discoveries
that soon could provide vaccines for cancer and drugs to reverse
the progression of brain diseases like Alzheimer's, according
to eight distinguished leaders in health and medicine who convened
Oct. 23 at McLeod Hall Auditorium.
"It is not too far-fetched to say that we may well be on
the verge of a cure for some of the most devastating diseases
of our time,² said panelist Dr. Robert M. Carey, dean of U.Va.'s
Medical School, during the "Forum on the Future of Your Health."
"Here at the University, we stand a reasonable chance of
providing the information that will lead to a cure for prostate
also noted that cures or major health improvements for persons
with diabetes, brain diseases and inflammatory bowel diseases
may also be imminent at U.Va.
on the panel, which was moderated by CBS News correspondent and
U.Va. alumnus Wyatt Andrews, shared Carey's enthusiasm. Dr. Ferid
Murad, a former Medical School faculty member and the 1998 Nobel
Laureate in Medicine, agreed that "the technology today is
moving so fast. It's so wonderful to see what you can do in a
short amount of time."
Unfortunately, Murad said, the current system of managed care,
with its emphasis on reducing health costs by reducing research
spending, is discouraging bright minds from going into medicine.
Research dollars not only are more difficult to obtain, he said,
but the peer review process used to select research projects for
funding "channels thinking into similar channels. The process
needs more flexibility for funding unusual ideas."
P. Weicker Jr., former U.S. senator and governor of Connecticut,
noted that the National Institutes of Health were severely underfunded
and argued that "deep research" was the true key to
bringing down the cost of health care. "It is better to put
money up front to save money downstream," he said.
are we waiting for?² asked Mary Wooley, whose Research! America
group lobbies to make medical research a top priority in the United
States. "Less than 1 percent of the federal budget is spent
on medical research, while 40 percent is spent on defense,"
she pointed out. "We have discovered that most Americans
want to at least double the amount of money we're spending on
"If, through medical advances, we could delay the onset of
Alzheimer's by five years, we'd save $50 billion a year in related
health costs," she added. "We could save two times that
if we could delay the onset of heart disease.²
panel discussion included two unusual segments. During the first,
a short videotape was played in which Susan Carrington, a young
woman and mother who lost her husband to ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease),
spoke passionately about the value of the brain disease research
being conducted in the labs of U.Va. neurologist Dr. Davis Parker.
During the second, Brian Collins and his 4-year-old daughter,
Daniele, who had been born with pulmonary hypertension, thanked
Dr. Murad for conducting the research that ultimately saved the
young girl's life.
reasons like this that we really go into medicine," responded
the visibly moved physician.
Following the panel discussion, which also included David L. Brautigan,
director of the U.Va. Markey Center for Cell Signaling; Karen
L. Katen, president of Pfizer's U.S. Pharmaceuticals Group; Elizabeth
Scripps Howard, founder and chair of Scripps Enterprises; and
Enriqueta C. Bond, U.Va. alumna and president of the Burroughs
Wellcome Fund, the guest audience was invited to attend one of
seven breakout sessions on current research initiatives at U.Va.
Topics included breakthroughs in cardiovascular care, the status
of vaccines for cancer, combatting infectious diseases, new research
that may lead to drugs preventing or postponing the onset of brain
diseases, a computerized assessment program for women interested
in making better decisions about estrogen therapy after menopause,
the use of genetic tools in the detection and possible treatment
of cancers, and pain reduction through magnetic therapies, mind-body
techniques and other holistic methods.