Nov. 5-11, 1999
Upcoming e-summit Nov. 12-13
e-summit conference to consider Jeffersonian principles in the Internet Age
U.Va. alumni leading the Internet revolution will fill panels at e-summit conference
Major health improvements just around the corner
Nobel Laureate Williams returns, challenges students to activism
Notable - awards and achievements of faculty and staff

Research reveals people overestimate slopes, heights

In Memoriam
Hot Links - interactive map
Commission holds retreat to consider needs for fine and performing arts
Sky-watchers converge at U.Va. observatories on "public" nights
Drake describes progress of search for extraterrestrial intelligence
Rent-a-Rower for outdoor chores

Major health improvements just around the corner

Research funding needed

Mike Higgins
During 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.

By Kathleen D. Valenzi

Major 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, 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 cancer."

Carey 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.

Others 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."

Lowell 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.

"What are we waiting for? 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 research.

"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.

The 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.

"It's 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.


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