At the Forefront of Medical Care

The University of Virginia Health Sciences Center has emerged as one of the foremost regional hospitals in the nation, known for the quality of its patient care and the excellence of its medical education. In a recent U.S. News & World Report survey, the Department of Endocrinology and Metabolism, which treats diabetes and other hormone disorders, ranked seventh out of 6,400 hospitals surveyed, while neurology/neurosurgery advanced to fifteenth. Other highly regarded specialties include otolaryngology, urology, gastroenterology, gynecology, pulmonary disease, cancer, and rheumatology. The hospital was also featured in a recent Ladies Home Journal magazine, which hosted a women's health conference at the University. The authors acclaimed the Health Sciences Center as "one of the country's finest hometown hospitals."

Neuroscience Research

Actor Christopher Reeve was the catalyst for the first international neuroscience research conference held at the University of Virginia in May. The meeting brought together advocates for spinal cord injured patients and neuroscience researchers from around the world to review their latest findings with Reeve. Studies are under way to find new ways to repair damaged nerve cells with the goal of implanting them one day into the damaged spinal cord to restore mobility and sensory losses. Christopher Reeve is shown above with Dr. John Jane, chair of neurosurgery, and Dr. Michael Thorner, chair of internal medicine.

The Medical Center uses advanced technology to help heal patients. In some cases, these innovations offer hope to patients who were previously untreatable. In January 1998, the University became the first hospital in Virginia to perform a double-lung transplant from living donors. The Health Sciences Center added an adult bone marrow transplant unit for patients with leukemia, Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, breast cancer, and other conditions. The Medical Center has pioneered new ways to perform non-invasive medical imaging of diseased lungs and is conducting exciting work in the Medical Automation Research Center on the use of robotics and automation in health care.

New technology also makes existing procedures safer and less traumatic. Dr. David Kahler, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery, has devised a computer-guided surgical technique for pelvic and hip-socket fractures that is more accurate and less invasive than traditional surgery.

Health Sciences Center faculty are involved in the kinds of research that can lead to important breakthroughs in patient care. This year, Dr. Barry Marshall, an adjunct professor of internal medicine, received the prestigious Paul Erlich Prize in Germany for his pioneering work on Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium implicated in stomach ulcers and other diseases. Dr. Johannes Veldhuis, professor of internal medicine, was the recipient of this year's Award for Excellence in Clinical Research, given by the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health.

The quality of the faculty's work has been recognized by private foundations and government agencies, which have singled them out to lead national efforts to study specific diseases. Examples of this work include:

Dr. Shu Man Fu, chief of rheumatology and immunology, is leading a four-year study on the genetic causes of lupus, a chronic, autoimmune disease. His group received a $4.65 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support this work.

Faculty at the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center and six other sites around the nation are developing a growth chart of children with cerebral palsy to help physicians diagnose the disease. Dr. Richard Stevenson, associate professor of pediatrics, is the lead investigator of the five-year project, supported by more than half a million dollars from the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Upinder Singh, an infectious disease researcher, received $500,000 from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to study the complex life cycle of a parasite that causes an estimated 50 million cases of dysentery and liver abscesses worldwide and results in 70,000 deaths annually.

The National Institute on Aging funded a $4.5 million study into the origins of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. Dr. James Bennett Jr., professor of neurology and psychiatric medicine, is director of the project.

The National Institutes of Health awarded $5 million to the Center for Research on Reproduction to fund a five-year study on polycystic ovary disease to test the most promising theories. Dr. John Marshall, professor of internal medicine, will lead the effort.

Ann Gill Taylor, professor of nursing and director of the Center for the Study of Alternative and Complementary Therapies, received a $500,000 grant from a Canadian foundation to investigate the effectiveness of biomagnetic therapy in reducing pain.

With a $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, University researchers led by Dr. Ariel Gomez, chief of pediatric nephrology, will attempt to uncover the fundamental principles leading to childhood kidney failure.


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