benefits of the advanced medical care that the University
offers are felt far from Charlottesville. On New Year's Day,
doctors at U.Va. were able to save the life of a two-day-old
baby in Winchester, thanks to the new Virginia Children's
Heart Center, which connects U.Va. specialists to pediatric
cardiologists around the state. Using teleconferencing equipment,
Dr. Karen S. Rheuban, director of the University's telemedicine
program, was able to diagnose a very rare cardiac defect and
prescribe lifesaving treatment. The baby was then transported
to U.Va. and his heart repaired the next day.
One reason that the University is able to offer this high
standard of care is that our medical staff is constantly
developing, evaluating, and adopting new procedures that
show the most promise. For example, U.Va. cardiologists
are heading studies to evaluate new treatment for atrial
fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat. U.Va. oncologists are
also leading clinical trials of a vaccine for melanoma.
Other clinical trials focus on determining if breast cancer
patients are good candidates for sentinel node biopsies,
a much less invasive alternative to traditional lymph node
surgery. And researchers are exploring the possibility of
creating "edible vaccines" to be grown in vegetables
for fighting diseases around the world.
In our clinics, U.Va. radiologists now use a new, minimally
invasive technique, uterine fibroid embolization, to treat
many cases of benign tumors in the uterus. In the past,
a hysterectomy was the treatment of choice. They are also
proponents of a new surgical procedure using laparoscopy
to relieve debilitating chronic heartburn. Previous methods
required a long incision in the abdomen, resulting in a
lengthy recovery time.
addition, the University has invested in modern facilities
to fuel the innovations that continue to benefit our patients
and make world-class medicine possible. The Motion Analysis
Lab, used for treating patients with cerebral palsy and
musculoskeletal disorders, is one of the best-equipped centers
of its kind in the United States. Its computers record a
patient's walking pattern through six high-speed video
cameras. Floor-mounted force plates measure pressure from
different parts of the foot, and reflective markers hooked
to electrodes are taped to the patient. The resulting computer
screen image looks like a three-dimensional skeleton walking
on graph paper.
Maintaining this kind of innovation and high quality of
care across the entire U.Va. Health System is challenging.
The University, like medical centers nationally, must find
ways to compensate for the rising costs of providing health
care and drugs and the declining rate of federal reimbursements.
Thanks to better management practices, the Medical Center
has been able to cut costs and improve operating margins,
placing it in the top 10 percent of academic medical centers
nationwide. At the same time, it has devoted $1 million
for professional development and training and received authorization
from the Board of Visitors to spend up to $4 million to
hire and retain critical personnel.
In the Clinic and In the Lab
and his research team
in his research lab.
With a complementary
array of basic scientists and clinicians, an academic
health center is uniquely positioned to translate
discoveries from the scientist's laboratory to treatments
at the patient's bedside. Dr. Dan Theodorescu exemplifies
this process. The holder of medical and doctoral degrees,
this physician-scientist is as comfortable with his
patients as he is with researchers from around the
As a clinician, he has been involved in creating a
blood test used to find residual prostate cancer after
surgery. The test is potentially more accurate and
reliable, and may also be quicker and less costly
than the current practice of removing and examining
tissue samples. Dr. Theodorescu and his team are now
considering the test for other organs.
As a researcher, Dr. Theodorescu and his team study
prostate cancer, particularly the genes that create
new blood vessels that nourish tumor growth. By determining
the genes involved, they hope to design methods to
inhibit this process, thus cutting off blood flow
to the tumor and causing it to die.
Translational cancer research of the kind that Theodorescu
and his colleagues practice is set to grow exponentially
at the University, thanks to a bequest of $20 million
from philanthropist Paul Mellon to establish the Mellon
Prostate Cancer Research Institute. With this gift,
new, talented researchers will be brought on board
to join Dr. Theodorescu, who holds the title of Mellon
Professor of Urology.