Here are this week’s Accolades, a roundup of some of the honors and accomplishments of College of Medicine and UAMS faculty, staff, residents, fellows and students I’ve heard about recently!
World-Class Scholar and Mentor
I want to take a moment to again congratulate Dr. Stacie M. Jones, Professor in the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, on her well-earned honor as this year’s Dean’s Distinguished Faculty Scholar. In her lecture last Thursday, Dr. Jones presented an excellent overview of new and emerging immunotherapies for food allergy, including her groundbreaking work with colleagues that led to FDA approval of the first ever oral immunotherapy for life-threatening peanut allergy in children. Dr. Jones is truly a world-class scholar, but she is just as deserving of recognition for her inspirational mentoring of students, residents, fellows and faculty. Dr. Jones emphasized the power of mentoring as part of the process of scientific discovery and noted the impact of her own mentors through the years. Watch the lecture here; and look for a story in the December COMmunication and on the UAMS website soon.
Bringing Cutting Edge Clinical Trials to Underserved Children
The NIH-funded Data Coordinating and Operations Center (DCOC) at UAMS has published the first results of a study into the best methods for recruiting rural children into clinical studies – a goal that is central to the DCOC’s mission – in JAMA Network Open. The DCOC implements large pediatric clinical trials across 18 states as part of the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Institutional Development Award (IDeA) States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network (ISPCTN).
Dr. Paul Darden, Professor of Pediatrics, was one of two protocol chairs and lead authors on “Active vs. Traditional Methods of Recruiting Children for a Clinical Trial in Rural Primary Care Clinics: A Cluster-Randomized Clinical Trial.” Four states partnered with UAMS to test recruitment methods for rural research participants in a childhood obesity study called “iAmHealthy.” The DCOC’s UAMS statisticians, clinical site operations teams, trainers, central IRB team, communication and finance teams were all critical to the study. Dr. Jeannette Lee, Professor of Biostatistics, was the lead biostatistician on the study. The DCOC is currently co-directed by Dr. Jessica Snowden, Professor and Chief of Pediatric Infectious Disease and Vice Dean for Research in the College of Medicine, and Dr. Song Ounpraseuth, a Professor of Biostatistics.
The success of the study into recruitment methods was particularly remarkable given the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been highlighted in a second recent publication, “Conducting a pediatric randomized clinical trial during a pandemic: A shift to virtual procedures,” published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science. Kudos to all for this important work.
UAMS Center in National Spotlight
The groundbreaking work of the UAMS Center for Hearing Health Equity is specifically highlighted in the newly released strategic plan of the NIH National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). The Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery’s Dr. Susan Emmett directs the center, and Dr. Samantha Kleindienst Robler is Associate Director. The 2023-2027 NIDCD Strategic Plan features their work with schoolchildren in remote Alaska as part of the Hearing Norton Sound trial, which you may recall was published last summer in The Lancet Global Health. The NIDCD included a full-page photo of a school-based screening to illustrate a key goal of the institute to identify and develop interventions targeted to specific subpopulations. Dr. Emmett and Dr. Robler’s work demonstrates the power of mobile health screening and telemedicine referral to improve access to specialty care in rural locations – like Arkansas.
Promising New Bladder Cancer Treatment
A shout-out to Dr. A. Murat Aydin, Assistant Professor of Urology, for his efforts to implement a promising therapy in the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for patients with high-risk non-muscle invasive bladder cancer. Up to 30-50% of these cancers eventually progress to muscle invasive and metastatic stage after initial standard treatment, intravesical BCG immunotherapy. Treatment options after BCG failure are extremely limited, and patients must decide between radical cystectomy with urinary diversion and the few available salvage treatment options to spare their bladders. In late October, Dr. Aydin used the first “sequential intravesical Gemcitabine and Docetaxel” as a salvage treatment at UAMS for a patient who failed BCG therapy, in collaboration with the Cancer Center Infusion Center. The patient’s bladder tumor responded well, and more than six weeks later, the patient is doing great. The ability to utilize the new salvage therapy is a boon for Urologic Oncology services at UAMS – and fantastic news for Arkansas patients with this challenging medical condition.
Advanced Liver Transplant Technology
A Cabot man was the first in Arkansas to benefit from a groundbreaking technology used in a liver transplant performed at UAMS. The new technology, an OrganOx metra device, allowed the patient to obtain a liver from a donor in Oklahoma only a week after being placed on the transplant waiting list. After the surgery, he was able to return home in just a week, avoiding a rougher recovery. Kudos to transplant surgeon Dr. Raj Patel, Assistant Professor of Surgery, and the entire Liver Transplant Team. Read more in the UAMS Newsroom.
Sharing Spina Bifida Expertise
A shout-out to the Pediatrics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) faculty and residents whose excellent work with spina bifida patients at Arkansas Children’s will be featured in oral presentations accepted for the 2023 World Congress on Spina Bifida Research and Care in Tucson, Arizona, next March. Dr. Rachel Millner, an Assistant Professor in Pediatric Nephrology, will present “Prevalence of elevated blood pressure in a pediatric spinal cord disorders clinic,” which was a collaboration with third-year PM&R resident Dr. Neha Anand. Dr. Laura Hobart-Porter, Associate Professor of Pediatric Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, will present “Strategies to improve polysomnography access for children and adolescents with spina bifida, an implementation science approach,” which was a collaboration with Dr. Supriya Jambhekar, Professor in Pediatric Pulmonology, and “Rates of autism in children with spina bifida higher than general population.”
State Leadership in Emergency Medicine
Congratulations to the Emergency Medicine residents and faculty and College of Medicine student who received honors or stepped into leadership roles during the recent annual meeting and dinner of the Arkansas Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). Dr. Heidi Meredith received the Arkansas ACEP Resident Physician of the Year award, and Teresa Fletchinger was honored as Medical Student of the Year. Dr. Lauren Evans is the new chapter President, succeeding Dr. Brian Hohertz, who did a great job during his two-year term. Dr. Christopher Fowler became Secretary/Treasurer. Drs. Sarah Greenberger, Rachael Freeze-Ramsey and Randy Maddox were elected to the Board of Directors, and Dr. Ariel Noble was named Resident Representative.
International ENT Teaching
Dr. John Dornhoffer, Professor and Chair of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, shared his expertise in cochlear implantation at multiple panel, roundtable and other learning sessions at the Munich Hearing Implant Symposium in Germany this week. The symposium was titled “Facing 24 Years of Bilateral Cochlear Implantation: Binaural Hearing with Hearing Implants.” In addition to presenting at conference events conducted in English, he served as an instructor for a dissection lab with training presented in German.
Clinical Chemistry Regional Leadership
Dr. Hoda Hagrass, Assistant Professor of Pathology, has been elected to serve a two-year term as a member-at-large on the American Association of Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Texas Section. The section comprises AACC members in Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and New Mexico. In Arkansas, Dr. Hagrass is Medical Director of the UAMS Clinical Chemistry and Immunology Laboratories and the Arkansas Children’s Clinical Chemistry and Metabolic Disease Laboratories.
Trauma Leadership Program
Dr. Ben Davis, Associate Professor and Chief of the Division of Trauma, Critical Care and Acute Care Surgery, has been selected for the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma Future Trauma Leaders program. The highly competitive, two-year executive leadership program is designed for surgeons with great potential to become leaders on the ACS Committee on Trauma and in the field. “Ben has done an outstanding job here, and this will only enhance his ability to lead our acute care surgeons,” said Surgery Chair Dr. Ron Robertson. I join with Dr. Robertson in congratulating Dr. Davis and thanking him for his exemplary leadership at UAMS.
Blood-Based Screening for Early Cancer Detection
A prevailing cancer public health problem today is under-diagnosis. Simply put, too many people die because their cancer is diagnosed too late to take advantage of potentially life-saving therapies. Developing more effective screening approaches for early cancer detection has been a longstanding goal of the oncology community. Dr. Donald Johann Jr., Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Internal Medicine, is an author on a new publication with experts across the country regarding advanced liquid biopsies for cancer screening. The article, “BLOODPAC: Collaborating to chart a path towards blood-based screening for early cancer detection,” was published in Clinical and Translational Science.
Internal Medicine Residents Shine at Conference
Internal Medicine residents in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas shined in the Oral Clinical Vignette competition at the recent Resident & Medical Student Conference sponsored by the Arkansas Chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP). Dr. Vidhu Vadini, a third-year resident in in the Little Rock Internal Medicine Residency Program, took first place. Dr. Daniel Conde, a second-year resident in the UAMS/Mercy Internal Medicine Residency Program, took second place. Congratulations to both of these outstanding residents!
Season’s Greetings, with Gratitude
And finally this week, I want to wish all of you and your loved ones very happy holidays. If you are traveling, or just spending time with family at home, please be safe.
Kudos to our many team members who have placed the focus not on themselves, but on those who are less fortunate, this season. Many student groups, departments and divisions, lab teams and others have organized toy drives, collected necessities for patients, veterans, homeless individuals and others in need – and so much more.
Despite the pandemic and other challenges, you have helped to make 2022 a great year for the College of Medicine. We have made strides in our mission to train the next generation of skilled and compassionate physicians, scientists and health care leaders for Arkansas and the nation. Because of you, UAMS is ensuring the very best health for all Arkansans. Thank you.
Accolades will return January 4.