Emory Woodruff Health Sciences Center
Update Events:
May 4: Future Makers: Health care reform: What's in store

May 7: Therapeutic frontiers in acute CNS injury

More event info
April 29, 2010
Table of Contents:
status . status . . . bio . dollar . cohen
Tool for genetic sequencing broadens diagnostic capabilities EeMR "Wave 2" begins May 18 $5 million medical school gift IANPHI at Emory: Courtenay Dusenbury Giving to causes you care about most In brief
Emory and Zirus partner to create new anti-virals


The Emory Institute for Drug Discovery (EIDD) and Zirus, Inc, a biotech company based in Buford, Ga., have entered into a collaboration and research agreement to develop new compounds to treat infectious disease. Zirus uses a proprietary method for identifying genes and gene products in host cells that, when blocked, can prevent viruses from multiplying. Working alone or with collaborators over the past several years, Zirus has identified, licensed, and filed patents on more than 1,200 targets.

In their own labs or in collaboration with CDC, Zirus investigators have blocked viruses causing Ebola, Marburg, AIDS, flu, dengue fever, cowpox, and measles as well as RSV, rhinovirus, herpesvirus, BVDV, and others.

EIDD director Dennis Liotta, who is the inventor of record for several clinically important antiviral drugs, says he believes that the Zirus approach to blocking host cell genes and gene products represents a "new paradigm in dealing with infectious disease that may address some of the shortcomings of conventional programs. Infectious disease needs a multi-prong attack, and the Zirus host targets appear to represent the 'third leg of the stool' along with vaccines and traditional anti-virals that attack the virus."

Under the agreement, Zirus would be responsible for delivering targets for certain agreed-upon diseases, screening potential drugs in its viral assays, and conducting certain animal trials, while Emory would construct chemical libraries and optimize drug candidates. Both sides would share in the financial return on the results.


Genetics sequencing broadens diagnostic capabilities

_ Madhuri Hedge
  Madhuri Hegde is senior director of Emory's genetics lab.
Emory's genetics lab has obtained a "next-generation" genetic sequencing system that increases screening capacity and accuracy and reduces the cost of genetic testing.

The Applied Biosystems SOLiD system will enable the lab to analyze multiple genes at the same time, making it easier to analyze disorders in which many possible candidate genes are implicated.

The current gold standard for this technology allows geneticists to sequence about 800 megabases per day. A megabase measures DNA fragments and is equal to 1 million nucleotides (segments of DNA made up of the chemical bases A,C,T,G). The new technology generates more than 6,000 megabases per day and uses encoding in which each base is sequenced twice, providing greater accuracy and confidence in detecting mutations.

"This new capability will help lower the barrier to genetic testing for complex disorders and will be an important step in ending the diagnostic odyssey that families now face," says Madhuri Hegde, senior director of the lab. "For example, the use of next-generation sequencing technology will enable us to offer panel testing at a reasonable cost for disorders such as X-linked intellectual disability, which involves many genes. The more of these genes we can analyze, the better our chances are of finding what is causing the disorder."


New EeMR features to go live May 18

_ david_bloomquist
  David Bloomquist
  Denise Pugh
  Penny Castellano
Emory Healthcare's own proprietary electronic medical record system, EeMR—an acronym for Emory electronic medical record—is about to debut its first major redesign and enhancement since it first came online in 2005. EeMR "Wave 2" begins on May 18, when a new "Message Center" component dedicated to clinical information will go live on every EeMR-accessible computer throughout the system, making patient-related communication among clinicians easier and more straightforward.

"The new Message Center takes the place of EeMR's old inbox tool, which can be difficult to navigate," says David Bloomquist, a management engineer in clinic operations who is co-managing EeMR Wave 2 along with Denise Pugh in Emory Healthcare information services. "The Message Center is basically an email communication center internal to EeMR and specific to patient care. It's more intuitive and elegant than the old inbox, and it aggregates patient-related information more conveniently."

While the new Message Center will be turned on across all of Emory Healthcare on the same day in May, several additional components of EeMR Wave 2 will be implemented in succeeding months section by clinic section.

After the "big bang" go-live of the Message Center, the plan next is to introduce ePrescribing, which will allow EeMR to transmit prescriptions electronically to the patient's pharmacy, a feature likely to be popular with patients. Next in line to be implemented is a new electronic feature for Medication Reconciliation, the process whereby a list of each patient's current medications is updated and/or verified with the patient at each visit. "Our current system for medication reconciliation is paper-based, can be difficult to navigate, and sometimes creates communication problems," says Bloomquist. "The new system allows for better process consistency and will be safer for our patients."

Another new EeMR component, eRenewals, also likely to be a hit with patients, will be rolled out once ePrescribing and Medication Reconciliation are in place. ERenewals operates essentially as the reverse of ePrescribing, allowing pharmacists to send electronic requests for prescription renewals directly to Emory Healthcare.

"We have learned some important lessons since we first inaugurated EeMR five years ago," says Bloomquist. "In the past, a small group of people made decisions for the users. In contrast, we wanted these upgrade features to be designed by the users."

With that in mind, he says, the clinic formed five work groups last fall, each co-led by an MD and a clinical staff manager (see table at right), to look at different components of the Wave 2 upgrade and determine the implications of work flow for users as well as the types of training needed. Meanwhile, a clinic-wide physician steering committee offered feedback to these work groups during this process. "The work they and others are doing will make a huge impact on the smoothness of the transition," Bloomquist says. He adds that more than 110 ACEs (application content experts) have undergone a first round of training, and more training will be provided to users via the Intranet and in classrooms over the next two months.

Penny Castellano, the clinic's chief medical and quality officer, says that EeMR Wave 2 takes advantage of a recent code upgrade offered by Cerner Corporation, Emory Healthcare's longtime software vendor. "We've made many tweaks over the past five years, but this upgrade gives us the opportunity to introduce major new functionality. The input we've had from providers and staff across the clinic has been invaluable to this process."


Taylor gives $5 million to medicine

_ sally_west
  Sally West is the first Taylor clinician.
New York philanthropist Margaretta "Retta" Taylor has given $5 million to the medical school to support primary care and medical education.

One-fifth of the gift will create an endowment, the Margaretta Taylor Clinician Fund in Primary Care, to support a clinician who provides high-quality, compassionate patient care. The first Taylor clinician is Sally West, a senior associate in general internal medicine at The Emory Clinic. West is known as a skilled diagnostician and caring, thoughtful provider.

The remaining $4 million will be used to name the lobby of the James B. Williams Medical Education Building, helping offset general operating expenses in the school and supporting strategic priorities such as student scholarships, recruitment of clinicians, and retention packages for faculty.

Taylor decided to invest in the school because of its "great achievements and unlimited potential" in education, patient care, and research, she said. Read more.


Helping success build on success

_ courtenay_dusenbury
  Courtenay Dusenbury
One in a series of profiles of people in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center

Last year in Mozambique, hundreds of people began to sicken, and some, including children, died. After many long months, during which time case samples were sent out of the country for testing, the culprit was found to be Salmonella, which is relatively easy to identify and control. Mozambique has few resources for such work, however, and those that do exist are scattered and unconsolidated.

One of the primary goals of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI) is to develop or strengthen CDC-like institutes in low-resource countries like Mozambique. IANPHI has members (National Public Health Institutes, or NPHIs) in more than 70 countries, representing 60% of the world's population. Currently, it focuses on building public health infrastructure by creating or improving NPHIs in nine African countries and by offering short-term grants for technical assistance and research.

Overall programmatic direction falls to Courtenay Dusenbury, who was present at the birth of IANPHI in 2005, while working as special projects manager for Jeff Koplan. Koplan is president of IANPHI, which is based jointly at Emory and at the Finnish National Institute for Public Health and Welfare.

As director of the IANPHI Secretariat at Emory, Dusenbury is responsible for operations of the $20 million project, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, including short- and long-term projects in more than 45 countries. Because IANPHI funds are seed monies that attract other donors—including those from government and the private sector and pro-bono technical assistance from other NPHIs—project coordination can be challenging. Thus it is no surprise that she considers her primary role to be that of "diplomat."

Working on projects with multiple partners, each with different cultural, historical, and technical/scientific perspectives, requires considerable energy, patience, and flexibility. And optimism, especially when things go wrong, as they often do. Creation of a CDC-like program in the post-civil war African nation of Guinea Bissau, for example, was going smoothly until recently, when the president was assassinated and violence resumed. IANPHI and its member institute in the country persisted, however. The project is now back on track, although another coup attempt in mid-April again threatens the staff working at the newly-created NPHI.

Dusenbury's work is also complicated by the fact that most IANPHI current and potential sites are more than 24 hours away by plane. When she goes to Emory's Travel Well clinic to get new vaccinations, she has to look back at her calendar to remember where she has been in the past six months.

But she loves every minute. "The impact of a nation's building its own public health structure, its own CDC, may not be as immediately obvious as, say, feeding hungry children," she says, "but it offers a long-lasting change in which success builds on success."

It's not fast, though. The US CDC began a century ago as a small infectious disease lab and only slowly expanded to its current strength as a model for what a national public health institute can accomplish.

Dusenbury thinks a long-term approach that invests in governments' ability to carry out key public health functions is key to capacity-building over the long term. "Vertical, disease-specific programs have done much good over the past decades to improve public health in low-resource countries," she says. "However, unless donors begin to give countries the tools needed to build their own public health infrastructure we will never see the desired improvements in health in these countries. Only by building national capacity over the long term—including the ability to monitor health data, identify and respond to outbreaks, control the spread of disease, and educate people about health—can real progress be made."


Giving to causes you care about most

_ katie_ferraris_245x180_party
  Katie Ferraris, with her nurses at her bachelorette party
In February, three Emory oncology nurses received the second round of scholarship awards to be distributed from the Katie Ferraris Taylor Oncology Nursing Fund, established by a young woman who died of leukemia in 2007 in honor of the nurses who became her caregivers and friends during her short illness (see story in message from EVPHA Fred Sanfilippo).

More than 200 people have donated to this fund thus far, including Emory employees. This fund is one of dozens in both the university and Emory Healthcare that employees can choose from to support areas and causes they care about most.

katie_ferraris _
Katie Ferraris  

These funds, which support patient care, scholarships, research, and assistance programs for both needy patients and employees, are organized under MyEmory and MyEmory Healthcare, parallel employee and retiree giving programs within the university and Emory Healthcare, respectively, which also began in February.

The goal is to raise $50 million from employees and retirees by the end of 2012. Together, university and health care employees and retirees have contributed more than $41 million since Campaign Emory began in September 2005.

Special thanks not only to those who donate through these programs but also to those employees in health sciences who are helping lead these efforts. (See table at right.)

For giving options and other information about both of these programs, please see website.

For details about giving to EHC programs specifically, see EHC intranet at http://www.ourehc.org/departments/development/index-overview.html (site available to Emory Healthcare employees only).



  _   From the Executive VP

Fred Sanfilippo, MD, PhD  

Internal giving programs
help us help those we serve

In May 2006, just after her graduation from Wake Forest Law School, Katie Ferraris was diagnosed with leukemia and began treatment at Winship. Over the ensuing months, she was sustained by love and support not only from her own family but from her newfound Emory family as well. These included the oncology nurses who helped her fight her disease, who cried and laughed with her, and who gave her a bachelorette party and helped her prepare for her wedding to longtime boyfriend Keith Taylor in Emory's Cannon Chapel.

Before she passed away in April 2007, Katie asked her family to direct funds given in her memory to support Emory's oncology nurses, with whom she had formed a tight bond. As a result, the Katie Ferraris Taylor Oncology Nursing Fund was created to help pay for continuing education for Emory's oncology nursing staff. To date, more than 200 donors, both outside and within Emory, have given to this fund. The first group of scholarships from this fund were awarded in 2009, and in February of this year, three more nurses received scholarships from this fund.

Katie's parents and husband were on hand at the scholarship presentation two months ago to remember Katie and to acknowledge, in Katie's father's words, that the fund is a tribute to Katie's life but that it is also a "recognition and reaffirmation" of the value of the nurses' work and of what they mean to their patients and their families.

Katie's story demonstrates the essence of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center. We have a special privilege, whether we're serving patients, teaching students how to serve patients, or seeking new knowledge to ease the burden of disease that our fellow humans suffer. Katie's story also illustrates the simple but powerful effect that gifts like these can have.

Two months ago, Emory began its first-ever internal giving programs, MyEmory and MyEmory Healthcare, which offer employees and retirees ways to support areas they care about most (see story below). Please reach out, as Katie and her nurses did, to get involved, and to leave your mark in a way that will help us help those we serve.

Thank you for your contributions to this effort and for all you do every day to help us continue transforming health and healing … together.

Please share your thoughts and feedback at evphafeedback@emory.edu.

In brief

Envelope, please

Match Day 2010
Class president Bianca Stefan (with faculty member Lisa Bernstein) is headed to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

At noon on March 18, graduating medical students across the country each grabbed a sealed envelope with the name of their destination for residency training. (See audio slide show.)

Emory students were matched with a variety of institutions, including Johns Hopkins, UC San Francisco, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Thirty-eight will remain at Emory for their residency.

Of Emory’s 125 graduating seniors, 120 participated in the National Residency Match Program (NRMP). Two will pursue postdoctoral research, and three chose to defer residency. The most popular specialties chosen by this class are internal medicine and pediatrics, followed by anesthesiology and general surgery.

NRMP was established in 1952 at the request of medical students to provide a fair and impartial transition to graduate medical education. Students' preferences are matched to available training positions by computer.

Each year approximately 16,000 graduates from U.S. medical schools, along with 15,000 graduates from osteopathic or foreign medical schools, compete for approximately 24,000 residency positions at U.S. hospitals.

New nursing research officer

susan_shapiroSusan Shapiro has joined Emory to assume a new joint position as associate chief nursing officer for nursing research and evidence-based practice (Emory Healthcare) and as assistant dean for strategic initiatives (nursing school). She will be working with clinical nurses and nursing faculty to build a nursing research program across Emory Healthcare. Read more.

Medicine rises in latest rankings

The medical school ranked 20 in research and 25 in primary care in U.S. News & World Report's 2010 rankings—up from 22 and 42, respectively, over last year. The Emory-Georgia Tech biomedical engineering program continued to rank second in the country. Other WHSC schools/programs retained their rankings from previous years. Read more. See website for a list of all WHSC rankings.

Emory surgeons to staff proposed Southern Regional heart program

robert_guytonSouthern Regional Health System and Emory Healthcare have reached an agreement under which Emory would provide cardiothoracic surgeons to Southern Regional if the latter wins state approval to perform open heart surgery at its Riverdale hospital. Southern Regional applied in February to the state for a certificate of need to provide such services. According to Emory heart surgeon Robert Guyton, the agreement would greatly benefit cardiac patients in the Southern Crescent, which is home to 850,000 people and has no open heart program. Read more.

Breast centers earn accreditation


Both the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center at Grady (breast services directed by Sheryl Gabram-Mendola) and the Emory Breast Center have earned full accreditation by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC), a program administered by the American College of Surgeons. The centers had to demonstrate compliance with standards established by NAPBC for treating the full spectrum of breast disease, with surveyors reviewing services and experience ranging from imaging and reconstructive surgery to education and early-detection programs. Read more about the breast centers at Emory and Grady.

Tech transfer kudos

Ray DingledineEmory scientists, including Ray Dingledine, were recognized last month at the fourth annual celebration honoring tech transfer success. Read more.

Klugman to lead international group

Keith KlugmanKeith Klugman, Foege professor of global health in Rollins School of Public Health, is president-elect of the International Society for Infectious Disease. Read more.

Neuroscience lectures elicit good turnout

beth_buffaloEight Yerkes scientists, including Beth Buffalo, are leading a lecture series for 100 students in April-May at Mercer University's Senior University. Topics range from addiction, memory, and neuroimaging to progressive illness, effects of stress on food intake, and evolutionary links between biology and behavior.

Upcoming events

samuel_nussbaumMay 4: Future Makers lecture: Health care reform: What's in store, by Samuel Nussbaum, EVP,
clinical health policy, and CMO, WellPoint, Inc. 3:30 p.m., Emory Hospital Auditorium. Reception to follow.

May 7: Therapeutic frontiers in acute CNS injury, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., White Hall Auditorium, Emory campus. Register online.

May 15-19: 11th International Workshop on Radiation Damage to DNA, Grand Hyatt Atlanta. Sponsored by Emory School of Medicine and Winship Cancer Institute.