Category Archives: Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program

Sep 15 2014
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Breakthroughs in Treating Spinal Cord Injury

Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, is director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). He was a member of the inaugural class of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.

Roderic Pettigrew

On a fateful day in 2006, 20 year-old Rob Summers, a standout collegiate baseball pitcher at Portland State with aspirations to play in the big leagues, was a victim of a hit-and-run accident while standing in his own driveway. His injuries left him paralyzed below the chest, and his doctors informed him he would never move his legs again.

I first met Rob at NIBIB’s ten-year anniversary celebration. It had been just four years since his accident, and he had already broken new ground in spinal cord injury recovery. During the event, Rob shared his incredible story about the experimental procedure he had recently undergone as part of an NIBIB-funded research trial. In the trial, Rob became the first human to have an electrical stimulator implanted on his spinal cord with the goal of restoring some function to previously paralyzed muscles.  

Rob spoke about how, in just weeks after implantation, the stimulation enabled him to hold himself in a standing position for the first time since his injury. In addition, he began to sense when he was uncomfortable in his wheelchair. Rob went on to describe how, seven months into the trial, he discovered he was able to move his toes, ankles, and legs on command, a feat that shocked the researchers, as they never expected Rob to regain voluntary movement. 

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Jun 26 2014
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RWJF’s Work to Make Minority Medical Faculty a Priority

Directors at the National Institutes of Health, medical school deans and presidents, professors, members of the Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences—these are just a few examples of the impressive roles that Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (AMFDP) alumni have gone on to fill after completing the program. Its impact over three decades of nurturing the careers of physician-scientists from disadvantaged backgrounds is the subject of an article in the May issue of the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Authored by AMFDP Program Director David S. Wilkes, MD, and Deputy Director Nina L. Ardery, MA, MBA, both of the Indiana University School of Medicine, and David M. Krol, MD, MPH, FAAP, a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the article explores the evolution of the AMFDP since RWJF created it in 1983 as the Minority Medical Faculty Development Program. (It was renamed in 2004 in honor of its first director.)

Among key assumptions in creating the program, the authors write, were that minority faculty would encourage more minority students to go to medical school; exposure to more minority faculty would encourage medical schools, hospitals, and others to seek out more candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds; and minority faculty would help medical schools better understand minority issues, ultimately contributing to better care for minority patients in teaching hospitals and stronger scientific study of minority health. 

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Jun 23 2014
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RWJF Milestones, June 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

Emery Brown, MD, PhD, an alumnus of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program has been elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

RWJF Investigator Award in Health Policy Research recipient James Perrin, PhD, is the new president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He took office on January 1, 2014, beginning a one-year term.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has named Deborah E. Trautman, PhD, RN, as its new chief executive officer, effective June 16. Trautman, an RWJF Health Policy Fellows program alumna, currently serves as executive director of the Center for Health Policy and Healthcare Transformation at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The American College of Physicians (ACP), the nation’s largest medical specialty organization, has voted Wayne Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, its president-elect. Riley is a former RWJF senior health policy associate.

Kenneth B. Chance, Sr., D.D.S. has been appointed dean of the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine and will begin his duties on July 1, 2014. He is an alumnus of the RWJF Health Policy Fellows program, and served on its national advisory committee. His is a current member of the national advisory committee of the RWJF Summer Medical and Dental Education Program.

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Apr 27 2014
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How to Advance Minority Health? Further Develop the Pipeline of Minority Physicians.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Paloma Toledo, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of anesthesiology at Northwestern University, responds to the question, “Minority health is advanced by combating disparities and promoting diversity. How do these two goals overlap?” Toledo is a Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program scholar.

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Addressing racial and ethnic disparities has been a part of the national public health agenda for decades. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services establishes national objectives to improve the health of Americans through the Healthy People program. In Healthy People 2000, one goal was to reduce racial and ethnic disparities. A decade later, the goal was revised. Currently, the goal for Healthy People 2020 is to establish health equity, eliminating disparities. Despite these goals, disparities persist, and minorities continue to suffer worse health than non-minority whites. Much work has focused on raising awareness of disparities and improving the quality of care for minority patients; however, increasing the number of minority physicians is equally important in combating health care disparities. 

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Apr 27 2014
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How Can Health Systems Effectively Serve Minority Communities? Promote Health In Community Settings.

To mark National Minority Health Month, the Human Capital Blog asked several Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) scholars to respond to questions about improving health care for all. In this post, Monica E. Peek, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine and associate director of the Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research at the University of Chicago, responds to the question, “What are the challenges, needs, or opportunities for health systems to effectively serve minority communities?” Peek is an alumnus of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program.

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With the health policy introduced by the Affordable Care Act, health systems have a unique opportunity (and admittedly, a challenge as well) to transform themselves in ways that promote health and not just treat illness. Such efforts are particularly relevant for racial/ethnic minorities, which disproportionately suffer from the morbidity and mortality of chronic diseases that are largely preventable in nature.  Lifestyle changes (e.g. dietary patterns, physical activity, tobacco cessation, and limited alcohol intake) can prevent or help manage the majority of chronic diseases in the United States, which are disproportionately present within minority communities.

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Apr 23 2014
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Saving Limbs, Saving Lives: Harold Amos Alum Honored for Research into Peripheral Arterial Disease

Ayotunde Dokun, MD, PHD, is an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, VA. He is also an alumnus of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development program (2009-2013), an initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) that supports faculty in academic medicine and dentistry who are from historically disadvantaged backgrounds.

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Human Capital Blog: Congratulations on your recent award from the American Heart Association! What does it mean for your work and for your career?

Ayotunde Dokun: It is a great honor to be recognized by the Peripheral Vascular Council of the American Heart Association with an early stage investigator award. For my work, it means the society recognizes the significance of what I have contributed to the field thus far. For my career, it’s a stepping stone hopefully to a brighter future as physician scientist.

HCB: The award recognizes the research and background of outstanding early-career researchers in the field of peripheral vascular disease. Can you describe your current work in this area?

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Apr 18 2014
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New on the RWJF Website

Two stories on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) website report on new research by RWJF scholars.

An Incentive for Healthier Living: RWJF Scholars Find a Stronger Link Between Obesity and Kidney Disease

Vanessa Grubbs, MD, MPH, and Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, MD, PhD, both alumnae of the Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program (AMFDP), have discovered that obesity appears to be a driver of diminished kidney function, independent of a number of common kidney conditions. This suggests that overweight patients could face kidney troubles even if they avoid hypertension, diabetes, or other such conditions. The researchers also found that the standard measure used to gauge kidney function might miss early signals of deterioration that a more sensitive test can detect. This suggests that clinicians could identify emerging problems in otherwise asymptomatic patients, and help steer them toward healthier habits early in life.

Reducing Adolescents’ Risky Behaviors

New studies from RWJF scholars seek early markers for substance abuse, explore young adult sleep patterns, and gather data on health care providers’ counseling. RWJF Health & Society Scholar Julie Maslowsky, PhD, and colleagues found that mental health problems in eighth graders are a likely marker for subsequent substance abuse issues. In a separate study, Maslowsky’s research team studied the sleep patterns of more than 15,000 teens, because getting too little or too much sleep is related to a number of mental and physical health problems, including depression and anxiety. The same story reports on a survey by Aletha Akers, MD, MPH, an AMFDP alumna, examining the counseling health care providers give to parents of adolescent patients. The topics parents most frequently recalled discussing were the ones least associated with adolescent morbidity.

Apr 2 2014
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RWJF Milestones, April 2014

The following are among the many honors received recently by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, grantees and alumni:

Susan B. Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, RWJF’s senior advisor for nursing and director of its Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, has been named co-chair of the newly formed External Nurse Advisory Board (ENAB) for the Center for Nursing Advancement (CFNA) at UnitedHealth Group. The goal of the ENAB is to “inform, create and evolve nursing best practices, and advance the nursing profession.”

Angelina Jolie has signed on as executive producer of Difret, a film by RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna Mehret Mandefro, MD, MSc, AB. The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, where it won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award, then went on to receive the Audience Award at the Berlin International Film Festival in February. The film tells the story of a young Ethiopian girl who challenges the tradition of “telefa,” the practice of abduction in marriage, usually of young girls. Read more about Mandefro’s film.

The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) has voted Juliann Sebastian, PhD, MSN, its president-elect. Sebastian, an RWJF Executive Nurse Fellows alumna, is dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. She will serve as president of AACN from 2016 to 2018. The organization represents more than 740 nursing schools nationwide.

RWJF Scholars in Health Policy Research alumna Jacqueline Stevens, PhD, has been named a 2013 Guggenheim Fellow for the Humanities. Her fellowship is in U.S. History.

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Mar 27 2014
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RWJF Scholars in the News: Cultural barriers to care, medical conspiracies, parenting, and more.

Around the country, print, broadcast, and online media outlets are covering the groundbreaking work of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leaders, scholars, fellows, alumni, and grantees. Some recent examples:

In a Talking Points Memo opinion piece, Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program alumna Paloma Toledo, MD, MPH, writes that while the Affordable Care Act holds the promise of greatly increasing access to care, language and cultural barriers could still stand between Hispanic Americans and quality care. Toledo’s research into why greater numbers of Hispanic women decline epidurals during childbirth revealed that many made the choice due to unfounded worries that it would leave them with chronic back pain or paralysis, or that it would harm their babies. “As physicians, we should ensure that patients understand their pain management choices,” she writes.

More than one in three patients with bloodstream infections receives incorrect antibiotic therapy in community hospitals, according to research conducted by Deverick J. Anderson, MD, an RWJF Physician Faculty Scholars alumnus. Anderson says “it’s a challenge to identify bloodstream infections and treat them quickly and appropriately, but this study shows that there is room for improvement,” reports MedPage Today. Infection Control Today, FierceHealthcare, and HealthDay News also covered Anderson’s findings.

People’s health and wellness can be linked to their zip codes as much as to their genetic codes, according to an essay in Social Science and Medicine co-authored by Helena Hansen, MD, PhD. As a result, Hansen argues, physicians should be trained to understand and identify the social factors that can make their patients sick, HealthLeaders Media reports. Hansen is an RWJF Health & Society Scholars alumna.

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Mar 21 2014
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The Lucky One

Vanessa Grubbs, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, and a scholar with the RWJF Harold Amos Medical Faculty Development Program. She is writing a book about what she calls the “sometimes irrational use of dialysis in America,” which will include a version of this narrative essay.

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It is a Monday afternoon like any other and time to make my weekly rounds at the San Francisco General Hospital outpatient dialysis center. I push my cart of medical charts down the long aisle of our L-shaped dialysis unit and see Mr. Rojas, my dialysis patient for over a year now. He is in his mid-40s and slender, sitting in the burgundy-colored vinyl recliner. His blue-jeaned legs and sneakered feet are propped up on the extended leg rest. The top of his head shines through thinning salt and pepper hair. White earbud headphones peek through gray sideburns. He is looking intently at his Kindle, rarely glancing up at the activity around him.

I roll my cart up to his recliner, catching his eye. His right hand removes the earbuds as the left pauses his movie. He looks up at me, smiling. “Hola, Doctora. How are you?” he says with emphasis on the “are.”

“I am good. How are you doing?” I smile back at him as I grab his chart from the rack. I write down his blood pressure and pulse—both normal—and the excellent blood flow displayed on the dialysis machine. My eyes shift to his fistula, the surgically thickened vein robustly coursing halfway up his left forearm like a slithering garden snake. It is beautiful to me. Through it, Mr. Rojas is connected to the dialysis machine.

“I am good, Doctora. No problems. I feel healthy. Strong.” His brown eyes glint.

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