Click here to read a Q&A with two Pitt Med favorites who retired in June—
Georgia Duker and Susan Dunmire.
(Photos: Courtesy Duker and Dunmire. Photo illustration: EGC/APK)
BY EVAN BOWEN-GADDY
Advancing medicine is not going to happen without doctors who also do research. Yet the pipeline for physician-scientists is “uncertain,” as a July 3 editorial in JAMA noted. Pitt Med has taken a number of steps through the years to address this shortage; the latest is its Physician Scientist Incubator program. Pitt Med will institute the program with $2.5 million from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, a $2.5 million grant from UPMC, and a $250,000 grant from the University.
BY EVAN BOWEN-GADDY
One approach to keeping a person struggling with addiction away from relapse is to weaken environmental associations. It’s a bit like teaching arachnophobes how to reduce their fear of spiders. Doctors can safely expose patients to the cues that remind them of encounters with spiders; they can do the same for encounters with drug use. Patients eventually learn to experience those cues without fear, craving, or whatever response is targeted.
BY ELIZABETH HOOVER
When a salamander loses its tail, it builds another one beautifully. But a lizard amputee? Not so much. “It doesn’t get anything right,” says Thomas Lozito, PhD assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery. “There’s no bone; the skeleton is completely cartilaginous, just tubes within tubes,” he adds. Lozito and his research team discovered the reason for this difference. During regeneration, salamanders can produce multiple types of cells from neural stem cells, a process called differentiation. Lizards, meanwhile, can only produce a limited range of cell types.
BY JON KUNITSKY
In August, Pitt’s Nathan Clark published research results in Science that change our understanding of the effects of certain neurotoxins in marine environments. Clark is a PhD associate professor of computational and systems biology specializing in evolutionary genomics. His team compared the genomes of aquatic mammals, like dolphins, manatees, and sea lions, with their terrestrial cousins. In doing so, the group discovered that the PON1 (paraoxonase 1) gene—which defends humans and other land mammals against toxic organophosphates (a kind of pesticide commonly used in agriculture)—has been lost through the process of evolution. Without this gene, marine mammals have no way to combat the paralysis and brain damage associated with the pesticides.
When you hear an ambulance, you move aside and turn to look. Those are the rules! UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has a new ambulance that will make people do a double take. It’s built for transporting critically ill babies and children and has a colorful, eye-catching design. The ambulance will travel within a 150-mile radius of Pittsburgh; its features include a backup generator, state-of-the-art medical gas supply, Wi-Fi, a camera system, safety seating for the crew and parents, and a hydraulic lift. “It’s designed to give patients a smoother ride,” says neonatologist Melissa Riley. “And its accessibility means a faster departure, which leads to a faster response time.”
Can you imagine if it were reported that Jeff Capel, Pitt’s men’s basketball coach, fed his players ice cream at halftime? What a scoop! Well, that’s what Henry Clifford Carlson, better known as Doc Carlson, did during the Depression. Carlson (MD ’20) coached Pitt to two national championships; in September, the man known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball” was honored posthumously when Pitt inducted its inaugural Athletics Hall of Fame class. Carlson, a physician who treated all of his players from 1922 to 1953 (including a whole team of med students), entered the Hall with such legends as Dan Marino, Mike Ditka, and Tony Dorsett.