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April 23, 2010
Gairdner Goes to Cancer Biologist
The Gairdner Foundation has named William Kaelin, HMS professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a recipient of the 2010 Canada Gairdner International Award, one of the world’s most prestigious medical research prizes. Kaelin and two other scientists working independently are sharing the award for identifying the molecular mechanisms that allow cells to detect a shortage of oxygen and respond by making new red blood cells and blood vessels.
Tumor suppressor genes have long been a research focus in the Kaelin lab. A rare genetic disorder, von Hippel Lindau syndrome (VHL) is caused by a mutation in a tumor suppressor gene that makes patients with the syndrome likely to develop kidney cancer. Kaelin found that the mutation causes kidney tumors to churn out large amounts of the protein VEGF, which helps provide the tumors with an extra blood supply to fuel the cancer’s growth. Kaelin’s work, along with that of his two co-awardees, showed that this process is regulated by a protein dubbed hypoxia-inducible factor 1-alpha (HIF-1). Manipulation of this factor with drugs is being investigated as potential treatment for anemia, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.
The Gairdner awards, which include a $100,000 cash prize for each recipient, will be presented in October. The co-recipients along with Kaelin are Gregg Semenza of Johns Hopkins University and Peter Ratcliffe of the University of Oxford. A total of five scientists received 2010 Gairdner International Awards.
Medical School Tops U.S. News Ranking
HMS has again scored the top spot in the research medical schools category of U.S. News and World Report’s annual graduate schools rankings. HSPH came in second among schools of public health.
In specialty MD programs, HMS was ranked first in pediatrics and women’s health; second in internal medicine; third in AIDS; and seventh in both drug and alcohol abuse and geriatrics. The School came in 17th in the primary care category.
In the biological sciences PhD category, Harvard earned the second spot and also made a strong showing in the biological sciences specialty areas. The University was ranked first in biochemistry/biophysics/structural biology, cell biology, immunology/infectious disease, microbiology, molecular biology, and neuroscience/neurobiology; second in ecology/evolutionary biology; and third in genetics/genomics/bioinformatics.
Match Day Envelopes Open the Future
MD candidates across the country learned their fates on March 18 during the annual rite of passage known as Match Day, when medical school fourth-years find out where they will do their residencies. At HMS, 143 students gathered in the TMEC and received their envelopes in front of their societies, after a champagne toast from Dean for Students Nancy Oriol, Assistant Director for Student Affairs Carla Fujimoto, and other staff, faculty, friends and family who came for support.
Nearly half of HMS fourth-years—43 percent—will be spending some part of their training at an HMS-affiliated program. Another 19 percent will be headed to California, and 10 percent to programs in New York. The most popular specialty was internal medicine, followed by pediatrics and radiology.
Policy Expert Nominated to Lead Medicare, Medicaid
President Barack Obama has nominated Donald Berwick, HMS clinical professor of pediatrics and of health care policy, and an HSPH professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, as the next chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The new appointment is pending confirmation in the Senate.
As president and CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Berwick is one of the nation’s leading authorities on healthcare quality. Founded in 1991, IHI is dedicated to accelerating improvement by putting forth innovative concepts for increasing quality in patient care and implementing programs for putting those ideas into action.
Berwick has published more than 130 scientific articles in numerous professional journals on subjects relating to healthcare policy, decision analysis, technology assessment, and healthcare quality management. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and serves on the IOM’s governing council and as the liaison to the IOM’s Global Health Board. In 1997 and 1998, Berwick was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Healthcare Industry, which was charged with developing a broader understanding of the issues facing rapidly evolving healthcare delivery systems and to help build consensus on ways to assure and improve the quality of healthcare.
Berwick is one in a series of HMS community members to be appointed to positions in the Obama administration. Raju Kucherlapati, the Paul C. Cabot professor of genetics and a professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, has recently been appointed to the Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues. Kucherlapati’s lab focuses on the mapping and sequencing of human and mouse genomes and on the mapping and cloning of disease genes. He has a particular interest in Velo-Cardio-Facial/ DiGeorge syndrome and Noonan syndrome.
Grad Students Garner Weintraub, Lemelson Awards
Two graduate students from HMS have recently received prestigious research awards. Mamta Tahiliani, who received her PhD in immunology in 2009 and is currently a research fellow in Anjana Rao’s lab at the Immune Disease Institute, and Erez Lieberman-Aiden, a PhD candidate in the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, each received the 2010 Harold M. Weintraub Graduate Student Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The recipients will present at a scientific symposium in May. As a graduate student in Rao’s lab, Tahiliani led projects that made significant advances in understanding the dynamic nature of covalent chromatin modifications. Lieberman-Aiden created a method of studying genomes called Hi-C, which couples proximity ligation of genomic loci with high-throughput sequencing to enable global, three-dimensional views of genomes.
In addition, Lieberman-Aiden has also received the Lemelson–MIT Award, presented annually to an MIT senior or graduate student who has created or improved a product or process, applied a technology in a new way, redesigned a system or demonstrated remarkable inventiveness in other ways. In addition to his Hi-C method, Lieberman-Aiden has developed other technologies and methodologies such as the iShoe, a sensor-laden shoe insole that enables early diagnosis and rehabilitation of deteriorating balance for the elderly. He has also made contributions to the fields of mathematics and linguistics.
Bioengineer Honored for Distinguished Research
Donald Ingber, the Judah Folkman professor of vascular biology in the Department of Pathology at Children’s Hospital Boston, is the 2010 recipient of the Rous-Whipple award. The prize is presented to a senior scientist with a “distinguished career in research who has advanced the understanding of disease and has continued productivity at the time of the award.” His research focuses on the general mechanisms of cell and developmental regulation and is specifically focused on control of angiogenesis and vascular development. His research approach has been driven by the hypothesis that the process of tissue construction may be regulated mechanically. Ingber, who is also the founding director of Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, will present the award lecture on “Mechanobiology and Diseases of Mechanotransduction” this month at the American Society of Investigative Pathology annual meeting.
Minority Scientists-to-be Mentored at HMS
During one weekend in February, the HMS Office for Diversity and Community Partnership welcomed budding scientists to the Boston area for both the New England Science Symposium and the Biomedical Science Careers Program, two events that encourage underrepresented minority postdocs and students to pursue careers in biomedical sciences and healthcare-related fields.
The New England Science Symposium, which took place on Feb. 28, brought to the new research building more than 400 postdocs, graduate students and undergrads from 149 different institutions who are involved in biomedical and health-related research. The students and scientists heard oral presentations, attended a poster session and exchanged ideas with their colleagues. The symposium also serves as a recruiting tool for HMS by increasing attendees’ awareness of the training and learning opportunities at the School, as well as the School’s commitment to diversity. Cato Laurencin, an HMS alum and dean of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, gave the keynote address.
The Biomedical Science Careers Program took place on Feb. 26 and 27 and provided nearly 1,000 African-American, Hispanic and American Indian/Alaska Native students, from the high school to postdoctoral level, with an opportunity to discuss science-related careers in the basic and clinical sciences, medicine, public health, academic administration and the private sector via workshops, panel presentations and networking sessions. They also had an opportunity to hear keynote addresses from Robert Satcher, a NASA astronaut and HMS alum, Alfredo Quiñones-Hinojosa, an associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University and HMS grad, and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.
Recovery Act Brings $15m for Health IT
Two HMS researchers, Isaac Kohane and Kenneth Mandl, will lead a four-year project to develop a new healthcare information technology infrastructure, supported by a $15 million grant. The award comes through the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology in the Department of Health and Human Services and is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
Kohane, the Lawrence J. Henderson professor of pediatrics at HMS and Children’s Hospital Boston and director of the Countway Library of Medicine at HMS, and Mandl, HMS associate professor of pediatrics at Children’s, will use the funds to investigate, evaluate and develop an “iPhone-like” health information technology platform model. The platform architecture, described as a “SMArt” (substitutable medical applications, reusable technologies) architecture, will provide core services and support extensively networked data from across the health system, as well as facilitate substitutable applications—enabling the equivalent of the iTunes App Store for health. The common-interface “App Store” will be based on a personally controlled health record platform developed by the Children’s Hospital Informatics Program more than a decade ago, as well as open source platforms created by other subcontractors on the grant, including one developed by Partners HealthCare System. The researchers will partner with a variety of organizations in the healthcare field on efforts to translate their solutions into real-world practice.
Proceedings of the HMS Faculty Council
Preclinical Department Reorganization
Dean Jeffrey Flier began the February Faculty Council meeting by presenting plans for the reorganization of the Quad preclinical departments. In response to both the Strategic Planning Initiative and change in the fiscal and facilities situations, the challenge over the past year has been to consider how to utilize School resources and organize research to support the HMS community. Last summer, Flier charged an advisory committee with examining the interfaces between Pathology, Immunology and Microbiology at HMS and asked members to make recommendations about how these disciplines might be positioned in the future. He also noted that there have been limited strategic recruitments in Neurobiology, Systems Biology, Immunology, and Global Health and Social Medicine. Flier outlined four guiding principles for the reorganization: revitalize the educational mission of the School; create a more unified, supportive and inclusive community; increase and coordinate strategic investments in tools and technology; and seize rapidly expanding opportunities in biomedical research to increase human well-being.
Flier then addressed the planned restructuring of the HMS Department of Pathology, as part of the strategic planning effort to align the organization of the preclinical departments with evolving scientific goals in the face of significant space and financial challenges. A new HMS Pathology Executive Committee comprising senior leaders across the HMS pathology community will be created. Flier explained that when the plan is fully implemented over the next year, HMS Pathology will have an academic structure and appointing authority similar to that of the HMS Department of Medicine. He added that the existing Quad Pathology faculty will be realigned with other departments.
Next, Flier discussed the Quad space reorganization, noting that there is limited space for additional recruitment into areas of strategic growth, that the most advantageous adjacencies among researchers are not yet realized and that aging research facilities require physical rehabilitation. As a result, he said, options for creating space for program and departmental expansion are under consideration. He said that future planning would continue to further align departments with strategic priorities of the School, encourage more cross-departmental and cross-institutional collaboration, improve research space productivity and increase interest in translational research while maintaining strength in basic sciences.
Ombuds, CME and Admissions
Flier then introduced Melissa Brodrick, the HMS ombudsperson, who presented the Ombuds Office annual report, prepared by Linda Wilcox, who retired in February. Brodrick pointed out some of the areas of concern highlighted in the report, including unhealthy supervisory practices, unskilled supervisors and overemphasis on individual achievement. Brodrick expressed her desire for the Ombuds Office to have a preventive role and to resolve issues at lower levels in the organization before they escalate. She recommended leadership training and assessment of leadership skills during hiring and promotion.
Rick Mills, dean for education and global program administration, spoke next on the topic of continuing medical education (CME). He discussed the HMS relationship with Pri-Med, a company that runs CME conferences, and the need to strike a balance between avoiding any conflicts of interest and providing cost-effective continuing education opportunities for physicians.
Jules Dienstag, dean for medical education, then presented on the topic of new admissions requirements. He gave a brief overview of how admissions requirements have changed over the years. In 2004, the Working Group on Admissions Requirements was formed to make recommendations for the admissions criteria. He also referenced a report from the AAMC, titled, “Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians.”
Dental School Revamps Website
HSDM has recently launched a redesigned and expanded website, after a two-year period of planning and implementation. The new site is easier to navigate and provides a wealth of information about the School, including sections devoted to faculty research, public service and news, and increased content about each department and program. To see the new website, visit www.hsdm.harvard.edu.
HMS-Portugal Program Awards First Collaborative Grants
The Harvard Medical School Portugal Program in partnership with Portugal’s Ministry of Science and Technology, has awarded the program’s first three collaborative research grants to HMS professors David Pellman, Madalena Costa and Jon Clardy. The three proposals focused particularly on questions relevant to medicine at the frontier of translational and clinical sciences. Each grant will provide funding for three years.
Madalena Costa, instructor in medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, will be conducting research on anticipating intrapartum fetal complications and reducing newborn mortality. A collaboration with Diogo Ayres de Campos of the University of Porto, the project will address this major public health problem by developing more accurate, automated ways to detect and respond to warning changes in fetal heart rate dynamics. Intrapartum complications account for more than one million newborn deaths worldwide each year and cause lifelong neurologic and developmental morbidity. In more than half of such cases, failure to detect and respond to changes in fetal status play a significant role in the causation of abnormal neonatal outcomes. However, interpretation of fetal heart rate, a current mainstay for monitoring, is a frequent target of criticism. The grant provides a unique opportunity to address this health priority by bringing together teams with complementary and synergistic expertise in maternal and fetal health, computerized fetal heart rate analysis and complex signals analysis.
The team co-led by Jon Clardy, the Hsien Wu and Daisy Yen Wu professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology, will turn their attention to developing drugs to be used in the eradication of malaria. Collaborating with Maria Mota and Carlos Penha-Goncalves at the University of Lisbon, the team combines expertise in malaria biology, small molecule screening, human genetics, target identification and medicinal chemistry aim to discover and develop drugs to be used in an eradication campaign against malaria.
David Pellman, the Margaret M. Dyson professor of pediatric oncology and professor of cell biology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, will focus his project on cancer of the esophagus and understanding the formation of tumors. Working with Mónica Dias and José Pereira-Leal from the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciências de Oeiras, the team will focuses on cancer of the esophagus and the progression and initial formation of metastases. The results of this work may pave the way for a better understanding of the formation and metastasis of tumors, finding new forms of treatment.
A total of 38 proposals were submitted from teams of researchers in Portugal and Harvard. The Clinical and Translational Collaborative Research Grants are designed to enhance and enlarge the research infrastructure in Portugal and to promote collaboration not only within Portugal but also internationally.
Students Share in Soros Fellowships
Three students from HMS have received Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, among a total of 30 selected nationwide. The fellowships recognize graduate students who are either immigrants or children of immigrants to help them pursue graduate education and prepare them for leadership opportunities in a variety of fields. The two-year awards provide cash grants of up to $50,000 and tuition support of up to $40,000.
Hari Prabhakar, an HMS first-year whose parents are from India, hopes to have a joint appointment at an academic medical center and institution of public health in the United States. At Johns Hopkins University, where he received his undergraduate degree, Prabhakar initiated the TIHF/GAH Sickle Cell Disease Center where, as the center’s operations director, he developed screening, treatmen, and education programs for sickle cell patients and families. Using his experience at the center and at a tribal hospital in India, he plans to continue to work to improve care for underserved sickle cell patients here and abroad.
HMS first-year Deep Shah, whose parents emigrated from India, plans a career as both a clinician and a leader in public policy. He has co-authored two papers on Parkinson disease research in monkeys. At the University of Georgia, where he received his undergraduate degree, he formed a student think tank, had a fellowship in the U.S. Senate, and public health internships in Costa Rica and Japan. He also worked as project manager with the Governor’s Office in Georgia to design a low-cost private health insurance plan for the working poor.
Laurel Yong-Hwa Lee, a second-year MD student in the Harvard–MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, received her PhD in immunology at Oxford University, where as a Rhodes Scholar she led a large-scale study of human immune response against the avian influenza A (H5N1) virus in the U.K. and Vietnam. Lee, who was born in South Korea, graduated from MIT in 2005 with degrees in brain and cognitive science and biology.
Martin Awards Recognize Studies in Immunology, Hearing
Massachusetts General Hospital presented the 2010 Joseph B. Martin Research Awards to two research teams from HMS during the Scientific Advisory Committee meeting in February. Established in honor of Joseph Martin, former dean of HMS and previously chief of the MGH Neurology Service, the awards honor the best MGH basic and clinical research papers published the preceding year. Funded by the Massachusetts Biomedical Research Council, the Martin Awards provide $100,000 plus indirect costs to support continuation of the honored research.
The basic research award went to a team led by Nir Hacohen, HMS assistant professor of medicine at MGH, for a study of molecular circuits of dendritic cells of the immune system, published in the Oct. 9 issue of Science. Other HMS co-authors were postdocs Ido Amit and Alon Goren; graduate students Nicholas Chevier, Thomas Eisenhaure, Weibo Li, Raquel Deering and Rebecca McDonald; Bradley Bernstein, HMS associate professor of pathology at MGH; and John Rinn, HMS assistant professor of pathology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and a member of the Broad Institute.
A paper in the July 23 New England Journal of Medicine received the clinical research award, authored by a team led by Scott Plotkin, HMS assistant professor of neurology at MGH, and Emmanuelle di Tomaso, HMS assistant professor of radiation oncology at MGH. The researchers showed that the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) was able to reverse hearing loss caused by certain benign tumors in patients with neurofibromatosis type 2, preventing deafness in some of the 10 treated patients. Co-authors were Anat Stemmer-Rachamimov, HMS assistant professor of pathology at MGH; Fred Barker, HMS associate professor of surgery (neurosurgery) at MGH; Chris Halpin, HMS assistant professor of otology and laryngology at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary; Timothy Padera, HMS instructor in radiation oncology at MGH; postdoc Alex Tyrrell; Gregory Sorensen, HMS professor of radiology at MGH; and Rakesh Jain, the A. Werk Cook professor of radiation oncology (tumor biology) at MGH.
Contract Boosts Research in Cell Therapy
Leslie Silberstein, HMS professor of pathology (pediatrics) in the Program in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Immune Disease Institute, was awarded a Production Assistance for Cellular Therapies contract (PACT) by the National Institutes of Health. The award is meant to advance cellular therapy research in broad areas, including immunotherapy for cancer and infectious disease, and stem cell therapy for congenital and acquired disorders. The five-year, $14.5 million program will enable the Center for Human Cell Therapy (CHCT) Boston, which is led by Silberstein along with Jerome Ritz, HMS professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, to become one of four cell-processing facilities nationwide and will involve all major HMS-affiliated institutions and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute.
As a member of the PACT Group, CHCT Boston will partner with the PACT Steering Committee to identify basic laboratory investigators who have developed successful cell-based therapies in preclinical model systems and support the transition of these new approaches to the stage of clinical evaluation in patients. In addition, the PACT Group will offer educational resources for the cell therapy research community.
The Assaulted Staff Action Program (ASAP), a crisis intervention program for staff victims of patient violence, has been selected by the Canadian Government as one of its best practices health care interventions. Raymond Flannery Jr., HMS associate clinical professor of psychology in the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance, created and has fostered the growth of ASAP for the past 20 years. ASAP was earlier selected as a best practice by the United States Government.
Augustus White, the Ellen and Melvin Gordon distinguished professor of medical education and professor of orthopedic surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has received the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons’ William W. Tipton Jr., MD, Leadership Award, for his work as an educator, a mentor and a champion of diversity initiatives. The award, which includes a $5,000 honorarium, was presented at the academy’s annual meeting in New Orleans.
John Collins Jr., HMS professor emeritus of surgery and former chief of cardiac surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, died on March 6. He was 76 years old.
Collins received his medical degree from the Saint Louis University School of Medicine in 1957. He joined the HMS community in 1962 as a postdoctoral fellow and, a year later, entered the clinical surgical program at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, which later became Brigham and Women’s.
Collins went on to develop one of the finest cardiac surgery units in the country and remained at BWH for more than three decades. He performed the first heart transplant operation in New England. He also served in multiple leadership roles at the hospital during his tenure, including chief of cardiac surgery from 1970 to 1987 and vice chair of surgery from 1987 until he retired as professor emeritus of surgery in 1999.
Collins is survived by his wife, Mary; four children, Anne Goodyear of Arlington, Va., Maureen Beekley of St. Louis, Mo., John Collins III, of Cambridge, and Robert Collins of Houston, Texas; and two grandchildren.
The BWH Department of Surgery will hold a memorial service in honor of Collins on Friday, May 21, at 2 pm at the Memorial Church, Harvard Yard, followed by a reception at the Loeb House located at 17 Quincy Street in Cambridge. All are welcome to attend. Contributions in his memory may be directed to John J. Collins Jr., MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon Scholar Award Fund, c/o Michael Zinner, MD, Department of Surgery, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street, Boston, MA 02115.
Robert Masland, HMS associate professor emeritus of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Boston, died on March 27. He was 89.
A pioneer in adolescent medicine, Masland began his career at Children’s in 1954, joining the hospital’s adolescent unit shortly after it opened. Masland was known for his ability to connect with his adolescent patients, whom he found to be not so different from adults, just more entertaining.d
As chief of Adolescent Medicine during the 60s and 70s, Masland worked to expand his division’s focus to include young women and underprivileged adolescents from low-income neighborhoods, as well as pregnant teens and patients with sexually transmitted diseases and substance abuse problems. In 2009, he was the first-ever recipient of the Children’s Hospital Association Distinguished Service Award.
During Masland’s long life, his enthusiasm for adolescent medicine never dimmed. Though he retired from practice last June, he stayed on in an emeritus capacity with the Department of Medicine and retained his HMS duties, continuing to advise medical students and sitting on the Admissions Committee.
He is survived by his wife, Jean; sons Robert Masland III and his wife, Anne, of Hingham, and Lawrence Masland and his wife, Pamela Talbot, of Concord; grandchildren Robert Masland IV of Hull, Gillian Masland of San Francisco, Fiona Masland of Concord, and Anna Masland of Concord. He was predeceased by a son, William Masland.
Donations in memory of Masland, to support the Robert Masland Jr. Chair in Adolescent Medicine, can be made online at www.childrenshospital.org/giving or by sending checks—payable to Children's Hospital Boston—to Children’s Hospital Trust, 1 Autumn Street #731, Boston, MA 02215-5301.