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Published by takepart
The Teaching Garden: USC Keck School of Medicine. Fighting childhood obesity.
The Teaching Garden: USC Keck School of Medicine. Fighting childhood obesity.

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Published by: takepart on Jul 29, 2010
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‘I have awonderfulopportunity tobridge the gapand improverelationshipsbetween facultyfrom bothcampuses.’
—Peter Conti,professor ofradiology at theKeck School ofMedicine and USCAcademic SenatePresident-elect
Conti to become president of the USC Academic Senate
USMLE scores continue toclimb at Keck School
Rapid transit program provides new transport service
   T  a  n   i  a   C   h  a   t   i   l  a
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    
  
A rapid transportation program at USC Univer-sity Hospital is gaining momentum.The program, created in October, is designedto transfer critically ill patients to USC Univer-sity Hospital for procedures or treatments thatcannot be provided at their hospital of origin.Ray Matthews, professor of clinical medicineat the Keck School of Medicine, was integral inlaunching the program based on experience hehad with similar initiatives at other hospitals.And now the program is seeing increased use,said Matthews.“We are very satisfied with the utilization of this program, and we are confident it will onlycontinue to grow over time,” said Matthews, add-ing that USC’s cardiovascular medicine, vascularsurgery, cardiothoracic surgery and neurosurgeryprograms use the transportation service now.As part of the program, USC UniversityHospital has contracted with a local ambulancecompany to provide transportation from LosAngeles-area hospitals, using a specially outfittedambulance emblazoned with the hospital logo. Arapid admission process has also been created toensure there are no delays in patient care.“With this program came a large organizationaleffort on the part of the hospital to care forunexpected patients,” Matthews said. “We havetaken this opportunity to integrate systems andlearn how to work together for the greater goodof the patient.”Matthews said he hopes to further expand theprogram for response to urgent—but non-emer-gency—care throughout the Health SciencesCampus.
From left: Tarek Salaway, Vaughn Starnes, Ray Matthews, Leslie Saxon, May Kim, Emma Wright and Fred Weaver display a speciallyoutfitted ambulance used in the USC University Hospital rapid transport program. They represent departments that use the service.
  
Keck students’ meanscores on the U.S. MedicalLicensing Examination(USMLE) Part 1 continueon an upward trajec-tory, rising well above thenational average. Whenthe final scores from 2009recently came in, the aver-age score for Keck’s classof 2011 reached 235, whilethe national mean hoveredat 221.Keck students firstbegan to break away fromthe pack in 2001 after theschool implemented anew, fully integrated cur-riculum. Since then, theirUSMLE scores have im-proved from year to year,finally hitting a plateau in2007 and 2008. Just whenthey seemed to be levelingoff, they shot up again.According to Allan Ab-bott, dean for curriculumand associate dean forContinuing Educationat the Keck School, thestudents are simply betterprepared for the test now.“The Year I-II medicalschool curriculum wascompletely revised toenhance the understandingand clinical relevance of the basic medical sciencesthat are taught,” Abbottremarked. “This andother factors, includingmore time for directedself-study, small grouplearning and integrationof clinical case scenariosthat feature applications of basic sciences have helpedstudents better prepare forthe USMLE.”Sponsored by theFederation of StateMedical Boards of theUnited States Inc. and theNational Board of MedicalExaminers, the USMLEassesses a physician’sability to apply knowledge,concepts and principles,and to demonstrate funda-mental patient-centeredskills. The three steps of the testing process arereviewed cumulativelyin assessing readiness formedical licensure.
  
For the first time in uni-versity history, the presidentof USC’s Academic Senatewill be an M.D. Peter Conti,director of the USC PETImaging Science Center andprofessor of radiology at theKeck School of Medicine, willbe installed as president of theAcademic Senate on July 1.The Academic Senate is theprimary governing body of theuniversity faculty from boththe University Park Campusand the Health SciencesCampus.“I have a wonderful oppor-tunity to bridge the gap andimprove relationships betweenfaculty from both campusesand encourage interdisciplin-ary activities, whether that’sin research, teaching or justsocialization,” said Conti.“There is a great opportunityto represent the Keck Schooland increase its presenceamong the various schools andunits. I have a unique respon-sibility to do that.”Bringing eight years of pastexperience as a member of the senate, Conti will serve aspresident of the senate for aone-year term. He follows out-going president Alex Capron,Scott H. Bice Chair in healthcare law, policy and ethics atthe Gould School of Law andKeck School of Medicine.“The Keck School of Medicine faculty, staff,students and I are veryproud of Dr. Conti and hiselection as president of theUSC Academic Senate,” saidKeck School Dean CarmenA. Puliafito. “The electionof a physician is an historicaccomplishment, and hisleadership will be visibleat an historic time in USChistory, with a new presidentassuming leadership of theUniversity. Dr. Conti’s newrole will help to strengthenthe links between our KeckSchool of Medicine facultyand the rest of USC.”Comprised of faculty lead-ers from all schools withinthe university, the AcademicSenate works with admin-istration to develop policiesand procedures related tofaculty life. In cooperationwith the Office of the Provostand deans from around theuniversity, the Academic Sen-ate works to mitigate seriousand sensitive issues, such asgrievances and policies relatedto relationships with outsideindustry.“What we want to do iscreate a positive environmentwhere issues can be resolvedeffectively and to people’ssatisfaction,” said Conti. “Wetry to work through systemproblems and fix those poli-cies and procedures that aren’tcorrect.”Conti has identified fourkey goals for his term:
   
faculty wellness programs thatprovide incentives for healthylifestyle choices;
  
research administrationpractices to create a moreproductive and effective infra-structure and increase researchgrant success;
     
-toring young faculty members,post-doctoral researchers andteachers;
   
Faculty Assembly by increas-ing engagement and par-ticipation among Keck Schoolfaculty members.Conti’s most visible roleas president of the facultymay be during the upcominginauguration of USC’s nextpresident, C. L. Max Nikias.Conti will lead the processioninto the ceremony holding themace, representing the role of the faculty in university life.“This is an exciting oppor-tunity—university inaugura-tions only happen every 10 to20 years or so,” said Conti. “Ihave two hoods—my purplePh.D. hood and my greenM.D. hood, and I’m debatingwhich one to wear. I think I’llwear my green one to makeit clear that this is somethingdifferent.”
Peter Conti
  
The revolutionary da Vincirobot helps doctors save lives,but, crucially, it can also helpspare a patient reconstructivesurgery. USC University Hos-pital recently saw its first tran-soral robotic surgery (TORS),the first one performed on theWest Coast, according to NielsKokot, assistant professor of otolaryngology, head and necksurgery, at the Keck School of Medicine. Kokot performedthe surgery with Uttam Sinha,assistant professor and vicechair of Otolaryngology, onMarch 22.TORS was developed at theUniversity of Pennsylvania,where Kokot trained for fel-lowship and gained experiencein using the da Vinci robot toextract cancerous tumors.The operation in Marchwas for resection of tonsillarcarcinoma. Using the roboticarms and 3D visualization, thesurgeons were able to gain ac-cess to an area of the body thatusually requires extremelyinvasive measures.Kokot said that tumors of the tonsil and tongue base aregenerally removed via lip-split-ting mandibulotomy, wheresurgeons splay open the entire jaw to get to the tumor. Theprocedure leaves facial scarringand a gaping hole between theneck and throat that requiresreconstructive surgery involv-ing transplantation of a skinflap from the chest or arm.“Going transorally allows usto avoid the need for those bigreconstructions,” said Kokot.“The transoral robotic surgerypatients have the potentialto start eating within a fewdays after surgery, will stayin the hospital for a few daysand generally are going to domuch, much better.”A month after surgery,USC’s first TORS patient isrecovering nicely. “He hasminimal pain and is eatingessentially a normal diet,”Kokot said. “Cosmetically heis very happy not having alip-splitting mandibulotomy.With the large, open operationhe would not likely be eatingnormal food at this point. Hewould most likely have a gas-trostomy tube, and he mightstill have a trach.”USC surgeons will soon useTORS for resection of tumorsof the superglottic larynxand hypopharynx, while alsotreating sleep apnea withprocedures such as tongue-base reduction. Kokot saidthat they’ll also be performingrobotic thyroidectomies.
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  
An announcement of theDr. Norman Levan Chair forMedical Ethics was one of thehighlights of the 50-Year Fel-lows Luncheon of the KeckSchool of Medicine.Held for the first time onthe Health Sciences Campus,the May 21 luncheon in theHarry and Celesta PappasQuad welcomed medicalschool alumni who graduated50 or more years ago, alongwith some of the faculty mem-bers who taught them.Keck School Dean CarmenA. Puliafito presented theCrystal K Award to NormanLevan, in recognition of hisgift of $2 million to endow achair in medical ethics at theKeck School. “Your com-mitment to ethical behaviorby physicians is really a truecommitment to communityservice, to doing the rightthing,” Puliafito said in thank-ing Levan, a retired chairmanof the Department of Der-matology. “We have a specialprogram in medical humani-ties, and your chair will makeit possible for us to recruit agreat new leader in this veryimportant area.”Levan recounted his goodfortune in knowing all thedeans of the medical schoolsince 1955. “It was a wonder-ful experience,” he said. “Thedeans gave me a great dealof freedom to experimentwith all kinds of innovations;for example, we had the firstcourses in medical humanitiesand the first courses in medi-cal ethics.”The luncheon programincluded induction of theClass of 1960 as 50-Year Fel-lows. Representing the class, Jerry Andes recounted someof their student experiences.“It’s absolutely amazing tolook around and see how thehealth sciences campus hasgrown,” he said. “We didn’thave class buildings, but wehad outstanding faculty. … Myfeeling is that it takes muchmore than buildings to makea fantastic medical school. Ittakes outstanding faculty andoutstanding students.”Others at the event echoedthe same pride in the faculty,classmates and school. EugeneTemken, who practiced car-diology in Long Beach beforeretiring, said, “I’m very proudof my Class of ‘47. Theydiversified into 23 specialties,and they were always inter-ested in their patients.”Emcee Phil Manning,USC alumnus who servedthe university as a physician-educator for almost 50 years,said, “We were talking aboutsome of our teachers—we hadsome really good faculty. Theyreally were the foundation of where we are today.”Also on the program was apresentation by Arthur Dono-van on “The History of theLos Angeles County Hospital.”
Dr. Norman Levan Chair for Medical Ethics established at Keck School
Armed with da Vinci robot, surgeons can save face in complex cancer surgery
Phil Manning, left, emcee of the Keck School of Medicine 50-Year Fellows Luncheon, con- gratulates Norman Levan on receiving the Crystal K Award in recognition of his $2 million gift to endow a chair in medical ethics at the school.
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                 
Jane Brust
     
Ina Fried
Jon Nalick
Ryan Ball, Eva Blaauw, Tania Chatila, Meghan Lewit, Carol Matthieu, KatieNeith, Sara Reeve and Leslie Ridgeway
    
Martha Harris
The Weekly 
is published for the faculty, staff, students, volunteers and visitors in the Univer-sity of Southern California’s Health Sciences Campus community. It is written and producedby the Health Sciences Public Relations and Marketing staff. Comments, suggestions andstory ideas are welcome. Permission to reprint articles with attribution is freely given.
Next Issue: July 16
‘Your commitmentto ethicalbehavior byphysicians isreally a truecommitmentto communityservice, to doingthe right thing.
—Keck School DeanCarmen A. Puliafito,to Crystal K Awardwinner NormanLevan
  
The results of a National Labor Relations Board election todetermine representation for about 700 USC University Hospi-tal employees have been certified.The secret ballot election was held at USC UniversityHospital on May 26 and 27, and a majority of employees withinthe hospitals professional group voted against the union, whilethe majority of technical employees at USC University Hospi-tal voted in favor of representation by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW).On June 21, administrators of the USC hospitals receivedofficial notification from the board that those votes had beencertified.The professional group is comprised of pharmacists, physicaltherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, speech thera-pists and clinical lab scientists. The technical group includespatient care techs, operating room techs and housekeeping staff,among others.“I am grateful to everyone who took the time and energyto participate in a professional manner, and I respect yourchoices,” said hospitals CEO Mitch Creem in an e-mail sent toemployees earlier this week. “Regardless of how you voted, weare one family. The USC hospitals continue to be committed tobeing an employer of choice, and we support and recognize theimportant contributions of our entire staff. “With the election now certified, USC will begin processingbenefits for employees in the professional group. The leader-ship of the USC hospitals will also begin negotiating a contractwith NUHW.“As we work through the negotiations process, we will strive,in good faith, to find solutions that are fair to both sides,” Creemsaid.
USC hospital employees spliton representation by unions
The TORS procedure is made possible by the da Vinci surgical system.
School of Pharmacy professor tapped for leadership institute
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A June 21
New YorkTimes
article quoted chiefof the division of cardiovas-cular medicine
 
 about new, implantable defi-brillators that monitor heartinformation and transmit itto doctors and hospitals.A June 21
Los AngelesTimes
article quoted profes-sor of preventive medicine
 
about the linkbetween breast density andcancer risk.A June 18
Wall Street  Journal 
article quoted as-sociate professor of clinicalmedicine and director ofcardiac electrophysiology
 
about a newmedical device that freezestiny portions of heart tissueto correct a condition involv-ing faulty heartbeats.A June 15
Wall Street  Journal 
article quoted as-sistant professor of clinicalmedicine
 
about why men don’t goto the doctor as often aswomen.A June 7
New York Times
 article featured research byUSC Norris breast surgeon
 
andUniversity College Londoncolleagues which found thata single dose of radiation,delivered directly to the siteof a tumor right after breastcancer patients have lumpec-tomies, was as effective asthe roughly six weeks of dailyradiation that most womennow endure.
The ChicagoTribune
and United PressInternational also quotedHolmes about the research.A June 6
Los AngelesTimes
article highlightedresearch by associate profes-sor of medicine and medicaldirector of the USC NorrisCancer Hospital
and colleagues at theUSC Norris ComprehensiveCancer Center. In a trial of40 patients with advancedbladder cancer, the teamfound that 42 percent hadsignificant tumor shrink-age in response to a newexperimental drug derivedfrom sea sponges.A June 2
Los AngelesTimes
article cited an edito-rial written by chief of thedivision of endocrinologyand program director of theGeneral Clinical ResearchCenter
 
that accompanied a newstudy in the journal
.The new research suggeststhat a combination of lowdoses of the diabetes drugsAvandia and metformin canreduce the progression toType 2 diabetes by two-thirdsin people who are at highrisk of developing the dis-ease. Reuters and BloombergNews also cited the editorial.On June 1, NBC’s “TheToday Show” interviewed as-sociate professor of medicineand chief, division of geri-atric, hospital and generalinternal medicine
about a nun whowas excommunicated forsupporting a life-saving abor-tion at an Arizona hospital.
Sarah Hamm-Alvarez hasben chosen to attend thisyear’s Higher EducationResearch Services (HERS) In-stitute for Advancing WomenLeaders in Higher EducationAdministration at WellesleyCollege in Massachusetts.At the School of Pharmacy,Hamm-Alvarez is the Gavin S.Herbert Professor of Pharma-ceutical Sciences, associatedean for research affairs andchair of the Pharmacologyand Pharmaceutical SciencesDepartment.She will attend four sessionsin the academic year begin-ning in October.The institute aims topromote a better understand-ing of the higher educationenvironment through acurriculum that focuses onplanning and leading changein the academic world, manag-ing and investing resourcesstrategically, and developingas leaders.Hamm-Alvarez was selectedto attend the institute by acommittee who evaluated herbased on an application, in-terviews and interest in senioradministration.She is one of three womenfrom USC who will beparticipating in the Institute,and the only one from theHealth Sciences Campus.Others selected for participa-tion include Kathleen Speer,associate dean of faculty andresearch at the College of Let-ters, Arts and Sciences, andAllyson Hill, assistant dean of admissions at the AnnenbergSchool for Communicationand Journalism.“The objective is to furthereducate and expand themindset of these alreadyaccomplished women,” saidCarol Gray, vice president of USC Women in Management,which coordinated the USCinterview process.HERS is a non-profitorganization that focuseson educating womeninvolved in higher educationadministration throughinstitutes and other activities.Their curricula aim to provideleadership and managementdevelopment to participatingwomen,Hamm-Alvarez joined thePharmacy faculty in 1993 andhas had continuous fundingfrom the National Institutes of Health since 1994.
Keck student wins AMA Foundation 2010 Minority Scholars Award
  
The American MedicalAssociation (AMA)Foundation announced thatKeck School of Medicinestudent Cianna Leatherwoodhas been named a 2010Minority Scholars Awardrecipient. As one of only13 awardees in the country,she will receive a $10,000scholarship in recognition of her scholastic achievementand commitment to improvingminority health.Leatherwood, who justfinished her second yearof medical school, wasselected for the award basedon her extensive historyof community service inmedically underservedand minority communities,including service as a medicat the Berkeley Free Clinicand a research assistant atLos Angeles County+USCMedical Center.“On behalf of the KeckSchool, I am extremely proudof Cianna for her incredibleachievements and herunwavering commitment toserving the community,” saidHenri Ford, vice dean formedical education at the KeckSchool. “Cianna is a wonderfulexample of the extremelyaccomplished and passionatemedical students here at theKeck School. Cianna is trulyan inspiration and a role modelfor aspiring physicians.”The Minority ScholarsAward, given in collaborationwith the AMA Minority Af-fairs Consortium, is designedto promote diversity in themedical profession and helpswith the rapidly rising costof medical education. Theaward recognizes scholasticachievement, financial needand commitment to improvingminority health among first orsecond-year medical studentsin groups defined as histori-cally underrepresented in themedical profession.While Leatherwood isundecided on her final medi-cal specialty, she feels likeher past volunteer experiencewill influence her decision. “Ido know that whatever I do,it will be focused on workingwith underrepresented minori-ties and helping to decreasegaps in health status,” shesaid. “I have always been re-ally interested in working withunderserved populations, sowhatever I end up doing willhave that aspect to it.”The AMA Foundationhas made it a priority to helpmedical students handle therising cost of their education.Leatherwood is grateful thatthis award will make a differ-ence in her student debt load.“This morning I was look-ing at my financial aid awardfor next year, which consists of loans, loans, and more loans,”said Leatherwood. “I’m prettysure I’m not the only medstudent who is kept awakesome nights thinking aboutthe tremendous amount of debt that awaits them, and thisaward has definitely resultedin more restful, less nightmarefilled nights!”
Cianna LeatherwoodSarah Hamm-Alvarez
Two grants totaling $175,000 will fundthe research of Mark Shiroishi, assistantprofessor in neuroradiology at the KeckSchool of Medicine, who is studying out-comes of imaging of brain cancer tumors.Shiroishi has won $150,000 from theRadiological Society of North America(RSNA) and a $25,000 USC Zumberge In-dividual Research grant to study outcomesof perfusion and permeability imaging of high-grade gliomas.Currently, contrast magnetic resonanceimaging (MRI) is used to determinewhether a glioma is being affected by thetypical three-pronged treatment of surgery,chemotherapy and radiation therapy.However, this method does not provideconclusive evidence for clinicians that atumor is growing or has changed because ithas been affected by treatment.“The main method of tracking thera-peutic response is to use contrast MRI, butit really doesn’t tell the clinician if treat-ment is working,” said Shiroishi. “Highgrade glioma is a horrible prognosis andis highly resistant to therapy. If we couldfigure out sooner whether a patient isresponding to therapy, it may impact howwe view and treat these patients.”The RSNA grant will be awarded overa two-year period and the Zumberge grantover a one-year period. Shiroishi is beingmentored by Meng Law, director of neu-roradiology and professor of radiology andneurological surgery at the Keck School of Medicine.
Two new grants support research to improve brain cancer treatment

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