UMKC researcher helped lead studies published in New England Journal of Medicine

UMKC School of Medicine researcher John Spertus, M.D., M.P.H., is part of two large NIH-funded clinical studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Monday, March 30. The studies indicate eliminating unnecessary revascularization treatments for cardiac patients could save the United States hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Spertus serves as professor of medicine and Daniel J. Lauer, M.D., Endowed Chair in Metabolism and Vascular Disease Research at the School of Medicine, and Clinical Director of Outcomes Research at Saint Luke’s Hospital.

The studies looked specifically at coronary artery disease patients who had high-risk blockages with least 10 percent or more of the heart muscle being at risk. One focused on patients with preserved kidney function and the other targeted patients with end-stage kidney failure. That latter group has largely been excluded from almost all cardiovascular trials, despite having a high prevalence of coronary artery disease and death, Spertus said.

Both studies, conducted in unison, examined the most important outcomes for patients, clinical events (e.g. heart attacks, death) and patients’ symptoms, function and quality of life. Participants were randomized to undergo invasive angiography and revascularization with aggressive medical therapy or aggressive medical therapy alone. The goals of the medical treatment were cholesterol reduction, blood pressure control, aspirin and medications to treat chest pain.

The studies in patients with preserved kidney function showed that invasive medical procedures provided no reduction in clinical events, but did improve patients’ symptoms and quality of life, if they had chest pain within a month of entering the trial. These health status benefits were evident within three months and sustained out to four years.

“Importantly, this benefit was only observed in patients who had angina, chest pain, and not in asymptomatic patients,” Spertus said. “There is no indication for these procedures in patients whose symptoms are well-controlled with medications alone. If we avoided revascularization in asymptomatic patients, we could potentially save about $500 million to $750 million a year in the United States alone.”

Among patients with very severe kidney disease, there was no significant difference in clinical events or in patients’ symptoms and quality of life.

“While disappointing, this is a very ill patient population for whom an aggressive, invasive treatment strategy does not seem to offer much benefit,” Spertus said.

The NEJM is publishing four papers from these studies on March 30, one for each trial focusing on the clinical events and another for each trial focusing on the quality of life outcomes. Spertus was involved in writing all four and is the lead author on the two quality of life papers. He and his team designed, analyzed and led the health status, quality of life components of both trials.

Spertus is the author of the Seattle Angina Questionnaire (SAQ) that used in the studies. It is widely recognized throughout the world as the gold standard for quality of life measurement in cardiac medicine.

“Our group has led its use and analyses in multiple studies and quality improvement efforts,” Spertus said. “In light of these findings, the SAQ may start becoming a routine part of clinical care in cardiology.”

Community and Family Medicine residency director receives Women of Distinction honor

Beth Rosemergey, M.D., is being honored as a Woman of Distinction.

School of Medicine faculty member Beth Rosemergey, D.O., associate professor and director of the Community and Family Medicine Residency program, was honored recently as one of the outstanding women of Eastern Jackson County, Missouri.

For the past five years, the Independence Examiner newspaper has sponsored the annual Women of Distinction Awards. Women from the fields business, government, education and non-profit are honored based on their accomplishments and community involvement in Eastern Jackson County.

Rosemergey is the third honoree nominated by Truman Medical Center-Lakewood. Last year, Laura Doan, M.D., a 1984 UMKC School of Medicine graduate and University Health women’s care provider, was a Women of Distinction honoree. Lynette Wheeler, TMC Lakewood chief operating officer, was honored as Outstanding Woman of the Year in 2018.

An awards ceremony was to have been taken place on March 13. The event and announcement of this year’s Outstanding Woman of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award have been postponed until the end of April.

The mother of an autistic child, Rosemergey is passionate in her advocation for special needs children and their families. She has worked with local schools to develop programs that address the needs of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and was instrumental in developing state guidelines for the care of autism patients.

Rosemergey also serves as vice chair of the Department of Community and Family Medicine and medical director of the Bess Truman Family Medicine Center.

A graduate of the University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine in Kansas City, she completed her family practice residency at UMKC and Truman Medical Center Lakewood and joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1992.

School of Medicine’s 2020 humanities magazine available online

The 2020 issue the UMKC School of Medicine publication, Human Factor, is now available online. Human Factor celebrates the connection between art, humanities and the practice of medicine.

The publication showcases the creativity, imagination and talent of our students, alumni, residents, faculty and staff. All of the printed words and images featured in this publication make the important link between an appreciation of art and compassionate patient care — illustrating the significant role of medical humanities.

This year’s issue features poetry, short stories, photos, drawings and and other original artwork including the cover image created by fifth-year medical student Rachana Kombathula.

Watch for a call for submissions to the 2021 edition of the Human Factor early next next fall.

School of Medicine’s Gold Humanism Honor Society welcomes 2020 class

The School of Medicine chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society welcomed the 2020 class of students and faculty during a ceremony at Diastole.

The School of Medicine’s chapter of the Gold Humanism Honor Society (GHHS) inducted 21 new members on January 25 during a ceremony at Diastole.

This year’s GHHS induction class includes 19 students and two faculty physicians. Each was chosen for their exemplary care of patients and their humanistic approach to clinical practice. Students and faculty make nominations each year based on the individual’s excellence in clinical care, leadership, compassion and dedication to service.

Carol Stanford, M.D., Gold 5 docent and GHHS faculty sponsor, welcomed the new members and presented each with a certificate of induction during the program.

The GHHS began in the late 1990s. It now has more than 160 medical school and residency program chapters across the United States. The program is supported in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Berry Foundation.

Medical students:
Suma Ancha
Charlie Burke
Anna Curtis
Sarthak Garg
Jacob Gowan
Sharika Kaula
Raga Kilaru
Connor King
Rachana Kombathula
Rebecca Kruian
Saja Necibi
Jacob Perera
Rawan Rajab
Karishma Raju
Koral Shah
Elizabeth Theng
Kabir Torres
Maggie Urschler
Sarah Wells

Faculty

Paramdeep Baweja, M.D.
Jignesh Shah, M.D.

New School of Medicine program designed to support underrepresented minority faculty

A new program launched earlier this year at the School of Medicine is helping develop and prepare underrepresented minority faculty for advancement from junior to senior faculty positions.

The URM Faculty Scholars and Fellows Program is an initiative of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It works in collaboration with the school’s offices of Professional Development and Academic Affairs, and affiliate hospitals.

“Our faculty need to know that they’re coming into a supportive environment,” said Nate Thomas, associate dean for diversity and inclusion. “This program is based on the idea of promoting diversity and supporting our underrepresented minority faculty.”

Eight faculty members who are physicians at affiliate hospitals including Truman Medical Center, Saint Luke’s Hospital, Children’s Mercy and the Kansas City Veterans Medical Center, are currently participating in the 13-month enterprise.

The program started in October. Led by members of the medical school’s Collaborative Committee for Faculty Success, it includes seven two-hour sessions. The focus is on topics such as understanding the criteria and process for faculty promotion; recognizing personal strengths, weakness, opportunities;  and establishing attainable goals and strategies for successful promotion.

Participants also receive coaching from senior faculty and administrators.

“I want to learn how to become a more effective leader and craft my personal leadership style,” said Leah Jones, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

Santosh Shenoy, M.D., a clinical associate professor of surgery at Kansas City Veteran’s Medical Center, said he also joined the program to gain a better understanding of the administrative functions of graduate medical education and other physician leadership roles.

“This may enable me to advance my career and future opportunities at UMKC,” he said.

Thomas said another goal is for faculty members who complete the program and successfully go through the promotion process to ultimately become mentors and advisors and help future faculty members.

The first class of participants is scheduled to complete the program in November 2020.

Spertus involved in big stent study

A leading UMKC and Saint Luke’s Health System researcher, John Spertus, M.D., M.P.H., was heavily involved in important heart-procedure research that was published earlier this month and presented at the annual conference of the American Heart Association.

You can read an interview with Spertus about the research here.

A Washington Post story said the study, called ISCHEMIA, found that invasive procedures to unclog blocked arteries — in most cases, the insertion of a stent, a tiny mesh tube that props open a blood vessel after artery-clearing angioplasty — were no better at preventing heart attacks and death in patients with stable heart disease than were pills and improvements in diet and exercise. Overall, the study results suggest that invasive procedures, stents and bypass surgery, should be used more sparingly in patients with stable heart disease and the decision to use them should be less rushed, experts said.

Spertus is a UMKC professor of medicine and Daniel J. Lauer Endowed Chair in Metabolism and Vascular Disease Research. At Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, as clinical director of outcomes research, he developed technology that guides physicians and patients in medical-decision making by using models to measure and predict the risk factors of various procedures. Many experts cite two tools he created — the Seattle Angina Questionnaire and the Kansas City Cardiomyopathy Questionnaire — as the gold standards for measuring symptoms, function and quality of life in treating coronary artery disease and heart failure. Both have been translated into more than 95 languages.

A year ago he received the American Heart Association’s 2018 Distinguished Scientist Award. He previously received the association’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 and the Council on Quality of Care and Outcomes Research Distinguished Achievement Award in 2013.

 

UMKC researcher part of $1.5-million NIH grant-funded project on novel tissue-preservation technique

A new technique of crypreservation being studied by UMKC researcher Peter Koulen, Ph.D., could make human cell tissues such as the cornea tissues pictured more readily available for transplant.

Surgeons world-wide currently perform more than 240,000 corneal transplants a year to address a wide range of eye diseases. Researchers and physicians, however, estimate as many as 10 million patients could benefit from the procedure if enough viable tissue was available.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Vision Research Center is part of a $1.5-million National Institutes of Health grant-funded project exploring the capability of a novel, ultra-fast technique of cryopreservation that could help meet those far-reaching clinical needs in ophthalmology and a number of other fields of medicine.

The NIH awarded a phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to CryoCrate, a Columbia, Missouri-based company active in biomedicine working with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Vision Research Center. The new two-year award is for $1,566,168 and includes a subcontract of $722,870 to UMKC’s Vision Research Center. It is a follow-up grant to previous phase I SBIR funding from the NIH for earlier collaborative work between CyroCrate and UMKC.

With current techniques, many types of cells and tissues, including cornea tissues, cannot be preserved at all or lose their function when subjected to the freeze-thaw process of cryopreservation. Peter Koulen, Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology, endowed chair in vision research at the UMKC School of Medicine and director of basic research at the UMKC Vision Research Center, and Xu Han, Ph.D., president and Chief Technology Officer of CryoCrate, jointly developed a new cryopreservation technique to preserve the viability and functionality of cornea and bioartificial ocular tissues. The new phase II SBIR funding will allow Han and Koulen to extensively test and refine the technology before taking it to the clinics.

Thus far, traditional methods of cryopreservation have been unsuccessful to preserve and store human corneas for use in patients due to the fact that cells critical for cornea function are lost during freezing. Corneas need adequate numbers of such cells to be present and properly functioning in the grafted tissue for the surgery to be successful. This currently limits storage of corneas to refrigeration, which is insufficient in delaying the deterioration of cornea tissue beyond a few days and creates numerous clinical challenges shared by other areas of transplantation.

CryoCrate is headquartered at the Missouri Innovation Center. It commercializes a new cooling method that better preserves tissue in a frozen state with only negligible mechanical damage to the tissue. The technology is co-developed and co-owned by CryoCrate and UMKC. It also eliminates the need for so called cryoprotectants, chemicals that facilitate successful recovery of live tissue from freezing, but pose a range of medical and regulatory challenges. International patents pending and patents by CryoCrate and UMKC protect the technology and will enable CryoCrate and Koulen’s team at UMKC to address the urgent worldwide clinical needs and rapidly evolving fields of transplantation medicine.

The new NIH SBIR phase II grant allows Han and Koulen to further develop an upgraded system that is equally effective in the cryopreservation of whole corneas and large bioartificial tissue. This would enable long-term storage of the tissues and could make them more readily available when and where needed for clinical use and research.

Early tests at the UMKC Vision Research Center detected no statistical difference in the number and quality of the cells that determine cornea health and function, when comparing corneas cryopreserved using the new technology with fresh cornea tissue. This level of efficiency in preserving corneal tissue has not been achieved previously with traditional corneal cryopreservation techniques.

If further tests prove to be equally effective, the goal is to introduce the new cryopreservation products for clinical use in patients following completion of the new NIH SBIR phase II grant and subsequent regulatory steps of product development.

 

 

 

 

School of Medicine a leader in medical education learning communities

When it opened nearly 50 years ago, the UMKC School of Medicine was something of a pioneer in medical education with learning communities made up of docent teams and peer-mentorship groups. Today, learning communities are becoming more commonplace in medical education and the School of Medicine is still leading the charge.

Faculty and students presented the merits of the school’s learning communities during a three-day national conference of the Learning Communities Institute held Oct. 11-13 in Kansas City.

Louise Arnold, Ph.D., former associate dean and director of the Office of Medical Education and Research at the School of Medicine from 1971 through 2012, was one of the founders of the institute in 2004.

“We at UMKC were instrumental in spreading the word about learning communities to medical schools such as the University of Washington and Harvard,” Arnold said. “We were also instrumental in organizing informal meeting of schools with learning communities. We met during the national meeting of American medical schools for several years. That led to the formation of the national group, the Learning Communities Institute.”

That group is now made up of leaders of medical school learning communities from across that country that value and support the active presence of those communities within health professions schools. As many as 50 medical schools in the United States have incorporated learning communities into their programs.

At the organization’s national meeting, School of Medicine docent and chair of the docent council, Emily Haury, M.D., lead a presentation she designed on the role of peer mentors within the school’s docent teams. Brenda Rogers, M.D., associate dean for student affairs, served as moderator during the session that also offered docent and student perspectives. School of Medicine docents Molly Uhlenhake, M.D., and Nurry Pirani, M.D., spoke from the docent point of view, while medical students Saber Khan, sixth-year, and Megan Schoelch, fourth-year, presented the students’ perspective on the school’s learning communities.

“I had more than one person from other schools come up to me after their presentation to say how helpful it was and how they so deeply wished their school had such a super program,” Arnold said.

Jennifer Quaintance, Ph.D., assistant dean for assessment and quality improvement, presented a research project on professional identity formation that is being conducted with support from the Learning Community Institute Research Network. Connor Fender, coordinator for the Council on Evaluation, gave a presentation on the school’s peer assessment program. And Cary Chelladurai, Ed.D., assistant dean of student affairs, presented a poster on the role of the Education Team Coordinator within the docent team.

 

School of Medicine recognizes faculty for achievements and service

The School of Medicine recognized faculty members who have recently received promotions and tenure and presented special awards for faculty achievements during a reception on Oct. 15 at Diastole.

This year’s list included 11 faculty who have been promoted to the rank of professor, 27 to the rank of associate professor, 12 to clinical associate professor, three associate teaching professors and one to the rank of clinical professor.

Special Awards Recognitions

Kathy Ervie, M.P.A.S., PA-C, received the Excellence in Diversity and Health Equity in Medicine Award.

Excellence in Diversity and Health Equity in Medicine Awards
Kathie Ervie, M.P.A.S., PA-C,
assistant teaching professor and founding director of the Master of Medical Science-Physician Assistant program, received the award that recognizes an individual or organization that has demonstrated sustained and impactful contribution to diversity, inclusion and cultural competency or health equity. Ervie has actively engaged in efforts to create a more inclusive culture since joining the School of Medicine faculty in 2012. She is a trailblazer in curriculum innovation and creating developmental opportunities to advance the understanding of health equity, health disparities, and cultural competency among students, staff and faculty and an involved leader in university programs that promote health equity.


Michael Wacker, Ph.D., received the Christopher Papasian, Ph.D., Excellence in Teaching Award.

Christopher Papasian Excellence in Teaching Award
Michael Wacker, Ph.D.,
associate professor of biomedical sciences, received the third-annual award recognizing a faculty member who excels in medical student education through innovative contributions to the educational mission. Wacker is also vice chair of biomedical sciences and associate dean for academic affairs. He has served a member of the School of Medicine’s biomedical sciences faculty since 2007, teaching physiology. He is also a member of the Muscle Biology Group at UMKC with expertise in cardiac muscle physiology. Wacker embraces the qualities and lessons learned from his most successful teachers to create a teaching style that incorporates advancing technology and addresses challenges facing students in their future professions.


Jennifer Quaintance, Ph.D., received the Louise E. Arnold Ph.D., Excellence in Medical Education Award.

Louise E. Arnold Excellence in Medical Education Research Award
Jennifer Quaintance, Ph.D
., associate professor of biomedical and health informatics and assistant dean for assessment and quality improvement, received the fourth-annual award that recognizes one who has contributed to innovation and scholarship in medical education. Responsible for oversight of assessment metrics used to monitor the quality of the school’s educational program, Quaintance has made an impact on the medical education research community through formal teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning, one-on-one mentoring, and conducting educational research. Her instruction of faculty in medical education has served many to develop into leadership as course and clerkship directors, residency program leaders and assistant/associate deans roles.


The sixth-annual Betty M. Drees, M.D., Awards for Excelling in Mentoring were presented to faculty members for their excellence in mentoring, guiding, coaching and sponsoring students, trainees, staff and peer faculty.

David Wooldridge, M.D., received the Betty M.Drees, M.D., Excellence in Mentoring Award.

David Wooldridge, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine and director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program, received the Excellence in Mentoring Award, presented each year to an assistant or associate professor. A 1994 graduate of the School of Medicine, he embodies the essential attributes of an outstanding mentor including being a thoughtful listener and counselor. Wooldridge joined the School of Medicine faculty in 1998 after completing his internal medicine residency and chief residency at UMKC. He also served as a docent and regularly stays in contact with and mentors students and residents under his tutelage.

Christine Sullivan, M.D., received the Betty M. Drees, M.D., Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award.

Christine Sullivan, M.D., professor of emergency medicine and associate dean for professional development, received the Lifetime Achievement in Mentoring Award. The award is given annually to a full professor. Sullivan, a 1985 graduate of the School of Medicine, has been a member of the faculty since 1988 and served as residency program director before taking on a new role focused on developing a formal faculty mentorship program. In addition to her distinguished faculty mentorship, she also served just more than a decade as director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program and used her “open door” policy to mentor numerous students and residents throughout her career.

 

 

 

 

SOM grad Adam Algren, M.D., appointed interim chair of Department of Emergency Medicine

Adam Algren, M.D.

Adam Algren, M.D., a 2001 graduate of the UMKC School of Medicine, has been appointed as interim department and academic chair for Department of Emergency Medicine.

An associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics, Algren joined the School of Medicine faculty in 2007. He currently serves as chair of the school’s Council on Curriculum.

Algren completed his emergency medicine residency at Truman Medical Center and the UMKC School of Medicine followed by a year as a chief resident. He completed his fellowship training in medical toxicology at the Emory University/Centers for Disease Control program. During his training, Algren served as a clinical instructor in the Emory Department of Emergency Medicine.

“I am deeply appreciative to be considered for the interim chair position and I look forward to being able to serve the faculty, hospital, and School of Medicine,” Algren said. “I am excited about the opportunity to grow and develop the department. I also look forward to being able to contribute to the School of Medicine expansion.”

Gratton, Matthew
Mattew Gratton, M.D.

Matthew Gratton, M.D., will step down as chair of emergency medicine on December 31. Following a six-week sabbatical, Gratton will assume an enhanced role at Truman Medical Center as associate chief medical officer. The role will include serving as the primary administrative liaison to the new TMC Medical Staff Wellness Committee. In this regard, he will work collaboratively with the UMKC Professionalism and GME Wellness committees.

Gratton was appointed chair of Department of Emergency Medicine in 2007, leading the department to national recognition as a “state-of-the-art, compassionate provider of emergency care in an environment of academic excellence.” In 2018, he was recognized with the Missouri College of Emergency Physicians’ Lifetime Achievement Award.