Overcoming cardiac pacemaker "source-sink mismatch"

Instead of complication-prone electronic cardiac pacemakers, biomedical engineers at Georgia Tech and Emory envision the creation of “biological Read more

Hope Clinic part of push to optimize HIV vaccine components

Ten years ago, the results of the RV144 trial– conducted in Thailand with the help of the US Army -- re-energized the HIV vaccine field, which had been down in the Read more

Invasive cancer cells marked by distinctive mutations

What does it take to be a leader – of cancer cells? Adam Marcus and colleagues at Winship Cancer Institute are back, with an analysis of mutations that drive metastatic behavior among groups of lung cancer cells. The findings were published this week on the cover of Journal of Cell Science, and suggest pharmacological strategies to intervene against or prevent metastasis. Marcus and former graduate student Jessica Konen previously developed a technique for selectively labeling “leader” Read more

General Health

Cholesterol levels improve with nut consumption

Improvements in blood cholesterol levels are linked with eating nuts, according to this week’s Archives of Internal Medicine.

Nuts are good for your heart

Authors writing in the journal say that dietary interventions to lower blood cholesterol concentrations and to modify blood lipoprotein levels are the cornerstone of prevention and treatment plans for coronary heart disease.

Nuts are rich in plant proteins, fats (especially unsaturated fatty acids), dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and other compounds, such as antioxidants and phytoesterols. The contents of nuts are a focus because of the potential to reduce coronary heart disease risk and to lower blood lipid – fat and cholesterol – levels.

Emory University’s Cheryl Williams, RD, LD, clinical nutritionist, Emory Heart & Vascular Center, Emory HeartWise Cardiac Risk Reduction Program, says nuts are among the heart healthiest whole foods as they provide a variety of health promoting compounds such as dietary fiber, vitamins (vitamin E), minerals (selenium), antioxidants and phytoesterols.

While most of the calories provided from nuts come from fat, notes Williams, it is mostly unsaturated fats (mono and polyunsaturated), which have been shown to help lower elevated serum cholesterol, and to some extent triglyceride levels (via omega 3 fatty acids provided from walnuts).

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Summer travel may require a stop at Emory TravelWell

As the weather gets warmer and schools wind down for the year, many around the metro Atlanta area begin making plans for summer vacation and travel.

African continent

Eco-touring or “giving back” trips have become popular, as have mission trips to developing and underserved countries. Both types of travel can enrich the lives of the travele rs and give a vacation experience. But before boarding the plane or boat, experts say don’t forget pre-travel care and immunizations.

Emory’s TravelWell clinic, located at Emory University Hospital Midtown, provides pre-travel care before journeying abroad, including a travel health education, immunizations, as well as medications, if illness occurs while traveling. The clinic also offers post-travel care, if needed, once back home.

Phyllis Kozarsky, MD

Phyllis Kozarsky, MD, medical director of TravelWell, says, “Travelers need to get the proper travel health education, including immunizations and prophylaxis medications, to safeguard themselves against preventable diseases and illness before leaving the country.”

The clinic has been caring for local travelers for 22 years – missionaries, families, students, educators and business men and women traveling abroad, many for extended stays. It also cares for immigrants and refugees coming into the country who need these services.

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Conference inspires medical volunteerism

Allen Dollar, MD, assistant professor of medicine (Division of Cardiology), Emory School of Medicine, and  Grady Chief of Cardiology, wanted to help those in developing countries long before he went to medical school. He’s donated his time and expertise in places like Cambodia, Vietnam, El Salvador and Sri Lanka, using his vacations to teach and heal. For the last decade, through Children’s Cross Connections, he’s held clinics and taught medical students in Ethiopia.

International Conference on Medical Volunteerism met at Emory in April

Dollar and nearly 200 others shared their experiences at a conference at Emory in April. The inaugural International Conference on Medical Volunteerism was hosted by the Emory School of Medicine and co-hosted by Morehouse School of Medicine, Mercer University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina.

The conference aimed at inspiring and enabling volunteers, including how to establish a community clinic, how to advocate for disabled and homeless, cultural sensitivity and media relations.

Organizations from around the world were represented, among them Mercy Ships, Flying Doctors of America, Operation Safety Net, the Mayo and Cleveland clinics, Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, Nurses for the Nations, Global HEED and Jewish Healthcare International.

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Visioning for the future of aging and health

Ted Johnson, MD, says the United States is not prepared to meet the care needs of the next wave of aging older adults. “The statistics nationally show that by the year 2030, the demographics of every U.S. state will be similar to that of Florida today. Another way of looking at that: the number of people age 65 and older in the state of Georgia will increase 100 percent by 2020. We’re facing a tremendous aging wave, and we don’t know how we’re going to meet the needs of that group.”

Ted Johnson, MD

Johnson is leading the Emory Center for Health in Aging, a program that addresses health care issues affecting the rapidly growing senior population in the United States through research, clinical care, community outreach and education.

Johnson also serves as director of the Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, and is associate director and Atlanta site director for the Birmingham/Atlanta VA Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center.

Johnson says he is committed to a new vision of aging. His agenda for reaching that vision:

Target conditions associated with disability common in seniors: We need to target specific disease processes–Alzheimer’s, urinary incontinence, obesity, congestive heart failure–and develop breakthrough treatments and better predictive models so that we can understand what it is that makes people with these chronic conditions get out of control and currently, end up in nursing homes.

Build livable communities: We need to build communities that will sustain people as they age, and that means livable and walkable communities, with public transportation and access to stores and food. We need urban planning, as well as rural planning. Aging people shouldn’t lose their ability to live independently because they can no longer drive a car.

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Some thoughts on the pursuit of happiness

Corey Keyes, PhD

What does it truly mean to be in good mental health? How are good mental health and mental illness connected? That is, does being in good mental health simply mean the absence of mental illness, or is there more to it than that? And how do people achieve a healthy state of both body and mind?

These are some of the complex questions Emory researchers brought to the fore in a discussion over lunch last month.

Speaker Corey Keyes, an Emory sociologist, made clear the absence of illness does not necessarily mean the presence of health. He noted that the ancient Greeks batted around the subject of mental health, specifically, happiness. Some championed emotions and pleasures as a path to happiness, others tranquility, freedom and reflection. Read more

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Finding success in retinoblastoma treatment

The idea of your child having an eye removed is shocking, an extremely difficult thing for a parent to cope with, says Baker Hubbard, MD, Thomas M. Aaberg Professor of Ophthalmology, and a pediatric ocular oncologist. Actually, says Hubbard, most children who lose an eye adapt very well and enjoy essentially normal lives.

Baker Hubbard, MD

Retinoblastoma is cancer that forms in the tissues of the retina (the light-sensitive layers of nerve tissue at the back of the eye). Retinoblastoma usually occurs in children younger than age five. It may be hereditary or nonhereditary (sporadic), and is caused by mutations in genes.

To six-year-old Emilia McKibbin, having a prosthetic eye is no big deal. She knows to protect it—wearing her glasses for school and playtime, donning a scuba mask at the beach—but it doesn’t limit her choices.

Following her interests, Emilia has earned a gold belt in karate. She’s learning gymnastics. She swims. She loves to romp with Daisy, her black cocker spaniel. And while most people don’t even notice that one of this little girl’s shining dark-brown eyes is different from the other, Emilia shares her story with a few. “I tell my teachers and my friends that I have a special eye,” she says.

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Reflection and compassion go hand-in-hand

Kimberly Manning, MD, Lisa Bernstein, MD, and William Branch, MD, leading the way

Kimberly Manning, MD, an internist at Grady Memorial Hospital who directs Emory’s Transitional Year Residency Program, asks her residents to write about an experience – good or bad – that made a lasting impression on them.

Manning herself regularly writes about her experiences as a doctor. She calls it “habitual reflection” and believes that the practice is vital to developing good doctors. She regularly asks herself about interactions with patients and imagines herself in their place. What was the patient feeling? How would I feel in the same situation? Did the patient process everything I said?

These are the kinds of questions she wants medical students and residents to ask themselves regularly. By examining experiences that were rewarding, saddening or even frustrating, they can become better doctors, she says in the new issue of Emory Medicine magazine.

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Hong Kong is Bright Spot of Tobacco Control in China

Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH

A remarkably successful 20-year program of tobacco control in Hong Kong can serve as a best-practices example for China and other nations, says Jeffrey Koplan in an article published online today in The Lancet. Koplan is vice president for global health at Emory and director of the Emory Global Health Institute.

Hong Kong’s successful tobacco control program began with a 1982 health ordinance launching a multi-step approach including legislative amendments (regulation of indoor smoking, pack warnings, ban on tobacco advertising), a steeply increased tobacco tax, school-based education, mass-media campaigns, community events, and leadership from the medical community.

Smoking prevalence in Hong Kong fell from 23.3 percent in 1982 to 11.8 percent in 2008 through the efforts of the Tobacco Control office of the Department of Health and NGOs such as the Hong Kong Council on Smoking and Health.

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A storied look at HIV/AIDS in Africa

At a recent Emory global health seminar series, Kate Winskell showed how fiction penned by young Africans can help inform the response to HIV and AIDS. Since 1997, more than 145,000 young Africans have participated in scriptwriting contests as part of Scenarios from Africa HIV communication process.

The resulting archive of stories is a unique source of cross-cultural and longitudinal data on social representations of HIV and AIDS. The archive now spans 47 countries and a critical 12-year period in the history of the epidemic. Winskell’s presentation analyzed the stories that were part of the 2005 Scenarios contest. Six African countries were represented.

The seed for Scenarios was planted more than a decade ago–before the rise of the Internet—when Winskell, a public health educator, and her husband, Daniel Enger, were searching for innovative ways to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS. The old ways of trying to stop the spread of the disease, focusing only on medical aspects of the epidemic or relying on educational materials that were not culturally adapted, were clearly limited.

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Predicting individual risk for heart failure

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, and colleagues

Javed Butler, MD, MPH, director of heart failure research at Emory Healthcare and associate professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine, says heart failure is any condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood for the metabolic needs of the body, but that does not mean that the heart is not pumping or the heart has stopped working.

Heart disease is not a disease but a syndrome, so a whole family of different diseases can precede this condition. Diabetes, obesity, heart valve problems, lung disease, heart attack and irregular heartbeats are only some factors that can cause heart failure. “Pinning down the roots of heart failure can be confusing,” says Butler, who serves as deputy chief science advisor for the American Heart Association. “Unlike some heart problems, heart failure is not one disease. It has a few common causes, and a few less common, even rare, causes.”

Finding new ways to identify people at risk for developing heart failure—before damage is done—is his raison d’etre and primary research focus, according to Emory Medicine magazine.

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