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Working with the news media to communicate medicine and science

Working with the news media is an effective way for academic researchers and physicians to educate the public, says Otis Brawley, MD, one of the most recognized figures in medicine today. Brawley spoke recently with physician/researchers at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University about the importance of working with the news media to explain difficult medical concepts and to influence public opinion on health issues and the importance of research.

Brawley is chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society and a professor of hematology and medical oncology at Emory School of Medicine. He is a regular contributor to CNN and is featured as one of four medical experts on cnn.com/health, one of the most widely viewed health-related websites.

Brawley’s advice? Concise messages are important when communicating through print or electronic media. He typically consolidates what he wants to say into three points, which helps keep the message simple and understandable. He also tries to include colleagues in descriptions of his work and avoid jargon.

Acknowledging the difficulty of communicating complex medical concepts and data in lay language for the average news audience, Brawley strongly suggests working with an institution’s media relations staff. This team can help physicians and scientists with their communications skills and connecting with the right audiences.

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Emory University Hospital celebrates 3000th bone marrow transplant


An Emory University Hospital patient recently prepared to celebrate a “birthday” with family, friends and caregivers  – but this was no typical birthday according to any calendar or tradition.

Instead, cheerful songs and celebratory clapping echoed through the halls of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Emory University Hospital, as always when a potentially life-saving bone marrow transplant is about to occur. And the tradition did not stop on May 20, as the unit physicians, nursing staff, patients and hospital administrators gathered to celebrate the 3000th transplant.

Encouraged by Emory’s success, Edmund Waller, MD, PhD, director of Emory’s Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center says, “While 3,000 is a nice round number, it’s the middle of a growing and successful program. After 3,000 procedures, I know we all look forward to the future of this program.”

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Pituitary tumors removed using a 3-D endoscope

Although the size of a pea, the pituitary gland, located deep within the skull at the base of the brain, is indispensible.

Known as the master gland, it directs other glands to produce hormones that affect metabolism, blood pressure, sexuality, reproduction, and development and growth, as well as other bodily functions.

Nelson Oyesiku, MD, PhD, on right

So when something goes wrong with the pituitary, such as the development of a tumor, the consequences can be serious, even life threatening. Relatively common, pituitary tumors initially can be difficult to diagnose and, once found, difficult to remove because they are surrounded by so many nerves, such as those that supply the eye with movement and vision and blood vessels that supply the brain with blood.

Emory’s Pituitary Center is one of a handful of medical centers across the country using the latest 3-D endoscope for removal of pituitary tumors, a delicate and precise procedure. Having the new 3-D endoscope is a tremendous aid for a surgeon when operating on a small organ at the base of the brain, says Emory neurosurgeon Nelson Oyesiku, MD, PhD.

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Sports medicine advances reach the masses

Drawing of the knee, courtesy of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

An anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, tear is one of the most common sports injuries, especially in sports that require running, jumping or pivoting movements.

Akin to a fibrous, thick rubber band made of collagen, the ACL runs through the center of the knee and connects the femur to the tibia, allowing the knee to bend and flex—but not too far. When it tears, the knee can become destabilized. So, for anyone who wants to continue to play sports, surgery is required.

Once a narrow subspecialty of orthopaedics with a focus on professional athletes, the field of sports medicine has exploded in the last decade. The evolution of ACL surgery is just one of several advances in the treatment of athletes and their injuries that have started to serve not only the pros who make a living from their skills, but also the weekend warrior.

This may include individuals who get hurt in the heat of a pick-up game, the neighborhood league player with tennis elbow, the college runner who pulls a tendon, or the high school football player with a possible concussion.
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Delegation to Peking University advances PhD program

Peking University administrators with Georgia Tech, Emory delegation

A recent trip to Peking University (PKU) by administrators from Georgia Tech and Emory included a formal signing ceremony for the joint Georgia Tech/Emory/PKU PhD program in biomedical engineering. Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson and Tech Engineering Dean Don Giddens made the trip along with Larry McIntire, chair of the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory and Cheng Zhu, BME associate chair of international programs.

The joint PhD program was first announced last February and began enrolling its first students last fall. Students apply to the program through either the Department of Biomedical Engineering at PKU or the Coulter Department at Georgia Tech and Emory. Primary classes and research take place on the student’s home campus, but students spend at least a year in classes and research on the secondary campus.

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Creative program expands kidney transplant options

The Emory Transplant Center at Emory University Hospital recently opened its innovative Paired Donor Kidney Exchange Program, providing greater hope for patients in need of kidney transplants.

A multi-patient organ swap, known as a paired donor exchange, can now save the lives of numerous people while matching each patient with the very best kidney for his or her blood profile.

Nearly 85,000 Americans are on a waiting list for a donated kidney – nearly 3,000 in Georgia alone. The opportunity to quickly identify and match more organ donors and recipients is critical to saving more lives.

This month, Emory’s transplant team performed this type of exchange involving a total of six patients – three donors and three recipients – from Texas, Colorado and Georgia.

In April, Howard Irving Scott, III, received a new kidney at Emory University Hospital. The kidney came to him as part of a six-person paired kidney transplant “chain,” in which three recipients and three donors were cross-matched. One of the participants was a friend of his, Casey Campbell. Although Scott did not receive Campbell’s kidney, her participation in the program made the “chain” transplant possible, saving Scott the possibility of waiting five years on a kidney.

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Health Care Heroes honored by Atlanta Business Chronicle

Emory faculty-physicians were honored May 20 at the annual Health Care Heroes Awards celebration sponsored by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. All three are featured in this week’s edition of the newspaper.

Sheryl Gabram-Mendola, MD

Sheryl Gabram-Mendola, MD, professor of surgery at Emory School of Medicine and the Winship Cancer Institute, was the Community Outreach winner. Gabram-Mendola is director of the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center at the Georgia Cancer Center for Excellence at Grady Memorial Hospital.

She was nominated by the Georgia Cancer Coalition and honored for her work in reducing breast cancer mortality by increasing breast cancer awareness and leading the effort to diagnose the disease earlier in a high-risk population of minority women.

Last September the Avon Foundation awarded $750,000 to the Winship Cancer Institute at Emory and the Avon Comprehensive Breast Center. The grant is being used to continue community outreach, education, clinical access, and four research studies that directly affect care for the underserved populations in Atlanta. Since 2000, the Avon Foundation has awarded nearly $11 million to Winship and Grady to support leading-edge breast cancer research projects and improve outcomes for underserved women diagnosed with breast cancer in Atlanta.

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Coping with seasonal allergies

Are you one of 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies? Allergies are the fifth-leading chronic disease in the U.S. among all ages, and the third most common chronic disease among children under age 18, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Allergy is characterized by an overreaction of the human immune system to a foreign protein substance (“allergen”) that is eaten, breathed into the lungs, injected or touched. This immune overreaction can result in symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose and scratchy throat. In severe cases it can also result in rashes, hives, lower blood pressure, difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and even death.

In a series of new videos, Emory University pediatric allergist and immunologist Karen DeMuth, MD, discusses seasonal allergies, allergy triggers, coping methods, treatments and common allergy myths.

In another video series, DeMuth explores the link between asthma and allergies and the impact of air pollution on people with asthma.

DeMuth is an assistant professor of pediatrics in the Emory School of Medicine.  She practices at the Emory-Children’s Center and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Hear Dr. DeMuth talk more about allergies and the link between asthma and allergies.

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Quirky little prairie voles hold answers

Larry Young, PhD

So says Larry Young, PhD, chief of the Division of Behavioral Neuroscience and Psychiatric Disorders at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University.

Young, who is world-renowned for his work on the role of neuropeptides in regulating social behavior, uses voles to investigate the neurobiological and genetic mechanisms underlying social behavior. Using the monogamous prairie vole (vs. the promiscuous meadow vole) as a model organism, Young and his research team identified the oxytocin and vasopressin receptors as key mediators of social bonding and attachment. In addition, they are examining the consequences of social bond disruption as a model of social loss-induced depression.

This work has important implications for developing novel treatment strategies for psychiatric disorders associated with social cognitive deficits, including autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

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Micronutrients: food for thought

Conrad Cole, MD, MPH

Physicians and researchers are seeing a resurgence of micronutrient deficiencies in certain high-risk populations of children. But what exactly does that mean to those children—right now and in the future?

For children who don’t get enough micronutrients it means life-long problems, including decreased neurodevelopment and diminished cognitive abilities.

“Micronutrients are nutrients that are needed by the body in small quantities and are important for development, growth and sustaining life,” says Conrad Cole, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition in Emory School of Medicine. “That’s why they’re called micronutrients, and the ones we commonly think about are iron, vitamin D, calcium and zinc because they all have significant importance.”

To listen to Cole’s own words about micronutrients, access Emory’s new Sound Science podcast.

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