Some of the following are reprinted from the Spring 2019 issue of the School of Medicine’s flagship publication, Pitt Med Magazine. Click here for more.
Nocturia, or frequent waking at night to void the bladder, is extremely common, can be very disruptive to sleep, and, in the case of older patients, is a likely cause of many falls and fractures. Jeffrey Weiss (MD ’78), who authored the first textbook on the subject, devised a now widely used classification scheme for this often-multifactorial condition to help physicians tailor treatments more effectively. Most recently, he’s studied the nexus between nocturia and hypertension, finding that when blood pressure does not dip as it should during sleep, it’s considered “a malignant form of hypertension,” he says, and is associated with nocturia as the kidneys secrete extra sodium into the urine. “We are looking at sodium-restricted diets as treatment for both non-dipping hypertension and nocturia, as well as the use of certain diuretics to treat both problems.” Weiss, who’s chaired urology at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine since 2010, just stepped down from that position and is now pursuing a PhD from Ghent University in Belgium.
William Gregory Feero (PhD ’96, MD ’98) is the research director of the Maine-Dartmouth family medicine residency program and associate professor of community and family medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College. He developed a program that identifies patients at high risk for common hereditary syndromes associated with cancers and provides them with precision care using a genetics-based risk assessment. Since starting in 2015, the program has tripled the number of referrals for cancer genetics services from clinics. Though precision medicine has yet to enter mainstream health care, Feero believes “it is absolutely inevitable we will move closer to using this approach to care for patients.”
Working with economists and outcomes researchers, Jodi Beth Segal (MD ’94), Johns Hopkins professor of medicine and associate director of the Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research, recently developed a new tool to measure the overuse of health-care resources like cancer screening or emergency department imaging. Segal hopes that the Overuse Index will reveal drivers of overuse and, ultimately, suggest appropriate points for intervention. Codirector of the Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness at Hopkins, Segal leads a new program for predoctoral and postdoctoral trainees studying pharmacoepidemiology. When asked about the most important outcome of the program, Segal responds like a true teacher: “Helping our students to have impact.”
Clifford Eskey (MD ’93) is the director of neuroradiology and the vice chair for radiology research at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Eskey’s practice primarily focuses on interventional neuroradiology, treating aneurysm and stroke patients (among others) with image-guided surgery. “Saving someone from major disability by restoring flow to a blocked cerebral artery is one of the most gratifying things that I get to do,” he says. He’s also been trying out new hobbies: “I’m gradually gaining expertise as an amateur pinball repairman,” he says.
Timothy Witham (Neurological Surgery Resident ’01) is professor of neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery at Johns Hopkins University and the associate program director for its neurosurgery residency. He also directs the spinal medicine program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Witham’s current research interests focus on improving spinal fusion outcomes by developing new methods using tissue engineering—research that allows him to work alongside biomechanical engineers. He’s also interested in work-life balance as it applies to neurosurgeons. He will serve as the scientific program director for the Lumbar Spine Research Society’s annual meeting in April.
William Dale (Internal Medicine Resident ’02, Geriatric Medicine Fellow ’03) is a geriatrician and palliative medicine physician who joined the City of Hope National Medical Center, Los Angeles, in 2017. He serves as the Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair of the Department of Supportive Care Medicine. Previously, at the University of Chicago (where he earned his MD as well as a PhD in health policy), Dale founded the Specialized Oncology Care & Research in the Elderly (SOCARE) Clinic, which he recently expanded to City of Hope. And his devotion to medicine reaches beyond the hospital: He and his wife are coproducers of The Elephant in the Room, a forthcoming film about a palliative care team working with terminally ill patients.
Michael Boland (MD ’01) is an associate professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute, where he was appointed residency program director in 2016. “It has been a distinct privilege,” he says, “to be responsible for a program that trains the future leaders of our field.” Boland is also the institute’s information technology director, overseeing a system that hundreds of department faculty and staff use to track 250,000-plus patient visits annually. In a related role, he serves on the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s Medical Information Technology Committee, where he has been able to help navigate the transition to electronic health records.
Some Einsteins of the rehabilitation world hung out at the Albert Einstein Hospital in São Paulo, Brazil, last fall. Pitt’s Rory Cooper, whose titles include director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories, was a keynote speaker at the Sixth International Brazilian Paralympic Conference. He and Rosemarie Cooper, Pitt assistant professor of rehabilitation science and technology, reunited with Pitt alumni Mario Ferretti (Sports Medicine Fellow ’05), chair and professor of orthopedic surgery at Albert Einstein Hospital, and Eliana Ferretti, professor of occupational therapy at the Federal University of São Paulo, who earned her MS and PhD degrees in rehabilitation science under Rory Cooper’s tutelage. (Photo: From left: Mario Ferretti, Rory Cooper, Rosemarie Cooper, and Eliana Ferretti.)
In October 2017, Kirsten Lin (MD ’06) founded Family Matters Direct Primary Care, Pittsburgh’s first direct primary care practice—meaning, among other things, patients typically pay physicians directly. “After some soul-searching and logistical preparation,” says Lin, Family Matters was born—and alongside it, Direct Care Physicians of Pittsburgh, an organization that links prospective patients to such physicians in the area. Her new role grants Lin the opportunity to build closer relationships with her patients than modern primary care settings typically allow. She charges patients a flat monthly fee, ranging from $38 to $68, that allows her to bypass insurance and grants patients access to her by phone and e-mail in addition to in-person visits, seven days a week.
Patricio Polanco (Surgery Resident ’12, Surgical Oncology Fellow ’14) is an assistant professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center focusing on gastrointestinal cancers. Over the last five years Polanco’s research team has published several peer-reviewed papers supporting the use of peri-operative chemo-radiation treatments in patients with pancreatic, stomach, and rectal cancers. Many of these treatments have been shown to improve the chances of survival in patients with these tumors. Polanco travels to his home country of Peru once a year with the Peruvian American Medical Society on its annual medical mission to the city of Ayacucho, where he provides surgery to low-income Peruvian patients and surgical training to local surgeons.
—Cara Masset, Rachel Mennies, Jon Kunitsky, Kelsey Sadlek, and Elaine Vitone