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Penn Medicine Year in Review 2015

Before we celebrate the New Year – perhaps by experiencing the ball drop in Times Square or the always entertaining Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day in Center City – let’s reflect on a few of the many ways that Penn Medicine advanced patient care, research, and medical education in 2015.  

See below for this year’s highlights – including our efforts to broaden Penn Medicine’s footprint in new communities, the opening of a new Trauma center and other new clinical and educational space, and the clinical and research advances that continue to transform the way we live our lives and think about the limits of medicine.

Jordan_large2Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center opens during 250 Year Anniversary of the Nation’s First School of Medicine  

The Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania opened the Henry A. Jordan M’62 Medical Education Center in January, expanding its urban campus with an innovative new facility that redefined medical education for 21st century doctors. Steps away from the Smilow Center for Translational Research and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine, the Jordan Center is among the first in the nation to fully integrate education facilities with active clinical care and research lab space, placing students in the midst of the dynamic practice of medicine.

Additionally, a series of celebrations marked the institution’s 250th anniversary as the nation’s first medical school. 

Pac_largePavilion for Advanced Care Opens at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center 

In January, the Pavilion for Advanced Care (PAC) at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center (PPMC), opened the doors to its first patients. The new $144 million, six-story, 178,000-square-foot facility offers nearly 40 inpatient critical care beds in the new facility’s upper floors, and brings together teams from critical care specialties, surgical services, trauma/emergency services and radiology to improve care and comfort for patients and families.

Penn Medicine’s Level I Regional Resource Trauma Center relocated in February from its previous home at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania to the state-of-the-art facility at the PAC that also expands PPMC’s Emergency Department.

Tracking devices

Wearable Tracking Devices Alone Won't Drive Health Behavior Change, According to Penn Researchers 

New Year’s weight loss resolutions will soon be in full swing, but despite all the hype about the latest wearable tracking devices, a Viewpoint piece in JAMA this year said there’s little evidence that this technology alone can change behavior and improve health for those that need it most.

The paper, written by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, the Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation, and the LDI Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, pointed out that even though several large technology companies are entering this expanding market, there may be a disconnect between the assumed benefits and actual outcomes.

Hahn Nat Comms Gorilla Kinguema Feb 14Gorilla Origins of Two AIDS Virus Lineages
Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses (HIV-1 groups O and P) originated in western lowland gorillas, according to findings that appeared in March in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The international research team, including Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Medicine and Microbiology and others from the Perelman School of Medicine, conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency virus infection in African gorillas. 

“Viral sequencing revealed a high degree of genetic diversity among the different gorilla samples,” explains Hahn. “Two of the gorilla virus lineages were particularly closely related to HIV-1 groups O and P.”

Blausen_0625_Lymphocyte_T_cellImmunotherapy Revs up Immune System to Better Attack Metastatic Cancers

Penn Medicine research on the immunotherapy drugs known as checkpoint inhibitors continued to make headlines in 2015. A study in Nature in March from Andy J. Minn, MD, PhDan assistant professor of Radiation Oncology, Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research, Amit Maity, MDPhDa professor of Radiation Oncology, and John Wherry, PhD, a professor of Microbiology and director of the Institute for Immunology, found that treating metastatic melanoma with radiation and the checkpoint inhibitor ipilimumab shrank tumors in some patients.

Additional research from Vonderheide and David L. Bajor, MD, an instructor of Hematology/Oncology, further extended the reach of the immune system in the fight against metastatic melanoma, this time by combining the tremelimumab with an anti-CD40 monoclonal antibody drug. An international team of scientists led by Evan W. Alley, MD, PhD, co-director of the Penn Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, also reported that the checkpoint inhibitor pembrolizumab, shrank or halted growth of tumors in 76 percent of patients with pleural mesothelioma, a rare and deadly form of cancer that arises in the outer lining of the lungs and internal chest wall.

Love transplant chain mapKidney Transplant Patients Bound by Chains of Love 

Penn Medicine patients Matt Crane and his sister Michele played crucial roles in what is now the nation’s longest multi-hospital kidney transplant exchange in history.

The chain, involving 25 transplant centers and 68 patients – 34 donors and 34 recipients – was complete in late March when Michele received a kidney from a donor in New York, and Matt’s kidney was flown to the final recipient waiting in Madison, WI. But the chain itself started almost three months prior, when an altruistic donor at the University of Minnesota donated her kidney to a complete stranger in late January.

IMG_8837Wide Variability in Organ Donation Rates: Midwest Leads Nation in Highest Rates of Donations

More than 123,000 Americans are currently waiting for lifesaving organ transplants, but 21 patients die each day because there aren't enough organs to go around. Research from Penn Medicine and the University of Kansas Hospital in the American Journal of Transplantation in March showed wide variation in the number of eligible organ donors whose loved ones consent to organ donation across the country. Donation consent rates are highest in the Midwest and lowest in New York State.

"These findings dispute the commonly held notion that the gap in donor supply in certain geographic areas is due to large populations of racial and ethnic minorities who are less likely to consent for donation, thus affecting the geography of available organs," said the study's lead author, David Goldberg, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor in the division of Gastroenterology at Penn.

Late night snacking sleepEating less Eating Less During Late Night Hours May Stave off Some Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Eating less late at night may help curb the concentration and alertness deficits that accompany sleep deprivation, a team of Penn sleep researchers reported in June.

“Adults consume approximately 500 additional calories during late-night hours when they are sleep restricted,” said the study’s senior author David F. Dinges, PhD, director of the Unit for Experimental Psychiatry and chief of the division of Sleep and Chronobiology. “Our research found that refraining from late-night calories helps prevent some of the decline those individuals may otherwise experience in neurobehavioral performance during sleep restriction.”

FrackingHydraulic Fracturing Linked to Increases in Hospitalization Rates in the Marcellus Shale Region

Hospitalizations for heart conditions, neurological illness, and other conditions were higher among people who live near unconventional gas and oil drilling (hydraulic fracturing), according to research from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University published in July in PLOS ONE.

Over the past 10 years in the United States, hydraulic fracturing has experienced a meteoric increase. Due to substantial increases in well drilling, potential for air and water pollution posing a health threat has been a concern for nearby residents.

To address this issue, researchers from two Environmental Health Science Core Centers (EHSCC) of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, including the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology at Perelman School of Medicine, examined the link between drilling well density and healthcare use by zip code from 2007 to 2011 in three northeastern Pennsylvania counties.

A Penn Medicine magazine cover story in the Fall issue further delved into the findings. 

Zion Harvey, 8, during physical therapy as he learns to control the muscles in his new hands. Photo Credit - Children's Hospital of PhiladelphiaWorld’s First Pediatric Double Hand Transplant

In July, Penn Medicine surgeons, joined by colleagues from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Shriners Hospitals for Children—Philadelphia, completed the world's first bilateral hand transplant on a child. Led by Scott Levin, MD, FACS, chair of the department of Orthopaedic Surgery, the 40-person multidisciplinary team successfully transplanted donor hands and forearms onto eight-year-old Zion Harvey in a 10-hour surgical transplantation. Harvey underwent amputation of his hands and feet and a kidney transplant after a serious infection years earlier.

Now, a little over four months later, Zion is at back in Baltimore and continuing his physical and occupational therapy sessions. As he said in the hospital, Zion was most looking forward to using his hands to hold and hug his baby sister, something he is now home and able to do.

LGH Exterior - James StreetLancaster General Health Joins Penn Medicine

Lancaster General Health (LG Health) became a member of the University of Pennsylvania Health System in August. The combination unites one of the nation’s top academic medical centers - world-renowned for its clinical and research excellence - with a health system nationally ranked for its clinical quality. Both are among the top five systems in Pennsylvania, as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. “Uniting with LG Health offers powerful opportunities to connect medical teams and experts to improve care for all patients we serve and find solutions to healthcare delivery challenges ahead,” said Ralph W. Muller, CEO of UPHS.

Weiner MERS viral particle AIDS

Synthetic DNA MERS Vaccine Shows Promise

Perelman School of Medicine researchers reported in August that a novel synthetic DNA vaccine can, for the first time, induce protective immunity against the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus in an animal species.

David B. Weiner, PhD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and colleagues published their work in Science Translational Medicine (STM). The experimental, preventive vaccine, given six weeks before exposure to the MERS virus, was found to fully protect rhesus macaques from disease. The vaccine also generated potentially protective antibodies in blood drawn from camels, the purported source of MERS transmission in the Middle East.

PopePenn Medicine Prepares for Pope Francis’ Visit to Philadelphia

Penn Medicine was prepared for Pope Francis' unprecedented historic visit to Philadelphia, as thousands of employees and staff — prevented by security measures from performing their normal commutes — stayed overnight for a day or two in the hospitals.

A huge cross section of people from all disciplines across the health system were involved in the planning, and although the number of visitors needing medical care was less than anticipated, chief medical officer PJ Brennan, MD, commented in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article, "I tend to think of this on a civic scale, and I think the net result of this was a very positive thing for the city."

Magent_recPennsylvania Hospital Receives Prestigious Magnet® Recognition 

In December, Pennsylvania Hospital (PAH) achieved  Magnet status – the highest institutional honor awarded for nursing excellence – from the American Nurses Credentialing Center's (ANCC) Magnet Recognition Program. Achieving Magnet status is one of the highest achievements a hospital can obtain in professional nursing. 

“Magnet recognition isn’t just about an accreditation, it’s a mindset, an approach, on how we take care of our patients and our families,” said Theresa M. Larivee, MBA, chief executive officer of PAH. “I’m impressed and moved by the dedication, focus and commitment seen in every interaction our staff have with patients and families – and the consistency in which it is delivered.”

All five Penn Medicine acute care facilities – PAH, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital and Lancaster General Health – have achieved Magnet status.

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Views expressed are those of the author or other attributed individual and do not necessarily represent the official opinion of the related Department(s), University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn Medicine), or the University of Pennsylvania, unless explicitly stated with the authority to do so.

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