An essential component of our role as academic physicians is to promote a culture of research and inquiry among our students. In addition to providing compassionate and cutting-edge care for our patients, we must also nurture our skills in the laboratory. To this end, the Carver College of Medicine hosts Medical Student Research Day, providing our medical students a chance to showcase their own research and to learn about the research being conducted at this institution. The Department of Internal Medicine sponsors three awards to recognize those students who conduct exemplary research. This year, the John Stokes Award for Research in Internal Medicine went to Connor Parker. The Excellence in Internal Medicine Research went to Alexander Novak and Drake Bouzek. We expect great things from these budding researchers and are proud of their work as well as the work of their mentors.
The Emerging Infections Network (EIN) was created by the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This network is composed of more than 1,100 infectious disease specialists and other public health monitors around the world but mostly concentrated in North America. The EIN works with the CDC to detect unusual clinical events, identify new outbreaks, assist with existing ones, and develop new epidemiological methods. For more than 20 years, the EIN has been on the front lines of many virulent threats. For the last 5 years, the EIN has been directed from the University of Iowa by Dr. Phil Polgreen, Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases, and Susan Beekmann, RN, MPH. The CDC has just announced Iowa will continue to lead this national network for another five years. Congratulations to Dr. Polgreen and Ms. Beekmann.
Two recent publications caught my attention earlier this month. Working in the lab of Dr. Kaiko Irani, Dr. Ajit Vikram published an article in Nature Communications detailing a mode of communication between bacteria in the gut and blood vessels. This connection via microRNAs provides a new layer of understanding of how heart disease and atherosclerotic disease may be modulated by events that occur in our guts and opens up new opportunities for treatment and prevention. Another article by Drs. Peter Lenert and Bharat Kumar, appearing in the current issue of the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, examines the disparities in treatment of gout among African Americans. Other studies have looked more broadly at access to health care among minorities, but this research focuses specifically on the disparities in the treatment of gout and its attendant risk factors. Both articles are well worth further reading.
Finally, the NIH recently informed Dr. Kin Fai Au, Assistant Professor of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology, that his R01 grant proposal will be funded. In collaboration with researchers from Stanford to Oxford, Dr. Au has been making fascinating inroads into human genetics and the study of transcriptomes, collections of gene “readouts” present in a cell after DNA is copied into RNA. Data produced by a new transcriptome analysis process called Hybrid-Seq can be voluminous and expensive to sift through. Dr. Au has developed a cutting-edge platform for managing Hybrid-Seq data that should prove affordable, feasible, and accessible in nearly any biomedical research laboratory. His work contributes to the dramatic lowering of the economic barriers for obtaining, analyzing, and disseminating genetic data, which has implications not only for genetics research, but also potentially for clinical care. Congratulations to Dr. Au on this achievement.