The tradition of Grand Rounds is a hallowed and necessary one, a chance for us to briefly step back from the individual patient’s bedside to reinforce our existing knowledge and to learn about new and interesting issues of importance to the field of medicine. Because of our size and scope, our Department’s weekly Grand Rounds are deliberately broad in the subjects that we cover. One week might find some of our best oncologists describing the risks and benefits of immunotherapeutics in treating melanomas. The next could find a pediatric pulmonologist distilling the current research into electronic cigarettes. Yet another may feature case studies from promising medical students, offering them a chance to hone their presentation skills. This year, I encouraged each Division to take a greater role in identifying presenters for this important weekly event, and I have been pleased by the results. Each Division has exercised creativity and an understanding of audience in selecting speakers and organizing presentations. Regardless of the week, every Thursday at noon in the Medical Alumni Auditorium, Internal Medicine Grand Rounds offers every attendee an opportunity to expand their understanding in a wide variety of areas. Please join us.
Dr. Zuhair Ballas, Professor of Immunology and the director of our Complex Disease Diagnostic Service, was recently recognized by Dr. Theodore Post, Editor-in-Chief of UpToDate, for his “exceptional work and commitment as an author” of articles on allergy and immunology that join the site’s growing library. This support resource for clinicians features peer-reviewed and evidence-based articles, each one viewed tens, and even hundreds, of thousands of times by physicians everywhere. Dr. Ballas’s participation reflects his understanding that this nascent technology can extend our reach outside this institution’s walls. Dr. Post describes qualities that make for a great UpToDate author beyond clinical expertise and command of evidence, including “thoughtful and conscientious effort” and “a willingness to engage in back-and-forth dialogue with editors.” It is gratifying to see Dr. Ballas’s excellence celebrated and acknowledged, but even more so to know the extent to which his writings are influencing physicians in practice and in training around the globe.
Although tight control of blood glucose in individuals with Type 2 diabetes may reduce the likelihood of developing peripheral neuropathy, one challenge remains in identifying effective treatment and early screening for this debilitating complication. Dr. Mark Yorek, Professor of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Iowa City VA Medical Center, may have discovered a means to identify it before onset. His recently funded VA rehabilitation grant will test a subjective assay for early detection of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Healthy nerves in the cornea respond to hyperosmolar eye drops leading to squinting and blinking, but nerves that are affected by diabetic peripheral neuropathy respond less reflexively and more slowly. Dr. Yorek’s four-year, $1.1 million grant will examine the efficacy of a safe and cost-effective treatment to slow progression and even reverse the nerve damage caused by peripheral neuropathy. Dr. Yorek and his colleagues will expand on a previous study using mice, which will eventually result in a feasibility study to provide proof of concept for human clinical trials. Congratulations to Dr. Yorek and his collaborators for this achievement.
Finally, I would like to extend my gratitude and congratulations to Dr. Kantima Phisitkul, who was recently honored with the Most Distinguished Faculty award from the University of Iowa Mobile Clinic. The UI Mobile Clinic is an extraordinary student organization, offering basic health care, from screenings to education, to individuals with limited access to primary care. The volunteers with the UI Mobile Clinic have an opportunity to witness how disparities in our health care system affect the most vulnerable among us. Their testimony has been critically valuable to legislators and other policymakers. Dr. Phisitkul’s work with the UI Mobile Clinic provides one more touchpoint for our trainees, allowing her more opportunities to instruct and mentor a motivated cohort of physicians. Of her work with the students and with the Mobile Clinic, Dr. Phisitkul says, “I find this is a great opportunity to teach student volunteers as they can learn and make use of their volunteer experience in future practice.” We hope that the example Dr. Phisitkul has set inspires more members of the Department to volunteer in this noble work.