The new year is already well underway. It is my hope that you all had a restful holiday season with friends and family and that your transition back into the routine of work has been smooth. Because the work of caring for our patients never ends, to those of you who shared this burden over the last few weeks I give my deep gratitude. For many, the new year is a time to set new goals. I also hope that you will join me in working toward shared goals for our Department as we refine many of the new initiatives that will continue from last year or that will come to fruition this year. Some of these have been addressed in this space already, such as our ongoing adaptation of digital health solutions, the establishment of enhanced mentoring opportunities for faculty and trainees, and the development of new platforms to enhance research collaborations and productivity. In the next few weeks I will be providing updates on these and new initiatives designed to sustain our trajectory as an outstanding Department.
Contrary to my belief that the Department’s “news cycle” would have slowed down over the holidays, I was very pleased to learn of many of the amazing achievements of our colleagues in the Department, that will give me a lot to write about for the next few months. But for starters, I want again to congratulate Dr. Mike Welsh on his receipt of the prestigious Steven C. Beering Award. I also want to highlight the achievement of two of our trainees on their receipt of American Heart Association (AHA) predoctoral fellowships, given to graduate students who are mentored by two members of our faculty: Dr. Barry London and Dr. Paloma Giangrande. Dan Matasic’s fellowship will fund his investigations in the London lab, of how NAD+ regulates and modifies the main sodium channel in the heart. Mr. Matasic is in his fourth year of the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP) in Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. The MSTP is a nearly four-decade-long, NIH-funded program in the College of Medicine that specifically trains physician scientists leading to the award of a dual MD-PhD degree. Kevin Urak, a PhD candidate in Molecular and Cellular Biology, is developing RNA aptamers that target extracellular histones for the treatment of sepsis in Dr. Giangrande’s lab. Congratulations to Mr. Matasic, Mr. Urak, and their advisors on these AHA fellowships.
I was pleased to learn that Dr. Amal Shibli-Rahhal was appointed to Assistant Dean in the Office of Student Affairs and Curriculum. Throughout her career at the University of Iowa, Dr. Shibli-Rahhal has shown boundless creativity in developing innovative approaches to educating our medical students, residents, and fellows. She receives consistently high ratings from them that only the very best of us can achieve. She has applied that same practicality and results-oriented effort with her clinical colleagues by increasing their awareness of how small changes in their practice will increase our patient’s engagement and satisfaction with the care that we deliver to them. Thus it is not surprising that the College tapped her for this important position. I look forward to the results of her guidance and leadership in the years to come.
Finally, I would like to congratulate the Adult and Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplantation program in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. They were recently awarded the ranking of “outperformer” in a federally funded evaluation of 179 BMT programs in the United States. This year’s ranking identified only 16 other BMT programs to have similarly exceeded expectations regarding patient outcomes and survival rates. All the more impressive is that Iowa’s BMT program has achieved this level of recognition for the third year in a row, which even fewer programs can boast. The center performing this evaluation makes this data publicly available, and can therefore have a significant impact on a patient’s care choice, especially in a region such as ours where they must travel a great distance for that care no matter which provider they select. I am grateful for our BMT program’s extraordinary efforts on behalf of their patients to produce these remarkable outcomes.