Quality represents one of many standards by which we judge our success. Our clinical colleagues mainly associate the concept with striving to enhance our clinical activities to enhance patient safety and outcomes. Our Department has distinguished itself in quality improvement activities that have been nationally recognized as being forward-looking and innovative and that are intimately integrated into our educational programs. I have highlighted aspects of these initiatives in prior posts and will do so again in the future. However, I would like to focus on additional examples of quality that can be found in all aspects of our mission in Internal Medicine.
One important way to determine the quality of our efforts is by our ability to become leaders in clinical trials. A recent example of this is the selection of Dr. Pat Winokur’s team in the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as one of three sites to conduct Phase 1/2 trials of an experimental chikungunya vaccine. As Professor of Infectious Diseases, Executive Dean of the Carver College of Medicine, and Director of the VTEU, one of only nine such NIH-designated sites, Dr. Winokur has helped distinguish the University of Iowa as a premier location for a variety of clinical trials for novel therapies for diseases as varied as tuberculosis, influenza H5N8, and yellow fever. You can read more and see a short video on the upcoming chikungunya vaccine trials here.
Similarly, Dr. Maia Hightower, Chief Medical Information Officer and Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine, has relentlessly pursued quality in health care technology throughout her career. Since joining the University of Iowa in 2015, Dr. Hightower has worked tirelessly to transform the way we interact with technology to improve the care of our patients and to improve faculty and staff satisfaction in a diverse array of projects, from routine patient care to telemedicine. She has already begun implementing ways to make physician interactions with our electronic medical records more seamless, more intuitive, and more of an aid to care providers rather than an onerous burden. It is no wonder then that Dr. Hightower was just named one of the Most Powerful Women in Health Care IT by Health Data Management, an industry-leading publication. We are proud of her work and her membership in our department.
Finally, the quality of our research can be measured in part by the success of our efforts to publish our findings in the most rigorous peer-reviewed journals or to obtain extramural funding. Dr. Rajan Sah has recently hit both of these milestones. First, he and his research team published a discovery in Nature Cell Biology that describe a previously unrecognized role for an ion channel SWELL1 in adipose tissue, that holds the promise to be a potential therapeutic target for people with diabetes or obesity. Dr. Sah is also one of two researchers in Internal Medicine to have received two-year, $154,000 grants-in-aid from the American Heart Association (AHA). Dr. Sah aims to better understand the molecular mechanisms linking SWELL1 activity and insulin secretion by pancreatic beta-cells. Dr. Isabella Grumbach received the other AHA grant and will focus on how mitochondria provide the energy for migration of smooth muscle cells during the formation of stenosis after balloon angioplasty. Congratulations to both Dr. Sah and to Dr. Grumbach on their consistent demonstrations of quality in our research mission. This post here has more information about these and other recent AHA grant awards to Internal Medicine faculty or their trainees.