Though it has been many months since we first met them during interviews, today marks the end of the first official week on the job for our new class of interns and fellows. Welcome to Internal Medicine! I encourage our faculty and staff to keep an eye out for our new members and be willing to lend a helping hand or a bit of advice as they navigate a new system and new responsibilities. You can see the new interns here and the new fellows here. And, if it has been a while since you were an intern or were curious about what a “day in the life” looks like, two of our now-PGY2s graciously gave us a rundown. This year also marks the second year that our Residency Program has implemented the Objective Structured Clinical Examinations, a series of assessments that establish a baseline of our interns’ skill levels. It is an impressive exercise, requiring weeks of planning and complicated coordination. Congratulations to Dr. Manish Suneja and Jane Rowat on another successful innovation in pedagogy.
The news has been out for a while now, but that fact does not diminish the scale of its impact. Dr. Mike Welsh will receive the 2018 Warren Alpert Foundation Prize, along with four other scientists. This is, as Dean Brooks Jackson put it recently, “a big deal.” This year the prize honors the transformative discoveries and advancements he has made in the fight against cystic fibrosis. When the University of Iowa hosted a day-long conference for CF providers and researchers last spring, the majority of the day’s focus was about managing other diseases and conditions people with CF might develop. That people are living with CF long enough to develop, say, arthritis is a testament to Dr. Welsh’s pioneering work and the treatments he helped uncover. In characteristic humility, Dr. Welsh’s comments on his receipt of this prize attempt to shift the focus to his colleagues’ efforts. The fact that these advances were made collaboratively only bolsters how much he deserves this award; it is because of his leadership, insight, and vision that others have been able to reach as far as they have. The Alpert Prize is a truly impressive award for a remarkable and deserving career that shows no signs of slowing down. Congratulations, Mike.
The pace of discovery by other members of our faculty in our department is similarly impressive. Dr. Long-Sheng Song and Dr. Bill Thiel each received grants from the American Heart Association that are awarded to researchers who are innovators in cardiovascular research. Dr. Song’s Transformational Project Award will allow him to better understand the function of a cardiac protein, which seems to improve repair potential in the heart at very specific levels of expression. Dr. Thiel will use his AHA Innovative Project Award to generate cardiac-specific aptamer ligands with the potential for elucidating the mechanisms that lead to the development of vascular disease. Dr. Thiel also deserves congratulations on his recently awarded R01 grant from the NHLBI, which recognizes his significant investment in terms of time, planning, and scientific instinct. Given the increasingly competitive funding environment in which our faculty must compete, it is gratifying to see our colleagues continue to excel. Well done!
Career achievement awards and funded grants are not the only way to measure the impact Iowa researchers have. Publications in rigorous and competitive peer-reviewed journals also demonstrate the strides we take in our labs and their value to the scientific community. In just the last month, two significant papers have appeared from the laboratory of Dr. Ryan Boudreau. The first, in Cell Reports, details their discovery of mitoregulin, a microprotein in a long non-coding RNA that enhances mitochondrial protein assembly by increasing respiratory efficiency. This observation represents an important new paradigm in understanding the regulation of mitochondrial energy metabolism. The second represents a significant collaboration with investigators located across six institutions, including our own. Dr. Boudreau’s paper, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, reveals a link between expressions of a protein-coding gene, SCN5A, and nonarrhythmic heart failure resulting in death. These studies identify a novel genetic risk that may predict survival in patients with heart failure. Other contributors to the JCI publication include Drs. Kaikobad Irani and Barry London.