Our history and our future

L0052364 A man with his hands over his face, a woman with her hands
CDC HIV poster, 1994

No greater reminder exists that we are brief stewards of this university and its work than an anniversary, and this month brings two of them. When the first clinical manifestations of HIV appeared nearly four decades ago, many were bewildered, and prior to our understanding of its pathogenesis and development of treatments, HIV infection often led to social stigma and isolation. At the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, there were a few who understood the crisis and who worked to establish a program that would offer cutting edge and compassionate care. Because of the leadership of Dr. Jack Stapleton, recent award winner social worker Tricia Kroll, and the rest of the dedicated professionals who work there, our HIV/AIDS Clinic celebrates its thirtieth year of operation. I hope that the various events this week around Iowa City, including today’s Updates in Infectious Diseases conference, have been instructive and galvanizing for the work ahead. Countless Iowans now live full and productive lives and receive ongoing follow-up care and support because of the results of your vision and of your tireless daily work.

Dr. Lawton in the Dialysis Unit 1987
Dr. Bill Lawton in the Dialysis Unit, 1987

Another group of patients whose lives have been impacted by advances in therapy are the many Iowans with end stage renal disease or kidney failure who have had decades added to their lives because of dialysis. In 1957, Dr. Richard Lawton performed the first hemodialysis in Iowa City at the VA Medical Center, long before the treatment was available in Chicago, Minneapolis, or St. Louis. Seven years later, the formalized chronic hemodialysis unit was established at the VA, and in 1969, UI Hospitals and Clinics followed suit, first under the direction of Dr. Richard Freeman and then under Dr. William Lawton (no relation to Richard), who ran it for sixteen years until 2003. A network of dialysis centers were established in our region that comprises our existing Dialysis Program. Dialysis has now become a complex operation with many stakeholders to ensure that we provide high-quality and safe care to people with renal failure. It is easy to take the existence of any dialysis program for granted, but we must not lose sight of the labor, the vision, and the dogged pursuit of new solutions that characterized our pioneering predecessors. Last week, members of the Division of Nephrology and Hypertension participated in a video conference call with Dr. Bill Lawton, associate professor emeritus, and were able to express their gratitude for the foundation he helped establish.

Who knows what the Department of Internal Medicine will look like in fifty years? In the context of our history, it is not difficult to see that Iowa will continue to make new discoveries both in the lab and in the clinic, positively impacting the lives of those we care for. We can see the trajectory in new funding awards received by our colleagues. Drs. Gail Bishop and Frank Zhan are just the latest example of how we lead in cancer research, particularly into myeloma, with their grants from the Department of Defense and the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Dr. Ryan Boudreau extends a very long tradition of excellence in cardiovascular research with his receipt of a nearly two-million dollar R01 from the NIH. And with a recent R21 exploratory NIH grant, Dr. Denice Hodgson-Zingman shows we will continue to meet our patients where they are as she studies the relationship between heart rate response to exercise and cardioprotection.

volunteer-1326758_640These milestones that remind us of our past and provide a roadmap for the future are a cause for celebration. Activities like the recent 1 Day for Iowa fundraising drive also point to the future. Just nineteen donors, most likely members of our department, contributed $5,580 to our Enrichment Fund, which fuels a number of necessary professional activities. Closer examination of that day’s leaderboard tracking giving reveals a couple noteworthy data points regarding our performance relative to the rest of the institution. First, no other department on this side of the river realized a donation total of our size. In fact, there are entire colleges who did not see the number of donors nor of dollars that our department achieved. To be fair, this was just one day and those units undoubtedly pursue alternative methods of philanthropy. But what our results tell me is that many believe in our mission and are willing to dig deeply to ensure its future matches the greatness of its past. Thank you to the UI’s Center for Advancement and to those donors who helped depict that commitment so visibly. I look forward to encouraging all of the members of our community to continue to consider ways in which your personal philanthropy can support many of the important missions of our department.

About E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD

E. Dale Abel, MD PhD Francois M. Abboud Chair in Internal Medicine John B. Stokes III Chair in Diabetes Research Chair, Department of Internal Medicine Director, Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center Director, Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism Professor of Medicine, Biochemistry and Biomedical Engineering

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