For those who attended our 53rd annual Internal Medicine Research Day last week, I hope that you enjoyed it as much as I did. Attending scientific or professional conferences is something that many of us do throughout the year. Lessons learned listening to short presentations or interacting with trainees at their posters will often inform or stimulate our own investigation when we return home. But there is something about filling the atrium of our own medical education building with a record-setting number of posters, each of them representing work that is being conducted here at the University of Iowa by our trainees and colleagues. The effect of seeing all that effort, all those conversations on such a wide variety of topics, was galvanizing. Medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty presented a broad tapestry of research ranging from fundamental discoveries to clinical applications, all of which ultimately are seeking to improve human health or eradicate disease. Events like these, which represent the 53rd consecutive year that our department has hosted its own Research Day, are good reminders of our charge in academic medicine to focus on generating new knowledge in parallel with our missions in education and patient care. Thank you to all who participated in making Research Day such a resounding success!
The poster session was not the only event of Research Day. It was preceded by five presentations, four from our own faculty members. Drs. Ryan Boudreau and Saket Girotra, this year’s event co-chairs, asked each of the presenters to touch on how their use of “big data” has impacted their research. This dovetailed nicely with this year’s keynote from Dr. Dan Roden of Vanderbilt University. Dr. Roden’s groundbreaking work linking extensive and detailed patient records with genetic information has led to tremendous advances in pharmacogenetics, which has informed therapeutic decision-making and clinical trial design.
As a pioneer in personalized medicine, Dr. Roden’s work reminded us that tailoring clinical decisions to unique attributes of patients and their diseases is an important direction that most specialties are headed in the 21st century. Our department is also actively playing in this sandbox, for example our utilization of CAR-T cell therapy for treatment of certain hematological and other malignancies in the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. Under the leadership of Dr. Umar Farooq in our Division of Hematology, Oncology, and Blood & Marrow Transplantation, this adaptation of a person’s own immune system to attack cancer cells is revolutionary and has transformed the cancer therapy landscape. Another innovation making its home in the cancer center is the use of so-called liquid biopsy, which identifies a tumor’s unique signature in a patient’s blood. Dr. Pashtoon Kasi has been a leading advocate for the use of this promising methodology as a diagnostic and prognostic tool, as seen here in an interview with one of his patients and her spouse. But it is important to remember that, as personalized medicine evolves, dramatic interventions, expensive therapeutics or advances in genetics and molecular biology are not always required to tailor effective treatments to the unique individual. Consider Dr. Mark Vander Weg’s recent cancer center pilot grant that will allow him to explore a different kind of personalized intervention, namely effective smoking cessation. Motivating behavior change, like smoking cessation, with a message that specifically addresses the unique circumstances of individuals patients by “meeting them where they are” could be just as revolutionary in someone’s life as the latest cell- or gene-based therapy.
Speaking of low-cost, high-impact treatments, if you have not already gotten your flu vaccination, I encourage you to stop by the University Employee Health Clinic, or one of the many flu vaccination clinics offered. Participation in the flu campaign is mandatory for all UIHC employees, which means you must receive the influenza vaccine (from here or elsewhere) or decline it. Whatever your path, please login in to ReadySet and complete the flu survey to record your participation in the campaign. Keep yourself, and the patients you care for, healthy and protected from the flu!