Our publications reflect who we are

Recently, the Carver College of Medicine asked department chairs to nominate up to three publications from 2020 that demonstrate excellence in research for a “Best Paper Award.” Only one nomination could be considered in each of three categories of research—basic science, clinical, and education. With more than 1,100 publications last year by department faculty, this was no easy task. Just three? Impossible. I lobbied for more opportunities to demonstrate our department’s excellence, and even the later agreed-upon 12 submissions from us still felt too scant. Suffice it to say that the research emanating from our department is vital, globally competitive, and of undeniable rigor. Our faculty members are not just making new discoveries every day, but they are publishing their work in some of the highest-impact journals in the world.

In my last post, we were able to demonstrate, using the publications in the first six months of 2021, how much our faculty members collaborate with each other. Although I am certain of those publications’ rigor and impact, the visualization has more to do with how we work together than any qualitative assessments. This week, I decided to pluck, mostly randomly, a few publications from the nearly 60 papers that our faculty published in August 2021.

  • Recent cardiovascular medicine fellowship graduate Dr. Amgad Mentias and Dr. Mary Vaughan Sarrazin served as first and senior author, respectively, on this fascinating retrospective review for the Journal of the American Heart Association. The investigators examined a cohort of 7,860 Medicare patients and found care disparities for members of minority groups and women in anticoagulation prescriptions. This study underscores our department’s commitment to understanding and working toward eliminating health inequities.
  • On the flip side, sometimes it is the patient who chooses not to receive care. General Internal Medicine’s Dr. Aaron Seaman focused on the behavior of head and neck cancer survivors to see how many discontinued care after receiving a cancer-free diagnosis. His retrospective analysis was published in Cancer. I always appreciate seeing the promise of a new grant award fulfilled.
  • When it comes to clinical trials, the UI Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center is at the vanguard, especially in treating melanoma and sarcoma. Recently promoted Dr. Mo Milhem is senior author of a seminal trial published in Cancer Discovery, a relatively new journal, but one with an impact factor of 39. Dr. Milhem and others at Iowa were instrumental in moving a novel therapeutic developed in Iowa, CpG-A Toll-Like Receptor 9 Agonist Vidutolimod, from its discovery at the bench through preclinical evaluation and ultimately definitive clinical trials, setting the stage for widespread adoption of this approach in treating melanoma patients with resistance to PD-1 inhibitors.
  • Our communications team covered Tayyab Rehman’s first-author publication in the Journal of Clinical Investigation in more detail last month, but the work is worth revisiting. Not only is this another example of a discovery where Iowa does most of the heavy lifting, it also signals one of the directions cystic fibrosis (CF) research is heading. Now that specific CFTR mutations responsible for the disease are known and have defined the design of novel therapeutics, investigators such as Dr. Rehman are now working to understand specific mechanisms that will boost the efficacy of these game-changing treatments.
  • This study and another appearing in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology continues our CF research team’s focus on airway surface liquid acidification. Only this time, senior authors Drs. David Stoltz and Joseph Zabner, among many other Iowa contributors, demonstrate a novel mechanism that regulates mucus pH in pig small airway epithelial cells. In addition to CF, many other respiratory illnesses could potentially be addressed via modulation of this target.
  • Another JCI paper has also just emerged from the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research Center. Postdoctoral research fellow Dr. Gourav Bhardwaj is first author and Brian O’Neill, assistant professor in Endocrinology, is the senior author on a study that elucidated mechanisms linking decreased skeletal muscle strength, insulin resistance, and mitochondrial dysfunction. By identifying a critical mechanism that drives an important co-morbidity induced by diabetes, the greater chance we have at helping people manage their disease and living longer.
  • Finally, our commitment to prevention, to harm reduction, and to meeting people where they are has no better example than in the work of Infectious Diseases’ Dr. Michael Ohl. For years, he has led a team providing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to people at risk of contracting HIV. In this recent publication for the Journal of General Internal Medicine, Dr. Ohl and his team examined how often PrEP is discussed with veterans being treated for other sexually transmitted diseases.

These are just seven publications, but they show the breadth of activity taking place in our department. Another common thread readily identified in our larger list of publications is just how many fellows or residents are contributing authors. We never miss an opportunity to teach and our trainees never lack opportunity to build their CVs and receive hands-on mentoring. This fact will be important to keep in mind as we head into interview season, both for our fellowship programs and our residency recruitment. We hope you will make yourselves available to your respective program directors and the Education Leadership team as requests for faculty interviews begin to land in your inboxes. And, even those who are helping recruit medical students, you might also mention that our recently renewed MSTP program, co-led by Dr. Steven Lentz, is one of the oldest in the country.

Finally, there will be more to come about this in the months ahead, but I want to thank you in advance for your contributions to our fall campaign in support of local non-profit CommUnity. Click through for the list of needed goods or the cash donation link and let’s fill those barrels distributed throughout the department. We can end 2021 assured that we let our friends and neighbors know they have our support.

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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