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New Pitt Center to Advance Research on Technology, Media and Health

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 15, 2014 – Would celebratory music and a thousand “points” per pill encourage a patient with heart disease to take her medication? If social media friends congratulate an overweight person for skipping dessert, will it help him shed pounds?

Conversely, do song lyrics glorifying alcohol use inspire binge drinking in teens? Does continuous exposure to images of negative TV news footage influence depression or anxiety?

The University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences today announced the creation of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health (CRMTH) to tackle questions like these across a broad range of disciplines.

“Technological innovation has proceeded so rapidly that youths ages 8 to 18 are now exposed to more than eight hours a day of electronic media messages outside of school,” said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., Pitt’s senior vice chancellor for the health sciences and John and Gertrude Petersen Dean of the School of Medicine. “While these emerging exposures pose risks to health, they also may be leveraged to improve health.”

As the recently appointed assistant vice chancellor for health and society in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences, Brian A. Primack, M.D., Ph.D., will direct the new center, which is funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Internet, social media, television, films, music and video games are all examples of media and technology that can affect our health and wellness,” said Dr. Primack, associate professor of medicine, pediatrics, and clinical and translational science in Pitt’s School of Medicine. “These exposures may have positive or negative influences, and educational and policy-related interventions may be effective at buffering negative influences and bolstering positive ones.”

Last week, Dr. Primack gave a related talk in San Francisco at “TEDMED 2014: Unlocking Imagination,” a three-day gathering designed to drive innovation in health and medicine. The event featured short, thought-provoking talks by speakers invited based on their expertise, innovation and passion in their field.

Dr. Primack, also a practicing family physician, gave the 12-minute presentation to get ideas flowing about how to simultaneously mitigate the negative effects of video games while also harnessing their potential to improve health.

CRMTH faculty and staff will explore this concept and other related topics through collaborations with numerous schools and centers at Pitt, including the Schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Dental Medicine, Public Health, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Social Work, as well as Pitt’s Health Policy Institute.

“U.S. and international health policy needs to embrace the development of technology and recognize its impacts on human health,” said Everette James, J.D., M.B.A., director of Pitt’s Health Policy Institute and the M. Allen Pond Professor of Health Policy and Management in Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health. “While technological advancement and the influence of media present challenges, research from our new center will provide important scientific evidence and help inform policymaking in this emerging field.”

In addition to performing research and developing and testing interventions, CRMTH will include an educational component to integrate an awareness of the impact of media and technology on health for students in Pitt’s Schools of the Health Sciences.

CRMTH is funded by NIH, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the ABMRF/The Alcohol Research Foundation, and pilot grants from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute and the Pitt Health Policy Institute.

Pitt-Developed Vaccine Proves Effective Against Deadly Middle East Virus

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 12, 2014 – A vaccine developed by an international team of scientists led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine successfully protects mice against a contagious and deadly virus spreading across the Middle East. The vaccine is a promising candidate for immunizing camels, thought to be the source of human infection.

Details of the new immunization against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are published online and will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Vaccine.

“MERS poses an emerging threat worldwide and has infected people in several Middle Eastern countries, with some unwittingly bringing the virus to other countries, including the U.S., through air travel,” said senior author Andrea Gambotto, M.D., an associate professor in Pitt’s Department of Surgery. “However, scientists now believe that by vaccinating camels against MERS, we may be able to reduce transmission to humans and stave off the spread of this deadly virus.”

There have been 837 cases of MERS confirmed to date, including 291 deaths. According to the World Health Organization, symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, with respiratory failure in severe illnesses. However, some people can be infected and show no symptoms, despite being contagious and spreading the virus to others.

Strains of MERS that match human strains have been isolated from camels in the Middle Eastern countries where MERS is spreading. Camels are an important animal in the Middle East and are used for transportation and as a food source.

Dr. Gambotto and his colleagues created a vaccine that encodes for a characteristic protein found on the surface of the MERS virus. The vaccine primes the immune system to detect the protein and fight the virus.

The team injected mice with the vaccine and gave them boosters through the nose three weeks later. All the immunized mice had antibody responses against the MERS protein.

“Since this vaccine is effective in mice, we believe it warrants testing in camels so we can determine if they have a similar immune response,” said Dr. Gambotto. “If we can protect camels against MERS, we may make it so difficult for MERS to infect people that its threat to the human population is significantly diminished.”

Additional authors on this research include Eun Kim, Ph.D., Kaori Okada, Ph.D., and Tom Kenniston, M.S., all of Pitt; V. Stalin Raj, Ph.D., Albert D.M.E. Osterhaus, Ph.D., and Bart L. Haagmans, Ph.D., all of the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands; Mohd M. AlHajri, Ph.D., and Elmoubasher A.B.A. Farag, Ph.D., both of the Supreme Council of Health in Qatar; and Farhoud AlHajri, Ph.D., of the Ministry of Environment in Qatar.

The article’s digital object identifier (DOI) is  10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.08.058.

Model to Improve Diabetes Management Well-Received by Primary Care Physicians

 PITTSBURGH, Sept. 11, 2014 – Nurses certified in diabetes education can be integrated successfully into primary care physician offices in an effort to improve the health of people with diabetes, according to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health evaluation funded by the American Diabetes Association

The determination was made following enrollment and initiation of the REdesigning MEDication Intensification Effectiveness Study for Diabetes (REMEDIES 4D), an ongoing trial to assess the effectiveness of certified diabetes educators in managing diabetes. The research is published in the September issue of the journal Contemporary Clinical Trials

“The vast majority of people with diabetes are seen by primary care physicians who have increasingly limited time to address the complexities of each patient’s care,” said Janice Zgibor, Ph.D., R.Ph., associate professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. “A new model of care is necessary to best treat the growing number of people with diabetes.” 

The REMEDIES 4D trial includes 240 participants from 15 UPMC primary care practices, consisting of 57 physicians and two physician assistants. Eight of the practices are randomly assigned to receive a certified diabetes educator who provides treatment for glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol control; diabetes education; and follow-up to patients. The remaining practices serve as a control group and are proceeding with their usual care. 

A certified diabetes educator is a trained nurse who meets with diabetic patients, reviews their test results and medications, as well as their efforts to control diabetes through lifestyle changes. This nurse is certified to make therapeutic adjustments, such as changing medications when needed.  She also can educate the patient about managing diabetes and help with emotional issues, such as fear of needles or diabetes-related depression. 

“The certified diabetes educator’s main focus is staying on top of managing patients’ diabetes,” said Dr. Zgibor. “This could help prevent long-term diabetes complications, such as blindness and amputation, because the certified diabetes educator may be able to address care issues faster than the physician.”

Although the clinical trial pays for the cost of the certified diabetes educator provided to participating practices, Dr. Zgibor said there are ways to make the cost less of a burden to other practices interested in implementing the model, such as sharing a certified diabetes educator or completing requirements for insurance reimbursement. 

The REMEDIES 4D trial will include an economic evaluation to determine the cost-effectiveness of certified diabetes educators, both to primary care providers and society. 

“In addition to helping patients, we’re finding that the presence of the certified diabetes educator in primary care practices also is a resource to physicians and office staff with diabetes-related questions,” said Dr. Zgibor. “So far, it seems like this model of diabetes care is well-received in primary care physicians’ offices. It will be interesting to see whether it proves to be a cost-effective way to manage the diabetes epidemic that is becoming an increasing burden on the U.S. health system.”

Additional researchers on this study are Shihchen Kuo, Ph.D., R.Ph., Patricia Gittinger, R.N., Debra Tilves, B.S., and Maura Maloney, M.S., all of Pitt; Sharlene Emerson, C.R.N.P., and Francis X. Solano, M.D., both of UPMC; and Mayer B. Davidson, M.D., of the Charles R. Drew University in Los Angeles.

 This study was funded by the American Diabetes Association grant 1-12-SAN-31.

UPMC Residency Programs Rank Nationally

Physician network Doximity, along with U.S. News & World Report, announced the first comprehensive national evaluation of residency programs. In these results, 11 UPMC programs ranked in the top 10.

To determine the rankings, 3,691 residency training programs were evaluated by combining over 50,000 peer nominations from board-certified US physicians. U.S. News & World Report, nationally known for their education and health care rankings, consulted on the methodology.

Here is a listing of UPMC programs in the top 10:

  • Anesthesiology: No. 10
  • Obstetrics and gynecology: No. 3
  • Plastic surgery (integrated): No. 3
  • Otolaryngology: No. 4
  • Emergency medicine: No. 7
  • Physical medicine and rehabilitation: No. 7
  • Psychiatry: No. 7
  • Orthopaedic surgery: No. 8
  • Pediatrics: No. 8
  • Neurological surgery: No. 9
  • Surgery: No. 10

The results are used in a free tool from Doximity called Residency Navigator. The tool is designed for third- and fourth-year medical students.

Pitt, UPMC Researchers Create New Vestibular Test to Add to Comprehensive Concussion Evaluation

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 10, 2014 – Researchers at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh have created a new, 5- to 10-minute test that could be added to a clinician’s concussion evaluation toolkit for a more comprehensive assessment of the injury. 

In a recent study published online first by the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers from the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program demonstrated that clinicians could use their novel Vestibular/Ocular Motor Screening (VOMS) examination to be 90 percent accurate in identifying patients with concussion. The VOMS, which requires such minimal equipment as a tape measure and a metronome, was shown to be a valid and consistent tool to enhance the current multi-disciplinary approaches to concussion assessment that include clinical examination, symptom evaluation and computerized neurocognitive testing. 

Previous research conducted at UPMC identified the vestibular ocular system — responsible for integrating vision, balance and movement — as being the most predictive of longer outcomes from sports-related concussions. However, the researchers reported, most current evaluation and management tools for vestibular issues focus on balance, potentially missing important pieces of the concussion puzzle. In fact, the Sideline Assessment of Concussion (SAC), Sport Concussion Assessment Tool-3 (SCAT-3), Balance Error Scoring System (BESS), and similar tests fail to both comprehensively evaluate the vestibular system and measure ocular-motor dysfunction, they added.

“We were afraid that important findings were being missed in many patients following their concussion because we just didn’t have the right tool to measure this part of the injury,” said Anne Mucha, D.P.T., Concussion Program clinical coordinator for vestibular therapy and principal investigator in this research. “Current assessments clearly weren’t sufficient in identifying most of the dizziness and visual problems that we commonly see in our patients.”

“The VOMS is another tool in our toolkit,” said Michael “Micky” Collins, Ph.D., Concussion Program executive and clinical director who took part in this study. “For the past five to 10 years, our research has revealed that vision issues, fogginess and dizziness are symptoms associated with the worst outcomes in our patients. So we set out to create an evidence-based examination to assess these areas.”

The researchers studied 64 concussed patients approximately five days post-injury and 78 healthy control-group patients who were administered VOMS by trained clinicians. The VOMS, which was developed in conjunction with a multi-disciplinary team of UPMC experts, assesses five areas of the vestibular ocular system: smooth pursuits, saccades (rapid eye movement), horizontal vestibular ocular reflex, visual motion sensitivity, and near-point-of-convergence distance. Standardized screening instructions are attached as appendices with the journal paper.

“The results from the current study indicated that more than 60 percent of patients experienced symptoms following the VOMS — and these are patients whose impairments might have been missed without a tool like it,” said Anthony Kontos, Ph.D., Concussion Program assistant research director and senior investigator.

“Current assessment tools are not looking at these issues, which concerns us greatly,” Dr. Collins said. “We are seeing many young athletes who, in addition to neurocognitive deficiencies, are coming to us with vestibular ocular impairment. The VOMS provides a more specific evaluation that can help us better treat these patients using targeted treatment pathways. By integrating the VOMS with current tools, clinicians could very well foster a paradigm shift in concussion diagnosis and management.”

Other co-authors were: Joseph Furman, M.D., Ph.D., Pitt departments of Otolaryngology, Neurology, Bioengineering and Physical Therapy as well as Director, UPMC Division of Balance Disorders; Greg Marchetti, Ph.D., of Duquesne University; former Pitt researcher R.J. Elbin, Ph.D., University of Arkansas; and Cara Troutman-Enseki, D.P.T., and Ryan DeWolf, M.S., UPMC Concussion Program. The study was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, No. 1K01DC012332-01A1.

Internationally Acclaimed Scientist Named Co-Leader of UPCI Lung Cancer Program

PITTSBURGH, September 9, 2014 – An international leader in the field of epigenetics whose work has led to important discoveries into how cancer develops and progresses has been named the co-leader of the Lung Cancer Program at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC CancerCenter. James Herman, M.D., comes to Pittsburgh from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where he joined the faculty in 1996. 

At Pitt’s School of Medicine, Dr. Herman will be a visiting professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology. His appointment is effective Nov. 1. 

“Jim is a senior scientist who brings extensive experience to UPCI. He will assume leadership of the UPCI Lung Cancer SPORE grant and work closely with Dr. Mark Socinski in our Lung Cancer Program, strengthening an already impressive team,” said Nancy E. Davidson, M.D., director of UPCI and the UPMC CancerCenter. The National Cancer Institute’s prestigious SPORE, or Specialized Program of Research Excellence, is one of four such specialized research grants held at UPCI.

In addition to his work as a researcher, Dr. Herman is expected to have an appointment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Pittsburgh, where he will work to promote clinical care, education and clinical trials in thoracic malignancies. He will also serve as a co-director of the medical oncology fellowship program to promote training in basic and translational research.

“Our fellows are very lucky to have the opportunity to work with and learn from Dr. Herman. He has a vast knowledge of cancer research, and we can all benefit from having someone of his caliber on our team,” said Edward Chu, M.D., deputy director of UPCI and chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology.

The author of more than 250 papers, chapters and editorials, Dr. Herman and his team are especially well-known for their development of the methylation-specific PCR assay (MSP), which is widely used to characterize DNA methylation patterns. His work has been supported by a variety of sources, including a V Scholar Award, multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health (including service as a project co-leader on the Hopkins Lung Cancer SPORE), and most recently a Department of Defense grant, all in the general area of epigenetics of cancer. He has served as a member of the editorial board for a number of journals, including Clinical Cancer Research and Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Herman received his medical degree from Johns Hopkins in 1989, where he was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha.  After completing a residency in internal medicine at Duke, he returned to Hopkins to undertake a fellowship in medical oncology. He joined the Hopkins faculty in 1996, and rose through the ranks to serve as professor of oncology starting in 2009.

Race and Ethnicity Important When Evaluating Risk of Fat Around the Heart

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 9, 2014 – A man’s likelihood of accumulating fat around his heart – an important indicator of heart disease risk – may be better determined if doctors consider his race and ethnicity, as well as where on his body he’s building up excess fat, reveals an international evaluation led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

The findings, published online today in the International Journal of Obesity, indicate that it may be useful to take racial and ethnic differences into account when designing programs to reduce obesity because what works for one man might not be as beneficial for another.  This analysis was funded in part by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“If you are an African American man and carry excess weight mainly around the mid-section, then you have a higher likelihood of more fat around the heart than if you gain weight fairly evenly throughout your body,” said lead author Samar R. El Khoudary, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Epidemiology. “But the reverse is true for Koreans – their heart disease risk is greater with overall weight gain. Knowing this can help doctors specify the right physical training for each racial ethnic group to reduce their heart disease risk.”

Dr. El Khoudary’s analysis relied on data from the “Electron-Beam Tomography, Risk Factor Assessment Among Japanese and U.S. Men in the Post-World War II Birth Cohort Study,” also known as the ERA JUMP study. It is a population-based study of men enrolled between 2002 and 2006 who were ages 40 to 49 and free of cardiovascular disease, type-1 diabetes and other severe diseases at the time of enrollment.

The recent analysis took a closer look at 1,199 men in the study who were white or black from Allegheny County, Japanese-American from Hawaii, Japanese or Korean.

The study looked at the amount of fat around the heart called ectopic cardiovascular fat. Higher volumes of this fat are associated with greater risk of heart disease.

For white men, an increase in body mass index, or BMI, which is a measure of overall body fat, and abdominal fat are equally likely to indicate an increase in fat around the heart.

Compared to white men:

  • Black men who carry disproportionally more weight around their mid-section are at similar risk of having more fat around their hearts. Increases in BMI have lower impact.
  • Japanese and Japanese American men are also at similar risk of having more fat around their hearts if they have more fat in their abdomens, with BMI having less of an impact.
  • Korean men with higher BMIs have a higher likelihood of fat around the heart, whereas abdominal fat matters less.

“What we now need to determine is whether concentrating efforts to reduce overall body fat or fat in the abdomen will actually decrease fat around the heart more in people of certain racial or ethnic groups,” said Dr. El Khoudary. “Such a long-term evaluation could help in designing race-specific heart disease prevention strategies.”

The senior author and principal investigator on this study is Akira Sekikawa, M.D., Ph.D., Pitt. Additional authors on this study are Emma Berinas-Mitchell, Ph.D., Aiman El-Saed, M.D., Ph.D., Rhobert W. Evans, Ph.D., and Lewis H. Kuller, M.D., Dr.P.H., all of Pitt; Chol Shin, M.D., Ph.D., of Korea University; Kamal Masaki, M.D., and Bradley J. Willcox, M.D., both of the University of Hawaii; Katsuyuki Miura, M.D., Ph.D., Sakaya Kadowaki, M.D., Ph.D., Akira Fujiyoshi, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., Takashi Hisamatsu, M.D., Ph.D., and Hirotsugu Ueshima, M.D., Ph.D., all of Shiga University of Medical Science in Japan; Matthew Budoff, M.D., of Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute; Daniel Edmundowicz, M.D., of Temple University School of Medicine; and Takayoshi Ohkubo, M.D., Ph.D., of Teikyo University School of Medicine in Japan.

This work was supported by NIH grants HL068200 and HL071561, Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention government budget codes 2004-E71001-00 and 205-E71001-00, Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture Sports, Science and Technology grants B 16790335, A 13307016, 17209023, 21249043, A 25253046 and B 23390174.

Unusual Immune Cell Needed to Prevent Oral Thrush, Pitt Researchers Find

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 8 – An unusual kind of immune cell in the tongue appears to play a pivotal role in the prevention of thrush, according to the researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine who discovered them. The findings, published online today in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, might shed light on why people infected with HIV or who have other immune system impairments  are more susceptible to the oral yeast infection. 

Oral thrush is caused by an overgrowth of a normally present fungus called Candida albicans, which leads to painful white lesions in the mouth, said senior investigator Sarah L. Gaffen, Ph.D., professor, Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, Pitt School of Medicine. The infection is treatable, but is a common complication for people with HIV, transplant recipients who take drugs to suppress the immune system, chemotherapy patients and babies with immature immune systems. 

“In previous work, we found the cytokine interleukin-17 (IL-17), a protein involved in immune regulation, must be present to prevent the development of thrush,” Dr. Gaffen said. “But until now, we didn’t know where the IL-17 was coming from.” 

Typically, IL-17 is produced by immune T-cells that learn to recognize and remove a foreign organism after an initial exposure, known as adaptive immunity. But unlike humans, mice do not normally acquire Candida during birth and are considered immunologically naïve to it. When the researchers exposed the lab animals to Candida, their IL-17 levels rose within 24 hours despite the lack of a T-cell response. This suggested the immune activity was innate, rather than acquired. 

To find the cell responsible for IL-17 secretion, lead investigator Heather R. Conti, Ph.D., devised a way of applying a scientific technique called flow cytometry to sort for the first time cells gathered from the oral tissues. In the tongue, she identified unusual ones known as natural TH17 cells that looked very much like T-cells but didn’t behave like them. Subsequent tests showed that the novel cells did, indeed, make IL-17 when exposed to Candida. 

“These cells are part of a natural host defense system that is present at birth and does not require a first exposure to be activated,” Dr. Gaffen explained. “This study demonstrates for the first time that natural TH17 cells protect against infection.” 

The researchers speculate that the similarities natural TH17 cells share with T-cells make them vulnerable to HIV, chemotherapy and other agents as well, which could explain why certain people are more susceptible to oral thrush. Also, new drugs that block IL-17 soon will be on the market for treatment of rheumatologic conditions, so it’s possible that thrush could be a side effect. 

The team plans to examine the factors that influence thrush development within the high-risk groups.

 Co-authors of the paper include other researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, the University of Pennsylvania, Genentech Inc., and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

The project was funded by NIH grants DE022550, AI107825, DE023815, AI095466, AI097333, AI106697, AI1110822, DE023293, AI098243 and T32-DK063922; Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society; the Edmond J. Safra Foundation/Cancer Research Institute; and the NIAID.

Children’s Brain Care Institute Experts Publish Paper that Supports Newborn Screening for Hurler Syndrome

PITTSBURGH, August 28, 2014 — Members of the Program for the Study of Neurodevelopment in Rare Disorders (NDRD) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC will have an article published in an upcoming issue of Annals of Neurology. The article, “Early Treatment is Associated With Improved Cognition in Hurler Syndrome,” was authored by Michele Poe, PhD, Sarah Chagnon, MD, and Maria Escolar, MD, of the Brain Care Institute.

Hurler syndrome is the most clinically severe form of an autosomal recessive lysosomal disorder characterized by the deficiency of α-L-iduronidase and is often fatal during childhood. Umbilical cord blood transplantation from unrelated donors has been shown to improve neurological outcomes of children younger than 2 years old, and extend the lives of these patients.

The authors followed 31 patients with Hurler syndrome who underwent umbilical cord blood transplantation between June 1997 and February 2013. Patients were evaluated at baseline and every six to 12 months thereafter. All 31 patients underwent complete neurodevelopmental evaluation and a median of seven evaluations. The authors found that younger age at transplantation was associated with improved cognitive function, receptive and expressive language, and adaptive behavior. Children younger than 9 months at the time of transplant showed normal cognitive development. These findings demonstrate that early diagnosis may be necessary for optimal outcomes and — because most patients are not identified at a young age — support the need for newborn screening.

Xiangya Hospital Partners with UPMC to Create World-Class Medical Center in China

PITTSBURGH, Aug. 25, 2014 Xiangya Hospital, Central South University, located in the Hunan Province of China, is partnering with UPMC to establish an international medical center that will improve access to high-quality care for patients within the region. Through this visionary relationship, Xiangya and UPMC expect to engage in a long-term collaboration.

As part of a five-year advisory services agreement with the 3,500-bed Chinese hospital, UPMC will help it to establish the Xiangya International Medical Center on the existing Changsha campus. The facility will offer world-class care to private-pay patients under a government-endorsed effort to relieve overcrowding in public hospitals by cooperating with private facilities. UPMC will serve as the exclusive advisor on the management of the International Medical Center and will participate in both medical and administrative oversight of all services.

“As one of the most respected medical centers in China, Xiangya Hospital is well positioned to expand its services and its reach throughout Asia. By partnering with one of the largest academic health care systems in the U.S. — and one that brings a wealth of international experience — we believe that the new Xiangya International Medical Center will quickly become a leader in providing the highest-quality medical care available in China,” said Sun Hong, M.D., Ph.D., president of Xiangya Hospital.

UPMC’s services will include training for medical and administrative staff both in China and in Pittsburgh, sharing of enhanced quality assurance and safety processes, recommendations on technology, equipment and staffing plans, and telemedicine links to UPMC’s clinical programs in Pittsburgh and Italy. A small number of UPMC staff also will be located at the hospital for consultative work.

“This clinical collaboration in China is UPMC’s most extensive effort yet in that country,” said Charles Bogosta, president of UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division. “This effort will ensure that more patients receive the most advanced medical care close to home. At the same time, the financial and intellectual capital generated by this partnership will allow UPMC to advance its clinical and research missions in western Pennsylvania and beyond.”

UPMC’s informal relationship with Xiangya dates back nearly a decade, with physicians from both institutions and the University of Pittsburgh collaborating on patient care and research. “Xiangya has a long history of innovation in medical care and a reputation for advanced clinical programs, including organ transplantation,” noted Bruno Gridelli, M.D., medical and scientific director of UPMC’s International and Commercial Services Division. “We are excited about the potential to exchange knowledge and expertise with one of China’s best hospitals and to lay the groundwork for even greater collaboration in the future. Together, we are building a model for expanding access and raising the quality of health care throughout China.”

Established in 1906, the Xiangya Hospital is affiliated with the prestigious Central South University in Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan province. With more than 80 clinical departments, the hospital serves more than 100,000 inpatients and more than 2.1 million outpatients annually.

UPMC announced its first medical services agreement in China in 2011 with the provision of second-opinion pathology consultations to KingMed Diagnostics, the largest independent medical diagnostic laboratory in China. UPMC also has operations or offers services in Italy, Ireland, India, Canada, Singapore, Japan and Kazakhstan. Through its international growth and commercialization efforts with industry partners, UPMC is diversifying its revenue, fueling economic development in its communities, and strengthening its ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest clinicians who are working together to improve health care outcomes globally.

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