UPMC Physician Resources

Seven New Solutions: Pitt Innovation Challenge Awards $400,000 to Creative Thinkers

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 13, 2014 — Projects that will help children use devices to treat their asthma, a portable sensor that monitors a condition called ketosis and a Web-based tool to aid recovery from knee injury were each awarded $100,000 prizes last night in the second Pitt Innovation Challenge (PInCh). Also, four other projects received $25,000 awards during last night’s live judging event at the University Club in Oakland.

More than 60 teams participated in the challenge, which was sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, the Office of the Provost, and the Innovation Institute. During the first phase of the competition, which began in September, each team submitted a video entry to answer the question, “From cell to community:  How can we individualize solutions for better health(care)?” Twenty teams were then asked to provide a written description of their projects, and 10 finalists were chosen to present during the showcase.

“PInCh is a celebration of the pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit of some of the brightest, most enterprising teams of visionary thinkers in and around the Pittsburgh region,” said CTSI director Steven E. Reis, M.D., associate vice chancellor for clinical research, Health Sciences, and professor of medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “This approach is leading to the implementation of some amazing ideas.”

In addition to the cash prize, the winners will also get the assistance of a project manager to begin implementing their ideas.

$100,000 Awards:

  • Nebukin: Game-based software aid to help children properly use nebulizers for inhaled treatment of conditions such as asthma.
  • Nanoketo:  Small portable sensor for monitoring ketosis, a condition common in diabetics in which the body uses fat instead of sugar for energy.
  • ACL Interaction: Web-based tool to individualize rehabilitation of ACL injuries of the knee.

$25,000 Awards:

  • PediaTristan: Educational video series for pediatric patients and families.
  • Psychometabolomics: A screening test for metabolic disorders in hard-to-treat depression.
  • Caring for Cancer Survivors at the Virtual Bedside: Web-based communication for medical teams of childhood cancer survivors.
  • MAGIC (Medication Adherence using Ginger.io in clinic):  App using passive and active data to track mental status of psychiatric patients.

Finalist and semi-finalist videos can be viewed on the PInCH website.

Bacterial or Viral Lung Infection? UPMC Studying Blood Test That Could Reduce Antibiotic Use

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 11 – A new blood biomarker test that indicates whether bacteria is the cause of a patient’s lung infection is now being studied at UPMC Presbyterian, launching a national multicenter trial. The information could help doctors decide when to prescribe antibiotics and possibly reduce overuse of the drugs, which can lead to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

Patients who go to hospital emergency departments (ED) with coughs and breathing difficulties could have pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or even congestive heart failure, explained principal investigator David T. Huang, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of critical care medicine and emergency medicine, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Aaron Brown, M.D., assistant professor of emergency medicine, and Franziska Jovin, M.D., associate professor of medicine, will lead the study in the ED and hospital.

“Doctors prescribe antibiotics more often than they would like to because it can be really hard to tell if a patient has a lung infection or a non-infectious disease,” he said. “Also, viral infections look very much like bacterial infections, and X-rays typically cannot distinguish between the two. This study will examine whether a novel biomarker can help doctors make more informed decisions about using antibiotics.”

More than 1,500 lung infection patients will be needed to complete the Procalcitonin Antibiotic Consensus Trial (ProACT), which will eventually be expanded to include approximately 10 other sites across the country.

Patients diagnosed in the ED with a lung infection and who are not critically ill will be asked to join ProACT. If they agree, patients will be randomly assigned to either get usual care or to also have a blood test to measure the level of the protein procalcitonin, which previous Swiss studies have shown is high with bacterial infection and low with viral infection. The result and a recommendation about antibiotic use will be available within an hour to the treating ED physician. If the patient is admitted to the hospital, follow-up procalcitonin levels will be checked and made available to the treating hospital physician. The research team will call study patients twice within 30 days of the ED visit to check on their health status and the period of antibiotic use, if any.

“The final decision to use or not use antibiotics is up to the doctor, who also will be taking into account the patient’s medical history and other factors,” Dr. Huang said. “My hope is that we’ll find that patient outcomes are as just as good, while antibiotic use declines.” ProACT is funded by a $5 million, five-year grant, and a one-year trial planning grant, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

FDA Approves Blood Test Developed by UPMC Researchers to Predict Rejection in Organ Transplant Recipients

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 5, 2014 – A first-of-its-kind, personalized blood test to predict the likelihood of organ rejection in children with liver or intestine transplants has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The test was developed by researchers at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC to determine a personalized rejection-risk index with cell-based technology.

Cellular rejection affects half of all transplant recipients in their lifetime. If unchecked, rejection can lead to progressive loss of function of the transplanted organ. Therefore, predicting whether rejection will occur is an essential part of the recipient’s care, and has been an unmet need until recently. A biopsy is used to detect ongoing rejection, but this surgical procedure cannot predict rejection.

The research team led by Rakesh Sindhi, M.D., F.A.C.S., co-director, pediatric transplantation, at the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s, began work on this test system in late 2006. The technology was licensed by the University of Pittsburgh to Plexision, a Pittsburgh-based biotech company, for development.

Pleximmune, as the test is named, predicts acute cellular rejection with an accuracy approaching or exceeding 80 percent under a variety of conditions. This performance has been established in a study involving more than 200 children who received liver or intestine transplants at Children’s Hospital.

“A common theme in every encounter with our patients is an assessment of whether that child is at risk for rejection and whether this risk will be affected by the planned treatment,” said Dr. Sindhi, who is also director of pediatric transplant research. “It is hoped that the information from such personalized blood tests will improve clinical decision-making and benefit patients in the long run.”

“Our whole philosophy here at Children’s Hospital centers on improving outcomes after transplantation and achieving the goal of a normal life for all the children we transplant,” said George Mazariegos, M.D., F.A.C.S., chief, pediatric transplantation. “This test is a step toward achieving that goal. And it is doubly exciting that the research in Dr. Sindhi’s lab is affecting children at the bedside so directly.”

The Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation at Children’s Hospital maintains one of the busiest and most experienced pediatric transplant centers in the United States. The center was established in 1981 under renowned transplant pioneer Thomas E. Starzl, M.D., Ph.D., as the nation’s first pediatric transplant program. Children’s is one of the most active transplant centers for infants, children and adolescents with referrals from all over the world. The team specializes in heart, lung, liver, intestine, multivisceral, kidney, and blood and marrow transplants, and achieves patient outcomes that rank among the world’s best.

Dr. Sindhi is the inventor of technology licensed to Plexision, on which this test system is based. The University of Pittsburgh holds equity in the company; Dr. Sindhi has an unpaid consulting relationship with the company.

For more information on Dr. Sindhi and the Hillman Center for Pediatric Transplantation, visit www.chp.edu/transplant.

Higher Risk of GI, Major Bleeding in Atrial Fibrillation Patients Taking Blood Thinner Dabigatran

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 3, 2014 – Patients with atrial fibrillation who take the blood thinner dabigatran are at greater risk for major bleeding and gastrointestinal bleeding than those who take warfarin, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The findings, based on Medicare claims data and published today in JAMA Internal Medicine, indicate greater caution is needed when prescribing dabigatran to certain high-risk patients.

Atrial fibrillation, an arrhythmia in which the heart’s upper chambers irregularly contract, can send tiny clots from the heart to the blood vessels in the brain, explained the study’s senior author Yuting Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor and director of the Pharmaceutical Economics Research Group in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management. For that reason, these patients often are prescribed a blood thinner to limit clot formation with the aim of preventing strokes.

“Dabigatran was introduced in 2010 and, at the time of approval, it was the only available alternative to warfarin,” Dr. Zhang said. “Warfarin dosing can be tricky and regular monitoring with blood tests is required, so doctors and patients were glad to have a drug that was easier to manage. But some recent studies suggest that dabigatran is associated with a higher risk of bleeding.”

To investigate that possibility, the study’s first author, Inmaculada Hernandez, Pharm.D., Pitt Public Health, and the team looked back at pharmacy and medical claims data, which employ a unique identifier code rather than patient names, from 2010 and 2011 of a random national sample of Medicare beneficiaries. They tracked 1,302 dabigatran users and 8,102 warfarin users to see whether they experienced bleeding episodes, classifying the events as major, such as intracranial bleeding or gastrointestinal bleeding requiring a hospital or emergency room stay, or minor, such as gastrointestinal bleeding that was treated on an outpatient basis, or nose bleeds.

They also looked more closely at bleeding episodes in four high-risk subgroups: those who were 75 and older; African-Americans; those with chronic kidney disease; and those with seven or more co-existing medical problems.

Medicare data showed that the incidence of major bleeding was 9 percent and of any bleeding was 32.7 percent in the dabigatran group and 5.9 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively, in the warfarin group. In other words, dabigatran users were 58 percent more likely to have a major bleed and 30 percent more likely to have any kind of bleed than those taking warfarin. African-Americans and patients with chronic kidney disease using dabigatran were about twice as likely to have a major bleed as those taking warfarin. In addition, dabigatran users were more likely than warfarin users to experience gastrointestinal or vaginal bleeding, or blood in the urine, joints or sputum. However, the dabigatran group had a lower risk for bleeding in the brain.

“These findings indicate that physicians should be cautious when prescribing dabigatran, particularly to African-Americans and patients with kidney impairments,” Dr. Hernandez said. “Also, the incidence of gastrointestinal bleeding was high in all the subgroups, so we recommend doctors explain to patients how to detect it so that it can be treated promptly.”

“We plan to examine 2012 data to monitor the risk of stroke for patients on dabigatran, which is the primary indication for taking the blood thinner,” Dr. Zhang said. “It’s possible that for some patients a greater reduction in the risk of stroke will outweigh the higher risk of bleeding with dabigatran compared to warfarin.”

Other co-authors are Seo Hyon Baik, Ph.D., of Pitt Public Health; and Antonio Piñera, M.D., of La Paz University Hospital, Madrid, Spain.

The project was funded by the Commonwealth Foundation for Public Policy Alternatives and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

NSAIDs Prevent Colon Cancer by Inducing Death of Intestinal Stem Cells That Have Gene Mutation

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 3, 2014 – Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) protect against the development of colorectal cancer by inducing cell suicide pathways in intestinal stem cells that carry a certain mutated and dysfunctional gene, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and the School of Medicine. The findings were published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists have long known from animal studies and clinical trials that use of NSAIDs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, lowers the risk of developing intestinal polyps, which can transform into colon cancer. But they have not known why, said senior investigator Lin Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Pharmacology and Chemical Biology, Pitt School of Medicine, and UPCI, a partner with UPMC CancerCenter.

“Our study identifies a biochemical mechanism that could explain how this preventive effect occurs,” he said. “These findings could help us design new drugs to prevent colorectal cancer, which is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the country.”

The research team performed experiments in animal models and examined tumor samples from patients who had taken NSAIDs and those who hadn’t. They found that NSAIDs activate the so-called death receptor pathway, which selectively triggers a suicide program in intestinal stem cells that have a mutation in the APC gene that renders the cells dysfunctional. Healthy cells lack the mutation, so NSAIDs cause them no harm. In that manner, the drugs instigate the early auto-destruction of cells that could lead to precancerous polyps and tumors.

“We want to use our new understanding of this mechanism as a starting point to design better drugs and effective cancer prevention strategies for those at high risk of colon cancer,” Dr. Zhang said. “Ideally, we could harness the tumor-killing traits of NSAIDs and avoid possible side effects that can occur with their chronic use, such as gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers.”

The research team included lead author Brian Leibowitz, Ph.D., and Jian Yu, Ph.D., of UPCI and the Pitt’s Department of Pathology, as well as others from UPCI and Pitt School of Medicine; Sichuan University, China; INCELL Corp, San Antonio, Texas; and Indiana University School of Medicine.

The project was funded by National Institutes of Health grants CA106348, CA121105, CA172136, CA129829 and DK085570, and the American Cancer Society.

Physicians and Researchers Present at 2014 American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 31, 2014 – The University of Pittsburgh Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition was well-represented in Philadelphia at the recent American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) Annual Meeting. Faculty research was featured in both oral and poster presentations throughout the conference, including:

  • Pancreatic Cancer: The Genes You Need to Know
    Presented by Randall Brand, MD
  • Perceived Effectiveness of Endoscopic and Surgical Treatments Among North American Women With Complications of Chronic Pancreatitis (2014 ACG Presidential Poster Award winner)
    UPMC co-authors: Jyothsna Talluri, MD; Dhiraj Yadav, MD; David Whitcomb, MD, PhD
  • Antibiotic-Associated Microbiome Changes in Health Volunteers and Corrective Impact of the Probiotic Saccharomyces Boulardii (2014 ACG Presidential Poster Award winner)
    UPMC co-author: Toufic Kabbani, MD
  • Stratification of Crohn’s Disease Patients Using the Lemann Index to Quantify Gut Damage: A 5-Year Prospective Study (2014 ACG Presidential Poster Award winner and 2014 ACG Governor’s Award for Excellence in Clinical Research)
    UPMC co-authors: Claudia Rivers-Ramos, MD; Miguel Regueiro, MD; Jason Swoger, MD; Marc Schwartz, MD; Leonard Baidoo, MD; Jana Al Hashash, MD; Arthur Barrie III, MD; Michael Dunn, MD; David Binion, MD
  • Association of Mean Vitamin D Level With Clinical Status in Inflammatory Bowel Disease: A 5-Year Prospective Study
    UPMC co-presenters: Toufic Kabbani, MD; Claudia Rivers-Ramos, MD; Jason Swoger, MD; Miguel Regueiro, MD; Arthur Barrie III, MD; Marc Schwartz, MD; Jana Al Hashash, MD; Leonard Baidoo, MD; Michael Dunn, MD; David Binion, MD

For more information on ACG’s Annual Meeting, please visit the conference page.

Brain Care Institute Members Among Most Prolific Authors on Traumatic Brain Injury Worldwide

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 30, 2014 – A study into research on traumatic brain injury (TBI) over the last 15 years by ScienceWatch—a Thomson Reuters open Web resource for science metrics and research performance analysis—revealed that the volume of research has increased markedly in recent years, spurred by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sports-related brain injuries. ScienceWatch determined that the most prolific of authors in the TBI dataset is Patrick Kochanek, MD, professor and vice chairman in the Department of Critical Care Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who contributed to 300 reports that have resulted in almost 3,800 citations. Among Dr. Kochanek’s co-authors on more than one-third of the papers is Robert S.B. Clark, MD, chief of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Both Dr. Kochanek and Dr. Clark are members of the pediatric critical care team at the Brain Care Institute at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Among institutions, the University of Pittsburgh topped both the list of most prolific and the list of most-cited institutions. Other highly cited University of Pittsburgh authors are Dr. Clark and Michael “Micky” Collins, PhD, UPMC Sports Medicine.

The volume of papers on TBI has increased significantly over the years. In 2001 just over 1,100 research papers were published — a number that nearly quadrupled in 2013. Similarly, in 2010 TBI was a diagnosis in more than 280,000 hospitalizations and 2.2 million emergency room visits, and a cause in more than 50,000 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 2001 and 2009, the rate of emergency room visits for sports or other injuries with a diagnosis of TBI rose 57 percent in those 19 or younger.

For more information on the study, please visit the Special Topic: Traumatic Brain Injury page.

Pitt Public Health Expert Receives Career Achievement Award from Society for Medical Decision Making

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 22, 2014 – A University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health physician and health policy expert who devises mathematical models to assess the impact of medical decisions will receive one of the highest accolades offered by the professional society he joined more than 30 years ago as a medical student.

Mark Roberts, M.D., M.P.P., professor and chair, Department of Health Policy and Management, Pitt Public Health, received the Career Achievement Award of the Society for Medical Decision Making (SMDM) on Tuesday during its 36th Annual North American Meeting in Miami.

The SMDM’s members include scientists from a variety of disciplines including decision science, psychology, health economics, operations research, biostatistics, clinical epidemiology and informatics. The award recognizes distinguished senior investigators who have made significant contributions to the field of medical decision making.

“I am very honored and humbled by this recognition,” Dr. Roberts said. “This professional society built me into the researcher and academician I have become, and I am delighted and amazed to join a group of Career Achievement Award recipients that includes many of my teachers and mentors.”

“Dr. Roberts is an ‘evangelist’ for introducing sophisticated modeling techniques from the field of industrial engineering and operations research to the field of medical decision making. He has a gift for translating the key aspects of a clinical problem to an industrial engineer and being able to explain the subtleties of complex modeling to clinicians,” said Myriam Hunink, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the SMDM Awards Committee. “He has made major contributions in the area of end-stage liver disease, the national liver allocation system and the optimal timing of living-donor liver transplantation.”

Dr. Roberts has been an active member of the SMDM since 1984, served as its president from 2008 to 2009 and has held other leadership roles with the organization. He joined the faculty of Pitt School of Medicine in 1993 and has held the chair of Pitt Public Health’s Department of Health Policy and Management since 2010. He studied economics as an undergraduate at Harvard College and completed a master’s degree in public policy and health policy at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government while attending medical school at Tufts University. His unconventional background allowed him to bring quantitative methods and modeling techniques to the study of medical decision making.

“My late father used to joke that I went into decision sciences because I can’t make them,” Dr. Roberts said with a laugh. “That inability to stick with one field has proved to be a very good thing, though, because it gave me a broader perspective for my research.”

His talk at the award ceremony focused on the importance of “out-of-the-box” thinking and the value of multidisciplinary approaches.

“I won a prize for the best postgraduate student paper presented at the 1989 SMDM meeting and was very proud to think that my colleagues and I had found a brand new technique that could build better disease models,” Dr. Roberts said. “Then someone told me that industrial engineers had been doing the same thing for decades. We probably could have saved 18 months of work if we’d crossed campus and talked to an engineering student. That taught me not to be so insular, and I hope to get that message across to young researchers.”

Never Giving Up: UPMC, Pitt Researchers Receive Grants Totaling $800,000 from V Foundation

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 21, 2014 – Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), partner with UPMC CancerCenter, have been awarded a grant from the V Foundation for Cancer Research to study gene mutations in patients whose head and neck cancer was caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) in hopes of finding a more effective, less toxic therapy for this often painful, disfiguring disease.

The three-year, $600,000 grant was awarded to principal investigator Julie Bauman, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine and director of the Head and Neck Cancer Section in the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and co-director of the UPMC Head and Neck Cancer Center of Excellence. The V Foundation, formed by ESPN and former college basketball coach Jim Valvano who is known for challenging people to never give up, also recognized Pitt’s Kara Bernstein, Ph.D., with a V Scholar award, worth $200,000 over two years.

“Coach Valvano established the V Foundation in 1993, the same year he lost his own battle with cancer. His dream was to find a cure for cancer, and we share in that dream here at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute,” said Nancy E. Davidson, M.D., director UPCI and UPMC CancerCenter. “These are highly competitive grants, and we are so pleased that Pitt investigators were recognized.”

Dr. Bauman said the grant will help researchers build on existing scientific knowledge and pioneer new treatments for head and neck cancer, which affects more than 50,000 people in the U.S. and 600,000 people worldwide each year. The primary cause of head and neck cancer in North America and Europe is becoming oral infection with HPV. Although HPV-related cancer responds well to intensive treatment, combinations of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can result in permanent changes to uniquely human functions: facial expression, speech and swallowing.

“We’ve already learned that half of HPV-related head and neck cancers demonstrate abnormalities in a gene known as PIK3CA,” Dr. Bauman said. “We’re now learning how alterations in this gene cooperate with the virus to transform benign HPV infections into cancer. In addition, we are conducting a clinical trial to see whether a new drug that targets PIK3CA improves response in patients with HPV-related cancer. Ultimately, we aim to identify more effective and less toxic treatments, and even to prevent the transformation of HPV infection into cancer.”

Dr. Bauman is collaborating on the study with Jennifer Grandis, M.D., F.A.C.S., Pitt’s vice chair for research, professor of otolaryngology and pharmacology, and program leader for UPCI’s Head & Neck Cancer Program; Michelle Ozbun, Ph.D., the Maralyn S. Budke Endowed Professor of Viral Oncology at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center; Uma Duvvuri, M.D., Ph.D., Pitt assistant professor of otolaryngology; Andrew Cowan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery, Division of Otolaryngology, University of New Mexico Cancer Center; and Simion Chiosea, M.D., of the UPMC Anatomic Pathology Department.

The V Foundation has awarded more than $100 million for cancer research to more than 100 facilities nationwide since its inception. The translational research grants are designed to accelerate laboratory findings with the goal of benefiting patients more quickly. The V Scholar grants are designed to help early career cancer investigators develop into promising future research talents.

As a V Scholar, Dr. Bernstein will use her award to investigate why people who have mutations in proteins known as RAD51 paralogues are more susceptible to getting cancer – particularly breast and ovarian – and to identify methods for treating their specific cancers.

“Our goal is to uncover individualized cancer treatment for these particular tumors so these patients will have the best outcomes possible,” Dr. Bernstein said.

University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Launches Initiative to Emphasize Concussions Are Treatable

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 22, 2014 – At a time when the national concussion conversation instills fear and uncertainty among parents and athletes at all levels, the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program is working to change the current discussion where two powerful messages are lost: Concussions can be treated, and there are evidence-based therapies that result in full recoveries every day.

In striving to shift the national discussion to one based in fact and research, UPMC and the Concussion Program are unveiling the online destination ReThinkConcussions.com as part of an initiative to raise awareness about scientifically proven treatments currently available. The Concussion Program, the first in the world when it opened its doors in 2000, treats more sports-related concussions than any other program nationally with 17,000 patient visits per year. UPMC’s program consistently contributes to innovations in the field with nearly 20 published, peer-reviewed research studies annually.

“An important reality is this: Concussion is treatable if managed properly,” said Michael “Micky” Collins, Ph.D., clinical and executive director of the UPMC Sports Medicine Concussion Program. “With all the new research we’ve done and the nearly 200 papers we’ve helped to publish in the past decade or so, we now are able to provide proven treatments and evidence-based rehabilitation therapies. That should be the conversation now instead of the near-hysteria.”

“People should think of concussions as a treatable injury in the right hands, not some untreatable condition that causes you to retreat to a dark room. The individualized approach to this injury, the ability to use a multidisciplinary team to return patients to normal lives, has changed the course of the injury here – and our successes could be repeated across the world, too,” added Dr. Collins.

RethinkConcussions.com offers an interactive guide to understanding concussions and how UPMC approaches this complex but unseen injury. The website features information on concussion therapies and prevalent myths. It explains UPMC’s multidisciplinary approach to treating six different types of concussions – each carrying its own symptoms and outcomes. Additionally, the site provides insight into patients’ treatment experiences and emotional journeys through some of their stories.

As part of this important initiative, professional athletes and former UPMC patients such as NASCAR great Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Major League catcher David Ross tell their powerful tales in separate videos that will air on television regionally (Ross) and nationally (Earnhardt Jr.), in addition to being found at the new website. Each participated in the spots without compensation, wanting to help spread awareness and education about concussions and their successful rehabilitations.

“We went through activities with results that made sense,” Earnhardt says in his video. He visited the clinic and consulted with Dr. Collins regularly following multiple crashes in fall 2012, keeping him out of consecutive races for the first time in his career. “The best decision I made was to go to UPMC.”

Ross similarly turned to Dr. Collins following two injuries that removed him from behind the plate in 2013. He credits UPMC and its experts with developing an individualized program that allowed him to return to starting at catcher in time for a dramatic post-season run to a championship. As Ross says, “Without UPMC, I would not be a baseball player anymore. They saved my career.”

Other pro athletes who are or will be featured in the ReThinkConcussions.com initiative include former NFL quarterback Brady Quinn, Major League second baseman Brian Roberts and Tyler Hansbrough of the NBA, among others. Athletes of all ages and levels of play – from recreational to amateur to high school and beyond – also will participate in the effort, demonstrating how concussions strike every sport and walk of life.

Dr. Collins and the UPMC Concussion Program have been at the forefront of the national concussion community for years. He is a co-developer of the ImPACT neurocognitive test, a co-author of the Centers for Disease Control’s “Concussion Tool Kit for Physicians,” a consultant to a variety of professional and collegiate leagues, and a frequent presenter nationally and internationally helping to train thousands of health care professionals in concussion management and evaluation.

Dr. Collins leads a team of more than 30 clinicians and researchers, comprised of neuropsychologists, primary care sports medicine physicians, physiatrists, otoneurologists, physical therapists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists and orthopaedic surgeons, all devoted to concussion evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation.

“Concussion isn’t something you can detect on a CT scan or an MRI, or with a standard neurologic examination. To ‘see’ this injury you have to know what questions to ask, and our research has shown us this,” Dr. Collins said. “By asking the right questions and looking at the right systems in the right way with the right tools, we can put together a very coherent approach to understanding the injury and determining active treatment strategies. That’s the important message for people to know now.”

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