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HIPAA changes proposed

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed changes in the new federal rules protecting the privacy of medical records, known collectively as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). HHS has proposed the changes to remove barriers that delay medical care and to simplify the consent form process for research. Currently, HIPAA requires all health care providers to obtain written consent from patients before using or disclosing medical information to provide treatment or reimbursement for services. It also requires researchers to use separate patient consent forms for participation in a clinical trial and authorization to use or disclose that patient's health information for research.

Under the proposed rule changes, patients still would be asked to sign a consent form but could receive care without it. Additionally, researchers could obtain written consent from patients using a single form. These and other proposed changes were published in the March 27 Federal Register, and the public has 30 days to comment. HHS will consider the comments and then issue a final decision. Health care providers must comply with HIPAA by April 2003.

Let's make a match

On March 21, the long wait ended, the cameras rolled, and cheers of delight resounded on the WHSCAB plaza as our M4s learned where they will complete residency training. Out of 103 graduates, 94 participated in the match (six have military appointments and three are deferring residency) and of those, 95% matched. Twenty-six graduates will remain in Emory affiliated residency training programs. Our seniors number among 23,459 applicants who participated in the National Residency Matching Program, including 14,336 from US medical schools. The Association of American Medical Colleges reports that interest in certain medical specialties (i.e., anesthesiology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and diagnostic radiology) is on the rise, with more matches in each specialty than in 2001. While there is a national decrease in applicants matched to primary care positions, half of Emory's class chose primary care specialties. The most popular medical specialties among our M4s include emergency medicine (10 graduates), obstetrics/gynecology (7), preliminary medicine (7), psychiatry (5), and surgery (7). We couldn't ask for a more talented corps of students and committed faculty who helped make many a dream a reality. Nice work, students!

More hot new grants

Armed with a new three-year, $4.1 million grant from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Emory researchers are expanding investigations on islet transplantation, a potential cure for Type I diabetes. The new Center for Islet Transplantation will expand clinical research in this promising new therapy, which involves transplanting islet cells from donor pancreases to restore normal insulin production. Drs. Collin Weber, Chris Larsen, Tom Pearson, and Elliot Chaikof will conduct a series of projects aimed at reducing the requirements for immunosuppressant medications and increasing the supply of donor islets. Drs. Larsen and Pearson have expertise in devising novel strategies to achieve transplantation tolerance, Dr. Weber has extensive experience in diabetes research, and Dr. Chaikof has developed a microscopic porous material that encapsulates transplanted islets from animals to protect the cells from the body's immune response.

Emory also has created the statewide Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry through a $1 million award from the CDC. The registry is one of four nationwide named for the Georgia senator who died of a stroke in 2000. Emory neurologist Michael Frankel, Chief of Neurology at Grady Hospital, directs the center, which will collect information about patients showing acute stroke symptoms who are admitted to 60 randomly selected hospitals in Georgia. With this information, doctors can learn more about the impact of stroke in the state and improve the quality of care in participating hospitals. The four stroke registries in Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts, and Georgia will serve as prototypes for a nationwide stroke registry.

Support our grads.

Mark your calendar for commencement on May 13. The main ceremony will begin at 8 am on the Quadrangle. (Please report to the Quad in academic regalia by 7:45 am.) Immediately following the ceremony, the SOM will host a reception for graduates and their families and guests on the WHSCAB plaza. The SOM diploma ceremony will be at 11:30 am in Glenn Auditorium. Dr. Judith Swain, Arthur L. Bloomfield Professor of Medicine and Chair of the Department of Medicine at Stanford, will present the commencement address. Dr. Swain currently holds an NIH MERIT (Method to Extend Research in Time) Award for her work on the developmental biology of the cardiovascular system.

New "Hope" for vaccines.

One of Emory's more exciting research endeavors is set to open April 24 in a building in downtown Decatur. The newly created Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Research Center is a clinical research facility devoted to conducting clinical trials of promising new vaccines and immunotherapeutic interventions. While the Vaccine Research Center is a home base for one of the largest basic and preclinical vaccine research programs in the country, the Hope Clinic now provides Emory with exceptional facilities and the infrastructure to conduct advanced clinical research involving human subjects and provides new opportunities for translating basic research findings into useful clinical advances for combatting diseases such as AIDS and malaria. Dr. Mark Feinberg, Professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology, directs the center, which was created in collaboration with the SOM, Yerkes, and the Vaccine Center.

Don't miss two upcoming opportunities to hear Dr. Feinberg and other experts speak. Stop by "AIDS Vaccine Science in 2002: Enduring Challenges and Promising New Directions," a scientific symposium that includes presentations from researchers on the latest findings in vaccine research on Monday, April 22, 9 am to 1 pm, in the WHSCAB auditorium. The program includes lectures by Drs. Feinberg, Rafi Ahmed and Harriet Robinson from Emory, as well as Dr. Gary Nabel from the NIH, Dr. Emilio Emini from Merck Research Laboratories, and Dr. Neal Nathanson from Penn. In addition, Dr. Feinberg will present a public lecture, "Opportunities and Challenges in the Pursuit of an AIDS Vaccine," on Wednesday, April 24, 7 to 8 pm, in the WHSCAB auditorium. For more information, call 712-8546 or vaccine@emory.edu.

Top students

These students recently were inducted in Who's Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities: Larry Chang, Telly Meadows, Joel Trambley, and Janet Witte from the MD program and Judah Gold-Markel, Tamara Ritsema, and Emily Vason from Allied Health.

Speaking of accolades, we inadvertently left M3 student Lindsey Sharp's name out of the list of Alpha Omega Alpha inductees in last month's Dean's Letter. Congratulations, Lindsey!

You missed it!

If you didn't hear Nobel laureate Eric Kandel speak last month, you missed a great turnout for a great medical scientist. The WHSCAB auditorium was packed as he described his groundbreaking work regarding the molecular biology of memory and which earned him the 2000 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. A distinguished professor and scientist at Columbia University, Dr. Kandel shared the Nobel with Arvid Carlsson of the University of Goteborg in Sweden and Paul Greengard of The Rockefeller University in New York.

Dr. Kandel described their discoveries and his new work to identify specific proteins and their roles in the activation and preservation of memory circuits during the annual Goodwin and Rose Helen Breinin Lecture in Basic Sciences. Dr. Breinin, 41M, a beloved friend of the SOM, pioneered the development of new treatments for glaucoma. He was chair of ophthalmology at New York University School of Medicine and director of the Kirby Institute of Ophthalmology. Mrs. Breinin most recently has worked as a museum researcher and volunteer. It was a wonderful treat to see Dr. Breinin at the lecture, given by such an outstanding scientist.

SOM news sources on the web

Please note that current and past issues of The Dean's Letter are available to you on the web. Each issue is posted on the web while it is being printed so you have more immediate access to news about the School of Medicine. You can find the newsletter at www.emory.edu/WHSC/HSNEWS/PUB/.

For those of you who could not attend the dedication of the Whitehead Biomedical Research Building on April 2, you can view a webcast of the event at www.emory.edu/WHSC/HSNEWS/. As you can imagine, it was a wonderful day for the SOM, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, the University, and of course, the Whitehead family, whose generosity stems from their good fortune in the early bottling and distribution of Coca-Cola. Their previous gifts include the Conkey Pate Whitehead Surgical Pavilion and the Whitehead Memorial Room, both at Emory Hospital, and the Joseph B. Whitehead Chair of Surgery. Atlanta artist Caroline Roe sculpted four glass etchings of the Whiteheads, which hang in the lobby of the biomedical research building named in their honor.

Thomas J. Lawley, MD








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