January 2014

Jan 02, 2014 at 05:31 pm by Staff

Prostate Cancer Biomarker May Predict Patient OutcomesLast month, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the University of Alberta in Canada announced they have identified a biomarker for a cellular switch that accurately predicts which prostate cancer patients are likely to have their cancer recur or spread.Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men in North America. While some prostate cancer spreads slowly and does not lead to serious symptoms, in other patients the cancer metastasizes to other parts of the body and proves fatal. Cancer researchers have been searching for biomarkers that indicate which patients should be treated aggressively and which patients can be followed through active surveillance.The study, posted online recently in advance of publication in Cancer Research, was led by co-investigators Andries Zijlstra, PhD, assistant professor of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and Cancer Biology at Vanderbilt, and John Lewis, PhD, associate professor of Oncology and Frank and Carla Sojonky Chair in Prostate Cancer Research, University of Alberta.Zijlstra and his colleagues have been investigating a protein called CD151 that facilitates the migration of cancer cells. In prostate cancer cell lines, they discovered that CD151 is free from its normal adhesion partner (integrin) — another protein that allows a cell to stick to the surrounding tissue. This form of CD151 called “CD151free” proved to be functionally important in cancer.“It was a big surprise that some of this CD151 protein was now free of that partner, and it turns out that it only occurs when a cancer is formed,” said Zijlstra. “What’s so novel about this discovery is we’re not talking about changing protein expression, which is what we traditionally see. We’re talking about a protein that changes its molecular state … and detection of that molecular state is an indication of disease progression.” In collaboration with Lewis and colleagues in Alberta, the group looked at tissue samples from 137 patients treated for prostate cancer in Canada over the past 12 years. The team determined that if patients tested positive for CD151free their cancer recurred and spread earlier than patients without any detectable CD151free.  Insight Genetics Launches Insight Molecular LabsLast month, molecular diagnostics company Insight Genetics announced the launch of Insight Molecular Labs. The CLIA-certified laboratory offers diagnostic tests that identify specific cancer biomarkers; provides clinical trial support services for targeted therapeutics, assisting in the identification of appropriate patients for trials; and specializes in the detection and monitoring of drug resistance in patients being treated with specific cancer therapies.“The laboratory is a natural extension of Insight Genetics’ work and will help us leverage our scientific expertise and specialized experience in resistance detection and monitoring to assist physicians in making therapy decisions and help identify patients for clinical trials,” said Eric Dahlhauser, Chairman and CEO of Insight Genetics.Wiechart Appointed President & CEO of Capella HealthcareLast month, Capella Healthcare co-founder, board chair and previous CEO Dan Slipkovich announced Michael Wiechart had been named president and CEO effective Jan. 1. Slipkovich said the move was designed to position the company for long-term success and strategic growth. Continuing as executive board chair, Slipkovich added the transition would allow him to dedicate more of his time to strategic market development and growth along with continued responsibilities in the areas of investor and government relations. Currently, the Franklin-based company owns and/or operates 14 acute care and specialty hospital facilities in six states.Wiechart has served as senior vice president and COO for Capella since 2009 with responsibility for hospital operations, physician services, quality improvement, supply chain, revenue cycle, managed care, strategic planning, business development, and labor productivity initiatives. He has also been significantly involved in merger and acquisition activities. He began his career in healthcare 25 years ago with the role of controller for a hospital in Statesville, NC. Later, he served as CFO at various HCA hospitals, which culminated in his being named CFO for the Chattanooga market and then the Cumberland Division. In 1998, Wiechart became vice president of Operations for Province Healthcare before moving to LifePoint in 1999 as a founding member. Wiechart is a member of the Nashville Health Care Council’s 2014 Fellows Class.Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About!Awards, Honors, RecognitionsEllen Wright Clayton, MD, JD, the Craig-Weaver Professor of Pediatrics and professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, has won the David Rall Medal from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) for “exemplary” service to the institute. Clayton currently is a member of the executive committee of the IOM Council and the Report Review Committee, as well as chair of the IOM’s Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice.Avondale Partners’ Wealth Management Group is the nation’s fastest growing Registered Investment Advisor (RIA), according to Financial Advisor magazine’s 2013 RIA survey and rankings. The annual rankings from the leading financial advising publication showed Avondale’s assets at $687.5 million, an increase of 178.45 percent over the previous year.  The Joint Commission recently named 10 local hospitals among the nation’s top performers on key quality measures. Middle Tennessee standouts were: Clarksville Health System, Maury Regional Medical Center, Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, NorthCrest Medical Center, Sumner Regional Medical Center, TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center, TriStar Horizon Medical Center, TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center, TriStar StoneCrest Medical Center and TriStar Summit Medical Center. In addition, HCA had 110 hospitals and Community Health Systems had 63 of its affiliated hospitals recognized as top performers. The Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations (TAMHO) handed out top honors during the annual meeting. Among the winners, Gov. Bill Haslam received the TAMHO President’s Award. Lee Ann Ingram, board member for Centerstone, received the Frank G. Clement Community Service Award for her leadership and volunteer service. Qualifacts Systems, Inc., a cloud provider of electronic health records for behavioral health and human services, won a 2013 NEXT Award as the top Technology Market Mover in Nashville. Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC was the recipient of the Entrepreneurial Partner NEXT Award. The awards are hosted by the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce and Nashville Entrepreneur Center.Wishes GrantedVanderbilt University has received a $3 million grant from the GE Foundation’s Developing Health Globally program to fund international medical education and research in Kenya and other low-resource regions of the world. The major focus of the grant is to develop training programs that can demonstrably lower surgical and obstetric mortality, as well as dramatically improve and expand education of anesthesia providers throughout these regions.Centerstone has received a three-year, $840,000 grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to improve access to substance abuse treatment services for more than 150 individuals living in underserved rural areas in Tennessee and southern Kentucky. With the funding, Centerstone will implement an electronic Recovery-Oriented System of Care, or e-ROSC, an innovative approach to treating substance abuse and addictions involving grassroots and faith- and community-based organizations all working together to help people achieve recovery.Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center’s Breast Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) has been awarded a third round of funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).The SPORE grant renewal will provide more than $11.3 million in funding support over the next five years for breast cancer research. Recent Certifications, Accreditations & CommendationsTriStar Summit Medical Center’s Sarah Cannon Cancer Center received a Three-Year Accreditation with Gold Level Commendation from the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.The Joint Commission has awarded University Community Health Services (UCHS) both Ambulatory Care Accreditation and Primary Care Medical Home (PCMH) certification.  UCHS operates over a dozen clinic sites throughout Middle Tennessee.Sarah Cannon at TriStar Centennial Medical Center has been granted three-year accreditation by the American College of Radiology for providing the highest level of quality and patient safety in radiation oncology.NorthCrest Medical Center has received the Get With The Guidelines®–Stroke Silver Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association. Saint Thomas Health, Marian University Launch Accelerated Nursing ProgramIn December, Saint Thomas Health and Marian University announced the launch of an accelerated nursing degree program that will address the rising shortage of nurses in Tennessee and across the nation by educating highly-skilled, compassionate professionals in a concentrated 16-month period. Marian University at Saint Thomas Health offers those with a bachelor’s degree the singular opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) through an accelerated program that combines online courses and hands-on clinical training. The program, headquartered at Saint Thomas West Hospital, is accepting applications for the first cohort, which will begin classes in May 2014. Information is at www.mariannursing.com/nashville.HCA’s New C-Suite in Effect Jan. 1Changes to the HCA executive suite announced last fall went into effect Jan. 1. R. Milton Johnson became president and CEO upon the retirement of Richard M. Bracken as CEO at the end of 2013. William B. Rutherford succeeded Johnson as CFO. Previously, Rutherford served as COO of HCA’s Physician Services Group. Bracken remains as HCA’s chairman of the board.Lovell Communications Names Plorin President Rosemary Plorin has been named president of Lovell Communications, succeeding firm founder Paula Lovell, who remains with the 25-year old public relations and marketing communications firm as chairman and CEO. Plorin joined Lovell in 2000 and has been a senior vice president and partner in the firm since 2005. She leads Lovell’s Healthcare Division, a team of senior strategists specializing in healthcare regulation communications, issues management, M&A communications and healthcare marketing. A nationally sought after speaker, she has presented to numerous healthcare and business organizations including the American Health Lawyers Association, the Federation of State Medical Boards, Modern Healthcare magazine, and the International Associations of Business Communicators.TOA Adds Three SurgeonsTennessee Orthopaedic Alliance (TOA), the state’s largest orthopaedic practice, recently added three new surgeons, bringing the number of new physicians added during the past year to seven and the total number of TOA physicians to 52.Christian Anderson, MD, is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon, specializing in shoulder, sports medicine and hip arthroscopy. Anderson completed a Sports Medicine fellowship at Stanford Sports Medicine Center, where he served as a team doctor for the San Francisco 49ers leading up to and during Super Bowl XLVII. Anderson is based at TOA’s St. Thomas-West care center.Alison Cabrera, MD, is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon, specializing in sports medicine. Cabrera completed her Orthopaedic Sports Medicine and Shoulder fellowship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and is based at TOA’s Clarksville care center.Chase Corn, MD, is a fellowship-trained orthopaedic surgeon, specializing in foot and ankle surgery. He completed his fellowship work at the renowned OrthoCarolina Foot and Ankle Institute in Charlotte, NC. Corn is based at TOA’s St. Thomas-West care center.TAMHO Elects LeadershipThe Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations elected officers for 2014 at the organization’s recent annual meeting held in Murfreesboro. Robert N. Vero, EdD, CEO of Centerstone of Tennessee, will serve as president. He succeeded Charles Good, president and CEO of Frontier Health in Gray, Tenn., who will remain on the board as immediate past president. Chris Wyre, president and CEO of Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System in Murfreesboro was chosen president-elect. Robert Vaughn, CEO of Carey Counseling Center in Paris, Tenn. will remain on the board as secretary, completing the second year of a two-year term. Mary Claire Duff, chief fiscal officer of Ridgeview in Oak Ridge, Tenn. will serve a two-year term as treasurer. Ward Joins 2nd Generation CapitalJames C. Ward recently joined Nashville-based 2nd Generation Capital, LLC, as a principal and director. Previously, the Nashville native was employed by Mars, Inc. in its financial management development program where he gained experience in P&L management, new product launches, business analytics and internal audit.  Ward is an alumnus of Princeton University where he graduated cum laude and the Owen Graduate School of Management where he was a member of Beta Gamma Sigma.  While with Owen, he interned at 2nd Generation Capital and worked with multiple start-up companies in the healthcare, energy and music technology fields.  VUMC Joins National Stroke Prevention Research NetworkVanderbilt University Medical Center has joined a national network funded by the National Institutes of Health to streamline multi-site clinical trials focused on key interventions in stroke prevention, treatment and recovery. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) Stroke Trials Network will include up to 25 academic medical centers and aims to increase efficiency and resource sharing within cerebrovascular clinical research. VUMC received a $1.9 million grant to support network infrastructure and will receive additional funds for the individual trials. As the Regional Coordinating Stroke Center for Tennessee, VUMC has forged partnerships with Erlanger Medical Center, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center and Huntsville Hospital to access an estimated 4,300 stroke admissions per year. VUMC can also recruit patients from the Vanderbilt Health Affiliated Network with 32 additional hospitals in the region.Avondale Partners Adds Managing Director in Investment BankingLast month,  Avondale Partners, a national investment banking and wealth management firm headquartered in Nashville, announced the continued expansion of the investment banking group with the addition of Robert Tyndall III as managing director.Tyndall is focused primarily on the healthcare sector with 20 years advisory experience serving management and shareholders of owner-operator, private-equity backed, and public companies. He was previously a director with Brookwood Associates, a middle market M&A boutique firm, where he completed 20 M&A and capital raise transactions primarily in the healthcare services, healthcare IT, pharmaceutical services sectors. A graduate of the University of North Carolina and Harvard Business School, he began his career in a business development role for MeadWestvaco.  DentaQuest Appoints Project Manager for TennCare Dental ProgramDentaQuest, which last began administering dental benefits for TennCare in October, recently announced Steven Brady has been appointed DentaQuest’s project manager for the company’s state of Tennessee program. In this role, Brady will be instrumental in the company’s management of dental benefits for the approximately 750,000 children who receive benefits through TennCare. Brady, who most recently served as associate dean of business and finance at Meharry Medical College School of Dentistry, will be responsible for collaborating with state and local officials on program efficacy and accountability. He will also direct a team of healthcare management and community outreach professionals who are working with providers and TennCare members across the state. He is a graduate of Tennessee State University and has more than 15 years of finance and operations experience. PathGroup Expands Footprint with Two New Dedicated LaboratoriesBrentwood-based PathGroup, one of the largest private providers of pathology services in the U.S., announced last month that it has opened two new state-of-the-art facilities dedicated exclusively to molecular and cytology testing. The new laboratories are adjacent to PathGroup’s current laboratory at Grassmere Park in Nashville. The two additional testing sites have the capability to perform molecular assays for oncology, including Next-Generation Sequencing (NGS), as well as infectious disease and women’s health diagnostics. The new space also includes a CLIA-validation laboratory for test development and implementation. PathGroup will continue to operate out of its existing 40,000 square foot laboratory. These new additions add approximately 20,000 square feet of nearby laboratory space, thereby increasing operational facilities by 50 percent. ReDoc Software Promotes Hobgood, ShaferBrentwood-based ReDoc Software, a leader in therapy documentation and management solutions, recently announced promotions for two employees.Seth Hobgood has been named chief technology officer. Previously, he served as vice president of Integration Services. In his new role, he will look to grow the company’s technology initiatives and will oversee the internal and hosted infrastructure. He joined the company in 2010.Ann Shafer has been appointed clinical product owner and design specialist. In her new role, she will be responsible for analyzing and designing clinical components used in current and developing software, as well as assisting with the planning for and conducting of beta testing processes. Additionally, she will serve as a clinical liaison for the product design and development divisions of ReDoc. She joined ReDoc in 2003 and was director of Compliance and Outcomes and clinical advisor for ReDoc.Merrick Joins LBMC TechnologiesLast month, LBMC Technologies, LLC, a leading full-service technology firm and a member of the LBMC (Lattimore Black Morgan & Cain, PC) Family of Companies, announced the addition of John Merrick to the Brentwood office. He will serve as a business system consultant and will focus his talents on Microsoft Dynamics GP and Intacct implementations. He comes to LBMC Technologies with a wealth of experience with large organizations such as Target, Nokia and PWC. Prior to LBMC, Merrick was a geographic analyst at Nokia. He has an undergraduate degree in Economics from Miami University and his Masters of Accountancy is in progress from Belmont University.Lincor Upgrades Patient Engagement Technology, Launches New Product PortfolioLast month, Lincor Solutions Inc. announced the launch of a new portfolio of products for delivering its industry-leading patient engagement technology to hospitals and health systems. Powered by next-generation technology that provides access to clinical, administrative and entertainment systems within a single platform, Lincor’s LINC product portfolio offers a range of easy-to-implement solutions for increasing patient satisfaction scores, improving clinical outcomes, reducing unnecessary readmissions and facilitating electronic health record (EHR) adoption. The LINC product portfolio includes four distinct products. PatientLINC provides access to a suite of tools including interactive clinical information, communication services and entertainment content via a touch-screen monitor at the patient bedside. ClinicalLINC provides secure access to clinical information systems through a wall-mounted terminal adjacent to the bedside. MediaLINC turns the in-room television into a “smart device” capable of delivering interactive patient education, hospital information and entertainment content. MobileLINC provides access to medical information, educational materials, and entertainment content through a patient’s personal mobile device New links between hospitals’ Medicare reimbursement and their performance on patient satisfaction surveys, readmission rates and the Meaningful Use of EHRs have made patient engagement a financial imperative. In the first year of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, for example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services charged 2,213 hospitals about $280 million for excess readmissions. 101 Mobility Franchise Comes to NashvilleCecil Raney (retired U.S. Navy) and Jerry Kieffer (retired U.S. Marine) have opened 101 Mobility’s 32nd location – and the first in Nashville. 101 Mobility provides a one-stop-shop for professionally installed mobility solutions that might help Nashville’s elderly age in place and assist the disabled with everyday accessibility. 101 Mobility Nashville is already creating strategic alliances with non-profits and other business owners to educate the public about small changes that could allow access for everyone. 101 Mobility service technicians are factory trained and certified to install a variety of mobility equipment. BlueCross to Offer One-Year Extensions to Individuals with Policy Renewal Dates through Oct. 1, 2014BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will allow individuals with coverage renewal dates from Jan. 1, 2014 through Oct. 1, 2014 to keep their existing health plans for another year.The extension option was offered in November by the federal government and Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance (TDCI) for what are considered non-grandfathered health plans under the Affordable Care Act.  An estimated 50,000 individuals currently covered with BlueCross policies will be offered the extension option. These members will need to keep the exact same level of benefits and renewal dates in order to qualify for the extensions.BlueCross will not offer small group customers (50 or fewer employees) with an extension option because the company had already provided an option for early renewal in 2013 to allow them to keep their existing plans through most of 2014.“Many of our customers will now have the option to keep their health insurance,” said Bill Gracey, BlueCross president and CEO. “These plans have provided high-quality coverage that has met our customers’ needs. We expect many of them will welcome the opportunity to renew their coverage for another year.”BlueCross individual members will have the option to renew their current plan for another year, or choose an Affordable Care Act-compliant plan, which may come with additional benefits and financial assistance, if eligible.The individual plans that may be extended are considered as non-grandfathered health plans under the ACA and were required to be discontinued under the law in 2014.The extension effectively moves the deadline forward, but plans renewing after Oct. 1, 2014 must meet all requirements of the ACA. Extending existing individual plans will delay some of the more challenging consumer impacts of the ACA for another year and alleviate concerns of consumers who have had difficulty accessing the Marketplace. Customers who choose this one-year extension option will still need to move to ACA-compliant plans in 2015.This extension option does not apply to consumers with coverage through any of the Cover Tennessee programs, which are operated by the State of Tennessee with BlueCross serving as a contracted administrator. For more details on the future of these state programs, visit  www.tn.gov/tenncare/HealthInsurance.shtml.AMA Announces New, Improved FREIDA Online ResourceThe American Medical Association (AMA) updated and re-launched HYPERLINK "http://media.ne.cision.com/l/nauzdbsm/www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/education-careers/graduate-medical-education/freida-online.page"FREIDA Online in the fourth quarter of 2013. FREIDA Online is the leading resource used to gather information about graduate medical education programs.“Tens of thousands of medical students and residents use FREIDA Online every year to help them find the residency program or fellowship that best fits their needs – no other resource provides the same breadth and depth of information,” said AMA President Ardis D. Hoven, MD. FREIDA Online has been updated to make it more intuitive and easier to use. New features include mobile device optimization, an enhanced search function and a map that plots program locations. AMA members will have access to additional features, including a tool to compare programs side-by-side, the ability to save searches and programs, and a dashboard to add notes, ratings and track the statuses of their applications and interviews.The site remains available to AMA members and non-members, but all users will be required to create an account to access the updated FREIDA Online resource.FREIDA Online lists information for the more than 9,400 graduate medical education programs accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), as well as the more than 100 Board-approved combined specialty programs. The resource also displays aggregate training program statistics for each specialty and subspecialty, as well as information on recent graduates of each training program.naviHealth, Cigna-HealthSpring Partner to Improve Outcomes, Reduce Costs in Post-Acute CareTwo Nashville-based companies, naviHealth and Cigna-HealthSpring, a Cigna company (NYSE:CI), recently announced their collaboration in managing post-acute care services for approximately 100,000 Cigna-HealthSpring members in the Mid-Atlantic and Pennsylvania markets. The program will utilize naviHealth’s decision support technology and field-based care managers to deliver high-touch care services to Cigna-HealthSpring members receiving Skilled Nursing Facility (“SNF”) services. With the program, naviHealth’s nurses and licensed therapists will engage and assess Cigna-HealthSpring members in the hospital to educate members and their caregivers on their options for post-acute care and rehabilitation. Post-discharge, naviHealth will work with patients and their care teams in skilled nursing facilities to continually update the patient’s care plan and monitor progression against their personalized goals.Nashville Health Care Council Announces New Communications Coordinator, Staff PromotionsThe Nashville Health Care Council recently announced the addition of Valerie Somerville as a new staff member and three staff promotions.Valerie Somerville has joined the team as communications coordinator for the Council. In this role, she will support various projects to communicate with Council members, media and other stakeholders. Prior to joining the Council, Somerville served as public information officer for the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services where she supported the department’s media relations and social media efforts. Somerville earned a master’s degree in advertising and public relations and bachelor’s degree in hospitality management from the University of Alabama.Jenni Bradley has taken the role of director for Leadership Health Care (LHC), an initiative of the Nashville Health Care Council dedicated to nurturing the talents of Nashville's next generation of health care industry leaders. In this role, she oversees all aspects of LHC including program development and membership relations. She previously served as the deputy director for LHC. Before joining the Council, Bradley worked in Washington, D.C., in positions at the U.S. Department of Education, the White House Office of Presidential Correspondence and the office of Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr.Kalyn Dennis has been promoted to event manager for the Council. In this capacity, Dennis is responsible for the planning, execution and management of Council events, including Council Fellows and LHC programs. Dennis initially joined the Council as event coordinator, after serving as executive coordinator with Nashville Capital Network.Susan Hanson has moved into the role of office manager for the Council. In this role, she is responsible for the Council's front office activities and database management, and serves on the organization's event planning and execution team. Prior to joining the Council, she worked in member relations with the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.New Research Study on Automating Patient Care Outside Hospitals Announced by West Health Institute, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and West CorporationA five-year study to explore new technologies that automate patient care outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices was announced today by the Gary and Mary West Health Institute (WHI), Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and West Corporation.  The goal of the research, which will begin in the first half of 2014, is to identify ways technology can provide real-time feedback and guidance to patients and to alert care coordination teams before health issues escalate.Most of the hospitals and doctors’ offices in America are not able to actively and consistently manage patients once they leave a medical setting. This can result in high hospital readmissions, unnecessary emergency room visits and uncontrolled chronic illness. As an example, it is estimated that nearly one out of every five patients is readmitted to the hospital within 30 days.  By targeting preventable readmissions, $25 billion could be saved annually, according to the New England Health Institute. “So many patients with chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension unnecessarily cycle through emergency rooms and hospital beds, which are the most expensive places to receive care,” said Nicholas J. Valeriani, chief executive officer of WHI. “Through this collaboration, we are seeking to create an automated system of care-coordination so providers can intervene before medical problems escalate.”“Healthcare lags behind other service industries that use customer-friendly smart technologies,” said Jeffrey R. Balser, vice chancellor for Health Affairs at VUMC. “By leveraging the strengths of our three organizations, we hope to evaluate new ways to connect patients and clinicians to the right resources that meet the medical need in real-time.”As part of the agreement, the organizations will translate medical treatment guidelines into automated clinical and operational workflows and study their effect on the cost of care, caregiver capacity, and the quality of health care outcomes.  This integrated system of care has the potential to enhance the relationship between doctors and patients as the patient can be followed more closely.  PearlPoint Cancer Support Announces New Board MembersPearlPoint Cancer Support recently announced the addition of seven new members to its board of directors: Tennessee Speaker of the House of Rep. Beth Harwell, David Jarrard, Matt Lane, Thomas Lynch, MD, Wendell Moore, Barbara Paul MD, and Melissa Waddey. Harwell represents the 56th District in Davidson County. Jarrard is a co-founder and principal for Jarrard, Phillips, Cate & Hancock. Lane is senior vice president of Gen Cap America. Lynch is director of Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven. Moore is a senior public policy advisor in Baker Donelson’s Nashville office. Paul is senior vice president and CMO of Community Health Systems. Waddey is a vice president with LifePoint Hospitals.The seven new members join a twenty-three member board that oversees PearlPoint’s governance including: mission, vision, finances, policies, practices, strategic planning, and more.Vanderbilt Researchers Report G-Protein Advancement that Could Lead to More Effective DrugsThanks in part to a computer program named “Rosetta,” Vanderbilt University researchers are closer to understanding how the ubiquitous HYPERLINK G protein is activated – a discovery that could lead to the design of more specific and effective drugs.“We always thought the G protein was like a stable rock,” said outgoing Pharmacology Chair Heidi Hamm, PhD. “But it’s not. It’s sitting there, right on the edge … (It’s) energetically poised to be activated by the receptor.”The study provides a “really detailed energetic prediction of what is going on,” added Jens Meiler, PhD, co-senior author with Hamm of their report, published online in early December in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.G proteins are intracellular “switches.” They are activated by membrane-bound receptors called G protein-coupled receptors, or GPCRs, through which hormones, neurotransmitters and more than half of all drugs on the market exert their effects.GPCRs, however, can “turn on” multiple G protein-signaling pathways. Focusing on specific G protein-activated pathways inside the cell could lead to “laser-like” drugs with fewer side effects.Rosetta was originally written by David Baker, PhD, head of the Institute for Protein Design at the University of Washington in Seattle. As a postdoctoral fellow in Baker’s lab, Meiler helped develop Rosetta algorithms that provide “energetic analyses” of protein-protein interactions.Just as the Rosetta Stone provided the key to understanding Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Rosetta algorithm “was written to predict the protein structure from sequence, which is considered to be the Holy Grail in biology,” said Meiler, associate professor of Chemistry and Pharmacology who came to Vanderbilt in 2005. “Now we use it for many different applications,” he said. “It goes to designing proteins that have a therapeutic function.”Hamm, who returns to her lab full-time in January while a national search is conducted for her successor as chair, said the energetic analysis of the membrane receptor rhodopsin interacting with its G protein provides new insights into how G proteins are activated to transmit signals into the cell. A previous paper published in 2011 by Hamm and her colleagues provided a “snapshot” of how the G protein “swings open” after binding to its G protein-coupled receptor or GPCR.The current study, led by first author Nathan Alexander, a former Chemistry graduate student in Meiler’s lab, “actually allows us to understand how each amino acid interacts with its environment,” added Hamm, who is internationally known for her contributions to understanding G protein-GPCR interactions. By mutating specific amino acids, the researchers found they could affect the activation of the G protein.The study not only provides a “roadmap for future experiments” to better understand G protein activation, it also could lead to more specific drugs with fewer side effects, drugs that “tweak” the activity of specific receptors, she said.First Large-Scale PheWAS Study Using EMRs Provides Systematic Method to Discover New Disease AssociationsVanderbilt University Medical Center researchers and co-authors from four other US institutions from the Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network are repurposing genetic data and electronic medical records to perform the first large-scale phenome-wide association study (PheWAS), released in late in Nature Biotechnology. Traditional genetic studies start with one phenotype and look at one or many genotypes, PheWAS does the inverse by looking at many diseases for one genetic variant or genotype.“This study broadly shows that we can take decades of off-the-shelf electronic medical record data, link them to DNA, and quickly validate known associations across hundreds of previous studies,” said lead author Josh Denny, MD, MS, Vanderbilt Associate Professor of Biomedical Informatics and Medicine. “And, at the same time, we can discover many new associations. “A third important finding is that our method does not select any particular disease - it is searches simultaneously for more than a thousand diseases that bring one to the doctor. By doing this, we were able to show some genes that are associated several diseases or traits, while others are not,” he added.Researchers used genotype data from 13,835 individuals of European descent, exhibiting 1,358 diseases collectively. The team then ran PheWAS on 3,144 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP’s), checking each SNP’s association with each of the 1,358 disease phenotypes. As a result, study authors reported 63 previously unknown SNP-disease associations, the strongest of which related to skin diseases.“The key result is that the method works,” Denny said. “This is a robust test of PheWAS across all domains of disease, showing that you can see all types of phenotypes in the electronic medical record — cancers, diabetes, heart diseases, brain diseases, etc. — and replicate what’s known about their associations with various SNPs.”An online PheWAS catalog spawned by the study may help investigators understand the influence of many common genetic variants on human conditions.AMA Applauds CMS Decision to Extend Prep Time for Meaningful Use Stage Two; Urges Federal Government to Also Reconsider Stage Three Deadline“The federal government’s decision to extend Stage 2 of the Electronic Health Record (EHR) Meaningful Use program is a welcome reprieve that will provide physicians and vendors with an additional year to adequately prepare for Stage 3 of the Meaningful Use program. From the beginning, the AMA has urged the federal government to adjust the program’s timelines to ensure a safe, orderly transition so electronic health records can be widely adopted and implemented throughout the healthcare system,” said Steven J. Stack, MD, immediate past chair, American Medical Association.He continued, “While the revised timeline for implementation is a positive step, we remain deeply concerned about the program’s current pass/fail approach to demonstrating Meaningful Use. We continue to advocate strongly for greater flexibility in the participation requirements.“An October 2013 RAND Corporation study commissioned by the AMA found that many physicians are dissatisfied with electronic health records and the technology as it interferes with the quality of face-to-face time spent with patients. Physicians need well-designed systems that meet the Meaningful Use criteria and also help physicians as they move into new payment and care delivery models. We continue to urge the federal government to take these concerns into account when certifying systems.”
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