UNC School of Medicine’s Breakthrough in Autism Research

One out of 68 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine want to change this.

The School of Medicine’s Dr. Mark Zylka and his research team studied the genome sequences of thousands of children with autism, as well as the genome sequences of their unaffected parents. The researchers pinpointed a mutation that disables a genetic molecular switch to cause one form of autism.

This breakthrough in autism research is just the start. Knowing what causes one form of autism could help our researchers identify therapies for this form and discover the cause of other forms of autism.

The School of Medicine seeks to create innovative medical breakthroughs that improve the overall patient experience. Conducting cutting-edge research like this is one of the many ways we continue to do so.

For more information about the study, click here.

Telemedicine Connecting NC to UNC Health Care

At UNC Health Care, we strive to use the latest and most innovative technology, like telemedicine, to provide the best care possible to our patients.

A grant from The Duke Endowment allows us to connect all emergency departments across our system to the NC Jaycee Burn Center in Chapel Hill via telemedicine. Physicians at our hospitals across the state can quickly connect with specialists at the burn center, ensuring that burn patients from Hendersonville to Rocky Mount receive consistent, quality care from those most knowledgeable about burn injuries.

Our system’s new telemedicine program will meet a great need in our state. While more than 2,000 North Carolinians are admitted each year to hospitals for severe burns, less than 60 percent are admitted to a dedicated burn center. Through telemedicine, physicians at the burn center in Chapel Hill will assess the burns of patients across the state and make treatment recommendations.

As our system grows, we will continue to work together to meet our patients’ needs by providing the best care possible.

To learn more about the telemedicine program, click here.

NIH Invests in NC

The UNC School of Medicine’s mission is to improve the health of North Carolinians and others we serve. One of the ways that we accomplish this is through excellence in research and its translation to patient care.

That’s why I was pleased to learn about pending legislation known as “21st Century Cures,” which would increase research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by $8.75 billion nationally over the next five years.

I’m proud to say that UNC Chapel Hill has received more financial support from the NIH than has been given to any other institution in the state.

Thanks to funding from organizations like the NIH, we’ve conducted groundbreaking research, bringing us closer than ever to finding a cure for HIV and developing a real-time map of the human cell cycle. That money not only helps scientists discover cures for diseases, but it plays a major role in making the state a global leader in the biopharma and biotechnology industries.

Investments in the School are also investments in the future of our state, of course, because many of the outstanding medical students who graduate each year become the next generation of North Carolina’s physicians.

A New Take on Speed Dating

At the UNC School of Medicine, we believe that smart, innovative collaborations are the future of health care.

The UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center recently hosted an event to find innovative partnerships to put an end to real-world problems: scientific speed dating.

The event matched UNC School of Medicine surgeons with engineers from the UNC/NC State Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering for five minutes and encouraged participants to find real solutions to real problems. Winning ideas included a motion-activated bandage for burns, ways to assess the severity and spread of colorectal cancer, and innovative opportunities to use existing medical technology.

At the UNC School of Medicine, we continue looking for nontraditional tactics to improve our research and the care that we provide to people across the state.

To learn more about scientific speed dating and this year’s winners, click here.

UNC School of Medicine Ranks Near the Top in Satisfaction, Diversity and More

Today I am particularly proud of the UNC School of Medicine’s faculty, staff and students. As demonstrated by the infographic below, the UNC School of Medicine ranks near the top in student satisfaction scores, diversity and commitment to serving underserved areas, among others.

At the UNC School of Medicine, we constantly strive to be the nation’s leading public medical school. Since 2009, the Association of American Medical Colleges has released its annual Missions Management Tool to help us track our progress using data that is relevant to our mission and goals.

The recognition in these areas – student satisfaction, diversity and commitment to serving underserved areas – are of particular importance to the UNC School of Medicine, and I am glad to see our efforts being recognized.

This year’s report contains 45 measures across six categories.

To view the full report, click here.

Missions Management Tool Infographic by Rachel Morris for the AAMC Report

Missions Management Tool Infographic by Rachel Morris for the AAMC Report

Partnership Accelerates HIV/AIDS Research

Earlier this year, UNC-Chapel Hill and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), a global, research-based pharmaceutical and health care company, announced our public-private partnership to zero in on what used to be perceived as an impossible task: finding a cure for AIDS.

This new venture comes after significant progress at the UNC School of Medicine and GSK to develop successful treatment options for HIV/AIDS. Qura Therapeutics, the new company we are partnering to create, will manage the business side of the new venture. The HIV Cure Center will serve as the hub of all of our AIDS research and will be located on our campus.

At UNC Health Care, we believe that smart, forward-looking and innovative partnerships are the key to a successful future in health care. The HIV Cure Center is one of those partnerships.

After 30 years of developing treatments at UNC, we see this joint venture as a tremendous step in tackling one of the most challenging health care problems of our time.

To learn more about Qura Therapeutics and the HIV Cure Center, click here.

UNC Health Care on Ebola

Hospitals across the country are preparing for the possible admission of patients with Ebola. While North Carolina has not had a case of Ebola, UNC Health Care is prepared for the safe care of patients with these types of highly communicable diseases.

The safety of our patients and co-workers will remain, as always, our top priority.

A group of experts at UNC hospitals and the UNC School of Medicine is working to ensure that all appropriate individuals are trained and equipped to protect patients, guests, the community and each other if we do admit a patient with Ebola.

An inpatient location for Ebola care has been designated at UNC Hospitals if needed. This area has space for patient care, point-of-care laboratory testing, equipment storage and separate areas for donning and doffing personal protective equipment.

While Ebola is a serious illness, keep in mind that the disease has not spread through casual contact, air, water or food grown or legally purchased in the United States.  The virus can be spread only via direct contact with bodily fluids, objects contaminated with the virus (e.g., needles, medical equipment) and infected animals (by contact with blood, fluids or infected meat). Ebola outbreaks have occurred primarily in remote villages in Central and West Africa.  Still, it’s important to take precautionary measures to help prevent the spread of infectious diseases including Ebola. As with any other infectious disease, washing your hands frequently is one of the best methods to protect yourself and others from contracting the infection.

Our Ebola Coordinating Group is chaired by Dr. David Weber, medical director of Hospital Epidemiology, and co-chaired by Dr. Billy Fischer, Assistant Professor of Medicine, who treated Ebola patients in West Africa this summer. We are working in close consultation with the State of North Carolina’s Division of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is significant and understandable anxiety about this situation. Please rest assured that we have a comprehensive plan in place. We will continue to update our co-workers and the general public with relevant updates as they become available.

To learn more about our Ebola preparedness, click here.


UNC School of Medicine Recognized by AAMC

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently delivered its annual report, and the UNC School of Medicine ranked highly. The report said that at UNC, we are:

  • Providing graduates that meet priority needs
  • Delivering a diverse physician workforce
  • Advancing medical discoveries
  • Producing very satisfied graduates
  • Meeting community needs
  • Offering an affordable education

The report is evidence that the school continues to strive toward our mission, but also shows us where there are opportunities for improvement. For example, our school was ranked in the 17th percentile for Hispanic graduates, but in the 94th percentile for African-American graduates. We must continue working to recruit, train and graduate a more diverse workforce, as well as maintain and improve upon our success in all other areas.

To view the AAMC’s full report, click here: UNC AAMC Rankings.

The State Of Things: My View on Health Care in America

I recently was interviewed by Frank Stasio on WUNC’s “The State of Things.” We discussed the health care challenges our country faces, including gaps in mental health and preventive care, among others. I also discussed some of the myths about health care in our country and explained how UNC Health Care is working with others to provide high-quality affordable care and to train the next generation of physicians.

Listen to the full interview here.

What will health care look like in 2020?

The delivery and coordination of care in our country and across the world continues to change. On Feb. 26-27 in Raleigh, leaders in health care will gather to discuss the future of health care at CED’s Life Science conference. As a conference co-chair, I hope you will join me to explore how the convergence of medicine, technology and regulation will impact health care moving forward. To learn more about the conference and why you should attend, please view the video below.