Tag Archives: UNC Health Care

Research Leads to Better Patient Outcomes

As dean of the UNC School of Medicine and CEO of UNC Health Care, I have the fortune of working alongside some of the best and brightest minds in health care. Through research, innovation and advanced health care delivery, they are responsible for tackling some of our most pressing health care challenges.

For instance, for the first time, a global research effort led by John Buse, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine and director of the UNC Diabetes Center, determined that a new Type 2 diabetes therapy proves better than traditional insulin injections.

The drug IDegLira proved to be more effective than basal insulin glargine injections at reducing the average amount of blood sugar over the course of several months. The new therapy was also associated with weight loss and a substantially lower rate of hypoglycemia – i.e., low blood sugar – compared with more commonly used injections, a major development in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes.

Another area where our researchers are making breakthroughs is in autism and neurodegenerative diseases.  Dr. Mark Zylka, PhD, associate professor of cell biology and physiology at UNC, led a team of researchers who published a study on the role that a new class of fungicides could play in autism and neurodegenerative disease. Along with his team, Dr. Zylka found a class of commonly used fungicides that produce gene expression changes similar to those in people with autism and neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. The study, published in Nature Communications, describes a new way to home in on chemicals that have the potential to affect brain functions.

This is the kind of research that makes UNC one of the leading academic medical centers in the nation. More importantly, research drives better care and leads to more effective treatments.

For more information on the diabetes study, click here.

For more information on the fungicide 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.

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.

Leadership Changes in the Med School

Because of several unrelated developments, we have the opportunity to reload the senior ranks of the UNC School of Medicine.

I welcome this — and see it as a chance for us to prepare ourselves and the institution for the next phase of our work together.

Last month, Etta Pisano left UNC to go to the Medical University of South Carolina, where she will become dean of the College of Medicine, July 1. We celebrate her accomplishments and all that she has given us. We wish her the best in this new endeavor.

This means we need to fill her position here — Vice Dean for Academic Affairs of the med school. Separately, she has also served as director of the NC TraCS Institute, which manages our NIH-CTSA grant. So we need to identify the right person to do that as well.

This spring we also launched searches for two other senior positions — Executive Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs and Faculty Development, which Gene Orringer has ably done for almost fifteen years, and Executive Associate Dean for Research, which Bill Marzluff has ably done for fifteen years. We are very grateful for their service and accomplishments, and they will continue to contribute as leaders among the faculty.

We posted these positions and yesterday the posting closed. I am in the process of interviewing people.

I am really grateful that a number of talented people have stepped forward and offered themselves for these important roles. That is not easy to do — and I thank them.

I am seeking wide input on these decisions — believing that we have a unique opportunity to position the School for success.

We want to continue our path of excellence and leadership — our aspiration is to be the leading public medical school and leading public academic medical center in America.

We want people who work well together as a team — but who each are strong and talented in their respective areas, not timid or quiet.

We want a diverse team of people — we have made progress in recent years in diversifying the School and the UNC Health Care System, but we have much more we can and ought to do in this area.

We have lots of challenges — but also lots of opportunities. I believe these new leadership decisions are major opportunities.

Stay tuned.

A few more photos

I’m sending a few more photos of our trip while we are waiting in the Brussels Airport.

This is of Will making bricks at the Dufatanye Co-op.
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Will with the pitcher he made at the Co-op.
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The entrance to the faculty of medicine (the med school) at the National University of Rwanda in Butare.

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The rector of NUR (our chancellor's counterpart), Prof. Silas Lwakabamba

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Bishop Nathan Gasatura, his wife, Florence, their son, Daniel, and Will and me, in their home

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St. Paul's Cathedral, Butare

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Godfrey Kalema, his wife, Diane, a student, Theonest (with the UNC hat I gave him!) and Will, near the Dufatanye Co-op

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John, who drove us all over Rwanda, and Will ? in the Kigali Airport, just before we left

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About to leave for home

This may be my last blog entry written from Rwanda. It has been a simply fabulous trip in every respect.

Will and I are the Hotel des Mille Collines, made famous by the film, Hotel Rwanda. It is a very nice upscale hotel. We stopped here because we are early for the airport, and we are using the WiFi connection here for a couple of hours.

For the past two days I have been in Butare, which is the home of the National University of Rwanda. It is a university town ? think the Chapel Hill of Rwanda.

It is also home for St. Paul's Cathedral, the main Anglican church in the diocese of Butare. It is the sister congregation for our church back in Chapel Hill.

I visited with Bishop Nathan Gasatura and his wife Florence ? whom I first met when they were visiting Chapel Hill about a year and a half ago. They are very warm and engaging people. He has long been a church and NGO leader, and she is a nurse. Florence got her masters in nursing in Scotland several years ago. When she was in Chapel Hill recently, she toured the North Carolina Cancer Hospital.

Florence took me around the medical school ? and I was also hosted by the vice dean. I had met the dean in Kigali last week. We saw the entire complex ? and I am quite impressed with what they do with limited resources.

We also visited the teaching hospital in Butare, which is known by its French acronym CHUB. It is about 500 beds ? and, again, I was very impressed with what they are doing. A major challenge for them is physician recruitment and retention, especially for specialists. For example, they told me there are no oncologists in the nation of Rwanda, and only a hand full of orthopedists, ophthalmologists, ENTs, etc.

Yesterday afternoon Will came back from his day at the Dufatanye Co-op, dirty, sweaty and tired, but very happy ? he has some great pictures that they took of him making bricks! He also made a clay pot ? like he learned to do in his ceramics class at Wingate University! He says they were fascinated with his making it.

Last evening we ate at Nathan and Florence's house ? it was a delicious meal of traditional Rwandese food. The dish I've grown to love is rice with what we would call English peas and carrots, with a sauce poured over it that looks like thin tomato soup. It is very tasty and filling.

I think I've lost a few pounds on this trip ? because I'm eating good food but not many snacks.

I really feel great.

Today I visited a bit with the leaders at St. Paul's Cathedral and then we started back to Kigali.

We stopped en route at Nyanza, to say thanks and farewell to Godfrey and Diane, his wife, at the Dufatanye Co-op. They gave us some gifts to take back, Rwandan crafts.

So … A few hours from now we hope to be on the plane headed home.

This has been a wonderful experience.

I will be able to post some pictures in a day or so.

Stay tuned.

Weekend in Rwanda

I had a very pleasant weekend in Kigali and beyond.

One of the places I saw was the Hotel des Milles Collines, which was featured in the film Hotel Rwanda.

Hotel Rwanda

On Saturday evening, I had a dinner meeting with the leader of the Anglican Church in Rwanda, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini and several others. Our church in Chapel Hill is under his jurisdiction.

Dinner Saturday, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini is far left

Dinner Saturday, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini is far left

On Sunday morning, I went to the English service at the Anglican cathedral, St. Etienne, and heard the dean preach. He is Rev. Antoine Rutayisire. After the service, he introduced me to Dr. Richard Sezibera, one of the members at St. Etienne, who is the minister of health of Rwanda. We had a short visit and he invited me to meet with him in a couple of days.

left: Rev. (Dean) Antoine Rutayisire, Dr. Richard Sezibera

left: Rev. (Dean) Antoine Rutayisire, Dr. Richard Sezibera

Sunday afternoon, Will and I went to Nyanza, and visited the Dufatanye Cooperative, which is a local NGO that supports and provides opportunity for a number of people who are living with HIV infection. It was founded and now run by my new friend, Godfrey Kalema.

The people at Dufatanye are very poor, but they have done truly impressive things together they raise a number of crops, tend goats, rabbits, cows, raise fish in ponds, and make bricks and roof tiles.

Dufantanye Cooperative

Dufantanye Cooperative

Godfrey with finished tiles and bricks

Godfrey Kalema with finished tiles and bricks

Bricks air drying

Bricks air drying

Bricks awaiting the kiln

Bricks awaiting the kiln

Godfrey with finished bricks

Godfrey with finished bricks

Cows at the Dufatanye Cooperative

Cows at the Dufatanye Cooperative


Will is working at Dufatanye, helping the workers and learning how to make bricks!

I have gone on to Butare, where the National University of Rwanda is located, including the med school. I am visiting there today.

Another beautiful day in Rwanda!