Jill P. Mesirov Appointed Associate Vice Chancellor for Computational Health Sciences

UC San Diego School of Medicine recruits world leader in computational biology —

Leading computational biologist Jill P. Mesirov, PhD, has been appointed associate vice chancellor for computational health sciences and professor of medicine at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Moores Cancer Center. Mesirov most recently served as associate director and chief informatics officer at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, where she directed the Computational Biology and Bioinformatics Program. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Mesirov joins the Department of Medicine as a professor in the Division of Medical Genetics.

Medtech Meets Cleantech: Malaria Vaccine Candidate Produced from Algae

Cheap, green technique advances efforts toward malaria transmission vaccine in humans —

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine used algae as a mini-factory to produce a malaria parasite protein. The algae-produced protein, paired with an immune-boosting cocktail suitable for use in humans, generated antibodies in mice that nearly eliminated mosquito infection by the malaria parasite. The method, published Feb. 17 by Infection and Immunity, is the newest attempt to develop a vaccine that prevents transmission of the malaria parasite from host to mosquito. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Joseph VinetzStudy senior author Joseph Vinetz, MD, is professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases.

Read article abstract

Dr. Jamila Stockman to Receive Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award

Dr. Jamila Stockman

Dr. Jamila Stockman

Jamila Stockman, PhD, MPH, has been selected to receive the Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award, which recognizes a single outstanding new investigator in the field of gender-based violence and health.

Dr. Stockman, an infectious disease epidemiologist, is assistant professor in the Division of Global Public Health. She focuses her work on intimate partner violence (IPV) and substance abuse among low-income, underserved, vulnerable women.


Read the UC San Diego Newsroom press release


Said Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, chief of the Division of Global Public Health, “This is, without question, the most prestigious scholarly award in this field of study. Dr. Stockman’s selection indicates that she, at a very early stage in her career, is recognized as a national leader in this area.

“It is a true mark of excellence for the Division of Global Public Health, the Department of Medicine and the Center on Gender Equity and Health at UC San Diego to include Dr. Stockman among our faculty,” she said.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, is Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences & Harold Simon Professor and Chief of the Division of Global Public Health and Director of the Global Health Initiative.

Gender-based violence is increasingly recognized as central to health and development globally, Strathdee said.

Dr. Stockman holds a PhD in Epidemiology with a focus on infectious diseases from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a Master’s degree in public health from the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services. She is an alumna of the UC San Diego National Center of Leadership in Academic Medicine.

She currently holds a UC San Diego Clinical and Translational Research Institute Academic-Community Partnership Pilot Grant for her project, “The Role of Peer Navigators and Social Support in the HIV Care Continuum: Perceptions of HIV-Positive Women.”

For the Linda Saltzman New Investigator Award, the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control solicits nominations from senior investigators in the field and convenes a committee of experts to select an outstanding individual to receive this national award once every two years.  Candidates for the award have 2-10 years of experience in their field.

Richard Garfein and Kevin Patrick Named M2M Pioneers

Applying Machine-to-Machine (M2M) Technology to Verify Compliance with Tuberculosis Treatment Regimen

Dr. Richard Garfein

Dr. Richard Garfein

UC San Diego’s Richard Garfein and Kevin Patrick have been named M2M Pioneers for 2013 for their Video Directly Observed Therapy (VDOT) Program for tuberculosis.

The honor comes from Connected World magazine, which presents the M2M Pioneer awards to a small number of outstanding innovators in machine-to-machine technology each year.

The VDOT program uses smartphone video to verify that tuberculosis patients comply with the painstaking six-month regimen of antibiotics required for a cure. Incomplete treatment fails to cure the TB and raises the risk that antibiotic-resistant strains of TB will develop.

Richard Garfein, PhD, MPH, an infectious disease epidemiologist, is professor of medicine in the Division of Global Public Health. The inspiration for the VDOT program came to him as he watched his children use smartphones to send videos to their friends.

Dr. Kevin Patrick

Dr. Kevin Patrick

Kevin Patrick, MD, MS, is director of the Center for Wireless and Population Health Systems at the Qualcomm Institute (the San Diego division of Calit2) and professor of family and preventive medicine in the Division of Preventive Medicine.

In their NIH-funded pilot study in San Diego and Tijuana in 2011-2012, Garfein and Patrick demonstrated that the VDOT program was an effective tool for ensuring that patients adhered to their treatment regimens.

They also showed that VDOT could reduce costs for the local public health agency; in the pilot study, the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency. The agency’s only previous option had been to send health workers to patients’ homes to watch them take their medications.

Garfein and Patrick reported their results in an mHealth Summit Meeting abstract published in the Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine.

Now, Garfein and colleagues are working on implementing the program on a larger scale through a public/private partnership with the Verizon Foundation, which provides funding and in-kind assistance.

The Garfein-Patrick team included other faculty and staff of the Global Public Health division and a number of specialists from the Qualcomm Institute.

Steffanie Strathdee, PhD

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee. Image ©International AIDS Society/Marcus Rose/Workers’ Photos. Used with permission.

“Congratulations to them both, and to Ramesh Rao and their team from the Qualcomm Institute, for this fantastic achievement and excellent teamwork,” said Steffanie Strathdee, PhD, Harold Simon Professor, Associate Dean of Global Health Sciences and chief of the Division of Global Public Health.

Ramesh Rao, PhD, director of the San Diego division of the Qualcomm Institute, holds the QUALCOMM Endowed Chair in Telecommunications and Information Technology. He is professor of electrical and computer engineering in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego.

Said Garfein, “Working with Kevin and collaborating with the expert programmers at the Qualcomm Institute has been one of the highlights of my academic career.

“Although they are not included in the article because of the magazine’s information technology focus, we wouldn’t have been as successful if it weren’t for all the hard work by Jazmine Cuevas-Mota, Kelly Collins, and Fatima Muñoz in the Division of Global Public Health, and the dedicated employees of the San Diego County TB Control Program led by Dr. Kathleen Moser,” he said.

In the Division of Global Public Health, Cuevas-Mota is a project coordinator for Garfein, Collins is an assistant project coordinator and Muñoz is a postdoctoral fellow on the project.

“This has been a terrific project and it’s been a true pleasure to work with Richard and his team on it,” said Patrick.

“With a bit of luck, this could have world-wide impact on the health of the public. When all is said and done, this is why we are in this game.”

“This is very exciting and well deserved,” said Susan Taylor, PhD, UC San Diego professor of chemistry and biochemistry and pharmacology. She is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator in biophysics and structural biology.

“It has been so much fun for me to watch these amazing things unfold and to realize how much we can achieve by working together and building bridges across the boundaries of our campus. This is much of what makes UCSD so special.

UC San Diego Health Sciences Video: VDOT Technology Eases Monitoring for Patients with Tuberculosis

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Bringing Power of Prevention, Diagnosis to the People

“A Mercedes Benz isn’t designed to function in the Sahara Desert,” notes Dr. Eliah Aronoff-Spencer of the University of California, San Diego. “So why are we designing medical equipment for developing countries the same way we do for developed ones?”

It’s a question researchers at the new Distributed Health Laboratory in the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) at UC San Diego aim to address, and eventually, to render moot. In collaboration with the UC San Diego School of Medicine and the Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, Mozambique, Calit2’s DH Lab is designing low-cost medical devices such as microscopes and wireless sensing devices that can be used by virtually anyone anywhere in the world to prevent and even diagnose illness. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Co-directing the Distributed Health Laboratory is Eliah Aronoff-Spencer, MD, PhD, fellow in infectious diseases at UCSD and informatics coordinator for the Medical Education Partnership Initiative (MEPI) between UC San Diego and Universidade Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) in Maputo, Mozambique.

Eliah Aronoff-Spencer, MD, PhD with Dr. Manuel TomasThe photo at left shows Dr. Aronoff-Spencer with UEM physician Dr. Manuel Tomás (at right) on a patient ward at Maputo Central Hospital.

Dr. Aronoff-Spencer is also an organizer of the Biomedical Research Informatics for Global Health Training (BRIGHT) program, an international collaboration devoted to training the next generation of informatics researchers in partner countries.

The BRIGHT program, a Division of Biomedical Informatics project, is funded by grant D43TW007015 from the Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes of Health.

A graduate of the UCSD Internal Medicine Residency Program and Physician-Scientist Training Pathway, Dr. Aronoff-Spencer has completed a fellowship in clinical infectious disease and is now a fellow in research in infectious disease, global health informatics and decision making at UCSD. He is also a staff physician in infectious disease at the VA San Diego Healthcare System.

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How Infectious Disease May Have Shaped Human Origins

Inactivation of two genes may have allowed escape from bacterial pathogens, researchers say

Roughly 100,000 years ago, human evolution reached a mysterious bottleneck: Our ancestors had been reduced to perhaps five to ten thousand individuals living in Africa. In time, “behaviorally modern” humans would emerge from this population, expanding dramatically in both number and range, and replacing all other co-existing evolutionary cousins, such as the Neanderthals. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Global Public Health Division joins the Department of Medicine

Steffanie A. Strathdee, Ph.D.The UCSD School of Medicine’s highly respected academic team of global public health specialists has joined the Department of Medicine.

The Division of Global Public Health, headed by Steffanie A. Strathdee, Ph.D., conducts research and education programs to address healthcare problems that transcend political borders.

Formerly known as the Division of International Health & Cross-Cultural Medicine, the division was a part of the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine.

Division Chief Dr. Steffanie Strathdee is a top researcher, educator and thought leader in global health issues. She was recently appointed UCSD’s first Associate Dean for Global Medicine. Read the UCSD press release

“We are delighted to join outstanding leaders in academic medicine in the Department of Medicine,” Dr. Strathdee said.

“Our combined efforts will focus on reducing global health disparities and promoting training and education on global health issues that know no borders.”

Dr. Strathdee holds the Harold Simon Chair in Global Public Health and a professorship in the Department of Medicine.

The Division of Global Public Health has 16 full-time and many affiliated faculty members.

Kenneth Kaushansky, M.D., M.A.C.P.“By joining the Department of Medicine, Steffanie and her colleagues have expanded our global reach to four continents,” said Dr. Ken Kaushansky, Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine.

“Now, the Medicine faculty, fellows, residents and students have the opportunity to participate in the Global Public Health Division’s cutting-edge clinical research and innovative and insightful educational programs, and to deliver badly needed health care and self-help skills to citizens of the world.”

Robert Schooley, M.D.Dr. Robert Schooley, Professor and Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, commented, “There has been a major increase in interest in international activities within the Department of Medicine over the last 5 years.

“Dr. Strathdee and her group will provide a new dimension to scholarly activities in global medicine within the Department of Medicine –in terms of both content and geography.

“The synergy between the internationally recognized epidemiology, public health and prevention programs in Dr. Strathdee’s group and the biomedical research activities in other divisions throughout the Department will greatly increase the productivity and visibility of global medicine activities at UCSD,” Dr. Schooley said.

Programs both global and local

The education and research programs of the UCSD Division of Global Public Health extend from the San Diego-Tijuana region to communities and institutions across the world.

“Of particular interest are the public health efforts of Steffanie and her group in the California-Mexico border region,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “They’ve been a model of how proactive public health programs can provide new insights into the origins of health care disparities.

“They also demonstrate how interventions based on careful study can make an important impact on the health of both our neighbors and the citizens of California.”

The division’s local projects include three NIH-sponsored research studies based in Tijuana and other cities situated on the Mexico-US border. The projects focus on HIV, tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections.

The division currently offers three research training programs focusing on prevention of HIV and related infections and substance use:

In addition, the Division of Global Public Health has just completed a TIES (Training, Internship, Exchange, Scholarships) program, a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-sponsored effort to prevent HIV infection in Tijuana and northwest Mexico.

In local education at the postgraduate level, Dr. Strathdee is the Co-director of the Global Health track of the doctoral program in public health that is offered jointly with the San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health.

More about Dr. Strathdee

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee is a renowned infectious disease epidemiologist. Her research efforts have focused on preventing blood-borne infections such as HIV and removing barriers to healthcare delivery in underserved populations around the world.

Dr. Strathdee, who co-directs the International Core of the UCSD Center for AIDS Research, has published more than 300 scholarly reports on HIV/AIDS alone.

She joined the UCSD faculty from Johns Hopkins University five years ago. She holds an adjunct professorship in the Department of Epidemiology in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

For more information about the Division of Global Public Health, its faculty and activities, please visit the division’s website at http://gph.ucsd.edu.

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MISSION OF THE DIVISION OF GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH

Working Together to Improve Global Health

The mission of the Division of Global Public Health is to:

  • Increase awareness, skills and research capacity relating to international health and cross-cultural issues through educational activities directed to faculty, students, fellows and the community;
  • Conduct high-caliber research on health-related issues and service utilization facing populations in international settings, U.S. minorities and migrants to the U.S.;
  • Provide opportunities for students to experience clinical and research activities in international settings and diverse communities;
  • Initiate, participate and foster collaborations on international health activities within and between departments in the UCSD School of Medicine, the general UCSD campus, organized research units, and U.S.-based and international agencies and institutions;
  • Offer advice and consultation on international health topics as needed by local, regional, national and international organizations.

Med Into Grad “Makes it All Real,” Says UCSD Doctoral Researcher

From basic science laboratory to Peruvian TB clinic: Scarlet Shell, UCSD doctoral candidate in Biomedical Sciences and graduate of the Med Into Grad program.

Scarlet Shell, UCSD graduate researcher and Med Into Grad participantWhen Scarlet Shell leaves UCSD this year, she’ll have a new doctorate in biomedical sciences and an unforgettable grounding in the real world of infectious disease.

Deeply interested in tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment, she’s headed for postdoctoral research in a TB laboratory at Harvard.

And, thanks to the Med Into Grad program, she knows exactly what it’s like to diagnose and treat TB with scant resources, time-consuming tests, and trial-and-error antibiotic therapy.

Last year, UCSD’s Med Into Grad program took her to clinics and laboratories in Peru, where TB is a major health problem.

She accompanied healthcare workers to remote clinics, assisted Peruvian laboratory researchers, and met patients face to face.

“It makes it all real,” she says, “in a way that never quite happens from reading about it or hearing about it.”

Peru

Med Into Grad is a science education program that gives basic scientists a clinical experience during their doctoral training. The goal is to help medical researchers focus directly on improving patient care in their future work.

Each student is placed for three to six months in a clinical setting that matches his or her research interests.

“My Med Into Grad experience has provided a big picture view of the problem of TB and all its different facets,” Scarlet says.

“I think it’s important for setting research priorities: what questions can we ask to get the information we need to tackle this problem?”

She says the experience confirmed her decision to change her research focus and intensified her desire to find better ways to detect and treat TB.


“I was in the right place
at the right time –
or Med Into Grad was.”


Scarlet did most of her graduate studies in Dr. Richard Kolodner’s cancer research laboratory investigating DNA mismatch repair.

Dr. Kolodner is Professor of Medicine, Adjunct Professor of Cellular and Molecular Medicine and head of the Cancer Genetics program at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center.

As time went on, Scarlet became increasingly interested in infectious disease, particularly tuberculosis and malaria.

She read extensively about TB and decided she wanted to change her research focus, but didn’t know how the transition was going to happen.

Then she heard about Med Into Grad. “I was in the right place in the right time,” she says. “Or the Med Into Grad program was.”

Last April, she left her laboratory bench on the UCSD campus for Peru. The opportunity came through Dr. Joseph Vinetz, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UCSD.

Dr. Vinetz is an expert in tropical infectious diseases including malaria and leptospirosis. In addition to his UCSD laboratory, he collaborates with Peruvian and other U.S. investigators in a lab in Iquitos, a rural city in the Peruvian Amazon rain forest.

Scarlet spent several weeks in Dr. Vinetz’s malaria laboratory in Iquitos.

She visited the local hospital with nurses and other health workers. There, she had her first up-close encounters with infectious disease patients.

“I got to see what kinds of diseases people came in for, how they were diagnosed, and how they were treated,” she said.

She went on to Lima, the capital city, where she worked in laboratories operated by collaborators of Dr. Vinetz under the auspices of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia.

The laboratories conduct basic and clinical research in improving TB diagnosis and drug sensitivity testing. The aim is to find techniques that do not require costly equipment or extensive resources, so that they can be used in underdeveloped countries.


“Being in that environment
made the barriers to treatment
really obvious.”


Until she went to Peru, her career had involved an entirely different kind of interaction – with yeast, the organism used as a model system in her laboratory studies.

Now she had the chance to see how Peruvian mothers juggled transportation and child care issues as they went through the slow and arduous process of TB testing and treatment.

“Being in that environment made the barriers to treatment really obvious,” she says.

She watched how patients and doctors wrestled with logistics. TB diagnosis takes several clinic visits, and often takes many weeks. Drug therapy has to be given several times a week for at least 6 months.

“Most people don’t have cars,” she said. “The patients face choices day by day – do I go to the clinic for my treatment, or do I go to work?”

She saw how greatly the situation would improve if there were a way to diagnose TB more rapidly, and treat it with a shorter course of medicines.

In Lima, Scarlet took part in clinical research in the laboratory and she helped analyze a large database of experimental results from a clinical study.

She worked with Dr. Carlton A. Evans, an English infectious disease researcher from Imperial College London, who spends most of his time in the field in Peru.

Last November, she presented some of the Peruvian TB research data at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia.


On to Harvard
with “another level of motivation”


At Harvard, Scarlet will choose her research studies in light of her Med Into Grad experience. She’s considering investigations of how TB evades the immune response to persist inside the host, or why treatment takes so long.

Med Into Grad has given her “another level of motivation,” she says.

It has also given her research connections and projects to help establish her career.

She helps with data analysis for the Lima laboratory on her own time now. It’s part of her own connection with a healthcare effort that has become personally significant to her.

“I got to see how they did what they do,” she says. “It was a really cool experience to actually get to participate.

“It makes it all real. TB is a disease that causes so much death and so many problems. There is a need for better diagnosis and better treatment.”

About Med Into Grad at UCSD

“The Med Into Grad program gives a basic science student the chance to witness firsthand the opportunities where science can improve clinical medicine,” says Dr. Ken Kaushansky.

Dr. Kaushansky and Dr. Mark P. Kamps are founders and co-directors of the Med Into Grad program at UCSD.

Dr. Kaushansky is Helen M. Ranney Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Medicine. Dr. Kamps is Professor and Director of the Graduate Program in the Department of Pathology.

UCSD is one of several leading universities to offer Med Into Grad. The program is funded by a science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), a nonprofit research institution.

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