Jordan Roberts was reminded of his calling to be a physician nearly 200 miles from the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.
Roberts, a fourth-year student, spent five weeks earlier this year at the Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center in Show Low. Having grown up not far away in Snowflake, Roberts had a pretty good idea of life in the White Mountains but was reminded of a case he initially encountered as a first-year student.
Roberts has participated in the university’s Rural Health Professions Program since enrolling in the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. That program began at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson since 1997 but was expanded to include a Phoenix office this year. The first students from the downtown Phoenix medical school spent part of their summer in far off places, including one just outside of Arizona.
In describing his return to his White Mountain roots to complete the Rural Health program commitment, Roberts talked about a patient he first met three years ago with diabetes and how he manages his condition after not seeing a doctor for many years.
“I learned that one of the special things about these folks is their resilience – to the elements, to change, and even to disease,” Roberts said. “But I was also reminded that medicine is my medium to meaningful living.”
The program was created to help address the shortage of physicians faced by Arizona that is even more critical outside its urban centers. While the state ranks near the bottom in numbers of physicians per capita, the statistics for rural physicians are even more stark and problematic.
For every 100,000 Arizonans there were 124 doctors in rural areas compared with 231 in urban areas, according to a 2005 study. This places Arizona far below the national average.
The program also allows students a concentrated clinical experience after their first year of medical school. It also exposes them to procedures outside the urban clinical setting and work with different populations.
“Rural doctors are in short supply and the clinic faculty, staff and patients will want to convince you to return one day as a board-certified physician,” said Jonathan Cartsonis, MD, who is overseeing the program. “You will surely feel the difference your first day in a rural clinical site.”
For the first year of the Phoenix-based program, students spent time this summer at clinics in Page, Prescott Valley, Yuma and Silver City, N.M.
“The summer was part freedom and part ideal mentorship,” said second-year student Brock Bennett, who served in the Silver City clinic. “The freedom came as I was liberated from the walls of the library that are so familiar the first year of med school and able to finally see patients. Despite no required ‘homework’ I found myself studying more in the evenings, on cases I had seen that day, than I did during most block curriculum days.”
The Phoenix program also will recognize students who demonstrate a strong commitment to future rural medical practice with a “Distinction Track in Rural Health” recognition on their transcript.
“The physicians I worked with were willing to provide as much practical teaching as I would embrace,” Bennett said. “The more I put into the experience the more I continued to receive. I learned incredible lessons I will not forget.”
A new group of 37 University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix medical students were officially conferred with their medical degrees at ceremonies Monday in the fourth graduation for the downtown Phoenix medical school.
Led by a bagpipe and drum corps, commencement exercises began with a procession from the college to the ceremony at Phoenix Symphony Hall. The UA College of Medicine – Phoenix has graduated 151 physicians in four years. The school opened in 2007 in what was the largest city in the nation without an allopathic (MD-granting) medical school.
UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Dean Stuart D. Flynn, MD, began Monday’s ceremony with a short description of the fourth class to complete four years of study on the downtown Phoenix campus.
“You arrived with a wonderful mix of confidence and humility, fun interpersonal skills and leadership characteristics,” Dr. Flynn said. “You have valued being trailblazers on our campus and adjectives you have used to describe your class include that you have a community feel, you are family-centered and you are all in together.”
A special hooding ceremony and the recitation of the oath were part of the ceremony, which included an address from renowned researcher Eric Reiman, MD, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and a faculty member of the UA College of Medicine.
“I am here to tell you that you are entering our profession at the most exciting time in history, the most important moment to become a doctor,” said Dr. Reiman, who is also director of the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium. “You will have opportunities to make a difference far greater than you think, far greater than the rest of us could have imagined when we began our own careers. You will be on the frontline of a new frontier, you will transform the way health is promoted and care is provided and you will blaze the trail for generations to follow.”
Graduating senior Christian Dameff, who will be a resident in the emergency medicine department of Maricopa Integrated Health System, gave the student address.
“I am awestruck at the accomplishments of every single person in this class,” Dameff said. “The thousands of hours of volunteer work, the passion and dedication to scholarly research, the diligence they show during their study of medicine and most important, the passion and superior care they give when they treat every single one of their patients. It is truly inspiring.”
The ceremony capped a day of celebration that included a senior luncheon with graduates cited for awards by specialty and achievement in the community, for humanism and scholarship.
At the lunch, graduate Jacob Gold singled out the administration for its leadership, thank them specifically.
“For taking this school from this tiny, three high school buildings to this big building, very well respected organization that we have here,” Gold said.
Among the citations, faculty member Stephanie Briney, MD, who oversees the service learning program on campus noted that the Class of 2014 had collectively served more than 5,000 hours in clinics, teaching and other areas during their four years of medical school.
The University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix opened in 2007 as a way for the state to address the critical shortage of physicians in Arizona. Nearly half of this year’s graduates from the Phoenix campus are staying in Arizona for their residencies and a similar number are pursuing primary care specialties.
Investments by state governments in their own state universities can yield large returns and help create new industries. In Arizona, telemedicine is a good example of a success story.
The Arizona Telemedicine Program’s Telehealth Technology Innovation Accelerator (TTIA) supports the development of telemedicine programs in independent health-care delivery systems throughout Arizona. The Arizona Telemedicine Program (ATP) operates one of the largest broadband health-care telemedicine service networks in the United States, delivers federally funded distance education and training programs throughout the Southwest and supports clinical studies on innovative health-care delivery systems.
Headquartered at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Tucson, the ATP began in 1996, when then-State Representatives Robert “Bob” Burns (R-Glendale) and Lou Ann Preble (R-Tucson) championed the creation of an eight-site telemedicine program. Ronald S. Weinstein, MD, a pioneer in telemedicine and telepathology, was recruited as its founding director. Since then, the eight-site Arizona Telemedicine Rural Network has grown 20-fold, and now extends to 160 sites in 70 communities.
“Our goal from the start was to use state funding as seed money for something far greater,” said Dr. Weinstein. “Our University of Arizona physician faculty members and basic scientists saw an opportunity to create a new type of federation of telemedicine programs, in which the UA would have multiple roles for an Arizona state-wide consortium of telemedicine programs. These roles now include creating and operating a shared broadband telecommunications network; developing inclusive training programs that address the telemedicine training needs of personnel across the entire health-care industry in Arizona; and promoting telemedicine, telehealth and mobile health (or mHealth).”
Today, a number of nationally recognized telemedicine programs are affiliated with ATP. Personnel in these programs have received telemedicine training and technical assistance from ATP in Tucson and Phoenix or online.
The Yuma Regional Medical Center (YRMC) in Yuma, Ariz., signed on with ATP in 2006. Greg Warda, MD, and his YRMC staff now have daily access to pediatric cardiologists led by Daniela Lax, MD, at The University of Arizona Health Network (UAHN) in Tucson. Doctors in YRMC’s 20-bassinet Neonatal Intensive Care Unit have immediate access to UA telecardiologists in Tucson over the Arizona Rural Telemedicine Network. Immediate medical decisions can be made about transferring babies born with life-threatening congenital heart defects to Tucson or Phoenix hospitals with world-class pediatric cardiothoracic surgery specialists on their staffs. Said Dr. Warda, “I can’t say enough about the cardiologists in Tucson. They’ve all been wonderful.”
Each week, the UAHN cardiology group consults on four to five YRMC cases by telemedicine video conferencing and UA cardiologists also spend a day and a half each month in Yuma following up on the babies and children they have diagnosed. ATP engineers are available 24/7 to provide technical support for this pediatric service, which has handled more than 400 expedited cases in the past five years.
Another innovative program—Phoenix-based Banner Health’s eICU (electronic intensive care unit) program, one of the largest in the nation—utilizes clinical decision support systems (CDSS), computerized diagnostic aids that automate continual analysis of patient vital signs and provide electronic access to electronic health records, lab results, medications, medical imaging and other patient data. The CDSS alerts care teams to adverse trends as well as to acute events. Spotting adverse trends in a patient’s status is challenging in any care environment due to factors such as caring for multiple patients simultaneously and routine shift changes, but is critical to preventing adverse outcomes. The CDSS allows remote intensivists (physicians who specialize in the care and treatment of patients in intensive care units) and bedside care teams to focus their efforts on the patients who need them the most.
Banner’s eICU enterprise is built around a CDSS developed by faculty in the Department of Anesthesia at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Md., and is led by Deborah Dahl, vice president for patient care innovation and director of telemedicine at Banner. Currently, 430 eICU rooms at 20 Banner hospitals are equipped with a fixed two-way audio-video system linked to a call center in Mesa, Ariz., from which intensivists remotely monitor patients. In addition to providing the Banner Health “teleteam” video access, the system continuously gathers data from the bedside monitors and each patient’s electronic medical record. A single intensivist can follow hundreds of patients a day by telemedicine. The eICU system saves Banner Health tens of millions of dollars a year. It improves patient care, results in discharging patients earlier and lowers 30-day readmission rates.
Another ATP teaching affiliate, the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix/Scottsdale, has a network of rural telestroke sites. Bart M. Demaerschalk, MD, professor of neurology and director of the telestroke and teleneurology programs at the Mayo Clinic, and Ben Bobrow, MD, professor of emergency medicine at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix created a state-wide rural telestroke and teleneurology program that serves 1,500 patients annually, preventing permanent brain damage and death. Their telestroke network is bringing “golden hour” diagnostic services to patients at Bisbee’s Copper Queen Community Hospital and other rural hospitals in Casa Grande, Cottonwood, Flagstaff, Globe, Kingman, Parker, Show Low, Tuba City and Yuma. (The “Golden Hour” for neurology patients is the one-to-three hours after stroke symptoms first appear, when the majority of strokes may be averted by intravenous thrombolytic therapy.)
The “granddaddy” of telemedicine services in Arizona is teleradiology, the most commonly used telemedicine application in the United States. Faculty in the UA Department of Medical Imaging (formerly Department of Radiology) pioneered the development of digital radiology, the foundational technology for teleradiology. Today, teleradiology services like those developed at the UA a decade ago are offered by hundreds of teleradiology companies in the United States. Since 1998, UA radiologists have diagnosed more than 1.3 million radiology cases for patients in 25 communities in Arizona and adjacent states.
“Today a number of our outstanding telemedicine programs, owned by different health-care organizations, work together on telemedicine challenges ranging from legal and regulatory issues to telecommunications challenges to reimbursement issues of mutual concern,” said Dr. Weinstein. The ATP is proud of the fact that “the Arizona State Legislature had a strong sense of ownership of the ATP at the time of its creation 17 years ago, and is engaged in these activities of ATP more than ever today.”
Dr. Weinstein noted, “Telemedicine is everybody’s business.”
Kathleen H. Goeppinger, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Midwestern University, announced the appointment of Jeffrey M. Pearl, M.D., as Program Director and Professor for the College of Health Sciences’ Physician Assistant Program.
Dr. Pearl comes to Midwestern with a distinguished academic career with a commitment to research and education. He served as a Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon for Phoenix Children’s Hospital and specializes in congenital heart surgery and transplantation. Dr. Pearl is also a Professor of Surgery at Mayo Clinic and a Clinical Professor for the University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix. He earned his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his M.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles Medical School.
Dr. Salvatore Oddo, a leader in the development of genetically-engineered mouse models and their use in the study of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders, will join the research team at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute (BSHRI) as a Senior Scientist and as an Associate Professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. Oddo comes to Arizona from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, where he served as an assistant professor in the physiology department. He starts at BSHRI on July 1.
Oddo and his colleagues continue to develop genetically-modified mouse models and study them in the effort to clarify some of the molecular and cellular disease mechanisms responsible for Alzheimer’s disease, to discover new treatments and to help test some of the treatments that are being considered for evaluation in clinical trials. Using the “triple transgenic mouse model” that he and his colleagues first developed at the University of California, Irvine, they have already made a number of pioneering contributions to the field.
His arrival marks the first of several joint recruitments that are planned between Banner and the medical college to advance the scientific fight against Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides an opportunity to expand the resources and collaborations involved in the Arizona Alzheimer’s Consortium, the nation’s leading model of statewide collaboration in Alzheimer’s research. While Oddo’s lab will be based at BSHRI, he will work closely with his new colleagues in the medical college and other organizations in the Consortium.
“I am extremely proud to become part of a fantastic Alzheimer’s disease research team and to establish my laboratory at the Banner Sun Health Research Institute,” Oddo said. “I look forward to developing new and stimulating collaborations with the faculty to identify new therapeutic targets for this terrible disorder.”
Oddo, who earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Catania, Italy and his graduate degree in Neurobiology of Learning and Memory from the University of California, Irvine, has served as an assistant researcher at the University of California Irvine’s department of neurobiology and behavior. He is moving from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio where currently he is an assistant professor in the department of physiology.
“This is the first and critical step in what will be an extremely robust partnership between the Banner Sun Health Research Institute and our college,” said Stuart D. Flynn, MD, dean of the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix. “Dr. Oddo is playing an important role in the research of Alzheimer’s disease, of critical importance as we address an aging population in Arizona and beyond.”
“We are pleased to welcome someone with Dr. Oddo’s scientific caliber and extraordinary productivity,” said Marwan Sabbagh, Director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute. “Dr. Oddo is a valuable addition to what is already a world-class team. We look forward to work ahead.”
A major Downtown Phoenix development project hit a big milestone October 5, 2011 with the “topping out” of construction of the Health Sciences Education Building on the campus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
The final beam of the building was ceremoniously lifted and secured at its highest point with workers and college staff and faculty celebrating midday Wednesday.
The $129M, 264,000 SF building – being built in a joint venture by DPR Construction and Sundt Construction, Inc. – will allow the state to take the next step in expanding its medical education facilities.
The new six-story building will house administrative offices, lecture halls, classrooms, class laboratories and a learning resource center. CO Architects is the design and executive architect; Ayers Saint Gross is associate architect and master planner.
The College of Medicine-Phoenix plans to expand its class size and add instruction as Northern Arizona University will also bring a physician’s assistant and physical therapy programs to the Health Sciences Education Building.
In its fifth year in Downtown Phoenix, the College of Medicine currently anchors the campus with 192 medical students, admitting 48 per year. After the completion of the Health Sciences Education Building in 3Q 2012, the university plans to admit up to 80 students per class and eventually reach a capacity of 120 per class to address the critical need for physicians in Arizona.
Also on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus are the UA College of Pharmacy and the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, the headquarters of the Translational Genomics Research Institute and International Genomics Consortium, and Arizona Biomedical Collaborative building.