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Health Information In Front of the Curve

How physicians at Rush keep a step ahead

The field of medicine seems to advance more rapidly each year. And at an academic medical center such as Rush, where the next generation of clinicians is trained, physicians have a responsibility not just to keep up, but to stay ahead of the curve. Here, three specialists from Rush explain how they stay ahead of their rapidly changing fields: movement disorders, hematology and vascular and endovascular surgery.

"In my field of movement disorders, advances are happening quickly in many directions. In my own work, for example, we're researching the effects of exercise on Parkinson disease. It's a fabulous way to treat this disease because it improves motor function and other symptoms such as fatigue and actually may slow disease progression. We think it works by increasing factors that preserve cells, which may enhance function in cells that are degenerating because of Parkinson disease.

"However, staying ahead of the curve is about more than research; it also requires being aware of what's going on around you. I review grant proposals for the National Institutes of Health, which gives me an early look at the latest ideas in my field. I also attend and teach at two major academic conferences each year. And I always make time to see what others are teaching, and bring that information back to Rush where we have conferences and discuss the new, innovative ideas."

Cynthia Comella, MD, is a neurologist who treats movement disorders such as Parkinson disease, dystonia, ataxia and restless legs syndrome. Comella serves on leadership committees for national organizations such as the American Academy of Neurology.

"As a hematologist, I find that the academic setting at Rush is essential for staying ahead of the curve. I have the support for carrying out research that not only enhances my ability to take care of patients, but also brings in new options for treatment.
"For example, we're currently evaluating a drug called sapacitabine to help older patients with acute myeloid leukemia avoid hospitalization for chemotherapy. Sapacitabine is not yet on the market, and this clinical trial is the only way it is available to patients.

"Interacting with other physicians, researchers and scientists in my field also helps. Comprehensive clinics like those at the Rush University Cancer Center facilitate physician collaboration — and serve the patient better by bringing clinicians from various disciplines together to review cases and interview patients. We teach each other, and we also teach the next generation of doctors, residents and fellows.

"Another way we stay ahead of the curve is by organizing the annual Rush Review of data presented at the American Society of Hematology's yearly meeting. At the Rush Review, which is the largest program of its kind in the country, physicians from community practice and those in training join other professionals to hear national experts speak about the latest research in blood disorders, including leukemia and lymphoma."

Parameswaran Venugopal, MD, is co-director of the lymphoma program at Rush. He has conducted research into therapies for leukemias and lymphomas with a focus on ways to make tumor cells more susceptible to treatments.

"I'm a vascular and endovascular surgeon, and for me, staying ahead of the latest challenge in my field means adapting to each new technology as it comes out. I learn about new procedures by attending conferences and talking to colleagues. And I learn the skills in hands-on courses given at national and regional conferences. At these courses, we may work with simulators and watch live videos of the procedure.

"I use these methods to build skills for innovative procedures such as minimally invasive abdominal aortic aneurysm repair. This repair has evolved from opening the entire abdomen to a procedure performed with instruments threaded through two small incisions at the top of the leg. Patients often go home the same day or the next day.

"I find that the more advanced technology I use, the more comfortable I become with it. I believe that if you aren't continuously building your skill set and knowledge, you're behind the game. You have to work at staying ahead."

Chad Jacobs, MD, specializes in new procedures for treating aortic aneurysms and other vascular and endovascular surgeries that will be facilitated by the innovative interventional platform in the new hospital.

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