September 20, 2014.
A sampling of news media stories involving UC Health:
In a partnership that appears to be the first of its kind, Anthem Blue Cross, a large California health insurance company, is teaming up with seven fiercely competitive hospital groups to create a new health system in the Los Angeles area. The partnership includes such well-known medical centers as UCLA Health and Cedars-Sinai. Anthem and the hospital groups plan to announce on Wednesday the formation of a joint venture whose aim is to provide the level of coordinated, high-quality and efficient care that is now associated with only a handful of integrated health systems like Kaiser Permanente in California, Intermountain Healthcare in Utah and Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. Read UC story.
See additional coverage: Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register, Torrance Daily Breeze, California Healthline
Seeking to boost entrepreneurship, the University of California will create a $250 million venture capital fund to invest in inventions developed by students and faculty. The UC Board of Regents voted Wednesday to start the fund, which will support work at the system’s 10 campuses, five medical centers, three national laboratories and more than 20 incubators and accelerators. “We really need to find a way just to be an active participant in this engine of innovation that’s going on here in this part of the country,” said Jagdeep Singh Bachher, chief investment officer of the UC Office of the President, at the Regents’ meeting at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus. UC Ventures will receive seed funding from the UC endowment and will operate without tuition or state funds.
See additional coverage: Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Business Times, San Jose Mercury News
Students throughout the University of California system are having trouble accessing mental health care, and health services directors are raising alarms that increased staffing and funding could be warranted to meet demand. “The increased need for mental health services on our campuses is outstripping our ability to provide those services,” said Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president for health sciences and services for the University of California. “It is a major problem. It’s not only a problem for UC, this is a national issue.” In the last six years, the number of students seeking help at university counseling centers has increased 37 percent, according to data presented at UC Regents board meeting on Thursday. “This is real. Students are having difficulty accessing mental health services on campus,” said Dr. Gina Fleming, medical director for the UC Self-Insured Health Plans. The UC Regents asked the health services committee to bring a list of potential solutions to the next board meeting in November. (Link to audio.)
Dr. Dan Kelly had been in Sierra Leone only a few days last month when four patients showed up at the Wellbody health clinic he co-founded there, complaining of fevers, diarrhea, weakness and terrible headaches – all symptoms of Ebola. Wellbody had closed its doors when Ebola cases spiked in Sierra Leone, one of five West African countries at the center of the world’s worst outbreak of the deadly disease. But Kelly, a UCSF infectious disease specialist, made an impulsive decision to travel there to help. He reopened his clinic, and trained his staff and others to identify and treat possible Ebola patients and protect themselves. Bay Area medical institutions have relationships on the continent that span years or even decades, especially in parts of Africa burdened by the AIDS epidemic. They’ve built clinics and research facilities and slowly strengthened community-based health care systems. In places like Sierra Leone and Liberia, those health care systems are still fragile, said Dr. Gavin Yamey, a UCSF global health expert.
A UC San Francisco researcher has just returned from Africa and he said a new alliance has been formed in the fight against the spread of Ebola, which means more money and resources to help save lives. In Sierra Leone, Dr. Dan Kelly is a teacher. He’s taught 1,000 healthcare workers how to protect themselves from the Ebola virus. “I think what was more scary was to see the nurses just wearing gloves only in the wards taking care of these patients who were positive with Ebola,” Kelly said. Kelly is getting some backup. His group, Wellbody Alliance, is joining with Partners in Health, the leader in the health and human rights movement funded by Harvard’s Paul Farmer. The partnership means more resources and better connections.
A rare respiratory virus that has sent at least 153 people to the hospital in 18 states has moved into California, and health officials are warning parents to be on the lookout for symptoms. The California Department of Health reported Thursday that four cases of enterovirus-68 have been confirmed in the state – three in San Diego County and one in Ventura County – and health officials are expecting that number to climb. Symptoms that should raise concern include difficulty breathing, wheezing and a prolonged dry cough that causes the abdomen to heave, said Dr. Shruti Gohil, an infectious-disease specialist with UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange.
Enterovirus D68 begins with symptoms of a common cold, but quickly increases in severity. Infants, children, and teenagers are at highest risk of becoming infected. Pediatrician and infectious disease expert Dean Blumberg of UC Davis discusses what steps we can take to prevent the spread of infection in young people.
UC Irvine researcher and doctor Aimee Pierce is involved in a clinical study to attempt to one day, slow memory loss. … “This is the first step toward developing a prevention for Alzheimer’s disease, and that’s critically important,” Pierce said.
Many U.S. scientists had hoped to ride out the steady decline in federal funding for biomedical research, but it’s continuing on a downward trend with no end in sight. So leaders of the science establishment are now trying to figure out how to fix this broken system. It’s a familiar problem. Biomedical science has a long history of funding ups and downs, and, in the past, the system has always righted itself with the passage of time and plumper budgets. “You know I lived through those [cycles]; I know what they were like,” says cancer biologist Dr. Harold Varmus, whose long research career includes a Nobel Prize while at UC San Francisco. However, he says, the funding challenges “were never, in my experience, anywhere as dramatic as they are now.” Varmus knows the problem well — now head of the National Cancer Institute, he directed the entire National Institutes of Health in 1998, when President Clinton started an ambitious push to double the NIH budget.
Patients looking for convenient medical appointments can now see UCLA Health System doctors using their cell phones, computers or tablets. It’s part of an ongoing effort at UCLA and elsewhere to extend alternatives to the in-person doctor visit to busy consumers outside rural areas. The doctors are available through LiveHealth Online, an already-existing service designed for business travelers and parents who may not have the time to show up for an appointment.
Dr. Michael Merzenich is close to the last person you’d expect to find on a reality show. The neuroscientist has contributed to more than 225 publications, led one of the teams that developed the first commercial cochlear implants and spent nearly 40 years as a respected faculty member at UCSF. But his passion for the concept of brain plasticity — the idea that the brain can rewire itself long after formative years are done — includes a willingness to be a bit of a proselytizer. Merzenich will appear Friday night on “Hack My Brain,” a three-part documentary airing Friday on the Science Channel.
We might tend to think of depression arising from a lack of stimulation in the brain. But in at least one part of the brain — the lateral habenula — negative emotions might actually be caused by overstimulation. “This part of the brain seems to be hyperactive in animal models of depression,” said UC San Diego postdoctoral researcher Steven Shabel, first author on a study published Thursday in Science. He and his colleagues in Roberto Malinow’s lab have discovered an unusual connection leading to the lateral habenula, which is associated with feelings of disappointment.
Revolutionary work in measuring bone strength is happening in Santa Barbara. A new invention with roots at the University of California, Santa Barbara, could help change lives in the not-so-distant future. UCSB physics professor Dr. Paul Hansma uses two small bones he bought at a supermarket to make his point: The darker one was baked, the white one wasn’t. Hansma says baking degrades organics in the bone, similar to what happens naturally to our bones through aging, disease and lifestyle choices such as smoking or excessive drinking. Hansma and his colleagues at Santa Barbara-based Active Life Scientific, Inc. say current bone density tests measure the amount of bone and minerals but not the quality of a person’s bones or overall strength.
Can your little one get unsightly warts if she touches a toad? Should you wait at least 30 minutes after eating before jumping in the pool? Dr. Shalini Shah, the director of pain management at UC Irvine Health’s Department of Anesthesiology & Perioperative Care, is often peppered with a fascinating – and odd – assortment of questions posed by curious kids and their parents. Shah, a mother of two, takes on the role of myth buster.
Tanya Altmann, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, is interviewed about why many kids are still prescribed antibiotics they do not need despite warnings of overuse.
Sacramento has long been known as a state worker town. These days, it’s just as accurate to call it a health worker town. The health care sector in the four-county Sacramento region has grown steadily and significantly for more than a decade, according to the California Employment Development Department. While most other sectors shed jobs during the recession, hospitals, doctor’s offices and nursing homes held strong, adding 10,000 workers between 2008 and 2014. As a result, roughly 83,000 health care workers live in the region, up nearly 60 percent since 2000. The Sacramento region now has about as many health workers as it does state civil-service employees. UC Davis Health System is mentioned, and its CFO, Tim Maurice, is quoted.
Starting Monday, thousands of children from low-income families who are on the autism spectrum will be eligible for behavioral therapy under Medi-Cal, the state’s health plan for the poor. The state will most likely cover any new expenses with money from the general fund, said Dylan Roby, a health care economist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
A UC Davis health expert says it’s probably a matter of time before cases of the enterovirus strain that’s been hospitalizing patients in the Midwest appears in California. Some children at a San Diego hospital are now being tested for the virus. The Centers for Disease Control says enterovirus 68 has rarely been reported in the country since it was first recognized in 1962. Enteroviruses can cause rashes or neurologic illness. This one causes breathing problems. UC Davis chief of pediatric infectious diseases Dr. Dean Blumberg says enteroviruses circulate around this time of year.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District has contributed about $200,000 to help study whether polluted air from China may be affecting Fresno. The research is led by federal agencies, such as NOAA and NASA, as well as the University of California at Davis. “We’re trying to quantify this source,” said atmospheric researcher Ian Faloona of UC Davis. “There is pollution coming from beyond the U.S., and it is affecting the western edge of North America.” UC Berkeley professor Ronald C. Cohen, director of the Berkeley Atmospheric Science Center, also is quoted.
Each year, 40,000 American children are born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The costs of caring for them are staggering, write Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, a professor of psychology and the director of the UCLA Global Center for Children and Families, and Mark Tomlinson, a professor of psychology at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.