Media statement regarding suspected Ebola patient transferred to UC Davis

Patient is being assessed at UC Davis Medical Center as part of a coordinated response.

UC Davis has issued the following media statement regarding a suspected Ebola patient in the hospital:

A patient with symptoms consistent with Ebola infection was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center Thursday morning from Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento. UC Davis, identified by the California Department of Public Health as a priority hospital to treat confirmed Ebola patients, is fully prepared to safely assess and treat the patient if necessary in accordance with guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospital is coordinating its response with the Sacramento County Department of Public Health. Measures put in place to protect the health and safety of hospital workers and patients include extensive training on proper use of personal protective equipment and the establishment of a dedicated isolation room for treatment of suspected and confirmed Ebola patients. UC Davis Medical Center remains open and is continuing to operate as normal.

To stay updated, view the latest Ebola screening information for patients and visitors at UC Davis.

Media contact:
Dorsey Griffith
(916) 734-9118

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UCSF names physician-scientist as executive vice chancellor, provost

Driven by science, humanism and service, Dan Lowenstein joins UCSF leadership team.

Dan Lowenstein, UC San Francisco (Photoa by Marco Sanchez)

By Lisa Cisneros, UC San Francisco

A charismatic high school biology teacher named Brian Biemuller and a trip to Bolivia 38 years ago as a health care volunteer convinced Dan Lowenstein of his direction in life.

“The path was obvious: I wanted to become a doctor,” Lowenstein, M.D., said in a 2013 talk about his life’s story. “The mixture of science and humanism, the opportunity to serve others in such a fundamental way, the rawness, the poignancy, the intensity – all lined up to become my dream.”

Lowenstein, professor and vice chair of the Department of Neurology, has been devoted to his dream ever since. His distinguished career encompasses teaching, research and patient care – from his arrival to UCSF in 1987 as an aspiring pediatrics intern to his appointment on Thursday as executive vice chancellor and provost.

“Our singular focus on excellence in all three elements of our mission is what defines the unique greatness of UCSF, and I will do everything I can to help UCSF remain a world leader in life science discovery and innovation.”

Leading UCSF’s research enterprise

For his wealth of experience and passion for UCSF, Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., tapped the physician-scientist to be second-in-command at the nearly $5 billion enterprise, effective Feb. 1. He succeeds Jeff Bluestone, Ph.D., who stepped down to devote more time leading diabetes research for which he is internationally renowned.

Lowenstein will lead UCSF’s robust research enterprise, and its highly ranked academic program, consisting of four professional schools and Graduate Division. He will work in close collaboration with the chancellor and the leadership team to develop and implement campus priorities and vision, including advancing precision medicine, maintaining UCSF’s status as an international leader in health sciences education, and overseeing external partnerships and representing UCSF’s best interests across the University of California system and at the UC Office of the President.

“Dan exemplifies excellence in each of our mission areas – research, education and patient care – and has a deep love for our public mission,” Hawgood said. “His values very much reflect those of UCSF, and I am very pleased that he will join me in leading this great university.”

For Lowenstein, the decision to join Hawgood’s new administration came easily: “Quite simply, I love our community and I welcome this opportunity to work in this new capacity with the phenomenal people here.”

As their career paths have crossed over three decades, Lowenstein has watched Hawgood emerge as a leader, amid myriad challenges and changes, including taking over as dean of the School of Medicine in 2007.

“I was so impressed with his leadership through this time. He demonstrated a deep understanding of UCSF and a resolute belief in our mission,” Lowenstein said. “I also appreciate his humanism, selflessness and remarkable awareness of the intricacies of this institution, and his commitment to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible.”

The same can be said about Lowenstein.

He is universally admired among faculty, staff and students. A legendary educator and mentor, Lowenstein has been lauded with every major teaching award in medical education granted by students and colleagues both locally at UCSF and nationally.

Standing up for social justice

Lowenstein’s love for UCSF comes “from being among faculty who have led the world in scientific discoveries, watching our students graduate, and witnessing the saving and restoring of lives by our health care teams,” he said. “And, of course, there are the times when our community has stood up against the injustices in the world.”

UCSF students did just that in a peaceful demonstration on Dec. 10 to raise awareness of social injustices and racial disparities experienced by black Americans. Their actions and outreach to students across the U.S. started a national movement called #whitecoats4blacklives. “I am so proud of them,” Lowenstein said. “This idea came directly from our students and within five days, they had more than 80 schools from across the country join their movement.”

Lowenstein hopes this is just the beginning of a renewed commitment to fostering equality and inclusion that will be carried out across campus and the country.

He is acutely aware of the ongoing need to ensure that more people of diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to excel to positions of leadership at UCSF. Those who know him well, including many in the under-represented community, appreciate his attitude and advocacy advancing diversity and inclusion at UCSF.

His work in championing diversity and civil rights, as well as his long-standing advocacy for students, staff and faculty of all backgrounds, has been honored by the 1998 Black Student Health Association’s Faculty Award, the 1998 UCSF Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award, the 2006 Holly Smith Award for Exceptional Service to the UCSF School of Medicine, and the 2009 UCSF Chancellor’s Award for Public Service.

He also was honored by students who voted him in 2013 to deliver “The Last Lecture,” during the second year of its existence (after Susan Desmond-Hellmann, M.D., M.P.H., the first woman to serve as chancellor). In an hourlong speech, Lowenstein told his inspirational life story of lessons learned – all a testament to his integrity, inner strength and spirituality.

Lowenstein concluded that lecture with a call to action to continue the march for equality and justice for all. He specifically referred to the rise of the Black Caucus to address the racial discrimination that existed on a then-segregated campus in the 1960s.

“Despite the progress, despite all the effort, our work is not done – including, as I said before, right here at UCSF,” Lowenstein told to the audience in a packed Cole Hall Auditorium. “So, pick something that is far bigger than you and figure out how to contribute, at least in some small way, to this very long march.”

Dan Lowenstein works with a medical student in his office at Parnassus.

Research in the era of precision medicine

Lowenstein brings the perspective of many roles at UCSF since he himself has been a neurology resident, postdoctoral fellow, epilepsy physician, principal investigator and professor of medicine.

He also has served as vice chair of the Department of Neurology, director of the UCSF Epilepsy Center at UCSF Medical Center and director of the Physician-Scientist and Education Training Programs in the UCSF School of Medicine, the last two titles he will relinquish with his new position.

He has a strong track record as a scientist across the research spectrum. “I’ve been very fortunate to have been involved in a wide range of scientific approaches, including basic and translational laboratory science exploring developmental neurobiology and basic mechanisms of epileptogenesis, multicenter clinical trials looking at the treatment of prolonged seizures, and large-scale team science investigating the genetics of human epilepsy.” His papers have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience, Neuron, Nature and the New England Journal of Medicine.

Lowenstein is keenly interested and involved in furthering the promising field of precision medicine.

“I watched President Obama’s [State of the Union] speech and the phrase ‘precision medicine’ did not escape my notice,” Lowenstein said. “UCSF has been at the forefront of this concept, and there is no question that we are at the threshold of an entirely new era in translational science and health care. I can say from firsthand experience it is redefining the world of epilepsy.”

Lowenstein has been leading the Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project (EPGP) and the Epi4K Gene Discovery in Epilepsy project, two large-scale, international studies on the genes implicated in epilepsy, partnering with basic and clinical scientists at more than 40 institutions on four continents to collect actionable data to make treatments more precise for patients. This work has already yielded promising results that highlight how high-quality phenotype data, combined with state-of-the-art genomic analyses, can identify the causes and specific treatments for some of the most intractable forms of epilepsy. That accomplishment is at the core of precision medicine.

He also organized a conference in the San Francisco peninsula city of Half Moon Bay in 2014 titled, “Epilepsy in the Era of Precision Medicine,” the first conference of its kind that brought 100 leaders from around the world to plan a roadmap for research in epilepsy.

In this effort, Lowenstein is in good company at UCSF, one of the world’s leading institutions involved in epilepsy research and one of the few medical centers on the planet with top-ranking departments in the areas most relevant to this research: biomedical imaging, neurology and neurosurgery.

For his many contributions to epilepsy research, Lowenstein received the American Epilepsy Society’s 2001 Basic Research Award, an honor given each year to the foremost basic science investigator whose research “contributes importantly to understanding and conquering epilepsy.”

“The full range and depth of our research enterprise, from fundamental biological science to population science and everything in between, is, quite simply, stunning,” Lowenstein said, “and the contributions of UCSF to the world are incalculable.”

And in this, UCSF’s 150th anniversary year since its start as a medical college, the list of its accomplishments is long. Among the greatest hits he highlights are UCSF’s leadership in HIV/AIDS, the start of a hospitalist movement, cutting-edge interdisciplinary education and world-renowned expertise in molecular biology and its application in understanding science and disease, to name just a few.

“UCSF is the only place on the planet that combines a singular focus on improving health, impassioned creativity and the highest standards of excellence in such wide domains, and a community that truly cares about the success of all,” Lowenstein said. “That’s why I love it here.”

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‘Frontiers of Innovation’ program seeds seven projects at UC San Diego

Large-scale, multidisciplinary efforts address global challenges of the future.

Photo by Erik Jepsen, UC San Diego

By Paul Mueller, UC San Diego

As a key part of the strategic plan developed by faculty, administrators, postdoctoral scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, staff, alumni and other members of the UC San Diego community, Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla and Vice Chancellor for Research Sandra A. Brown are committed to significant investments in scholarship and science that will keep the university at the forefront of socially beneficial research.

Some of these investments are taking place already; other programs will be announced in the months ahead. What they all have in common is a thoughtful cultivation of promising people and innovative projects that will strengthen the university’s record of problem-solving research.

One such initiative, led by the UC San Diego Office of Research Affairs, will help launch seven major projects on campus, all focused on advancing the university’s strategic research goals.

The “Frontiers of Innovation” program is a campus-wide effort to support the primary research initiatives of the UC San Diego Strategic Plan.

One component provides fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students as well as postdoctoral scholars. The other component provides funding to support teams of UC San Diego scholars from across campus in their efforts to launch large-scale, multidisciplinary research-center applications.

“Our support for these new centers reflects our strong commitment to the research goals articulated in the campus strategic plan,” Khosla saida. “The forward-looking Frontiers of Innovation program will help ensure our continued leadership in research well into the future. Vice Chancellor for Research Sandra Brown and the Academic Senate are to be commended for driving these investments in our faculty, our students, and their vital work.”

UC San Diego’s research enterprise, said Brown, is focused on four strategic avenues of inquiry: understanding and protecting the planet; enriching human life and society; exploring the basis of human knowledge, learning, and creativity; and understanding cultures and addressing disparities in society.

“We want to engage all campus members in research to answer basic questions and address the needs of our global society,” Brown said. “We were challenged by the large number of applications for this seed funding. However, the faculty review committee identified seven exciting efforts we can foster now.”

This year, the Frontiers of Innovation Center Development funds will go to the following centers:

“These creative and ambitious faculty efforts,” Brown said, “will help us take a bold step toward meeting the grand challenges facing the world today.”

Center for Biological Timing in the 21st Century

Led by Michael Gorman
Research area: Understanding and protecting the planet

Sustainable Power and Energy Center

Led by Shirley Meng, Oleg Shpyrko
Research Area: Understanding and protecting the planet

Ying Shirley Meng, associate professor of nanoengineering: “The Sustainable Power and Energy Center is a multidisciplinary initiative dedicated to advancing the frontiers of energy technologies, focusing primarily on forward-looking renewable energy conversion, storage and power integration.  Our specific goals are to make UC San Diego a global leader in renewable energy research and integration; promote interdisciplinary energy research, education and training programs; and expedite lab-to-market transitions and support local and California clean-tech industries.”

UC San Diego Center for Translational Computer-Aided Drug Discovery & Project Management

Led by Rommie Amaro, James McKerrow
Research area: Enriching human life and society

UC San Diego Center for Compound Resources

Led by William Gerwick, Dionicio Siegel
Research area: Enriching human life and society

William Gerwick, distinguished professor of oceanography and pharmaceutical sciences: “The newly formed UC San Diego Center for Compound Resources (UCCR) will provide the campus with a unified, well-curated and easily accessible resource of diverse natural products and other small molecules for testing in biological assays. Synergistic connection between these areas of campus expertise is a clear opportunity to discover and develop new molecules of significance to human health and the planet.”

Institute for Integrative Science of the Developing Mind and Brain

Led by Jeff Elman, Susan Taper
Research area: Exploring the basis of human knowledge, learning and creativity

Jeff Elman, distinguished professor of cognitive science: “The Institute for Integrative Science of the Developing Mind and Brain will bring together researchers from across different disciplines, departments and divisions of the campus for large-scale longitudinal studies of children and adolescents, with the goal of identifying the social, cultural and educational factors that contribute to their growth and well-being. The institute will also facilitate collaborative research that aims to better explain the observations made in children by studying basic cellular and molecular mechanisms that may play a role.”

Center for Research on Gender in STEMM

Led by Mary Blair-Loy, Wendy Campana, Pamela Cosman
Research area: Understanding cultures and addressing disparities in society

Mary Blair-Loy, associate professor sociology and associate vice chancellor for faculty diversity and equity: “The new Center for Research on Gender in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) brings together faculty and graduate students who use basic social science to study cultural and interactional factors that create gender inequality in STEMM fields. Subtle yet persistent barriers to women’s full participation in STEMM fields persist, despite official commitments to meritocracy, objectivity and excellence in diversity. Our center begins with two empirical studies on the obstacles to recruiting women at a top research university. We also convene a Faculty Learning Community, an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate-student instructors who engage in teaching about gender.”

The UC San Diego Community Stations

Led by Angela Booker, Fonna Forman, Teddy Cruz
Research area: Understanding cultures and addressing disparities in society

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UC Global Health Day deadline nears for abstracts, proposals

Submissions due Jan. 30.

The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Friday (Jan. 30) to submit abstracts for posters and proposals for breakout sessions at UC Global Health Day.

Presented by the UC Global Health Institute, UC Global Health Day — which will be April 18 at UCLA –  is an annual conference that showcases the research, training and outreach in global health being undertaken across the University of California.

This event is an opportunity for UC students, fellows, faculty, staff and visiting scholars to share their current work in global health. The day will feature plenary sessions, posters and concurrent breakout sessions covering a broad range of global health topics.

Interdisciplinary and cross-campus collaborations are strongly encouraged. All presenters will receive complimentary registration to UC Global Health Day. Students selected to present at UC Global Health Day will receive funding to offset travel and poster expenses. Read the calls for posters and breakout sessions for more information.

Submit your abstract or proposal today.

UC Global Health Day also will feature a student video contest and student plenary contest, which have Feb. 27 deadlines for submission.

Visit the UC Global Health Institute website for more information.

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Chemists find a way to unboil eggs

Ability to quickly restore molecular proteins could slash biotechnology costs.

Chemistry major Stephan Kudlacek and professor Greg Weiss have developed a way of unboiling a hen egg. (Photo by Steve Zylius, UC Irvine)

By Janet Wilson, UC Irvine

UC Irvine and Australian chemists have figured out how to unboil egg whites – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to findings published today (Jan. 23) in the journal ChemBioChem.

“Yes, we have invented a way to unboil a hen egg,” said Gregory Weiss, UCI professor of chemistry and molecular biology & biochemistry. “In our paper, we describe a device for pulling apart tangled proteins and allowing them to refold. We start with egg whites boiled for 20 minutes at 90 degrees Celsius and return a key protein in the egg to working order.”

Like many researchers, he has struggled to efficiently produce or recycle valuable molecular proteins that have a wide range of applications but which frequently “misfold” into structurally incorrect shapes when they are formed, rendering them useless.

“It’s not so much that we’re interested in processing the eggs; that’s just demonstrating how powerful this process is,” Weiss said. “The real problem is there are lots of cases of gummy proteins that you spend way too much time scraping off your test tubes, and you want some means of recovering that material.”

But older methods are expensive and time-consuming: The equivalent of dialysis at the molecular level must be done for about four days. “The new process takes minutes,” Weiss noted. “It speeds things up by a factor of thousands.”

To re-create a clear protein known as lysozyme once an egg has been boiled, he and his colleagues add a urea substance that chews away at the whites, liquefying the solid material. That’s half the process; at the molecular level, protein bits are still balled up into unusable masses. The scientists then employ a vortex fluid device, a high-powered machine designed by Professor Colin Raston’s laboratory at South Australia’s Flinders University. Shear stress within thin, microfluidic films is applied to those tiny pieces, forcing them back into untangled, proper form.

“This method … could transform industrial and research production of proteins,” the researchers write in ChemBioChem.

For example, pharmaceutical companies currently create cancer antibodies in expensive hamster ovary cells that do not often misfold proteins. The ability to quickly and cheaply re-form common proteins from yeast or E. coli bacteria could potentially streamline protein manufacturing and make cancer treatments more affordable. Industrial cheese makers, farmers and others who use recombinant proteins could also achieve more bang for their buck.

UCI has filed for a patent on the work, and its Office of Technology Alliances is working with interested commercial partners.

Besides Weiss and Raston, the paper’s authors are Tom Yuan, Joshua Smith, Stephan Kudlacek, Mariam Iftikhar, Tivoli Olsen, William Brown, Kaitlin Pugliese and Sameeran Kunche of UCI, as well as Callum Ormonde of the University of Western Australia. The research was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (grant R01 GM100700-01) and the Australian Research Council (grants DP1092810 and DP130100066).

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UCLA Medical Group, Cigna introduce Collaborative Care program

Affiliation will improve health care and lower costs.

By Roxanne Moster, UCLA

UCLA Medical Group and Cigna have launched a collaborative care initiative to improve patients’ access to health care, enhance care coordination and achieve the goals of improved health, affordability and patient experience.

“This new affiliation provides us with an important framework in our mission to provide accountable, better coordinated patient care,” said Dr. Samuel A. Skootsky, chief medical officer of the UCLA Faculty Practice and UCLA Medical Group. “UCLA Health System has developed an innovative model of primary care to improve care coordination and provide needed services for our patients, in addition to providing exemplary specialty care. This partnership allows us to take this enhanced approach to health care for Cigna’s PPO patient population — focusing on high-value, high-quality care that is truly patient-centered and puts patients first.”

The UCLA Medical Group comprises more than 1,200 physicians who are clinical faculty members at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. They provide primary and specialty medical care at over 100 ambulatory locations as well as at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, UCLA Medical Center–Santa Monica and the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA.

Under the program, UCLA physicians will monitor and coordinate all aspects of an individual’s medical care. Patients will continue to see their current physician and automatically receive the benefits of the program. Individuals who are enrolled in a Cigna health plan and later choose to seek care from a UCLA doctor also will have access to the benefits of the program. There are no changes in any plan requirements regarding referrals to specialists. Patients most likely to see the immediate benefits of the program are those who need help managing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

Cigna Collaborative Care is the company’s approach to accomplishing the same population health goals as accountable care organizations, or ACOs. The program, which began Jan. 1, will benefit more than 5,900 people covered by a Cigna health plan who receive care from more than 1,600 UCLA primary care doctors and specialists. Cigna now has seven collaborative care arrangements in California and 114 of them nationwide.

In places where it has been introduced, Cigna Collaborative Care is helping to improve the health of Cigna customers while effectively managing medical costs. The programs are helping to close gaps in care, such as missed health screenings or prescription refills, reinforcing the appropriate use of hospital emergency rooms, increasing the number of preventive health visits and improving follow-up care for people transitioning from the hospital to the home.

“Together our goal is to change the health care system from one that pays for the number or volume of services to one that places more emphasis on the quality and results of that care,” said Gene Rapisardi, president and general manager for Cigna in Southern California. “We believe this change will lead to better health, lower costs and increased satisfaction for both our customers and their doctors.”

Critical to the program’s benefits is a UCLA care coordination system based on in-office care coordinators and registered nurse clinical advisors, employed by UCLA, who will help patients navigate the health care delivery system. The care coordinators and clinical advisors are aligned with a team of Cigna case managers to ensure a high degree of collaboration between UCLA physicians and Cigna, which will ultimately provide a better experience for the individual.

The UCLA care coordinator team will enhance care by using patient-specific data from Cigna to help identify patients being discharged from the hospital who might be at risk for readmission, as well as patients who may be overdue for important health screenings or who may have skipped a prescription refill. The care coordinators are part of the physician-led care team that will help patients get the follow-up care or screenings they need.

Care coordinators can also help people schedule appointments, provide health education and refer patients to Cigna’s clinical support programs that may be available as part of their health plan, such as disease management programs for diabetes, heart disease and other conditions; and lifestyle management programs for quitting smoking or managing weight.

Cigna will compensate UCLA physicians for the medical and care coordination services they provide. Additionally, physicians may be rewarded through a “pay for value” structure for meeting targets for improving quality of care and lowering medical costs.

Cigna has been at the forefront of the accountable care organization movement since 2008 and now has 114 Cigna Collaborative Care arrangements with large physician groups that span 28 states, reach more than 1.2 million commercial customers and encompass more than 48,000 doctors, including more than 23,000 primary care physicians and more than 25,000 specialists.

Cigna Collaborative Care is one component of the company’s approach to physician engagement for health improvement, which also includes the innovative Cigna–HealthSpring care model for Medicare customers. Today, more than 1.5 million Cigna and Cigna–HealthSpring customers benefit from nearly 280 engaged physician relationships across 31 states, with more than 79,000 doctors participating, including more than 33,000 primary care physicians and more than 46,000 specialists.

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New cellular pathway triggering allergic asthma response ID’d

Discovery could point way to new therapies for millions of Americans.

By Scott LaFee, UC San Diego

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, with collaborators in Korea and Scotland, have identified a novel signaling pathway critical to the immune response of cells associated with the initiation of allergic asthma. The discovery, they say, could point the way to new therapies that suppress the inflammatory allergic response, offering potential relief to millions of Americans with the chronic lung condition and potentially other allergic diseases.

The results are published in today’s (Jan. 19) online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Specifically, the scientists demonstrated that T helper 2 (Th2) type inflammation in allergic asthma involves dendritic cells (DC), a type of white blood cell, which trigger a reduction in the production of cyclic AMP or cAMP, a key messenger molecule for signaling inside cells. In mouse models, deletion of the gene that codes for a protein that promotes the production of cAMP resulted in spontaneous bronchial asthma, which shares many similarities with human asthma. Conversely, increasing cAMP levels inhibited the cells’ inflammatory response that results in asthma’s characteristic symptoms.

“These findings and the related mechanism are very different from the current residing view of activation of specific T helper cell responses,” said principal investigator Eyal Raz, MD, professor of medicine.

“The role of cAMP formation and action in dendritic cells in the induction of allergic response was really surprising,” added co-author Paul Insel, M.D., professor of pharmacology and medicine. “It suggested to us that this signaling pathway is involved in other immune-related functions.”

The immune response of humans, mice and other vertebrates consists of two fundamental components. The first is the innate immune system, which recognizes and responds to pathogens in an immediate, but generalized, way and does not confer long-lasting immunity. The second is the adaptive immune system in which highly specialized T and B cells eliminate or prevent pathogen growth – and create immunological memory in case of future encounters with the same pathogen.

Th2 immunity is one of two major aspects of adaptive immunity. Th1 responses target intracellular pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria that have invaded host cells. The Th2 response is more effective against extracellular pathogens (such as bacteria, parasites and toxins that operate outside of cells) and also plays a major role in allergic reactions and related diseases.

Allergic asthma is triggered by inhaled allergens, such as pet dander, pollen, mold and dust mites. It is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, resulting in wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, coughing and other symptoms. The common form of allergic asthma is associated with an exaggerated Th2 immune response. Allergic asthma affects people of all ages, most often appearing in childhood. More than 25 million Americans suffer from the condition.

“This research will open a new field of exploration of DC-related molecules as mediators that influence Th2 induction and Th2 ‘bias,’” said Jihyung Lee, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow and first author of the study. “We have already identified some of these molecules. Others are under investigation and we hope to identify them in the near future.”

Co-author Nicholas Webster, Ph.D., professor of medicine and a member of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, said, “such molecules or ones that mimic or block them might be used as novel therapeutics of allergic and asthmatic diseases.” Raz noted that the genetic mouse model developed for the research shares multiple similarities with human allergic asthma, “We are quite optimistic the mice will reveal additional, novel insights into human allergy,” he said.

Other co-authors include Xiangli Li, Sara S. Choi, David H. Broide, Maripat Corr and Jongdae Lee, UCSD Department of Medicine; Tae Hoon Kim, UCSD Department of Medicine and Korea University and Fiona Murray, UCSD Department of Medicine and University of Aberdeen.

Funding for this research came, in part, from the National Institutes of Health (grants HD12303, CA23100, DK063491, AI38425, AI70535, AI72115, AI095623, AI0177989), VA grant I01BX000130 and the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America.

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UCSF taps expert to lead big data center

Atul Butte also will be executive director of clinical informatics for UC Health.

Atul Butte (Photo by Susan Merrell, UC San Francisco)

By Kristen Bole, UC San Francisco

UC San Francisco has recruited a world-renowned expert in medical technology, Atul Butte, M.D., Ph.D., to lead the new UCSF Institute for Computational Health Sciences, which will serve as a cornerstone of the university’s efforts to harness the power of “big data,” to lead to faster and more effective cures for patients worldwide.

A noted expert in pediatrics and medical informatics at Stanford University, Butte brings the rare combination of deep knowledge in medicine and biomedical research, and technological fluency to lead in the new realm of computational health. The appointment will be effective April 1.

The institute is a core element of UCSF’s campuswide efforts in what is known as precision medicine – a growing field that aims to take advantage of new advances in computer technology to mine the immense amounts of data being generated by biomedical research and clinical care, including vast new understanding of human genetics.

“Atul is a visionary leader working at the intersection of the technological and life sciences,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S. “The convergence of these disciplines will revolutionize how we envision wellness and medicine in the future. Under Atul’s leadership, our new Institute of Computational Health Sciences will position UCSF at the forefront of this revolution in health.”

In addition to his role at UCSF, Butte also has been named executive director of clinical informatics for UC Health Sciences and Services, in which he will assist UC Senior Vice President John Stobo, M.D., and other UC Health leaders in the ongoing development and implementation of a UC-wide data warehouse and analytic platform.

This type of platform and data warehouse ultimately could enable researchers to tap into the vast amount of clinical data being generated by the five medical centers in the University of California system to help advance basic research in disease, better understand which therapeutic approaches are most effective and improve care across the UC system.

Butte is currently chief of the Division of Systems Medicine and associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, where he has been a faculty member for the past decade. Trained in both computer science and medicine at Brown University, Butte previously worked as a software engineer at Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp., and received his Ph.D. in health sciences and technology from Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is also a founder of several Bay Area biotech startup companies.

Butte’s research laboratory, which is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and March of Dimes, focuses on building and applying computational tools to convert hundreds of trillions of points of molecular, clinical and epidemiological data collected by researchers worldwide over the past decade, now commonly known as “big data,” into new diagnostics, therapeutics and insights into both rare and common diseases.

That is the crux of precision medicine, in which UCSF has played a key role, including co-chairing the committee that authored the definitive white paper on the subject for the National Academy of Science in 2011.

The institute Butte will lead is one of the core elements of UCSF’s precision medicine platform, which provides a single, overarching strategic vision for the campus going forward. That vision brings together the knowledge gained across the continuum of biomedical research and care, from basic researchers to translational scientists, clinical practitioners and social and behavioral scientists in all four of its schools – dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy – and to patients and the community.

“If we could access and integrate the enormous amount of data imbedded in that continuum, we could potentially change the ways we understand life processes, imagine therapeutics and cure and avoid disease,” said Keith Yamamoto, Ph.D., UCSF vice chancellor of research and a national leader in bioscience research. “If we just aggregate the data, we’d have just a pile of data. The challenge is to devise ways to analyze it, mine it and make sense of it.”

The institute, which launched under interim directors Neil Risch, Ph.D., and Michael Fischbach, Ph.D., with seed funding from the chancellor’s office so it could co-recruit its first faculty members with other UCSF departments, will serve as a campus hub for computer scientists and for researchers who use big data and computation as critical tools in biomedical research and practice, while also serving as an educational center to train future leaders in the field.

“The idea is to build a fully inclusive institute that reflects and harnesses what’s happening in all of the schools at UCSF,” Butte said. “Of course we hope that we will be successful in making discoveries and developing diagnostics and therapeutics, which we will disseminate through publications. But we also intend to take these discoveries out of the laboratories through licensing and starting companies, when we need to.

“We especially want to take advantage of the entrepreneur spirit growing in Mission Bay,” Butte continued. “If we want to change the world of medicine, we have to bring those discoveries into the marketplace and closer to patients.”

Butte has authored nearly 200 publications and delivered hundreds of invited presentations in personalized and systems medicine, biomedical informatics, and molecular diabetes, including 20 at the National Institutes of Health or NIH-related meetings and TEDMED.

His awards include the 2014 E. Mead Johnson Award from the Society for Pediatric Research, 2013 National Academy of Sciences Kavli Frontiers Fellowship and 2013 Champion of Change in Open Science awarded by the White House. He was inducted into the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI) in 2013, the Society for Pediatric Research (SPR) in 2011 and American College of Informatics in 2009. He received numerous early-career awards, including the 2010 Society for Pediatric Research Young Investigator Award and the 2006 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Award, among others. Butte also co-authored one of the first books on microarray genomic analysis titled “Microarrays for an Integrative Genomics” published by MIT Press.

Butte’s compensation includes a base salary of $147,300, in accordance with his academic rank and program unit, for which he will be eligible for the UC Retirement Plan and other standard UC benefits. He also is eligible for an additional $332,700 in negotiated salary, which will be supported through philanthropic sources and extramural grants.

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UCLA Health Sciences vice chancellor leaving for top post at Duke Health System

A. Eugene Washington has led a ‘bold new direction for the future of health care.’

A. Eugene Washington

In a message to the UCLA campus community today (Jan. 13), Chancellor Gene Block announced that Dr. A. Eugene Washington, vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, will be leaving UCLA at the end of February. Read the full text of the chancellor’s statement below.

To the Campus Community:

Regretfully, I write to announce the departure from UCLA of Dr. A. Eugene Washington, who for nearly five years has admirably served our campus and the Los Angeles community as vice chancellor of UCLA Health Sciences and dean of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and who has helped elevate our medical enterprise to world-class status.

Dr. Washington has been selected to serve as chancellor for health affairs at Duke University and president and CEO of the Duke University Health System beginning April 1.

An internationally renowned clinical investigator and health policy scholar, Gene came to UCLA in 2010 after a remarkable career at UC San Francisco, where he served as executive vice chancellor, provost and professor.

Since his arrival, Gene has proven to be an exceptional leader dedicated to improving the health of people throughout the Los Angeles region and far beyond. During his tenure, our medical centers in Westwood and Santa Monica have repeatedly been named to U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hospitals Honor Roll, consistently ranking among the best in the nation and No. 1 in California. Last November, Dr. Washington received the David E. Rogers Award from the Association of American Medical Colleges for his lasting contributions to health care.

In his time at UCLA, Dean Washington led a bold new direction for the future of health care, beginning a strategic planning process that envisioned 24/7 medical care by multidisciplinary teams, fast-track translation of groundbreaking research into hands-on health care and impactful partnerships dedicated to solving critical health issues in underserved communities. This process sought input from faculty, staff and students across the health system and the medical school, and created a blueprint for the future of our medical school and health system.

Also under his direction, a new groundbreaking gift from David Geffen helped ushered in an era in which increasing numbers of our students are pursuing their passions unencumbered by medical school debt, and has contributed to making the school one of the most competitive in the nation.

A national leader in assessing medical technologies, Gene also worked to develop clinical practice guidelines and establish disease prevention policies, particularly in women’s health. He was elected to the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine nearly two decades ago and, in 2010, served as program chair of the IOM annual meeting focused on advancing health through innovation. Throughout his career, Dr. Washington’s research has contributed to policy-focused reports credited with improving health services and advancing health.

His global reputation as a committed, visionary leader and consensus builder has led him to serve on many prestigious professional and government boards and committees, including the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Centers for Disease Control, the Scientific Management Review Board of the National Institutes of Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Board of Trustees. He also has served as a distinguished professor of gynecology and health policy and he holds the Gerald S. Levey, M.D. Endowed Chair.

As difficult as it is to see him go, I congratulate Gene on this tremendous new opportunity and wish both him and his wife, Marie, great success in their new ventures. He will remain in his current positions through the end of February. UCLA is blessed with exceptional leadership in our health care enterprise, and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh and I intend to appoint an interim vice chancellor and dean until a permanent successor is named.

Gene will be deeply missed, but his tenure here has positioned UCLA Health Sciences for an exceptional future that will be a source of pride for our campus and the Los Angeles community for many years to come.

Gene D. Block
Chancellor, UCLA

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UCSF receives $40M gift for new Medical Center at Mission Bay

Outpatient medical building to be named in honor of the Ron Conway family.

CSF Medical Center's new outpatient building, located on 16th Street, will be named the UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building in honor of the family $40 million gift. Some outpatient clinics will begin opening on Jan. 26. (Photo by Cindy Chew)

By Karin Rush-Monroe, UC San Francisco

UC San Francisco has received a $40 million gift from angel investor and philanthropist Ron Conway, his wife Gayle, and sons Ronny, Topher and Danny, to help fund the outpatient medical building at the new UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, which opens on Feb. 1 on UCSF’s world-renowned biomedical research campus. The outpatient medical building, a 207,500-square-foot facility that anchors the hospital complex, will house outpatient services for women, children and cancer patients.

In honor of the Conways’ generosity, UCSF will name the outpatient building the UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building.

UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, a result of more than 10 years of planning and construction, comprises UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, UCSF Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital and UCSF Bakar Cancer Hospital. The new facilities include a 289-bed hospital complex, with children’s emergency and outpatient services that will integrate research and medical advancements with patient-focused, compassionate care.​

Ron Conway is the founder of SV Angel and has worked with hundreds of startups including Google, Facebook, Zappos, Square, Airbnb, Dropbox, Pinterest  and Twitter. He also is a board member of the Foundation and actively supports the tech civic organization, College Track, Sandy Hook Promise, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Teach for America, THORN and Donors Choose.

“Ron and Gayle have been true partners with UCSF for more than a decade, and we are extremely grateful for their ongoing support. This building is significant for the connection it provides between the high-quality medical care patients will receive at our three specialty hospitals as inpatients, and the groundbreaking continuing care they will receive as outpatients,” said Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., chancellor of UCSF.

Ron Conway is a member of the UCSF Medical Center Campaign Cabinet and served on the UCSF Foundation Board for several years. He has been a generous fundraiser for and philanthropist to UCSF and in particular, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.

He also has been an active supporter of neurodegenerative disease research and treatment, through the UCSF Neuroscience Initiative, which brings together under one roof outstanding scientists and clinicians from multiple disciplines – and the core technologies that they need to be successful.

“Ron is known as an ‘angel’ investor, and that description certainly holds true for his passion to better the lives of patients at UCSF,” said Mark R. Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals. “As a public medical center, we depend on the generosity of people like Ron and Gayle to continue serving the patients of San Francisco as well as Northern California and beyond. The Conways have been generous not just through financial gifts but with their time, introducing UCSF to their colleagues throughout the technology sector and Silicon Valley in order to advance our mission of care, research and education.”

The UCSF Ron Conway Family Gateway Medical Building is expected to draw more than 1,500 outpatient visits daily, as well as serve as a teaching facility for students. It includes a cancer clinic and women’s health clinic, and pediatric clinic. Some outpatient clinics will begin opening on Jan. 26.

The new medical center, strategically located on UCSF’s 60.2-acre Mission Bay research campus, will enhance UCSF’s ecosystem of innovation by putting physicians in close proximity to researchers and near biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies in Mission Bay and beyond. The new cancer hospital, for example, will sit near the UCSF Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, where every day leading scientists are seeking causes and cures for cancer.

UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay also will feature the only operating hospital helipad in San Francisco to transport critically ill babies, children and pregnant women to the medical center from outlying hospitals.

“Gayle and I are proud to partner with UCSF to improve the health of the Bay Area. We have watched UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay grow from a concept to a magnificent hospital complex, and can think of no better investment than supporting patients who are accessing needed outpatient medical services,” Ron Conway said. “We encourage others to get involved with the new medical center philanthropically, as well as other programs at this leading institution.”

The total $1.5 billion cost of the Mission Bay Hospitals Project has been funded by UCSF Medical Center financing and private philanthropy. Of the $600 million fundraising goal, UCSF has raised $550 million.

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Cuba opens doors to its health care system for visiting nursing students

Cubans embrace UCLA visitors after news of closer ties between two countries.

Students and faculty from the UCLA School of Nursing visit Casa de Maternidad, a maternity home for women with high-risk pregnancies.

By Laura Perry, UCLA

The timing couldn’t have been better for 18 UCLA School of Nursing graduate students and two faculty members headed for Cuba on an educational mission. As they were boarding a flight to Havana from Miami on Dec. 17, big news was breaking: The U.S. was re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, mending a break that has lasted more than 50 years.

One hour later, the UCLA group arrived in Havana, where they were greeted with exuberant hugs, kisses and tears of joy by an excited group of Cuban health leaders over the historic turn of events.

That was the auspicious beginning of a five-day, action-packed visit for the UCLA group. To learn about Cuba’s health care system, they met with physician-nurse teams, engaged in Pan American Health Organization-based discussions on major causes of illness and death, among other topics; and visited community-based consultorios, polyclinics and sex education centers as well as nursing and medical schools.

Eager to see different health care settings, they spent time at a home for seniors and a residence where women with high-risk pregnancies went to live to receive special care.

Ties between Westwood and Havana

This was not the first time that UCLA nurses have connected with their counterparts in Cuba. In 2011, Maria Elena Ruiz, assistant adjunct professor at the school, attended an International Health Conference in Cuba as a member of the American Public Health Association. Through those meetings, she saw firsthand how a first-world, prevention-focused primary health care system functions with third-world economics.

When she returned to UCLA, Ruiz, together with Adey Nyamathi, associate dean for international research and scholarly activities, developed a program that would provide similar experiences for nursing students, who would receive partial credit for a public health course, complete required readings, participate in pre- and post- conferences, and write daily reflective papers.

How do they do it?

Cuba, the UCLA nurses learned during their visit last December, is a third-world country with some impressive health outcomes, including an overall life expectancy that rivals that in the U.S. (78.4 years for Cubans versus 78.6 years for Americans), immunization rates that are nearly 100 percent and low infant mortality. Yet their health care costs per capita are nearly 15 times lower than that of the United States.

Primary care and an emphasis on prevention are key to the success of the Cuban health care system.

“Their system shows how primary care really does work,” said student Vladimir Camarce.  “And when implemented correctly, you can see great outcomes. Historically, the U.S. system has been focused on acute and tertiary care, but we are now starting to see a shift with the Affordable Care Act.”

In Cuba, public service announcements about health are shown daily on television. “They don’t have traditional television commercials like we do here, so the government uses the opportunity to deliver messages about hygiene or reminders on vaccines,” observed student Stephanie Phan.

Another reason for Cuba’s success is its focus on personalized, community-based care. Doctors and nurses work as a team and live in the communities they serve.  They might see patients in a clinic in the morning, said graduate student John Scholtz, and then visit patients who can’t get to the clinic at home “to ensure that they are receiving their checkups and following through with the recommendations.”

The students also noted the personal nature of health care in Cuba. “Patients are referred to by name,” said Phan, “not by ‘the patient in room 11′ …  They told us, ‘They’re not patients, they’re people.”

There is also a strong integration of traditional, herbal and western medicine. It’s all considered good health care. “I believe we should find a way to incorporate that integration into our practices because we do get a lot of patients who use complementary therapies,” said Camarce.

What amazed the students was that the Cubans achieve all this with a scarcity of equipment and health resources. “They don’t have the equipment we have, the technology we have or the pharmaceutical industry,” noted student Jacqueline Marroquin. “They make do with so little, but they are able to accomplish so much.”

“What medical equipment is available resembles a scene from the old MASH television series,” said Ruiz. “And yet we were overwhelmed with the kindness and eagerness of our hosts to share their health experiences with us.”

Also surprising: On average, nurses and doctors make only $20-$30 a month.  But their education and housing are free or subsidized, and they don’t have student loans to pay off.

“In the U.S., you wouldn’t have a lot of people pursuing these professions for that kind of pay,” said Scholtz. “But in Cuba, you have a lot of people interested in being doctors or nurses. They go into it because they want to make a difference in their community.”

Part of the reason why the Cuban system works is the collectivist-based culture and the population perspective, the students said. Many things that have been adapted in Cuba, however, wouldn’t work in the U.S.  “We might be able to integrate some of the ideas in a micro-community,” suggested Marroquin.

Leaving behind impressions — and hand sanitizers

While the students were there to learn, they also taught Cubans something about Americans.  “Our interactions showed them that we were open to ideas and willing to learn from them,” said Scholtz. On a more tangible note, the group left behind hand sanitizers.  And pens. Lots of them.  “There is a real need for basic hygienic supplies, everything we take for granted,” added Ruiz.

But more importantly, the UCLA visitors came away with a new resolve. “As nursing students, as nurses, we really need to understand what is going on across our borders,” said Marroquin.

Nyamathi added:  “These students are now motivated to make a difference, to learn more about other countries and to question our health system, health care costs, disparities, and what we can learn from others to improve health and health care in the U.S.”

It’s also a hope that, with the dawning of warmer relationships with Cuba, the U. S. health care community may be able to learn a lot more from their neighbor, they said.

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In the media: Week of Jan. 25

A sampling of news media stories involving UC Health:

Possible Ebola patient at UC Davis Medical Center, Los Angeles Times

A person has been checked into UC Davis Medical Center with symptoms consistent with Ebola, the hospital announced in a statement Thursday (Jan. 29) .The person was transferred to the hospital Thursday morning from Mercy General Hospital in Sacramento, said UC Davis Medical Center spokeswoman Dorsey Griffith. The hospital could determine if the patient has Ebola by the end of the day Thursday, she said. If the person is diagnosed with Ebola, UC Davis is well prepared, Griffith said.

See additional coverage: San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, KCRA 3 (video)

Grand UCSF hospital’s opening to change care in S.F., San Francisco Chronicle

After more than a decade in the works, a new $1.52 billion UCSF Medical Center will open Sunday, finalizing the university’s vision to provide more personalized patient care and create a closer relationship between its physicians at the hospital and its scientists conducting biomedical research on the Mission Bay site. By linking clinical care with the research, UCSF officials say, they hope to translate ideas into practice more quickly and turn discoveries into treatments and cures targeted specifically for a patient’s biology. “We are bringing together so much more knowledge around precision medicine, around new approaches to providing care,” said Mark Laret, UCSF Medical Center’s chief executive officer. “For us, this becomes the place where people will participate in those clinical trials and research and benefit from that creativity. It’s a big investment in the future of medicine.” The 878,000-square-foot center — a trio of hospitals that includes UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, the UCSF Bakar Cancer Center and the UCSF Betty Irene Moore Women’s Hospital — is also the next step in a changing landscape in health care in the Bay Area.

UC doctors stage one-day strike at student-health clinics, Los Angeles Times

About 125 doctors and dentists staged a one-day strike Jan. 27 at student health clinics at 10 UC campuses as part of a contract dispute between the union and the university system. UC officials said management doctors and others would provide replacement services throughout the day so that the walkout would The walkout by members of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists came after the union filed formal complaints of unfair labor practices against UC involving what its leaders said was UC’s refusal to provide financial information during bargaining. have a minimal effect on students. Some nonurgent appointments already had been shifted to other days. UC system spokeswoman Shelly Meron said university leaders “are disappointed” that the doctors decided to strike. “The best way to resolve these issues is at the bargaining table, not at the picket line,” she said.

See additional coverage: CBS Los Angeles, Orange County Register, Sacramento Business Journal, U-T San Diego

UC’s student health center doctors set for 1-day strike Tuesday, San Francisco Chronicle

Doctors at 10 University of California student health centers, including UCSF and UC Berkeley, will stage a one-day strike Tuesday to protest what they call unfair labor practices on the part of university administrators. The strike involves roughly 150 doctors who belong to the Union of American Physicians and Dentists — as well as student supporters and other sympathetic UC workers. Shelly Meron, a UC spokeswoman, said the union’s allegations against the university have not been proved and management believes its most recent contract proposal is a fair one.

Infectious disease expert explains why the measles spreads so quickly (audio), Capital Public Radio

The number of measles cases in California is rising. Seventy-nine people in the state are now known to be infected, 52 of them directly linked to Disney theme parks. Measles can be transmitted much like the common cold. But you can catch it by breathing the air where an infected person has been as long as two hours ago. “I would say it’s one of the most contagious diseases known to mankind,” says Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious disease at UC Davis.

Scientists crack the code on how to un-boil a hard-boiled egg, ABC News

Scientists have cracked the code for un-boiling hard-boiled egg whites and it could have huge implications for cancer research. Egg whites are made of proteins that start out with a certain shape, explained Gregory Weiss, a professor of chemistry and molecular biology at UC Irvine, and the experiment’s lead researcher. “Once you boil them, the proteins stay intact but they change their conformation,” he said. This is a big deal because even chemists assumed once you hard-boiled an egg it was game over, Weiss explained. But his team has been able to reverse the process so that proteins can be recovered and reused.

See additional coverage: Los Angeles Times, CBS Los Angeles (video), NBC News, Orange County Register, Washington Post, Time

What do health experts see in our near future?, Los Angeles Times

What’s in store for your health in the next five years? Doctors, authors, researchers and more weigh in, including UC San Francisco’s Robert Lustig and Marion Nestle, a visiting journalism professor at UC Berkeley.

UCLA report could serve as ‘baseline’ to measure ACA effects, California Healthline

A report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research showing “where we were” with health insurance coverage before health care reform could help advocates and lawmakers evaluate the effects of the Affordable Care Act on California’s insurance market. The report — “The State of Health Insurance in California” — was funded by the California Endowment and the California Wellness Foundation and based on data from the 2011-2012 California Health Interview Survey. It outlines trends in employer-based health coverage, uninsured rates and other elements of the state’s insurance market.

With half of California’s kids on Medicaid, advocates worry about service, Kaiser Health News

California’s Medi-Cal program has grown to cover nearly half of the state’s children, causing policymakers and child advocates to question the ability of the taxpayer-funded program to adequately serve so many poor kids. In the past two years alone, the program has added nearly 1 million young people up to age 20, including those newly eligible for Medi-Cal coverage under the Affordable Care Act. The increase brings the total number of young people on Medi-Cal to 5.2 million, more than ever before. Evidence is emerging that the public insurance program is falling short in some key respects. According to an ongoing study led by Ninez Ponce at UCLA and funded by the California Healthcare Foundation, children on Medi-Cal were five times more likely than kids on private plans to have visited the emergency department for asthma care because they couldn’t see their own doctor.

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