UCLA Health System, Anthem join others to launch Vivity

Unique product created by insurer and seven health systems aligns care for SoCal members.

The UCLA Health System and six other top hospital systems in Los Angeles and Orange counties have partnered with Anthem Blue Cross to offer Anthem Blue Cross Vivity, an integrated health system. This partnership — the first in the nation between an insurer and competing hospital systems — will help the medical centers enhance the health of all Anthem Blue Cross Vivity members and enable them to share financial risk and gain.

The six other hospital systems — all of which have hospitals ranked among Los Angeles County’s top 30 by U.S. News and World Report — are Cedars-Sinai, Good Samaritan Hospital, Huntington Memorial Hospital, MemorialCare Health System, PIH Health and Torrance Memorial Medical Center.

“Vivity will create economies of scale, allowing us to provide the highest quality and affordable health care to thousands of Californians,” said Dr. David Feinberg, president of the UCLA Health System and CEO of the UCLA Hospital System. “UCLA is proud to join Anthem Blue Cross and its hospital partners at the vanguard of health care delivery in the U.S.”

Vivity continues the move away from traditional fee-for-service reimbursements that may create incentive for providers to increase the volume of medical procedures they perform, and it continues the trend toward a structure that financially rewards activities that keep patients healthy.

“This is an exciting and historic time,” said Pam Kehaly, west region president for Anthem Blue Cross. “This innovative venture will create a foundation to significantly advance the medical delivery system, simplifying the care experience and creating a structure with aligned incentives to eliminate waste and redundancy and improve overall health.”

This is just the first step in aligning the delivery system. Longer term, value will come from future improvements in efficiency and effectiveness enabled by such things as a common electronic medical records system, shared care management systems, joint wellness resources and other enhancements.

Anthem Blue Cross Vivity will provide members with more predictable costs, a simpler experience and convenient access to some of the best primary care doctors, specialists and hospitals in the region. For doctor visits, medical procedures or prescriptions, Vivity members only pay a co-pay; they don’t have to worry about meeting deductibles or deciphering complicated medical bills. The seven hospital systems and their affiliated medical groups have built a network of doctors that provides both quality care and affordable prices to Vivity members in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

CalPERS, the nation’s second largest purchaser of health benefits and an early adopter of health care system innovations, has already agreed to use Vivity network doctors and hospitals within its Select HMO network in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Large group brokers can start requesting proposals on Oct. 1, with coverage beginning on Jan. 1, 2015.

The name Vivity captures a fresh perspective on health care. Coined from vivify, meaning “to enliven or animate,” the name speaks to the energized team of providers coming together to deliver a uniquely people-centric offering.

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UCSF appoints interim medical school dean

Bruce Wintroub, previously vice dean, has served UCSF for more than 32 years.

Bruce Wintroub, UC San Francisco

Bruce Wintroub, M.D., has been named interim dean of the UCSF School of Medicine while a search committee looks for a permanent replacement. Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S., made the announcement today (Sept. 11).

“I am deeply grateful to Bruce for his dedicated service and commitment to lead the School through this transition period,” said Hawgood, who served as dean of the School of Medicine until Wintroub’s appointment. “I am confident that he is well equipped to serve in this role and to ably steer the school through the months ahead.”

Wintroub has served UCSF for more than 32 years. Most recently he has served as vice dean of the School of Medicine, a position he held for 10 years. Wintroub is also a professor and has been chair of the Department of Dermatology since 1985.

“I am delighted, honored and privileged to serve in this capacity for the School of Medicine and UCSF,” he said. “I deeply appreciate the trust and confidence the chancellor has in me.”

Wintroub will maintain his responsibilities in the Department of Dermatology, including his position as chair.

He also has led the Dermatology Foundation, a nonprofit organization that develops and retains tomorrow’s teachers and researchers in dermatology. Wintroub has helped raise more than $60 million for the organization.

He earned a bachelor’s degree at Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and a medical degree at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Wintroub completed residencies and fellowships at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital (internal medicine) and Harvard Medical School (immunology and dermatology) and was a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty for six years before joining UCSF in 1982.

A search committee, co-led by Catherine Lucey, M.D., vice dean for education in the School of Medicine, and Shaun Coughlin, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute, has been charged to make recommendations to find a permanent School of Medicine dean.

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5 UC campuses rank among top 10 U.S. public universities

UC performs well in U.S. News & World Report, other rankings.

University of California campuses led the way in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of the top public national universities, released today (Sept. 9).

UC Berkeley and UCLA were first and second on the list, respectively, with UC San Diego, UC Davis and UC Santa Barbara also ranked in the top 10, followed by UC Irvine at number 11. The ranking of public national universities was part of the magazine’s annual ranking of American colleges and universities.

UC campuses consistently perform well in such rankings. In August, Washington Monthly ranked UC San Diego first on its list, which is based on how well colleges and universities serve the public interest, with UC Riverside ranked second. Also among the top five schools were UC Berkeley in third place and UCLA in the fifth spot.

The top 100 also included UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz and UC Irvine. UCSF has no undergraduates and was not ranked.

In a new list of “affordable elites,” Washington Monthly ranked UCLA first, ahead of Harvard, Williams College and Dartmouth; UC’s Berkeley, Irvine and San Diego campuses also were in the top 10.

“All Californians should be proud of their university. The excellent showing of our campuses in annual college rankings reflects the hard work and commitment to excellence of our faculty, students and staff,” said UC President Janet Napolitano. “Ultimately, the University of California measures itself by how well we are fulfilling our core missions: teaching, research and public service. By those critical measures, we continue to excel and serve the public interest.”

Also this August, nine UC campuses placed among the top 150 universities in the world in rankings produced by Shanghai Jiao Tong University, which focus on the quality of research and faculty. UC Berkeley came in first among public universities followed closely by UCLA, UC San Diego and UC San Francisco.

In the Times Higher Education World University Rankings for 2013-14, two UC campuses placed in the top 25, and eight in the top 200. Those rankings look at world-class universities across several of their core missions: teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

Seven UC campuses were in the top 100 of the U.S. News & World Report rankings of best national universities, public and private, and eight were in the top 150. The rankings focus not only on academic reputation, but also on financial resources and selectivity — factors that favor private and more established public universities. In this year’s rankings, the top 10 are made up entirely of private institutions.

College and university rankings are just one measure of higher education institutions. UC’s commitment to maintaining access and affordability, and educating underserved communities, is reflected in other metrics:

  • In 2012-13, 42 percent of UC undergraduates qualified for Pell Grants, compared with 23 percent at public universities and 17 percent at private institutions in the Association of American Universities. Pell Grants are awarded to students from very low-income families.
  • 45 percent of UC graduates leave the university with no debt. Those who do graduate with student debt carry an average of $20,500. The national average is $25,704.

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Treating babies for autism may stave off symptoms

Infant Start therapy treats disabling delays before most kids are diagnosed with autism.

Sally Rogers, UC Davis

Treatment at the earliest age when symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear – sometimes in infants as young as 6 months old – significantly reduces symptoms so that, by age 3, most who received the therapy had neither ASD nor developmental delay, a UC Davis MIND Institute research study has found.

The treatment, known as Infant Start, was administered over a six-month period to 6- to 15-month-old infants who exhibited marked autism symptoms, such as decreased eye contact, social interest or engagement, repetitive movement patterns and a lack of intentional communication. It was delivered by the people who were most in tune with and spent the most time with the babies: their parents.

“Autism treatment in the first year of life: A pilot study of Infant Start, a parent-implemented intervention for symptomatic infants,” is co-authored by UC Davis professors of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Sally J. Rogers and Sally Ozonoff. It is published online today (Sept. 9) in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

“Most of the children in the study, six out of seven, caught up in all of their learning skills and their language by the time they were 2 to 3,” said Rogers, the study’s lead author and the developer of the Infant Start therapy. “Most children with ASD are barely even getting diagnosed by then.”

“For the children who are achieving typical developmental rates, we are essentially ameliorating their developmental delays,” Rogers said. “We have speeded up their developmental rates and profiles, not for every child in our sample, but for six of the seven.”

Rogers credited the parents in the small, pilot study with making the difference.

“It was the parents – not therapists – who did that,” she said. “Parents are there every day with their babies. It’s the little moments of diapering, feeding, playing on the floor, going for a walk, being on a swing, that are the critical learning moments for babies. Those moments are what parents can capitalize on in a way that nobody else really can.”

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UC to purchase solar energy, partner with Frontier Renewables

Will help power campuses, medical centers.

The University of California announced today that it will make the largest solar energy purchase by any U.S. higher education institution to help power its campuses and medical centers more sustainably.

UC signed two Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) with Frontier Renewables, a power provider focused on solar photovoltaic technology. The agreements secure solar energy for UC for 25 years, and will allow the university to supply 206,000 megawatt-hours per year (MWh/year) of solar energy to California’s electrical grid.

Earlier this year, UC became a registered Electric Service Provider, allowing the university’s Wholesale Power Program to supply electric power to UC Irvine and its medical center, UC Merced, UC San Diego and its medical center, UC San Francisco and its medical center, and UC Santa Cruz, under direct access rules.

This new solar supply will allow the university’s campuses served by the Wholesale Power Program to receive energy that is 60 percent sourced from renewable supply. Another portion of the supply will be used by UC Davis, which is served by Western Area Power Administration (WAPA).

The agreements are major components of the University of California’s sustainability initiative. Announced by UC President Janet Napolitano in November 2013, the initiative’s goal is to make UC the first research university to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, in part by re-examining the energy sources powering UC’s 10 campuses and five medical centers.

“As a national leader in sustainability, the University of California is taking on bold, new goals and transforming our approach to procuring and using energy in more sustainable ways,” said Napolitano. “Our partnership with Frontier Renewables will ensure that UC has a steady supply of cost-effective, climate-neutral electricity.”

The projects will use two solar fields in Fresno County, with a combined capacity of 80 megawatts (MW). Construction on the solar fields — which have undergone a full environmental review and been approved by Fresno County — is expected to end in late 2016, and the projects are scheduled to come online by the end of 2016.

“By investing in the development of renewable energy sources like these, UC is doing its part to increase the supply of green energy available for use across California,” Napolitano said.

The project also allows Frontier Renewables to consider education partnerships with UC researchers and students, such as research access to solar fields, the creation of a field station on the project site, internships, technology testing and curriculum development.

The agreements were approved by the university’s wholesale governing board, which oversees wholesale power-related policies and actions. The board was formed in December 2013 and consists of one representative from each of the UC locations participating in the Wholesale Power Program.

In addition to systemwide efforts to achieve carbon neutrality, each UC campus is working toward its own sustainability goals. Across the university’s 10 campuses, 11.4 MW of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology has been installed, with an additional 22.9 MW of solar PV planned or in construction within the upcoming year.

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UC Office of the President (510) 987-9200

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UCSF professor wins Lasker Award

Peter Walter unveiled key cellular quality-control system, potential roles in disease.

Peter Walter, UC San Francisco

Peter Walter, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry and biophysics at UC San Francisco, has received the 2014 Lasker Basic Medical Research Award.

Popularly known as the “American Nobels,” the Lasker Awards are among the most prestigious honors in science and medicine.

Walter, 59, was honored for his groundbreaking work on a cellular quality-control system known as the unfolded protein response, or UPR. Found in organisms ranging from yeast to humans, the UPR is crucial to life, and disruptions in its workings are believed to play a role in neurodegenerative diseases, cancer, diabetes and other illnesses. Walter, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator since 1997, shares the award with Kazutoshi Mori, Ph.D., a leading UPR researcher at Kyoto University in Japan.

This year’s other recipients included Mary-Claire King, a University of Washington professor who was a professor at UC Berkeley from 1976 to 1995 and completed her Ph.D. at UC Berkeley and postdoctoral training at UCSF. She won the Lasker-Koshland Special Achievement Award in Medical Science for discovering the BRCA1 gene locus that causes hereditary breast cancer and deploying DNA strategies that reunite missing persons or their remains with their families.

Walter is the 12th UCSF faculty member to receive either a Basic Medical Research Award or a Clinical Medical Research Award from the Lasker Foundation.

“This is an exciting day for UCSF and for the world of science,” said UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, M.B.B.S. “Peter Walter has received widespread acclaim for his discoveries on how the cell ensures that proteins are properly constructed, especially when the cell’s quality control systems are overwhelmed. We now know that when these basic systems malfunction, serious diseases can result. His work is a perfect example of the importance of basic biomedical research, its impact on health, and its importance for society.”

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In the media: Week of Sept. 21

A sampling of news media stories involving UC Health:

UC Davis study links autism to low iron intake in some mothers, California Healthline

A new study by UC Davis researchers found a fivefold increase in autism spectrum disorder in children born to mothers with low iron intake and some metabolic conditions.

See additional coverage: CBS News

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Moms of kids with autism less likely to take iron supplements while pregnant

First study to examine relationship between maternal iron intake, having a child with autism.

Mothers of children with autism are significantly less likely to report taking iron supplements before and during their pregnancies than the mothers of children who are developing normally, a study by researchers with the UC Davis MIND Institute has found.

Low iron intake was associated with a fivefold greater risk of autism in the child if the mother was 35 or older at the time of the child’s birth or if she suffered from metabolic conditions such as obesity hypertension or diabetes.

The research is the first to examine the relationship between maternal iron intake and having a child with autism spectrum disorder, the authors said. The study, “Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk for autism spectrum disorders,” is published online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Rebecca Schmidt, UC Davis

“The association between lower maternal iron intake and increased ASD risk was strongest during breastfeeding, after adjustment for folic acid intake,” said Rebecca J. Schmidt, assistant professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences and a researcher affiliated with the MIND Institute.

The authors of the current study in 2011 were the first to report associations between supplemental folic acid and reduced risk for autism spectrum disorder, a finding later replicated in larger scale investigations.

“Further, the risk associated with low maternal iron intake was much greater when the mother was also older and had metabolic conditions during her pregnancy.”

The study was conducted in mother-child pairs enrolled in the Northern California-based Childhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment (CHARGE) Study between 2002 and 2009. The participants included mothers of children with autism and mothers of children with typical development.

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In the media: Week of Sept. 14

A sampling of news media stories involving UC Health:

Hospitals and insurer join forces in California, The New York Times

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

UC to create $250 million venture capital fund, San Francisco Chronicle

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 struggle to access mental health services on UC campuses, KQED

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.)

Ebola outbreak hits home with Bay Area health specialists, San Francisco Chronicle

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.

UCSF researcher forms alliance to better fund Ebola education in Africa (video), ABC 7

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.

Rare respiratory virus confirmed in California, Orange County Register

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.

Infectious disease preparedness (audio), Capital Public Radio

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.

Groundbreaking study on Alzheimer’s taking place at UC Irvine (video), KCAL 9/CBS Los Angeles

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.

Top scientists suggest a few fixes for medical funding crisis (audio), NPR

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.

No time to see the doctor? Try a virtual visit, Kaiser Health News/Washington Post

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.

SF scientist tells you how to ‘hack your brain’ on Science Channel, San Francisco Chronicle

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.

San Diego neuroscientists find unexpected pathway to depression (audio), KPBS

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.

Measuring bone strength at University of California, Santa Barbara (video), KEYT 3

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.

The five-second rule and other things your mom said: Mythbusting 25 health and medical tales, Orange County Register

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.

Report: 57 percent of kids given antibiotics they don’t need (video), Fox News

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. 

Think Sacramento is all about state workers? Health care sector is surging, The Sacramento Bee

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.

California broadens autism coverage for kids through Medicaid, Kaiser Health News/Los Angeles Daily News

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.

Expert: Only a matter of time before enterovirus hits California (audio), Capital Public Radio

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.

China’s polluted air may be affecting Fresno, The Fresno Bee

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.

Op-ed: This is your child’s brain on alcohol, Zocalo Public Square

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.

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Finding a better way to track emerging cell therapies using MRIs

Technique might speed development of relevant therapies.

Cellular therapeutics – using intact cells to treat and cure disease – is a hugely promising new approach in medicine, but it is hindered by the inability of doctors and scientists to effectively track the movements, destination and persistence of these cells in patients without resorting to invasive procedures, like tissue sampling.

In a paper published Sept. 17 in the online journal Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere describe the first human tests of using a perfluorocarbon (PFC) tracer in combination with non-invasive magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track therapeutic immune cells injected into patients with colorectal cancer.

“Initially, we see this technique used for clinical trials that involve tests of new cell therapies,” said first author Eric T. Ahrens, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Radiology at UC San Diego. “Clinical development of cell therapies can be accelerated by providing feedback regarding cell motility, optimal delivery routes, individual therapeutic doses and engraftment success.”

Currently, there is no accepted way to image cells in the human body that covers a broad range of cell types and diseases. Earlier techniques have used metal ion-based vascular MRI contrast agents and radioisotopes. The former have proven difficult to differentiate in vivo; the latter raise concerns about radiation toxicity and do not provide the anatomical detail available with MRIs.

“This is the first human PFC cell tracking agent, which is a new way to do MRI cell tracking,” said Ahrens. “It’s the first example of a clinical MRI agent designed specifically for cell tracking.”

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Medical school test drives curriculum redesign

UCSF redesign is ‘the most meaningful thing to happen in medical education in 100 years.’

UCSF School of Medicine faculty and staff brainstorm ways to redesign the curriculum at a medical education retreat in March.

With today’s dynamic health care environment and rapidly advancing biomedical sciences, medical education must change so that students will be ready for the world that awaits them eight or 10 years from now.

The way students are trained currently ensures that they are going to be good at solving individual diseases and addressing individual organs, said Anna Chang, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at UC San Francisco. But, she added, we haven’t been as successful in teaching students how to work within teams and systems and improve the health of entire populations, in addition to individual patients.

“For medicine to advance, we must find a way to give our students this expanded set of skills,” Chang said.

The UCSF Bridges Curriculum Redesign is aiming to address the ever-widening gap between what medical students are being taught and what they need to learn to function as modern physicians.

For more than two years, committees captured the vision of what the new Bridges curriculum should include and hammered out the framework that reflects that vision. It was then distilled into a blueprint that was approved by the Faculty Council in June.

“Over the past year, the vision of Bridges has moved from a big idea to an exciting reality,” said Catherine Lucey, M.D., vice dean for education at UCSF School of Medicine. “That reality is the direct result of the creative energy and collaborative efforts of literally hundreds of UCSF faculty, staff and students who have come together to create strategies to improve the curriculum.”

The new Bridges Curriculum will be rolled out in two stages, beginning with the academic year 2015-2016.

“This is a pioneering effort,” said Chang, director of the Bridges Curriculum. “I think that Bridges is the most meaningful thing to happen in medical education in 100 years.”

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‘Dimmer switch’ discovered for mood disorders

UC San Diego study’s findings have implications for how to treat depression.

Basal ganglia neurons (green) feed into the brain and release glutamate (red) and GABA (blue) and sometimes a mix of both neurotransmitters (white).

Researchers at the UC San Diego School of Medicine have identified a control mechanism for an area of the brain that processes sensory and emotive information that humans experience as “disappointment.”

The discovery of what may effectively be a neurochemical antidote for feeling let-down is reported today (Sept. 18) in the online edition of Science.

“The idea that some people see the world as a glass half empty has a chemical basis in the brain,” said senior author Roberto Malinow, M.D., Ph.D., professor in the Department of Neurosciences and neurobiology section of the Division of Biological Sciences. “What we have found is a process that may dampen the brain’s sensitivity to negative life events.”

Because people struggling with depression are believed to register negative experiences more strongly than others, the study’s findings have implications for understanding not just why some people have a brain chemistry that predisposes them to depression but also how to treat it.

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