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U.Va. Cancer Center Earns National Honor for Quality Care

Thu, 2014-07-31 16:54

Becker’s Hospital Review has named the University of Virginia Cancer Center at the U.Va. Medical Center to its 2014 list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems with Great Oncology Programs.”

This is the second consecutive year the health care publication has named U.Va. to the list, and U.Va. is the only hospital in Virginia to be recognized on the 2014 list.

According to Becker’s Hospital Review, hospitals named to the 2014 list “are leading the way in terms of quality patient care, cancer outcomes and research.” The publication also notes that other outside ranking agencies, such as the National Cancer Institute and U.S. News & World Report, have recognized the hospitals on the list.

In honoring U.Va., Becker’s Hospital Review noted that U.Va. is a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center – one of just 68 in the country – that are “dedicated to research in the development of more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer,” according to the NCI’s website. Becker’s Hospital Review also cited the cancer center’s use of cancer-specific clinical teams, which include pathologists, radiologists, researchers, surgeons and additional health care professionals.

“This award is a tribute to the hard work and collaboration of our faculty and staff from across the Health System to provide high-quality patient care and develop breakthrough treatments,” said Dr. Reid B. Adams, associate director of U.Va. Cancer Center.

Becker’s Hospital Review does not rank the 100 oncology programs chosen for the honor and lists the 100 hospitals in alphabetical order. Hospitals cannot pay for inclusion in the listing.

Law and Medicine Converge at the University of Virginia in New J.D.-M.D. Program

Thu, 2014-07-31 13:31
Eric Williamson

The University of Virginia will offer a new dual-degree option, the J.D.-M.D., starting this fall.

The program, a partnership between the School of Law and the School of Medicine, joins the J.D.-M.P.H program to become the second joint degree the schools offer. Students accepted into the program can complete law and medical degrees in six years, instead of the seven years normally required if the degrees were pursued separately. The University is one of only about 20 schools in the country to offer the degree.

Richard Bonnie, the Law School’s adviser to the program, said the J.D.-M.D. should appeal to aspiring “health leaders” – medical doctors who seek to be policymakers or leaders of health care organizations.

“I think most such people want to be, for at least some part of their career, practicing physicians,” Bonnie said. “That group of people, I’m predicting, will use the process of legal education and the skills they get from having their law degree to help them become successful policymakers and leaders of health care.”

Bonnie added that the program will also interest students who ultimately seek careers in academia at the intersections of health law, policy and ethics.

The first student accepted into the program, Austin Sim, said he plans to specialize in radiation-oncology. Though he doesn’t yet know how he will apply his legal degree, he said two possibilities are policy work in Washington or hospital administration.

Sim said he first became interested in pursuing a dual degree when he applied to medical schools in the summer of 2010. The media, as well as his admissions interviews, all seemed to be focused on health care sustainability, including the Affordable Care Act, he said.

“I realized how problematic health care in the U.S. is at this point,” Sim said. “Physicians can only do so much within the confines of the current system. I wanted to see if I could affect changes at the macro level.”

In 2011, Sim approached the School of Medicine about offering the dual degree. “I figured, why not go for it,” he said.

The schools entered into a formal agreement in June.

“The School of Medicine is very pleased to partner with the School of Law in this new program,” said Meg Keeley, the assistant dean of student affairs at the Medical School and adviser to the program. “This enhancement of our curricular opportunities comes at a time when the health care landscape is changing dramatically. Physicians with this specialized training will be critical to shaping aspects of both law and medicine.”

Sim, whose parents are practicing physicians, will join the first-year law class in August. And, yes, he confirmed: “The vast majority” of his friends are amazed he’d take on two challenging courses of study at once. But, he pointed out, the program allows for concentrated study – three years of exclusive medical study, then two years of exclusive legal study – before a final year of combined study.

“I’ll just be subject to the pressures and time constraints of any other [first-year law student],” Sim said.

U.Va. Education and Business Students Tackle Education Challenges

Wed, 2014-07-30 18:09
Audrey Breen

Three University of Virginia graduate students enrolled in a business and education dual-degree program are focusing their unique perspectives on a variety of challenges facing education on the world stage during their summer internships.

The students are in U.Va.’s MBA/Master of Education dual-degree program, “Innovation in Education Reform,” [ß] which prepares the next generation of leaders to apply business principles to challenges facing education at all levels. The program is offered through a partnership between the Curry School of Education and its Darden School of Business.

One of the students, Rafe Steinhauer, put together a series of internships that have taken him to France, The Netherlands, Finland and finally, Los Angeles. His goal is to explore two very closely related concepts: education entrepreneurship – starting organizations designed for teaching and learning, and entrepreneurial education – the teaching and learning of how to start organizations.

“Not only is there a need for innovative organizations to help improve education,” Steinhauer said, “but there is also a need to identify effective ways to teach individuals how to start these kinds of organizations.”

After completing a leadership course in Normandy, France, Steinhauer spent time with some young entrepreneurs at Team Academy, a college in Amsterdam.

“Team Academy employs an innovative approach to developing young entrepreneurs,” Steinhauer said. “Studying their model sparked my desire to learn more about how innovation can be taught and learned.”

Before returning to the U.S., Steinhauer stopped in Helsinki to conduct research on Finnish schools, where in 2006 students ranked first in the world on standardized tests.

Steinhauer then began an internship in Los Angeles with Building Excellent Schools, an organization that develops urban school leaders and helps establish high-performing schools in America’s poorest communities.

For Steinhauer, all of these experiences are the perfect mix.

“I wanted to connect my prior experiences in education and entrepreneurship by starting an academic organization, but I needed to hone my business skills and learn educational theory,” he said. “I also wanted access to a community filled with knowledgeable people. The M.B.A./M.Ed. program was the perfect fit.”

Fellow student Kat O’Neil is spending her summer in the San Francisco Bay area working as a graduate fellow at Education Pioneers, which she described as “an organization committed to developing a pipeline of leaders to address the achievement gap in the U.S. education system.”

O’Neil is working with Oakland Unified School District’s data and analytics team to determine the district’s data needs and priorities.

She has also discovered the benefit of working directly with principals to understand their data needs. 

“We work together, the principals and our team at Oakland Unified School District, to figure out how to help school leaders make better data-driven decisions,” she said.

“Kat’s project is a great example of the power of connecting business and education practices,” said Catherine Brighton, an associate professor of education at the Curry School and program coordinator for the M.B.A./M.Ed. program. “School leaders across the country have increasingly greater access to huge sets of data. They may lack the training necessary to utilize that data in a way that can make meaningful improvements to their schools and school divisions.”  

O’Neil discovered the M.B.A./M.Ed. program after teaching in Washington, D.C. and Seoul, South Korea.

“I came to this degree program with an inspired passion to pursue a career in education specifically addressing inequity in the U.S. education system,” O’Neil said. “In my work this summer, I am continually inspired and motivated by the individuals in Oakland working tirelessly to improve education for their students, which is by no means an easy task, but a critical one nonetheless.”

Gaines Johnson is helping to develop a long-term growth strategy for an education technology company that aims to create classroom assessment and teaching solutions for classrooms across the United States. With his work at The Parthenon Group in Boston, he hopes to continue to provide schools and students with the best possible products to actively engage students in their own learning.

“I have always believed that our country’s education system would benefit from adopting best practices from the business world,” Johnson said. “While the United States has continued to increase spending on education, and remains at the top in per-pupil spending, our country continues to fall behind in learning.

“I have a passion for education and believe that by combining business best practices with education acumen, our country can once again lead the world in student learning.”

Part of applying business best practices for Johnson includes helping companies create products that will improve student learning in classrooms and be profitable.

Johnson, O’Neil and Steinhauer will return to U.Va. this fall to complete their final two semesters of study.

Grad Student Rigs Cheap Alternative to Rival $1,000 Air Purifiers in Smog-Choked China

Wed, 2014-07-30 17:51

During the winter of 2012-13, air pollution in Beijing was so bad scientists likened it to a nuclear winter. Thousands of people checked into hospitals with respiratory diseases caused by a thick, choking fog.

The air has been so bad in Beijing that the U.S. Embassy issues hourly air quality updates on a special Twitter feed.

During the so-called “airpocalypse,” University of Virginia graduate student Thomas Talhelm was living in the Chinese capital on a Fulbright Scholarship. He was doing cultural psychology research that culminated in a “rice theory” study explaining north-south cultural differences that was ultimately published in the journal Science in May.

He also became one of the millions to suffer from the sometimes-lethal air pollution, the result of massive coal burning during a cold snap and China’s growing love affair with motor vehicles. Beijing alone has more than 1 million cars on the road.

“I had to use a mask when I biked,” Talhelm said during a recent phone call from Beijing, where he has returned to do follow-up work on his rice theory paper. “I felt like I had asthma and it hurt to breathe deeply.”

Those who could afford it were resorting to an expensive solution: air filters costing up to $1,000. Because he was only going to be in Beijing for eight months, Talhelm was unwilling to lay out that kind of cash. “I thought it was pretty ridiculous. And on top of the sticker price, they really stick you for the replacement filters,” Talhelm said. “I could have afforded it, but if you are gouging me, it’s unfair. And there are plenty of people who cannot afford it.”

His solution was remarkably simple and really cheap. He strapped a HEPA filter to a fan and quickly began to enjoy clean air. A particle counter he purchased confirmed the filter was effective.

Talhelm published the results and began offering “Smart Air workshops for people who wanted to make their own air purifiers. (He held one last week at U.Va.’s office in Shanghai.)

The workshops “mostly started as an expat thing,” but more locals are coming, he said. “I really enjoy the workshops.” During the 30-minute sessions, Talhelm presents data to support the efficacy of the filters and demonstrates how to build them. “I don’t ask people to believe me because I’m wearing a lab coat. People find that to be refreshing in China,” where transparency can be lacking.

Talhelm says the goal is not to make money and the cost of the workshops only covers materials, which cost about $33 per purifier. “I’m not putting money in my pockets – I’m paying employees,” six of whom work at Smart Air. “It’s like a social enterprise.” he said.

Smart Air is working with an engineering firm to help manufacture the air purifiers from the ground up, while continuing to keep the price down. “Once we have a product in place, our goal is to expand to India, Malaysia and Indonesia,” Talhelm said. The kits currently offered have found homes in the United States, England, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

So what do the high-end purification makers think of Smart Air? “My best guess is they have probably chosen to ignore us, that paying attention would legitimize what we are doing. I think I would ignore us, too.”

In Memoriam: Lincoln Lewis

Wed, 2014-07-30 10:13

Lincoln Vernon Lewis, 85, formerly a professor in the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education and an adviser to the president’s office on equal opportunity and affirmative action matters, died July 26 after a battle with cancer.

He devoted most of his career to promoting diversity in higher education. At Cornell University, he developed a pilot recruiting plan to attract minority students to the Ivy League schools, an effort which has since been institutionalized on a large scale. In 1970, he developed and implemented Yale University’s first affirmative plan. He provided consulting services to several colleges and universities in establishing similar programs. Between 1971 and 1975, Lewis served as manager of special programs at Yale, where he focused on equal opportunity and affirmative action, and at the same time he served as administrator of Hill Health Center, a neighborhood health care center in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1976, Lewis joined Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis as its director of affirmative action. He came to U.Va. in 1988.

Following his retirement from U.Va. as professor emeritus and administrator in 1995, Lewis remained active in the University community. He served as president of the U.Va. Retired Faculty Association from 2010 to 2012, on a University strategic planning committee focused on faculty recruitment, retention and development, and on the U.Va. Health Sciences Board.

Funeral services will be held Friday at noon at Covenant Church, 1025 Rio Road East in Charlottesville. The wake will be held Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m., at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1042 Preston Avenue in Charlottesville.

Daily Progress obituary