UC Davis Health | University of California, Davishttps://health.ucdavis.edu UC Davis Health is charged with discovering and sharing knowledge and providing the highest quality care to our community. Our ultimate goal is to advance health both in our local community and around the globe. 202107_clinic-transforms-cancer-treatment-by-combining-diagnosis-and-therapy--or-theranostics Thu, 29 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Clinic transforms cancer treatment by combining diagnosis and therapy – or theranostics <p>A theranostics clinic is coming to UC Davis Health that will leverage the next generation in nuclear medicine to attack cancer in ways that traditional options cannot do alone. It combines diagnostics and therapeutics to deliver targeted radiotherapy.</p> Conventional treatments for cancer, such as chemotherapy, external beam radiation and surgery, don’t always work, but hope is on the horizon for some patients with certain cancers.

UC Davis Health is leveraging the next generation in nuclear medicine treatments to attack cancers in ways that traditional options cannot by themselves. The new approach, called “theranostics,” is revolutionizing cancer care by combining both diagnostics and therapeutics in delivering targeted radiotherapy. UC Davis Health is planning a new clinic dedicated to the innovative treatment.

Typically injected into the patient's bloodstream, the therapy radiopharmaceuticals travel and deliver radiation directly to a tumor site, destroying cancerous cells while leaving healthy tissue alone.

“The radiation dose is selected to ensure minimum radiation exposure to healthy tissues and maximum accuracy in targeting diseased tissues,” said UC Davis Chief of Radiology Elizabeth Morris.

As part of its growing commitment to advancing radioactive targeted therapy, the  UC Davis School of Medicine Department of Radiology appointed Cameron Foster, director of the new UC Davis theranostics division and professor of clinical nuclear medicine, to oversee the construction of a new theranostics clinic.

“Modern theranostics is transforming nuclear medicine,” said Foster. “We are moving away from nuclear medicine being used largely for imaging. We’re taking advantage of novel compounds that both pinpoint and target tumors, allowing for removal of diseased tissue with limited side effects while aiming to minimize the chances of the cancer returning.”

Radiopharmaceuticals deliver targeted amounts of the required therapeutic agents. This burgeoning field of theranostics enables nuclear medicine doctors to progress beyond merely interpreting diagnostic scans and expand into involvement in treating patients. Consequently, UC Davis has begun to rethink the environment for patients being treated with nuclear medicine.

“There is a lot more patient interaction with theranostics,” said Foster. “The same doctor who interpreted patients’ scans identifying their active cancer may now also be the one treating them. That’s exciting for patients because they are getting acute care from a nuclear medicine physician who is intimately aware of the characteristics of their tumor and will monitor it carefully while using targeted radiotherapy to treat.”

The new theranostics clinic will reflect the evolving relationship between patient and doctor. Some features of the new clinic now under construction include consultation rooms to help physicians share images with patients and go over nuclear medicine treatment options. The facility also will include space dedicated to supporting radiopharmaceutical therapy research and patients participating in nuclear medicine therapeutic clinical trials.

Private therapy rooms are being built to administer:

“Often we see patients who have exhausted all other options,” said Foster. “They are at a very expensive stage in their disease and we want to give them the best possible chance of survival while managing their cancer in the most efficient way.”

The theranostics clinic will centralize care for patients. They’ll they receive their treatment and have their tumor tracked at the same location by the same medical staff who often become like family to them.

“It’s a centralized brain trust where friendly and familiar faces detect, treat and track tumors all in one location,” said Morris. “This one-stop shop for our patients is a real game changer for medicine, and we’re proud to be at the forefront.”

202107_simone-biles-withdrawal-at-olympics-shines-light-on-need-to-recognize-mental-health Wed, 28 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Simone Biles’ withdrawal at Olympics shines light on need to recognize mental health <p>Gymnast Simone Biles&rsquo; withdrawal from the team and all-around competitions at the Tokyo Olympics created shockwaves around the globe. Trauma expert Brandi Liles discusses the impact of stress and abuse, and the need to talk about mental health without stigma.</p> Brandi Liles felt sadness and pride when she heard that gymnast Simone Biles had withdrawn from the Olympic competition for mental health reasons.

On Tuesday, Biles lost herself in mid-air while vaulting, completing 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. Gymnasts refer to this terrifying – and sometimes career-threatening – loss of control as “the twisties.”

She consulted with U.S. team doctor Marcia Faustin, a UC Davis Health Sports medicine physician, before withdrawing. Later, Biles said, “Once I came out here, I was like, ‘The mental is not there, so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.”

Liles, a clinical psychologist at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, is a big fan of gymnastics. She was sad that Biles would not be competing on one of the world’s greatest stages. But she also felt pride that Biles recognized her symptoms and took action.

“She’s listening to herself, listening to her body. Recently, gymnasts especially have disclosed the pressure of toxic environments and abusive or neglectful coaches. When you were trained in a toxic culture of emotional and sexual abuse, that kind of step is incredible. It just demonstrates her resilience in light of all this pressure,” said Liles, who noted that Biles’ current coaches were supportive of her decision.

Tremendous pressure on elite athletes

Elite athletes face the kind of extreme pressure that can harm mental health. In June, tennis champion Naomi Osaka withdrew from the Wimbledon tournament, citing mental health struggles. Legendary swimmer Michael Phelps has spoken up about his depression and thoughts of suicide.

“For all sports, but especially for elite sports, we put pressure on achievement over well-being. We treat athletes almost like they are products instead of people,” said Liles.

She sees similar pressure impacting all levels of sports, even those for children. “Sports are supposed to be fun and entertaining. We shouldn’t only value people because they are the best gymnast or vaulter or swimmer. We need to treat athletes like humans and reduce the shame of not being able to perform or achieve. We need more compassion.”

“For all sports, but especially for elite sports, we put pressure on achievement over well-being. We treat athletes almost like they are products instead of people.”

— Brandi Liles

Liles hopes this will be a watershed moment to understand that mental health is not separate from physical health.

“We need to create an environment for people to talk about mental health without stigmatization. We wouldn’t bat an eye if Simone Biles broke her arm or tore a meniscus. We wouldn’t question the validity of the withdrawal. We need to view this mental health decision in the exact same light we would view a physical illness or injury,” said Liles.

“The bravery and courage of these athletes who are now talking publicly about the importance of their mental health will change the culture for many, many athletes in the future,” said Liles. “I extend my gratitude to the risk they are taking to improve experiences for others coming up behind them.”

History of abuse at USA Gymnastics

In addition to the pressure of being an elite athlete, Biles revealed three years ago that she was one of hundreds of survivors abused by Larry Nassar, the former team doctor for USA Gymnastics.

Biles is the only publicly known survivor of Nassar who continues to compete in gymnastics, according to Insider. She has said that she is returning to the Olympics to be a voice for survivors.  

Liles has never treated Biles, but she is a trauma expert specializing in treating children, adolescents and young adults who are survivors of abuse and other trauma exposures.

Sexual abuse is more prevalent than just high-profile cases like Nassar’s. “Research shows that one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the time they are a young adult,” said Liles.

Symptoms of trauma, stress and PTSD

Many survivors experience a type of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) similar to war veterans. Liles and other clinicians at the UC Davis CAARE (Child and Adolescent Abuse Resource and Evaluation) Diagnostic and Treatment Center practice trauma-informed care. It involves an understanding of the broad impact of traumatic stress reactions and teaching the survivors skills to manage these reactions.

Common symptoms experienced by survivors of abuse can include situations (people, places or experiences) that trigger unwanted thoughts or memories, numbing of emotions, negative patterns of thoughts, and physical changes like being unable to sleep.

Liles does not know if Biles was experiencing any of these symptoms, but they are common among survivors. “As a trauma expert looking at her experience, I’m wondering about trauma symptoms, nightmares, sleep problems, hypervigilance, anxiety, a negative view of herself or the world as a whole.”

“All of these can wreak havoc on someone’s mental health,” said Liles.

For resources about sexual violence at UC Davis and UC Davis Health, link here. Additional resources can be found at RAAIN, The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the National Sexual Resource Center.

202107_hold-on-to-your-loved-ones-wildfire-survivor-who-lost-children-in-wildfire-offers-advice Wed, 28 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT “Hold on to your loved ones”: Wildfire survivor who lost children in wildfire offers advice <p>As the 2021 wildfire season in Northern California sparks with a fury, one survivor of the deadly Redwood Valley Fire in 2017 offers advice. Sara Shepherd recounts the blaze that killed her two children and forced her to prepare for future fires in a different way.</p> It’s déjà vu all over again.

The Dixie Fire, the largest wildfire in Northern California so far in 2021, has burned nearly 200,000 acres and is already one of the top 15 largest wildfires in the state’s history.

As officials order residents of Plumas County to evacuate, wildfire survivor Sara Shepherd knows the fear all too well. So much so, she can’t bring herself to watch the news.

“My heart hurts when I watch other people suffering," Shepherd explained. “Watching evacuations from around other parts of the state only causes panic and anxiety. But I am hyper-vigilante with the weather warnings affecting friends and family in my immediate area.”  

That vigilance did not come by chance.

Dream home setting turns into a nightmare

In October 2017, the Redwood Valley Fire killed eight people in Mendocino County and burned through an estimated 36,523 acres.

14-year-old Kai and 17-year-old Kressa Shepherd are among those who lost their lives. Their parents, Sara and Jon, survived severe burns after months of treatment at the Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center at UC Davis Medical Center and years of rehabilitation.

Prior to the fire, after six years of construction, the Shepherds were finally in their dream home on their 72-acre rural mountain property in Redwood Valley, California. “We were on top of the world,” Sara Shepherd said.

Then, the night of Oct. 8, fire swept into the area. “We get a call from our neighbors. They said, ‘We’re leaving the mountain. You should, too,’” Shepherd recalled. “I told Kressa, who was an artist, ‘get your portfolio.’ I told Kai, who built his own computer, to grab it as well.”

Kressa, left, and Kai Shepherd in 2015 while their dream home in Redwood Valley was under construction.

The Shepherds headed down the mountain. Less than two miles down, they hit a wall of fire, jumped out of their vehicles and ran back up the hill to find another way out.

Kai, who suffered from asthma, could not outrun the smoke. He died less than 20 minutes after running from the vehicles. Jon, Sara and Kressa were overtaken by smoke and flames, which rendered them unconscious. Jon, who regained consciousness first, ran for help. Sometime later, a firefighter rescued Sara and Kressa, who were both lying unconscious in the smoldering ash. All three were taken to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, stabilized, then transported to burn centers in the region.

“I was immense pain,” Shepherd recalled. “And, shock.”

Three weeks later, Kressa Shepherd succumbed to her injuries while Sara remained in a medically induced coma and Jon was recovering from his injuries.

Ready to respond to neighbors’ needs

Being prepared for and focused on the needs of burn patients is not just a mission, it’s a clear responsibility for the burn center.

Launched in 1974 following a multi-casualty accident that called attention to gaps in the region’s burn care, today the UC Davis burn center is one the nation’s top programs for burn care, research and training. And with 2021 already gearing up to be an active wildfire season, its experts are ready.

In late July 2021, the center received re-verification as an Adult Burn Center from the American Burn Association (ABA). Center leaders say the verification is a true mark of distinction and an indicator of the high-quality patient care it provides to burn patients from the time of injury through rehabilitation.

“Verification is reserved for burn centers that meet strict quality of care, resource, staffing and patient outcome requirements,” said Tina Palmieri, surgeon and burn surgery chief at UC Davis Health. “Disaster preparedness, such as for wildfires, is also an essential element of verification, as burns are frequently associated with disaster.”

Nurse manager Len Sterling, back right, leads UC Davis burn unit team in wildfire preparedness.

Fires like the one that devastated the Shepherd family — Mendocino Complex, Camp, Valley—have become all too common. The center's surgeons, nurses and rehabilitation specialists are always preparing for the next one. They have been on the front lines of treating patients injured by wildfires.

“While we always hope for no wildfire injuries, we recognize we have a lot of weeks ahead in this year’s wildfire season. We are entering August, which has traditionally been a very hot, dry month for us,” said Len Sterling, nurse manager of the burn center. “I am hoping for a break from the trends we have seen in the past few years. At the same time, the entire burn center stands ready to respond to the needs of our neighbors.”

While the experts prepared to serve, Sara Shepherd started over.

A survivor rises from the ashes

Sara Shepherd had third-degree burns over 60% of her body. She underwent eight surgeries. Her healing began slowly.

“I had to learn to walk again. Had lots of speech therapy. Even today, I have dexterity issues,” she said. “There’s also the survivor’s guilt and the ‘what ifs.’ Thank goodness Jon and I are here together. I don’t know what I’d do without a partner.”

She has also found strength and connection through support groups at UC Davis Health and the The Phoenix Society, the leading national nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering people affected by a burn injury.

UC Davis’ burn center provides outreach and peer support initiatives, such as the Phoenix Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (SOAR) program. SOAR, designed by The Phoenix Society , addresses the needs of burn patients and their families by providing one-on-one peer support and mentoring during the journey of recovery.

Sara Shepherd credits survivor’s support groups and the strength of her husband Jon with surviving the wildfire that killed their children.

Shepherd attended Phoenix’s World Burn Congress in 2019, the world’s largest gathering of the burn community, connecting attendees with support, resources and each other. She can’t wait until the next in-person event.

“When I was ready to search out resources, the Phoenix Society had so much to offer. I realized I’m not alone. Because we’re all burn survivors, there’s commonality in everyone’s story. I really benefitted from that,” she explained.

Shepherd’s experience can also benefit people who live in wildfire-prone areas. “I’d tell people to put on jeans or long pants when you evacuate. Know your evacuation route and have a backup. One of those mylar emergency survival blankets would have been good to have on hand.”

“We know from years of experience and research, cool tap water — not ice-cold water — is the best first approach to first aid of a burn,” added Palmieri. “If you cannot get to emergency department immediately, wash and apply clean dressing, or sheet if that is all you have, before you can receive medical treatment.”

The Shepherds now reside in Ukiah, California, with the reality that another wildfire is possible and the memories of what they’ve endured.

“I miss my children and wish I had more time with them. But I never took a day for granted even before this,” Sara says. “Not just the big things, but those special little moments, the day-to-day interactions are so meaningful. Hold on to your loved ones.”

202107_the-truth-behind-covid-19-vaccines-and-womens-health- Wed, 28 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT The truth behind COVID-19 vaccines and women’s health <p>Misinformation is spreading on the Internet regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and how they may affect women&rsquo;s health. We asked Clara Paik, clinic medical director of obstetrics and gynecology and the co-division director of University Women&rsquo;s Health, to answer some frequently asked questions about women&rsquo;s health and the COVID vaccine.</p> Misinformation is spreading on the Internet regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and how they may affect women’s health. We asked Clara Paik, clinic medical director of obstetrics and gynecology and the co-division director of University Women’s Health, some frequently asked questions about women’s health and the COVID shots (Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) currently available.

Do the COVID vaccines affect menstruation?

While many women have noted changes in their menstrual cycle after receiving the COVID vaccine, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine has any direct effect on menstruation. However, a woman’s ovulation and menstrual cycle can be affected by stress. Stress may be the reason for any effect on menstruation. We do not believe there is any physiologic reason why the vaccine itself would affect a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Will the COVID-19 vaccines affect mammogram results?

This is what the CDC recommends: If you are due for a mammogram and have been recently vaccinated for COVID-19, ask your doctor how long you should wait after vaccination to get your mammogram. People who have received a COVID-19 vaccine can have swelling in the lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) in the underarm near where they got the shot. This swelling is a normal sign that your body is building protection against COVID-19. However, it is possible that this swelling could cause a false reading on a mammogram. Some experts recommend getting your mammogram before being vaccinated or waiting four to six weeks after getting your vaccine.

Do the COVID vaccines affect one’s fertility?

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines affect anyone’s fertility or cause infertility.

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines affect anyone’s fertility or cause infertility. Furthermore, there is no scientific theory for how the COVID-19 vaccines could cause fertility problems.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for pregnant women?

Many pregnant women have received COVID vaccination without any problems. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has started a study on COVID-19 vaccines during pregnancy and postpartum. Pregnant women are at an increased risk for COVID complications. We believe that the risks of COVID infection far outweigh the risks of receiving the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) agree that the COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to pregnant women who are eligible for vaccination.

Are the COVID-19 vaccines safe for breastfeeding women? Do the COVID vaccines provide protection to babies through breastmilk?

Yes, the COVID vaccines are safe for breastfeeding women. Research so far suggests that there may be some immunity provided to babies through breast milk, but this is not proven as of yet.

For more information about how the COVID-19 vaccine works and other frequently asked questions, visit our coronavirus website.

202107_medical-care-for-team-usa-womens-gymnastics-at-tokyo-olympics-led-by-uc-davis-health-doctor-video Tue, 27 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Medical care for Team USA women's gymnastics at Tokyo Olympics led by UC Davis Health doctor (video) <p>Sports medicine doctor Marcia &ldquo;Marcy&rdquo; Faustin of UC Davis Health is living her dream job as co-head team physician for USA Gymnastics. Faustin is in Japan this week, providing medical care to the women&rsquo;s national team, whose members are competing at the Olympic Games.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — When Team USA superstar gymnast Simone Biles struggled to land a vault Tuesday at the Tokyo Olympics and withdrew from competition, she was quickly cared for by a UC Davis Health sports medicine physician who is a go-to doctor for the elite athlete.

Marcia “Marcy” Faustin practices at the UC Davis Health Sports Medicine Clinic in Sacramento, and she’s also co-head team physician for USA Gymnastics’ women’s national team.

UC Davis Health physician Marcia “Marcy” Faustin is co-head team physician for USA Gymnastics

These days, Faustin is on the sideline at the Ariake Gymnastic Centre in Tokyo, at the ready to huddle with athletes and their coaches in assessing any kind of physical or mental health condition that may arise during the games.

Being a team doctor at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games doesn’t mean Faustin is immune to the wide range of emotions while viewing the breath-taking floor routines, death-defying vaults and dramatic dismounts from the uneven bars.

“It’s nerve-racking to watch them,” she admits, “but it’s also exciting to be in the room and watch greatness occur right in front of you.”

Faustin trained in family medicine. She came to UC Davis Health nearly four years ago, first to the Elk Grove primary care clinic, then to the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She treats athletes of all ages and levels at the C Street sports medicine clinic in Sacramento, and she’s a team physician for UC Davis intercollegiate athletes, Sacramento Republic FC and various local junior colleges.

She’s also a former club and high school gymnast, high school volleyball player and Division I track and field athlete – an impressive yet eclectic combination that draws the respect and adoration of her patients, whether amateur, collegiate or professional.

“Dr. Marcy,” as Biles and other Olympians affectionately call their team physician, is known for her endless energy and dedication to her contract position with USA Gymnastics (USAG), the sport’s national governing body that trains athletes of all levels, including elite athletes for national and international competition.

“Dr. Faustin’s team knows she is there for them 100% ­— she is their doctor,” said Brandee Waite, a UC Davis Health sports medicine physician who serves as doctor to the Sacramento Republic FC and teams at three local colleges, including UC Davis.

“A dream come true”

Faustin, a 2013 graduate of the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, spent several years volunteering on the medical team for USA Gymnastics. She accepted the opportunity of a lifetime in 2019 to be co-head women’s team doctor along with Ellen Casey, a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery, in New York.  

The duo travel to the most important competitions on the women’s national gymnastics circuit, as well as USAG training camps every month or so. They show gymnasts how to stay healthy, take care of their primary care and musculoskeletal needs, assess for mental health issues and provide valuable advice to coaches, such as estimating how long injuries will take to heal.

“It is a dream come true,” Faustin said in an interview before leaving for Japan. “I get to take care of these incredible and resilient athletes and young women, and to do it within a sport that I love, on an international level, is really exciting.”

Marcia “Marcy” Faustin is also a sports medicine physician in the UC Davis Health Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation

Adding to the excitement, Faustin is a huge sports fan and had never been to the Olympic Games.

Colleagues say one of Faustin’s greatest attributes is the way she connects with athletes because she’s been one herself.

“It's like having someone who speaks the language – understands what those student athletes go through on a day-in, day-out basis, understands how best to help them to reach their goals with managing all the things they have to manage, particularly when it comes to injuries,” said John Lavallee, the women’s gymnastics coach for UC Davis who has known Faustin for years.

Athletes love Faustin’s “energetic and fun-filled bedside manner,” Waite said.

“She represents a safe, secure place to bring issues that come up and may be hard for the athletes to otherwise discuss,” Waite added. “She jokes that they watch the same TV shows and can talk about pop culture simultaneously as she provides excellent clinical care.”

Faustin, the daughter of Haitian immigrants, was born in New York and raised south of Chicago in Orland Park where her father encouraged her and her three sisters to play sports.

Faustin also got a preview of health careers at a young age when her mother, a home health nurse, occasionally took her daughters into the homes of patients to observe their mom’s occupation.

“I just loved to watch how she used science to help treat the patients, and then she exemplified that human side of it, and the empathy, and the way that she just changed their lives,” Faustin said. “That's where I got really excited about medicine and taking care of patients.”

Being a doctor wasn’t Faustin’s first career choice

Faustin entered the University of Chicago intending to be a nurse. But she changed plans when she learned her track and field scholarship was incompatible with the rigorous nursing program.

She became a biology major instead, which in turn led to more science classes through a post baccalaureate education program after graduation. She then went to medical school, a family medicine residency and finally a primary care sports medicine fellowship at UC San Diego, which she completed in 2017.

Faustin was recruited to UC Davis by Jeffrey Tanji, a nationally recognized UC Davis Health sports medicine physician leader.

When she’s not working at sporting events, seeing patients or collaborating on research studies, Faustin can be found mentoring medical students, residents and fellows in her role as assistant clinical professor.

It’s a task she cherishes.

“I believe wholeheartedly that mentors are the reason why I am successful and I'm able to do what I'm doing today,” Faustin said.

Outside of work, Faustin enjoys leisure reading, exercise, cycling, and spending time with her husband, Toussaint Mears-Clarke. He is a family medicine faculty physician in the family medicine residency program at Dignity Health Methodist Hospital of Sacramento.

Waite, co-director of the UC Davis School of Medicine’s sports medicine fellowship program, said Faustin’s role in the Olympics has brought a sense of excitement and connection to Team USA for the clinic faculty, staff, trainees and patients.

“Don’t let her easy demeanor and approachability fool you into thinking she is anything less than a brilliant physician,” Waite said. “Sometimes with vibrant female professionals, people underestimate their intellect, but make no mistake, Dr. Faustin is an astute and talented physician.”

Waite added: “We are so fortunate to have her at UC Davis Health sports medicine and as a faculty member in our department.”

202107_uc-davis-medical-center-ranks-as--1-hospital-in-sacramento-among-the-best-in-the-us Tue, 27 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Medical Center ranks as # 1 hospital in Sacramento, among the best in the U.S. <p><em>U.S. News &amp; World Report </em> named UC Davis Medical Center as one of the nation's Best Hospitals, the #1 hospital in Sacramento and among the top 10 in California.</p> Today, U.S. News & World Report once again named UC Davis Medical Center as one of the nation's Best Hospitals. The publication also ranked the medical center as the #1 hospital in Sacramento for at least the 10th year in a row and among the top 10 in California.

Nationally, UC Davis Medical Center is ranked in the top 50 for nine adult specialty services, including cancer, cardiology, gynecology and geriatrics. In addition, the hospital earned “high performing” designations for 12 common adult procedures and conditions— twice as many as last year.

“This ranking is only possible due to the outstanding expertise and compassion of our health care teams,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health. “Even with the challenges of the pandemic, our dedicated teams have continued to deliver, at great personal risk, the highest quality of subspecialty and emergency care in Northern California. While the award goes to the facility, the credit goes to the amazing job our 16,000 doctors, nurses and administrative and support personnel do every day for every patient we have the honor to treat.”

The hospital's rankings page appears on the U.S. News website. These national rankings complement the four nationally ranked pediatric specialty areas for the UC Davis Children’s Hospital announced by U.S. News last month.

U.S. News ranking for hospitals

U.S. News ranks hospitals and medical centers annually in a range of specialties, using results from a survey of physicians and care-related quality measures. Based on its annual survey of nearly 5000 hospitals nationwide, it assesses hospital performances in 16 specialties or specialty areas, from cancer to urology.

“While the award goes to the facility, the credit goes to the amazing job our 16,000 doctors, nurses and administrative and support personnel do every day for every patient we have the honor to treat.”

— David Lubarsky
CEO of UC Davis Health

Hospital rankings are determined by an extensive analysis of data including hospital volume, nurse staffing, a hospital’s ability to develop and sustain high-quality care, patient experience, and expert opinion surveys of board-certified physicians.

“UC Davis has been among the best hospitals in the nation in the magazine's survey every year it has been evaluated,” said Brad Simmons, chief administrator of UC Davis Medical Center and its children’s hospital. “I am so proud of our physicians, nurses and staff who are dedicated to providing excellent health care. These national rankings are a reflection of their constant hard work.”

High performance in common adult procedures and conditions

The annual “Best Hospitals” report provides valuable information for patients who need quality care for a surgery, challenging condition or other health problems.

In addition to ranking specialty services, U.S. News rated hospitals as “high performing,” “average,” or “below average” relative to other rated hospitals in treating patients 65 and older. In 2021, the hospital was rated as “high performing” in:

  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm repair
  • Acute kidney failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Colon cancer surgery
  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Hip replacement
  • Lung cancer surgery
  • Pneumonia
  • Stroke
  • Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)

“Our hospital’s outstanding ratings are the result of many factors, including our world-class faculty physicians who provide expert and compassionate care while training the next generation of diverse physician leaders,” said Allison Brashear, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine.

202107_uc-davis-health-fixes-babys-heart-defect-using-echocardiography-only-strategy Tue, 27 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health fixes baby’s heart defect using echocardiography-only strategy <p>Cedric Taylor was born at 25 weeks. Like many premature babies, he was born with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a condition in which the ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel in the heart, does not close spontaneously after birth.</p> Cedric Taylor was born at 25 weeks. Like many premature babies, he was born with a heart defect called patent ductus arteriosus (PDA).

PDA is a condition in which the ductus arteriosus, a blood vessel in the heart that is open before birth to divert blood from the lungs to the body, does not close spontaneously after birth.

Of the four million annual births in the U.S., about 1.5% (60,000) of babies are born severely premature with very low birth weight (less than 3.3 pounds). Twenty percent (12,000) of these have a significant PDA.

Without treatment for PDA, excessive blood flow to the lungs can increase pressure in the pulmonary arteries. It can lead to significant medical problems, including acute kidney injury, brain bleeds, ischemic injury of the intestines, pulmonary vascular disease and heart failure. With excessive blood to the lungs, the respiratory system deteriorates and babies experience a decreased tolerance to feeding, resulting in poor weight gain.

For more than three years, UC Davis Health has been successfully performing PDA closures in the cardiac catheterization lab on babies as small as 600 grams or 1.3 pounds.

By implanting an Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder medical device, the world’s smallest FDA-approved PDA device, through a catheter in the groin, doctors can close the ductus arteriosus without surgery. Patients can see dramatic improvements in lung function immediately as shown on their chest X-rays.

In Taylor’s case, the procedure posed challenges. Taylor weighed 930 grams (2.05 lbs.) at the time of the procedure.  His kidneys weren’t functioning well, caused by poor blood flow due to the large PDA. The use of contrast (dye) needed to take pictures (angiograms) during the procedure was risky.

The procedure was guided by echo images from Jay Yeh.

“In order to close the PDA, we have to give him contrast to be able to take X-ray pictures before and after the occlusion and see the anatomy clearly. We need the angiograms to make sure we are placing the Piccolo medical device into the proper position. But the contrast used can potentially cause further harm to the kidneys that are already not working well. It was a difficult catch-22 situation,” said interventional cardiologist and chief of pediatric cardiology Frank Ing, who would perform the PDA closure.

It was too risky. So, the team came up with a new strategy: a PDA closure guided only by heart ultrasound, better known as echocardiography (echo) without contrast or angiograms.

A new way to PDA

Is it possible to solely use echo to help guide the placement of the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder device without traditional angiography? Could echo replace angiography, which uses contrast and X-rays to show the anatomy of the PDA?

Ing discussed the novel strategy with fellow pediatric cardiologist and medical director of the pediatric echocardiography lab Jay Yeh.

“It’s not always easy to see blood vessels by echo,” Yeh said. “But Taylor had an echo a couple of days prior. I felt pretty confident that I could see the position of the device in the PDA and ensure that the device would not cause flow obstruction to nearby blood vessels. I felt that I could guide Dr. Ing to the proper position for the device implant, based on what I was seeing in the echo.”

They agreed to try it.

During the cardiac catheterization procedure, Ing passed a thin catheter into a blood vessel in Taylor’s groin and moved it up into the heart, only guided by echo images provided by Yeh, to locate the PDA. Inserting the Amplatzer Piccolo Occluder medical device into the catheter and into the PDA, Dr. Ing was able to successfully release the device to block the abnormal blood flow of the PDA.

In less than two hours, the procedure was complete.

Taylor’s kidney function significantly improved the next morning. A post-PDA echo revealed that no residual PDA remained. The procedure was an overwhelming success.

“I am aware of only a few interventional cardiologists in the country who have done this,” Ing said. “I am proud that we were able to help this baby using a team approach.”

Cedric Taylor’s mom Candra is just thankful that this procedure has made a big difference to her son’s health overnight.

“I appreciate Dr. Ing for taking the risk and making the best decision for Cedric, due to certain circumstances. Dr. Ing did great with reassuring that he only had confidence that the procedure would be successful,” said Taylor.

Cedric will not require any additional PDA procedures. The device will remain in place for Cedric’s lifetime.

“Baby Cedric clinically is doing much better. We are happy and growing. Only ups and gains from here!” Taylor said.

202107_uc-davis-burn-center-achieves-re-verification-for-meeting-the-highest-standards-of-care Mon, 26 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Burn Center achieves re-verification for meeting the highest standards of care <p>The Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center - UC Davis has received re-verification as an Adult Burn Center from the American Burn Association. This recognition is given to burn centers meeting the highest current standards of care for burn-injured patients.</p> The Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center - UC Davis has received re-verification as an Adult Burn Center from the American Burn Association (ABA). The ABA offers this distinguished recognition to burn centers meeting the highest current standards of care for burn-injured patients.

“The verification is a true mark of distinction for a burn center and an indicator of the high-quality patient care it provides to burn patients from the time of injury through rehabilitation,” said Tina Palmieri, Burn Center Medical Director. “We are so proud of the whole team at the burn center. Their efforts and commitment made this recognition possible.”

The ABA verification review committee highlighted the center’s many strengths.

“We commend the Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center - UC Davis for its commitment to excellence and its dedication to providing quality burn care to patients,” they wrote.

The committee also recognized the tremendous support the center has from the UC Davis academic and hospital community and its leadership team.

Leadership and partnerships

The reviewers praised the center’s outstanding retention, the continuity of its leadership and its great interdisciplinary collaborations.

“The UC Davis Burn Center is nationally known for its exceptional team of physicians, nurses and therapists, led by Dr. David Greenhalgh and Dr. Tine Palmieri, both past ABA presidents,” said Brad Simmons, chief administrator of UC Davis Medical Center and UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “It is an outstanding center in its pursuit of excellence in burn treatment, research and service.”

The assessment team pointed to the strong coordination between the burn center and experts in other fields such as anesthesia and infectious diseases. These collaborations are “tremendously innovative and may lead to improvements in burn protocols and standards of burn care.”

Recently, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recognized the burn unit with the Gold Beacon Award for no central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSIs), a serious complication that occurs when germs enter the bloodstream through the central venous catheter.

Service and outreach

The UC Davis Burn Center developed the burn disaster triage diagram that is now used in burn disasters across the nation, It has served as the primary center for triage and treatment of Northern California wildfire patients, especially the Tubbs and Camp Fires. It conducts community outreach and training in burn care and prevention.

In 2020, the Burn Center treated around 1,600 adult patients and provided 300 emergency room evaluations. Its admissions approached 500 adults. One out of five admitted had severe burns covering more than a third of their body.

The Burn Center has excellent outreach and peer support initiatives, such as the Phoenix Survivors Offering Assistance in Recovery (SOAR) program. SOAR, designed by The Phoenix Society, addresses the needs of burn patients and their families by providing one-on-one peer support and mentoring during the journey of recovery. This program is in partnership with the Firefighter’s Burn Institute.

Research at the Burn Center

The center boasts an excellent research program with many federally funded studies. As a leader in burn research, it receives ongoing funding of more than $12 million from the Department of Defense each year. It leads multicenter trials in resuscitation, early mobility and complex burn and trauma injury.

Related readings:

More burn injuries are occurring in kitchens during pandemic. Thanksgiving may see a rise in these accidents.

Burn center team braces for wildfire season

202107_childrens-virtual-bereavement-art-group-starts-in-august Mon, 26 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Children’s Virtual Bereavement Art Group starts in August <p>The UC Davis Child Life and Creative Art Therapy Department will host &ldquo;Remembering Together: Virtual Bereavement Art Group,&rdquo; focusing on grief and processing loss through self-expression and art for children next month.</p> The UC Davis Child Life and Creative Art Therapy Department will host “Remembering Together: Virtual Bereavement Art Group,” focusing on grief and processing loss through self-expression and art for children next month.

The group dates and time will be based on age:

  • Ages 6-11: Aug. 17, 24 and 31 from 4-5:30 p.m.
  • Ages 12-16: Aug. 19, 26 and Sept. 2 from 4-5:30 p.m.

Each workshop will be facilitated by a certified child life specialist and a registered art therapist, trained in bereavement and child development.

The three-session workshop will teach them tools to express and process difficult emotions related to loss.

To register, please fill out the family questionnaire by Monday, Aug. 2. If you have questions, please email supportgroupsforchildren@ucdavis.edu.   

After registration, participants will receive art materials and necessary information to participate in the virtual group.  

The group is funded by New York Life and is provided free of charge to the public.

202107_uc-davis-nursing-students-bring-life-saving-tb-screenings-to-a-community-organization Fri, 23 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis nursing students bring life-saving TB screenings to a community organization <p><span>Nursing students from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing partner with Elica Health to conduct on-site tuberculosis screening for staff at SETA Head Start in Sacramento. The experience provided hands-on training for students and served a critical community health need.</span></p> Throughout the pandemic, many people skipped routine preventive care and screenings out of fear of COVID-19 exposure. UC Davis Health and community organizations are working to ensure people get the tests they need. 

One great example is a partnership between SETA Head Start and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. When administrators at SETA wanted to ensure their staff were keeping up on annual tuberculosis (TB) screenings, they tapped into a partnership with the School of Nursing and its second-year nursing students. 

Located in Del Paso Heights, SETA Head Start provides low-income children with quality comprehensive child development services that are family focused, including education, health, nutrition and mental health.

For two weeks in July, future registered nurses in their fifth quarter of an 18-month accelerated program administered and read the results of TB tests for more than 100 of the organization’s staff.

“The goal of our Fostering Healthy Communities course is to combine nursing theory and clinical care with an emphasis on working with diverse communities in providing health promotion and chronic disease management,” said Shana Ruggenberg, director of the Master’s Entry Program in Nursing. “This experience offers a tangible opportunity to put classroom and lab experience into real practice.”

Students develop their motor skills and learn how to administer an intradermal injection. But the lesson goes far beyond that.

“We learn about these readings in theory, read about it in the textbooks but now we’re out seeing it in person. This brings the school to life,” explained student Judy Njuguna.

“I think this is where we practice the most important aspect of nursing – getting to interact with people. We can pretend to do that in a simulation by talking to a patient simulator or having another student pretend to be a patient. But this is real – we’re using real interpersonal skills,” added student Ju-A Son.

SETA Head Start is not a clinical facility. In order to make the on-site clinics possible, the School of Nursing leveraged UC Davis Heath’s relationship with Elica's Health on Wheels mobile medicine program. The mobile health van is part of a health system partnership launched in 2017. The goal is to expand access to care for underserved and hard-to-reach patients, and those who can’t see providers regularly due to transportation issues, homelessness or other barriers.

For these screenings, Elica provided logistics, a space for mass testing opportunities, the medical materials required to properly administer the injections and access to experienced medical staff members providing care in a non-traditional setting. Plus, the students learned different techniques on care delivery. TB testing requires an injection of tuberculin under the skin, then a recheck in three days to see if the virus is present.

“I think that allowing nursing students the opportunity to participate in this type of outreach can help them to gain a better understanding of their community,” said Aidé Long, director of Elica’s Community Outreach Services. “This could potentially help them to narrow down the area of nursing they would like to specialize in by helping them gain experience out in the field.”

TB is a communicable disease and the leading cause of death in the world from a single infectious agent, according to the World Health Organization. It’s also curable and preventable. But the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse global progress against TB. That’s why SETA administrators wanted to make sure their staff had access to screening.

SETA and the School of Nursing have partnered for five years. Graduate students have educated Head Start families on health and wellness, conducted growth assessment for pre-school-aged children and emphasized the importance of primary care prevention. These encounters support the nursing program’s goal of exposing students to population-based health promotion and disease prevention strategies with diverse individuals, families, communities and populations.

“TB testing is required for staff on an annual basis to keep enrolled children and staff safe from infectious diseases,” said Gricelda Ocegueda, SETA’s health and nutrition coordinator. “These screenings provided access, offered opportunities to educate our team about TB, ensured our program is in compliance and presented an educational experience for the UC Davis students. Education and awareness of vulnerable populations are important for these students to learn early in their careers in health.”

Nursing student Kou Her, left, here with fellow student Chau Le, right, and a SETA Head Start employee, said serving her community is the biggest benefit of this experience.

The critical thinking, clinical excellence and a deep understanding of the health care system that graduates gain enable them to flourish. Programs and experiences such as this prepare students to advance health locally, nationally, and globally in ways that address inequities, big and small, that stand in the way of optimal health and health care equity for all.

“This particular experience also showed students the challenges and barriers to providing health care in under-resourced community areas,” Ruggenberg explained.

The face-to-face encounters with those being tested — both when administered and read — also presented teachable moments from the students that a classroom cannot.

“I grew up in this area, but I didn’t even know SETA was here,” said student Kou Her. “This was really eye-opening for me to learn what’s in my own neighborhood. It’s just a great experience to hands-on serve my community.”

202107_childrens-hospital-leaders-surprise-walmartsams-club-employees-during-cmn-campaign Fri, 23 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Children’s hospital leaders surprise Walmart/Sam’s Club employees during CMN campaign <p>Visits from UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital&rsquo;s CEO and other top hospital staff during the annual event provided a boost for staff. By recognizing the importance and impact of their fundraising efforts, leadership hopes each team member realizes that every dollar makes a difference.</p> Saving lives and lifetimes is a team effort. That’s why UC Davis Children’s Hospital  leadership, including UC Davis Health Chief Operating Officer, Brad Simmons, recognized the dedication of  Walmart/Sam's Club employees by making personal appearances at area stores during the annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ (CMN) campaign.

As a long time CMN partner, Walmart/Sam’s Club has been integral in raising funds for UC Davis Children’s Hospital and Simmons’ visit was just one way to acknowledge and rally the team.

“Having Brad visit the Antelope Walmart store to support the team was very impactful,” said Tony Hazarian, executive director of development for the UC Davis Medical Center. “His support and leadership, as well as that of the CMN team, Judie Boehmer and her nurses, helps underscore the important role individual employees play in the health of local kids. We could not provide world class care without the dedication of corporate partners like Walmart/Sam’s Club and their teams.” 

Walmart and Sam’s Club locations across the greater Sacramento region will continue fundraising efforts through Sunday, July 25.

The campaign runs through Sunday, July 25. Donate online, in-store at the register or through self-checkout.

202107_new-traumatic-brain-injury-clinic-provides-multidisciplinary-care-to-patients Fri, 23 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT New Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic provides multidisciplinary care to patients <p>A new multidisciplinary Traumatic Brain Injury Clinic at UC Davis Health provides care for patients with a wide variety of brain injuries &ndash; from mild concussions to more severe conditions like vertigo, seizures, memory and concentration problems and more.</p> When Liz Carbone went out for a bike ride in December 2020, she didn’t expect to end up with a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

“I was riding on the beautiful Davis bike loop and had an accident,” said Carbone, 37, a Davis resident. “I woke up in the Emergency Room and didn’t know how I got there. The first thing I remember is the doctor telling me I had a small intracranial hemorrhage. I heard later that a witness told first responders that I went over my bike handlebars, hit my head and was unconscious. But somehow I was able to tell the witness to call my husband.”

Carbone was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center for additional tests and observation. The next day, doctors told her that the hemorrhage was stable and there was no progressive trauma.

“I was discharged from the hospital and referred to the TBI Clinic,” Carbone said. “It was strange to think of myself as a TBI patient because my injuries weren’t that severe. Also, I was wearing a bike helmet when I had the accident, so I never expected to get a TBI.”

The new multidisciplinary TBI Clinic, which opened in October 2020, is designed to provide care to patients across the full spectrum of brain injuries – from mild concussions like Carbone’s to patients with more severe injuries, such as vertigo, balance problems, seizures, slurred speech, loss of coordination and memory and concentration problems.

The clinic is headed by director Ryan Martin, a neurocritical care physician and assistant professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery.

“Our goal is to improve the function and quality of life for every patient no matter the injury severity,” Martin said. “We want to treat patients from the beginning of their injury all the way to their recovery and follow up and bring them through the whole process instead of just having an isolated clinic. We’re big believers in the potential of TBI recovery.”

Ryan Martin“We want to treat patients from the beginning of their injury all the way to their recovery and follow up and bring them through the whole process instead of just having an isolated clinic. We’re big believers in the potential of TBI recovery.”

— Ryan Martin
neurocritical care physician

Located in the Neurological Surgery Clinic in the Midtown Ambulatory Care Center, the clinic has served more than 350 patients since opening.

Currently Martin collaborates with other departments to make sure TBI patients get the best care possible based on their individual needs. Eventually he hopes to also have psychiatrists, neuropsychologists, physical and occupational therapists, and social workers all within the same multidisciplinary clinic space.

Martin is also working with Kiarash Shahlaie, director of the UC Davis TBI Program and professor of neurological surgery and neurology, on a proposal outlining the details of the expanded clinic as well as the larger TBI Program, which will encompass research, education and outreach to TBI patients.

The multidisciplinary TBI Clinic evolved after Martin started seeing patients with concussions in 2019. “There was a need for a doctor in neurology to see concussion referrals, and I started seeing those patients,” Martin said. “Before that, TBI patients were dispersed between several departments, including sports medicine, primary care and neurology. Now we can see patients throughout the recovery process and follow up to ensure they’re getting the care and services they need.”

For Carbone, the focus on recovery from her injury was critical. She made a telemedicine appointment a few weeks after returning home from the hospital and had a lot of questions about the next steps in the process.

After three virtual appointments, Carbone and her doctor determined that her injury had healed, and she could completely return to normal activities. Carbone credits the TBI Clinic for her smooth recovery.

“My recovery was only beginning when I left the hospital,” Carbone said. “The clinic helped me get back to normal. Every patient has unique experiences and concerns. What’s so valuable about the TBI Clinic is that it provides space for whatever those different concerns and experiences are. I hope every patient who has a head trauma has an opportunity to participate in the clinic.”

For more information and to refer patients to the multidisciplinary TBI Clinic, please call 916-734-4300. Appointment wait time may vary based on demand.

202107_8-things-health-experts-want-you-to-know-about-the-delta-variant Thu, 22 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT 8 things health experts want you to know about the Delta variant <p>UC Davis Health experts are warning a Sacramento-area COVID-19 surge is likely in the coming weeks. Infections are rising, due largely to the highly transmissible Delta variant and low vaccination rates, which are around 50% in the region.</p> For most of June, there were fewer than 10 patients with active COVID-19 at the UC Davis Medical Center on any given day. On several days there were five or six. 

This week, it’s ranged from 18-25 patients daily. And UC Davis Health experts expect that to go up. 

Another COVID-19 surge

“We’re all thinking that another surge is likely,” said Christian Sandrock, director of critical care at the medical center. “It is frightening. I don’t think we’ll go back to the worst we’ve seen, due to the vaccine, but it’s hard to tell.” 

The state of California re-opened June 15, lifting most masking and distancing requirements. The Delta variant, which originated in India, was spreading rapidly in the U.S. around the same time. 

“The substantial increases in COVID-19 cases are consistent with a fourth surge largely, if not entirely, driven by unvaccinated people and not masking,” explained Natascha Tuznik, associate clinical professor of infectious diseases at UC Davis Health. 

“At this point in the pandemic, you’re either going to get vaccinated or you’re going to get COVID.”

— Dean Blumberg
chief of pediatric infectious diseases

“It’s a concern but it’s not unexpected, given the increased transmissibility of the Delta variant in combination with opening back up,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital

Sacramento County has the third highest COVID case rate in the state, with 11.5 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days. The county’s COVID-19 vaccination rate is around 50%, well below the statewide rate of 63%. 

UC Davis Health experts are warning that Delta should be taken very seriously. Here’s what they’ve learned about the variant: 

1. Delta is highly contagious

Christian Sandrock
COVID infects an entire family, including a vaccinated UC Davis doctor

Christian Sandrock has been taking care of critically ill COVID patients since the beginning of the pandemic. The director of critical care at UC Davis Medical Center and an infectious diseases expert, Sandrock got the vaccine as soon as it was available.

But recently, he got some unwelcome news: He had COVID-19. So did his fully vaccinated wife and their two young children who were both too young for the vaccine.

“I thought I would just have a fever for a day or so and it would go away, but it’s been a bit rougher. I’ve had chest pains, a pertussis-like cough and headache. My sinuses are really a mess,” Sandrock said. “I would hate to see what it was like if I wasn’t vaccinated. It might have killed me.”

He’s pretty sure that his wife got COVID after spending time with another vaccinated person, indoors. She lost her sense of smell. His youngest children had fevers of 104 for a week. He was the last to get sick.

“All of a sudden, I just felt terrible. I could literally look at the clock and tell you the moment – with the snap of a finger, I just knew,” he said. 

Sandrock says he and his family are recovering, and he’s grateful he was vaccinated. Even though he ended up with a breakthrough case, he believes the vaccine protected him from severe disease. He recommends that everyone get vaccinated – and that even those fully vaccinated still consider safety measures.

“I would recommend that people who are vaccinated still mask up indoors, because the rates are climbing,” he said.

Nearly 80% of current COVID-19 cases in UC Davis Health patients are the Delta strain. 

That’s in line with what the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, told a Senate committee this week: Delta accounts for 83% of the new cases in the U.S - up from about 50% just a couple of weeks ago. 

“The Delta variant is 40-50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant,” said Tuznik. The Alpha variant was 50% more transmissible than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2.  

2. Symptoms are the same, but cases are skewing younger

“We haven’t really seen more severe symptoms with Delta [than the other strains], but we are seeing one trend internationally: 30-50-year-olds are making up more hospital admissions,” Sandrock said. 

“Symptoms are the same but what we are seeing with Delta is `quicker sicker,’ especially in younger people,” Tuznik noted. One possible explanation? Research published recently found that the variant grows more rapidly – and to much greater levels – in the respiratory tract. 

3. Delta is hitting the unvaccinated

“The Delta variant in the U.S. is affecting for the most part the unvaccinated,” said Lorena Garcia, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences. “That is different than the surges in winter or early spring when the vaccine was not available to everyone. Now when you combine being unvaccinated with not wearing masks and no social distancing, you see this surge during the summer.”

Most hospitalized COVID patients at UC Davis Medical Center are unvaccinated. “Vaccines continue to work very well – including against Delta,” Blumberg said. “At this point in the pandemic, you’re either going to get vaccinated or you’re going to get COVID.” 

Nationally and statewide, the data show that areas with lower vaccination rates tend to have higher COVID-19 infection rates.

 “My biggest concern is the unvaccinated population and ongoing refusal to vaccinate,” said Tuznik. “Vaccination works. Vaccination prevents severe COVID-19 disease, which may be fatal. Essentially all fatalities at this time are being seen in the unvaccinated.” 

Learn how to schedule your vaccination at UC Davis Health. 

4. Breakthrough cases are rare, but do occur

Breakthrough cases, when a vaccinated person gets COVID, do occur, but they are rare, and most are mild and don’t result in hospitalization or death. “The increased transmissibility of the Delta variant is almost certainly contributing to breakthrough cases,” said Tuznik. 

“In the U.S., there have been 65,000 breakthrough cases among the 160 million people who’ve been fully vaccinated. So that’s 0.04% of the people vaccinated reporting breakthrough cases,” Blumberg noted. 

For vaccinated patients who get COVID, symptoms have been largely similar to a cold, with a significant loss of smell.  

“In vaccinated people who do get COVID, it’s definitely more of the asymptomatic people with limited symptoms,” Sandrock said. “They may have a couple of days of cough, fever or headache but it’s not as severe.” 

No vaccine is 100% effective. With the COVID-19 vaccines averaging about 90% efficacy, health experts expect about 10% of those vaccinated could be infected. In Sacramento County, that’s 74,000 people who could get it – but are still protected from severe disease and hospitalization. 

5. Many of our patients wish they’d gotten vaccinated

“A number of younger patients, when they come in to us, critically ill, they start saying ‘I should have gotten the vaccine,’” Sandrock said.  “We are seeing a lot of that. As they start to get really sick, they’re like, ‘Why did I not get the vaccine? Why did I not listen?’ I’d say more than half of them do that.” 

6. Delta could be catastrophic in some communities

In California’s communities with lower vaccination rates, particularly rural areas with limited access to care, Delta could be even more damaging. 

“We are in the middle of our own surge, with patient census is as high as it was a year ago,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health. “At UC Davis Health, we are making it easy for people everywhere and in every circumstance to do the right thing and get vaccinated, so we can finally stop this pandemic. The risks are real and, as we hear every day from people who have gotten seriously ill, almost all of whom are not vaccinated, they really wish they had gotten the vaccine.”

— David Lubarsky, CEO, UC Davis Health
Vice Chancellor, Human Health Sciences

“It could be extremely devastating,” said Garcia. “We already have an example in what is occurring around the world in low income countries where the vaccine is not available for the poor. The preventable deaths and severe illness are overwhelming. The impact will be felt for decades to come.” 

Learn about UC Davis Health’s efforts to care for and vaccinate underserved communities. 

7. Some experts are still masking up after vaccination

“My advice is to continue masking. Even if you’re vaccinated, definitely avoid large indoor gatherings – begrudgingly, again – and mask in grocery stores, drug stores and other locations that don’t verify vaccination status,” said Tuznik. “Socially distanced outdoor activities should be fine, but if you might come into close contact, even briefly, with a stranger, then mask up just in case.” 

“I’m fully vaccinated and I still wear a mask at the grocery store or even outdoors in a crowded situation like at the farmer’s market, because many unvaccinated people are choosing to go unmasked and I’m not comfortable with that,” Blumberg explained. 

8. There are more variants to come

“We have the Delta now and then it’s being followed by the Lambda in South America,” said Sandrock. “If people want to get back to normal, they need to get vaccinated. As long as a good chunk of people are unvaccinated, in the world, we’re just going to continue having new strains come along that are going to cause these periods where we’ll have to go back and forth to a modified life.” 

UC Davis Health has delivered more than 167,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to date at its vaccine clinics, as well as schools, churches, community centers and doctors’ offices. 

“We are in the middle of our own surge, with patient census is as high as it was a year ago,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health.  “At UC Davis Health, we are making it easy for people everywhere and in every circumstance to do the right thing and get vaccinated, so we can finally stop this pandemic. The risks are real, and as we hear every day from people who have gotten seriously ill, almost all of whom are not vaccinated, they really wish they had gotten the vaccine." 

Our primary care doctors are providing the COVID-19 vaccine every day in our Midtown Sacramento clinic. There’s also weekly availability during appointments at these locations:

  • Mondays in Rancho Cordova
  • Tuesdays in Davis
  • Wednesdays in Roseville
  • Thursdays in Elk Grove
  • Fridays at the MIND Institute (for individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions)

Learn how to schedule your vaccine.

202107_reinventing-the-academic-medical-center- Wed, 21 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Reinventing the academic medical center <p>A new paper in the New England Journal of Medicine&rsquo;s Catalyst describes UC Davis Health&rsquo;s success in reinventing its academic medical center as a collaborative partner, facilitating a high level of patient care throughout the region and joining with competitors to form partnerships.</p> A strategic shift underway at UC Davis Health seeks to reinvent the academic medical center (AMC) model as a collaborative partner that facilitates a high level of patient care throughout an entire region, better utilizing the region’s health care assets, and bringing higher-level care delivery closer to home for patients. 

A new paper in the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst describes UC Davis Health’s recent success on this front. It also advocates for AMCs to join with competitors and form partnerships that expand patient access to care, especially among the underserved. AMCs like UC Davis Health typically provide a wide range of medical services for patients, while offering academic research capabilities and medical education as well. The UC Davis Health experience shows such partnerships have financial rewards for partner hospitals, AMCs, and most importantly, patients. 

Since a leadership change in 2018, UC Davis Health has embraced an “anchor institution” model, rather than the business-as-usual race for volume, according to the paper. 

“The implementation of an anchor institution model as described in this article provides an example of how a system can act as a clinical and research leader, support improved care throughout its entire community, better balance the usage of health care resources across the larger health care system, and have a meaningful impact on the health outcomes of patients from all backgrounds,” wrote David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health and vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences, and Elizabeth Keating, an executive consultant for the UC Davis School of Medicine, co-authors of the paper. 

These efforts have expanded patient access to care and increased the case mix index (CMI) at UC Davis Health from 1.91 to 2.31 over 30 months. CMI is a measure used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to determine hospital reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries. A higher case mix index value indicates a hospital has treated a greater and more diverse number of complex, resource-intensive patients, and the hospital will be reimbursed at a higher rate. 

Increasing patient access

In 2018, the academic medical center started organizing itself around the anchor institution mission. One key insight was that merely providing a high volume of care to the region’s poorer populations was not sufficient to meet the region’s needs, Lubarsky and Keating wrote. 

“We developed a strategy to complete, not compete with, other health systems and hospitals in our region in order to maximize appropriate utilization of existing capital.”

— UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky

Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid program) volumes made up the largest portion of UC Davis Medical Center’s total discharges, which, as of fiscal year 2020, was 41.5%. Over the previous four years, that rate had ranged from about 39.8% to 41.4%. At the same time, UC Davis Health’s share of patients with commercial insurance had declined, from 50,511 (25.8%) in 2017 to 43,686 (22.4%) in 2020. 

“We trace this decline in commercial patient volume to other hospitals sending their patients with public insurance programs to UC Davis Health, a trend that inspired the idea of shifting to partnerships in the first place,” according to the authors, who also said UC Davis Health’s goal was not simply to fill up beds with patients, but to increase patient access to care regionally. 

The health system’s focus on high-acuity care (sicker patients) led to an increase in length of stay at the medical center by nearly one full day – from 5.6 to 6.5 days – between 2018 and 2020, the research showed. 

“We developed a strategy to complete, not compete with, other health systems and hospitals in our region in order to maximize appropriate utilization of existing capital,” wrote Lubarsky, adding that the goal is that “when patients reach UC Davis Health medical center, they truly need to be there.” 

“Our goals are now targeted to worry less about every last dollar of referrals and instead to collaborate with ‘competitors’ so they can take on the needs of our lower-acuity patients, while we focus on delivering the high-intensity-related care for high-CMI patients [those with more complex medical needs] in our AMC beds and clinics,” they noted. 

This results in a win-win for partner hospitals and AMCs:  Partner hospitals are able to keep and treat patients they can better care for, and AMCs can focus on sicker patients, at higher reimbursement rates which help to offset their higher costs structure.  Patients also win, the paper points out, by receiving their care in the most appropriate location, which is often closer to their home. 

The system’s focus on high-acuity care also led, between 2018 and 2020, to a rise in CMI from 1.91 to 2.10.  Through the first quarter of calendar year 2021, the CMI is 2.31. 

Empowered partnerships

This type of two-way partnership between UC Davis Health and Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, which is 40 miles away, resulted in an increase of high-acuity pediatric transfers from the Lodi facility to UC Davis Health. Between July 2018 and June 2019, these transfers increased by 7%, from 208 to 223, resulting in a case mix index increase of 39%, from 1.17 to 1.63.

As part of its anchor mission, UC Davis Health also invested in the care it provided at federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in Sacramento. The Sacramento County Primary Care Clinic benefited from an influx of UC Davis Health staffing, which resulted in a significant impact on clinic volume – an increase of 500% – from 8,000 annualized visits in FY 2018 to an annualized 40,000 in FY 2021. 

The coronavirus crisis also exposed issues where the underserved needed heightened attention, the authors wrote. 

“Overall, the pandemic has helped UC Davis Health even more deeply understand the health needs of our community, allowing it to continue to operate as a pillar of the Sacramento and Northern California safety net,” Lubarsky and Keating stated. 

The article highlighted six different questions previously cited as guiding modern health care strategies for AMCs. Through this new strategic shift, UC Davis Health is positioning itself as a health care “backstop for the entire region,” the authors wrote, but not at the expense of any one part of the system, but rather a rising tide for all boats, including outcomes for patients.

202107_stem-cell-transplants-now-available-for-some-on-outpatient-basis Tue, 20 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Stem cell transplants now available for some on outpatient basis <p>Multiple myeloma patient Dara Kara, from Benicia, receives first outpatient stem cell transplant at UC Davis Health. Also referred to as a bone&nbsp;marrow&nbsp;transplant, performing the procedure on an outpatient basis is expected to shorten recovery times and save health care costs.</p> Lengthy hospital stays are no longer the only option for some stem cell transplant patients. The first UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center patient to receive a transplant on an outpatient basis at is back home and in remission.

“I love the fact that I could be part of such a success,” said Benicia resident Dara Karl, the first multiple myeloma patient to receive a stem cell transplant at UC Davis Health without being hospitalized during the procedure.

Many blood cancers are resistant to standard doses of chemotherapy. Studies have shown that high doses of chemotherapy can eradicate many, if not all, cancer cells that are resistant to standard doses of chemotherapy. However, high doses will also damage the bone marrow and stem cells that reside within it. Stem cell transplantation, sometimes referred to as a bone marrow transplant, is a procedure in which a patient receives their own archived stem cells to allow them to recover from the effects of high doses of chemotherapy.

What patients are good candidates for an outpatient stem cell transplant? They need to be receiving an autologous stem cell transplant and fit the following criteria:

• Be in relatively good health.
• Live within an hour drive of the UC Davis Medical Center or willing to stay at a nearby hotel.
• Have a responsible relative or friend who can serve as a support system for the patient 24/7 for at least two weeks.
• Agree to follow infection prevention guidelines (i.e., wear mask, and stick to a strict medication and diet regimen).
• Refrain from allowing pets or young children in the home during the treatment process.

After the stem cells are infused into a patient’s bloodstream, they travel to the bone marrow and begin the process of forming new, healthy blood cells, including white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

A month following her stem cell transplant, Dara was told by her oncologist that her cancer was in deep remission. In fact, there was no sign of the cancer at all.

Karl said she doesn’t feel like a pioneer and she says she simply did, “what my doctors told me to do.” The widow and mother of two grown daughters—one a professor in Oklahoma and the other severely disabled with cerebral palsy at home—Karl didn’t want to endure a typical three- week stay in a hospital for the transplant procedure. Her sister, Deb Deans, was by her side through it all as the two relaxed, following the procedure, in the comforts of the Marriott Hotel on the UC Davis Health campus. 

“Delicious meals were brought to us by hospital staff and we were able to have some of our own diet-compliant snacks thanks to the room having a kitchenette,” said Karl.  “It certainly was a lot better than being in a hospital room, with the sounds of medical equipment and nurses coming in, day and night.”

Karl did have minor complications not related to the outpatient procedure and spent a few days in the hospital toward the end of her two-week recovery, but said she was pleased she was able to spend her initial recovery time in the hotel.

A stem cell transplant may be:

• Autologous (using a patient’s own stem cells that were collected and saved before treatment)
• Allogeneic (using stem cells from a related or unrelated donor)
• Syngeneic (using stem cells donated by an identical twin)
• Cord blood (using umbilical cord blood donated after a baby is born)

UC Davis oncologist Joseph Tuscano performed the two-hour transplant in late April. He said most outpatient stem cell transplant patients will be able to recover at home as long as they live within an hour of the cancer center. If not, hotel accommodations on campus are available.

“Outpatient stem cell transplants offer the full benefits of the standard inpatient version of this lifesaving procedure,” said Tuscano. “But we think there will be a decrease in recovery time and an increase in the mental wellness of patients who can become stressed by long hospitalizations and separation from family.”

Offering outpatient stem cell transplants is even more important during times such as the COVID-19 pandemic, when visitors to the hospital are limited.

“We think being with loved ones is an important part of the recovery process,” said Tuscano. “It also lowers health care costs and allows the patient to get back to enjoying life, which is what it is all about.”

202107_uc-davis-nicu-receives-gold-level-beacon-award-for-excellence Mon, 19 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis NICU receives gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence <p>The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital is now the 12th in the U.S. to receive a gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. It is the only hospital in Northern California to receive this honor.</p> The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at UC Davis Children’s Hospital is now the 12th NICU in the U.S. to receive a gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). It is the only hospital in Northern California to receive this honor. 

The Beacon Award for Excellence — a significant milestone on the path to exceptional patient care and healthy work environments — recognizes caregivers who successfully improve patient outcomes and align practices with AACN’s six Healthy Work Environment Standards. These standards are skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition and authentic leadership.  

“We are so proud to receive this award,” said Sheryl Ruth, nurse manager of the UC Davis NICU. “This award recognizes the quality of care and commitment to constant improvement, while providing an environment that empowers nurses.”

AACN President Beth Wathen applauds the commitment of the caregivers at the UC Davis NICU for working together to meet and exceed the high standards set forth by the Beacon Award for Excellence.

“The Beacon Award for Excellence is a testament to a team’s commitment to providing safe, patient-centered and evidence-based care to patients and families. Creating healthy and supportive work environments empowers nurses and other team members to make their optimal contribution,” Wathen explained. “Achieving this award is an honor that brings such joy to those who have worked so hard to achieve excellence in patient care and positive patient outcomes.”

The gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence signifies an effective and systematic approach to policies, procedures and processes that include engagement of staff and key stakeholders; fact-based evaluation strategies for continuous process improvement; and performance measures that meet or exceed relevant benchmarks. UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s NICU earned a gold award by meeting the following evidence-based Beacon Award for Excellence criteria:

  • Leadership Structures and Systems
  • Appropriate Staffing and Staff Engagement
  • Effective Communication, Knowledge Management, and Learning and Development
  • Evidence-Based Practice and Processes
  • Outcome Measurement

About the Beacon Award for Excellence: Established in 2003, the Beacon Award for Excellence offers a road map to help guide exceptional care through improved outcomes and greater overall patient satisfaction. U.S. and Canadian units where patients receive their principal nursing care after hospital admission qualify for this excellence award. Units that receive the Beacon Award for Excellence meet criteria in six categories: leadership structures and systems; appropriate staffing and staff engagement; effective communication, knowledge management, and learning and development; evidence-based practice and processes; and outcome measurement. To learn more, visit www.aacn.org/beacon or call 800-899-2226.

About the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses: Founded in 1969 and based in Aliso Viejo, Calif., the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) is the largest specialty nursing organization in the world. AACN represents the interests of more than half a million acute and critical care nurses and includes more than 200 chapters in the United States. The organization’s vision is to create a health care system driven by the needs of patients and their families in which acute and critical care nurses make their optimal contribution. To learn more about AACN, visit www.aacn.org, connect with the organization on Facebook at www.facebook.com/aacnface or follow AACN on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aacnme.

202107_can-cbd-help-people-with-psoriasis-find-relief Mon, 19 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Can CBD help people with psoriasis find relief? <p>UC Davis Dermatologist Jason Hawkes <span>discusses the effects and risks of </span>using cannabinoids, such as CBD, as an alternative or complementary treatment to psoriasis, a chronic inflammatory skin disease.</p> Jason E. Hawkes, an associate professor of dermatology at UC Davis Health, has been seeing more patients with psoriasis who are interested in cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative or complementary treatment for their condition.

In this Q&A, he answers questions on the safety and effectiveness of using CDB for treating psoriasis or reducing its symptoms.

What is psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory condition linked to the body’s immune system. When immune cells become dysregulated in psoriasis patients, they cause red, scaly patches of skin and inflammation throughout the body.

Up to 30% of patients with psoriasis also have psoriatic arthritis with symptoms such as morning stiffness, fatigue, swollen fingers and toes, pain in joints, and nail changes. Psoriasis patients also have an increased risk for other conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, sleep and respiratory problems, depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

What is CBD and can it help with psoriasis?

Cannabis is a plant that contains more than 80 biologically active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, which have a range of biological activities in the body, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and psychological effects.

Despite many very effective topical and systemic treatments for psoriasis, many patients still suffer from chronic itching and pain. They also face the stigma and psychosocial consequences of having a highly visible skin condition. It is, therefore, not surprising that patients affected with this disease have sought relief via a variety of alternative treatment options, including cannabis-based products like CBD.

The medical community has just barely scratched the surface with regards to the potential benefits and risks of cannabis-derived products. The biochemical impact of CBD on the body needs to be carefully considered. Their effects are determined by many variables, including the delivery method to the body (topical application, inhalation, oral ingestion), dose or concentration of the cannabinoid, or the specific chemical(s) isolated from a particular plant strain.

Yet, it is a very reasonable assumption that the potential beneficial psychological (e.g. anxiety reduction) and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids could help alleviate the disease burden associated with psoriatic disease.

How do cannabinoids like CBD affect the body?

Like CBD, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a common cannabinoid isolated from the cannabis plant. However, CBD and THC have distinct properties and vary dramatically in their observed effects on the human body. Both compounds can work in place of the body’s own cannabinoid system – known as the endocannabinoid system – wherein THC and CBD interact with receptors in specific tissues or the nervous system to mediate a broad range of physiological effects like reduced inflammation, itching and pain relief, increased ability to sleep, appetite stimulation, and decreased anxiety.

For psoriasis patients with specific complaints such as pain, itching, or trouble sleeping, cannabis-derived products might help reduce the negative impact these symptoms have on their life. Ongoing medical research can help tease out the complex mechanisms by which cannabinoids like CBD or THC impact health and modulate biological systems such as the immune response.

In general, CBD appears to retain many of the biological effects of THC, without the “high” most people associate with THC or marijuana. This key difference has led many companies or research groups to study and develop pure CBD products that may be more desirable for patients who wish to avoid or may not tolerate the stronger psychoactive effects of THC-based products. This difference has also made CBD a popular choice among consumers who are first-time or inexperienced users of cannabis-based products.

Are CBD products safe for psoriasis patients? What are the risks of using CBD products?

The risks of CBD and other cannabis-derived products in patients with psoriasis and other inflammatory skin diseases have not been carefully studied. This is an unmet need that deserves ongoing attention and research. Nevertheless, prior clinical studies are informative and suggest that potential risks should be considered, especially in patients with psoriatic disease.

Several studies have associated systemic CBD and other cannabis-derived products with worsening heart disease, obesity and diabetes, fatty liver disease, or a higher likelihood of surgery to treat inflammatory bowel disease. Psoriasis patients need to be aware of the psoriasis-associated diseases and their potential worsening with cannabis products. Adverse events are also more likely with systemic or high-dose intake, compared to other delivery methods such as topical CBD oil, for example.

Are there clinical studies on CBD use for psoriasis and other skin inflammations?

No. There is a need for controlled clinical studies or at least prospective patient registries or databases designed to collect information and monitor the potential risks and benefits of CBD and other cannabis-derived products for the treatment of psoriatic disease.

The medical community must think creatively about ways to evaluate and determine the safety and effectiveness of CBD products for specific conditions. We need to advance our understanding of CBD and other cannabinoid derivates because the cannabis product industry is here to stay.

Several factors make the investigational effort very challenging. They include:

  • Lack of regulations in the cannabis industry
  • Widespread availability of CBD and other cannabis-derived products in the U.S.
  • Product variations that would need to be studied
  • Complexity of research design to address patient disease severity, strain-specific compounds, concentration and dosing, method of delivery, and treatment duration
  • Lack of transparency of ingredient lists for specific products

What should patients with psoriasis do if they are considering CBD?

Doing your research is important. Patients considering holistic or alternative forms of medical treatments for their chronic medical conditions need to have open conversations with their health care provider to navigate the cannabis landscape better. Looking for transparent ingredient lists and products with a good brand reputation is also important before trying CBD.

Until we have more substantial, comprehensive information about the potential effects cannabis products have on human physiology, we recommend psoriasis patients seek resources from established medical organizations and patient advocacy groups to make informed decisions. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) is currently working to put out psoriasis guidelines related to cannabis use in the setting of psoriatic disease.

202107_travel-tips-to-stay-healthy-this-summer-during-the-pandemic Fri, 16 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Travel tips to stay healthy this summer during the pandemic <p>Travel plans this summer should include staying updated on changing COVID-19 conditions and being ready to change or cancel your trip. Vaccinated travelers have less to worry about but still need to be prepared.</p> You’ve booked your long-awaited vacation and now the Delta variant is causing an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases. What do you do?

Carry on with your plans, but with certain safeguards and travel tips in mind, say UC Davis Health experts.

“The best advice is to delay travel until you are fully vaccinated,” said Natascha Tuznik, an infectious disease specialist at in the Department of Internal Medicine. “And, even if you are vaccinated, remember that most public transportation still requires masks—including planes and airports.”

Tuznik is planning to travel with her husband and young children in October and is hopeful their trip to Disney World will be one for the memory books. However, she is prepared in case the Delta variant or other rapidly changing COVID-19 conditions cause another shutdown.

“Chance favors the prepared mind,” said Tuznik, quoting 19th century vaccine pioneer Louis Pasteur. “There are new pandemic developments all the time. My recommendation is to buy travel insurance in case there is a surge that complicates or cancels your vacation plans.”

Tuznik recommends the following tips:

  • Children over 2 and under 12 should wear masks in public places as should anyone who isn’t vaccinated.
  • Unvaccinated individuals should get tested three days before traveling and maintain a physical distance of 6 feet, if possible.
  • Follow all state and localrecommendations or requirements after travel.
  • When traveling internationally, research COVID-19 restrictions before you go. You may need a recent negative COVID-19 test before you board your flight and you WILL need a negative COVID-19 test before boarding your flight home to the U.S.

Quarantine when you return home:


If you have traveled internationally and are vaccinated, you should test 3-5 days after return and, if negative and asymptomatic, you do not have to quarantine. Domestic travelers don’t need to be tested upon returning home. See CDC travel tips for vaccinated individuals.

Not vaccinated?

CDC advises to get tested within 3-5 days and stay home for a full 7 days, even if you test negative. If you don’t test, you must stay home for a full 10 days. Follow CDC traveler guidelines for updates to recommendations.

The CDC offers a map displaying travel recommendations by destination to help with decisions on whether or not to travel to certain countries during the pandemic.

UC Davis Health Travelers Clinic

Tuznik is part of the infectious diseases team that runs the UC Davis Health Travelers Clinic. The clinic provides medical consultation for those planning international trips, including information on:

  • Immunizations, vaccines, and other preventive therapies
  • Food- and beverage-borne risks
  • Diseases associated with insects
  • Stress, sleep, motion sickness and jet lag

Travelers who develop medical problems either during or within two months of returning are also advised to contact the clinic for diagnostic testing and treatment.

The Travelers Clinic is located in the Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center at 4860 Y St. in Sacramento. More information is available in the Travelers Clinic brochure or you can call 916 734-2737. Patients may need a referral by their primary care physician to get an appointment at the clinic. 

202107_covid-19-and-the-delta-variant-what-you-need-to-know-video Thu, 15 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT COVID-19 and the Delta variant: What you need to know (video) <p>The Delta variant is now the dominant strain of COVID-19 in California and the U.S. It&rsquo;s highly infectious, but epidemiologists say current vaccines are providing sufficient protection against illness and hospitalization.</p>
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The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus has prompted new warnings from health officials and even new lockdowns in parts of the world. It’s now the dominant strain in the United States and California. Epidemiologists at UC Davis Health say the threat from this virus mutation highlights the importance of getting vaccinated.

Why is the Delta variant such a concern?

The Delta variant is highly transmissible, but epidemiologists say COVID-19 vaccines are effective against it.

The Delta variant is much more easily transmitted than other variants. “In the United States, it’s making up over 50% of our new cases,” said Lorena Garcia, professor of epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the UC Davis School of Medicine. “In some states, it’s making up over 80% of new cases. Viruses are really smart. Their goal is to survive,” Garcia explained.  

Brad Pollock, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences said this is typical. “These variants that happen after the original type of virus, they tend to make the virus more easily transmitted to somebody else,” he said. “The virus becomes much more efficient.”  

The risk in communities

Epidemiologists say with the Delta variant, individuals can shed the virus for longer periods of time, giving more opportunities for exposure. “With these variants, you’re at higher risk,” said Pollock. “You’re much more likely to get infected if you’re not vaccinated than you were six months ago.”

Lower numbers of vaccinated people mean the virus has more opportunities to spread and keep mutating.

UC Davis Health experts say the spread of the Delta variant has made COVID-19 vaccination critical.

“We do have pockets throughout the U.S. where individuals do not even have one dose of the vaccine, so there are communities that are at high risk. In particular, rural and semi-rural [communities] that do not have easy access to clinics and medical hospitals that have the resources to take on and treat the patients, these are the communities that we really need to worry about,” Garcia explained.

The Delta variant and vaccines

Breakthrough cases, when a fully vaccinated person becomes ill with COVID-19, are fairly rare. But Pollock noted none of the vaccines are 100% effective. “When the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines were administered in the population, they were about 93% effective,” he said. “Which meant that for every 100 people you vaccinate, seven of them on average would end with a breakthrough case.”  Vaccine makers have said their vaccines have held up well against the Delta variant.  

If infection does occur after a person is fully vaccinated, the illness shouldn’t be severe. “If you got a full series of vaccinations, you’re very unlikely to be hospitalized or to die,” Pollock said. “In fact, many of these breakthrough infections may be asymptomatic, and the person may never know that they were infected.”  

What isn’t known is how easily vaccinated people can transmit the virus. “We have some ideas, that if you get infected after you’ve been vaccinated, you probably have lower amounts of virus that you’re going to shed,” Pollock said. “But unfortunately, we don’t have the population evidence yet that says with absolute certainty there’s no way you could transmit this to somebody else.”

“You’re much more likely to get infected if you’re not vaccinated than you were six months ago”

— Brad Pollock

Pollock pointed out that could become a problem in households with mixed vaccination status. “If you’re a breakthrough case and all your relatives at home aren’t vaccinated, theoretically you could infect them. That’s not good.”

Surge potential in California

Some states are seeing dramatic increases in infections due to the Delta variant in areas where vaccination rates are low. However, Pollock does not foresee lockdowns like we had in March, 2020, because of the presence of vaccines. “That has changed the game completely,” he said.

Sacramento County now has one of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the state. The county’s vaccination rate is around 47%.

Preventive measures

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control updated its guidelines for people fully vaccinated against COVID-19, advising normal activities can resume, without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except where other rules apply.

UC Davis Health is offering COVID-19 vaccination for individuals 12 and older.

Shortly after, the rapid growth of the Delta variant prompted some health agencies to advise people, vaccinated or not, to wear masks indoors and outdoors when in a crowded area.  

For unvaccinated people, including children younger than age 12 who cannot get the vaccine, health experts strongly advise wearing masks indoors, when in groups or when social distancing is not possible. “If you’re unvaccinated, you need to be masked up,” Pollock said. Children under 2 should not wear masks, due to the risk of suffocation.

Both Pollock and Garcia urge anyone who can get the COVID-19 vaccine to do so. 

“The Delta variant has taught us that vaccination is even more important now. Being fully vaccinated really protects us and protects our community as well,” Garcia said.

Learn more about how to schedule your vaccination at UC Davis Health.

202107_a-network-of-healthy-connections Thu, 15 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT A network of healthy connections <p>Roger Mendoza has helped UC Davis Health stay connected, with the installation of more than 2,300 miles of IT cabling infrastructure. But it&rsquo;s his connections with the health system&rsquo;s providers that have kept him healthy through multiple cancers, a brain hemorrhage and more.</p> To say Roger Mendoza is well connected to UC Davis Health is like saying Lebron James plays basketball every so often. It’s a bit of an understatement.

Mendoza works for Panduit, a data cabling and connectivity company that does business with UC Davis. He ensures the health system’s 143-acre Sacramento campus has the telecommunications connectivity it needs.

But the 67-year old Sacramento resident has spent almost a much time as a patient in clinics and the hospital as he has as a salesperson surveying the health system for cable installations.

“If it hadn’t been for UC Davis Health, I wouldn’t have been able to do my job,” said Mendoza. “You folks have extended my life.”

It started in 1980, when Mendoza was rushed home from overseas trip to have his gall bladder removed at UC Davis Medical Center.

In the early 2000s, Peter Belafsky, a professor of otolaryngology, spotted and biopsied two small bumps in Mendoza’s throat. A tumor diagnosis required Mendoza to undergo radiation and chemotherapy treatments at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

That was followed in 2014 by another cancer diagnosis -- and subsequent treatments -- for acute myeloid leukemia.

In between illnesses, Mendoza was also keeping UC Davis Health at the forefront of online connectivity, as one of the nation’s Most Wired hospitals. He was helping the health system install what today is more than 2,300 miles of IT cabling infrastructure. It’s the wiring that powers everything from electronic medical records to free the Wi-Fi patients and visitors enjoy each day.

By 2017, Mendoza wasn’t just visiting outpatient clinics to check cable specifications. He was also seeing UC Davis cardiovascular specialists for high blood pressure and atrial fibrillation.

That same year, he suffered a mild brain hemorrhage. So his next visit was to the Department of Neurological Surgery.

“I have so much trust in UC Davis Health. I’ve never had any doubts. Through all my illnesses, I’ve also learned to focus on letting fear go and being grateful. It’s a change in perception. And it has served me very well.”

— Roger Mendoza

Then, more recently, a new throat biopsy revealed another tumor. This time, the otolaryngology head and neck surgery team did an exploratory procedure to assess the size of the tumor and, subsequently, recommended removal of the mass.

Mendoza underwent a robotic-assisted procedure, a highly specialized technology offered at UC Davis Health. And, while he has experienced a lot of different treatments and procedures, Mendoza says he’s constantly eyeing his clinical care rooms for his networking handiwork.

“Even when I went into the operating room for my robotic throat surgery, I was looking around the room at the cables,” chuckled Mendoza. “Of course, I couldn’t see much since they were putting me under. But I knew my cabling solutions were all over the OR, too.”

Mendoza brings a one-of-kind spirit wherever he goes. It’s an attitude that undoubtedly has helped him sell telecommunications products as well as survive multiple health scares over the years.

“Roger is quite unique,” said Timothy Beamesderfer, who’s been Mendoza’s Carmichael-based primary care physician for nearly 15 years. “He’s always upbeat and positive in all circumstances, and probably the most resilient person I know. No doubt redoubling his fitness efforts has helped him bounce back from repeated illness, disease and surgeries.” 

Rebounding from health adversity is certainly one of Roger Mendoza’s great accomplishments. He exudes never-ending optimism. And underlying that resilience and spirit is a connection to great health care and always feeling comfortable contacting his primary care doctor at the first sign of any possible medical problem. 

“I have so much trust in UC Davis Health,” said Mendoza. “I’ve never had any doubts. Through all my illnesses, I’ve also learned to focus on letting fear go and being grateful. It’s a change in perception. And it has served me very well.”

202107_can-turmeric-reduce-joint-pain-during-breast-cancer-treatment Wed, 14 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Can turmeric reduce joint pain during breast cancer treatment? <p>The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center received a $50,000 grant from the Safeway Foundation. The funding will allow researcher Mili Arora to study whether the spice turmeric can provide pain relief for breast cancer patients on oral anti-estrogen drugs.</p> UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center received a $50,000 grant from the Safeway Foundation to explore the use of the South Asian spice Turmeric as a way of reducing joint pain in breast cancer patients being treated with anti-estrogen drugs

“This gift will have a tremendous impact on our program,” said Mili Arora, UC Davis associate professor of hematology and oncology. “We thank the Safeway Foundation for supporting our efforts to help breast cancer patients live their lives to the fullest extent possible.”

About 70% of breast cancers diagnosed are hormonally driven and treatment includes oral drugs to block estrogen. However, the drugs can cause joint pain, which is why many women do not stay on the medication—putting them at risk of the breast cancer returning.

Turmeric, a flowering plant in the ginger family, is used by some arthritis sufferers who say it reduces their joint pain. The Safeway Foundation grant will help UC Davis test giving turmeric in a pill form in combination with oral anti-estrogen drugs. The goal is to see if the spice can successfully reduce joint pain in breast cancer patients and explore whether it improves the quality of their lives. 

“It’s an honor support the work of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Every day we learn about organizations that go above and beyond to help people and the cancer center is an excellent example,” said Wendy Gutshall, director of public affairs for Safeway.

The study will allow Dr. Arora and her team to provide breast cancer patients with important data on the safety and effectiveness of using turmeric with oral anti-estrogen therapy.

202107_annual-cmn-miracle-balloon-campaign-at-dq-raises-money-for-uc-davis-childrens-hospital Wed, 14 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Annual CMN Miracle Balloon campaign at DQ raises money for UC Davis Children’s Hospital <p>Record hot temperatures are just one reason to visit your local Dairy Queen through July 31. Helping save local kids&rsquo; lives is another. The CMN Miracle Balloon campaign is on now, raising money for UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital.</p> July in Northern California often means record temperatures and the desire to go somewhere cool. Enter local Dairy Queen restaurants. 11 area locations  are once again offering customers a chance to do something cool: help sick and injured children like Avery who nearly drowned but received lifesaving care at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

Now through July 31, you can help DQ continue to make a huge impact in the local community by donating to CMN at UC Davis through the purchase of a Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Miracle Balloon. Every dollar raised stays local to help UC Davis Children’s Hospital provide world-class care for pediatric patients in 33 local counties.

There’s a Blizzard in the forecast! Visit one of 11 participating locations across the greater Sacramento region to donate to CMN at UC Davis.

DQ has been a CMN partner since 1984, raising more than $159 million for local children’s hospitals across North America. Northern California customers can add to that total by purchasing a Miracle Balloon at participating locations in the following cities: Truckee, Roseville (Douglas Boulevard), Citrus Heights, Orangevale, Sacramento (Arden Way, Fruitridge Road), Stockton, Manteca, Vacaville, Yuba City and Redding.

202107_turning-tarantula-venom-into-pain-relief-video Tue, 13 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Turning tarantula venom into pain relief (video) <p>Researchers at UC Davis Health are &ldquo;toxineering&rdquo; venom from the Peruvian green velvet tarantula into a non-opioid medication that could help people with chronic pain. Approximately 20 percent of the adults in the U.S., or about 50 million, are affected by chronic pain.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — Researchers at UC Davis are developing a new type of pain medication from an unusual source — tarantula venom.

The project is part of the NIH Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL) Initiative, aimed at ending opioid addiction and creating non-addictive therapies to treat pain.

Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy, a professor of physiology and membrane biology, and Heike Wulff, a professor of pharmacology, are leading the 20-person team using computational biology to turn a poisonous peptide into one that can relieve pain. Peptides are smaller versions of proteins.

The team is using software called Rosetta create different iterations of the tarantula peptide.

“Spiders and scorpions have millions of years of evolution optimizing peptide, protein and small-molecule poisons in their venom, which we can take advantage of,” said Bruce Hammock, a distinguished professor of entomology, who is working on the new pain reliever. “The same venoms that can cause pain and neurological dysfunction can also help nerves work better and reduce pain.”

The team is not extracting venom directly from tarantulas. Instead, they utilize modern computational biology techniques to design new versions of the tarantula venom peptide with software. They can then have the modified peptide synthesized and used for testing.

Approximately 20 percent of adults in the U.S., around 50 million, are affected by chronic pain. About 11 million are affected by high-impact chronic pain, defined as pain that lasts three months or longer and restricts a significant activity, like being unable to work outside the home, go to school or do household chores.

A few non-opioid medications are available to help those with chronic pain, and complementary or integrative health approaches can help. In general, though, people with chronic pain have limited options for pain relief.

“For strong pain, drugs like ibuprofen or aspirin are just not strong enough. Opioids are strong enough, but they have the problem of tolerance development and addiction,” said Wulff.

Pain relief innovation at UC Davis

A new pain reliever from tarantula venom isn’t the only non-narcotic drug being developed at UC Davis. In 2020, the Food and Drug Administration granted a fast-track designation to a non-narcotic drug candidate from EicOsis LLC, a pharmaceutical company founded by UC Davis distinguished professor Bruce Hammock to treat chronic pain in humans and companion animals.

Hammock holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. The drug candidate, known as EC5026, targets a novel pathway to block the underlying cause of certain types of pain. Read more.

Opioid addiction and misuse in the United States surged in recent years, leading to a significant health crisis. In 2019, nearly 50,000 people in the United States died from opioid-involved overdoses.

“What we need are new medications, new therapies with improved risk profiles,” said David Copenhaver, a member of the team and director of Cancer Pain Management and Supportive Care at UC Davis Health. “There’s been a push to develop other, better, safer, less addictive — or zero addictive — medication and therapeutics for pain management,” said Copenhaver, who is also the associate director for the Center for Advancing Pain Relief at UC Davis.

“Channels” key to new pain reliever

To create a non-addictive but strong pain medication, the researchers are focused on pain signals traveling on sensory neurons. To stop these signals, they have targeted a particular type of protein “channel” found on the cell membranes of neurons and muscles.

These channels, called voltage-gated sodium channels, play a crucial role in generating signals to nerves and muscles.

Nine different types of these channels have been identified in humans. The sodium symbol is Na, so the voltage-gated channels are referred to as Nav1.1 through Nav1.9.

The Nav1.7 channel is the one that interests pain scientists the most because it is a key source of pain transmission.

That’s where the tarantula venom comes in. A peptide — a type of protein — found in the venom of the Peruvian green velvet tarantula blocks Nav1.7, preventing it from transmitting signals, including those for pain.

“The promise of a Nav1.7 inhibitor is that we would have something that is as effective as an opioid, but not addictive,” said Wulff, who specializes in preclinical therapeutics development targeting ion channels.

The challenge with the protein in the tarantula venom is that it doesn’t just block Nav1.7 channels in the sensory nerves. In its natural form, the peptide blocks all Nav1.7 channels, including those in the muscles and the brain, meaning that it could cause terrible side effects.

Engineering a non-toxic protein

To solve this problem, the researchers are using an approach known as “toxineering.” They are trying to engineer — modify — the toxin in the venom to block pain signals but not create unwanted side effects.

Modified venom from the Peruvian green velvet tarantula could help people with chronic pain.

To do this, they are using a computer program developed by the University of Washington called Rosetta. The complex modeling software lets the team create many different iterations of the tarantula peptide, which they can then synthesize and test in the lab.

“Using the Rosetta software, we can take a natural peptide and then redesign it and make it into a therapeutic,” said Yarov-Yarovoy, an expert in computational structural modeling of peptide toxins. “Our lead peptides already show efficacy at the level of morphine, but without the side effects of opioids.”

Their preliminary results are extremely promising, but a lot of work remains to be done. The potential therapeutic candidates will need to be tested in animals, and if found safe, carefully tested in humans. The researchers estimate any new medication is at least five years away.

“What Vladimir has put together is really fantastic because no one scientist could have any hope of tackling a project that is this hard,” Hammock said about the 20-person team. “But having a collection of people makes it fun and exciting, and I think it gives us a real chance at relieving pain.”

Additional team members include Karen Wagner, Jon T. Sack, Theanne Griffith, Scott Fishmann, Hai Nguyen, Daniel J. Tancredi, Nieng Yan, William Schmidt, Andre Ghetti, Neil Castle, Michael Pennington, Phuong Tran Nguyen, Brandon Harris, Diego Lopez Mateos, Robert Stewart and Parashar Thapa.

The tarantula venom research at UC Davis is funded by a $1.5 million grant from NIH initiative Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL). FOA Number: RFA-NS-19-010

202107_uc-davis-psychology-chair-named-to-key-federal-committee-on-autism Fri, 09 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis psychology chair named to key federal committee on autism <p>Susan Rivera, psychology professor and chair and faculty member of the MIND Institute and Center for Mind and Brain, has been named to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee. The federal committee provides guidance and recommendations on autism research, services, and policy.</p> UC Davis Department of Psychology Professor and Chair Susan Rivera has been named to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC). Rivera is also a faculty member of the MIND Institute and the Center for Mind and Brain. She was appointed, along with 21 others, by U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra to a three-year term, which starts immediately.

The IACC is a key advisory committee which includes public stakeholders and federal officials. It provides guidance and recommendations to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on autism research, services and policy.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve on this committee,” said Rivera, who was nominated by Center for Mind and Brain Director, George (Ron) Mangun. MIND Institute Director Leonard Abbeduto also supported her nomination.

“Being involved in formulating recommendations for autism research, services and policy holds deep meaning for me. It provides a way of using the knowledge I’ve gained over my many years of conducting autism research and participating in advocacy efforts to help shape these agendas,” Rivera explained.  

Rivera has been doing scientific research on autism for two decades. Her lab uses brain imaging and eye tracking techniques to investigate how underlying brain activity and behavior support the development of skills like attention, visual perception, face processing, sensory processing and emotion regulation. These skills are necessary for adaptive cognitive and social-emotional well-being.

A focus on neurodiversity

The new committee members include researchers like Rivera, autism self-advocates, parents and family members of those with autism, clinicians and representatives of service and advocacy groups, making it the largest and most diverse IACC yet.

“I hope the work I do on the committee will both help deepen the public’s understanding of autism, and positively impact the lives of individuals with autism.”

— Susan Rivera

Rivera, who is devoted to championing the tenets of neurodiversity and advocacy to the public and academic communities, applauds the inclusion of more representatives from the autism community.

“I’m very excited to see the significant number of self-advocates on the panel. Given the combination of individuals who can speak to the lived experiences of autism and researchers and clinicians that can speak to science and new discoveries in the field, I think the committee is well-poised to make significant progress in formulating recommendations for the Health and Human Services Secretary,” she said.

Rivera noted that she’d like to see a shift toward more involvement from autism advocates in shaping research funding priorities.

In addition to the 22 newest appointees, the IACC also includes 23 new and returning federal officials who represent federal agencies and departments that serve the autism community in areas such as biomedical research, education and health care.

Rivera is not the first UC Davis MIND Institute faculty member to serve on the IACC. David Amaral, distinguished professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Marjorie Solomon, professor of clinical psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and associate director of the MIND Institute, were on the committee previously.

The appointment involves a significant time commitment and broad duties, such as monitoring autism research, services and support activities, developing a summary of significant advances in these areas and making recommendations, as well as developing a strategic plan for the conduct of and support for autism research. Major projects include the IACC Strategic Plan for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and the Summary of Advances in ASD Research.

For Rivera, it’s well worth the effort. “I hope the work I do on the committee will both help deepen the public’s understanding of autism, and positively impact the lives of individuals with autism,” she said.  

The new IACC will hold its first public meeting July 21-22.

202107_daughter-donates-kidney-to-her-role-model-her-dad-on-fathers-day Thu, 08 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Daughter donates kidney to her role model, her dad, on Father’s Day <p>Rather than a shirt, a necktie or new tools, Jazlyn Estrella gave her father, Ruther Estrella, the gift of a lifetime. She donated her kidney and shared with him the gift of life.</p> When Jazlyn Estrella thinks of her father, she envisions him in the garage with his tools, creating something. 

“He’s always working on something,” she said of her father, Ruther Estrella. “He’s so artistic and, if he puts his mind to it, he can build anything.” 

She recalls a life-size replica of the R2-D2 droid he fabricated when she was young, along with several Star Wars costumes. Whenever Father’s Day arrived, she bought him tools. 

“Tools for whatever project he was working on, or a gift card to a store where he could buy more tools,” she laughed. 

Over the years his health deteriorated and for Father’s Day 2021, Jazlyn Estrella gave her dad something you can’t buy. 

The 21-year-old donated one of her kidneys to him. The UC Davis Health transplant team made it possible. 

It was the best gift she could ever give. The hours he once spent in the garage had become hours connected to a dialysis machine. At the age of 47, the man who had been her role model since she was a young girl, now fought aggressive kidney disease and faced a bleak future. 

An unexpected gift

Ruther Estrella’s kidney disease worsened in 2019. When his daughter drove up from the Bay Area to visit him in Sacramento, she saw how sick he had become and how complicated dialysis can be. 

“The first thing she did, she hugged me and started crying,” Ruther Estrella recalled. “She sat next to me and said, ‘I don’t like to see you like this, dad.’  But I didn’t expect anything from her.”

Jazlyn Estrella donated her kidney to her father, Ruther, because he is her role model and she didn’t want him to miss her life milestones.

For Jazlyn Estrella, seeing her father tethered to the machine sparked her strong will and determination to help however she could. 

“No person’s opinion could change my mind on it,” she said. “I knew he couldn’t be strong with a failing kidney. I felt like I was going to lose my dad.” 

A familiar diagnosis returns

Ruther Estrella had been expecting a moment like this for 16 years. 

Born in the Philippines, he and his family came to the U.S. when he was seven, and Estrella was diagnosed with an autoimmune kidney disease when he was 13. Doctors told him then that they would keep an eye on his kidneys, because they were not well. Years later, in 1998, when his then-wife was pregnant with Jazlyn Estrella, he went in for routine check-up. 

“After a simple blood check, they came out with a wheelchair and rushed me to emergency dialysis,” he remembered. 

He would remain on dialysis awaiting a transplant for five years. In 2003, he received a cadaver kidney. The doctors told him it might last for eight years. While he doubled those expectations, the inevitable scenario returned. 

“I want to save his life”

“When I saw him, I made the decision that I want to do something for my dad,” said Jazlyn Estrella. “If I can do it, I want to save his life.”

Jazlyn and her dad Ruther Estrella recover at UC Davis Medical Center after she donated a kidney to him the day after Father’s Day.

After learning they were a perfect match, Jazlyn Estrella began her living donor journey. Meanwhile, Ruther Estrella’s fiancée, Grace Cantiller, served as his number-one supporter and full-time caregiver for his home dialysis. His days were restricted, but with his fiancée and daughter fighting with him, he never gave up hope. 

Finally, the UC Davis Health transplant team set a date, June 21, 2021. 

“We didn’t even realize that the 20th was Father’s Day. I was laughing and thought, what a great gift. I need to take really good care of this kidney,” Ruther Estrella said. 

“I thought this was going to be the best gift for him. And I didn’t have to shop for him! It just added more sentimental value to it,” Jazlyn Estrella added. 

Not only sentimental value, but also quality of life because this time around, the kidney came from a living donor

“Compared with dialysis therapy, living donor kidney transplant not only improves the quality of life, but also prolongs life expectancy,” explained Junichiro Sageshima, transplant surgeon and director of the UC Davis Living Donor Transplant Program. "It is truly a gift of life.” 

An exciting future awaits

“It just feels like the ball and chain has been cut. Time is not limited. I can go wherever I want because my daughter gave me a second chance at life.”

— Ruther Estrella

Living is exactly what the Estrellas plan to do. Before he got sick and before COVID-19, Ruther Estrella and Grace Cantiller planned to return to his birthplace and get married. Now, they’ll make that trip with Jazlyn Estrella and its significance will mean so much more. 

“It just feels like the ball and chain has been cut. Time is not limited,” Ruther Estrella said. “I can go wherever I want because my daughter gave me a second chance at life.” 

For Jazlyn Estrella, it also affords her dad the opportunity to be around for her future milestone moments. 

“I’ve known people who get married and their dad isn’t there,” she explained. “That would break my heart if he weren’t there for my wedding or to be a grandfather to my kids. The whole process was worth it because it saved a life.”

202107_susan-g-komen-awards-600000-research-grant-to-radiology-chair-elizabeth-morris Thu, 08 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Susan G. Komen® awards $600,000 research grant to radiology chair Elizabeth Morris <p>Department of Radiology Chair Elizabeth Morris, with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, was awarded a Susan G. Komen&reg; grant to develop artificial intelligence models to predict breast cancer risk at a more personalized level.</p> Department of Radiology Chair Elizabeth Morris at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has been awarded a $600,000 Susan G. Komen® grant. She’ll use the funds to develop artificial intelligence (AI) models to predict breast cancer risk at a personalized level. 

“I’m honored to receive this important grant to advance our artificial intelligence research at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center so that we can better predict breast cancer risk,” said Morris, who is also a Komen Scholar. “We will develop a database of patient molecular and genomic data as well as imaging and clinical outcomes that will ultimately create personalized breast cancer risk prediction models.” 

The grant is included in  $14 million  that Komen recently awarded. The funds support the organization’s mission to end breast cancer through funding two key focus areas: research to better detect and treat stage IV (metastatic) breast cancer and research to eliminate disparities in breast cancer outcomes. 

“We are extremely proud to be able to continue our legacy of leading investments in breast cancer research, especially in light of the challenges all nonprofits faced raising funds during this pandemic year,” said Paula Schneider, president and CEO of Susan G. Komen and a breast cancer survivor.  “This investment reinforces our commitment to funding innovative science from some of the leading minds in breast cancer research while also developing the next generation of scientists at a time when we have never needed them more.” 

Komen has now invested about $1.1 billion in research in the nearly 40 years since its founding, the largest collective investment of any breast cancer nonprofit, and second only to the U.S. government. Visit komen.org for a full list of this year’s research grants.

202107_transitioning-from-a-student-in-class-to-a-professional-in-the-clinic-video Wed, 07 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Transitioning from a student in class to a professional in the clinic (video) <p>The inaugural group of nurse practitioner residents completes their program at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing. After 12 months in underserved primary care clinics and tailored specialty rotations, they enter the workforce with increased skills and confidence.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — When Sara Delao graduated from the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, she felt grateful for her education and excited for the future. But before she took a new job as a family nurse practitioner (FNP), she thought something was missing. 

“As I got ready to apply for positions and launch my career, despite my incredible education, I still felt like I needed some extra mentorship and guidance,” said Delao, a graduate of the master’s-degree FNP and residency programs. “As I transitioned from my role as an R.N. to an advanced practice provider, I was looking for a fellowship to help me transition to practice.” 

Delao found exactly what she was looking for in the Advanced Nurse Practitioner Primary care Residency in Addiction, Chronic care, Telehealth, Improvement science, Collaboration and Equity (Advanced NP-PRACTICE). This month, she and 10 other FNPs completed their residency as the inaugural group in the program. 

The inaugural cohort of nurse practitioner residents credits the program with building their confidence and their primary care skills.

“I don’t think I would have been ready to tackle family medicine as a new grad nurse practitioner on my own. It would have been really difficult,” explained residency graduate Claudia Canturin. “The slow transition and ramping up of patients really made a difference in how I practice.” 

The program is a collaboration between the School of Nursing, UC Davis Health and affiliated centers and clinics, as well as multiple Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHCs). FQHCs are community-based health care providers that receive funds from the Health Resources and Services Administration to provide primary care services in underserved areas. 

The end goal: to support new FNPs as they move from their graduate-degree program into the workforce and expand the number of advanced practice providers who can provide high-quality primary care in under-resourced areas. 

“We could not have asked for a better group of nurse practitioners as our inaugural cohort,” said Deb Bakerjian, residency program director and School of Nursing professor. “Despite the challenges of the pandemic, this group of professionals fully engaged in the educational and clinical activities, consistently stepped up to provide feedback on the program and worked collaboratively with the staff in their clinics.”  

The program also advances a goal of the 2019 report from the California Future Health Workforce Commission. With a projected shortfall of more than 4,100 primary care clinicians, commissioners called for maximizing the role of nurse practitioners to help fill gaps. They want to increase the number of nurse practitioners from roughly 27,000 to 44,000 by 2028. 

Graduate resident Chrystal Barajas, right, appreciated the program’s mentorship and the opportunity to serve Sacramento’s underserved populations.

This inaugural group started the residency program two months into the coronavirus pandemic. Program leaders quickly adjusted. Residents spent the entire 12 months seeing their own panel of patients in clinics from Grass Valley and Marysville to midtown Sacramento and at the Sacramento County Public Health Center

“It has been my goal for many years to work with the underserved to promote prevention,” said resident graduate Ali Berkeyheiser. “If there’s something you’re not comfortable doing, usually you can simply refer the patient to a specialist. But when working with the underserved that’s challenging. This residency program has made it so that I can safely give good care.” 

Each resident received tailored specialty rotations, based on areas in which they identified needing additional education and experience. Those areas included pain management, advanced wound care and cardiology. They also benefitted from weekly practice discussions, received constant mentorship, and participated in quarterly specialty lectures and skills training. Program organizers learned a few things, too. 

“We realized how to better deliver our virtual sessions. We also plan to refine our onboarding to get residents into their clinics sooner,” Bakerjian said. 

While the educational experience achieved the goals of each resident, the comradery they experienced among each other was an unexpected bonus. 

Graduate resident Alex Malliaris Peck, left, says the experience strengthened her care for the underserved and created lifelong friendships with the residents.

“We were able to get through this pandemic together and hone our skills. We developed friendships that will certainly last a lifetime,” said residency graduate Alex Malliaris Peck. 

“I’ll look back fondly on the hours I spent on the phone this past year … talking, crying, complaining and laughing about this wild adventure that we all volunteered for,” added residency graduate Jessamyn Phillips. “I am finishing this year better equipped to step into practice as a nurse practitioner than I was 365 days ago.” 

Phillips is one of at least two residents who accepted positions at the clinics where they worked during the program. This, according to leaders in the FQHCs, is a major step toward filling the need of qualified providers. 

Residency graduate Crystal Barajas said, “It has been an honor to serve the community of Sacramento, especially our immigrant and Spanish-speaking populations.” 

The next class of 10 residents begins the program in October. They will work in clinics ranging from Grass Valley to Fresno. 

To view a video of the first group of residents’ thoughts on the program, click here. For more information on the nurse practitioner residency program, click here

202107_us-saw-surge-in-firearm-purchases-and-violence-during-first-months-of-covid-19-pandemic Wed, 07 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT U.S. saw surge in firearm purchases and violence during first months of COVID-19 pandemic <p>Firearm purchases and firearm violence surged during the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Firearm purchases increased by 85% and interpersonal firearm injuries increased by 27%. Approximately 9.3 million firearms were purchased during this period.</p> Firearm purchases and firearm violence surged dramatically during the first five months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP), published in Injury Epidemiology.

From March through July 2020, an estimated 4.3 million more background checks for firearm purchases occurred nationwide than would have ordinarily — an 85 percent increase. The total number of firearm purchases during this period was 9.3 million.

From April through July 2020, there was a 27% increase in interpersonal firearm injuries, which includes firearm homicides or nonfatal firearm assault injuries. This is approximately 4,075 more injuries than would be expected for that period.

Firearm violence is a significant public health problem in the United States. It is among America’s leading causes of death and disability and has profound adverse social, psychological and economic effects.

“Early in the pandemic, there were news reports about an increase in firearm purchasing. Given what we know about the risks of firearm violence associated with firearm access in general, and firearm purchasing surges specifically, we expected to see a relationship between these two during the pandemic,” said Julia Schleimer, lead author for the study and a research data analyst at VPRP.

States with the most excess firearm purchases per 100,000 population (March–July 2020)

Firearm purchases and domestic violence

An earlier study from VPRP had found an association between firearm purchases and violence through May 2020. The present study extended the analysis through July 2020 and examined firearm injuries from domestic violence separately from non-domestic violence.

“The increase in purchasing has continued unabated through the first half of 2021, and crime rates have increased as well.”

— Garen Wintemute

“We know that access to firearms is a risk factor for intimate partner homicide. Last year, the increase in firearm purchasing combined with stay-at-home orders and multiple other stressors like job loss raised concern about increases in domestic violence,” Schleimer said.

As expected, the authors found states where firearm purchases went up the most showed the largest increases in firearm injuries from domestic violence. This was particularly true during April and May when social distancing was at its peak. However, they note results should be interpreted with caution since additional analyses showed that other, unmeasured variables might explain the association.   

States with highest average rate of firearm injuries from domestic violence per 100,000 population (March–July 2020)

Firearm purchases and non-domestic violence

Surprisingly, the researchers did not find a similar correlation between excess firearm purchases and non-domestic violence at the state level. States with the largest increases in purchases from March through July 2020 did not experience the largest increases in non-domestic firearm violence.

“This was unexpected given prior studies. If we look at the country as a whole, we saw that purchasing and violence both went up on average. But when we looked state-by-state at the places in which firearm purchases increased the most, those weren’t the places where the violence increased the most,” Schleimer said.

To make these comparisons, the researchers tracked monthly firearm purchases per 100,000 population by state (using background checks as a proxy), along with monthly firearm injuries, fatal and nonfatal, per 100,000 people.

The data include the District of Columbia but not Alaska or Hawaii due to incomplete reporting. The study focuses on intentional, interpersonal firearm violence and does not include suicide or unintentional firearm injuries.

States and districts that had the highest rates of non-domestic firearm violence were the District of Columbia, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri and Delaware.

States and districts with highest average rate of non-domestic firearm violence per 100,000 population (March–July 2020)

The results of the study suggest that pre-pandemic firearm access and other factors — major disruptions to routines, grief from the pandemic, economic strain and unemployment, and civic unrest — might have been important contributing factors to the pandemic-related increase firearm violence observed through July 2020.

“The increase in purchasing has continued unabated through the first half of 2021, and crime rates have increased as well. We, and others, will continue to examine the relationship between firearm availability and violence,” said Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Davis VPRP and professor of emergency medicine at UC Davis Health.

Additional authors on the study include Christopher D. McCort, Aaron B. Shev, Veronica A. Pear, Elizabeth Tomsich, Alaina De Biasi, Shani Buggs, and Hannah S. Laqueur from the VPRP team.

Support for this research was provided by the Joyce Foundation (grant no. 42400), the Heising-Simons Foundation (grant no. 2019–1728), and the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center.

The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP) is a multi-disciplinary program of research and policy development focused on the causes, consequences and prevention of violence. Studies assess firearm violence, the social conditions that underlie violence, and the connections between violence, substance abuse and mental illness. VPRP is home to the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center, which launched in 2017 with a $5 million appropriation from the state of California to conduct leading-edge research on firearm violence and its prevention. For more information, visit health.ucdavis.edu/vprp/.

202107_girl-with-nager-syndrome-receives-life-changing-care-to-help-her-eat-breathe Tue, 06 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Girl with Nager syndrome receives life-changing care to help her eat, breathe <p>Born with Nager syndrome, Lily Jones had craniofacial challenges, no ear canals and extremely short forearms at birth. The UC Davis Cleft and Craniofacial team partnered with her and her parents, Nick and Elysia Jones, to help improve her life.</p> When 8-year-old Reno resident Lily Jones first came to UC Davis Health, she could only open her jaw four millimeters. It affected her speech, her breathing and eating. 

Her first UC Davis visit was in January of 2017. She had already endured more than 15 surgeries and would require more. 

Jones was born with Nager syndrome. It’s a rare condition with only about 100 cases being reported in the medical literature. Jones faced craniofacial challenges, including the absence of ear canals and extremely short forearms. The UC Davis Cleft and Craniofacial team partnered with her and her parents, Nick and Elysia Jones, to help improve her life. 

"Lily and her family have challenged us as a team to be innovative when treating airway, speech and feeding, all the while, striving for a balance and optimal quality of life,” said Craig Senders, director of the program and Jones’ surgeon. 

Surgeries, hardware pave way for childhood rituals

Within a year, UC Davis experts expanded Jones’ jaw to 15 millimeters. 

“It doesn't sound like a lot, but for her it's huge," said Elysia Jones. “She was able to enjoy her first peanut M&M.” 

Jones also could stick out her tongue at her brother for the first time, which delighted her.  

Over the past four years, Jones underwent six more surgeries and continued to make strides. One of those required her team to use distraction hardware, a device with screws that attaches to both sides of the jawbone. The screws are gradually turned to create a longer jawbone and more space for her tongue. 

A bittersweet checkup

This is Lily Jones when she arrived at UC Davis in 2017.

Just shy of 12-years-old, Jones loves to laugh, sing and dance. She still enjoys her peanut M&Ms, but she’s added cheeseburgers and tacos to her repertoire as well. A feat credited to the fact that at her most recent and final appointment in June, she opened her mouth 20 millimeters. 

The moment was bittersweet as the Jones family prepares to move to Dallas. 

“Lily, Elysia, and I cried at our appointment with Dr. Senders when we had to say goodbye,” Nick Jones said. “We will miss the whole craniofacial team, especially Dr. Senders and the primary nurses we had. We were able to create great friendships and relationships with them.” 

Her parents credit Lily’s great attitude for her perseverance through life’s challenges, and the UC Davis team for expanding not only her jaw but her opportunities in the future. 

“All the way from check-in and pre-op to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, everyone was always so accommodating,” Nick Jones explained. “The care we received at UC Davis has been amazing.” 

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8-year-old girl with rare craniofacial condition goes through 18th surgery

202107_undiagnosed-celiac-disease-is-one-local-familys-cautionary-tale-for-other-parents Fri, 02 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Undiagnosed celiac disease is one local family’s cautionary tale for other parents <p><span>It was obvious one-year-old Piper was sick, but what was wrong? When her parents could not get answers, they turned to UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital.</span></p> Piper was a healthy baby. Born at 10 pounds, she was well above average in birth weight. But as Piper approached her first birthday, her parents became concerned. Every time their daughter ate, food went right through her and she was not gaining weight. 

“Piper was so sick,” said Piper’s mom, Courtney. “After soiling her diapers repeatedly during the day, she’d wake up two or three times a night and her crib would be a wet swamp. She was vomiting at least once a day. She would have night terrors almost every night.” 

Piper’s parents took their daughter to her pediatrician multiple times and even to another children’s hospital, but still had no answers. Piper’s condition was worsening, and her parents were starting to panic. 

“Piper’s stomach was extremely distended, but you could see her ribs and spine. Everything was swollen and she was so lethargic,” recalled Piper’s mom. “By this time, she was only eating red and purple popsicles and drinking milk, and she was too weak to walk.” 

The night before they took her to UC Davis Children’s Hospital, her mom feared the worst. 

“I thought we were losing her,” Courtney said. “But we were not going to give up. We had to find the right medical providers.” 

Getting answers

Determined to save their daughter’s life, Piper’s parents brought her to the Pediatric Emergency Department at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. They quickly determined that the care team was not going to give up either. 

“Piper was immediately admitted, and they began running lab work. We were finally going to get answers,” Courtney said. “Once the care team reached a probable diagnosis, the team continued to run tests to rule everything else out. The team wanted to be sure it had the correct diagnosis and that there weren’t multiple causes for her symptoms.” 

“The UC Davis team saved Piper’s life, but it didn’t stop there. The aftercare we received was fabulous. It’s the best medical experience we’ve ever had.”

Piper was ultimately diagnosed with celiac disease and was in celiac crisis

“Common symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, vomiting, poor weight gain, abdominal pain or rashes. Left untreated, it can cause long-term issues, including cancers of the intestinal tract,” said UC Davis pediatric gastroenterologist, Kelly Haas. “Plus, as was the case with Piper, there is a severe, life-threatening type of celiac disease. Although quite rare, this requires more intensive treatment and nutritional support.” 

Although relieved to finally have an answer, the family was shocked the signs had been missed by other medical providers.

“Even though Piper showed all the classic symptoms of celiac disease, she had never been tested for celiac, despite being seen by multiple other medical providers. We could not get any answers until we came to UC Davis,” Courtney said. “The care team ran every possible test to figure out what was wrong.” 

Collaboration was key to recovery

Piper is now a healthy, happy 3-year-old who enjoys spending time with her sisters and jumps for joy when she discovers new, gluten-free treats.

It took 18 days in the hospital to nurse Piper back to health. During this time, Piper’s family witnessed the collaboration of the care team and it became even more obvious to them they were in the right place. In addition to the medical treatments for Piper’s condition, the family had access to the additional services their daughter needed, plus the family support that made this traumatic journey a little easier. 

From physical therapy and speech therapy, to nutrition, sleep assistance, sibling support, more toys and activities than one could imagine, and a very accommodating cafeteria, Courtney says the UC Davis Children’s Hospital team went above and beyond. 

“The UC Davis team saved Piper’s life, but it didn’t stop there. The aftercare we received was fabulous. It’s the best medical experience we’ve ever had,” Courtney said. “Piper made a full recovery and has grown accustomed to a gluten-free lifestyle. At 3 years old, she has learned to ask if a food contains gluten before she eats it. Piper is happy, affectionate, observant and surprisingly, she is the tallest child in her preschool class. We are so thankful for UC Davis Children’s Hospital!” 

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Undiagnosed celiac disease is one local family’s cautionary tale for other parents - CBS13 

202107_uc-davis-health-breaks-ground-on-new-rehabilitation-hospital Thu, 01 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health breaks ground on new rehabilitation hospital (video) <p>UC Davis Health, with partner Kindred Healthcare, broke ground on a planned rehabilitation hospital today. The new facility, which will be the first free-standing physical rehabilitation hospital in Sacramento, will expand treatment capacity for stroke, brain trauma and spinal cord injury patients.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — UC Davis Health, in partnership with Kindred Healthcare, today broke ground on a planned rehabilitation hospital on its Sacramento campus. The project is the first free-standing physical rehabilitation hospital in Sacramento. 

“UC Davis continues to bring new investments and nationally known business partners to the Sacramento area,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May.  “Projects like this show who we are and what we do for the community.  Since its creation, the University of California has been a major economic engine for the state, and here in Sacramento, UC Davis is doing the same.  We’re investing heavily in our Sacramento Campus, and this is just one of four major projects underway here – each one focused on improving the quality of life for people in the Sacramento area.  These are all part of our commitment to be an Anchor Institution for our surrounding communities and a regional health care resource for all of Northern California.” 

Leaders from UC Davis and Kindred Healthcare break ground on the new UC Davis Rehabilitation Hospital

“This new facility will complement UC Davis Health’s nation-leading survival statistics at our Level 1 regional trauma center, and the life-saving work of our comprehensive stroke center,” said UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky.  “There is currently no such dedicated facility in Sacramento.  This new hospital will take us from ‘just saving lives’ to fully maximizing a patient’s recovery after major surgeries and life-threatening events.  Here, we will focus on helping every single patient reach their greatest possible level of function and future enjoyment of life through their physical rehabilitation after injury.” 

UC Davis Health is partnering on the project with Kindred Healthcare, an experienced post-acute care provider, to operate the new inpatient rehabilitation facility. Kindred operates 28 similar rehabilitation hospitals around the nation – many of them award-winning and recognized for their high quality of care. The new UC Davis hospital is expected to open for its first patients in 2023. 

“This new hospital will take us from ‘just saving lives’ to fully maximizing a patient’s recovery after major surgeries and life-threatening events. 

— UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky

The hospital is located at the corner of Broadway and 49th Street in Sacramento. It will cost $60 million to build. Kindred will develop the project, which is expected to create up to 200 new health care jobs, as well as hundreds of prevailing wage construction jobs. It will enable rehabilitation care for twice as many patients as currently can be treated for conditions resulting from stroke, brain trauma and spinal cord injuries at UC Davis Medical Center. 

(left to right) Kindred President Jason Zachariah, UC Regent Richard Leib, UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky and UC Davis Chancellor Gay S. May during the groundbreaking ceremony July 1.

California’s seismic safety law prompted UC Davis Health to develop a new hospital facility for individuals needing in-patient rehabilitation services. The health system’s rehabilitation services are now in several medical center locations scheduled for eventual demolition.  UC Davis Health has been trying to address the need for a rehabilitation hospital for nearly 30 years. 

“This new hospital represents a big step forward in being able to meet the needs of more patients to help them to recover and heal from very challenging injuries and conditions,” said Brad Simmons, chief operating officer of UC Davis Health—Hospital Division. “Kindred Healthcare is a national leader in post-acute care services and we’re very pleased to have partnered with them.” 

“Projects like this show who we are and what we do for the community. Since its creation, the University of California has been a major economic engine for the state, and here in Sacramento, UC Davis is doing the same.”

— UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May

With 58,000 square feet of space, the hospital will have 52 patient beds. The new facilities will provide acute adult inpatient care, with the goal of helping people to be able to continue their care at home more quickly than otherwise would happen with a traditional hospital-to-home transition. 

Clinical services will include physical and occupational therapies and speech pathology services. Therapists, physicians and nurses will help patients regain physical function and mobility, and the independent capabilities to do everyday activities and work. 

Officials also expect the UC Davis Rehabilitation Hospital to become a location that offers new, currently unavailable, treatments to patients, as well as research opportunities for new treatments led by physician-researchers from the UC Davis School of Medicine. 

Rendering of the new building by Taylor Designs

“We look forward to opening this new hospital and partnering with UC Davis Health to address the growing need for inpatient rehabilitation services in the Sacramento area,” said Russ Bailey, President, Kindred Rehabilitation. “This is a quality-focused collaboration with a nationally recognized academic health care leader that will offer the community quality patient care focused on providing hope, healing and recovery.” 

“Physicians, nurses and therapists in physical rehabilitation will be to work shoulder-to-shoulder with UC Davis biomedical engineers and those from medical device companies,” added May. “That is how health care innovation happens. And we are thrilled to be part of that.”

202107_tips-for-a-sensory-friendly-july-4th-- Thu, 01 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Tips for a sensory-friendly July 4th <p>The Fourth of July is often characterized by fireworks, parades and celebrations, which can be challenging for some individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. A UC Davis MIND Institute expert offers some tips to make the holiday celebrations more comfortable.<strong>&nbsp; </strong></p> The Fourth of July holiday often includes fireworks and parades, backyard barbecues and neighborhood festivals – all of which can be overstimulating for some individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions like autism.

Sarah Dufek, an autism expert with the UC Davis MIND Institute, says there are ways to make some of the louder, more chaotic celebrations more comfortable.

“In many cases, preparation before an event, along with a few key supplies, can help a great deal,” she said.

Dufek, an assistant professor of clinical psychology in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis Health, offers these tips for families, which may be useful for Independence Day – and at many other times of the year:

  • Keep it short. “Consider bringing your child for just part of an event,” suggested Dufek. “Maybe take your child just for the fireworks – or maybe take your child to the party or picnic but watch the fireworks from the car.”
  • Location matters. “Try to create a situation where your child can retreat easily, such as a home with a view of fireworks, where a quiet room is available if they need a break from the noise and lights,” she explained.
  • Preparation is key. Build excitement while helping your child know what to expect by reading Fourth of July-themed books and watching videos of fireworks “It can also be helpful to choose books or videos that incorporate your child’s interests,” Dufek said. “For example, if your child enjoys Disneyland themes, you could watch Disneyland fireworks displays on YouTube.” Social stories like this one, which provide step-by-step visuals of what to expect, can also be very helpful.
  • Bring helpful supplies. If your child enjoys sensory or fidget toys, bring those with you. Art supplies or other favorite portable activities can be a positive outlet, too. Also consider headphones for children who are sensitive to loud sounds. Having plenty of familiar snacks and drinks available can also be helpful.
  • Make safety a priority. During preparation, make sure to focus on safety around fireworks. During the event itself, you can also use visuals to help enforce safety. “For example, use bright caution tape to mark off areas your child should avoid in order to stay safe – this works for other children and adults, too!” Dufek said. “Ask other adults to consistently use a countdown when setting off a firework to ensure everyone knows what’s about to happen. If you’re celebrating near a body of water, it’s critical to make sure adults are acting as ‘water watchers’ in shifts to ensure water safety for children.”
  • Ask for help. Be clear with other adults around you about how they can help make the event comfortable for your child. “Often, others want to help but don’t know how,” explained Dufek.
202107_fireworks-can-be-fun-but-dangerous-how-to-stay-safe-this-july-fourth-- Thu, 01 Jul 2021 07:00:00 GMT Fireworks can be fun but dangerous: How to stay safe this July 4th <p>Fireworks are a Fourth of July highlight. They&rsquo;re also the cause of serious injuries every year. UC Davis Health experts urge extreme caution when using fireworks and offer tips for staying safe while celebrating during COVID-19.</p> For many of us, fireworks are a highlight of Fourth of July celebrations. But when not used safely, they can cause serious burns and injuries and even hearing damage. This year, there’s also COVID-19 to consider. Most community fireworks displays are back after last year’s cancellations and UC Davis Health experts advise caution when gathering indoors or in large crowds.

Celebrations amid COVID-19

UC Davis Health experts urge extreme caution when using fireworks

Though most COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, coronavirus is still circulating - including new variants that are more dangerous, particularly for the unvaccinated.

“It’s important for those who aren’t fully vaccinated to wear a mask when gathering indoors with people outside your household,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “This includes children under 12 who are not eligible for vaccination.” Children under 2 should not wear masks, due to the risk of suffocation.

What about outdoors, at fireworks displays? “Unvaccinated individuals should also mask up outdoors when crowding makes social distancing difficult,” explained Blumberg. “Fully vaccinated people may also choose to mask in these conditions to further decrease their risk of infection.”

The Delta variant, first discovered in India, also continues to spread in the U.S. and California. “It is up to 90% more transmissible compared to previous strains, so this is another reason to mask when with others,” Blumberg said.

Learn more about scheduling your vaccine at UC Davis Health.

Use fireworks with extreme caution

"Fireworks can cause injuries similar to what bombs do in war zones.”

— Christopher Bayne,
orthopaedic surgeon

Orthopaedic surgeon Christopher Bayne specializes in repairing hands, wrists and arms. He sees more patients when fireworks are available for personal use.

“It is OK to think of fireworks as part of your holiday celebration, but keep in mind they are also significant threats, especially to the upper extremities,” Bayne said. "Fireworks can cause injuries similar to what bombs do in war zones.”

Here are helpful fireworks-safety tips from the Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center at UC Davis Medical Center.

  • Buy only State Fire Marshal-approved (safe and sane) fireworks. They must have the fire marshal’s seal and can only be purchased at licensed fireworks stands.
  • Do not ever use homemade fireworks of illegal explosives. Report illegal explosives to the fire or police department in your community. 
  • Use fireworks outdoors only and never near dry vegetation or flammable materials.
  • Never allow young children to play with or ignite fireworks, including sparklers — those can burn as hot as 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Consider giving them safer alternatives such as glow sticks, confetti poppers or colored streamers.
  • Keep in mind that parents are liable for damage or injuries their children cause with fireworks.
  • Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Designate a sober adult to light fireworks.
  • Watch what you wear, as loose clothing can easily catch fire. The person lighting fireworks should wear safety glasses.

  • Never place any part of your body directly over a firework when lighting the fuse. Back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting fireworks.
  • Keep a bucket of water or a garden hose handy in case of fire or other mishap.
  • To prevent trash fires, douse fireworks after they are finished burning with plenty of water from a bucket or hose before discarding them.
  • Never try to relight or handle "dud" fireworks. Wait 20 minutes, and then soak them with water and throw them away.
  • Light fireworks one at a time.
  • Never point or throw fireworks at another person.

How to help someone who is injured

Most injuries caused by fireworks require medical assistance. There are some things you can do quickly to reduce harm.

For minor burns

  • STOP, DROP and ROLL or smother flames with a blanket.
  • Apply cool (not ice cold) water to the burn for five minutes or until pain subsides.

For major burns

  • Call 911 for emergency medical help.
  • Don’t remove burned clothing.
  • Don’t immerse large severe burns in cold water.
  • Check for signs of breathing and movement; if none, begin CPR.
  • Elevate the burned body part or parts; if possible, raise above heart level.
  • Cover the person with a dry blanket as the victim is likely going into shock.

For blast injuries

All blast injuries should be immediately treated by medical professionals. Call 911 for transportation to the nearest emergency room.

Preventing firework-related hearing loss

Hearing loss due to loud noises is another common injury around the Fourth of July.

Any noise above 85 decibels is considered unsafe. Most firecrackers produce sounds starting at 125 decibels and can reach 155 decibels. According to the Centers for Disease Control, loud noise over 120 decibels can cause immediate harm to hearing.

Robert Ivory, director of audiology services at UC Davis Health, said people often forget about the dangers of loud noises.

“The explosion from a single firecracker at close range can lead to permanent hearing damage in an instant,” Ivory said. “Noise-induced hearing loss can be life-changing, but it is highly preventable.”

Ivory recommends wearing disposable foam or silicone earplugs while watching fireworks. Earplugs are available at local pharmacies and allow people to hear music and conversations while blocking dangerously loud sounds. Regular hearing checks are also important to detect hearing loss early and minimize its effects on quality of life.

Children are the most vulnerable. “Parents need to be vigilant in teaching children the importance of hearing health including (E) earplug use, (A) avoiding loud sounds, (R) reducing the volume of sound and (S) shortening time in loud sound, said Rachael Krager, UC Davis Health audiologist.

Warning signs of hearing damage

  • Ringing, buzzing or hissing noises (tinnitus) in the ears immediately after exposure to noise.
  • Difficulty understanding speech after exposure to noise (you can hear people talk, but not understand them).
  • Muffled hearing after exposure to noise

If any of these persist for more than 24 hours, contact your primary care provider for an appointment. He or she may also refer you to a hearing specialist.

More fireworks safety resources

Fireworks information from the Consumer Product Safety Commission
Fireworks information from the National Safety Council
City of Sacramento fireworks safety
Fourth of July safety tips from the County of Sacramento

202106_neurology-chair-receives-ambassador-for-epilepsy-award Wed, 30 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Neurology chair receives Ambassador for Epilepsy Award <p>UC Davis Department of Neurology Chair Amy Brooks-Kayal has received the prestigious Ambassador for Epilepsy Award. The International Bureau for Epilepsy and the International League Against Epilepsy recognized Brooks-Kayal and 11 others worldwide for outstanding contributions to the cause of epilepsy.</p> Amy Brooks-Kayal, chair of the UC Davis Department of Neurology, has received the Ambassador for Epilepsy Award from the International Bureau for Epilepsy and the International League Against Epilepsy. The honor is in recognition of outstanding achievement in the international struggle against epilepsy. 

Brooks-Kayal is one of 12 individuals around the world to receive this award, which is given every two years to clinicians and researchers who have made outstanding contributions to activities advancing the cause of epilepsy internationally or with international impact. She will receive the award at the 34th International Epilepsy Congress, which will be held virtually in August. 

“I’m really honored to receive this award and be recognized by my peers internationally for making an impact on improving treatment for epilepsy,” Brooks-Kayal said. “It’s important for the epilepsy community and people with epilepsy and their families to recognize that our community is committed to developing better treatments and hopefully cures for the epilepsies.”   

Brooks-Kayal was nominated by the American Epilepsy Society (AES), of which she has been a member for more than 30 years. During that time she has served on the AES Board of Directors, as president and vice president, as well as on various committees, and continues to be involved in the organization. She also received the AES Founders Award in 2019 in recognition of her lifetime contributions to the field of epilepsy. 

Brooks-Kayal noted that the Ambassador for Epilepsy Award is especially meaningful because of her lifelong commitment to treating children with epilepsy. 

“Epilepsy is challenging and not very well understood, and kids with the disease can feel very isolated,” she said. “All of the awardees are dedicated professionals who’ve had a major impact on improving treatment of epilepsy. It’s important for people to know we’re out here and trying to help, and it’s also good for those who are recognized to know that they’re part of a group working towards a common goal.”

202106_overcoming-the-odds-despite-challenges-of-spina-bifida Wed, 30 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Overcoming the odds despite challenges of spina bifida <p>At this year&rsquo;s Bear Creek High School graduation ceremony in Stockton, 17-year-old Ben Brogger walked gracefully onto the stage and delivered an inspiring speech to the graduating seniors. It was a moment that Adriana and Dan Brogger weren&rsquo;t sure they would ever witness when their son was diagnosed with spina bifida in the womb.</p> Every graduation ceremony includes speeches from a graduating senior or two. Attendees expect that.

But at this year’s Bear Creek High School graduation ceremony in Stockton, 17-year-old Ben Brogger defied others’ expectations and the odds.

When he walked gracefully on to the stage to deliver an inspiring speech to fellow graduates, it was a moment that his parents, Adriana and Dan, weren’t sure they would ever witness. Ben Brogger was born with spina bifida.

“Now I can recognize Ben’s gait anywhere. He walks with confidence. He has a swagger. It’s incredible to see. If you didn’t know he had spina bifida, you may not realize from seeing him,” said his mom, who remembers her son’s early days when she was told he might be wheelchair-bound for life.

Ben Brogger has been breaking barriers like this since day one. Once told he might never walk, he began walking at 15 months, then running. In high school, he followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers and joined the varsity wrestling team in high school.

“The biggest blessing with Ben is that he refuses to see spina bifida as something that will hinder him. He is such a resilient human being,” Adriana Brogger said. “When I think back to those early days, I was just clinging to hope and wanting to know what his future could look like. Now we’ve reached his high school graduation, I see there is still so much to look forward to in his future.”

An explanation with a dose of humanity

Adriana Brogger was seven months pregnant when a routine ultrasound revealed that something was wrong with her third son. Doctors initially thought her unborn baby had anencephaly, a congenital condition in which parts of the brain and skull are missing. She was referred to UC Davis Health by her obstetrics and gynecology doctor in Stockton. Additional testing confirmed her baby had myelomeningocele, also known as spina bifida.

Spina bifida occurs when spinal tissue fails to fuse properly during the early stages of pregnancy. It can lead to a range of lifelong cognitive, mobility, urinary and bowel disabilities. It affects 1,500 to 2,000 children in the U.S. every year.

“When I heard it was myelomeningocele, it seemed so foreign and I felt disconnected from it. I fell into a depression, but I have a lot of faith. I said that God will see us through this,” Adriana Brogger said. “I listened to the specialists at UC Davis. Everything they explained to me came with a dose of humanity. It was comforting during a difficult time.”

Benjamin Brogger arrived, via scheduled caesarean section, weighing 7 pounds, 12 ounces. Hours later, UC Davis pediatric neurosurgeon James Boggan began operating to repair Ben’s spine.  

“Dr. James Boggan was my angel, who performed surgery on his teeny, tiny little body,” Adriana Brogger said. “Dr. Boggan was so kind, so quiet and calm. He told me, ‘Your baby is going to be okay. What we will try to do in this surgery is close this up and connect these nerve endings.’”  

The path to a bright future

The surgery was successful – the first of many successful surgeries – what Adriana Brogger calls miracles – that would set her son onto a path with a bright future.

Benjamin Brogger had surgery to repair his spina bifida shortly after birth.

Many babies with spina bifida have fluid in the brain (also known as hydrocephalus), which can require shunt placement. Ben Brogger did not need a shunt.  

Doctors diagnosed Ben Brogger with chiari malformation type II. This condition can affect the ability to swallow. Fortunately, it did not pose a problem for him. His mother was able to nurse him from birth, providing nutrient-rich breastmilk to help him grow and develop.   

Boggan would continue to care for Ben Brogger for many years, always working to preserve and maximize his patient’s neurological function and independence.

“Ben’s care was made easy by his determination and perseverance and his family’s faith,” Boggan said. “The dedicated multidisciplinary team of specialists worked together to provide Ben’s family with the support they needed.”

Specialists like UC Davis pediatric urologist Eric Kurzrock performed multiple surgeries on Ben over the years.

“When you care for children from infancy to adulthood, they become family. Patients with neurogenic bladder (bladder problems caused by neurologic damage) and bowel disorders require constant and intense attention from their family and providers. So much can go wrong,” Kurzrock said.

But in Ben Brogger’s instance, so much went right. He underwent surgeries that included an antegrade continence enema (ACE) procedure and bladder augmentation surgery. They gave him the gift of independence and autonomy and freed him from needing a colostomy.

“Ben is blessed with parents who are compassionate, informed and proactive. We spent years discussing different surgical options and the many risks,” Kurzrock said. “Thankfully the reconstruction was successful and Ben has the opportunity to chase his dreams.”  

Those dreams now include becoming a lawyer. He heads to San Joaquin Delta College in the fall to join the Pathway to Law program.

Ben’s parents weren’t the only ones watching with pride on his graduation day this month. His UC Davis pediatric neurosurgeon Marike Zwienenberg also watched the ceremony online with pride. Seeing patients celebrate big and small victories is part of the joy of being a pediatric surgeon, said Zwienenberg.

“Living with spina bifida is challenging and Ben has picked every opportunity along the way to overcome it, which says a great deal about his character and grit,” Zwienenberg said. “Dr. Boggan provided excellent surgical care to him as an infant. On behalf of our health care system, I am super proud we have been able to support him where needed.”

202106_the-danger-of-button-batteries Tue, 29 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT The danger of button batteries <p>Button cell batteries, the flat, coin-shaped batteries found in many toys, watches and remote controls, can do serious internal damage if accidentally swallowed. UC Davis pediatric emergency physicians warn families to keep these batteries secure and out of children&rsquo;s reach.</p> Button cell batteries, the flat, coin-shaped batteries found in many toys, watches and remote controls, can do serious internal damage if accidentally swallowed. UC Davis pediatric emergency physicians warn families to keep these batteries secure and out of children’s reach.

“One of the most frightening emergencies we see are children who accidentally swallow these small batteries. Within moments of ingestion, the current from the battery can start burning through your throat, and that can kill you,” said Jonathan Kohler, medical director of pediatric trauma at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “Kids who swallow these batteries may require emergency surgery and can have devastating long-term injuries.”

More than 1,250 cases of accidental button battery ingestion were reported from 2019-2020 to the National Battery Ingestion Hotline.  More than half of those were swallowed by children under the age of 6.

Parents who suspect that their child has swallowed a button battery should contact the California Poison Control System at 800–222-1222 and immediately take their child to the emergency room.

“A swallowed button battery is one of the biggest medical emergencies there is. Every minute counts. There are some things parents and doctors can do to minimize the damage, but you have to contact poison control and go to the emergency room immediately,” Kohler said.

Kohler shares this important advice for parents:

  • Call the emergency room on your way there to tell them that you’re bringing in a child who swallowed a battery so they can be ready for you when you arrive.
  • If you can’t get your child to the emergency room immediately by yourself, call 911 and ask for an ambulance.

Poison Control also provides the following tips for protecting young children.

  • Never leave batteries sitting out.
  • Check household devices to be sure that the battery compartments are secured.
  • Don’t allow children to play with batteries or products that have easily accessible batteries.
  • Alert family members who wear hearing aids to keep their batteries out of the reach of small children at all times.
  • Don’t insert or change batteries in front of small children.
  • Don’t leave batteries where they might be mistaken for food.
  • Batteries stuck in the esophagus, nose or ears must be removed as quickly as possible to avoid severe damage.
202106_internal-medicine-resident-praised-for-contributions-to-diversity Fri, 25 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Internal medicine resident praised for contributions to diversity <p>Jorge Salazar, an internal medicine resident, is the first recipient of a newly created award to recognize significant contributions to equity, diversity and inclusion in Graduate Medical Education.</p> Jorge Salazar is the kind of doctor who thrives in diverse environments – he always has.

Born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, he was raised near the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where his parents worked at a research lab.

He attended Meharry Medical College, a historically black academic health science center in Nashville that has trained thousands of students to serve the underserved.

Coming to UC Davis three years ago for an internal medicine residency was a natural match, he said, because he wanted to train in “a diverse and inclusive community.”

So perhaps it shouldn’t be all that surprising that Salazar’s enthusiastic desire to influence those around him about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in health care has won him special recognition from the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Salazar is the inaugural recipient of the Postgraduate Trainee Award in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI).

Honorable mention went to Bethel Essaw, who made significant contributions to EDI in research, clinical care and education. She also helped launch the UC Davis Black Resident Organization.

The award was recently created by the Resident Medical Staff Committee with support from Graduate Medical Education and the Office of Student and Resident Diversity.

“We hope that this award will help to demonstrate for those in the health system who are not trainees that residents and fellows have been working on EDI in spaces that span education, clinical care, and research,” said Erik Fernández y García, a UC Davis Health pediatrician and director for diversity in the office of Graduate Medical Education.

Salazar was selected for a number of reasons, including:

  • His leadership role as chair of the Diversity, Inclusion and Community Engagement Committee within the department of internal medicine (DICE)
  • Helping organize forums for trainees to safely discuss EDI and social justice issues
  • Enlisting speakers for internal medicine Grand Rounds discussions and executing several events to help recruit trainees from underrepresented backgrounds
  • His stellar dedication to clinical duties as part of the Transforming Education and Community Heath (TEACH) program
  • Educating the community about COVID-19 through public forums in English and Spanish

“I feel honored to have been selected for this award,” Salazar said, “especially because there were many amazing individuals who had a tremendous impact on our community and health system in regard to EDI efforts.”

Bethel Essaw, who helped launch the UC Davis Black Resident Organization, receives honorable mention.

Like many trainees connected to the School of Medicine, Salazar is a fervent believer that institutions that are focused on health equity contribute to better patient outcomes and improve their quality of life.

“Diversity, inclusion, and equity must be adopted at all levels to work in synchrony,” he said. “It includes our first responders, nurses, discharge planners, physical and occupational therapists, respiratory therapists, primary providers, specialists, and so on.”

UC Davis’ commitment to health equity was a major draw for Salazar when he was seeking an internal medicine residency.

“One of the main aspects I was looking for was a diverse and inclusive community reflected in both the health system and in the patient population,” he said. “Of all the places I interviewed, UC Davis demonstrated that the best and I ranked UC Davis number one on my match list.”

Salazar has spent quality time outside clinical hours to help others appreciate diversity.

The death of George Floyd in May 2020 prompted the internal medicine DICE group to take a leading role in discussions over Zoom that allowed residents to “reflect and process the traumatic current events we were witnessing,” Salazar said, “and to also share any experiences of injustice or discrimination we had felt in our own lives.”

He described the online sessions as “emotional, but therapeutic.”

Salazar’s three-year residency comes to an end on June 30. The day after, he’ll start a fellowship in infectious diseases at UCSF where his training no doubt will focus on COVID-19.

He is grateful for the invaluable connections and friendships forged with residents and faculty.

“There’s nothing quite like residency training,” Salazar said, “especially with the development of a pandemic right in the middle of it.”

202106_touchdown-burn-survivor-gets-support-during-toughest-challenge-of-his-life Fri, 25 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Touchdown: Burn survivor gets support during toughest challenge of his life <p><span>18-year-old Gabriel Gonzalez receives surprise visitors while recovering from third-degree burns at UC Davis Health. The Woodcreek Oaks graduate ventured outside for the first time since May 17 to greet his former football teammates.</span></p> Gabriel “Gabe” Gonzalez thought the summer after his senior year would be spent hanging out with friends. But for the past five weeks, he hasn’t seen one of them.

Instead, the Woodcreek High School graduate spends his days undergoing physical therapy (PT) and recovering from third-degree burns over 46% of his body at the Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center at UC Davis Medical Center.

“Overall, he’s doing pretty well,” said Coleen Gonzalez, his mom. “The doctors and nurses here have been absolutely wonderful. Because he’s young, healthy and strong, everyone has been positive he’ll get through this since day one.”

A tragic accident

Before graduating, Gonzalez played right guard for the Woodcreek Timberwolves in Roseville. He was with some of his football teammates and other friends at a post-prom party on May 16 when disaster struck.

A firepit accident sparked uncontrollable flames. Four people were rushed to the hospital. Gonzalez and Jackson Allen required treatment at the burn center.

“It was horrible. Burns all over his hands, arms and legs,” his mom recalled.

The two survivors kept tabs on each other while both were in the hospital. Allen was discharged in early June. But for Gonzalez, the summer hanging out with friends was put on hold.

His parents, Coleen and José, are with him every day. They were there after two surgeries. They are there after daily sessions with the physical therapists.

A surprise visit

Then, on June 24, Gabriel Gonzalez received some new visitors. 40 former teammates and friends surprised him at UC Davis Medical Center. They gathered outside his second-floor window, thinking they would only get to wave to him.

Meanwhile inside, Gonzalez thought his therapist was taking him outside for a new PT exercise. When he was wheeled out, the shocked faces — from both the teammates and Gonzalez— could not be contained.

Not only was it his first time to see friends, but it was also his first trip outside the hospital since May 17. He smiled at a sea of friends dressed in pink t-shirts — his favorite color — donning his jersey number — 67 — and holding posters that read, “Stay strong brotha,” “Gabriel u got this” and “Life is tough, but so are you.”

“I had no idea there would be so many of his teammates here. It really lifted his spirits and he did not want the time with friends and teammates to end,” said his mom. “A huge thank you to everyone at UC Davis for making this happen.”

Gonzalez’ therapist rolled his wheelchair in front of the team. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Gonzalez stood and walked roughly 20 feet.

Encouraged by his PT team, Gabriel Gonzalez shows his recovery progress by standing and walking, while well-wishers cheer him on.

“It was great. It felt good,” Gonzalez said. “Definitely surprised.”

The moment felt good for his supporters as well.

“It was such a surprise to be able to see and talk to him in person. The worst is over. It is only going to get better from here,” said graduating football teammate Scott Miller. “Gabriel was never in a bad mood during football practice and his same high spirits will help him recover from this.”

“The entire Wolf Pack, made up of family and friends, is behind Gabriel and has been keeping him in their thoughts and prayers,” added his aunt, Janine Loving. “Seeing him for the first time in two months was phenomenal and brought instant tears.”

Unexpected support

Colleen Gonzalez says this surprise visit is just one more way their family has not felt alone during this ordeal.

“All the support from our family and the community has been overwhelming. I’m amazed at how much they have come together to help us,” she said. “And the team here at UC Davis. I’ve always heard UC Davis is great, but we had never experienced it, thank goodness, until now. We’re so fortunate to have such a burn unit in our backyard.”

Gabriel Gonzalez, third from left, celebrates senior night at Woodcreek High School with his brother, Alexander; mom, Coleen; and father, José.

“Burn care, similar to football, is a team effort. The UC Davis burn team united to provide him with state-of-the-art care that will enable him to rejoin his teammates and return to a normal life,” said Tina Louise Palmieri, chief burn surgeon.

The tragedy also offered an opportunity to educate young people on the dangers of fire.

“Doesn’t take much for a fire to turn life-threatening,” said Kevin Snider, a retired chief — now senior chaplain — of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District. “Never pour any flammable liquid, including gasoline, on an open fire. Fumes can travel and land on clothing of individuals, catching them instantly on fire.”

When Gabriel Gonzalez returns to his normal life, he still has a team behind him. A new support group for young adult burn survivors launches in July in collaboration with the Firefighters Burn Institute.

“We feel young adults face unique challenges during their healing process,” said Lauren Spink, burn outreach coordinator. “This group is where burn survivors can support each other no matter where they are in their recovery.”

When he’s discharged in the coming weeks, Gabriel Gonzalez looks forward to going back to the gym, starting Sierra College in the fall and yes, hanging out and playing video games with friends.

202106_uc-davis-health-receives-nearly-4-million-to-train-mental-health-clinicians Fri, 25 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health receives nearly $4 million to train mental health clinicians <p>UC Davis Health has been awarded a four-year, $3.9 million contract to provide training and technical assistance to programs in California aimed at identifying and treating people in the early stages of psychosis or a mood disorder.</p> The nationally recognized UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs at UC Davis Health received a four-year, $3.9 million contract from the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (MHSOAC). The award provides support for training and technical assistance at statewide programs. The goal is to identify and treat people in the early stages of psychosis or a mood disorder.

“Early detection and treatment lead to a better course for the disease,” said Tara Niendam. Niendam is an associate professor and the executive director of the UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs. “We know that early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma lead to better outcomes. The same is true for mental health conditions like psychosis,” added Niendam, the principal investigator for the contract.

The UC Davis team will work with programs funded through California’s Early Psychosis Intervention Plus Program (EPI Plus) to assess current program needs, conduct training and help the programs provide the highest quality of care in their communities.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with new and established early psychosis programs across the state,” Niendam said.

Every year, approximately 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the United States will experience their first episode of psychosis. Symptoms of psychosis can include hallucinations, such as seeing or hearing things that others do not see or hear, and delusions.

Unfortunately, there is often a wide gap in time between that first episode and the start of treatment, a delay that leads to poor clinical outcomes for young people – and, for some, lifelong consequences.

On average, it takes 18.5 months from initial symptoms of psychosis for someone to receive a diagnosis and treatment.

The new award is designed to significantly decrease that time.

“We know that early diagnosis and treatment of chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma lead to better outcomes. The same is true for mental health conditions like psychosis.”

— Tara Niendam

“The onset of psychosis can be a confusing and scary time for individuals and their families,” Niendam said. “We believe access to top-quality care can give them and their communities new hope for recovery.”

UC Davis is collaborating with UCSF and Stanford University to provide support and training to all aspects of early psychosis program implementation. “Our goal is to share our knowledge and support shared learning between programs so that more Californians can access excellent early psychosis care,” Niendam said.

The EPI Plus Program was established in 2017 to shift the emphasis in California’s mental health system to early detection and intervention with the goal of improving the lives of Californians with mental health needs before those needs escalate and become severe or disabling.

EPI Plus will support program development in Alpine, Kern, Lake, Mono, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Sonoma and Nevada counties.

The Early Psychosis Programs at UC Davis Health are nationally recognized as a leading provider of early psychosis care. The clinics in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences provide coordinated specialty care in an outpatient setting that incorporates targeted medication management, individual, family and group psychosocial interventions, case management services, and supported education and employment. The goals are early diagnosis, treatment, and disability prevention.

202106_annual-walmart-and-sams-club-campaign-benefiting-local-kids-kicks-off-monday Fri, 25 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Annual Walmart and Sam’s Club Campaign benefiting local kids kicks off Monday <p>Help kids live better when you shop. All donations to Children&rsquo;s Miracle Network Hospitals (CMN) stay local to help treat sick and injured kids in UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital&rsquo;s 33-county service area.</p> Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ (CMN) long-time partner, Walmart/Sam's Club, is poised and ready for the annual CMN in-store campaign. Beginning Monday, June 28, associates will encourage customers to #HelpKidsLiveBetter by donating at the register, at self-checkout or online. All funds raised will stay local to benefit kids treated at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

“Since pandemic restrictions have been lifted, we can’t wait to see what local stores do during this year’s campaign,” CMN at UC Davis program director Michelle Tafoya said. "During COVID, teams raised significant funds but had to pare back some of their efforts. This year, look out! Our Walmart and Sam’s Club associates are some of the most creative and dedicated people out there, so it will no doubt be a fun, high-energy campaign.”

UC Davis Children's Hospital leadership, including nurse managers who are on the front lines of pediatric care, will make the rounds as they did last year, meeting with associates to share pediatric patient stories and the impact of dollars raised on patient care. This "appreciation tour" is one way to let the stores know how valuable their contributions really are.

“As the only local CMN Hospital, it’s critical that UC Davis Children’s Hospital continues to provide the highest quality of care to our patients,” said Patient Care Services executive director Judie Boehmer. "Thanks to our partners and our community, we’ve been able to provide the care kids need, even during COVID-19. We are profoundly grateful to Walmart and Sam’s Club for their unwavering support and commitment to local kids through their dedication to CMN.”

The CMN campaign at Walmart and Sam's Club runs through July 25. All funds raised stay local to support research, education, programs and clinical care at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

202106_study-confirms-the-low-likelihood-that-sars-cov-2-on-hospital-surfaces-is-infectious Thu, 24 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Study confirms the low likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 on hospital surfaces is infectious <p>A new study confirms the low likelihood that coronavirus contamination on hospital surfaces is infectious. The study is the original report on recovering near-complete SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences directly from surface swabs.</p> A new study by UC Davis researchers confirms the low likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 contamination on hospital surfaces is infectious. The study, published June 24 in PLOS ONE, is the original report on recovering near-complete SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences directly from surface swabs. 

“Our team was the first to demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 virus sequences could be identified from environmental swabs collected from hospital surfaces,” said Angela Haczku, a respiratory immunologist and senior author on the study. 

Changing cleaning and ICU protocols linked to lower SARS-CoV-2 contamination

In April 2020, a COVID-19 outbreak among hospital staff led an interdisciplinary team of UC Davis researchers to investigate if there was virus contamination of frequently used surfaces in patient serving ICU and staff meeting areas at the UC Davis Medical Center. At that time the role of fomites (surfaces) in spreading the disease was highly debated. They collected multiple samples during the first (April 2020) and the second (August 2020) waves of COVID-19 from surfaces and HVAC filters in the hospital.

The researchers analyzed the surface swabs for SARS-CoV-2 RNA and infectivity and assessed the suitability of the RNA for sequencing.

Despite a significant increase in the number of hospital patients with COVID-19 during the second surge, the team found that only 2% of swabs tested positive in August, compared to 11% of samples collected in April.

“The ability to identify viral genome sequences from environmental samples may have high public health significance in outbreak surveillance and monitoring the spread of new viral variants," Haczku said.

“The reduction in the virus contamination was likely due to improved ICU patient management and cleaning protocols,” Haczku said. Haczku is a professor of medicine, director at the UC Davis Lung Center and associate dean for translational research at the UC Davis School of Medicine.

Genome sequence of coronavirus found on surfaces

The study demonstrated that by genome sequencing, SARS-CoV-2 could be detected even from samples that otherwise tested negative (undetectable) by commonly used PCR tests. The results also confirmed that the SARS-CoV-2 RNA picked up from a surface, although containing near- intact genomic sequence, was not infectious. This finding supports the hypothesis that contaminated surfaces may not be a major way for spreading COVID-19 disease.

“For the first time, to our knowledge, we were able to determine the viral genome sequence from surface swab samples obtained in a hospital environment,” said David Coil, project scientist at the UC Davis Genome Center and the first author on the study. “We found SARS-CoV-2 in samples that were tested negative by RT-PCR, suggesting that the sequencing technology is superior for virus detection in environmental samples.”

According to Coil, the genome sequencing performed on the hospital surface swab samples is very important. By getting accurate viral genomic sequences, the researchers could track the source and figure out how an infection moves.

“Our data indicated that the sequences determined for the viral RNA from surfaces were identical to the ones derived from the patients hospitalized in the ICU at the time of sample collection. The ability to identify viral genome sequences from environmental samples may have high public health significance in outbreak surveillance and monitoring the spread of new viral variants,” Haczku said.

This study was funded by a UC Davis CRAFT Award and The Chester Robbins Endowment.

UC Davis co-authors are Timothy Albertson, Christian Sandrock, Daniel G Tompkins, Maya Juarez, Brandt Robinson, Shefali Banerjee, Greg Brennan, Satya Dandekar, Stefan Rothenburg, Ana Stoian, A.J. Campbell, Ivy Jose, Samuel L. Díaz-Muñoz, Stuart H. Cohen, Jonathan A. Eisen, Tracey Goldstein and Alexandre Tremeau-Bravard. 

202106_new-covid-19-vaccine-clinic-for-people-with-autism-other-neurodevelopmental-conditions-video Thu, 24 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT New COVID-19 vaccine clinic for people with autism, other neurodevelopmental conditions (video) <p>The UC Davis MIND Institute is offering a new COVID-19 vaccine clinic for individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. The clinic will offer a comfortable experience for families, including sensory support and specially trained staff.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — The UC Davis MIND Institute has launched a new COVID-19 vaccine clinic, custom-designed for individuals with autism, Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome and other neurodevelopmental conditions.

The typical COVID-19 vaccine clinic – often a large, noisy space – can be overwhelming for children with these conditions, who often face anxiety and challenges with sensory overload. The new MIND Institute clinic offers the opposite experience.

“This clinic really focuses on quality rather than quantity,” explained Scott Akins, director of UC Davis Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics and director of clinical programs at the MIND Institute. “We want to provide an inclusive, supportive experience for families, so we’re vaccinating three families per hour, which allows us to have three quiet rooms, an uncrowded waiting area and staff fully dedicated to each patient.”

13-year-old Freddie Miller plays with a pop-it toy before receiving his first COVID-19 shot, with the sensory machine in the background.

The COVID-19 clinic is open one day per week (Thursday or Friday), from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. It’s available for all individuals with neurodevelopmental conditions and their family members, ages 12 and older, regardless of health care provider or insurance status.

Customized care for each patient

The clinic is being funded in part through a $68,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to the MIND Institute’s Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. It’s unique because child life specialists, trained in helping children with neurodevelopmental conditions cope with medical procedures, are involved at every step of the vaccination process.

“It’s really important that as child life specialists, we look at the development of the child, because you may have a 20-year-old who’s developmentally less mature, so we want to be able to prep them in a way that is matched to what they understand and need,” said Erin Roseborough, a child life specialist at the MIND Institute.

She and her colleagues contact the family of each patient who has an appointment beforehand to find out what the child’s needs and interests are. They also share information about what to expect, so that there are no surprises.

“We develop an individualized coping plan with the family ahead of their arrival,” explained Veronica Tuss, another child life specialist at the MIND Institute. “We provide preparation materials such as a social story, which is a step-by-step description, with photos, of what to expect at each stage of the appointment, starting in the parking lot.”

“We want to provide an inclusive, supportive experience for families, so we’re vaccinating three families per hour, which allows us to have three quiet rooms, an uncrowded waiting area and staff fully dedicated to each patient.”

— Scott Akins

A sensory-friendly environment

Patients receive the COVID-19 vaccine in a room equipped with a comfortable chair and a large sensory machine that contains a calming tube of bubbles and can utilize lights, aromatherapy and a projector that displays images on the ceiling. Other sensory items available include squeeze balls and pop-it toys, and a big selection of unique bandages shaped like doughnuts, tacos, ninjas and more.

After being vaccinated, patients spend a 15-minute observation period in a quiet room. “This area is really important for our patients,” noted Akins. “Many children are dysregulated immediately after a blood draw or a vaccine.”

Child life specialists set the room up specifically to cater to each patient’s interests. “One recent patient was into art, so we had drawing supplies all set up for her and ready to go, and she colored the whole time,” said Roseborough.

Video games are also available, which was great news for 13-year-old Freddie Miller, who received his first Pfizer shot last week.

“I was kind of nervous getting the shot,” said Miller, who has autism and enjoyed playing with a yellow, pineapple-shaped pop-it toy while sitting in the vaccine chair. “It’s just a little bit of a pinch. It wasn’t that bad.”

Miller’s mom, Syerra Logan, was glad she brought him to the MIND Institute for his first vaccine dose. “I wanted a more controlled environment that wasn’t so chaotic for him. The loud noises can really trigger some of his anxieties and so I wanted to bring him here where it’d be a little more quiet and neutral,” she explained.

Miller picked out some applesauce for a snack while he played video games after the shot.

Patients can choose from a fun selection of bandages after their shot.

Logan, who is an ambulatory care administrative supervisor at UC Davis Health, was thrilled with the outcome. “It went amazing! He got a little bit nervous right before we started, but the rest of the process has been smooth,” she said. “It’s a relief to know he’s a bit more protected, especially when we’re going out, and I’m excited to get him the second one just to protect us a little bit more.”

Vaccination helps protect against COVID-19, and early research indicates that the vaccines may also help people from spreading the virus to others. The vaccine can also help keep people from getting seriously sick if they do contract COVID-19.

“Many families asked the question, ‘Have other individuals with autism or other neurodevelopmental disabilities had this vaccine and is this vaccine safe for people with my healthcare condition?’” said Akins. “That was a really common concern, and now six months into vaccinating, we do know that is it safe for all individuals, including those with autism and other neurodevelopmental disabilities.”

Learn more about how to make an appointment at the MIND Institute vaccine clinic. You can also call 916-703-5555.

202106_chancellors-innovation-awards-highlight-new-therapeutics-pandemic-response-video Thu, 24 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Chancellor’s Innovation Awards highlight new therapeutics, pandemic response (video) <p>Two School of Medicine faculty received UC Davis Chancellor&rsquo;s Innovation Awards. David E. Olson received an Innovator of the Year Award and Richard W. Michelmore received an Innovative Community Partner Award.</p>
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SACRAMENTO — Two UC Davis School of Medicine faculty, David Olson and Richard Michelmore, have received UC Davis Chancellor’s Innovation Awards. The annual awards program celebrates the university’s innovative contributions to the regional and global community. Recipients receive $10,000 to apply to their research or community engagement efforts.

David E. Olson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine and the Department of Chemistry, received an Innovator of the Year Award. Olson’s research focuses on harnessing neuroplasticity to treat neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative diseases. He identified a new class of medicines, psychoplastogens, that rewire the brain to heal damaged neural circuits.

David E. Olson (l) and Richard W. Michelmore (r)

Richard W. Michelmore, along with Healthy Davis Together and the city of Davis, received an Innovative Community Partner Award. Michelmore is a distinguished professor in the departments of Plant Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Medical Microbiology and Immunology, and director of the Genome Center at UC Davis. Michelmore guided the development of the innovative COVID-19 testing platform by adapting high-throughput genome testing typically used in the agricultural biotechnology arena.

Mark Mascal, a professor in the Department of Chemistry, also received an Innovator of the Year award for an array of innovative and sustainable solutions for energy, electronics, and medicine using novel applications of synthetic organic chemistry.

The Lifetime Achievement Awards went to Annabeth Rosen, a distinguished professor of art and an innovator in ceramic sculpture, and Howard-Yana Shapiro, a senior fellow and a renowned expert in plant science with an emphasis in sustainable agriculture and genomic sequencing.

Read the full release at ucdavis.edu.

202106_research-provides-a-roadmap-to-hiv-eradication-via-stem-cell-therapy- Wed, 23 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Research provides a roadmap to HIV eradication via stem cell therapy <p>A groundbreaking study found that stem cells reduce the amount of virus causing AIDS, boost the body&rsquo;s antiviral immunity, and restore the gut&rsquo;s lymphoid follicles damaged by HIV. It provided a roadmap for multi-pronged HIV eradication strategies.</p> In a groundbreaking study, a team of UC Davis researchers has discovered a special type of stem cell that can reduce the amount of the virus causing AIDS, boosting the body’s antiviral immunity and repairing and restoring the gut’s lymphoid follicles damaged by the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), the equivalent of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in non-human primates.

The study, published June 22 in JCI Insight, showed the mechanism through which mesenchymal stem/stromal cells (MSCs) enhance the body’s immune response to the virus. It also provides a roadmap for developing multi-pronged HIV eradication strategies.

“Impaired immune functions in HIV infection and incomplete immune recovery pose obstacles for eradicating HIV,” said Satya Dandekar, senior author of this paper. “Our objective was to develop strategies to boost immunity against the virus and empower the host immune system to eradicate the virus. We sought to repair, regenerate and restore the lymphoid follicles that are damaged by the viral infection.”

The lymphoid tissue in the gut is an early site for viral replication and the establishment of viral reservoirs. Dandekar’s group has previously shown that an HIV infection causes severe loss of gut mucosal T immune cells and disrupts the gut epithelial barrier lining, leading to a leaky gut.

“The lymphoid follicles are organized structures where the long-term immune attack is launched against pathogens by generating antibody response targeting the virus. These important regions are functionally impaired very early following HIV infection,” Dandekar said.

While antiretroviral drugs effectively suppress viral replication, they do not repair the damage caused by the virus to the immune system. On their own, these drugs cannot restore the functionality of the lymphoid follicles damaged by HIV infection.

Can stem cells counteract the gut damage caused by HIV?

The researchers administered bone marrow-derived MSC in a rhesus macaque model of AIDS that had impaired immunity and disrupted gut functions due to the viral infection.

“We are starting to recognize the great potential of these stem cells in the context of infectious diseases. We have yet to discover how these stem cells can impact chronic viral infections such as AIDS,” Dandekar said. She is a professor at and the chairperson of the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology at UC Davis and affiliated with the California National Primate Research Center.

The study found that the MSCs can modulate, alter and remodel the damaged mucosal site. There were immediate benefits, with a rapid rise in antibodies and T-immune cells targeting the virus. The stem cells were instrumental in the recovery and restoration of these lymphoid follicles.

MSCs also offer an opportunity for an innovative, multi-pronged HIV cure strategy by complementing current HIV treatments.

“Stem cells are good synergistic partner components with drugs. The antiretroviral drugs can stop the fire of the viral infection but cannot restore the forest of the lymphoid tissue compartment. The MSCs would rejuvenate the field and bring back immune vitality,” Dandekar said.

Even without the use of antiviral drugs, MSCs were able to increase the host’s antiviral response by repairing the lymphoid follicles, restoring the mucosal immunity and reviving what has been targeted by the virus very early on.

MSC treatments

MSC treatments require well defined cell quality controls and specific delivery mechanisms. The UC Davis Stem Cell Program, a center for excellence for stem cell research, is leading multiple clinical trials on MSC use in treating diseases such as spina bifida and Huntington’s disease. Findings from this study provide a scientific basis for investigating MSC in treating HIV and other infectious diseases in the clinical setting.


Co-authors on this study are Mariana G. Weber, Chara J. Walters-Laird, Clarissa Santos Rocha, Lauren A. Hirao, Abigail Mende, Juan Arredondo, Amir Kol, Sonny R. Elizaldi, Smita S. Iyer and Alice Tarantal at UC Davis, and Bipin Balan at Università di Palermo, Italy.

This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants (R01AI 153025, R21 AI 116415, R21AI34368, and OD P51 OD011107) and from the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), Brazil.

Article: Weber et al. (2021) Gut germinal center regeneration and enhanced antiviral immunity by mesenchymal stem/stromal cells in SIV infection. JCI Insight. 6(12), Doi:10.1172/jci. insight.149033.

202106_long-standing-genomic-medicine-partnership-expands-specialty-care-for-children-in-region--video Tue, 22 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Long-standing genomic medicine partnership expands specialty care for children in region <p>A seven-year telemedicine partnership between the UC Davis MIND Institute and Dignity Health ensures that more children with genetic disorders receive quick, convenient specialty care. The success is due to high-quality robots and a commitment to improving access to genomic medicine.&nbsp;</p> When Katherine Rauen was recruited by the UC Davis MIND Institute seven years ago, one of the first things she did was pay a visit to Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Carmichael. The MIND Institute’s Genomic Medicine Division, in the Department of Pediatrics, had a relationship with Dignity Health, offering in-person consultations for pediatric patients, and Rauen, a physician-scientist and geneticist, wanted to strengthen it.

“I really wanted to develop a telemedicine relationship, what I call TeleGenomics,” said Rauen, who is now an emeritus professor, and was the chief of the Genomic Medicine Division for many years. “I visited the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and met firsthand with an incredible team of neonatologists and saw that they had amazing telemedicine capabilities because Dignity was a very early adopter of this up and coming technology. They have state-of-the-art, powerful, capable telemedicine robots.”

Now, the two health systems have a round-the-clock genomic medicine partnership. The robots are equipped with high-quality cameras that allow MIND Institute specialists to provide consultations for Dignity Health patients at Mercy San Juan and Methodist Hospital of Sacramento. 

“It’s a robust working relationship, providing genomic medicine consultation, and we’re available to them 24/7,” said Rauen. “We’ve got phenomenal, well-trained physicians and physician-scientists on our faculty here at the MIND Institute and we have exceptionally trained genetic counselors -- they have access to all of this.”

“We’re a major metropolitan area. This standard of care should be an expectation for our families. It’s so important to build community bridges - this is our job.”

— Katherine Rauen

What is TeleGenomics?

Throughout the pandemic, telemedicine has become more common, but when the genomic medicine partnership was established, it was less frequently used.  

“Many people had doubts at the time that we would be able to do a thorough physical examination for genomics, but the telemedicine robot is so powerful, I could see moles on a newborn’s skin, I could see tiny tufts of hair. The imagery is powerful.”

The consultations are requested for a variety of reasons. For example, when a child born at Methodist Hospital or Mercy San Juan has multiple congenital anomalies, such as heart or skeletal defects, isn’t eating properly, or has features that are consistent with Down syndrome.

Katherine Rauen, professor emeritus, Department of Pediatrics and former Division of Genomic Medicine chief

“Instead of having to transfer the child to UC Davis Health for genomic medicine input, they just give us a call through TeleGenomics and we go to them virtually,” Rauen explained.

The bedside nurse assists as needed, and the examination is done almost entirely using the camera.

“We can see skin findings, toenails, creases on the palms and soles and sacral pits [indentations in the skin of the lower back]. It works out very, very well,” Rauen said.

The genomic medicine specialist makes recommendations and shares them with the family and Dignity Health physician, and every patient receives follow-up care.

“Whether you’re in-patient at UC Davis, or you’re at Methodist or Mercy San Juan being seen through telemedicine, there is an automatic follow-up to see how the child’s doing and to follow up on genetic testing,” Rauen noted.

Regional excellence

Rauen is passionate about the partnership between UC Davis Health and Dignity Health.

“We’re a major metropolitan area. This standard of care should be an expectation for our families. It’s so important to build community bridges, and this is our job. Medicine transcends race, creed, color, religion. We have taken an oath to place people’s health above all and we take this very seriously.”

Genomic Medicine at UC Davis Health

The Genomic Medicine Division specializes in the evaluation and treatment of genetic disorders and offers whole genome sequences. The division includes a number of different clinics, including:
• Genomic Medicine - General Clinic
NF/Ras Pathway Genomic Medicine Clinic
Metabolic Clinic
Lysosomal Storage Disorders Clinic
Neurogenomics Clinic
Ocular Precision Genomics Clinic
TeleGenomics Clinic

Rauen, who worked at UC San Francisco for 20 years before coming to the MIND Institute, has a saying about the kind of care patients in the region should receive: “My mantra, having come from UCSF, is that not one of our patients should have to cross a bridge to get exceptional care.” she said.  

“We really appreciate the service that UC Davis Health Genomic Medicine provides at Mercy San Juan. When we have a baby who needs a genetic evaluation, we are able to readily access the genomic physicians and counselors and discuss our concerns,” said Carolyn Getman, medical director, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Dignity Health Mercy San Juan Medical Center. “The ability to use telemedicine for the consultation facilitates a rapid evaluation and allows the geneticist to discuss a baby's care with the parents at the bedside in a timely manner. We are grateful for this collaboration.”

Related stories

Project baby bear shows genomic sequencing for infants in intensive care yields life-changing benefits and medical cost savings

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202106_local-foundation-awards-125-million-to-mind-institute-to-study-rare-genetic-condition Mon, 21 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Local foundation awards $1.25 million to MIND Institute to study rare genetic condition <p>RDM Positive Impact Foundation is sponsoring a $1.25 million project at the UC Davis MIND Institute to advance research about SYNGAP1, a rare genetic condition that impacts the brain across the lifespan. An interdisciplinary team is seeking revolutionary solutions.</p> The RDM Positive Impact Foundation is funding an ambitious $1.25 million research project at the UC Davis MIND Institute to study SYNGAP1. The rare genetic condition causes seizures (epilepsy), intellectual disability and developmental delays. It is also highly associated with autism; about half of all SYNGAP1 patients have an autism diagnosis. 

Ron Mittelstaedt and his wife, Darin, who live in El Dorado Hills, run the foundation. He’s the executive chairman of Waste Connections, a solid waste and recycling company with 20,000 employees in North America, and his family operates Toogood Estate Winery in Somerset. The Mittelstaedts have donated millions of dollars to organizations that help children over the past 15 years.

This time, it’s personal.

About three and-a-half years ago, Ron Mittelstaedt’s best friend died, leaving behind three sons and their families. “I’ve become sort of a surrogate dad, and now a surrogate grandfather,” explained Mittelstaedt. One of those “grandsons” was diagnosed with a SYNGAP1 mutation a year and-a-half ago. With the family’s support, Mittelstaedt is providing meaningful funding to the MIND Institute to advance research about the syndrome.

“The reality is, like many rare conditions, there aren’t a lot of great options. So, we’re trying to find potentially life-changing treatment that hopefully may impact the lives of people with SYNGAP1,” he said.

Mittelstaedt was previously on the MIND Institute’s inaugural National Council of Visitors (then called the MIND Institute Advisory Council), and funded a successful research project that developed a blood test for Tourette syndrome.

A staff member in the Silverman lab conducts behavioral neuroscience research.

“We are grateful to the Mittelstaedts for their generosity,” said MIND Institute Director Leonard Abbeduto. “As a collaborative hub for preclinical and clinical research on neurodevelopmental disability, the MIND Institute is uniquely suited to build on past successes and tackle the complexities of SYNGAP1 to provide help for families.”

The funding also supports UC Davis' $2 billion fundraising campaign, Expect Greater: From UC Davis, For the World, the largest philanthropic endeavor in university history. Together, donors and UC Davis are advancing work to prepare future leaders, sustain healthier communities, and bring innovative solutions to today's most urgent challenges.

What is SYNGAP1?

SYNGAP1-related non-syndromic intellectual disability is a rare neurodevelopmental condition caused by a variation in one gene. The gene, SYNGAP1, contains instructions for making a protein (SynGAP). This protein is located at the junctions between nerve cells, called synapses, and helps regulate changes important for memory and learning. The protein also helps regulate communication between neurons.

When the variation is present, the SYNGAP1 protein in cells is reduced which causes an increase in the excitability in the synapses. This makes it difficult for neurons to communicate and increases the likelihood of seizure events. This can lead to a variety of symptoms:

Jill Silverman

  • Developmental delay
  • Intellectual disability
  • Poor muscle tone, including trouble with balance and walking
  • Epilepsy
  • Sensory processing challenges
  • Autism
  • Sleep and behavior challenges.

SYNGAP1 syndrome affects 1-4 out of 10,000 people. The first patient was identified in 2009.

Groundbreaking research

The MIND Institute’s interventional genetics team includes faculty who specialize in multiple research areas.

"We’re trying to find potentially life-changing treatment that hopefully may impact the lives of people with SYNGAP1"

— Ron Mittelstaedt

“Each of us is a world expert in our particular discipline, so bringing us all together means the chances of success are much more likely,” said Jill Silverman, associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and an internationally recognized expert in the use of rodent models for therapeutic development. Silverman’s Lab is known for its expertise in behavioral neuroscience research.

In addition to Silverman, the SYNGAP1 team includes three other MIND Institute faculty members:

“The sum of the group is going to be much greater than anything we could have done alone,” said Fink, whose lab focuses on therapeutic development for neurodevelopmental conditions and neurodegenerative diseases. “The fact that the foundation has funded us as a team, across multiple centers and programs is really unique. This funding brings us all together for an important project.”

Kyle Fink in his lab, which focuses on therapeutic development for neurodevelopmental conditions and neurodegenerative diseases.

The researchers will work on parallel tracks, each contributing a piece of the puzzle.

Silverman will conduct specialized behavioral tests on mouse models of SYNGAP1, using tools with corresponding metrics in humans, such as EEGs (a type of brain scan) to determine clinically relevant outcomes.

Nord and Fink will create a new mouse model that contains the mutated human SYNGAP1 gene, while Segal and Fink will create new molecular therapies to counter that mutated gene. They’ll also figure out how to deliver those therapies to the brain.

“We’re not just trying to treat the symptoms of the disease with a drug,” explained Segal, whose lab specializes in molecular analysis. “We are trying to change the underlying genetic condition, and our particular approach is to do that in a way that does not change the DNA sequence. We use tools to change the gene expression instead, which we think will make safer therapies. It’s really a state-of-the-art approach. It’s molecular therapy.”

David Segal working in his lab, which specializes in molecular analysis.

The collaborative approach, often called “team science,” coupled with the RDM Positive Impact Foundation’s support, allows for an ambitious, fast-tracked research program. The $1.25 million frees the researchers from the need to apply for multiple federal grants and enables them to focus immediately on SYNGAP1.

The team excels in what’s often called “bench to bedside” research, translating results from the lab directly into therapies for patients.

“We see these patients, we meet with them, we’re on Zoom calls with them and I want to find something that works for them. I want to change their lives. That’s what I’m driven by,” Silverman said.

Building on previous success

Silverman, Fink and Segal have had previous success with their work on another rare genetic condition, Angelman syndrome, which causes developmental delay, speech and balance challenges and intellectual disability.

"We’re not just trying to treat the symptoms of the disease with a drug. We are trying to change the underlying genetic condition, and our particular approach is to do that in a way that does not change the DNA sequence. We use tools to change the gene expression instead, which we think will make safer therapies. It’s really a state-of-the-art approach. It’s molecular therapy."

— David Segal

Their labs helped to create and characterize the first rat model of Angelman syndrome last year. The Segal lab also created a protein therapeutic that could increase the level of the affected gene in mouse models of Angelman syndrome, a major discovery.

All three labs are still working on a wide range of therapeutics for Angelman, including molecular therapies delivered with viruses or stem cells and novel small molecule compounds.

Ron Mittelstaedt is hoping for another success story, this time with SYNGAP1, but he’s also realistic about the research process.

“We are all very aware that going down this path doesn’t guarantee anything except the ability to get up to bat, and we could get a hit or strike out. But doing nothing guarantees you don’t get a hit, so it’s important for us to take action, and we’re hopeful we’ll hit a home run.”

Related Stories

UC Davis researchers get $3 million FAST grant to find treatment for Angelman syndrome

202106_new-grants-awarded-for-projects-to-improve-mental-health-for-californians Mon, 21 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT New grants awarded for projects to improve mental health for Californians <p>UC Davis' Behavioral Health Center of Excellence has awarded three seed grants to help support new research efforts aimed at improving mental health in California.</p> UC Davis' Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) has awarded seed funding to help support three new research efforts aimed at improving mental health in California.

Three $75,000 pilot grants will go to projects that explore:

  • The novel roles a top-risk gene plays in autism and intellectual disability
  • California Bridge Clinic’s unique approach to addiction treatment in the Emergency Room
  • A new approach to assessing emotional responses in the brain that could advance understanding about impairment associated with schizophrenia 

“We’re excited to be a catalyst for such a broad range of outstanding behavioral health research,” said Cameron Carter, director of the center, distinguished professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science and the C. Bryan Cameron Presidential Chair in Neuroscience. “Pilot funding for highly innovative projects such as these advance our goal of positioning UC Davis faculty and researchers to better compete for further funding to build these projects and deliver advances to patient care.”

The major goal of the center’s pilot grant program is to develop early studies that can develop into larger-scale funded research programs, with the end results being the enhancement of mental health care throughout California.

Selected projects and researchers

  • Novel roles of the intellectual disability-relevant gene Chd8 in the adult cerebellum: This project is led by Diasynou Fioravante, an assistant professor at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience. She is exploring a gene called Chd8, which is important for early brain development. It also has emerged as a top risk gene for autism and intellectual disability. Fioravante’s work has the potential to open up a new avenue of research on molecular, cellular, and circuit causes of severe neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as new opportunities for treatment. 
  • Low-barrier access to substance-use disorder treatment through hospital-based Bridge Clinic: With the pilot grant, Aimee Moulin, professor of Emergency Medicine, plans to evaluate the California Bridge Clinic’s unique approach to addiction treatment, a program that engages high-risk patients in ongoing treatment. The results will inform and enhance future grant proposals aimed at improving access to substance-use disorder treatments for high-risk patient populations in California and beyond. 
  • Decoding internal emotional responses: Led by Steven Luck, distinguished professor of Psychology and core faculty for the Center for Mind and Brain, the research is designed to develop and validate a new method for assessing emotional responses in the brain using EEG and machine learning. If it is successful, it will enable Luck to apply for a larger federal grant to study the negative symptoms of schizophrenia and open up new avenues for treatment of this challenging aspect of the illness.  


In 2015, the Behavioral Health Center of Excellence awarded its first set of pilot grants to 16 researchers in a variety of disciplines. In 2020, another round of pilot grants were awarded to three researchers. Each of those grants was designed to provide new approaches to understanding and improving mental health. This year’s projects complement and expand upon the scope of the original set of pilot awards and again provide one year of funding support.

202106_uc-davis-health-scientist-awarded-pew-scholarship-to-beat-bacteria-behind-tuberculosis Fri, 18 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health scientist awarded Pew Scholarship to beat bacteria behind tuberculosis <p>Bennett Penn, assistant professor of infectious diseases and of medical microbiology and immunology, has been named a 2021 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences. He will receive funding over the next four years to investigate how bacteria causing tuberculosis build resistance to antibiotics.</p> Bennett Penn, assistant professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases and the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, has been named a 2021 Pew Scholar in the Biomedical Sciences by the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

The Pew Scholars Program in the Biomedical Sciences provides funding to young investigators of outstanding promise in science relevant to the advancement of human health. 

“I want to thank the fantastic mentors I’ve had over the years, whose advice helped put me in a position to be considered, and I’m honored to have been selected as a Pew Scholar,” Penn said. 

Penn now joins a community of accomplished biomedical scientists dedicated to finding solutions to significant health challenges. In 2021, The Pew Charitable Trusts selected 22 early-career researchers from 198 applicants nominated by leading academic institutions and researchers across the United States. These scholars will have opportunities to meet annually, share ongoing research, and exchange perspectives across the health sciences field. 

“We at the School of Medicine are delighted that Dr. Penn is being recognized as a Pew scholar said Allison Brashear, dean of UC Davis School of Medicine. “This is a testimony to his groundbreaking research on the mechanisms of bacteria persistence despite antibiotic treatments.” 

With this prestigious recognition, Penn will receive funding over the next four years to investigate how bacteria causing tuberculosis (TB) build tolerance to antibiotics.

Beating the bacterium behind TB

While most bacterial infections can be eliminated with a course of antibiotics lasting one or two weeks, patients with TB are typically treated with multiple antibiotics for six months or more to eliminate their infections. This long-term persistence in the face of antibiotics is driven by the formation of a small number of resilient bacterial cells that activate a molecular program that promotes antibiotic tolerance.

The Penn lab will study how the bacterium M. tuberculosis, the causative agent of TB, develops its tolerance to antibiotics. Using a suite of cutting-edge techniques in cell and molecular genetics, biochemistry and bioinformatics, Penn and his team will examine how the composition and modification of proteins change in TB bacteria as they grow resistant to antibiotics. They will also assess whether exposure to activated immune cells hampers or promotes this persistence.

“We aim to define the molecular mechanisms by which antibiotic-tolerant bacterial cells develop, and to then leverage this knowledge to develop ‘tolerance inhibitors’ that act cooperatively with traditional antibiotics to hasten M. tuberculosis eradication in TB patients,” Penn said.

Penn received his medical degree and his doctorate in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Washington. He finished his residency in internal medicine at Stanford University, followed by a clinical fellowship in infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). He remained at UCSF as a postdoctoral fellow from 2011 until 2017, when he joined the faculty at the UC Davis Health, as an assistant professor in the School of Medicine. 

202106_thoracic-surgery-chief-david-tom-cooke-named-cancer-healths-25-black-lives-matter Fri, 18 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Thoracic surgery chief David Tom Cooke named to Cancer Health’s 25: Black Lives Matter list <p>The second annual edition of Cancer Health magazine&rsquo;s Change Makers recognizes 25 individuals working to break down barriers to the best cancer care for all Americans. The list includes David Tom Cooke, chief of general thoracic surgery at UC Davis Health.</p> David Tom Cooke, the new chief of general thoracic surgery at UC Davis Health was named by Cancer Health magazine as one of the top 25 individuals breaking down racial barriers to better cancer care. 

This year, the magazine dedicated its second annual edition of Change Makers to Black lives. The Cancer Health 25: Black Lives Matter list recognizes 25 individuals who, along with many others, are fighting to break down barriers to the best cancer care for all Americans. 

In a feature article on the award recipients, Cancer Health noted that Cooke “….is well aware of the inequities that plague medicine. Case in point: He was recently mistaken for an orderly by one of his patients. But such experiences have helped inform his career path. In 2013, Cooke, a national expert on lung and esophageal disease, co-founded the popular bimonthly #LCSM (lung cancer social media) chat on Twitter and in 2019 was named chair of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ Workforce on Diversity and Inclusion. His scholarly work includes research into disparities in lung cancer care between racial groups.” 

The Cancer Health article points out that according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), “Racial and ethnic minorities face poorer outcomes, are less frequently enrolled in clinical trials and are less likely to be offered palliative care, genetic testing and other critical care. Specifically, African Americans have the highest death rate and shortest length of survival of any racial/ethnic group for most cancers.” 

“I’m honored and humbled to receive the Cancer Health 25: Black Lives Matter award, named alongside such leaders as Jamie Foxx, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and ASCO president Dr. Lori J. Pierce. With the ongoing and critical support of UC Davis Health, I intend to continue my commitment to address the needs of the underserved as we challenge the key drivers of health inequities,” Cooke said. 

Thinking of his role in improving health care and mitigating disparities, Cooke is known to frequently quote Martin Luther King Jr. when he said, “If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” 

Cancer Health recognizes that many groups experience cancer health disparities, including Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans and people who are LGBTQ, older, disabled, poor, rural and more.

202106_uc-davis-health-supports-st-hope-juneteenth-block-party-in-oak-park-on-june-19 Fri, 18 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health supports St. HOPE Juneteenth Block Party in Oak Park on June 19 <p>UC Davis Health is honored to sponsor the first annual Juneteenth Block Party at 40 Acres on Saturday, June 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Presented by St. HOPE, the free event features art, music, food, and entertainment.</p> On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally heard and celebrated the news that they were freed – two months after the Confederacy had surrendered and 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation.

Yesterday (June 17), President Joe Biden signed legislation making that date – known as Juneteenth – the 12th federal holiday.

“I’m moved to see Juneteenth, the day that commemorates the emancipation of slaves, made a federal holiday. It is a day that African Americans have long celebrated across the nation since June 19, 1865,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary S. May. “While it is a day of joy, it is also a reminder of our nation’s history, how far we have come and how far we have to go. I encourage the UC Davis community to learn more about Juneteenth and find ways to join in celebrating this significant day.”

Tomorrow (June 19), community members are invited to commemorate the day in Sacramento by attending the first annual Juneteenth Block Party at 40 Acres, presented by St. HOPE. It will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Esther’s Park, 3408 3rd Avenue, in the Oak Park neighborhood.

The free event, sponsored by UC Davis Health, offers the public the opportunity to watch short films in the historic Guild Theater, participate in interactive activities down Art Ally, listen to live music and entertainment on the main stage, support Black-owned street vendors, and enjoy a variety of cultural foods.

202105_uc-davis-clinical-translational-science-center-awarded-5-year-grant-renewal-from-nih Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center awarded 5-year grant renewal from NIH <p>The Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) received notice of its third NIH award renewal. The 5-year award, almost $33 million, provides critical funding to continue CTSC&rsquo;s essential services for the UC Davis research community.</p> Today, the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) received notice of its third National Institutes of Health (NIH) award renewal, a vote of confidence in the center’s ability to advance outstanding research in human health.

The 5-year award, almost $33 million, comes from NIH’s National Center for Advancing Translational Science (NCATS). It provides critical funding to CTSC to continue its essential services for the UC Davis research community.

“Our expert CTSC faculty and staff have built a nationally recognized translational research culture at UC Davis,” said Allison Brashear, dean of UC Davis School of Medicine. “The CTSC’s NIH grant renewal recognizes the tremendous value of their contributions in promoting distinguished health scholarship and in reducing health disparities.”

One of the first clinical translational science centers in the U.S.

In 2006, UC Davis received one of the first 12 NIH Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) in the nation to establish a center for clinical and translational science. The center supported the full spectrum of translational research (from bench to bedside to dissemination and implementation). It served as a hub for researchers promoting human health. In 2011 and 2016, under the leadership of Lars Berglund, the CTSC was successfully renewed.

Now, directed by Ted Wun and associate director Nicholas Kenyon, the CTSC will initiate its 4th consecutive award  – one of only a handful of institutions across the United States with this fortunate distinction – providing funding for another five years (2021-26).

CTSC enables translational science at UC Davis

Over the years, CTSC programs have blossomed into a mature and highly valued institutional infrastructure with connections across UC Davis, the UC system and the national CTSA consortium.

“The CTSC embraces a flexible and collaborative culture aimed at research facilitation and resource sharing,” said Wun, CTSC director and UC Davis School of Medicine associate dean for research. “We work behind-the-scenes to enhance biomedical research at UC Davis.”

With robust institutional support to augment NIH grant funding, the CTSC promotes translational research at UC Davis by:

The CTSC Clinical Research Center is an integral part of CTSC’s services

  • Training and cultivating the workforce
  • Engaging patients and communities in every phase of the translational process
  • Supporting the integration of special and underserved populations in research across the human lifespan to promote health equity
  • Innovating processes to increase the quality and efficiency of research, particularly of multisite trials
  • Advancing the use of cutting-edge informatics

CTSC-affiliated faculty and staff facilitate research across disciplines. They help form, support and retain research teams working to improve human health.

The CTSC fosters trainee and scholar success at all career stages. For example, it manages KL2 and TL1 awards for UC Davis. KL2 awards support highly qualified junior faculty to conduct mentored, multidisciplinary, patient-oriented clinical research. The TL1 program provides clinical and translational research training for medical and predoctoral students and postdoctoral trainees in the basic sciences.

The CTSC also facilitates better health among underserved rural communities, such as the San Juaquin Valley. It has established strong community partnerships to advance health care access and community-based participatory research. Recently, it offered the Vietnamese Mini-Medical School and the Food for All initiative, in support of the Asian community in Sacramento.

CTSC mobilization during COVID-19

The CTSC impact on clinical and translational science at UC Davis was highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the center pivoted to provide specialized support to research teams conducting studies on coronavirus. It enhanced access to digital health data, helped recruit participants, provided regulatory support and implemented protocols for many of the COVID-related clinical trials.

“We are proud of the way UC Davis, and the CTSC, responded to this pandemic with robust research and collaborations,” said Prasant Mohapatra, vice chancellor for research at UC Davis. “The CTSC has established multiple grant-funded projects to address the disproportionate impact that COVID had on underserved communities.”

202106_childrens-miracle-network-cmn-awards-grants-to-uc-davis-childrens-hospital-for-2021-2023 Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) awards grants to UC Davis Children’s Hospital for 2021-2023 <p>From blood pressure monitoring to cellular therapy for neuroblastoma treatment, UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital continues to be on the cutting edge thanks to generous donations from CMN. This year&rsquo;s grant winners are the best of the best in pediatric clinical care and research.</p> Eleven grants totaling $352,554 have been awarded by Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) at UC Davis to clinicians and researchers at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Grants in the amount of $152,554 will enhance the clinical care of children, while $200,000 was awarded for research directly improving the health and welfare of children.

Each year, applications are accepted by Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) for both clinical services and research grants. Each application must demonstrate how the project or research contributes to UC Davis Health Strategic Goals and/or UC Davis Medical Center Institutional Goals. The amount of funds awarded each year is determined by the CMN Executive Committee and chief executive officer of UC Davis Medical Center.

Clinical services grants funded for 2021-2023 for UC Davis Children’s Hospital:

  • Extra-Corporeal Life Support (ECLS) simulation, high fidelity – Stephanie Mateev
  • Pupillometer to assess critically ill children ­­– Sopon "Liz" North
  • Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring for the diagnosis and management of pediatric hypertension – Stephanie Nguyen
  • UC Davis Children's Hospital pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) patient information guide – Daphne Say
  • Joint effort between wound care and perioperative services to reduce pressure-related injuries in pediatric surgical patients – Jenni Prevatt
  • Decreasing radiation exposure in pediatric PICC placement – Kathryn Garson
  • Modern ultrasound to improve pediatric difficult intravenous access in the Department of Radiology – Douglas Wright

Research grants funded for 2021-2023 for UC Davis Children’s Hospital:

  • Preductal Oxygen Saturation Target In Term (POST IT) and late preterm neonates with hypoxemic respiratory failure or pulmonary hypertension – Heather Siefkes
  • Neurobehavioral and functional characterization of human CNKSR2-related disease in mouse and zebrafish animal model systems – Joseph Shen 
  • Bowel and bladder function in the ovine myelomeningocele model – Maheen Hassan 
  • Engineered placental mesenchymal stem cells as a cellular therapy vehicle for neuroblastoma treatment – Erin G. Brown, Dr. Anthony Philipps Award recipient 

Special consideration was given to junior faculty members and junior investigators. Faculty mentors reviewed the proposals prior to submission and included a letter of support and a current National Institutes of Health (NIH) biosketch, as applicable.

202106_398-million-federal-grant-to-advance-cancer-researcher-bench-strength Thu, 17 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT $3.98 million federal grant to advance cancer researcher bench strength <p>The National Cancer Institute is providing another $3.98 million federal grant to increase the number of cancer researchers at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.</p> The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center successfully renewed its Paul Calabresi K12 Clinical Oncology Career Development Award (PCACO).  The award provides $3.98 million in National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding through 2026 to increase the number of clinician-scientists trained in clinical and translational cancer research, and to promote their career development as cancer researchers.

NCI initiated the program in 1991. In 1994 it was renamed the Paul Calabresi Award in Clinical Oncology in honor of the late Paul Calabresi, a pioneering oncologist who led the development of cancer drugs.  

Scholars are selected through a rigorous process and are expected to develop their own investigator-initiated clinical trial during the training period.

The cancer center leverages the program to train junior faculty (basic/translational scientists and clinician scientists) as investigators in team-based, patient-oriented cancer research. Upon successful completion of a three-year, salary-supported core curriculum, scholars receive a UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Certificate in Clinical Cancer Research.

“This is a high-impact program to nurture patient-oriented cancer researchers early in their career to become independent investigators,” said UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr., who is also the PCACO principal investigator and program director.

Selected scholars will receive 75% protected time for research, formal mentored training in clinical cancer research, $100,000 per year (for up to 3 years) to support salary and benefits, and $13,000 per year (for up to 3 years) for research and travel expenses.

The mentored research training plan will be supervised by two senior, independently funded faculty members (one basic/translational mentor and one clinical mentor) who will guide the scholar in the development and conduct of his/her research project.

202106_stay-healthy-and-cool-during-the-heatwave Wed, 16 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Stay healthy and cool during the heatwave <p>Sacramento&rsquo;s temperatures are expected to climb into triple-digits this week. UC Davis Health occupational and environmental medicine physician Sheri Belafsky and sports medicine physician Brandee Waite offer tips for staying cool and healthy in the heat.</p> The Sacramento region is expecting triple-digit temperatures this week. The high temperatures can expose people to dehydration, heat exhaustion and even heat stroke. UC Davis Health occupational and environmental medicine physician Sheri Belafsky, and sports medicine physician Brandee Waite, offer tips to beat the heat and stay cool and healthy. 

  • Drink before you’re thirsty. Thirst is often the first sign of dehydration. Belafsky recommends those who work outdoors drink one quart of water per hour. Those who work indoors should consider setting a “water alarm” to remind them to stay hydrated. 
  • Acclimate yourself to the heat. “It can take a few weeks to acclimate your body to the heat. Be mindful and recognize that your water requirements will increase,” Belafsky said. Waite notes to keep visitors in mind, especially as COVID-19 restrictions are lifting and more people are traveling. “Out-of-town visitors may not be accustomed to our triple-digit temperatures and should especially take it easy the first few days,” said Waite. 
  • Skip the caffeine. “It’s tempting to reach for a soda or iced tea on a warm day to quench your thirst,” Belafsky said. “But people aren’t aware that the caffeine they’re consuming is doing the exact opposite of what they need. It's dehydrating.” Instead, she recommends opting for herbal iced tea that’s decaffeinated, sparkling water, or creating your own “spa water” infused with fresh fruit. 
  • Exercise indoors or during the coolest parts of the day. “People who exercise regularly often don’t consider the effects of heat on their performance and overall health,” said Waite. While right after work is a common time to exercise, this is typically the hottest time of day. Make sure to do it during the cooler morning and possibly evening hours. 
  • Wear breathable fabrics. Try wearing lightweight cotton, linen or a blend that feels cool to the touch and is breathable. Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester that don’t allow the body’s natural cooling system to work. If you’ll be in and out of buildings with air conditioning, Belafsky suggests wearing light layers. 
  • Take regular timeouts for outdoor activities. “Schedule a minimum of 10 minutes in the shade for every hour of exercise or activity. Children, older people and those who are less fit need more rest,” said Waite. She notes that youngsters aren’t always aware that they need rest periods and water breaks. 
  • Know your personal risk. “Certain populations are more vulnerable to the heat,” said Belafsky. “People with chronic kidney disease or diabetes, for example. It’s important to understand how extreme temperatures affect your medical condition.” Belafsky also shared that common medications can impact a person’s ability to stay cool or hydrated. Thyroid medication and diuretics that treat blood pressure can cause excessive sweating and salt depletion that leads to dehydration. Beta-blockers for heart conditions can impair sweating which makes it hard for the body to cool itself. 

Know the warning signs of heat-related illness

“Heat-related illness can rapidly lead to a medical emergency, so it is essential to take action at the first warning signs,” Waite said. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke often occur in people working hard or exercising in hot weather, but they can happen to anyone on a hot day.  People especially at risk are the elderly, children, overweight or obese individuals, and those with heart conditions or taking certain medications such as diuretics (also known as water pills). 

  • Heat exhaustion is an early stage of heat stroke. The person feels excessively tired, weak, and nauseous, and may feel dizzy and even briefly pass out. The skin is cool and clammy and may appear either flushed or pale. Have the person sit or lie down in a shady location and give cool drinks — the colder, the better. Try anything to cool the victim down: Loosen or take off extra clothes, sponge with cold water, and place him or her near a fan. If the person does not get better or symptoms get worse, seek medical care immediately. 
  • Heat strokeis a very dangerous condition. The body stops sweating, and the internal temperature climbs to high levels, although the person may get what feels like chills. The skin may be quite dry and hot. People with heat stroke may be confused, agitated and have blurry or double vision. Have the person lie down and call 911 at once while others continue efforts to cool the victim down. They may also lose consciousness.

Know the warning symptoms and what to do if someone shows signs of a heat-related illness.

202106_managing-your-re-entry-anxiety Wed, 16 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Managing your re-entry anxiety <p>California lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions, but many people are not ready to return to &ldquo;normal.&rdquo; Angela Drake, a clinical neuropsychologist, explains why we won&rsquo;t change our behaviors overnight and provides tips for managing re-entry anxiety.</p> On June 15, the California Department of Public Health lifted most of the COVID-19 restrictions in the state. But after 15 months of stay-at-home orders, mandatory masks and social distancing, are we ready to pivot and return to the behaviors that used to be normal? 

Angela Drake is a clinical neuropsychologist at UC Davis Health. In the following Q&A, she explains why we won’t be able to change our behaviors overnight and gives tips for managing stress and anxiety — pandemic-related and otherwise. 

What are some of the emotions you’ve observed as California reopens?

A lot of people are excited and happy with the reopening. People who haven’t been dating for more than a year are looking forward to getting together with friends, going to clubs and bars, eating out in restaurants. People have missed social and family interactions. But there’s also some anxiety. Those of us who have been working remotely have been cocooned in our own environments for more than a year. To suddenly go back to the office or school full-time is a huge change. Change is good, but it also causes anxiety in most folks. 

Why does the idea of returning to our normal behaviors create anxiety?

Last year, the demands in our social interactions changed dramatically and quickly. Schools and offices switched to remote instruction and work within a matter of days. We were expected to wear masks, social distance, wash our hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, wipe down surfaces. We all had to adapt to those altered demands very quickly. 

And now you are supposed to switch those responses back to how it was before. But humans are not robots where we can quickly switch back at forth. Even after the reopening, you may be less likely to go out on the weekends. You may find yourself standing further apart in lines than you need to. Behavior like this is understandable given what’s been going on for more than a year. 

Most people, given time, will be able to change and go back to old responses. When you see an old friend, you might give them a big hug instead of backing off. But it’s important to know that people will be affected differently by this — re-entry will be variable. For example, some people may be more comfortable wearing a mask for a while or continuing to work from home. 

What strategies can people use to readjust?

The biggest challenge for people will be to find out what level of progression is comfortable for them. For example, if you rush people who have been working from home back into the office five days a week, it probably won’t go well. But even if you don’t immediately go back to the office full time, it is important to start going in, to start making that transition. But it’s good to start slowly and gradually. 

Another important thing is to check in with yourself a few times a day. We are often not in touch with how we are feeling. If you think about a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being the worst stress imaginable and the zero being no stress, ask yourself, “What number am I at?” If you are at a seven, maybe take a break or go for a short walk. You can do this kind of check-in several times a day. It’s a type of mindfulness. With self-monitoring, people become more in tune with how they are feeling — where they are on their stress meter — and can find proactive ways to deal with the stress or anxiety. 

You suggest taking a walk. What are some other ways to relieve stress or anxiety?

I use apps for teaching meditation and mindfulness. I use one called Calm and another one called Oak. But there are many. UCLA Health has free guided meditations available in several languages. 

The Calm app has breathing exercises. It instructs you on how to do deep diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called “belly breathing” or “abdominal breathing.” It also has nature sounds, so you can listen to waves, or rain or whatever calms you down. You can also find free breathing instructions and nature sounds on YouTube. The more you use the apps or videos, the better you get at relaxing. It becomes a learned response. 

You can’t control when you get stressed out, but most people have their phones with them all the time. You can just put on your headphones and use an app or listen to a recording of nature sounds anytime you need it — at work or even in a store. 

But it doesn’t have to be an app or meditating. Yoga, running, Pilates, prayer, playing piano, listening to music, painting, even knitting and crocheting, can all be meditative. Meditative activities are usually easy to do, repetitive, and usually involve movement of some sort. I encourage my patients to incorporate the meditative things they enjoy into their daily lives so they have a way to calm themselves and reduce anxiety. 

What are some of the positives you see coming out of the pandemic? 

It’s important to recognize there has been a lot of tragedy and hardship. It’s also important to recognize the good things this past year. People have innovated. They’ve come up with new workarounds, new policies, new procedures. Employees who never thought they would want to work from home now see the value in it. The pandemic brought about some good changes in health care, like the widespread adoption of telehealth. I see patients online, and they really like it, especially elderly patients. They don’t have to drive or park. It’s a great improvement for them. 

I think we’ve all learned to be more flexible. People are much more appreciative of their friends, family and social connections. The pandemic has given us a new lens to look at life through. Experiences that might have been considered ordinary or even boring are now special — dinner at grandma’s house, seeing friends, dining in a restaurant, or even seeing a movie in a theater. We are recognizing and appreciating things that we didn’t before. I think the takeaway from this past year is that we are not taking things or people for granted.

202106_local-cancer-award-given-to-janai-carr-ascher-to-advance-soft-tissue-sarcoma-research- Wed, 16 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Local cancer award given to Janai Carr-Ascher to advance soft tissue sarcoma research <p>2021 Christine and Helen Landgraf Memorial Research Award will help further recipient Janai Carr-Ascher&rsquo;s work studying sarcomas and testing new therapies.</p> Researcher Janai Carr-Ascher has been selected by the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center as the 2021 Christine and Helen Landgraf Memorial Research Award recipient. She’ll receive $30,000 to support her research in soft tissue sarcoma.

Soft tissue sarcomas are an aggressive type of tumor that can be found in any part of the body and often spread rapidly. Carr-Ascher is a UC Davis Health medical oncologist focused on understanding how soft tissue sarcomas form, why they become resistant to treatments, and how the tumors metastasize to the lung.

“I’m so honored to be selected as this year’s Christine and Helen Landgraf Memorial Research Award recipient,” said Carr-Ascher. “The award will help us create new models for studying sarcomas and testing new therapies. Our goal is to generate these new tools for study that can be used both here at UC Davis and shared with other researchers as well.”

Fundraising for the Christine and Helen Landgraf Memorial Research Award

Along with the Amador Cancer Research Foundation, the Landgraf Family continues to raise funds for their endowment with other dedicated individuals in Amador County. Their goal is to advance the innovative work of junior investigators at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

The original endowment was established in 1973 in memory of Christine Landgraf who passed away from cancer, and was a patient of oncologist Fred Meyers, who now leads the cancer center’s Office of Education, Training and Career Development. The memorial fund provides an annual scholarship to a junior faculty member at the cancer center who is engaged in research related to the treatment of malignant diseases and basic research of underlying causes.

The Spaghetti Western turns into drive-through event this year

In previous years, award recipients were invited to attend and speak at The Spaghetti Western, an annual fundraising event held at Cooper Vineyards and sponsored by the Amador Cancer Research Foundation. This year’s in-person event was cancelled due to the pandemic and transformed into a drive-through dinner. When the event resumes next year, Carr-Ascher will be invited to speak.

Spaghetti Western drive-through dinners for two can be ordered until 5 p.m., June 16 and a live auction will be held virtually on Saturday, June 19, from 5:30 -7:30 p.m.  For more information, go to thespaghettiwestern.org.

202106_uc-davis-childrens-hospital-again-named-among-nations-best Tue, 15 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Children’s Hospital again named among nation’s best <p>UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital has been recognized as a Best Children&rsquo;s Hospital for 2021-22 by U.S. News &amp; World Report in four pediatric specialty areas: neonatology, nephrology, orthopedics and urology.</p> June 15, 2021 – UC Davis Children’s Hospital has been recognized as a Best Children’s Hospital for 2021-22 by U.S. News & World Report.

The annual Best Children’s Hospitals rankings and ratings, now in their 15th year, are designed to assist patients, their families and their doctors in making informed decisions about where to receive care for challenging health conditions. 

UC Davis Children’s Hospital is nationally ranked among the nation’s 50 best in these four specialty care areas:   

  • 25th nationally in nephrology
  • 29th nationally in neonatology
  • 22nd nationally in orthopedics
  • 37th nationally in urology

The orthopedics and urology rankings were awarded in collaboration with Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California, UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s longstanding partner in caring for children with burns, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic disorders and urological issues. 

“We are so pleased to be in the top 50 best children’s hospitals once again according to U.S. News,” said Brad Simmons, chief administrator of UC Davis Medical Center and its children’s hospital. “Congratulations to our whole team for providing the highest standards of care to our pediatric patients and their families.” 

For 2021-22, U.S. News ranked the top 50 centers in each of these 10 pediatric specialties: cancer, cardiology & heart surgery, diabetes & endocrinology, gastroenterology & gastrointestinal surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology & neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology & lung surgery and urology.   

“When choosing a hospital for a sick child, many parents want specialized expertise, convenience and caring medical professionals,” said Ben Harder, chief of health analysis and managing editor at U.S. News. “The Best Children's Hospitals rankings have always highlighted hospitals that excel in specialized care. As the pandemic continues to affect travel, finding high-quality care close to home has never been more important.” 

The Best Children's Hospitals methodology factors objective measures such as patient outcomes, including mortality and infection rates, as well as available clinical resources and compliance with best practices. To calculate the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings, U.S. News gathered relevant data from children’s hospitals in early 2020 and from pediatric physicians and other healthcare organizations in 2021; because of the pandemic, data collection from children’s hospitals was not repeated in 2021. 

RTI International, a North Carolina-based research and consulting firm, collected and analyzed data from 118 children’s hospitals and surveyed thousands of pediatric specialists. More than 100 pediatric specialists and other experts provided input through methodology working groups. 

This year’s rankings will be published in the U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Hospitals 2022” guidebook, available in stores Oct. 5.

About UC Davis Children’s Hospital

UC Davis Children's Hospital is the Sacramento region's only nationally ranked, comprehensive hospital providing care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults needing primary, subspecialty and critical care. It includes the Central Valley's only pediatric emergency department and level I pediatric trauma center, which offers the highest level of care for its critically ill patients, as well as a level I children’s surgery center. The children's hospital includes the state-of-the-art 49-bed neonatal and 24-bed pediatric intensive care and pediatric cardiac intensive care units. For more information, visit children.ucdavis.edu.

About U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower citizens, consumers, business leaders and policy officials to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A multifaceted digital media company with Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars, News and 360 Reviews platforms, U.S. News provides rankings, independent reporting, data journalism, consumer advice and U.S. News Live events. More than 40 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

202106_californias-covid-19-reopening-what-you-need-to-know-video Tue, 15 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT California’s COVID-19 reopening: what you need to know (video) <p>After more than a year, California lifts most COVID-19 restrictions today (June 15). The changes will affect mask-wearing, businesses, gatherings and more. A UC Davis Health expert explains what you should know about the changes.</p>
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After more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, California is opening back up. It’s a major change that affects most activities in public spaces, from restaurants and bars to amusement parks and movie theaters.  

Starting today (June 15), there are no capacity limits or social distancing requirements at businesses. You can also stop wearing masks in most places if you are vaccinated. 

Here are eight things to know: 

1. Health experts say we’re ready

“I think the Public Health Department in California has done a very good job of slowing things down when there were surges in cases. Now, I think we’re in a good place to open,” said  Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health. 

California’s vaccination rate and the relatively low transmission rate are good signs. Summer weather will also help. 

“Historically, coronavirus transmitted more in winter, so if there’s enough immunity, there should be less transmission just naturally,” Blumberg explained. 

2. Vaccinated? You can take off the mask in most places

Under the new state guidelines, restaurants can open at full capacity.

Masks will no longer be required for fully vaccinated people in most businesses and other public spaces. Unvaccinated individuals should still mask up. 

“If you are vaccinated, you can do virtually anything because the vaccines work so well,” Blumberg said. “You don’t have to wear a mask, even when you are in a crowded situation. But anybody who’s not fully vaccinated should continue to mask up if they’re not able to social distance or if they’re going to be indoors with anybody else.”  

Learn more about scheduling your vaccine at UC Davis Health

3. Being nervous about ‘normalcy’ is normal

Going without a mask, eating in a crowded restaurant, or gathering with friends for a party may feel a little strange at first. 

“I think the nerves are going to wear off,” Blumberg said. “We’ve gotten so accustomed to following rules, social distancing, not being with other people outside of our households that it feels really strange to then stop following the rules. I think it’s going to take a while to emotionally feel safe in that situation after what we’ve been through.” 

Even Blumberg admitted that he felt strange eating out with another couple for the first time at a restaurant. 

4. Go at your own pace

Blumberg’s best advice about re-entry? Take small steps and consider your own comfort level. 

“I think everybody understands that this reopening requires a recalibration of our carefulness, and some people may not be comfortable in a large gathering yet,” Blumberg said. “Start with a smaller setting and work your way up to something more crowded to make sure you’re comfortable with it.” 

It is rare, though still possible, to get infected with COVID-19 even if you’re fully vaccinated, especially in crowds. 

“The highest rates of transmission are going to be any area where there’s a high concentration of people – cruise ship, prison or residential centers such as long-term care facilities or shelters,” he said. 

Some people may feel like they have been cooped up for so long, they just want to be out. Blumberg notes that it’s a personal risk calculation and you can always still wear a mask if you choose, even if you’re fully vaccinated. 

The state has specific recommendations for larger events, like ones with more than 5,000 people. Some organizers may check vaccine status or require negative tests for attendance. Check with each event organizer before attending. 

“If you are vaccinated, you can do virtually anything because the vaccines work so well,” Blumberg said. “You don’t have to wear a mask in most circumstances, even when you are in a crowded situation.”

— Dean Blumberg

5. Some stores and businesses might still require you to wear a mask

Make sure to check with private businesses regarding their rules before you go. They may choose to require masks.

Under the new guidelines, masks are still required for everyone in hospitals and on public transit. If you are planning to visit your doctor, count on wearing a mask. 

6. What if people choose not to get vaccinated or even lie about their vaccination status?

Unvaccinated people should still wear masks. The people who aren’t fully vaccinated are the ones at the greatest risk of infection, according to Blumberg. 

“They’re taking a personal risk,” he said. 

The higher the concentration of unvaccinated people, in any community, the higher the risk of sustained transmission. 

7. Young kids should still take precautions

Right now, kids 12 and older are eligible to get the Pfizer vaccine. If they are vaccinated, then they don’t need to be masked. Kids under 12, however, should still continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 protocols

“Children under 12 should be masking whenever they’re not able to social distance around people outside or whenever they’re inside. But if children are unvaccinated and masked, then they could go to the movies, for example,” Blumberg said. 

Children under 2 should still not wear masks.

8. Variants are a concern and new restrictions are possible

With many COVID-19 variants detected in California, Blumberg advises people to stay informed. 

He said the Delta variant, first detected in India, is currently a major concern with about 90% more transmissions compared to previously circulating strains. 

“It’s definitely something to keep a lookout for because a higher transmission rate means more people in the community need to be vaccinated and immune.” 

The state’s reopening guidelines are scheduled to be in place until at least Oct. 1. 

202106_co-inventor-of-explorer-earns-prestigious-national-radiology-award Mon, 14 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Co-inventor of EXPLORER earns prestigious national radiology award <p>Ramsey Badawi, co-inventor of the UC Davis Health total body scanner EXPLORER, earns prestigious 2021 Distinguished Investigator Award from the Academy for Radiology &amp; Biomedical Imaging Research.</p> Ramsey Badawi, UC Davis professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Radiology, has been selected to receive the 2021 Distinguished Investigator Award from the Academy for Radiology & Biomedical Imaging Research (the Academy).  The prestigious honor recognizes Badawi for outstanding contributions to the field of medical imaging after he co-invented EXPLORER, a total body scanner that provides images of the entire body in seconds.

EXPLORER is revolutionizing how cancers and other diseases are studied and diagnosed by measuring cancer metabolism in the body and investigating systemic inflammatory responses in patients. This helps develop targeted cancer treatment.

“I am very honored to join the ranks of the Academy’s Distinguished Investigator Award recipients,” said Badawi. “Imaging research is an exciting field with huge potential to help us in the cancer fight.”

A total of 35 researchers were selected to receive the award this year, which Academy Executive Director Renee L. Cruea said will advance medical imaging knowledge in immeasurable ways.

“Honoring these individuals is one of our most rewarding annual highlights,” said Cruea. “We are excited to be able to recognize them in person this year and look forward to thanking them for advancing radiology research through their many achievements.”

Badawi and other honorees will be invited to a formal induction into the Academy’s Council of Distinguished Investigators this fall during the 2021 Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.  The ceremony and celebration will take place in person at McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago. 

202106_want-to-help-sick-sacramento-children-then-scoop-scoot-on-july-16 Fri, 11 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Want to help sick Sacramento children? Then ‘Scoop Scoot’ on July 16 <p>Scoot over to William Land Park on Friday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. for the California Family Fitness Scoop Scoot 2021. The family-friendly event raises funds for the UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department, which supports kids while they are in the hospital.</p> When children face long or short hospital stays, the experience can be scary and isolating for them.

But people from across the Sacramento region will have the chance to brighten those stays for hundreds of children.

The California Family Fitness Scoop Scoot 2021 is scheduled for Friday, July 16 at 6:30 p.m. at William Land Park. The family-friendly event raises funds for organizations including the UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department. Child Life works to minimize the anxiety of hospitalization, increase understanding and strengthen coping skills while helping children to continue their typical growth and development.

“Scoop Scoot always makes for a fun summer evening with ice cream and music in the park,” said Diana Sundberg, manager of the UC Davis Child Life and Creative Arts Therapy Department. “We certainly appreciate the community support that keeps us ‘scooting’ along through their generous donations!”

This year, to adhere to health and safety guidelines, participants walk or run around a one-mile loop inside the park. Ice cream, a beer garden (for those 21 and older) and the course are open from 6 to 8 p.m. To help with social distancing and to avoid a mass start at 6:30 p.m., participants can start any time they'd like. It’s a bit different from past events, but no less enjoyable.

Participants can enjoy a scoop of Vic’s Ice Cream, with choices of mint chocolate chip, orange sherbet or vanilla, topped with Ginger Elizabeth chocolate fudge sauce and/or fleur de sel caramel sauce. The beer garden is available for those over 21 years of age.

Registration is $5. For more information and to register online, visit scoopscoot.org.

202106_early-career-investigator-receives-federal-funding-to-research-lethal-prostate-cancer Fri, 11 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Early career investigator receives federal funding to research lethal prostate cancer <p>UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center scientist Chengfei Liu has been unrelenting in his pursuit to find out why a type of prostate cancer becomes drug resistant. He recently earned a highly coveted National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant to further his research.</p> Prostate cancer is diagnosed more than any other type of cancer in men and is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in males. Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is typically the first-line treatment for metastatic prostate cancer, but, ultimately, the cancer becomes resistant. This form of the disease is called castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and is currently incurable.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center scientist Chengfei Liu has been unrelenting in his pursuit to find out why CRPC evolves to become drug resistant. He recently earned a highly-coveted $2 million National Cancer Institute (NCI) grant to further his research on CRPC.

“Dr. Liu is the first early stage cancer investigator to win the R37 award at UC Davis,” UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr. said. “This award will help him further develop his career and his research, while making important contributions to our understanding of what’s driving resistant prostate cancer.”

Liu has extensive expertise in clinical oncology and prostate cancer research. Specifically, he has learned that by blocking a defective protein pathway, treatment-resistant prostate cancer cells can become vulnerable to standard-of-care therapies such as the drug enzalutamide.

“I’m pleased and honored to receive the R37 award and to continue progress on key pathways that are controlling prostate cancer drug resistance,” Liu said. “This gives hope to finding new therapeutic targets that will have a meaningful impact on patients diagnosed with CRPC.”

Liu, an assistant professor at the UC Davis Department of Urologic Surgery, was previously in the UC Davis Paul Calabresi Career Development K12 program as a dean’s scholar.

Liu will begin his R37 award on July 1. He will serve as the principal investigator, supported by several collaborators, including Christopher P. Evans, professor and chair of the Department of Urologic Surgery, Mamta Parikh, assistant professor in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, Brett S. Phinney, director of UC Davis Genome Center Proteomics Core, and Blythe P Durbin-Johnson, biostatistician at the Department of Public Health Sciences.

202106_uc-davis-nursing-school-hosts-virtual-graduation Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis nursing school hosts virtual graduation <p><span>The Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis hosts a virtual graduation celebration for its classes of 2021. While the online gathering was required for health and safety, it did not dampen the spirits of the 161 graduates marking this milestone.</span></p> Resilient, committed and remarkable.

These are the qualities attributed to and embodied by the new graduates of the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis.

To mark the milestone at the end of their academic journeys, school leaders hosted a virtual graduation celebration June 10. A videotaped message from David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health, kicked off the event. Faculty participated in the Zoom event in Betty Irene Moore Hall, while the 161 graduates joined remotely from their homes and communities. Friends and family viewed via a Facebook Live stream.

Despite the distance, the graduates of the school’s five degree programs commemorated the shared experience of completing their graduate degrees during a pandemic and persevering against unprecedented challenges.

“For the past year, we’ve celebrated our 10th anniversary. We’ve learned a lot in our decade of discovery. Today, I want to share with you three things we have discovered about ourselves that very much parallel what you, graduates, have learned about yourselves,” said Dean Stephen J. Cavanagh. “A strong foundation can weather any storm. Adaptability is critical for success. And a legacy outlasts any experience. Go out into the world and go beyond in your contributions to make this world a better, healthier and more equitable place.”

Among the Classes of 2021 is the final cohort of Master of Science — Leadership students. In fall 2010, the first class of 25 leadership students entered what, at the time, was a new nursing school. The program, which ends after this year, has offered registered nurses the opportunity to elevate how they view nursing and see the systems that affect health. For a decade, it has produced graduates who lead nursing staff, teach future nurses in college, work as clinical instructors for the School of Nursing, serve on community boards and impact policy-making bodies.

“To quote founding Dean Heather Young from our very first welcoming ceremony in 2010, ‘When I think of heaven, I think of a very still pond in the high Sierra. Betty Moore took a pebble and threw it into that pond. Her pebble was her commitment and her vision,’” said Jessica Draughon Moret, an assistant professor who teaches in the program. “Just as water molecules disperse to continue those ripples, you, as alumni, now make waves of change in health care.”

Class-elected speaker Aron King echoed that sentiment.

“We are so lucky to be here semi-together celebrating what has been a very challenging journey. Most of us entered this program as strangers. Over the last five quarters, we have grown to become family. As our lives and careers continue in this album called life, know that we will always be connected by this single song,” he said.

Nursing faculty recognized five students with awards of excellence, highlighting the

Staff and faculty from the School of Nursing provided support for the virtual event from Betty Irene Moore Hall.

school’s five core attributes:

  • Excellence in Innovative Solutions: Jonathan Trask
  • Excellence in Community Connection: Nicole Vance
  • Excellence in Leadership: Hannah Davis
  • Excellence in Collaboration: Erika Gonzalez
  • Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion: Mohamed Jawara

School of Nursing students and faculty also submitted nominations for the Dean’s Excellence Awards to honor staff and faculty in three areas: Teaching, Research, and Diversity and Inclusion. Those recognized include:

  • Excellence in Teaching: Kathryn Sexson
  • Excellence in Research: Deb Bakerjian
  • Excellence in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Brent Luu

Following the School of Nursing event, the graduates from the Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Degree Programs joined faculty for an informal mixer on the grounds outside in the Betty Irene Moore Hall courtyard on the Sacramento campus.

The Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Degree Programs, which includes master’s degrees in leadership, family nurse practitioner, physician assistant studies and entry-level nursing, as well as a doctoral program, are led by an interprofessional team of more than 55 faculty from across UC Davis. You can view a recording of the event here. Click here to view a program from the celebration. Learn more at nursing.ucdavis.edu.

202106_face-masks-block-expired-particles-despite-leakage Thu, 10 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Face masks block expired particles, despite leakage <p>A new study involving UC Davis researchers finds that surgical masks are effective at reducing outgoing airborne particles from talking or coughing. This was true even after taking leakage around the edges of the mask into consideration.</p> A new study from the University of California, Davis, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai confirms that surgical masks effectively reduce outgoing airborne particles from talking or coughing, even after allowing for leakage around the edges of the mask. The results were published June 8 in Scientific Reports.

Wearing masks and other face coverings can reduce the flow of airborne particles that are produced during breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing, protecting others from viruses carried by those particles such as SARS-CoV2 and influenza, said Christopher Cappa, professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Davis and corresponding author on the paper.

High-efficiency masks such as N95 respirators are designed to have a tight seal to the face, while surgical and most cloth face masks leave small gaps around the sides, which can be reduced when they are worn correctly.

The researchers looked at particles flowing from these gaps by sitting volunteers in front of an instrument that counts airborne particles down to a size of half a micron. The 12 volunteers read aloud or coughed, with and without a surgical mask of the type widely used by the public, either with their mouth directly in front of the funnel of the particle counter, turned to the side or with their head lowered or raised to count particles passing directly through the mask or leaking around the sides. 

The researchers found that wearing a mask while talking reduced particles directly through the mask by an average of 93%, from the bottom by 91%, the sides by 85% and the top by 47%, although with substantial variability between individuals. They got similar results for coughing.

Models to measure leakage

The team used simulations to model the overall reduction in particles due to wearing a mask, allowing for leakage around the edges. They calculated that the overall efficiency of masks was about 70% for talking and 90% for coughing.

“While air escape does limit the overall efficiency of surgical masks at reducing expiratory particle emissions, such masks nonetheless provide substantial reduction,” Cappa said. “Our results confirm that mask wearing provides a significant reduction in the probability of disease transmission via expiratory particles, especially when both infected and susceptible individuals wear masks.”

Masks also redirect the flow of air from a high-velocity plume from the talker or cougher toward anybody in front of them, Cappa said. 

Additional authors on the study are: Sima Asadi, Santiago Barreda, Anthony Wexler and William Ristenpart at UC Davis; and Nicole Bouvier, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York. (Sima Asadi is now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.) The work was funded by a grant from the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

202106_student-run-paul-hom-asian-clinic-gets-grant-to-help-community-members-quit-tobacco Wed, 09 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Student-run Paul Hom Asian Clinic gets grant to help community members quit tobacco <p>New tobacco cessation grant gives Asian American community in Sacramento One More Reason to Quit to prevent complications from COVID-19.</p> The UC Davis Health student-run Paul Hom Asian Clinic has received a $5,000 grant to fund a new tobacco cessation outreach project. The goal of the One More Reason to Quit project is to help those in Sacramento’s Asian American community stop using tobacco to avoid complications from COVID-19.  

The grant was awarded to the clinic by Asian Pacific Partners for Empowerment, Advocacy, and Leadership (APPEAL), a national non-profit health justice organization serving Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities.  

APPEAL is the fiscal sponsor and lead organization for the Statewide Pacific Islander Asian American Resource and Coordinating Center (SPARC) project to address tobacco disparities for the diverse AANHPI community in California. The goal of the SPARC project is to create a system to support AANHPI regional networks in promoting social change aimed at preventing and reducing tobacco use. 

UC Davis medical student and Paul Hom Asian Clinic cardiopulmonary committee lead Serena Ke said the grant will be used to expand the statewide Quit for COVID program, promoted heavily by Elisa Tong, a UC Davis internist who directs tobacco cessation initiatives at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. Tong sits on the APPEAL Advisory Committee

The Paul Hom Asian Clinic is committed to caring for the underserved and underinsured Asian American community in Sacramento by providing free primary care as well as interpretive services in a clinical setting. 

“At the clinic, we have seen first-hand how the pandemic affected the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population with fear and anxiety being predominant emotions and some turning to increased smoking to cope,” said Ke. “But tobacco use only heightens risk factors when it comes to complications from COVID-19 and that is why it is important that we help those who want to quit tobacco.” 

Headed up by Ke, the One More Reason to Quit program will be implemented through an established workforce of undergraduate and graduate students at the Paul Hom Asian Clinic including Brendan Martin, Jamie Yang, and Alan Lee. 

The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Stop Tobacco Program has the resources to make quitting a reality. To speak with a tobacco treatment specialist and find personalized ways to get support for quitting tobacco products, call 916-734-0718. Support is available in several languages and can be found online through telephone counseling or text messages. 

The tobacco hotline also services communities nationwide, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control. The Asia Smokers’ Quitline provides free, accessible, evidence-based smoking cessation services in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Vietnamese to Asian communities in the U.S.

202106_prestigious-international-award-for-three-uc-davis-scientists Wed, 09 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Prestigious international award for three UC Davis scientists <p>Three UC Davis scientists, including Distinguished Professor Bruce Hammock at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, are sharing an international award in recognition of their work on click-chemistry technology.</p> Three UC Davis scientists, including Distinguished Professor Bruce Hammock, are part of the Who's Who “click-chemistry team” that won the Royal Society of Chemistry's Horizon Team Award for advancing chemistry and “pushing the boundaries of science.”

In announcing the Horizon Team Award on June 8, the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) applauded the 47 worldwide collaborators “for the development of multidimensional click chemistry, a next-generation click-technology that extends perfect bond creation into the three-dimensional world, opening doors to new frontiers in biomedicine, materials science, and beyond.”

K. Barry Sharpless of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, who won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Sharpless expoxidation, led the team. “His magic is like the click-chemistry he invented,” said Hammock, who holds a joint appointment with the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology and the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The award-winning team includes researcher Christophe Morisseau of the Hammock lab and Seiya Kitamura, who completed his doctorate in the UC Davis Pharmacology/Toxicology Graduate Group working with Hammock and Morisseau before starting a postdoctoral position at the Scripps Research Institute.

“Barry is probably best known for his development of click-chemistry, now used in many fields of biology, engineering and medicine,” Hammock related. “Click chemistry joins two molecules in such a simple and transparent way that people do not even realize they are using what a chemist would call cycloaddition. Barry's chemistry not only joins molecules, it joins diverse disciplines like engineering and medicine. The special magic of Barry Sharpless is he also joins people across disciplines and continents.”

Morisseau described click chemistry as “such a ubiquitous tool in multiple aspects of science that kits are sold and the chemistry utilized without even recognizing where it comes from. Many of the beautiful and informative fluorescent pictures of cells on journal covers are based on click chemistry.”

“Click chemistry has had a profound impact on drug discovery,” the team wrote in the award packet. “It is now the 'go-to' technology in every corner of molecular science.”

The list of the team members reads like a Who's Who of modern organic chemistry at multiple stages of their careers, Hammock noted. They will receive a trophy and each member will receive a certificate.

The RSC Horizon Prizes “highlight the most exciting, contemporary chemical science at the cutting edge of research and innovation,” according to its website. “These prizes are for teams or collaborations who are opening up new directions and possibilities in their field, through ground-breaking scientific developments."

The original story, written by Kathy Keatley Garvey, was posted on Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California blog.

202106_teens-and-acne-top-tips-to-clearer-skin Wed, 09 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Teens and acne: Top tips to clearer skin <p>Eighty-five percent of teenagers are affected by acne during their teenage years and more than 50 million people have acne in the U.S. June is acne awareness month and we asked UC Davis pediatric dermatologist Smita Awasthi for her top tips to help teens on the path to clearer skin.</p> Eighty-five percent of teenagers are affected by acne during their teenage years and more than 50 million people have acne in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. June is acne awareness month and we asked UC Davis pediatric dermatologist Smita Awasthi for her top tips to help teens on the path to clearer skin. 

What age does acne typically start?

Acne affects around 80% of people at some point between 11-30 years of age. Typical acne can start as early as 7 years old. It tends to occur around the onset of puberty. 

Washing your face twice daily can help keep acne away.

What are some prevention tips?

The tendency to develop acne is, in part, familial, so it usually can't be prevented entirely, but there are several things that can help: 

  • Wash your face twice daily
  • Use products that are oil-free
  • Eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, including vegetables.   

How often should teens be washing their face?

Teens should wash their face twice a day to remove excess oil, dirt and makeup using a gentle cleanser. 

What can teens do to treat their acne? Are there over-the-counter products that they should try?

If washing twice a day with a gentle cleanser is not enough, I'd recommend first trying an acne cleanser with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. 

If the acne continues, a topical retinoid, a vitamin A-derived medication, can be quite helpful. Adapalene 0.1% gel is a retinoid that is available over the counter. Benzoyl peroxide creams can also be helpful. Azelaic acid can also work well, especially in treating dark spots left behind by acne.   

Do facials help?

Sometimes facials can help, but not always. Harsh scrubbing and manipulation can increase inflammation and worsen acne or increase the risk of scarring.

What are prescription treatment options that are available?

There are several prescription options for the treatment of acne. Topical retinoids, topical antibiotics and other anti-inflammatory topical medications can be helpful. Common oral options include oral antibiotics, hormonal control methods (birth control, spironolactone), and isotretinion.   

When should teens consider a dermatology visit?

Teens should visit their dermatologist if: 

  • They feel they have given over-the-counter options a good try
  • They are noticing scarring
  • They are feeling down about their acne. 

Studies show that acne can contribute to low self-esteem and depression.  Since we have treatments that work well for acne, I hope teens realize they do not need to suffer with their acne.    

Related links

All about acne – Kids Considered podcast

202106_pandemic-inspires-trio-to-provide-for-the-underserved-in-knights-landing-video Tue, 08 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Pandemic inspires trio to provide for the underserved in Knights Landing (video) <p>Three friends connected to UC Davis wanted to help underserved families in Knights Landing during the pandemic, so they've set up a table each Sunday filled with groceries, baby supplies, pet food and other items - all free for the community.</p>
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Sara Guevara-Plunkett knows what it’s like to rely on handouts during tough times.

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, the UC Davis pre-med student looked forward to Tuesdays, the day when several families in Davis and Woodland place tables on the sidewalks and stock them with groceries, clothes and toiletries.

Resource table co-founder Ana Jazmin Flores Pimentel, center, shown with volunteers Jordan Oler and Abby Leon

Guevara-Plunkett could take as much as she wanted. Free. No questions asked.

A year into the pandemic, and with her situation slightly improved, Guevara-Plunkett turned the tables, so to speak. She and two friends from UC Davis, who are also committed to helping the underserved, started their own weekly giveaway table.

Guevara-Plunkett, Elyse Kristine Ong and Ana Jazmin Flores Pimentel have set up shop in Knights Landing, a high-need, low resource, heavily Latino migrant community in rural Yolo County.

On a recent Sunday, the clients included an older man maneuvering a walker, mothers with tugging toddlers and a man who rode up on a bicycle with a Bible in hand.

“What this is,” Guevara-Plunkett explained to a newcomer, “is a take-what-you-need table. We’re here every Sunday from 12 to 2, grab anything for yourself, your neighbors, your friends. There’s no limit, so take what you need.”

The resource table – actually, up to six tables now -- is stocked with fresh fruit and vegetables, dry food, canned goods, feminine hygiene products, pet food and other supplies for animals, diapers, hand-knit scarves and other items.

Guevara-Plunkett, Ong and Flores Pimentel constantly scour Facebook Marketplace ads for free goods. Then they pinball across the Sacramento region and even into the Bay Area to pick them up.

“We happily travel for the needed items,” said Guevara-Plunkett, who aspires to be a physician in infectious diseases and preventive medicine, and who works as a research assistant at a UC Davis Health dermatology lab in Sacramento.

“The people that come to the resource table each week are like our family. We love them. So all the driving and time is worth it, especially when many of the items we provide are hard for residents to get in Knights Landing.”

The unincorporated farming town of about 1,000 people is a 30-minute drive from Davis, and a world away. The town has no stoplights. Its convenience stores sell bait and tackle, and only a limited amount of produce. Many of the residents work long hours as seasonal, migrant agricultural workers.

Public transportation is scarce in Knights Landing, which prevents some residents from traveling to the nearest city, Woodland, for fresh produce. “Diabetes and hypertension are common medical conditions for Knights Landing residents,” said Flores Pimentel, “and the limited bus hours make it harder for them to access healthy food and thus improve their health.”

Access to health care also is inadequate in the community, which is why UC Davis students in 2011 established a branch of their Sacramento-based free clinic, Clinica Tepati, in Knights Landing. The satellite location is called Knights Landing One Health Center and also includes an animal health clinic run by UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine students.

The table’s humble beginnings

Guevara-Plunkett, Ong and Flores Pimentel each experienced some degree of financial hardships growing up, and they’re passionate about helping people in need.

As the pandemic dragged on, Guevara-Plunkett and Ong, who were housemates at the time, realized that if there’s a need for a Tuesday Table in Davis, then surely there must be a greater need for one in Knights Landing.

The resource table every Sunday outside the Knights Landing Resource Center draws dozens of people.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” said Ong, a UC Davis graduate. “But if it wasn’t for my housemate, I would have never thought we could have gotten this going.”

Last Thanksgiving morning, Guevara-Plunkett and Ong crammed donations into Ong’s compact car and drove to Knights Landing. They extended their folding table outside the small community center in town. They displayed a few cans of food and feminine hygiene products.

They wondered if anybody had read their fliers or seen their Facebook posts.

“We were ecstatic to get one person, let alone five!” Guevara-Plunkett recalled.

Word spread fast. Three weeks later, when Guevara-Plunkett and Ong drove up to unload their table, there were 15 people waiting in line for them.

Their operation was growing, and they needed help.

Guevara-Plunkett sought volunteers through a Slack message to nearly 90 students connected to the Knights Landing clinic where she is a board member. She received a positive response from Flores-Pimentel, a 2020 UC Davis graduate from Vallejo and future medical school applicant. Flores Pimentel was already part of a COVID-19 relief effort and was willing to do more.

That, plus the challenges in Knights Landing felt familiar to her.

“I can relate to many of the struggles that the Knights Landing patients face,” Flores Pimentel said. “I come from a similar background growing up and obtained first-hand experience of the extent to which the Latinx population is underserved. I am passionate about giving back to my community, especially my local Latinx community, and I also hope to do as much as I can to reduce any health care disparities.”

Table’s popularity grows through word of mouth

The Thursday table was moved to Sundays to serve more clients and increase the pool of volunteers.

Some weeks, more than 50 local residents show up. Most of them learn about the table through word of mouth.

Regulars like Josefina Pizano arrive early to grab whatever will be the day’s most popular item. “This helps us a lot,” said Pizano, who acquired a heavy tub of laundry soap on a recent morning. “Right now, with the economy the way it is, we don’t have work,” she said, “and what we get here helps us a lot.”

Other sought-after items include toilet paper, hand soap and sanitizer. Toothpaste and deodorant are popular. There’s also demand for rice, beans, pasta, eggs, bread, cereal, and water.

Guevara-Plunkett, Ong and Flores Pimentel have a keen sense of the community’s needs. And they’ve become experts at seeking donations, no matter how far they have to drive.

They’ve also encountered people and organizations that make regular donations.

The UC Davis Student Farm provides produce that is harvested on Fridays. Employees at Yolo County Animal Services collect money for pet food. Louise DeLateur, a local resident, donates weekly knitted garments and homemade pastries. Period, an organization that advocates for menstrual health, contributes feminine hygiene items.

In addition, Purina, the pet food company, is now providing pet toys, food and treats, thanks to a relationship it established with UC Davis veterinary students who volunteer at the One Health Center.

Still, Guevara-Plunkett, Ong and Flores Pimentel put their own money into their project – to buy things nobody donates, such as gallon-sized clear zipper bags they fill with the donated dog food.

The benefit of knowing they’re helping Knights Landing, they say, outweighs the personal cost.

Their work is being noticed by advocates for the disenfranchised.

“My hats are off to these ladies, it’s just amazing what they are doing,” said Susie Richter, a volunteer with Empower Yolo, a social service organization housed at the same community center as the resource table. “Knights Landing is kind of isolated out here and we don’t have retail or anything, so by their figuring out what’s needed – clothing, dog food – it’s really helping people.” 

Improving the health of the community

While there is great need for durable items like diapers, shampoo, men’s clothes and laundry detergent, Knights Landing residents also need access to better and healthier foods.

“We’ve heard from a lot of community members that they want to start eating healthy,” Guevara-Plunkett said. “I know there’s a lot of diabetes, heart problems and other health issues in this specific community.”

On weeks when there’s leftover food from the table, the groceries are donated to Empower Yolo, a women’s shelter in Davis, and UC Davis HOPE, a campus club that caters to people experiencing homelessness in Davis.

“We make sure nothing goes to waste, and give to other communities in need,” Guevara-Plunkett said.

The three friends are passionate about improving health, but they have begun to channel that energy elsewhere. Ong recently moved to attend nursing school in Southern California, and Guevara-Plunkett will soon graduate with a degree in global disease biology and move out of state for a research opportunity.

Flores Pimentel, who lives more than 60 miles away, is now overseeing the large task alone.

She’s made a few modifications lately to make the job more manageable. The table, which used to be open for two hours, now runs for an hour, from 10 to 11 a.m.

Flores Pimentel, who’s also a Knights Landing One Health Clinic volunteer, has been thinking a lot about the table’s future.

She is in discussions with clinic leadership about incorporating the table, which could open up volunteer opportunities to dozens of students.

“I’d definitely say we are in the process of accomplishing our vision of making the table a sustainable resource for the Knights Landing community,” she said. 

Anyone interested in making donations can email SETabledonations@gmail.com.

Donations also can be sent through Venmo @Resource-Table.

202106_reminder-plan-for-route-99-closure-june-11-16-to-affect-travel-to-and-from-uc-davis-medical-center- Tue, 08 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Reminder: Plan for Route 99 closure, June 11-16, to affect travel to and from UC Davis Medical Center <p>Learn the details (and see a map) of the highway closure, scheduled for 8 p.m., Friday, June 11 until 4 a.m., Wednesday, June 16. Take transit, plan alternate routes and allow extra time for travel due to increased congestion.</p> Patients, visitors and employees should allow for extra travel time to and from UC Davis Medical Center and other buildings on the Sacramento campus for several days, starting this Friday. State Route 99 will be closed for construction from 8 p.m., Friday, June 11 until 4 a.m., Wednesday, June 16.

Map adapted from Caltrans graphic. Click here for larger view (PDF).

To replace an aging bridge deck, the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) will close northbound and southbound Route 99 from 47th Avenue to the U.S. Highway 50 connector during that time period (see map PDF).

Rerouted traffic along Stockton Boulevard is expected to increase congestion around the UC Davis Medical Center campus, so please plan ahead accordingly. UC Davis Health employees coming from South Sacramento and Elk Grove should allow extra time to get to work.

Patients with appointments during this time frame who live south of the Medical Center, Lawrence J. Ellison Ambulatory Care Center, and Midtown Clinic will receive notifications of the highway closure later this week, via text message and MyUCDavisHealth.

The mainline westbound Business 80/Capital City Freeway to southbound Route 99 is also slated to be closed, as will the westbound and eastbound U.S. 50 connector ramps to southbound Route 99. Also, the following ramps are scheduled to be closed:

  • The on-ramp from 16th Street to eastbound U.S. 50
  • The on-ramp from 29th Street/H Street to westbound Business 80/Capital City Freeway
  • The on-ramp from 29th Street/N Street to westbound Business 80/Capital City Freeway
  • The on-ramp from 29th Street/T Street to southbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp from Broadway to southbound Route 99
  • The off-ramp from southbound Route 99 to 12th Street
  • The off-ramp from northbound Route 99 to 12th Street
  • The on-ramp from 14th Avenue/30th Street to southbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (slip) from Fruitridge Road to northbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (loop) from Fruitridge Road to northbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (slip) from East 47th Avenue to northbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (loop) from West 47th Avenue to northbound Route 99

Caltrans is encouraging motorists to take public transit; SacRT is providing free light rail service from June 12-15.

For more information, including alternate routes, visit FixSac99.com.

202106_uc-davis-health-wins-emmy-award-for-coverage-of-systems-renowned-health-care Tue, 08 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health wins EMMY® Award for coverage of system’s renowned health care <p><span>Members of the UC Davis Health Public Affairs and Marketing Department are part teams that won two Northern California Area EMMY&reg; Awards. The work included was coverage of surgery to separate conjoined twins and a collaboration with KVIE about vision loss.</span></p> Members of the UC Davis Health Public Affairs and Marketing Department are part of teams that won Northern California Area EMMY® Awards from The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The prestigious awards are presented for outstanding achievement in television. They were announced during a virtual ceremony June 5.

UC Davis Health won in the Health/Medical Long-Form Content category for its 16-minute video chronicling a complicated surgery to separate conjoined twins Abigail and Micaela at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Originally produced as a multi-part series, the videos together have been viewed nearly 6.5 million times on YouTube.

“Most of all, we want to thank the twins and their family. Telling their story was our privilege. We dedicate this award to them.”

— Pamela Wu

The UC Davis Health team was also involved with the group winning an EMMY® Award in the Human Interest-Long Form content category. That recognition was for a story developed in partnership with Sacramento PBS station KVIE called “Viewfinder: Life After Sight.”

The win for the conjoined twins stories went to Director of News and Information, Pamela Wu, who produced and reported the series, UC Davis Health videographer Christopher Nelson, who filmed and edited the stories, and videographer Hal Sloane, who also filmed key moments.

“We want to thank the surgical team members and hospital leaders at UC Davis Health, who gave us access to shoot video, even though they didn’t know if the separation would be a success,” said Wu in her video acceptance speech. “Their confidence and trust made it possible for us to tell the story of Abigail and Micaela.”

(left to right, David Lubarsky, UC Davis Health CEO, Nanette Joyce, director, Multidisciplinary ALS Clinic, David Lowe, KVIE president and CEO, Allison Brashear, dean, UC Davis School of Medicine)

UC Davis Health also received a commemorative EMMY® Award in 2019, for a story developed with KVIE, “Beyond the Ice Bucket Challenge.” The report focused on awareness of ALS, a progressive, neurodegenerative illness sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Nelson and Sloane donned scrubs and filmed the difficult, 24-hour separation surgery, as well as other important milestones.

“This is by far the largest and most challenging project that I've ever worked on in my career,” noted Nelson. “We were there from the day they were born, through planning meetings and run-throughs, two surgeries, and all the way to the day they went home right before their first birthday. I’m so thankful that parents Liliya and Anatoliy trusted us to tell their story and I hope we can catch up with them to see how the girls have grown.”

UC Davis Health competed against other television stations and news teams from around California, Nevada and Hawaii for the awards.

“This is a major achievement for our public affairs team,” said Steve Telliano, assistant vice chancellor of strategic communications. “We have a talented group of communicators and storytellers here at UC Davis Health and we are proud to receive this recognition.  These are just a few of the major awards this team has won over the last year.”

At the center of these stories are UC Davis Health’s patients, a point that Wu also made in her acceptance speech.

“Most of all, we want to thank the twins and their family. Telling their story was our privilege. We dedicate this award to them.”

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202106_ralph-green-honored-for-major-contributions-to-field-of-nutrition Mon, 07 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Ralph Green honored for major contributions to field of nutrition <p>Professor Ralph Green has been inducted into the American Society for Nutrition's Class of 2021 fellows. He is an expert in diagnosing and treating diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies. Green&rsquo;s research has focused on the role of micronutrients, including iron, B12 and folate.</p> Ralph Green has been inducted into the American Society for Nutrition's Class of 2021 Fellows. It is the highest honor ASN bestows, recognizing individuals for significant discoveries and distinguished careers in the field of nutrition.  

Green is a distinguished professor and emeritus chair in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UC Davis Health. He and the other recipients are being honored virtually during Nutrition 2021 Live from June 7 to 10. 

Throughout his more than 50-year career in academic medicine, Green has worked on three continents — Africa, North America, and Europe — and collaborated with investigators around the world. His research has focused on the role micronutrients and their metabolic pathways play in both health and disease.

“Dr. Green has a distinguished and inspiring record as a physician-scientist and is highly deserving of this recognition. His work is widely regarded as pioneering, with a considerable breadth that spans basic research, clinical and population-based studies,” said Lydia Pleotis Howell, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “His research and expert contributions in prominent advisory committees has had global impact and contributed to mandatory folic acid fortification of food in many parts of the world, among other accomplishments.”  

Green is a widely recognized expert in diagnosing and treating diseases caused by nutritional deficiencies, with a special emphasis on anemias due to B12 deficiency

His early-career research on iron is widely cited and considered a fundamental contribution to the understanding of iron nutrition. Green developed animal models for human nutritional diseases. In a landmark study in Nature, he demonstrated progressive degenerative neurologic changes in fruit bats fed a diet deficient in B12. Another significant and widely cited study looks at the role of B12, folate and homocysteine on vascular disease.

Green served as an expert on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committees that first recommended folic acid fortification of diet in the United States to prevent neural tube defects. He was also on the Institute of Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine) committee to define recommended daily intake and safe upper levels of B-vitamins, including folate and vitamin B12.

Recent research studies from Green’s lab have focused on how excess folic acid during pregnancy harms the brain development of mice, the identification of a biomarker, homocysteine, for early blood vessel damage due to sickle cell anemia, and how low levels of B12 may worsen walking and cognition in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

In addition to his research interests, Green is the director of the CLIA-approved lab for the campus’ innovative “pop-upsaliva-based asymptomatic COVID-19 screening program, which is operated by Healthy Davis Together for UC Davis and the Davis-area community.

202106_mind-institute-brain-bank-focused-on-autism-diversity-education-and-research Mon, 07 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT MIND Institute brain bank focused on autism, diversity, education and research <p>The new CENE Brain Bank, supported by the MIND Institute, aims to increase the diversity of brain tissue available for research about autism and other neurodevelopmental conditions. The project includes collection sites in Latin American countries.</p> A new project of the UC Davis MIND Institute aims to increase the diversity and availability of post-mortem brain tissue for the study of neurodevelopmental conditions like autism, fragile X syndrome, and Down syndrome.

Veronica Martínez-Cerdeño, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine and MIND Institute faculty member, is leading the effort. It includes the establishment of brain banks, or nodes, in several Latin American countries for the collection and research of brain tissue. The project is called the Hispano-American Brain Bank of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (Banco Hispanoamericano de CErebros de trastornos del NEurodesarrollo), or CENE.

So far, there are nodes in California, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and the University of Pittsburg, Pa. A pre-existing bank at the MIND Institute, established by world-renowned fragile X researcher Randi Hagerman, is serving as a California node. There are additional nodes planned in Bolivia and Chile.

The nodes are housed in hospitals, universities and existing brain banks. Each is staffed by clinicians and researchers who specialize in neurodevelopmental conditions.

The importance of human tissue research

CENE is a passion project for Martínez-Cerdeño, who is a strong proponent of human tissue research to better understand autism.

"California has a large population of Hispanic people and a significant number of other people of color. We want our brain bank to represent the general population."

— Veronica Martínez-Cerdeño

“There are not a lot of labs doing this kind of research because there aren’t enough brains to study,” she said. “There is a lot of research about diagnostics and treatment, and research in animal models, but we are lacking research in human tissue. If you want to know why a person has certain behaviors and what the anatomy conveys, there is no other way than to look at the brain.”

Post-mortem brain tissue research has led to advancements in autism research, including a better understanding of the role that both genes and a person’s environment can play in the condition, brain structure changes over time, and better animal models.

Martínez-Cerdeño notes that microscopic analysis of brain tissue – both of people with neurodevelopmental conditions and without – is critical to the field.

“The cerebral cortex has millions of cells, millions of connections, synapses and fibers and you can only see that in a microscope. In autism, this is what’s going on – we have an alteration of synapses, alteration of cell type, alternation of neurotransmitters. To understand that, we must look at the brain.”

Diversity in research

In addition to a shortage, there is a lack of diversity in the brain tissue available to researchers.

“Nearly all of the brain tissue collected in brain banks is from white people,” Martínez-Cerdeño said. “California has a large population of Hispanic people and a significant number of other people of color. We want our brain bank to represent the general population.”

There is a lack of diversity in the brain tissue available for research into neurodevelopmental conditions like autism

She noted that the location of nodes in Latin America, combined with worldwide tissue distribution, should help to improve the representation of individuals with Hispanic heritage in neurodevelopmental disability brain tissue research.  

Another of CENE’s goals is to encourage new researchers to enter the field. There are plans to recruit trainees that travel between nodes at the undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral levels, as well as early-career professionals.

CENE also has an advisory council composed of internationally recognized leaders in the field.

The MIND Institute is also part of Autism BrainNet, a network of institutions that collect, store and distribute brain tissue for research that is independent of the CENE project.

202106_extra-extra-read-all-about-it-in-the-latest-issue-of-the-pediatric-press Mon, 07 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Extra, extra, read all about it in the latest issue of The Pediatric Press <p>The Pediatric Press, the online newsletter of UC Davis Children's Hospital, has published its summer issue. The summer edition includes stories about hospital awards, research developments, patient milestones, new clinic openings&nbsp;and other successes within&nbsp;the pediatric&nbsp;units.</p> The Pediatric Press, the online newsletter of UC Davis Children's Hospital, published its summer issue today.

This newsletter helps to communicate news and developments within the children's hospital. The goal is to connect and unite children's hospital faculty and staff, as well as provide information to employees throughout UC Davis Health and the general public. 

The summer newsletter includes stories about hospital awards, research developments, patient milestones, new clinic openings and other successes within the pediatric units.

Read the newsletter.

202106_emergency-department-nurse-promotes-covid-19-vaccines-on-tv-with-gov-gavin-newsom Fri, 04 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Emergency department nurse promotes COVID-19 vaccines on TV with Gov. Gavin Newsom <p>Claudio Alvarado, an assistant nurse manager in the pediatric emergency department, appeared on stage with California Gov. Gavin Newsom to promote the state&rsquo;s new Vax for the Win vaccine incentive program.</p> Claudio Alvarado has had many memorable days as an assistant nurse manager with UC Davis Health – but nothing tops what he experienced on Friday.

He got to spend an hour with California Gov. Gavin Newsom promoting COVID-19 vaccinations before a televised, statewide audience.

Alvarado, wearing his black UC Davis Health Pediatric Emergency Medicine scrubs, was enlisted by the governor’s office to appear on stage at California State Lottery headquarters in Sacramento. His role: Stand a few feet from Newsom and place dots on a poster-sized map showing the home counties of winners in Vax for the Win, a new initiative that awards cash prizes to people who sign up for the vaccine.

Alvarado and Newsom interacted frequently during their time on stage, with the governor praising Alvarado for his service, and also ribbing the nurse over his geographical knowledge, or lack thereof (Alvarado is a native of Texas).

“He’s an expert in counties in the state of California,” Newsom quipped. “Long story short, he’s like, ‘I know most of the counties, but not all of the counties, so don’t put me on the line, don’t put too much pressure.’ “

Newsom interviewed Alvarado about his work as a nurse during the pandemic, and his deployment as a U.S. Navy reservist to assist a community hospital in New York City during a deadly surge in Spring 2020. Afterward, Newsom stood at a dispensing machine that spits out random lottery balls, which he handed to Alvarado, who then reached for the sticker dots, all while conversing with each other.

The experience was surreal for Alvarado, who just 15 hours earlier was the dayside charge nurse in the UC Davis Medical Center Emergency Department.

“This is very exciting,” Alvarado said off-stage after the celebratory event, standing over shards of confetti. “I’m happy to participate in any way I can to get the message out there, to get people vaccinated.”

Alvarado, 34, had no idea he would ever meet the governor, let alone appear on stage with him in front of numerous cameras and news reporters.

But an email invitation Thursday evening from the governor’s External Affairs division – which Alvarado initially thought was spam – changed that.

Alvarado informed his supervisors and agreed to participate.

Then the nerves set in.

How in the world, Alvarado asked himself, will he know where each of California’s 58 counties is located?

Alvarado brushes up on geography

Alvarado was born into a military family and graduated in nursing from the University of Texas and received a Master of Science in nursing from Western Governors University in Utah.

He came to UC Davis Health about five years ago.

Newsom called Alvarado an “extraordinary pediatric emergency nurse.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom interviews UC Davis Health Nurse Claudio Alvarado about what it’s like being an emergency department nurse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the interview, Alvarado explained how he got called to serve in a Brooklyn hospital in his assignment as a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves. “I still remember to this day, going through the double doors and just seeing the amount of sick people and seeing the amount of death that was there, it was rampant.”

After two months in New York, Alvarado told Newsom he returned to Sacramento where UC Davis Medical Center was “well prepared” for the pandemic. “Especially at UC Davis Health, we helped prepare our nurses and our staff to provide great care to our patients.”

Newsom pointed out that Alvarado was one of the first people to get vaccinated when the doses arrived in December. “You were number two,” Newsom said. Alvarado noted that the first person in line was his colleague Eva Teniola, a nurse in the Emergency Department.

Video of Alvarado getting his vaccine has aired in a series of public service announcements.

Newsom asked Alvarado what he would say to the people who think California is over COVID-19.

“COVID is real,” Alvarado replied. He reminded the public that being hospitalized with severe COVID-19 is a lonely and frightening experience for patients who can barely breathe, and for family members who aren’t allowed at the bedside.

“I know seeing is believing, but please believe me when I say that it is true, it is devastating,” Alvarado said, “and this vaccine can save your life.”

State Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician who once worked at UC Davis Health, also participated at the machine.

Newsom and Pan drew 15 lottery balls, each for a lucky Californian who would be awarded $50,000 for doing their part in being vaccinated.

The randomized drawing is part of California’s new $116.5 million Vax for the Win program.


202106_cardiac-arrest-save-a-life-in-five-steps-with-guidance-from-project-adam-sacramento Fri, 04 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Cardiac arrest: Save a life in five steps with guidance from Project ADAM Sacramento <p>CPR/AED Awareness Week is a solemn reminder of cardiac arrest statistics. The good news? UC Davis has free education and training available so you can provide lifesaving assistance through a program called project ADAM.</p> Cardiac arrest statistics tell a daunting story. According to the American Heart Association, more than 350,000 cardiac arrests - when the heart malfunctions and stops beating unexpectedly - occur outside of the hospital each year and 90 percent of those people die. Unlike a heart attack - when blood flow to the heart is blocked but the person is still talking and breathing - nearly 70% of these cardiac arrest incidents occur at home which means it is likely happening to someone you love. With summer fast approaching and more people working remotely, it's even more important to revisit the five steps to save a life: 

Step 1 - Recognize sudden cardiac arrest (SCA): Watch for a sudden collapse or fainting. Someone who has just experienced sudden cardiac arrest will lose consciousness. Check for a pulse and breathing while attempting to determine if the person is alert.

Step 2 - Call 911

Step 3 - Start CPR: Push hard, push fast - no mouth-to-mouth contact is needed. Recent guidelines developed by the American Heart Association promote Hands-Only CPR as an acceptable way to help a victim suffering from cardiac arrest.

Step 4 - Shock: Use an AED

Step 5 - Fast Access to EMS (Emergency Medical Services)

Project ADAM at UC Davis Health is a no-cost program that can help you learn CPR and AED training.

Cardiac emergency preparedness is vital wherever you live and work, so that’s why Project ADAM staff and volunteers facilitate no-cost CPR and AED education and hands-on training at a variety of community events throughout the year. Project ADAM is committed to saving lives by empowering schools and communities to be prepared for sudden cardiac arrest (SCA), providing the foundation for schools to develop their program and become Heart Safe. Achieving Project ADAM’s Heart Safe School designation means that your school is prepared to appropriately respond to sudden cardiac arrest on campus, thereby increasing potential to save the life of a student, a staff member or visitor. Contact Project ADAM for more information: 916-627-9533.

202106_rapid-whole-genome-sequencing-leads-to-better-outcomes-for-babies-lower-medical-costs Fri, 04 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Rapid whole genome sequencing leads to better outcomes for babies, lower medical costs <p>A study published today outlined the success of Project Baby Bear, a real-world quality improvement program designed to test the clinical and economic value of using rapid Whole Genome Sequencing to diagnose and guide treatment for infants with unexplained rare disease.</p> The evidence is in: A state-funded Rapid Precision Medicine program led by Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego yielded life-changing outcomes for critically ill infants at five California hospitals while significantly reducing health care costs. UC Davis Children’s Hospital and the UC Davis Mind Institute were key participants in the research.

A study published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics outlined the success of Project Baby Bear, a real-world quality improvement program designed to test the clinical and economic value of using rapid Whole Genome Sequencing (rWGS ®) to diagnose and guide treatment for infants with unexplained rare disease.

Employing the most comprehensive diagnostic testing available, Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine used rWGS to analyze the genetic code of 184 infants in intensive care who were covered by Medi-Cal. The results provided doctors and families with vital information that empowered them to make life-altering medical decisions resulting in shorter hospital stays, targeted personalized care and fewer costly, invasive procedures.

“It’s very rare to be able to use the most advanced medical technology to both improve a child’s life and save money, yet Project Baby Bear proved it’s possible,” said David Dimmock, senior medical director of the institute. “We identified the exact cause of rare, genetic diseases in an average of three days, instead of the four to six weeks standard genetic testing offers. This allowed physicians to deliver timely treatment tailored to the baby’s specific condition, in some cases avoiding irreversible health consequences.”

Rapid WGS proved to be a valuable tool in clinical decision-making. Among the infants sequenced, rare genetic diseases that explained the baby’s admission to intensive care were diagnosed in 74 babies, or 40%. 

Guided by the vital information provided by rWGS, clinicians were able to provide precision medicine that changed care for 58 babies, or 32%. Conclusive diagnosis allowed doctors to make treatment plans with more confidence. Results from genome sequencing also empowered parents to join physicians in making informed care decisions.

“The study highlights the importance of using state-of-the-art rapid genome sequencing technology in our most vulnerable population – neonates and acutely sick infants from historically underserved communities – to provide precision medical care based on accurate diagnosis,” said Suma Shankar, director of the UC Davis Precision Genomics Clinic and co-lead of the UC Davis site for Project Baby Bear.

“Many families felt relief in knowing and understanding the cause for their baby’s illness and the ability to receive cutting edge therapies based on receiving rare specific diagnosis early on in the course where timing is crucial to prevent long term disability,” said Shankar, who is also a UC Davis MIND Institute faculty member.

In addition to changes in treatment, rWGS resulted in avoidance of other costly procedures such as tracheostomies or gastric tube insertions, eliminated the need for further testing and led to fewer days in the hospital.

“These findings show that rWGS should be considered early for infants admitted to intensive care when the cause of the child’s condition is unknown.” said Patrick Frias, president and CEO of Rady Children’s Hospital. “Project Baby Bear has demonstrated that it’s feasible and effective to use rWGS to inform precision medicine for the most vulnerable infants; it achieves both improved health outcomes and cost savings.”

Project Baby Bear was funded by the State of California as a $2 million Medi-Cal pilot. Participation was limited to acutely ill babies enrolled in Medi-Cal who were admitted to intensive care between November 2018 and May 2020.

Patient blood samples were sent to RCIGM for sequencing and interpretation from regional neonatal and pediatric intensive care units at the following participating hospitals: UC San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland; UC Davis Children’s Hospital (Sacramento); Valley Children’s Hospital (Madera); CHOC Hospital (Orange County) and Rady Children’s Hospital–San Diego.

Encouraged by the early success of Project Baby Bear, the State of Florida and State of Michigan have since initiated their own publicly funded rWGS demonstration projects.

The California Legislature is currently considering adopting AB114, the Rare Disease Sequencing for Critically Ill Infants Act, introduced by Assemblymember Brian Maienschein (D-77). Also pending is a federal bill, Ending the Diagnostic Odyssey Act, introduced by San Diego Congressman Scott Peters (D-52).

The study referenced in this release is: "Project Baby Bear: Rapid Precision Care Incorporating rWGSin 5 California Children’s Hospitals Demonstrates Improved Clinical Outcomes and Reduced Costs of Care" (AJHG-D-21-00121R1) The American Journal of Human Genetics. DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.05.008. 

Related links

Project Baby Bear shows genomic sequencing for infants in intensive care yields life-changing benefits and medical cost savings

UC Davis Children's Hospital joins program to test critically ill newborns

202106_most-californians-unaware-of-law-to-prevent-gun-violence-but-would-support-using-it Fri, 04 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Most Californians unaware of law to prevent gun violence but would support using it <p>A new study shows that two-thirds of Californians don&rsquo;t know about a law designed to prevent a person at risk of hurting themselves or others from possessing or purchasing firearms or ammunition. More than 80% of survey participants were supportive once they read about this law.</p> Extreme risk protection orders, also known as gun violence restraining orders (GVROs) or “red flag” orders, exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia.

The laws allow law enforcement, family and household members, some co-workers, employers and teachers to work with a judge to temporarily remove access to firearms and ammunition from people at significant risk of self-harm or harming others.

But an obstacle to implementing these preventive measures has been revealed in a new study from the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis Health. Although GVROs have been available in California for five years, two-thirds of the Californians surveyed for the study had never heard of them.

“Firearm violence is preventable, not inevitable. Raising public awareness about proactive ways for people to intervene can be crucial for preventing violence before it occurs,” said Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, lead author of the study and an assistant professor with the Violence Prevention Research Program.

GVROs are only available if an individual has or could get a gun, and other options to protect against harm have failed or are not appropriate.

The study appears June 4 in JAMA Health Forum.

Majority, including gun owners, would be somewhat or very willing to use a GVRO

The survey was completed in July 2020 by 2,870 adults statistically representative of the adult population in California. It also assessed personal willingness to use a GVRO when a family member was at risk.

After reading a brief description of California’s GVRO law, more than 80% of the respondents said they would be somewhat or very willing to ask a judge to issue a GVRO if a family member had threatened to physically hurt themselves, someone else or a group of people.

Respondents who lived in homes with gun owners expressed the highest levels of willingness to ask a judge for a GVRO. The responses ranged from 84% who were somewhat or very willing if a family member were experiencing an emotional crisis to 95% if a family member had threatened to physically hurt someone else.

The study included five risk scenarios of a person who has or could get a gun and:

  • was experiencing an emotional crisis;
  • has severe dementia or similar condition;
  • has threatened to physically hurt themselves;
  • has threatened to physically hurt someone else; or
  • has threatened to physically hurt a group of people.

A majority of respondents who identified as gun owners — 70% to 86%, depending on the described risk scenario — said they would be somewhat or very willing to ask a judge for a GVRO if a family member had threatened to harm themselves or others.

About 30% of the respondents reported they were unwilling to ask a judge for a GVRO for a family member in at least one of the described risk scenarios. The most frequently cited reason for being unwilling was not knowing enough about GVROs. The second most common reason was the belief that the described risk scenarios are personal or family matters.

GVROs can be effective tools for preventing violence. They leverage the knowledge of those who are often the first to recognize someone they care about is in crisis or behaving dangerously and provide a tool for proactive intervention.

Prevention measures gaining traction in United States

Firearms are involved in half of suicides and three-quarters of homicides in the United States, accounting for nearly 39,000 violent deaths in 2019, the most recent year in which data are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gun Violence Restraining Orders in California

A Gun Violence Restraining Order, or GVRO, is a civil court order in California that temporarily prevents a person who is at risk of hurting themselves or others from possessing or purchasing any firearms or ammunition.

California has three types of GVROs: emergency, temporary (also known as ex parte), and orders issued after notice and hearing. Emergency orders are available to law enforcement 24 hours a day for rapid response in crisis situations. Family members, household members, some co-workers and employers and law enforcement may petition for temporary orders and orders issued after notice and hearing.

The California Courts website has detailed information on how to ask for a GVRO in English and Spanish. Additional information is also available at speakforsafety.org.

Who can ask the court for a GVRO?

California allows law enforcement officers and other people to ask for a GVRO, including family, household members, employers and co-workers, as well as employees or teachers at certain schools. More information

How long does a GVRO stay in effect?

Emergency and temporary GVROs last up to three weeks. Orders issued after notice and hearing last up to five years. At the court hearing, the judge will consider all the evidence and decide whether to approve a GVRO for up to five years. More information

In California, as in many other states, GVRO legislation was passed in the wake of a public mass shooting. Past research suggests that GVROs have been used successfully to prevent mass harm and that these orders are particularly effective for suicide prevention. But the use of GVROs remains relatively uncommon.

In California, the use of GVROs has grown from 70 orders in 2016, the year the law went into effect, to 700 in 2019. However, overall uptake of the law has been slow, possibly due to a lack of awareness. Given high levels of personal willingness to use a GVRO, including among gun owners and non-owners who live with owners, the current study indicates that improved knowledge of GVROs may lead to increased usage to prevent firearm injury and death in California and other parts of the country.

“GVROs are promising tools for preventing firearm-related harm. Our findings are consistent with national studies indicating that many firearm violence prevention policies have widespread public support and that general consensus exists between firearm owners and non-owners,” Kravitz-Wirtz says.

Additional study authors are Amanda J. Aubel, research data analyst at the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program, and Rocco Pallin, director of education for the BulletPoints Project

This research was supported by the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center with funds from the State of California. Additional support came from the California Wellness Foundation (2017-0447) and the Heising-Simons Foundation (2019-1728).

202106_executive-chef-santana-diaz-to-lead-2021-tower-bridge-dinner Fri, 04 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Executive Chef Santana Diaz to lead 2021 Tower Bridge Dinner <p>Visit Sacramento has named UC Davis Health&rsquo;s executive chef, Santana Diaz, to lead this year&rsquo;s Farm-to-Fork Tower Bridge Dinner.</p> Visit Sacramento has named UC Davis Health’s executive chef, Santana Diaz, to lead this year’s Tower Bridge Dinner. The annual fundraiser benefits Sacramento’s renowned Farm-to-Fork Festival, an event that attracted more than 155,000 people in 2019. The dinner also funds scholarships for CAMP students at Sacramento State, who are the children of migrant farmworkers.

Diaz has led an innovative program for the health system that is changing the face of hospital food. He’s prioritized local ingredients and sustainability, as well as providing diverse and delicious menu options for both patients and staff.

Diaz will lead an entirely local team of distinguished chefs at this year’s dinner. The group was first selected in 2020, but the event had to be cancelled due to the pandemic. 

The event was originally designed in 2013 to further establish Sacramento as a top culinary destination, and to provide the region’s chefs and farmers with the opportunity to collaborate and share their talents with more than 800 diners in a single evening. Public ticket information for the 2021 dinner will be released July 15 at www.farmtofork.com.

“We’re incredibly excited about the experience that will come from this year’s lead chef team, especially after such a challenging year,” said Visit Sacramento President & CEO Mike Testa. “And to have inspiration coming from Chef Diaz and the UC Davis Health team in a time when our health is such a top priority is especially poignant. I think this year’s event will be one of the most unique that we’ve ever had.”

New this year, table sponsors will be asked to join Visit Sacramento in prioritizing diversity, equity, and inclusion – including when selecting their Tower Bridge Dinner table guests. Beyond an exciting dining experience, the Tower Bridge Dinner has also become a springboard for partnerships and mentorships, and an opportunity to build upon Sacramento’s diverse community.

Diaz is excited for the chance to increase awareness about UC Davis Health’s focus on how good food equals good health.

“Our focus on good food can be summed up as a ‘real’ commitment to promote better health through food choices,” said Diaz. “We’re doing that as a health system, and it’s our vision that it also can be done at an individual – and individual family – level, so that we all can enjoy better health.”

“R.E.A.L” is an acronym Diaz uses to emphasize health system’s vision for better health through better food and food choices. It stands for:

  • Responsible food procurement
  • Education
  • Active community engagement
  • Less waste

Diaz and his Food and Nutrition Services team are committed to obtaining sustainable food ingredients that are clean and locally grown or raised. They hope that menu items help increase awareness about, and demand for, healthy, nutritious foods. The unique effort also includes the recognition of  regional economic benefits from buying locally produced foods. The final component – less food waste – places an emphasis on managing food resources in ways that are sustainable and protect the environment.

“It’s such an honor to part of the Tower Bridge Dinner,” said Diaz. “I’m proud to represent UC Davis Health and create a menu that will help show the community that good food is indeed good for our health, too.”

202106_school-of-medicine-honors-dozens-of-students-residents-and-faculty-with-annual-awards Fri, 04 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT School of Medicine honors dozens of students, residents and faculty with annual awards <p>More than 100 students, residents, faculty and a staff member were honored for their exceptional contributions as part of the UC Davis School of Medicine&rsquo;s annual awards. Some of the awards were announced at the recent commencement ceremony.</p> The UC Davis School of Medicine recently recognized more than 100 students, residents, faculty, and a staff member for their exceptional contributions to the medical school as part of its 2021 annual awards. 

“It’s a privilege to recognize these outstanding students, residents, faculty and staff,” said Dean Allison Brashear. “Throughout their time at UC Davis School of Medicine, and especially during the pandemic, they have shown extraordinary commitment to excellence and service to our community.” 

The student awards were announced during the School of Medicine’s 50th annual commencement ceremony last month. At the virtual event, 104 graduates earned their Doctor of Medicine degrees.

2021 Student Awards

School of Medicine Medal
Sarah L. Blacher

Golden Goblet Award
Matthew Massie

Eli Benjamini Endowed Fund for Biological Sciences
Sindhu Addepalli
Mary L. Welter

Loren D. Carlson Endowed Scholarship Research Award
Christopher Y. Itoh

Healing Arts Award
Farsam Fraz

Mansoor Ally Memorial Scholarship Award
Rachel A. Caynak

Edward J. Hurley, M.D. Scholarship Fund
Mennatalla S. Hegazi

David Michael Igdaloff, M.D. and Michael Arthur Igdaloff Memorial Scholarship
Pong Xiong

The Johnson Family Scholarship (Irvine Leonell Johnson, Ethel Mildred Cushman Johnson and Marilyn Beverly Johnson Endowed Scholarship Fund)
Arta Gharib Parsa

J.T. Simon Lie, M.D. Memorial Scholarship Award
Mary L. Welter

Helen McConnell Palthe Fellowship Award
Britany R. Lundberg
Kieu-Yen G. Luu
Eve A. Solomon
Jacqueline J. Tasarz
Kailee A. Tougas

James Franklin McManus Scholarship Award
Kendra E. Verga

The Merck Manual Award
Nicole T. Leong
Emily A. Moody
Atrin Toussi

Allan T. Nunn, M.D. Memorial Scholarship
Soo Kyoung Kim

O.M.E. Medical Student Scholarship Award
Simson Hon
Sarah K. Westcott

San Joaquin Valley Prime Endowed Scholarship Award
Lizette Rodriguez

Rena & Gabriel Smilkstein Humanitarian Award 
Bisrat K. Woldemichael

Kenneth W. and Phyllis J. Snow Endowed Award in Medicine
Ryan E. Pascua

Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Society, Class of 2021
Sindhu Addepalli
Analucia Barragan
Rachel A. Caynak
Ramandeep K. Dhillon
Mennatalla S. Hegazi
Dayna J. Isaacs
Esther H. Kang
Liliya V. Klimkiv
Nicole T. Leong
Samantha C. Nguyen
Janet Phan
Jacob I. Priester
Alejandro L. Ramirez
Liliana Z. Samano
Cristal M. Suarez
Atrin Toussi
Kendra E. Verga
Mary L. Welter
Sarah K. Westcott
Madelyn R. Wheeler

American Medical Women’s Association Janet M. Glasgow-Rubin Citation for Academic Achievement
Kylie D. Abeson
Sarah L. Blacher
Sindhu Addepalli
Rachel A. Caynak
Dayna J. Isaacs
Liliya V. Klimkiv
Nicole T. Leong
Emily A. Moody
Atrin Toussi
Sarah K. Westcott

The Doctoring Awards
Mona M. Abutouk
Esther H. Kang
Christina M. Lowry
Angelina Mikityuk
Nicholas Jung-Lum Tom
Mary L. Welter

2021 Excellence in Public Health Award by the United States Public Health Service
Harjot S. Virk

2021 Gold Humanism Honor Society
Sindhu Addepalli
Ellen M. Asselin
Roxana Cabrera
Hillary A. Carneal
Farsam Fraz
Enrique Guzman Van Dyken
Betty Hom
Joshua C. Hwang
Dayna J. Isaacs
Esther H. Kang
Liliya V. Klimkiv
Christina M. Lowry
Kieu-Yen G. Luu
Francis Rangel Ventura
Lizette Rodriguez

Faculty Awards

John Tupper, M.D. Prize for Excellence in Teaching
Heike Wulff, Ph.D.

Hibbard Williams Award for Extraordinary Achievement
Sergio Aguilar‐Gaxiola, M.D., Ph.D.
Diana L. Farmer, M.D., FACS, FRCS

Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Annual Awards for Excellence in Teaching
Excellence in Teaching Basic Sciences: Hana Anderson, Ph.D.
Excellence in Teaching Clinical Sciences (Full-time faculty): Shubha Ananthakrishnan, M.D.
Excellence in Teaching Clinical Sciences (Volunteer faculty): Shagufta Yasmeen, M.D.

Outstanding Instructor Awards from the Class of 2021
Basic Sciences Faculty: Colleen Sweeney, Ph.D.
Clinical Sciences (Full-time Faculty): Paul B. Aronowitz, M.D.
Clinical Sciences (Volunteer Faculty): Brenden Tu, M.D., M.S.

Outstanding Teaching Awards Resident Medical Staff

Emergency Medicine
Kavian Toosi, M.D.

Family and Community Medicine
Rosemary Cotter, M.D.

Internal Medicine
Alyssa Milliron, M.D.

Obstetrics and Gynecology
Tali Pomerantz, M.D.

Shaina Kaye, M.D.

Hammad Khan, M.D. 

Kevin Lee, M.D.

Staff Award

Golden Bladder Award from the Class of 2021
Woubejig Shiferaw

Department Awards

Outstanding Medical Student in Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine
Daniel Dinh
Janet Phan

Outstanding Medical Student in Biochemistry
Javid R. Mahmoodi

The Department of Cell Biology and Human Anatomy Barry F. King Memorial Award
Liliya V. Klimkiv
Cristal M. Suarez

Outstanding Medical Student in Dermatology
Sally Madiba
Kendra E. Verga

The Society of Academic Emergency Medicine Award in Excellence
Angelina Mikityuk

Family and Community Medicine Award in Excellence
Kendra E. Verga

Ernest M. Gold, M.D. Awards for Excellence in Internal Medicine
Esther H. Kang
Mary L. Welter

Outstanding Medical Student in Neurology
Rebecca Dutta
Matthew Massie
Christopher Y. Itoh

Outstanding Medical Student in Obstetrics and Gynecology
Farsam Fraz

Outstanding Medical Student in Orthopaedic Surgery
Analucia Barragan
Jacob I. Priester

Award for Excellence in Otolaryngology
Joshua C. Hwang

Robert E. Stowell, M.D., Ph.D. Award for Excellence in Pathology
Brian Park

Crystie Halsted Award for Excellence in Pediatrics
Esther H. Kang

Outstanding Medical Student in Pharmacology
Mary L. Welter

Outstanding Medical Student in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Betty Hom

Peter M. Cala Outstanding Medical Student in Physiology & Membrane Biology
Sarah K. Westcott

Robert E. Hales Award for Excellence in Clinical Psychiatry
Jacqueline J. Tasarz
Hailee A. Tougas

Award for Excellence in Public Health Sciences
Dayna J. Isaacs

The Heineman Award for Excellence in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine
Esther H. Kang

Outstanding Medical Student in Surgery Award
Sarah Mahdavi

Rural PRIME Outstanding Medical Student Award
Roxana Cabrera

SJV PRIME Outstanding Medical Student Award
Amanda Panh

Teach-MS Outstanding Medical Student Award
Esther H. Kang

202106_uc-davis-childrens-hospital-welcomes-new-facility-dog-daniels-video Thu, 03 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Children’s Hospital welcomes new facility dog Daniels (video) <p>The newest employee at UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital has a wet nose and a wagging tail! Facility Dog Daniels works in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) to help calm, comfort and motivate young patients going through medical procedures and long hospital stays.</p>
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The newest employee at UC Davis Children’s Hospital doesn’t wear scrubs or use a stethoscope. 

He comes to work with a wet nose and a wagging tail to do a job only a canine can! Facility Dog Daniels works in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) to help calm, comfort and motivate young patients going through medical procedures and long hospital stays. 

Daniels with his handler, Kristen Cady, who is a child life specialist who works in the UC Davis Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PICU/PCICU).

Daniels was provided free of charge by Canine Companions, a national nonprofit that provides expertly trained service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities, and to professionals working in medical, rehabilitation, physical therapy and other settings. Daniels joins three other Canine Companions facility dogs who work at UC Davis Children’s Hospital— Huggie, Paloma and ZeeBee. 

Facility Dog Daniels, a two-year old yellow Labrador Retriever, knows more than 40 commands. His training enables him to calm and motivate young patients who face big challenges. 

Daniels and his handler, Child Life Specialist Kristen Cady, graduated from Canine Companions intensive Team Training course in April. Since then, they’ve brought love and light to hospitalized children. Daniels’ sweet personality and calm demeanor are perfect for the PICU. He is always willing to lean in for a hug and is very gentle when he climbs in bed for cuddles. 

“Daniels has been a wonderful addition to the PICU! We’ve had some great interactions and I am sure there will be many more to come,” Cady said. 

Recently, Daniels and Cady partnered with the UC Davis physical therapy team to support a child who hesitated to get up and move around. But after a game of ‘hide and seek’ with Daniels, the boy moved more confidently and wanted to take charge of walking his new four-legged friend. 

Daniels joins a patient in the PICU playroom at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

“By the end, he was smiling and interacting with Daniels, his nurse and myself,” Cady said. 

Daniels also provides procedural support, helping children to cope successfully through what can be quite stressful experiences. He also supports parents, offering comfort as they await their child’s return from a surgery or begin to process a new diagnosis. 

“The presence of Daniels has brought moments of joy and stress relief for the PICU staff, and we are excited about all of the ways he will continue to benefit our entire unit. Daniels has already made such an impact at the hospital, and we can’t wait to see all he does in the future!” Cady said.

202106_researchers-discover-potential-new-approach-to-treating-psoriatic-joint-inflammation Thu, 03 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Researchers discover potential new approach to treating psoriatic joint inflammation <p>An international team of researchers, led by UC Davis Health, developed a new therapeutic approach to treating psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the joints.</p> An international team of researchers, led by UC Davis Health, has developed a new therapeutic approach to treating psoriatic arthritis, a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the joints. 

Using a novel chemical blocker targeting chemokine proteins, the researchers were able to significantly reduce skin and joint inflammation in a mouse model with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. 

What is psoriatic arthritis?

Psoriatic arthritis affects up to a third of patients with psoriasis, an auto-immune skin inflammation. It creates mobility and functional changes that make it painful for patients to use their hands or walk. Some of these changes are irreversible.

Psoriatic arthritis is tough to treat.

“There is a clear need for better treatments using alternative approaches to joint inflammation,” said Sam T. Hwang, professor and chair of dermatology at UC Davis and senior author of the study. 

Understanding the mechanism behind joint inflammation

Chemokines are small molecules with a critical role in the body’s response to inflammation and infection. They help guide the migration of immune cells to the site of injury or trauma. Chemokines need receptors to function. One specific chemokine receptor is CCR6.

The researchers assessed the role of CCR6 and its binding partner CC chemokine ligand 20 (CCL20) in inflammation linked to psoriatic arthritis and psoriasis. They looked at the potential of the CCR6/CCL20 combo as an effective therapeutic target.

They measured the CCR6 and the CCL20 levels in the joint fluid and tendon tissues of patients with psoriatic arthritis. CCR6 is a critical agent for the migration of T cells – a type of white blood cells - in skin psoriasis. The new study showed that CCR6 plays a similar role in joint inflammation. The team also found that CCL20 is present at very high levels in inflamed joint fluid.

“We observed a significant increase of both CCR6 and CCL20 in the connective tissue of mice with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis,” Hwang noted. “This high presence was also confirmed in inflamed human tendon biopsies.”

The presence of CCL20 at the site of the inflammation makes it a very attractive target for arthritis therapy.

The connective tissue linking tendons and ligaments with the bones is called the enthesis. It is an important site of inflammation in psoriatic arthritis. The study found that entheses are distinct locations which CCR6+ T cells appear to locate and, therefore, cause inflammation.

“It is critical to identify the specific tissues where inflammation in the joints first occurs before it spreads and damages the cartilage and the bone,” Hwang said.

Blocking the function of the CCR6 chemokine

The researchers tested the ability of a novel engineered protein- known as CCL20 locked dimer (CCL20LD)- in blocking the CCR6 function in a mouse model with psoriatic arthritis. The protein profoundly reduced both skin and joint inflammation by shutting the CCR6’s power to attract T cells.

“The success of CCL2OLD in blocking CCR6 function in a mouse model shows potential for treating psoriatic arthritis in humans,” Hwang said. “Definitely, this requires more testing and clinical trials to explore its effectiveness and safety.”

The study was published in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology.


Co-authors on this study are Zhenrui Shi at University of California, Davis and Sun Yat-sen University, China; Neal Millar, Emma Garcia-Melchor, Flavia Sunzini and Moeed Akbar at the University of Glasgow; Xuesong Wu, Mimi Nguyen, Douglas Rowland, Machelle Wilson, Mindy Huynh and Timothy Law at the University of California, Davis; Anthony Getschman and Brian Volkman at the Medical College of Wisconsin; Smriti Kundu Raychaudhuri and Siba P. Raychaudhuri at the University of California School of Medicine, Davis, and VA Medical Center Sacramento.

This study was supported by a Pfizer ASPIRE award and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) (ROI_AR063091_01A1), a Translational Research Grant from the National Psoriasis Foundation, a New Investigator award from the National Psoriasis Foundation, a Small Business Innovation Research grant (1R43AR074363-01), a grant from National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), National Institutes of Health (UL1 TR001860), a fellowship grant from Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis and a Medical Research Council, UK (MR/R020515/1). Hwang is a holder on the patent for CCL20LD and has an unpaid role as medical director at XLock Biosciences, which produces the protein.

Shi et al. (2021). Targeting the CCR6/CCL20 axis in entheseal and cutaneous Inflammation, Arthritis & Rheumatology, DOI:10.1002/art.41882.

202106_unleashed-how-a-doggie-day-care-was-the-perfect-fit-for-employee-and-employer--video Wed, 02 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Unleashed: how a doggie day care was the perfect fit for employee and employer (video) <p>For one woman with autism, a job at a local doggie daycare has provided purpose. The opportunity resulted from an innovative UC Davis MIND Institute program, which connects employers and agencies eager to support workers with developmental disabilities.</p>
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This is a story about hope, opportunity and a chihuahua named Bruiser. It takes place at Cha Cha’s Doggie Daycare in East Sacramento, where 34-year-old Ashley Robertson has been working since October of 2020.

“I’m usually more of a cat person,” she said, but then quickly added, “but I like dogs just as much.”

Ashley Robertson with Bruiser, her favorite dog at Cha Cha’s Doggie Daycare

Robertson has autism, and her job at Cha Cha’s is supported by Progressive Employment Concepts, which assists businesses that hire people with developmental disabilities. Progressive is a partner of the Northern California Business Advisory Council, part of the Center of Excellence in Developmental Disabilities at the UC Davis MIND Institute. The collaboration introduces business to qualified applicants who have disabilities, which increases diversity, equity and inclusion at regional workplaces. Job options for people with developmental disabilities are very limited. So, the Business Advisory Council acts as a bridge between employers and the agencies that can provide support to businesses through the onboarding and training process.

Cha Cha’s owner, Desalene Jones, was moved to contact the MIND Institute when she noticed that an after-school center next door, where kids with autism used to gather, closed due to the pandemic.

“I wanted to know how I could help; how I could be the change,” she said. The Business Advisory Council discussed her vision and connected her with Progressive Employment Concepts, and they introduced Robertson as a possible hire.

But working at a doggie daycare isn’t for everyone, Jones warned. “The dogs are loose here and running around and it’s different from a lot of typical kennels, when you have 30 dogs jumping on you. Ashley walked through and was interested, and it seemed like a good match.”

And it has been. Robertson now works 16 hours a week.

A great match

On a recent workday, Robertson described her duties at Cha Cha’s, while nuzzling her favorite dog at the daycare.

Cha Cha’s owner Desalene Jones (left) and Ashley Robertson feed the dogs a snack

“I like this little chihuahua named Bruiser because he’s really sweet,” she explained, in between cuddles. “I like to play with the dogs and I also like to do nap time with them. They’ll lay down in whatever space they can find, and I usually sit with them. I also do leash work, feed the dogs their lunches and I also often clean up their messes,” Robertson said.

Of course, that comes with the territory at a place whose website proudly proclaims #MustLovePoop.

“If you want to cuddle with a dog, at some point you’re going to wash a wall. Even if you’re not in this industry, if you want to cuddle with a dog, you’re picking up some poop, so they go hand in hand,” laughed Jones. 

As part of the arrangement with Progressive Employment Concepts, Robertson makes a regular wage and has a job coach, Marlene Mangabat, who joins her at work part of the time. Cha Cha’s also receives financial assistance while Ashley is being trained. The goal is to gradually decrease Mangabat’s role until she’s not needed.

“One of the biggest rewards of being a job coach is to see the changes,” said Mangabat. “With Ashely, we were worried about her learning the dogs’ names, but she learned them quickly and then was able to give them commands, so just to see her improvement, it’s like --‘wow!' -- you can see the confidence growing.”

Long-term relationships

BAC logoInterested in hiring someone through the program?

• Contact the Northern California Business Advisory Council
• They’ll set you up with a supported employment agency that’s part of the team
• They’ll assist with locating qualified applicants that you can interview
• At no cost, the agency will assist with pre-screening, training and ongoing, long-term support and retention of the employee, including a job coach
• Help expanding diversity, equity and inclusion programs at your business.
• Get more information about the Business Advisory Council here

That growth is one of the benefits of the program, said Steve Ruder, community health program supervisor with the Business Advisory Council. He noted that an employee’s development opportunities often lead to a successful, long-term relationship.

“Employers tell us all the time that these hires are incredibly competent, that they are loyal and that they are oftentimes the face of the business,” Ruder said. “Some have been with their company for a decade or longer.”

In 2016, the Business Advisory Council reviewed workers supported by two partner agencies and found that of the 91 employees, 22 had worked for the same company for a decade or longer, and eight had worked for the same employer for at least 20 years. “Many of these companies are in the service industry,” explained Ruder. “The fact that a third of these employees have been at the same company for ten or more years is truly astounding.”

Jones noted that Robertson is still in learning mode, and so are her other employees. “She’s still developing her skills and is doing well with specific tasks, such as cleaning. I think it stretches her a bit when little things happen, like a dog attacking the mop, but she’s doing really well,” she said. “As a business owner it’s helpful to have someone that enjoys doing those tasks.”

Jones said a recent training session with her whole team and Mangabat via Zoom was very helpful, too. “I didn’t realize what a benefit that would be. It improved communication between Ashley and my other employees, but much of what we all learned could be used outside of work, too, in terms of communication and universally helpful concepts,” she said.

Ashley Robertson in the outside play area with the dogs at Cha Cha’s Doggie Daycare

In fact, it’s been so successful that Jones has now hired a second employee with developmental disabilities through Southside Unlimited, another supported employment agency that works with the Business Advisory Council. Her advice to other employers considering the idea is, “Do it!”

As for Robertson, she says the job at Cha Cha’s has helped her to realize how much she enjoys working with animals and plans to continue doing so. “The job is very rewarding, and I see it as a blessing – and a success,” she said.  

202106_hospital-visits-for-extreme-blood-sugar-highs-and-lows-increase-chance-of-dementia Wed, 02 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Hospital visits for extreme blood sugar highs and lows increase chance of dementia <p>Older people with type 1 diabetes who have been to the hospital at some point for both low and high blood sugar levels may be six times more likely to develop dementia later, according to a new study from UC Davis Health.</p> Older people with type 1 diabetes who have been to the hospital at some point for both low and high blood sugar levels may be at six times greater risk for developing dementia later, according to a new study from UC Davis Health.

The researchers also found that people with type 1 diabetes who visit the hospital for just one of the blood sugar extremes — either high or low — may also be at greater risk for developing dementia.

“People with type 1 diabetes are living longer than before, which may place them at risk of conditions such as dementia. If we can potentially decrease their risk of dementia by controlling their blood sugar levels, that could have beneficial effects for individuals and public health overall,” said study author Rachel A. Whitmer, professor and chief of the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

The research is published in the June 2, 2021, online issue of Neurology.

Impact of severe glycemic events on brain health

Type 1 diabetes is a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Hypoglycemia is low blood glucose, or the main sugar in blood, that may result in loss of consciousness. Hyperglycemia results from insulin deficiency or extremely high blood sugar and dehydration. This study looked at severe glycemic events, which were defined as episodes of high or low blood sugar that resulted in an emergency room visit or hospital stay.

The study looked at 2,821 people with an average age of 56 who had type 1 diabetes. Of those, 398, or 14%, had a history of severe low blood sugar; 335, or 12%, had a history of severe high blood sugar and 87, or 3%, had both. Researchers followed up with the people for an average of seven years to determine who had been diagnosed with dementia.

"Our findings suggest that exposure to severe glycemic events may have long-term consequences on brain health and should be considered additional motivation for people with diabetes to avoid severe glycemic events throughout their lifetime."

— Rachel A Whitmer

Researchers found that 153 people, or about 5%, developed dementia. After adjusting for age, sex and ethnicity, the people with low blood sugar events had a 75% greater risk of developing dementia than those without one. People with high blood sugar events had more than twice the risk of developing dementia than those without one.

However, the people who experienced both types of events had more than six times the risk of developing dementia than people who had neither event.

“Our findings suggest that exposure to severe glycemic events may have long-term consequences on brain health and should be considered additional motivation for people with diabetes to avoid severe glycemic events throughout their lifetime,” Whitmer said.

A limitation of the study is that people had to be diagnosed with dementia by a health care provider to be counted as having dementia. Since many dementia cases go undiagnosed, this may have resulted in underreporting the number of cases. Whitmer noted that the study was not designed to determine whether high and low blood sugar events cause dementia. It only shows an association.

Researchers also looked at incidence rates. After adjusting for age, the incidence rate of dementia in people with low blood sugar events was 26.5 cases for every 1,000 person-years compared to 13.2 for people without. Person-years take into account the number of people in a study as well as the amount of time spent in the study. The incidence rate of dementia in people with high blood sugar events was 79.6 cases for every 1,000 person-years, compared to 13.4 for people without.

For people who had both high and low blood sugar events at various times, the incidence rate of dementia was 98.5 for every 1,000 person-years, compared to 12.8 for those who had neither.

A version of this press release was published by the American Academy of Neurology. Additional authors on this study are: Paola Gilsanz, Andrew J. Karter and Charles P. Quesenberry, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research; and Mary E. Lacy, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UC San Francisco.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health. A version of this announcement was released by the American Academy of Neurology.

202106_dont-tread-on-it Tue, 01 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Don’t tread on it! <p>While the odds of being bitten by a rattlesnake are small, following some precautions from UC Davis Health experts, people can minimize the chances of being bitten and suffering severe or even life-threatening symptoms.</p> Dry, hot conditions are only just beginning in California. But the weather is already causing rattlesnakes and other animals to seek water sources such as rivers, creeks and even backyards.

Being aware of your surroundings and knowing how to respond when encountering a rattlesnake is the key to avoiding a dangerous rattlesnake bite.

“We typically see 10-15 rattlesnake bites in the hospital each year, along with 300-400 cases managed through the California Poison Control System,” said James Chenoweth, an emergency department physician at UC Davis Health who specializes in medical toxicology. “This year, so far, poison control has received about 120 calls, and I’ve consulted on two cases in the past month or so.”

Most rattlesnake bites occur between the months of April and October. Chenoweth and his poison control colleagues often field calls from emergency medical personnel and community physicians who want advice about treating rattlesnake bite victims. 

While the odds of being bitten by a rattlesnake are small, following some precautions outdoors, people can minimize the chances of being bitten and suffering severe or even life-threatening symptoms.  

Chenoweth says the best tip is to simply avoid any contact with a snake, even if it looks dead.

“The bite reflex can stay intact and there are reports of venom being injected even by decapitated rattlesnakes,” added Chenoweth, who mentioned seeing videos online showing snakes still able to bite after death. “Parents should teach their children to not handle snakes, even if they don't think they are venomous.”

Top tips to prevent rattlesnake bites

  • Wear boots and long pants when hiking
    Never go barefoot or wear sandals when walking in areas where you cannot clearly see where you are placing your feet. Wearing hiking boots and long pants offers an extra layer of protection from unexpected encounters with a rattlesnake. These barriers, however, will not provide complete protection against a bite. 
  • Stay on trails when hiking, away from underbrush and tall weeds
    Snakes can rest almost anywhere that is hidden from view and enables them to hide from predators, avoid extreme temperatures and hunt for prey. Because trails tend to have fewer hiding places for snakes, they offer a level of protection for you. Brush offers protection for snakes. Stay on trails to avoid potentially disturbing a rattlesnake in hiding. 
  • Do not touch or disturb a snake, even if it appears dead
    Snakes use their hidden position to strike and kill their prey by surprise. Don’t mistake their apparent stillness as a safe opportunity to investigate. Even freshly killed snakes may still be able to bite.

Protect dogs and other animals from being bitten by a rattlesnake. Ask your veterinarian about rattlesnake anti-venom and vaccines, and immediately contact your veterinarian if your animal has been bitten.

  • Always look for concealed snakes before picking up rocks, sticks or firewood
    Since rattlesnakes are often well-camouflaged and wait quietly for prey, they can be difficult to see. Piles of rocks or logs, patches of dense shrubs, and expanses of tall grasses are just few of the places where snakes may seek shelter. Carefully inspect logs or rocks before picking them up or sitting down to avoid accidentally disturbing a rattlesnake. 
  • Never hike alone in remote areas. Always have someone with you who can assist in an emergency
    Having a hiking partner is important to help in a crisis, especially in a situation where you or your hiking partner is bitten by a snake. If safe to do so, have your hiking partner photograph the snake so that identification can be made to aid in treatment. 
  • Teach children to respect snakes and to leave them alone.
    Curious children who pick up snakes are frequently bitten. Teach them always to give snakes the right of way to prevent snake bites. 

If someone is bitten by a rattlesnake

  1. Get immediate medical attention, as severe or even life-threatening symptoms may occur within minutes after the bite, or in other cases may begin after couple of hours.
    Rattlesnake bites can produce extreme pain and swelling at the location of the bite, excessive bleeding, nausea, swelling in the mouth and throat making it difficult to breathe, lightheadedness, drooling, and even collapse and shock in rare cases.
  1. Do not apply ice, do not use a tourniquet or constricting band, do not try to suck out the venom, and do not use any device to cut or slice the bite site.
    Constricting blood vessels near a rattlesnake bite can lead to amputation. Wash the wound with soap and water, and remove wristwatches, rings on fingers or anything constrictive.
  1. Keep calm, try to avoid exertion, and keep the affected extremity below heart level until you can be transported to a medical facility.
202106_heather-siefkes-receives-2021-eli-gold-prize Tue, 01 Jun 2021 07:00:00 GMT Heather Siefkes receives 2021 Eli Gold Prize <p>Heather Siefkes, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Pediatrics, received the 2021 Eli Gold Prize. Siefkes works in the Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital and is the medical director of Project ADAM Sacramento.</p> Heather Siefkes, assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Pediatrics, has received the 2021 Eli Gold Prize. Siefkes works in the Pediatric and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at UC Davis Children’s Hospital and serves as medical director of Project ADAM Sacramento, which helps schools prepare for a sudden cardiac emergency through AED and CPR training.

The prize was named for Eli Gold, former professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Pediatrics, who supported and encouraged many young aspiring pediatricians. The annual award of $3,000 supports winners’ research and career development.

“In her relatively short time in our department, through a unique combination of focus, persistence and vision, Dr. Siefkes has established herself as a leader in clinical research,” said Jennifer Plant, division chief of pediatric critical care medicine at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, who nominated her for the award. “Dr. Siefkes has also made considerable contributions to the Department of Pediatrics, related to service, education and clinical work. She is a thorough and thoughtful clinician worthy of recognition for the quality of her work.”

Siefkes’ research interests include early detection of critical congenital heart disease in newborns and outcomes related to pediatrics critical care medicine. She has earned a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) grant and a UC Davis CTSC KL2 scholar grant to improve critical congenital heart disease (CCHD) detection in newborns by measuring their blood flow levels in addition to blood oxygen levels.

The Eli Gold Award is open to any junior faculty member in the department who has achieved prominence in clinical, teaching, research or community service. The criteria for identifying the award recipient includes innovation, impact on child health, and impact on UC Davis Children’s Hospital or its community. The award winner is invited to give a lecture on a topic of his or her choice at a Pediatric Grand Rounds.

202105_closure-of-state-route-99-june-11-16-to-impact-travel-to-and-from-uc-davis-medical-center Fri, 28 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Closure of state Route 99 (June 11-16) to impact travel to and from UC Davis Medical Center <p>North- and southbound state Route 99 will be closed from 47<sup>th</sup> Avenue to the U.S. Highway 50 connector, from 8 p.m. on Friday, June 11 until 4 a.m., Wednesday, June 16. Rerouted traffic is expected to affect the area around the medical center.</p> The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is scheduled to close northbound and southbound state Route 99 from 47th Avenue to the U.S. Highway 50 connector, from 8 p.m., Friday, June 11 until 4 a.m., Wednesday, June 16.

Caltrans says the closure is necessary for crews to quickly and safely replace an aging bridge deck on Route 99 at 21st Avenue.

Rerouted traffic is expected to impact Stockton Boulevard and areas around UC Davis Medical Center, and patients, visitors, and employees should plan ahead for increased congestion.

During the closure, employees coming from South Sacramento and Elk Grove should allow extra time to get to work.

The mainline westbound Business 80/Capital City Freeway to southbound Route 99 is also slated to be closed, as will the westbound and eastbound U.S. 50 connector ramps to southbound Route 99. Also, the following ramps are scheduled to be closed:

  • The on-ramp from 16th Street to eastbound U.S. 50
  • The on-ramp from 29th Street/H Street to westbound Business 80/Capital City Freeway
  • The on-ramp from 29th Street/N Street to westbound Business 80/Capital City Freeway
  • The on-ramp from 29th Street/T Street to southbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp from Broadway to southbound Route 99
  • The off-ramp from southbound Route 99 to 12th Street
  • The off-ramp from northbound Route 99 to 12th Street
  • The on-ramp from 14th Avenue/30th Street to southbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (slip) from Fruitridge Road to northbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (loop) from Fruitridge Road to northbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (slip) from East 47th Avenue to northbound Route 99
  • The on-ramp (loop) from West 47th Avenue to northbound Route 99

Caltrans is encouraging motorists to take public transit instead (SacRT is providing free light rail service from June 12-15; more information here), use Interstate 5, and find alternate routes during the 99-hour closure.

For more information, including suggested detours, please see the Caltrans news release.

202105_nurse-residency-program-earns-ancc-accreditation-with-distinction Fri, 28 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Nurse Residency Program earns ANCC accreditation, with distinction <p>UC Davis Health&rsquo;s Nurse Residency Program is the first and only program in the Sacramento region to earn accreditation, with distinction, from the American Nurse Credentialing Center.</p> With confetti and cheers at the ready, a group of nurse leaders and nurses heard the exciting news today: UC Davis Health’s Nurse Residency Program has been accredited, with distinction, by the American Nurse Credentialing Center (ANCC). It is the first and only program in the Sacramento region to earn this status. 

“We’ve been working toward this for a long time, so it was great to finally hear the words,” said Alicia Vasey, nurse residency program director. 

Vasey was among those who were on a conference call with the ANCC when the announcement was made.

“Accreditation elevates our nurse residency program to another level,” said Toby Marsh, chief nursing and patient care services officer. “It demonstrates what we’ve pursing for years: a residency program that sets the highest standards of excellence in training our new nurses and furthering our vision of providing the highest quality of patient care provided through the advancement of nursing practice.”

The ANCC’s accreditation program is designed to set the global standard for residency and fellowship programs that transition new RNs (registered nurses) into patient care settings.

UC Davis’ nurse residency program was established 2012 to increase the expertise of the nursing workforce, benefit patient outcomes, increase nurse retention rates, and strengthen a commitment to the nursing profession.

The popular one-year program is designed to help new graduate nurses transition into their clinical roles. The program utilizes curriculum from the Vizient/American Association of Colleges of Nursing, which includes carefully designed classes and teaching methods to support clinical skill development, improve critical thinking, enhance professional growth, and promote evidence-based practice. Through a series of learning and work experiences, the program enables new nurses to successfully transition from student to confident professional in their chosen nursing career path.

“What’s also unique about the ANCC Practice Transition Accreditation Program is that it’s recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor as one that meets the standards for industry-recognized apprenticeship programs,” added Vasey. “That means that our residency participants receive a highly regarded curriculum and guidance from experienced nurse preceptors that helps them make the leap from nursing education to clinical practice.”

“ANCC accreditation for our nurse residency program,” said Marsh, “is a key element in our continual focus on improving patient care by supporting and encouraging the best in professional development.”

202105_three-dimensional-models-provide-road-map-to-cloacal-repairs-video Fri, 28 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Three-dimensional models provide road map to cloacal repairs (video) <p>Three-dimensional printed models, created at the 3D PrintViz Lab on the UC Davis Health campus, have helped surgical teams plan for cloacal surgery in children. These models provide a veritable road map that makes all the difference.&nbsp;</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — Cloacal repair is a delicate surgical procedure that many pediatric surgeons will never encounter in their lifetime.

But UC Davis pediatric surgeon Payam Saadai specializes in this type of surgery. He is committed to helping children born with a cloaca to have the best possible future.  

One in 50,000 girls are born with a cloaca, which is a rare, congenital malformation in which the genital tract, the urinary tract and the colorectal or intestinal tract end together in one channel, instead of being three separate structures.  

The surgery to reconstruct those three separate structures takes place in a single surgery and is a collaborative effort by a team of experienced pediatric surgeons, pediatric urologists, interventional radiologists, gynecologists and other specialists.

Payam Saadai

“No two cases are the same,” said Saadai, who performs four to five cloacal repairs on infants each year at UC Davis Children’s Hospital in close collaboration with UC Davis pediatric urologist Eric Kurzrock. He waits until babies are nine months to a year old before performing this life-changing surgery. “Everyone is a little different. The way the structures connect is different. Some connect very high up in the belly. Some of them connect really low down. Sometimes, there will be abnormalities related to the urological tract or the gynecological tract that can confuse things. If you go into surgery without a good road map, you could run into complications.”

Three-dimensional printed models have helped the surgical teams plan for this complex surgery. These models provide a road map of sorts that is making all the difference.  

A complex anatomy in 3D

Each cloacal model is made at the 3D PrintViz Lab on the UC Davis Health campus, based on two-dimensional scans of the patient’s anatomy from radiology and 3D imaging known as cloacagrams. 

Osama Raslan, associate professor of radiology at UC Davis Health and co-founder of the 3D PrintViz Lab, has partnered with Saadai to provide the custom models needed to help the surgical team visualize the complexity of the anatomy, plan for the surgery and anticipate complications.

“Models do what two-dimensional scans can’t do. 3D takes away the guesswork,” Raslan said. “You can hold the 3D model and change the positioning in your hands. You can see different perspectives in a way that you can’t with X-rays.”

The benefits of 3D models over 2D scans

The 3D lab uses FDA-approved software to create the models. Models are printed on site.  

By inputting 2D images and scans into the software, Raslan can separate the organs or systems that the surgeons are interested in seeing. He can also color code them to highlight different organs or body systems.  

Some advantages of the 3D model over 2D scans:

  • Models are portable and replicate the exact size of the patient’s organs and anatomy.
  • Models can be made of sterile materials and brought into the operating room. Surgeons can refer to the model during surgery.
  • Models can be assembled or disassembled, allowing clinicians to take apart and reconstruct the anatomy.
  • Surgeons can move the model around and flip it, providing different perspectives from all sides.
  • Models can help parents understand what will be taking place during surgery.
  • Models can be a teaching tool for medical residents and fellows so they can see the complex anatomy and the surgical planning required.

Raslan is grateful that his lab can use this technology to help surgeons be successful, especially in complex cases like cloacal repair. 

“This technology can drastically change a patient’s life for the better. That’s the most important reason why we’re doing this,” Raslan said.

Saadai remembers a time when he didn’t have access to 3D models to complete cloacal repairs. He said that the outcome was still the same. It just took longer and was more challenging to get the same results. Thankfully he doesn’t have to work in that environment any longer.

“If we didn’t have the 3D modeling here at UC Davis, it would be more difficult to achieve the same results. Most centers don’t have this capability. Most surgeons who do this cloacal repair don’t have access to 3D models. We’re in a very unique situation here at UC Davis. I feel very lucky,” Saadai said. 

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Surgical precision: 3D printing improves outcomes for patients

202105_friday-before-memorial-day-declared-dont-fry-day-as-reminder-to-be-sun-safe Fri, 28 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Friday before Memorial Day declared ‘Don’t Fry Day’ as reminder to be sun safe <p>&ldquo;Don&rsquo;t Fry Day&rdquo; on the Friday before Memorial Day aims to reduce the number of new skin cancer diagnoses by promoting sun safety and encouraging people to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors this summer.</p> The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention encourage sun safety awareness and remind everyone to keep skin safe skin while enjoying the outdoors.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the nation, with almost 5.5 million cases diagnosed in Americans each year – more than breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers combined. In fact, one out of every five Americans will be diagnosed with some form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Invasive melanoma accounts for about 1% of all skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.

“Don’t Fry Day is the perfect way to jump start the summer,” said UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Physician-in-Chief Richard Bold. “It is especially important to protect children from the harmful effects of the sun because sunburns during childhood increase the risk of getting skin cancer later in life.”

Skin cancer is highly preventable. Over 90% of all skin cancer is caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or indoor tanning devices.

Americans can dramatically reduce their risk of skin cancer by:

  • Not burning or tanning intentionally
  • Generously applying sunscreen (remember to reapply every two hours)
  • Use SPF 30 broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen (the best sunscreen is the one you’ll use!)
  • Wearing sun-protective clothing (i.e., wide-brimmed hats and long sleeves)
  • Seeking shade during peak times of the day (between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
  • Using extra caution near water and sand
  • Bonus: wear a facial covering to stay protected from COVID-19 AND the sun!

“Don’t Fry Day,” now in its thirteenth year, is a public awareness campaign that aims to reduce the number of new skin cancer diagnoses by promoting sun safety and encouraging people to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.

“Sunburns represent skin damage,” said Bold. “No tan is a safe tan.”

The best way to detect skin cancer early is to be aware of new or changing skin spots or growths, particularly those that look unusual. Any new or changing spots (size, shape, color, new bleeding, etc.), should be evaluated by a doctor.

According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing melanoma is 1 in 1,000 for Blacks, 1 in 167 for Latinos, and 1 in 38 for whites. While the chance of developing melanoma is highest among whites, melanoma does occur across all races. The idea that Blacks or Latinos do not get melanoma is a myth – and stands in the way of raising awareness of melanoma and other skin cancers.

202105_uc-davis-health-among-worlds-first-health-care-organizations-to-make-race-to-zero-emissions-commitment Thu, 27 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health among world’s first health care organizations to make Race to Zero emissions commitment <p>As a member of Health Care Without Harm&rsquo;s Health Care Climate Challenge, UC Davis Health announced that it has joined the United Nations Climate Champion Race to Zero campaign, aiming to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.</p> UC Davis Health, as a member of Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Challenge, announced yesterday (May 26) that it has joined the United Nations Climate Champion Race to Zero campaign. By joining the Race to Zero, UC Davis Health is committed to halving greenhouse gas emissions throughout its entire operations by 2030 and achieving net-zero by no later than 2050.

Solar panels, like the ones atop Parking Structure 3, provide a zero-emissions source of energy.

The U.N. Race to Zero initiative is the largest alliance of non-government organizations committed to reducing climate pollution. Alongside nearly 40 health care institutions in 17 countries (representing over 3,000 health care facilities), UC Davis Health is among the first group of organizations in the sector to pledge contributions toward that global zero-carbon vision.

“As the crises of the past year have shown, the health of our planet and the health of human populations are closely intertwined,” said Vice Chancellor of Human Health Sciences and UC Davis Health CEO Dr. David Lubarsky. “As an organization and as a sector we need to do more to ensure a safer, cleaner and more sustainable world – and through Race to Zero, we are fully committed to helping speed the transition to a zero-carbon economy and a resilient, prosperous, and healthy future. Research has repeatedly shown environmental conditions are one of the social determinants of health, and we are committed to doing our part to promote good health for the globe.”

UC Davis Health Director of Sustainability Colleen McCormick, who will lead the health system’s efforts in attaining those emissions goals, spoke as the representative of the U.S. contingent during a virtual launch on May 26.

The event was hosted by Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Challenge, established in 2015 at the Paris Climate Conference to mobilize health care institutions around the world to address the climate crisis.

“We look forward to collaborating across UC Davis Health to reduce fossil fuel dependence wherever and whenever we can,” McCormick said. “By joining this effort, we will draw on the collective wisdom and experiences of organizations around the globe, adopting best practices for the benefit and health of our communities and the planet.”

202105_treatment-provides-brighter-future-for-patient-living-with-mental-illness-video Thu, 27 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Treatment provides brighter future for patient living with mental illness (video) <p>The UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs&rsquo; holistic approach to treating mental illness is featured in a moving new documentary short about Chris Ferrari, who received life-changing help from the clinic. The release is from One Mind, a leading brain health nonprofit.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — The UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs’ holistic approach to treating mental illness is featured in a moving new documentary short about Chris Ferrari, who received life-changing help from the clinic. The release is from One Mind, a leading brain health nonprofit. 

Ferrari was in college when he began hearing voices that did not make any sense to him. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a serious mental illness that is typically diagnosed in the late teen years to the early thirties. He dropped out of school and worried his condition would never get better. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, every year about 100,000 adolescents and young adults in the U.S. experience their first episode of psychosis. 

“Psychosis is a really broad term, and it just refers to a set of symptoms. Things like hallucinations or hearing things that aren’t there,” said Paula Wadell, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and medical director for the UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs. 

"People who have psychosis absolutely can get better."

— Paula Wadell

Ferrari’s mother, Deanna Ferrari-Leong, spent hours researching the disease after her son’s diagnosis. In the documentary, she explains, “I saw that UC Davis had a program. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.” 

Ferrari became a client in the EDAPT program in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. He and his mother began driving back and forth between Stockton, where they live, to the outpatient clinic in Sacramento for weekly treatments. 

Progress was slow at first. After about a year and a half of being part of the program, Ferrari began to see it as a good thing. “At first, I was skeptical. But Dr. Wadell put me on some medication that actually helped me out more. I started to see differences. They got better and better,” Ferrari said. 

Holistic approach includes families and support people

The Early Psychosis Programs at UC Davis are nationally recognized as leading providers of early psychosis care. Each client has a clinician who helps to identify the client's unique needs and recovery goals. The treatment plans encourage clients to build upon their strengths and take an active role in treatment decisions. Families and support people are actively engaged in the care process to ensure that the client’s support network has the knowledge and tools to help their loved ones toward wellness.

HHS Secretary Becerra tours Early Psychosis Programs

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra toured the Early Psychosis Programs at the UC Davis Medical Center on Wednesday, May 19. The EDAPT and SacEDAPT clinics are nationally recognized as leading providers of early psychosis care. Read more.

“When we see someone for the first time, we take a lot of time to really listen to the client’s and the family’s story. We like to have different members of the team hear the client’s story so that we develop a treatment plan that’s best for them,” said Tara Niendam, an associate professor and the executive director of the program. 

“The treatments we have include medications that can decrease the frequency or eliminate the symptoms. We also use cognitive behavior therapy that really teaches our clients how to cope with what they are dealing with,” said Waddell. “Our treatment plan also includes family members, and we use that term broadly. Whoever is seen as a support person. We absolutely could not do what we do without the family’s support.” 

“I thought when it first happened, it was never going to get better. I guess this is how it’s going to be. And as I started going through the process, things started looking brighter at the end of the tunnel,” said Ferrari. He went back to college and received an Associate of Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

“Everyone deserves their chance at happiness. And we want to help our clients achieve their goals,” Wadell said. “It might be college or getting married and having children. And those are all outcomes we see with the young people we work with. People who have psychosis absolutely can get better.” 

Effective, timely treatments can help people with schizophrenia manage their symptoms and lead rich and fulfilling lives. For more information, visit the Early Psychosis Programs webpage

About the Early Psychosis Programs

The Early Psychosis Programs in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UC Davis are nationally recognized as a leading provider of early psychosis care. The programs have a strong and diverse interdisciplinary team of physicians, clinicians, support staff, and consumer/family advocates with unique expertise in state-of-the-art assessments and evidence-based practices for early identification and intervention for psychotic disorders. They provide coordinated specialty care in an outpatient setting that incorporates targeted medication management, individual, family and group psychosocial interventions, case management services, and supported education and employment with the goals of early diagnosis, treatment, and disability prevention.

About One Mind

One Mind is a leading mental health nonprofit that heals lives through brain research, working from science to services to society. By bringing together the best minds in brain science and advocacy around a collective vision of “Accelerating Brain Health for All,” One Mind is advancing a three-pronged program strategy of accelerating discoveries, scaling implementation and transforming societal culture. www.onemind.org.

202105_record-setting-month-of-giving-at-jersey-mikes-raises-80k-for-uc-davis-childrens-hospital Thu, 27 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Record-setting month of giving at Jersey Mike's raises $80K for UC Davis Children's Hospital <p>Jersey Mike&rsquo;s Sacramento-area franchises raised more than $80,000 for UC Davis Children&rsquo;s hospital in March, setting a new record during the chain&rsquo;s annual Month of Giving fundraiser. Sick and injured kids across 33 local counties benefit from Jersey Mike&rsquo;s efforts.</p> Jersey Mike's Subs franchises in the greater Sacramento area raised a collective $80,363.95 for UC Davis Children’s Hospital during the chain's annual Month of Giving. This was the third year area stores partnered with Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals, the fundraising arm of UC Davis Children’s Hospital. 

Local restaurants accepted donations throughout the month of March, building to the Day of Giving on March 31. On that day, 100 percent of sales were donated. Participating locations included Fairfield, Woodland, Vacaville, Sacramento, Rocklin, Roseville, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove. All funds support research, equipment, programs and patient care for sick and injured children in the children’s hospital’s 33-county service area. 

Stocking up on snacks to support UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

“I can’t thank Jersey Mike’s and their customers enough for rallying to raise so much money for CMN at UC Davis,” said Michelle Tafoya, program director of Children’s Miracle Network at UC Davis. “The pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 Month of Giving. I was thrilled just to be able to participate this year. And then to get the news that they raised more than $80,000, I was blown away. Wow. Just wow. We can help so many more kids with their support.”

The chain raised $15 million overall to help more than 200 charities nationwide during the company’s 11th annual fundraising campaign. This total is double the amount raised in 2019 when the company donated $7.3 million to local charities. Since Month of Giving began in 2011, Jersey Mike’s has raised $47 million for hospitals, youth organizations, food banks and more.

202105_more-work-still-needed-to-recruit-retain-obgyn-residents-that-reflect-the-diverse-patient-population-they-serve Wed, 26 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT More work still needed to recruit, retain OB/GYN residents that reflect the diverse patient population they serve <p>To address health care disparities among minority women in obstetrics and gynecology, one approach is to increase diversity among health care providers to better reflect the patient population that they serve. But are medical residents within OB/GYN more diverse than other medical specialties?</p> Black, Native American amd Alaskan Native women are three to four times more likely to have a pregnancy-related death when compared with white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which tracks pregnancy-related deaths in the United States

One approach to addressing these health care disparities among minority women in obstetrics and gynecology is to increase diversity among health care providers to better reflect the patient population they serve. 

Through this lens, UC Davis Health researchers studied the current demographics among medical residents in the United States. The study gauged how the diversity within obstetrics and gynecology compares to other medical specialties and how the workforce reflects the patient population. The findings were published this month by the JAMA Network. 

Led by Claudia López, a UC Davis obstetrics and gynecology resident, the researchers used JAMA Medical Education reports from 2014 to 2019 to examine the race and ethnicity among OB/GYN, surgical and nonsurgical residents. 

Surgical residents were from specialty areas including colon and rectal surgery, neurological surgery, ophthalmology, orthopedic surgery, otolaryngology and plastic surgery. Nonsurgical residents worked in specialties including allergy and immunology, anesthesiology, dermatology, emergency medicine, family medicine and internal medicine. 

A total of 520,116 medical residents were included in this study. The findings were as follows:

  • For each year, OB/GYN, surgical and nonsurgical residents most commonly identified as white (for example, in 2014-2015, 59.3%), followed by Asian (for example, in 2014-2015, 26.6%). Native American or Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander residents were the least represented in all residency categories (for example, in 2014-2015, 0.3%).
  • The racial and ethnic composition of residents varied among OB/GYN, surgical and nonsurgical specialties each year. A higher proportion of OB/GYN residents identified as Black (e.g. in 2014-2015, 10.2%) or Hispanic (e.g. in 2014-2015, 9.6%), compared with surgical (in 2014-2015, Black residents were at 4.7% and Hispanic residents were at 7%) and nonsurgical specialties (in 2014-2015, Black residents were at 5.8% while Hispanic residents were at 7.6%).
  • Across the five-year period, among OB/GYN residents, there was a decrease in white and Black residents and an increase in those categorized as other or unknown race/ethnicity. In surgical specialties, there were decreases in white and Black residents and increases in multiracial and other or unknown residents. Among nonsurgical residents, there was a decrease in white and Asian residents, while there was an increase in multiracial, other or unknown, and Hispanic residents.

“Despite the overall larger proportions of Black and Hispanic residents in OB/GYN, the larger trends of stagnant or decreasing rates of underrepresented minority residents are concerning, indicating that more work is needed to recruit and retain these residents,” López said. 

López suggested that to reverse these trends, assessing the pathway for minorities in OB/GYN and the minority experience during training should take place at multiple milestones: grade school, undergraduate school, medical school and residency training.  

“It is important not to become complacent. We must assess why this decrease in underrepresented minority physicians is occurring and find ways to address it,” López added. 

Co-authors included Machelle Wilson from the UC Davis Division of Biostatistics; Melissa Chen, associate director of the fellowship in complex family planning at UC Davis Health; and Melody Hou, director of medical student education in obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis Health.

202105_new-research-study-aims-to-improve-cancer-disparities Wed, 26 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT New research study aims to improve cancer disparities <p><span>People from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds in the Sacramento area encouraged to participate in a UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center research study aimed at reducing the cancer burden in underrepresented communities.</span></p> To understand how cancer affects people, researchers at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center are evaluating healthy people with their latest imaging technology, EXPLORER, which is the world’s first total-body PET scanner. 

The EXPLORER scanner offers a whole new way of looking at the human body and has already shown itself to be far more powerful than the previous generation of PET scanners. The purpose of the study is to better understand the differences between the biology of healthy people and those with cancer. 

However, most of the volunteers for this study have been homogenous in their backgrounds and have not reflected the diversity of the population of cancer patients in our local community. A new study is hoping to correct this imbalance because it can lead to errors in the conclusions and that can get in the way addressing the very real and significant disparities in the burdens of cancer that exist between groups with different racial and ethnic backgrounds. 

The cancer center seeks to recruit 20 people from the Sacramento region from African American, Latino and Asian American populations to participate in the EXPLORER research study

A multicultural campaign is underway to educate communities about the importance of the study and to encourage participation. 

Members of the UC Davis Health Community Advisory Committee (CAB) toured the EXPLORER Molecular Imaging Center recently and shared their experiences through video interviews in which they explained why they feel the study is critically important. 

“You’ll have answers and better information, which hopefully means better cancer outcomes for African Americans in the future,” said Shauntay Davis-Patterson, a UC Davis CAB member who also directs the state’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan

EXPLORER can capture incredibly high-quality images, as well as 3D movies showing how radiotracers behave across the entire human body, something that no other scanner can do. These images and movies provide the clearest images to date revealing how internal body systems interact in real time. 

“While participating in the study doesn’t benefit the health of the individual directly, study volunteers are ‘paying it forward’ by contributing to a critical database that will help others fighting cancer from the same race and ancestral background,” said Moon Chen, associate director for the cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement, and project lead for the new study. “The study is expected to create a baseline for distinguishing what might be ‘normal or healthy’ in a scan, versus something that is ‘abnormal’ and should be examined further.”  

More than 1,000 research and clinical cases have been completed since the EXPLORER opened to patients in 2019. Now, a National Cancer Institute supplemental grant is helping to bring benefits of EXPLORER to racial and ethnic minorities in the region served by the cancer center. 

“We live in a very diverse community and region, and the more diverse our participants can be in clinical research, the more treatment protocols are going to be developed and be more relevant to a whole variety of communities,” said Debra Oto-Kent, a UC Davis CAB member and executive director of the Health Education Council, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting health and preventing chronic disease in underserved communities. 

PET scanners use short-lived radioactive tracers to illuminate how organs and tissues function and can scan only 20-centimeter segments at a time. EXPLORER produces much higher quality images than other PET scanners and can image the entire body at once, which leads to more accurate diagnosis. 

Jose Miguel Suarez, a CAB member and clinical director for the Health and Life Organization (HALO), Inc., Sacramento Community Clinics, said, “It’s an opportunity for all communities, from different races, languages and cultures, to participate and gain access to the EXPLORER.” 

To be eligible, participants must be at least 18 years of age and belong to one or a combination of the following racial/ethnic backgrounds:

  • Black/African American
  • Hispanic/Latino
  • Asian American/Pacific Islander
  • Alaska Native/American Indian

For more information regarding participation requirements, go to the EXPLORER PET/CT: Evaluation of Healthy Individuals from Racial/Ethnic Minority Populations study page or contact study coordinator Lynda Painting at Lpainting@ucdavis.edu or call her at 916 731-9004. 

Study ID:
UC Davis IRB: 1714742
ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04812080
NCI support and funding (P30-CA093373-18S4)

202105_atreja-named-to-himss-future50-community Wed, 26 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Atreja named to HIMSS Future50 Community <p>Chief Information and Digital Health Officer Ashish Atreja has been named to the annual Future50 list of innovative thinkers and leaders by the global technology advisory organization, the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).</p> The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) has selected UC Davis Health’s Ashish Atreja as a member of its prestigious Future50 Community for 2021. Each year, the non-profit global advisory organization, which focuses on information and technology in health care, selects and celebrates top digital health leaders from around the world.

Atreja serves as the health system’s chief information and digital health officer. A new cohort of 50 top global leaders is invited to join the HIMSS’ community every year. Alumni also serve as leaders and mentors to inspire future generations of change. Members work alongside HIMSS and the global healthcare community to overcome systemic health challenges by addressing gaps and needs at local and regional levels.

HIMSS recognized Atreja in its “Innovation Leader” category of the Future50 honors. This group of leaders works to develop innovative solutions by harnessing emerging, disruptive, and cutting-edge technologies to address healthcare challenges.

In addition to innovation, the Future50 Community annually includes leaders in clinical, government, health IT, and patient advocacy.

“It’s truly an honor to be selected among the Future50 Class of 2021,” said Atreja, upon hearing the news of his selection. “The recognition from a respected health-technology organization also speaks to the enhanced opportunities UC Davis Health now has to collaborate with other top-tier digital health organizations and experts. It will enable us to further bolster our digital health leadership on a national and international basis.”

HIMSS provides the Future50 Community with a platform to connect and promote the progression of the global digital health agenda. Members have the opportunity to participate in dedicated activities and leverage their expertise as content leaders within the HIMSS framework. Atreja’s selection may include collaboration opportunities with HIMSS publications and innovation efforts.

Atreja came to UC Davis Health in December 2020 from Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Trained as a gastroenterologist, he served as Mount Sinai’s  first chief innovation officer and director of Sinai AppLab. He is often referred to as “The App Doctor” for his work in using digital health apps with electronic health records.

In addition to a medical degree, Atreja holds a master’s in public health, and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and fellow of the American Gastroenterological Association. He is overseeing the expansion of UC Davis Health’s digital relationships with patients and with other hospitals, working to bridge the gap between academia and industry, and aiming to transform the health system into a  global hub for digital health.

202105_childrens-miracle-network-at-uc-davis-announces-local-2021-champion Tue, 25 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Children’s Miracle Network at UC Davis announces local 2021 champion <p>A patient since before he was born, Casey Dyke has lived his best life, thanks to UC Davis Children&rsquo;s Hospital donors. He&rsquo;s now the Children&rsquo;s Miracle Network Champion representing UC Davis for 2021.</p>
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Each year, Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Hospitals across the U.S. and Canada identify a “champion” in their local community to represent kids treated at their children's hospital. This year, Casey Dyke of Roseville has been named CMN champion for UC Davis Children’s Hospital through 2021.

Dyke was in utero when doctors told his parents a crucial heart valve was missing. Just days after birth, he had his first heart surgery. By the time Dyke was 4 years old, he had four complex heart surgeries. His parents estimate that he spent a year in the Pediatric Cardiac and Intensive Care Unit (PCICU).

Now 16, Dyke has been able to live a regular life with the help of CMN donors, his UC Davis Children’s Hospital care team and his parents, Michael and Gina, who are proud their son is the 2021 champion.

"It's amazing that a boy born with the odds against him can go on to have such a normal life,” said Gina Dyke, Casey’s mother. “I'm extremely grateful for what UC Davis has done for him.”

Casey Dyke as a newborn Casey Dyke had four heart surgeries by the age of 4.

The family has spent years advocating for the charitable needs of sick and injured children in UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s 33-county service area. Now, their son can tell his own story.

“We are so excited to have Casey as our champion,” said Michelle Tafoya, program director of Children’s Miracle Network at UC Davis. “The Dykes have been dedicated to saving and improving children’s lives since Casey was a toddler. Now, by sharing his own experience, Casey can continue that legacy of giving back by inspiring people to support sick and injured kids just like him.”

The CMN Costco campaign runs through May 31.


202105_104-graduating-doctors-celebrated-virtually-in-50th-annual-commencement- Mon, 24 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT 104 graduating doctors celebrated virtually in 50th annual commencement (video) <p>The UC Davis School of Medicine celebrated its 50<sup>th</sup> annual commencement ceremony on Saturday. School leaders conferred 104 Doctor of Medicine degrees during a virtual ceremony that honored the students&rsquo; diversity, commitment, and resilience.</p>

Saturday marked the UC Davis School of Medicine’s 50th commencement ceremony, and its second in a virtual format. One hundred and four graduates took part in the momentous event from their homes with family and friends, while a small group of leaders and faculty members addressed them from the UC Davis Health campus.

 “Good morning and welcome!” Vice Dean Mark Servis greeted everyone, before acknowledging the magnitude of the past year’s events.

“This class has had a remarkable journey in the last 14 months, dealing with the twin crises of a COVID-19 pandemic and racial injustice,” Servis said. “Learning how to Zoom nearly every day and helping to lead social change to bring about a more equitable and just society.”

 To commemorate the school’s “Golden Anniversary,” a video of the school’s history was featured, accompanied by vocals and guitar from two graduates, Yen Luu and Nick Tom. The two vocalists harmonized to James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend,” as key milestones were highlighted, starting in 1965 when the Regents of the University of California voted to establish a medical school at UC Davis.

 Vice Chancellor for Human Health Sciences and UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky joined virtually, congratulating the graduates and urging them to be lifelong learners, “because medical knowledge is doubling every 73 days.”

UC Davis Chancellor Gary May also addressed the students, emphasizing that the global pandemic made it clear that health care professionals are among the “greatest heroes” and the “change agents” desperately needed to keep communities healthy.

“All I can think of at the moment is how much the world needs you,” May said. “Never before has the importance of your role been so elevated in the eyes of the world.”

Dean Allison Brashear referenced some of the recent changes made toward health equity, thanks to student and faculty efforts. For example, the school was among the first in the nation to eliminate race-based references in a standard kidney function test. Brashear reaffirmed the school's commitment to health equity.

“While there is a great deal more work to do, I am heartened by the changes we are collectively making as we work to create a more equitable system and tackle the larger issues of inequity and medicine as a whole,” Brashear said.

The ceremony included four student speakers: Kendra Verga, Ignacio Cortina Petrasic, Kiersten Kelly and Kimberly Ngo.

Verga, a soon-to-be family medicine resident at Kaiser Permanente Sacramento, shared that several years ago, her father had been hospitalized in critical condition following a car crash. After hours of waiting anxiously at his bedside, she woke up to four missed calls and the news that she had been accepted to the UC Davis School of Medicine.

“My dad was so incredibly proud,” Verga recalled, holding back tears. Sitting there hooked to IVs, he beamed with pride and told every doctor, nurse and staff member who walked into his room.”

Keynote speaker Hendry Ton, associate vice chancellor for the UC Davis Health Office for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, reassured graduates that despite any self-doubt or nervousness, they are ready.

“Speak out for health equity, call out injustice in all its forms and call on those around you. We have to remember that in the wake of injustice, the silence of bystanders injures just as much,” Ton said. “Seek joy, find and sustain love. Climb that mountain. Paddle that river. Dance and sing in your community.”

Virtual commencement gave those watching a glimpse into what many students already knew – that diversity is one of the medical school’s greatest strengths. In March, U.S. News & World Report ranked the UC Davis School of Medicine No. 4 for diversity.

The ceremony, posted on Facebook, garnered more than 15,000 views. Each graduate got a chance to say thank you or tell a personal story while getting hooded. The graduates were surrounded by family members of all generations, friends, significant others, and beloved pets.

Balloons and signs reading ‘Congrats grad!’ filled the Zoom screens. Champagne and confetti pops rang out amongst the loud cheers, clapping and often cries of joy.

Some students spoke in multiple languages, honoring their culture and history. Others held up photos of loved ones who were no longer here to watch them accomplish this milestone.

Maria Barajas-McGahan was hooded while holding one daughter in her arm, as another daughter stole her graduation cap with a mischievous smile.

Liliana Samano thanked UC Davis for allowing her to become the first doctor in her family and said to her husband: “This degree is as much as yours as it is mine.”

Marta Miguelena’s mother was beyond ecstatic for her daughter’s achievement, chanting, ’Si, se puede [yes we can]!” while jumping up and down.

“Never before has the importance of your role been so elevated in the eyes of the world.” — UC Davis Chancellor Gary May

Esther Kang giggled with her ‘Omma’ or mom in Korean, exchanging lots of kisses as they took in the moment.

Liliya Klimkiv fanned her tears with one hand and held her baby in another. “Oh my gosh,” she exclaimed, unable to hide her emotions.

In a sea of family members, Francis Rangel Ventura’s parents stood out, wearing shirts that read “Soy un padre/madre orgulloso de uno doctora” meaning “I am a proud father/mother of a doctor.” While wrapping up her speech, Ventura affirmed with pride: “I do look like a doctor!”

Alejandro Ramirez’s proud mom and “number one fan” held her arm over his shoulder the entire time. Ramirez told his girlfriend and fellow graduate Lizette Rodriguez “I’m so proud of us.”Spienghar Komak gave most of his speech in Pashto, a language of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.

Not far behind him in the alphabetized lineup, Rodriguez dedicated her degree to her mother, who died 12 years ago.

“She’s been my guiding light,” Ramirez said, holding on to a photo. “It was a long road, but we’re here and we did it.”

After all the students were hooded it was time for the physician’s oath.

First, there was a multi-language version where graduates sent in videos of themselves reciting the oath in languages including Spanish, Arabic, Bengali, Cantonese, Farsi, Hmong, Punjabi, Setswana, Tagalog, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean and Swedish. Then, graduates were asked to recite the oath in English together.

At the end of the virtual program, it was time for the graduates to move their tassels from right to left. Now in gallery view, people watching from home witnessed the sea of medical school students officially become doctors.

“Thank you for letting us join your family, your loved ones to create some moving experiences for all of us,” Servis said to conclude the program. “You are the fulfillment of the dreams and aspirations of your family and friends.”

Then came the cue for everyone to un-mute: endless joyous cheers and applause for the UC Davis School of Medicine Class of 2021.


202105_sacramento-high-school-student-makes-250-face-coverings-by-hand-for-uc-davis-hospice-patients Mon, 24 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Sacramento high school student makes 250 face coverings by hand for UC Davis Hospice patients <p>St. Francis High School senior Katrina Uthoff was recently presented with her school&rsquo;s Pillar of Service Award for making the handmade masks that were a huge hit with UC Davis Hospice staff and homebound patients and their families.</p> Like many people in the region and across the country, Katrina Uthoff – a student at St. Francis High School in Sacramento – felt increasingly helpless as the COVID-19 pandemic exacted its devastating toll around the globe last year.

But then UC Davis Hospice volunteer coordinator Erin Bjork, through her outreach efforts to area high schools, offered a unique service opportunity for students during the early months of the pandemic.

“When the project to make masks was presented,” Uthoff said, “I decided to do it because I wanted the opportunity to help people in my community in any way, during such a difficult and unprecedented time.”

About 30 St. Francis students volunteered to help hospice patients, a segment of the population that was at higher risk for infection and also more isolated than ever because of quarantine restrictions. The students put together COVID-19 safety kits, created handmade cards, made fleece blankets, assembled care packages, and crafted face coverings.

Uthoff, in particular, went above and beyond – contributing 120 hours of service in making 250 masks. But it wasn’t just the sheer quantity that made her handiwork so special – it was the evident care she invested in them.

“The hospice staff was so grateful to have such beautiful masks to share with our homebound patients,” Bjork explained. “Katrina’s masks were a favorite among staff and families, with many asking for more when we ran out – everyone loved the prints, colors, and style of the masks; they were so comfortable with the adjustable ear loops and soft fabrics.”

And when there was a special request for pediatric masks or a need to bolster the mask supply, Uthoff immediately got to work to accommodate.

“UC Davis Hospice has been overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness of students such as Katrina during the pandemic,” said Bjork.

In fact, Uthoff was presented last week with her school’s Pillar of Service Award, given to one graduating senior each year who promoted service on and off campus.

Uthoff, however, said that the greatest reward of all was hearing the feedback that Bjork regularly shared via email.

“I don't seek recognition for service but Mrs. Bjork always made sure I knew how valued and appreciated the masks were by patients and UC Davis Hospice staff,” Uthoff said. “I was really grateful and humbled to know that the masks I made were part of an impact greater than myself.”

Uthoff will be attending Boston University in the fall, with the hopes of pursuing a career in public health.

202105_health-and-human-services-secretary-xavier-becerra-visits-community-vaccine-clinics-in-sacramento--video Fri, 21 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visits community vaccine clinics in Sacramento (video) <p>U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra came to Sacramento to learn first-hand how UC Davis Health and its community partners are helping people from underserved communities get the COVID-19 vaccine in neighborhood clinics.</p>
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(SACRAMENTO) — U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra on Thursday visited two locations in Sacramento where UC Davis Health and its community partners provide COVID-19 vaccines to the medically underserved. 

Becerra wanted to learn first-hand how the partnerships have succeeded in breaking down barriers to health care access. He also solicited ideas on how to vaccinate people across the country who are hesitant about getting the shot. 

The locations – La Familia Counseling Center in South Sacramento and St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Oak Park – are among a string of partnerships where UC Davis has been instrumental in providing tens of thousands of doses to people from underserved communities. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra tours La Familia Counseling Center where UC Davis Health provides COVID-19 vaccinations

The partnerships with community centers, schools, churches and other groups, Becerra learned, are successful because the non-profit organizations are closely in tune with the needs of local residents, who are often ethnic and racial minorities. 

“Having UC Davis health partner with La Familia and other local neighborhood organizations that know the community, have the trust of the community, is essential,” Becerra said. “That makes the connection between the community and the health services seamless, and that’s what you need.” 

La Familia Executive Director Rachel Rios, whose organization has also been a COVID-19 testing site for a year, told Becerra that providing health services during the fast-moving pandemic was a struggle at first, as they  learned how to best reach a multicultural community. 

“There isn’t a one-size fits all approach, you have to do intentional outreach,” she said. “You need to work with different communities in different ways.” 

Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities, agreed. 

“We are finding out that we have to be much more strategic and intentional in identifying rapidly where these inequities are,” he said. He advocated for taking COVID-19 vaccinations to places such as flea markets to reach certain populations. 

Aguilar-Gaxiola is part of a UC Davis effort funded by a federal grant to test farmworkers in Yolo and Stanislaus counties for the virus, and, lately, has begun to offer vaccines. Becerra, who became secretary less than two months ago, praised the effort. 

Becerra asked what the federal government can do to vaccinate communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. 

UC Davis Associate Dean for Public Health Sciences Bradley Pollock emphasized the need for data collection to help bring the pandemic to an end. The state, he told Becerra, is still figuring out a way to provide COVID-19 positivity rates by zip code, which can help determine where to distribute the vaccine. 

“We need to be focusing on hotspots for the underserved,” added UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky. 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, center, addresses St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church with UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky, left, and Senior Pastor Kenneth Reece, right.

Becerra toured the vaccination room at La Familia where he asked one man why he decided to get the shot months after it first became available. 

“I was a little scared due to lack of information,” replied Benito Guzman, an auto mechanic. Guzman said he eventually made up his mind and got vaccinated because his family, friends and neighbors didn’t have severe reactions after their shots. “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” Guzman said. 

Becerra then quipped, “I need to take you with me to all the interviews on the TV networks so they can see that you got your vaccine.” 

After his tour of La Familia, Becerra visited St. Paul Missionary Missionary Baptist Church, a well-known community pillar that has met the spiritual needs of Black and other congregants for more than 70 years. 

He said about 60 percent of those eligible for the vaccine nationally have gotten it, and that President Joe Biden wants to increase the rate to 70 percent. 

It’s critical to reach people who don’t have easy access to the vaccine, as well as those who are still hesitant, Becerra said. 

“The president made very clear that he wants to make sure everyone can get vaccinated, and one of the things he has said – and it’s great to see the leader of the country saying – I want to go to those parts of the country that we always forget, the corners of the country where we often leave folks behind.” 

Becerra added, “I take that very seriously. Having grown up not far from here in Sacramento, I know this area and I know how this sometimes is considered one of those cracks in the community that often gets left behind, and so I think it’s important that we walk that talk.” 

Leaders at the round table discussion in the church’s fellowship hall expressed their desire to see more mobile health clinics, school-based clinics, and telemedicine to provide the expected demand for mental health services after the pandemic ends. 

St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Kenneth Reece, who was vaccinated at the weekly clinic UC Davis runs at his church, acknowledged there are a number of ways to keep the community safer, including educating people to be advocates for their own health. 

“I also know that there has to be a larger conversation,” he added, “I mean, it has to be not just from educating our own community, but we need a larger conversation with government.” 

Becerra, the former California Attorney General, has spent two days in Sacramento. 

On Wednesday he toured the UC Davis Health Department of Psychiatry’s Early Psychosis Programs. The tour came after an announcement Tuesday that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding for its mental health and substance use block grant programs.  

Read more about the efforts of UC Davis and UC Davis Health to care for the underserved throughout the COVID-19 crisis. 

202105_ulfat-shaikh-appointed-to-the-childrens-hospitals-associations-next-generation-of-quality-committee Fri, 21 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Ulfat Shaikh appointed to the Children’s Hospitals Association’s Next Generation of Quality committee <p><span>Ulfat Shaikh, medical director for health care quality and professor of pediatrics at UC Davis Health, has been appointed to the Children&rsquo;s Hospitals Association&rsquo;s Next Generation of Quality Steering Committee. The committee includes 11 members representing children&rsquo;s hospitals across the country.</span></p> Ulfat Shaikh, medical director for health care quality and professor of pediatrics at UC Davis Health, has been appointed to the Children’s Hospitals Association’s Next Generation of Quality Steering Committee. The committee is made up of 11 members representing children’s hospitals across the country.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting rapid expansion of care in ambulatory, telehealth and community settings has clearly shown us that children’s hospitals are part of health systems that go well beyond the walls of a hospital,” Shaikh said. “Pioneering children’s hospitals are evolving to the next generation of quality through this expanded approach of ‘children’s health systems.’ Being on Children's Hospital Association's Next Generation of Quality Steering Committee gives me the opportunity to contribute to these forward-looking efforts at a national level.”

Enhancing quality, patient safety and equity is a priority for the Children’s Hospitals Association. The association is working with children’s hospitals and health systems to address quality gaps, make improvement an integral part of health care delivery and support hospitals as they work to accelerate progress toward improvement of health outcomes, experience, and value for children and families.

The committee will continue to advance quality strategies, evaluate models for the future, and contribute insights to help guide this journey for children’s hospitals.

202105_nations-cancer-centers-urge-action-to-get-hpv-vaccinations-back-on-track Thu, 20 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Nation’s cancer centers urge action to get HPV vaccinations back on track <p><span>Top cancer centers, including the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, are sounding the alarm about a drop in the HPV vaccination rate. They attribute the change to a decrease in well-child visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.&nbsp;</span></p> Along with other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers across the country,

the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center joined today in issuing a statement urging physicians, parents, and young adults to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination back on track. 

Dramatic drops in annual well visits and immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a significant lag in vital preventive services among U.S. children and adolescents—especially for the HPV vaccine. More information on HPV is available from the CDC and National HPV Vaccination Roundtable

Nearly 80 million Americans – 1 out of every 4 people – are infected with HPV, a virus that causes several types of cancers. Of those millions, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Despite those staggering figures and the availability of a vaccine to prevent HPV infections, HPV vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. HPV vaccination rates lagged far behind other vaccines and other countries’ HPV vaccination rates. According to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), fewer than half (49%) of adolescents were up to date on the HPV vaccine. Those numbers have declined dangerously since the pandemic: 

  • Early in the pandemic, HPV vaccination rates among adolescents fell by 75%, resulting in a large cohort of unvaccinated children.
  • Since March 2020, an estimated one million doses of HPV vaccine have been missed by adolescents with public insurance— a decline of 21% over pre-pandemic levels. 

The U.S. has recommended routine HPV vaccination for females since 2006, and for males since 2011. Current recommendations are for routine vaccination at ages 11 or 12 but vaccine can be given as early as age 9. Catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended through age 26.

“We need to address this vaccination gap and quickly,” said Director of the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center Primo “Lucky” Lara, Jr. “It is important for adolescents to get vaccinated for COVID-19, but we also want to make sure they are protected against HPV to help avoid certain types of cancer later in life.” 

There are six types of cancers that can be caused by HPV, including nearly all cervical cancer. 

NCI Cancer Centers strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their adolescents as soon as possible. The CDC recently authorized COVID-19 vaccination for 12-15-year-old children allowing for missed doses of routinely recommended vaccines, including HPV, to be administered at the same time. NCI Cancer Centers strongly urge action by health care systems and health care providers to identify and contact adolescents due for vaccinations and to use every opportunity to encourage and complete vaccination. 

Local study examines HPV vaccine hesitancy

Due to the slow rate of HPV vaccinations, this year the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center launched a study to try to understand where HPV vaccine hesitancy stems from and how it influences adolescent uptake of the HPV vaccine in Northern California. Recently, the cancer center is stepping up efforts to get people to participate in the study. 

The Understanding and Characterizing HPV Vaccine Hesitancy or UC HPV study is currently recruiting individuals who reside or work in the following counties: Alpine, Amador, El Dorado, Nevada, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Stanislaus or Yolo to complete an online survey and or participate in focus groups and interviews. For questions, contact the study coordinators directly by emailing UCHPVStudy@gmail.com or by calling 916-566-5922.  

202105_program-addresses-food-insecurity-in-south-sacramento-communities-hard-hit-by-covid-19 Thu, 20 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Program addresses food insecurity in South Sacramento communities hard-hit by COVID-19 <p>The UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center designed and funded Food for All, a project focused on addressing COVID-19-aggravated food insecurity among Asian communities in South Sacramento.</p> Recently, the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC) designed and funded Food for All, a grocery distribution program focused on addressing COVID-19-aggravated food insecurity among Asian communities in South Sacramento. The project also promoted accessibility to COVID-19 testing and vaccination, especially for the elderly. 

“Serving the most vulnerable communities in South Sacramento is a priority for CTSC and UC Davis Health as a whole,” said Elizabeth Vasile, academic program manager of CTSC Integrating Special Populations into Research (INSPIRE). “INSPIRE and the UC Davis Health Anchor Institution Mission are committed to working with these communities to improve their health, welfare and wellbeing.” 

A team from INSPIRE worked with community partners to identify the needs in underserved communities in Sacramento. Together, they developed projects to address some of the most important health challenges for populations highly impacted by COVID-19. Food for All is one of them. 

Asian communities in South Sacramento

South Sacramento is home to a large Chinese, Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian refugee and low-income population. The community has weathered many job losses and business closures throughout the pandemic. 

Food insecurity, already an issue for families in this area, reached critical levels for many households, particularly for vulnerable older adults at the highest risk of severe COVID-19. 

“The CTSC INSPIRE program allocated funds to address an immediate need for safely provisioned and adequate nutrition in this community,” Vasile said. 

CTSC partnering with Asian Resources, Inc.

The CTSC partnered with Asian Resources, Inc. (ARI) to support culturally appropriate, COVID-safe, outdoor weekly food distributions. ARI, a community partner in South Sacramento, primarily serves the area’s Asian refugees and immigrants. 

Using the funds from CTSC, ARI made purchases from locally owned businesses. They carefully selected fresh fruits, vegetables and pantry staples commonly used in Asian cuisine and rarely included by other food pantries. In addition to helping households stretch their grocery budgets, the project helped small local business to keep going. 

“ARI was established in the ‘70s to serve Vietnamese refugees arriving in Sacramento. Over the years, we have developed strong community ties with Asian and other refugee communities in this area,” said Stephanie Nguyen, ARI Executive Director. “We were glad to partner with UC Davis Health to help alleviate food insecurity in South Sacramento.” 

The Food for All project provided healthy, culturally appropriate groceries to food-insecure households. Starting on Lunar New Year 2021 and continuing over 10 weeks, the project provided 1,676 grocery bags and served more than 1,200 households in Sacramento. ARI volunteers also distributed information aboutCOVID-19 testing and vaccines. While the recipients came from more than 50 zip codes, most lived in South Sacramento neighborhoods. Half of them were Chinese, 29% were Vietnamese and 7% were Filipino. 

Funding for this project came from the University of California Biomedical Research Acceleration, Integration, & Development (UC BRAID) grant. This grant is designated to promote health equity around COVID-19 and address the pandemic’s health impacts.

202105_improving-mental-health-focus-of-xavier-becerra-visit-to-uc-davis-health Thu, 20 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Improving mental health focus of Xavier Becerra visit to UC Davis Health <p>Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra made a visit UC Davis Medical Center on Wednesday to tour the Early Psychosis Programs and meet with campus leadership and faculty. The programs are nationally recognized as a leading provider of early psychosis care.</p> Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra made a visit to the UC Davis Medical Center on Wednesday. 

Secretary Becerra has made behavioral health a key priority for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

His visit follows an announcement Tuesday that the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is distributing $3 billion in American Rescue Plan funding for its mental health and substance use block grant programs. 

David Lubarsky, CEO for UC Davis Health and vice chancellor for Human Health Sciences, School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear, and Chair for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Helen Kales joined the tour of the Early Psychosis Programs on Stockton Boulevard in Sacramento.

The programs, including the EDAPT and SacEDAPT clinics, are nationally recognized as a leading provider of early psychosis care. The clinics provide coordinated specialty care in an outpatient setting that incorporates targeted medication management, individual, family and group psychosocial interventions, case management services, and supported education and employment. The goals are early diagnosis, treatment, and disability prevention.

Since March 13, 2020, outpatient clinical visits have been conducted via telemedicine due to COVID-19. 

UC Davis faculty discuss the nationally recognized Early Psychosis Programs with Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Tara Niendam, an associate professor and the executive director of the UC Davis Early Psychosis Programs, and Cameron Carter, professor and director of the EDAPT Clinic, led the tour. They introduced Becerra to clinic faculty and staff who described the program, the integration of research into clinical care, and experience treating youth with mental health disorders and their families. 

The presentation stressed that early identification of serious mental illness and provision of comprehensive services to impacted youth and families are critical for good outcomes. 

After the tour, Secretary Becerra met with UC Davis Health leadership and state and local officials, including California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly, Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna and Sacramento County Behavioral Health Services Director Ryan Quist to discuss priorities for addressing substance abuse and mental health issues. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health in the United States. Preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by the Commonwealth Fund show close to 90,000 overdose deaths for the 12 months ending in September 2020. That’s about 27% higher than the previous year. In June 2020, adults reported elevated levels of adverse mental health conditions, substance use and suicidal thoughts. Symptoms of anxiety were approximately three times those reported in the second quarter of 2019, and the prevalence of depression was about four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019. 

Secretary Xavier Becerra has made behavioral health a key priority for the Department of Health and Human Services.

In announcing the block grants, Secretary Becerra stated: “The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the need to invest resources in our nation’s mental health and address the inequities that still exist around behavioral health care. That’s why we are making this historic investment in mental health and substance use services.” 

Xavier Becerra was born and grew up in Sacramento, California. He served 12 terms in Congress as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He was one of the original co-sponsors of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Secretary Becerra was the first Latino to serve as California Attorney General and is the first Latino to serve as Secretary of Health and Human Services. He is married to Carolina Reyes, a perinatologist and associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UC Davis Health. 

202105_a-call-to-gynecologic-surgeons-to-reduce-excess-opioid-pills-after-hysterectomy Wed, 19 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT A call to gynecologic surgeons to reduce excess opioid pills after hysterectomy <p>A UC Davis Health study urged gynecologic surgeons to prescribe the smallest effective opioid prescription after hysterectomy. Their study found that, on average, patients use only half of pills prescribed after the operation.</p> A new UC Davis Health study updates the recommendations surrounding opioid prescriptions after hysterectomy, the surgical operation to remove the uterus. The researchers studied the current patterns of opioid prescribing and consumption after the operation.

Their study, published in the Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, urged the surgeons to respond to the opioid epidemic by reducing excess opioid pills after hysterectomy. It encouraged them to provide both the smallest effective prescription size and helpful resources for safe opioid disposal.

“Surgeons are playing an unintentional role in the opioid epidemic with excess prescription of opioids for postoperative pain,” said Bahareh Nejad, professor of obstetrics and gynecology, director of robotic surgery at UC Davis Health and co-author on the study.

Managing pain after the surgical removal of the womb

Opioid pain relievers are generally safe when taken for a short time and as prescribed by a doctor. In some cases, they can lead to addiction, overdose and death.

The researchers followed 113 women undergoing hysterectomy for non-cancerous indications at the UC Davis Medical Center. They obtained participant preoperative and surgical information through chart review and the patient’s pain report. During the third week after the operation, each participant completed a telephone interview, including a direct count of remaining opioid pills and an assessment of satisfaction with pain management.

The operations varied between vaginal, robotic-assisted, conventional laparoscopic and abdominal hysterectomies. They were performed by 19 surgeons, mostly general gynecologists.

Pain medication use after hysterectomy

The researchers used oral morphine equivalents (OME) as a unit to measure prescribed and consumed opioids. For example, one 5-mg tablet of hydrocodone is equivalent to 5 OME.

Patients who had abdominal hysterectomies were prescribed the most opioids and for the longest duration. Other patients were prescribed similar amounts, with those undergoing the vaginal procedure given the shortest duration.

The study also found that the average opioid consumption was about half of the prescription. The median quantity of opioids prescribed was 150 OME - compared to 75 OME consumed. The amount of OME taken did not vary significantly by the type of operation. Only 20% of participants with leftover opioids reported an FDA-compliant opioid disposal plan.

Half of all participants reported that they experienced less pain than expected. One in five women did not use any opioid medication and about 80% reported taking ibuprofen at least on some days. However, those who went for a hysterectomy due to pain consumed more opioids.

Patient satisfaction linked to opioid prescription

The study showed that one-third of patients felt they had received too many opioid pills. The amount prescribed was correlated negatively with pain management satisfaction.

“It was fascinating to find that participants receiving the minimum opioid prescriptions reported the highest satisfaction scores,” Nejad said.

The median OME prescribed for those with the highest satisfaction was 150, compared to 375 for those least satisfied.

Co-authors on the study are Kelli M. McEntee, Kaitlin D. Crawford, Machelle D. Wilson, Matthew D. Ponzini, Brenda T. Wu, and L. Elaine Waetjen

Article: McEntee et al. (2020). Postoperative Opioid Prescribing and Consumption after Hysterectomy: A Prospective Cohort Study. Journal of Minimally Invasive Gynecology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jmig.2020.10.023

202105_air-quality-linked-to-increased-risk-of-alzheimers Wed, 19 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Air quality linked to increased risk of Alzheimer's <p>A study led by UC Davis toxicologist Pamela Lein found a link between traffic-related air pollution and an increased risk for age-related dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. More than 5 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer's disease.</p> Researchers at the University of California, Davis, have found a link between traffic-related air pollution and an increased risk for age-related dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. Their study, based on rodent models, corroborates previous epidemiological evidence showing this association.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of age-related dementia and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. More than 5 million Americans currently live with Alzheimer’s disease — a number that is expected to triple by 2050 as the population ages. Health care costs for those patients are predicted to grow from $305 billion in 2020 to $1.1 trillion by 2050.

UC Davis toxicologist Pamela Lein, senior author of the study recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives, said their findings underscore the urgent need to identify factors that contribute to the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s to develop effective preventive measures for reducing the individual and societal burden of this disease.

Lein worked with UC Davis atmospheric scientist Anthony Wexler and first author Kelley Patten, while she was a doctoral student in the UC Davis graduate group for pharmacology and toxicology, to develop a novel approach to study the impacts of traffic-related air pollution in real time. Researchers set up a rodent vivarium near a traffic tunnel in Northern California so they could mimic, as closely as possible, what humans might experience from traffic-related air pollution.

“This approach was a creative way to get at the question of what impacts air pollution has on the brain in the absence of confounding factors such as socioeconomic influences, diet, etc.,” Lein said. “It’s important to know if living close to these roadways poses a significant risk to the human brain as it ages.”

Exposure outcomes on the aging brain

The researchers exposed male and female rats for up to 14 months to filtered air or polluted air drawn from the tunnel and delivered it to animals unchanged in real time. The subjects were divided into two groups: wild type rats and those that express Alzheimer’s disease risk genes that are relevant to humans.

"It’s important to know if living close to these roadways poses a significant risk to the human brain as it ages.”

— Pamela Lein

Testing was conducted in 3-, 6-, 10- and 15-month-old animals using hyperspectral imaging, behavioral testing and neuropathologic measures to quantify the expression of Alzheimer’s disease characteristics.

“We saw that traffic-related air pollution accelerated Alzheimer’s disease characteristics not only in the animals who express the risk gene (which we anticipated) but also in the wild type rats,” Lein said. “We didn’t anticipate that. The big, exciting discovery is that traffic-related air pollution is a risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer’s disease. This is important because this pollution is everywhere and could explain the increased number of people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease across the world.”

What remains unclear is which component of that pollution is predominately responsible for the effects on the brain. There are gases, particulate matter, road dust, tire wear, vibration and noise involved in traffic-related air pollution.

“The next set of studies is to try and tease apart specific components of traffic-related air pollution that drive these Alzheimer’s disease traits,” Lein said. “Or is it the collective mix that causes the damage?”

Fine particles (PM 2.5) in the polluted air at the study site were below federal regulatory limits, but ultrafine particles, which are not regulated, were detected in the brains of exposed animals.  

“The Environmental Protection Agency only regulates down to the PM 2.5 level, but the bulk of this traffic-related air pollution is ultrafine particulate matter,” Lein said. “These studies provide incentive to re-evaluate the current regulatory standards and suggest that current ones are not protective of the aging brain.”

The study shows traffic-related air pollution can deliver a double whammy, decreasing the time of onset of Alzheimer’s disease characteristics and accelerating disease progression. While personal factors can change an individual’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease (exercise, smoking, diet), people are often poor about sticking to a plan to decrease their risk factors.

“There’s a lot of data that shows if you can regulate risk factors through policy at a population level, you have a more significant public health impact than if you try to regulate them at the individual level,” Lein said. “If we could make some progress in identifying which component in traffic-related air pollution is causing these effects, then scientists can approach legislators to develop scientifically based regulations. Even if we can delay onset of Alzheimer’s disease by five years, we could potentially save our health care system an enormous amount of money.”

This study is one of four published papers to come out of the research site to date. A prior study, published in Translational Psychiatry focused on the developing brain and found a link between traffic-related air pollution and an increased risk for changes in brain development relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism.

Other study co-authors include: Kelley T. Patten and Anthony Valenzuela, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Anthony S. Wexler, Christopher Wallis, and Keith J. Bein, UC Davis Air Quality Research Center; Elizabeth Berg, UC Davis School of Medicine; and Jill Silverman, UC Davis MIND Institute and UC Davis School of Medicine.

The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health.

202105_healing-arts-take-center-stage-in-honor-of-national-cancer-survivor-day Wed, 19 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Healing arts take center stage in honor of National Cancer Survivor Day <p><span>The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is celebrating National Cancer Survivors Day in June with a virtual healing arts exhibit. The goal is to show how creative expression can help patients recover from cancer.</span></p> As National Cancer Survivors Day approaches in June, the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is looking for submissions of art that have helped local cancer survivors heal. Examples may include, but are certainly not limited to, paintings, sketches, ceramics, pottery, dance, collages, writing pieces, crafts, music, and bead making.

The cancer center’s virtual National Cancer Survivors Day event will be held Saturday, June 5, from 10 a.m. until noon, and will include interactive presentations and a  display of healing arts. To register, click on the Celebrating Cancer Survivors with Healing Art event page. The event is free and once you register you will receive the virtual meeting link.

“Expressive arts can provide cancer survivors a way to communicate their thoughts and feelings beyond words,” said Angela Usher, manager of supportive oncology and survivorship program for the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Whether it is music or painting, or any other form of creative expression, healing arts can be a therapeutic outlet for cancer patients and survivors, which can have a positive effect on their health and wellbeing.”

Digital copies of art submissions should be emailed to UC Davis Community Education Specialist Silvia Molina at scmolina@ucdavis.edu by May 27, 2021.

Along with the entry, the cancer survivors are asked to provide a few sentences about why the art helped with the experience of undergoing diagnosis and treatment as well as surviving cancer.

202105_uc-davis-drops-race-based-reference-ranges-from-a-standard-kidney-test Tue, 18 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis drops race-based reference ranges from a standard kidney test <p><span>Race-based reference ranges will no longer be part of a test routinely used to check a patient&rsquo;s kidney health. UC Davis Health is one of the first in the nation to make the change to the estimated glomerular filtration rate or eGFR.</span></p> UC Davis Health has eliminated race-based reference ranges from a test that is routinely used to check how well a patient’s kidneys are functioning. The health system is one of the first in the nation to make the change to the estimated glomerular filtration rate or eGFR.  

The change, which went into effect May 4, was inspired in part by students in the UC Davis School of Medicine, who were concerned about the impact of the test on racial health disparities. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Black Americans are almost four times as likely as white Americans to develop kidney failure. Black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population but account for 35% of kidney failures. The leading causes of kidney failure for Black patients are diabetes and high blood pressure. 

“Lab test results greatly influence decisions about patient care. We anticipate this change in the reference range for eGFR will lead to earlier detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease, more appropriate drug dosing and more eligibility for clinical trials and transplantation,” said Lydia Pleotis Howell, professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine

The eGFR is calculated using an equation that includes variables such as age, gender, and blood creatinine, a chemical compound normally removed by the kidneys. The majority of laboratories in the United States also factor in race, with separate eGFR reference ranges reported for Black- and non-Black patients. 

Race was added to this equation after a landmark 1999 study. The researchers found Black participants enrolled in the study had higher kidney filtration rates than non-Black participants with the same creatinine levels. A race-based adjustment, which allowed for higher creatinine levels, was created to accommodate this observed variation.  

Example of an eGFR result with a race-based adjustment.

The race aspect of the test has come under scrutiny in recent years. Its inclusion may lead to underdiagnosis and undertreatment of kidney disease in Black patients. Institutions that have removed the race-based reference ranges include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, University of Washington, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and others. 

Medical students initiate change

Momentum to change the test at UC Davis Health began last year.

In February 2020, Megan Byrne, then a fourth-year medical student, questioned the use of race in the eGFR as part of a class presentation for a race and health course taught by Associate Clinical Professor Jann Murray-García.

“We anticipate this change in the reference range for eGFR will lead to earlier detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease, more appropriate drug dosing and more eligibility for clinical trials and transplantation.”

— Lydia Pleotis Howell

Later that year, on June 19, also known as Juneteenth, Rachael Lucatorto, a professor of internal medicine, asked her in-patient team if they knew what the African American celebration signified. As part of the discussion that followed, Bisrat Woldemichael, a medical student, questioned the rationale for using a race correction in the eGFR.

Murray-García and Lucatorto brought the students’ concerns to their colleagues for discussion. With support and encouragement from Dean Allison Brashear, a multi-specialty workgroup was formed to address issues around the test.

The group was composed of general internists, nephrologists, pathologists, lab professionals and clinicians from the Office of Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

They began meeting in September 2020 to consider the impact of a potential change, including any unintended consequences. For example, a lower eGFR may make a person ineligible for medications that slow the progression of kidney disease and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Alex Ladenheim, a resident under the mentorship of Professor Nam Tran in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, did an extensive review of the research. He also conducted a retrospective review of serum creatinine values and corresponding eGFR data from 376 patients over a one-month period to assess the impact of the change. The results showed that eliminating race from the eGFR would not lead to inappropriate treatment or false-positive results. 

UC Davis Health has eliminated race-based reference ranges from the eGFR, which can measure kidney function.

“After reviewing clinical data and studies about the eGFR test, the workgroup found that the categorization of race, including the nature of race as a social construct, did not correlate to any clear genetic or metabolic differences,” said Brian Young. Young is a member of the workgroup and an associate clinical professor of nephrology. 

Eliminating race may lead to earlier detection of kidney disease

In March, the National Kidney Foundation and the American Society of Nephrology released a joint statement that race modifiers should not be included in equations used to estimate kidney function. In the statement, Paul M. Palevsky, president of the National Kidney Foundation, said: “The use of race in clinical algorithms normalizes and reinforces misconceptions of racial determinants of health and disease. We must move beyond this if we are to address the racism and racial disparities that impede the care of people with kidney disease.” 

In their own words

The change to the eGFR test was driven by UC Davis School of Medicine students. Both Megan Byrne and Bisrat Woldenmichael share their stories about the effort below.

Presentation for Race and Health course spurs change for common test
By Megan Byrne, who graduated from the School of Medicine in 2020

Juneteenth discussion of health inequities helps lead to change for common test
By Bisrat Woldemichael, a fourth-year medical student at UC Davis School of Medicine

In alignment with the recommendations in the joint statement, the workgroup moved forward to eliminate race from the eGFR equation at UC Davis Health. 

Baback Roshanravan is an associate clinical professor of nephrology at UC Davis Health and a workgroup member. “The use of the eGFR equation does not completely capture kidney function,” said Roshanravan. “Creatinine is influenced by factors unrelated to kidney function, such as diet, nutritional status and muscle mass, which reduces its precision for estimating true kidney function. It should be interpreted in the specific clinical context with a holistic, patient-centered approach in mind.” 

Successful implementation of the eGFR change was accomplished by clinical laboratory scientists and the health system electronic medical record and laboratory information system team. 

The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine is exploring offering a new test, cystatin C, which may be even more useful than other tests currently used for patients at risk for kidney disease. 

An estimated one in three adults in the United States is at risk for kidney disease. Common risk factors include diabetes, family history, high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity. Learn about steps to improve kidney health.

202105_uc-davis-nursing-school-announces-2021-nurse-leader-fellows Mon, 17 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis nursing school announces 2021 nurse leader fellows <p><span>The national program office at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis announces 10 new nursing scientists in the second cohort of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators.</span></p> The national program office at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis today announced the 10 members of the second cohort of the Betty Irene Moore Fellowship for Nurse Leaders and Innovators.

The fellows are affiliated with major public and private universities across the country. This year, two nurse leaders from health systems join the program. Fellowship leaders said the group offers great potential to advance the nursing profession.

“These fellows represent issues across the lifespan. Many are focused on health equity, prevention and optimal chronic disease management,” said Heather M. Young, national program director and professor. “These are all such important topics, vital to advancing population health and bringing diverse perspectives to health care systems.”

The program recognizes early- to mid-career nursing scholars and innovators and requires they take part in an innovative project or study. Fellows receive $450,000 over three years for their project plus $50,000 for their home institution. Fellows gather annually, when safety guidelines permit, at UC Davis for a week-long convocation and participate in an online learning community throughout the three-year period.

The fellowship, which runs for three years, is supported by a $37.5 million grant from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Roughly 10 fellows are selected every year for five years. It was launched in 2020.

The first cohort began amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the fellows were undaunted. Their subject areas range from advancing health equity through prevention and education and addressing caregiver stress in African Americans to technologies that support clinical decision making. Others are using telehealth with adolescents with neurological conditions and for remote forensic exams and web support for cancer treatment in underserved areas.

“They are risk takers and open to new ideas. They incorporate innovation into their work,” Young added. “They have been flexible as they faced so many unexpected barriers and changes due to the pandemic. This is a vital attribute for successful leaders and scientists — being able to reshape in response to the environment.”

Fellows focus on populations across the lifespan and their projects aim to address issues in prevention, health care delivery and education. The cohort has strength in health promotion, care for vulnerable populations and how to leverage technology to improve care.

The 2021 fellows include:

  • Dora Clayton-Jones, assistant professor at Marquette University, Arthur J. Schmitt Leadership Fellow and president of the International Association of Sickle Cell Nurses and Professional Associates: Clayton-Jones’ research focuses on interventions for adolescents and young adults living with chronic illnesses such as sickle cell disease.
  • Yamnia I. Cortés, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: The goal of Cortés’ research is to design interventions to reduce inequities in reproductive health and chronic disease, particularly in Latinas.
  • Rachel Lee DiFazio, nurse scientist at Boston Children’s Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School: DiFazio’s research is dedicated to exploring the wide variety of outcomes of orthopaedic surgery in children with cerebral palsy.
  • Roschelle “Shelly” Fritz, assistant professor at Washington State University: Fritz’s research focuses on using smart health technologies to improve the timeliness of care for older adults with chronic conditions who also experience low socioeconomic status and decreased access to care.
  • Luz G. Huntington-Moskos, assistant professor at the University of Louisville: Huntington-Moskos’ research focuses on developing environmental health report-back interventions designed for the adolescent population to support asthma self-management and prevention of asthma exacerbations.
  • Urmeka T. Jefferson, associate professor at Rush University: Jefferson’s research focuses on breastfeeding interventions that resonate with the cultural and contextual traditions of African American mothers. 
  • Lenette M. Jones, assistant professor at the University of Michigan: Jones’ research uses neuroimaging to explore brain activity associated with behaviors, such as diet, exercise and medication-taking, and examines how health information behavior can be enhanced to support blood pressure self-management.
  • Adrian Juarez, assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston: Juarez’s research focuses on improving HIV prevention intervention uptake in Latino communities on the border of Texas and Mexico.
  • Michelle L. Litchman, assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing and medical director for the Diabetes One-Day Education and Care Programat the Utah Diabetes and Endocrinology Center:Litchman’s research focuses on optimizing technologies to provide culturally relevant, linguistically appropriate and geographically available diabetes programming to diverse underserved populations.
  • Kimberly Souffront, assistant professor for the Department of Emergency Medicine and associate director for the Center for Nursing Research and Innovation at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital: Souffront’sresearch focuses on improving recognition of asymptomatic hypertension, blood pressure control and adherence to follow-up care.

Applicants completed a rigorous review process. National program office leaders, along with members of the Fellowship National Advisory Council, ultimately selected a diverse group pursuing innovative approaches to challenging problems. The program forms a learning community among fellows, combined with a strong curriculum to build skills and confidence in leadership and innovation.

Faculty from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management contributed their expertise to develop the hybrid curriculum for the fellows, designed to enhance leadership and innovation capacity, strengthen strategic thinking and collaborative skills, expand professional networks and propel innovative ideas to fruition.

Applications for the 2022 cohort open Sept. 24. To learn more, visit the fellowship program webpage.

202105_new-college-program-for-students-with-intellectual-disabilities-accepting-applications-video Mon, 17 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT New college program for students with intellectual disabilities accepting applications <p>Applications are now being accepted for Redwood SEED Scholars, a brand-new, four-year college program for students with intellectual disabilities. The inclusive program includes living on campus, attending traditional classes and work opportunities. Applications are due June 4.</p> Applications are now being accepted for a groundbreaking new college program serving students with intellectual disabilities at UC Davis. This fall, the first class of 12 Redwood SEED (Supported Education to Elevate Diversity) Scholars will join their fellow freshmen as part of the inclusive, four-year program.

To qualify, students must have a diagnosed intellectual disability and be 18-23 years old. They may have neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, fragile X syndrome or Down syndrome, or a traumatic brain injury. The MIND Institute and the UC Davis Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are jointly running the new program. It is funded in part by a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Students will also pay tuition and room and board.

“This is monumental,” said Beth Foraker, co-director of Redwood SEED Scholars and an instructor in the UC Davis School of Education. “This is an opportunity for students with intellectual disability to experience the social and educational growth that a fully integrated college experience can provide.”

Foraker, whose 21-year-old son Patrick has Down syndrome, has envisioned a program like Redwood SEED Scholars for years. “It’s the most exciting thing I’ve ever been a part of.”

Groundbreaking college program for adults with intellectual disabilities

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Students in the program will have the opportunity to live on campus, take college classes, engage in social activities and organizations, and pursue an internship or job. The curriculum will combine traditional UC Davis courses with custom courses focused on relevant issues such as independent living. Although the students won’t earn a bachelor’s degree, they’ll leave with a meaningful credential after four years.

A support system will be built into the program, including undergraduate students who will serve as peer mentors, helping with academics, social activities and health and wellness. Foraker is currently training next year’s mentors.

“These undergraduates are incredibly engaged and realize that the relationships they’ll develop with these students will be symbiotic, and will benefit all involved,” Foraker explained. 

A critical need

Most adults with intellectual disability are unemployed and many are living in poverty. Post-secondary options are limited, and four-year college programs are especially rare. The Redwood SEED Scholars program will be the first of its kind in California.

“We hope this is the seed that grows to include similar programs at many other California colleges and universities,” said Leonard Abbeduto, MIND Institute director and Redwood SEED Scholars co-director. “This is about civil rights. It’s about diversity, equity and inclusion. These students deserve an opportunity to gain the skills to engage in meaningful employment, and this program will provide that.”

“This is an opportunity for students with intellectual disability to experience the social and educational growth that a fully integrated college experience can provide.”

— Beth Foraker
Redwood SEED Scholars co-director

How to apply

Applications are due June 4. The selection process includes an online application and an interview. Students will need to provide their most recent individualized education program (IEP), as well as other educational documents, and ask two people to recommend them for the program.

The application team hopes to notify the successful candidates in July. They’ll also provide feedback for applicants who are not successful on how to strengthen their submission if they want to re-apply in the future.

For specific questions about the application process, please email HS-RedwoodSeed@ucdavis.edu or call 916-703-0269.

Why Redwood SEED?

Redwood SEED Scholars co-director Beth Foraker (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

The program gets its name from the T. Elliot Weier Redwood Grove on the Davis campus. “Redwoods don’t grow in the Central Valley,” said Foraker. “Yet this grove flourishes thanks to careful tending, a habitat that allows them to thrive and people willing to make the impossible happen. Redwood SEED Scholars will take their cue from these on-campus giants.”

202105_uc-davis-medical-centers-obstetric-anesthesia-service-named-center-of-excellence-- Fri, 14 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Medical Center’s obstetric anesthesia service named Center of Excellence <p>The Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology this week&nbsp; announced that UC Davis Medical Center has attained its prestigious Center of Excellence designation. The medical center was one of 17 institutions and programs globally to earn the designation this year.</p> The Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP) this week announced that UC Davis Medical Center has attained the prestigious SOAP Center of Excellence (COE) designation

UC Davis Medical Center is one of 17 institutions and obstetric anesthesia programs globally to have attained the SOAP Center of Excellence designation this year. It is valid for four years. 

“I'm proud to join our clinical director, Dr. [Julie] Fowler, and the rest of the faculty to receive this designation,” said Maria Cristina Gutierrez, academic director of the obstetric anesthesia service at UC Davis Health. “This is the result of the efforts of a cohesive team that strives to provide the best quality of care for women during their delivery at UC Davis. We will continue to ensure that safety and excellence in patient care remains our top priority in our institution.” 

The SOAP Center of Excellence designation sets a benchmark for expected care that helps improve national standards by providing quality metrics for institutions that offer obstetric anesthesia care. 

The criteria for the designation cover various domains, including personnel and staffing; equipment, protocols, and policies; simulation and team training; obstetric emergency management; cesarean delivery and labor analgesia care; recommendations and guidelines implementation; and quality assurance and patient follow-up systems. The criteria were generated by expert consensus and incorporate evidence-based recommendations. 

“Our team is thrilled to receive this Center of Excellence designation. I'm so proud of the hard work and dedication of all our obstetric teams who worked together to achieve this goal. We are committed to providing the highest standards of care for both mother and baby, and will continue to ensure that their safety, comfort, and wellbeing is our primary goal during such an important and exciting time,” said Julie Fowler, clinical director of the obstetric anesthesia service, which is a specialty within the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at UC Davis Health.

202105_children-12-to-15-can-now-be-vaccinated-against-covid-19-video Thu, 13 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Children 12 to 15 can now be vaccinated against COVID-19 (video) <p>U.S. public health agencies support the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds. Parents and caregivers can now schedule appointments for kids in this age group. A UC Davis pediatric infectious disease expert explains the benefits of vaccinating adolescents.</p>
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UC Davis Health experts are advising parents to get their 12- to 15-year-olds vaccinated against COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the Emergency Use Authorization to allow adolescents to get the vaccine made by Pfizer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also adopted an advisory committee’s recommendation on the safety of the vaccine for this age group.

“The FDA’s expansion of the emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to include adolescents 12 through 15 years of age is a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic,” said acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock. “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.”

UC Davis Health is now scheduling COVID-19 vaccinations for kids age 12 to 15

The Pfizer vaccine consists of two shots, spaced 21 days apart. The Pfizer vaccine is, so far, the only one approved for youths 12 and up. UC Davis Health is ready to vaccinate children in this age group with parent or guardian permission.

Why vaccinate kids against COVID-19?

The pandemic has been driven largely by adults, who have had more severe disease than children, but that’s changing.

“Many people don’t realize that children now account for more than 20% of cases in the U.S.,” said Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health. “Those who are most vulnerable to infection are those who aren’t vaccinated.”

Vaccination is also important for children’s overall health. “This will allow children to take advantage of all the opportunities for social interaction that are now recommended for fully vaccinated adults by the CDC, including going to other households,” explained Blumberg.

He also pointed out that vaccinating kids will help protect their loved ones. “Children can bring infection back into families, even transmitting to immunized individuals, because no vaccine works 100%.” He said vaccination allows for peace of mind as children return to school, sports and other activities.

Are children as well protected by the vaccine as adults?

According to Pfizer, the vaccine was 100% effective in the trial for children aged 12-15. More than 2,200 youths were enrolled in the study. Eighteen cases of COVID-19 came up in the placebo group.

“The trial shows the immunization is clearly protective,” Blumberg said.

COVID-19 vaccine trials with children as young as 6 months of age are taking place now.

What about side effects? What should parents watch for?

“This will allow children to take advantage of all the opportunities for social interaction that are now recommended for fully vaccinated adults by the CDC.”

— Dean Blumberg

Pfizer noted during its trials that the vaccine was “well tolerated” among 12- to 15-year-olds. The adverse reactions observed were similar to those found in older teens and young adults. Common side effects can include:

  • Pain, swelling and redness at the injection site
  • Low grade fever
  • Tiredness
  • Headache

Scheduling a vaccine appointment

UC Davis Health is offering COVID-19 vaccines to anyone 12 and older at a vaccination site in Sacramento, by appointment only. No walk-ins will be accepted. Please use California’s MyTurn site to schedule your appointment (enter the zip code 95819 to find UC Davis Health).

Those under 18 must have parental or legal guardian consent to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, either in person at the time of vaccination or by written consent. It's also advised that anyone under age 18 have someone drive them to and from their appointment. With any vaccine, there's an increased risk of fainting for children ages 11 to 18, according to the CDC.

Learn more about scheduling your COVID-19 vaccine at UC Davis Health.

202105_young-mans-scary-injury-benefits-from-spine-center-skill-and-expertise Wed, 12 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Young man's scary injury benefits from spine center skill and expertise <p>A 24-year-old man is on the road to recovery following an off-road vehicle accident that left him nearly paralyzed. He credits UC Davis Spine Center with expert surgery that kept him from nearly becoming a paraplegic.</p> Evan Beauchamp has no sweet or fun memories of Halloween morning 2020, the day that he nearly ended up paralyzed for life. 

The 24-year-old Rocklin resident had joined a friend in a quad style all-terrain vehicle for a spin through the pastureland near his friend’s home. What they didn’t see was a ditch that stopped the ATV suddenly in its tracks. It violently catapulted the two young men into the field, knocking them both unconscious. 

“I don’t know how long I was knocked out,” said Beauchamp, who had moved back home shortly before the pandemic began after graduating from UCLA. “I tried to move my legs, and that was a bad story. I couldn’t do it. I tried to move around and sit up and was in intense pain. I put two-and-two together: ‘No way. I just broke my back. I’m paralyzed. This is unreal.’” 

Neither Beauchamp nor his friend had brought their cell phones along for the ride. It took hours for his friend to regain consciousness and finally walk to his house to get help.

Beauchamp was taken to a nearby Placer County hospital, where it quickly became apparent that his injuries, which included six broken ribs and a punctured lung, were beyond the expertise of the available surgeons. 

Although Beauchamp had suffered what is known as a thoracic spinal column dislocation, his spinal cord and nerves were still intact. Life-changing spinal dislocations can occur when one or more of the vertebrae are moved from their normal position in the spinal column. There was a small chance, in the skilled hands of the right surgeon, that Beauchamp could walk again. 

The Placer County emergency team placed a call to UC Davis Medical Center. The medical center’s renowned Trauma Service, which cares for the vast majority of trauma victims admitted to the hospital, coordinated Beauchamp’s transfer to Sacramento. The service is primarily responsible for a wide range of injuries, including injuries to the neck, chest, and abdomen, as well as injuries to blood vessels involving the heart and other organs. It connected him with the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery team, which is also among the nation’s best. One of its top spinal surgery experts, Eric Klineberg, happened to be on call that day. The imaging of Beauchamp’s spine revealed an extremely challenging and traumatic injury.

The spinal column

The spinal column is divided into several different sections. The thoracic section, which begins at the base of the neck and extends to about the bottom of the rib cage, is made up of 12 vertebrae (known as T1-T12). To realign the damaged vertebrae and stabilize the spine, Dr. Klineberg and his orthopaedic surgery team needed to stabilize and realign Beauchamp’s dislocated vertebrae. 

“Evan had a very high chance of becoming a paraplegic,” said Klineberg, professor of Orthopedic Surgery, co-director of the UC Davis Spine Center, and co-author of numerous research studies related to orthopaedics and spinal surgery. 

“The images [of Beauchamp’s spine] were horrific to look at,” added Klineberg, noting that while Beauchamp had regained some movement in his left leg, he still had no movement in his right one. 

Klineberg and his team spent nearly eight hours delicately removing any pressure on the spinal cord, and then focusing on realignment and stabilization. They inserted a series of titanium screws and rods into Beauchamp’s spine to provide support and help protect it during the healing and rehabilitation process. 

Healing and regaining strength

Beauchamp is now back in the gym working to regain his strength.

Beauchamp spent a month recovering at the medical center before going home. He had no movement in his right leg for three weeks and couldn’t move his right ankle for two months after surgery. But over time, and with hard work and determination, movement and feeling began slowly returning. 

He credits Klineberg, along with UC Davis Health’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation team and its daily therapy sessions, with helping him avoid paralysis. Clinical expertise and therapy were complemented by Beauchamp’s own dedication to fitness before the accident, especially his gym workouts with powerlifting.

As he told himself when he was recovering from his spinal surgery at UC Davis Medical Center, “I’m not going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I’m going to keep moving forward every day.” 

“Evan has made a nearly miraculous recovery,” said Klineberg, who’s been pleased with his patient’s progress and impressed by his dedication to regaining strength and movement. “His fitness and exercise routine certainly contributed to his healing and well-being.” 

Six months after the accident, Beauchamp is putting his math and economics degrees to work in a job at a Roseville-area financial firm. He’s now able to walk two miles around his neighborhood and is trying hard to resist doing too much weight training too quickly.

Thanks to Eric Klineberg, the UC Davis Spine Center and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation teams, Evan Beauchamp is definitely getting stronger and moving forward each day.

202105_measuring-brain-blood-flow-and-activity-with-light Wed, 12 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Measuring brain blood flow and activity with light <p>A new, noninvasive method for measuring brain blood flow with light has been developed by biomedical engineers and neurologists at UC Davis. The new technology could be used for assessing brain injuries or in neuroscience research.</p> A new, noninvasive method for measuring brain blood flow with light has been developed by biomedical engineers and neurologists at the University of California, Davis, and used to detect brain activation. The new method, functional interferometric diffusing wave spectroscopy, or fiDWS, promises to be cheaper than existing technology and could be used for assessing brain injuries or in neuroscience research. The work is published May 12 in Science Advances.

“Now we can assess how well the brain regulates blood flow, and even detect brain activation noninvasively in adult humans, using principles similar to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), but at a fraction of the cost,” said Vivek Srinivasan, adjunct associate professor of biomedical engineering at UC Davis and senior author on the study.

The human brain makes up 2% of our body weight but takes 15% to 20% of blood flow from the heart. Measuring cerebral blood flow is important for diagnosing strokes and for predicting secondary damage in subarachnoid hemorrhages or traumatic brain injuries. Doctors who provide neurological intensive care would also like to monitor a patient’s recovery by imaging brain blood flow and oxygenation.

Existing technology is expensive and cannot be applied continuously or at the bedside. For example, current techniques to image cerebral blood flow require expensive MRI or computed tomography scanners. There are light-based technologies, such as near-infrared spectroscopy, but these also have drawbacks in accuracy.

The new method takes advantage of the fact that near-infrared light can penetrate through body tissues. If you shine a near-infrared laser on someone’s forehead, the light will be scattered many times by tissue, including blood cells. By picking up the fluctuation signal of the light that finds its way back out of the skull and scalp, you can get information about blood flow inside the brain. 

Naturally, that signal is extremely weak. Srinivasan and postdoctoral researcher Wenjun Zhou overcame that problem by making use of interferometry: the ability of light waves to superimpose, reinforcing or canceling one another. In particular, through interferometry, a strong light wave can boost a weak light wave by increasing its detected energy.

Prefrontal cortex activation

By splitting and then recombining a laser beam, the device can measure blood flow inside the brain.

They first split the laser beam into “sample” and “reference” paths. The sample beam goes into the patient’s head and the reference beam is routed so that it reconnects with the sample beam before going to the detector. Through interferometry, the stronger reference beam boosts the weak sample signal.  This allowed the team to measure the output with the type of light-detecting chip found in digital cameras instead of expensive photon-counting detectors. They then use software to calculate a blood flow index for different locations in the brain.

Srinivasan and Zhou worked with Lara Zimmerman, Ryan Martin and Bruce Lyeth in the Department of Neurological Surgery to test the technology. They found that with this new technology, they could measure blood flow more rapidly and deeper below the surface than with current light-based technology. They could measure pulsating cerebral blood flow and could also detect changes when volunteers were given a mild increase in carbon dioxide.

When volunteers were given a simple math problem, the researchers were able to measure activation of the prefrontal cortex through the forehead.

Additional authors on the paper are Oybek Kholiqov, Jun Zhu and Mingjun Zhao, all at the UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering. The work was supported by grants from the NIH. The university has applied for a patent on the technology.

202105_uc-davis-mind-institute-to-host-inaugural-stem-cell-gene-therapy-conference Tue, 11 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis MIND Institute to host inaugural stem cell, gene therapy conference <p>The UC Davis MIND Institute is now accepting abstracts for its first-ever Stem Cell and Gene Therapy for Neurodevelopmental Disorders Conference. The September event will feature both in-person and virtual options and will focus on the development of treatments for genetic disorders.</p> This fall, the UC Davis MIND Institute will host a brand-new conference focused on the development of effective genetic and stem cell treatments for children with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, fragile X syndrome, Rett syndrome, Dravet syndrome, Angelman syndrome and others.

Abstracts are currently being accepted for the inaugural Stem Cell and Gene Therapy for Neurodevelopmental Disorders Conference and are due June 1. The event will take place Sept. 24-25, and current plans include options for either in-person or virtual attendance. Limited abstract awards will be offered to graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

“This is an exciting, collaborative opportunity to learn from experts who are doing cutting-edge research in these areas,” said MIND Institute Medical Director Randi Hagerman, a world-renowned fragile X syndrome expert who is on the conference planning committee.

“In bringing novel cell and gene therapy trials from the bench to the bedside and into clinical practice, scientists and medical experts must work together with regulatory and manufacturing groups in large teams. We want to bring everyone together to build momentum,” Hagerman said.

The planning committee also includes Jan Nolta, director of the Stem Cell Program at UC Davis School of Medicine, who also directs the Institute for Regenerative Cures, Kyle Fink, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and David Segal, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, the Department of Pharmacology, and the Genome Center, where he is the associate director of genomics.

“This is an exciting, collaborative opportunity to learn from experts who are doing cutting-edge research in these areas,”

— Randi Hagerman

This event, sponsored in part by Senses Cultural, will be strongly rooted in evidence-based science and will feature several keynote speakers:

  • Kristen Brennand, associate professor, Department of Genetics and Genomic Sciences, Nash Family Department of Neuroscience, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Brennand will present a talk entitled “Using Stem Cells to Explore the Genetics Underlying Neuropsychiatric Disease.” 
  • David R. Hampson, professor, University of Toronto, Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology. Hampson will present a talk entitled “Developing Adeno-associated Viruses for Treating Fragile X Syndrome and Dravet Syndrome.” 
  • Alysson R. Muotri, professor, director of the Stem Cell Program, Institute for Genomic Medicine, University of San Diego. Muotri will present a talk entitled, “Development of Oscillatory Waves on Cortical Organoids for Developmental and Evolutionary Studies.” 
  • Matthew Porteus, physician and professor, Stanford University. Porteus will present a talk entitled “Engineering Stem Cells by Genome Editing to Treat Neurodegenerative Diseases.”

Abstracts are due June 1. Submissions will be considered either for a presentation or a poster in the following areas:

  • Molecular and gene editing
  • Animal models
  • Human studies
  • Clinical trials and future studies

Submit your abstract.

Conference registration will open in June.

202105_wear-pjs-and-say-goodnight-to-cancer-during-virtual-fundraiser Tue, 11 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Wear PJs and “Say Goodnight to Cancer” during virtual fundraiser <p>The American Cancer Society Relay For Life event put on by the UC Davis Colleges Against Cancer chapter is virtual this year, with participants wearing pajamas to &ldquo;Say Goodnight to Cancer.&rdquo;</p> The UC Davis student organization, Colleges Against Cancer, is planning a virtual “Say Goodnight to Cancer ” event (PDF), which involves wearing pajamas to raise funds to fight the disease. The event is part of the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life annual event, and will be held on May 15, 2–9 p.m. live on YouTube and on Facebook.

Register or donate by going to the “Say Goodnight to Cancer” event page where details about the event are also provided. This year, the registration fee for teams will go toward ACS diversity, equity and inclusion programs that help alleviate and mitigate cancer disparities.

The goal of “Say Goodnight to Cancer” is to raise $30,000 and so far, the event is far short of that with only about $3,500 raised. The COVID-19 pandemic has prevented hundreds of in-person Relay For Life events across the country, reducing the fundraising ability of ACS – the largest private funder of cancer research.

“This year, more than ever, we need to come together to make this event a success,” said Seona Patel, event chair for the UC Davis Colleges Against Cancer. “Despite all of their differences in academic interests, hobbies, and career goals, the UC Davis members of Colleges Against Cancer all share the common passion of coming together to collectively lead the fight for a world without cancer.”

There are two Relay For Life teams affiliated with UC Davis Health this year and both encourage participation or donations as they compete with other teams in the Sacramento region to raise the most money to fight cancer.

Love Your Lungs: Sacramento Lung Health Coalition – team captain: Alex Gori (acgori@ucdavis.edu)

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center – team captain: Steph Winn (stawinn@ucdavis.edu)

Relay For Life

The American Cancer Society Relay For Life movement is the world’s largest peer-to-peer fundraising event dedicated to saving lives from cancer. For over 35 years, communities across the world have come together to honor and remember loved ones and take action.

Funds raised through Relay For Life directly support breakthrough research, 24/7 support for cancer patients, access to lifesaving screenings, and much more.

Luminaria Ceremony

The annual Luminaria Ceremony typically hosted during the Relay For Life event honors loved ones who have been affected by cancer. During in-person events in the past, the luminaria bags were personally decorated and placed along the walkway for everyone to see.

This year, it is hoped that participants will order a bag online and decorate, sharing on Facebook during the “Say Goodnight to Cancer” virtual event. To dedicate a virtual luminaria bag, follow these directions.

Go to ACS to learn more about Relay For Life or email ucdrelay@gmail.com for information on getting involved with the Colleges Against Cancer at UC Davis Relay For Life event on May 15.

202105_school-of-medicine-launches-new-interdisciplinary-center-focused-on-diagnostic-innovations Mon, 10 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT School of Medicine launches new interdisciplinary center focused on diagnostic innovations <p><span>The UC Davis School of Medicine has launched a new initiative, the Center for Diagnostic Innovation, to bring together industry partners, clinicians, researchers and educators to develop innovative new testing methods to improve patient health.</span></p> The UC Davis School of Medicine has launched a new interdisciplinary initiative, the Center for Diagnostic Innovation (CDxI), to bring together industry partners, clinicians, researchers and educators to develop new testing methods to improve patient health. 

“UC Davis School of Medicine’s achievements with diagnostic innovation are remarkable,” said Allison Brashear, dean of the School of Medicine. “With the new center, we can harness the strengths of industry partners and our school’s world-class scientists to focus on solving a wide range of diagnostic challenges that could benefit patients worldwide.”  

An estimated 70% of all medical decisions are based on laboratory tests. But according to a landmark report from the National Academy of Medicine an estimated one in 20 Americans experience a diagnostic error each year and “most people will experience at least one diagnostic error in their lifetime, sometimes with devastating consequences.” The center will focus on tackling these and other diagnostic needs and challenges. 

“CDxI is intended to create a collaborative community that shares the vision of better tests for better health,” said Lydia P. Howell professor and chair of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. “As a center, we can better brand ourselves as innovators and become a destination for partners from industry as well as from our own campus.” 

A track record of diagnostic innovation

The world’s first total-body PET scanner, EXPLORER PET/CT was developed by a team led by Professor Simon Cherry, UC Davis Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Ramsey Badawi, professor of radiology in the UC Davis School of Medicine.

A new type of microscope, microscopy with UV surface excitation, or MUSE, was developed by Richard Levenson, vice chair for strategic technologies in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

Kit Lam, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, invented the “one-bead-one-compound” chemistry method that revolutionized cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Howell co-directs the center with Elizabeth Anne Morris, professor and chair of the Department of Radiology.

“Creating an environment where the future of diagnostic testing can be imagined and realized is what UC Davis is all about,” said Morris. “By bringing departments together under one center, we hope to build on each other’s successes in diagnostic medicine to make a better future for our patients.”   

One of the first projects developed by CDxI is a partnership with Maurice J. Gallagher Jr., a UC Davis alumnus and CEO of Allegiant Travel Company.  

Gallagher turned to UC Davis when he was looking for a rapid screening test for COVID-19 to reopen the travel and hospitality industries. The result of the partnership, led by Nam Tran, professor of pathology in the UC Davis School of Medicine, is a novel 20-minute COVID-19 test using a mass spectrometer and a machine learning tool named MILO.   

A meetup for CDxI is planned for this summer. To learn more about the new center, including how to get involved, visit the website or contact Catherine Diaz-Khansefid, chief administrative officer for the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, at cjdiaz@ucdavis.edu.

202105_uc-davis-health-now-enrolling-children-ages-12-17-for-novavax-coronavirus-vaccine-trial Fri, 07 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT UC Davis Health now enrolling children ages 12-17 for Novavax coronavirus vaccine trial <p><span>UC Davis Health will soon launch a stage 3 clinical trial for a new coronavirus vaccine for children ages 12-17 with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Novavax. The two-year study aims to enroll 100 participants.</span></p> UC Davis Health will be testing a new vaccine for children ages 12-17 to support the fight against COVID-19. It will soon open as an extension of the current, stage 3 clinical trial with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Novavax locally led by Stuart Cohen, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases and director of Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at UC Davis Health. The pediatric portion will be led by Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital.

The two-year pediatric portion of the study aims to enroll up to 3,000 adolescents in the U.S., with 100 participants at UC Davis Health.

How does the vaccine work?

The Novavax vaccine, called NVX-CoV2373, contains a subunit from the spike protein in SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19. The spike protein is the main target for development of immunity. The subunit is combined with an adjuvant, a boosting agent to improve the body’s immune response to the vaccine. When this combination enters the body, it triggers an immune response to the spike protein and creates antibodies to fight it.

“The vaccine contains protein antigens that cannot replicate or cause COVID-19. The antibodies generated to the vaccine will help protect the body from the real, fully-potent virus,” Cohen said.

UC Davis Health is part of Novavax’s Adult Phase III trial which includes approximately 30,000 participants. The vaccine, a two-dose regimen, is not yet approved for Emergency Use in the U.S. It is currently under review by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Who can participate?

Study enrollees:

  • Must be 12 to 17 years old
  • Are physically healthy
  • Have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past
  • Are not participating in any other COVID-19 research trials
  • Not prescribed immunosuppressant or corticosteroid medication
  • Can be HIV-positive if the HIV is well-controlled

This study will require in-person visits to UC Davis Medical Center. At these visits, the study team will thoroughly explain all procedures and answer any questions. If both the child and their guardian consent to participation, the team will assess the child's health. They will also gather a blood sample, inject the vaccine or a placebo, and observe the child for 30 minutes. The child will come back after three weeks to get the second shot.

As it is a blind, randomized trial, neither the participants nor the researchers will know who gets the vaccine and who receives the placebo.

“Thousands of children have been hospitalized and hundreds have died due to COVID-19. We need to vaccinate children both to protect them and to decrease transmission in our communities,” Blumberg said. “This is why it is important to make sure that there are safe and effective vaccines for all ages.”

Participants will receive compensation. For more information or to sign up, visit the study’s webpage.

202105_paciente-con-mis-c-recibe-atencin-crtica-en-el-hospital-de-nios-de-uc-davis Thu, 06 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Paciente con MIS-C recibe atención crítica en el Hospital de Niños de UC Davis <p>Santiago, de seis a&ntilde;os, empez&oacute; a tener escalofr&iacute;os que r&aacute;pidamente se convirtieron en un sarpullido, fiebre alta, dolores de cabeza, v&oacute;mitos y diarrea. Esta es su historia con MIS-C, la enfermedad que est&aacute; asociada al COVID-19 y que afecta a los ni&ntilde;os.</p> Los primeros signos que tuvo Santiago Alvarado, de 6 años, del Síndrome Inflamatorio Multisistémico en Niños (MIS-C) fueron algunos simples escalofríos. MIS-C es una enfermedad grave asociada con el COVID-19 que afecta a los niños.

“Estaba jugando afuera y dijo, ‘Mamá, tengo frío’. No estaba interactuando con los otros niños. No parecía el mismo”, dijo sobre Santiago su madre, Yesenia Alvarado.  Yesenia pensó que probablemente fuera la gripe.  Era enero, que típicamente es la estación de la gripe.

Yesenia no quería pensar que era el coronavirus y realmente no quería pensar en MIS-C.  Ya había leído sobre lo grave puede ser y cómo puede afectar a niños de entre 4 y 12 años.  Estaba preocupada.

Los Centros para el Control y la Prevención de Enfermedades (CDC) indicaron que hasta el 1 de febrero, 2021, en Estados Unidos se detectaron más de 2,000 casos considerados como MIS-C.  El informe de CDC agrega que California fue el estado más afectado, con más de 250 casos reportados. La enfermedad ha afectado desproporcionalmente a niños afroamericanos y latinos/hispanos.

A la Sala de Emergencias (ER) con una fiebre de 105 grados

Con el paso de los días la condición de Santiago empeoró. Fiebre. Dolor de estómago. Un sarpullido con pequeñas marcas rojas en el estómago y la espalda.

Desde su casa en Stockton, Yesenia tuvo una visita por video con el pediatra local de su hijo, quien sugirió que fueran a una cita en persona al día siguiente.  Sin embargo, al día siguiente Santiago estaba mucho peor, con vómitos, diarrea y una fiebre de 105 grados que no bajaba con Tylenol o ibuprofeno.  Tenía los ojos y las manos rojas. Se quejaba de dolores de cabeza.

Yesenia lo llevó a la sala de emergencias en Adventist Health Lodi Memorial, donde le hicieron una prueba de COVID-19. El resultado dio positivo y de ahí lo trasladaron al Hospital de Niños de UC Davis para la atención especializada que necesitaba.  Esto es posible gracias a las alianzas centradas en el paciente que UC Davis Health ha formado con más de 24 hospitales en el Norte de California como parte del trabajo del sistema académico de salud para mejorar el acceso a atención médica en toda la región.

“Los síntomas comunes que vemos con MIS-C son fiebre, sarpullidos y signos gastrointestinales como vómitos y diarrea. Pero hay muchos sistemas que pueden estar afectados, incluyendo los de los pulmones, los riñones, y hasta el cerebro y el corazón. Estos niños tienden a estar realmente enfermos, de manera que a los padres no les pasará inadvertido”, dijo Natasha Nakra,  médica especializada en enfermedades infecciosas pediátricas en el Hospital de Niños de UC Davis, cuyo equipo ha tratado cerca de 24 casos de niños con MIS-C.

Dos aplicaciones de terapia IVIG

Santiago fue diagnosticado con MIS-C en base a la fiebre y el impacto multisistémico de la condición. Esto fue confirmado con pruebas de laboratorio que mostraron niveles marcadamente elevados de inflamación.  Un análisis de sangre confirmó una previa infección de COVID-19.  El paciente recibió una terapia de inmunoglobulina intravenosa (IVIG), que se usa en casos de enfermedades graves. También fue tratado con esteroides y dosis bajas de aspirina como anticoagulante porque los pacientes con MIS-C tienen un riesgo elevado de desarrollar coágulos de sangre.

“Los niños generalmente responden muy bien a la terapia, con una pronta resolución de la fiebre y sintiéndose mejor”, dijo Nakra. “Si no responden a esta primera línea de terapia, hay otros tratamientos que podemos ofrecerles”.

En el caso de Santiago, necesitó la terapia de IVIG dos veces – pero después se sintió mucho mejor.

“Con esa segunda dosis, el sarpullido desapareció. Dejó de quejarse de todo malestar y los dolores de cabeza se acabaron”, dijo Yesenia Alvarado.

Santiago estuvo internado 10 días y después fue dado de alta para ir a su casa.  

“Fue nuestra primera vez en UC Davis, y fue una experiencia increíble”, dijo Yesenia Alvarado.  “Todos fueron tan buenos con nosotros”.

Controles después de MIS-C

Santiago ha recibido atención de seguimiento con el equipo de cardiología pediátrica de UC Davis Health  para controlar su función cardíaca ya que MIS-C puede crear inflamación en las arterias. Dos semanas después de haber sido dado de alta, un ecocardiograma mostró que su corazón estaba funcionando normalmente, pero Santiago sigue tomando dosis bajas de aspirina.

“Santiago parece haber vuelto a la normalidad”, dijo Yesenia Alvarado. “Advertimos un cambio en su apetito desde que recibió esteroides.  Tenía mucha hambre, pero fuera de eso ha vuelto a ser él mismo.  Estamos agradecidos”.

202105_gratitude-the-best-medicine-during-tough-times Wed, 05 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Gratitude: The best medicine during tough times <p><span>A UC Davis gratitude expert says being grateful may be the best medicine when it comes to insulating ourselves against the psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic. He has advice for how to cultivate a lifelong gratitude practice.</span></p> The best way to protect yourself against COVID-19 infection is to get the vaccine, mask up and practice social distancing. But how do we protect ourselves from the other side of things – the anxiety and sadness that have accompanied this life-altering pandemic? The answer, says one UC Davis expert, lies within.

Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, says the best medicine for mental health is a regular practice of gratitude. “It is precisely during difficult times where gratitude achieves its maximal power,” said Emmons, who is a world-recognized expert on the science of gratitude. “In the face of demoralization, gratitude has the power to energize. In the face of brokenness, gratitude has the power to heal. In the face of despair, gratitude has the power to bring hope.”

Of course, it may not be easy to feel grateful if you’ve lost a job, lost a loved one to COVID-19 or are struggling with long-haul COVID symptoms. It’s not easy if you’re missing friends and family members that you haven’t hugged in over a year, either.

Emmons says if you’re not feeling grateful right now, consider prospective gratitude. “Project yourself into the future and imagine how grateful you will be when your circumstances change. This has been very powerful for people during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s a defiant attitude that insists that gratitude is the best approach to life, no matter what.” 

Study finds growth in gratitude

A study conducted by Emmons, in collaboration with Gracianna Winery in Healdsburg, reinforced this idea of a prospective approach to gratitude. The researchers examined the frequency of grateful feelings within the unique challenges presented by the pandemic. It was the first study to investigate anticipated gratitude, or how grateful people expect to feel in the future. 

Gratitude is good for kids, too!

gratitudeHelping our children learn how to incorporate gratitude into their lives has many benefits for them, such as improved sleep, health and happiness. This was the topic of a recent Kids Considered podcast by Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases, and Lena van der List a UC Davis Health pediatrician. Their tips include:

1. Try asking your child each night at bedtime to list one or two positive things that happened that day. These can be very simple – a tasty sandwich, a fun story they read or a good night’s sleep.
2. Help your children notice the things in their life to be grateful for and mark them. For example, if they receive a gift, ask them to reflect on how that makes them feel and encourage them to express their appreciation.
3. Try meditation – just 3-5 minutes a day can make a big difference.
4. Try simple, kid-friendly yoga.
5. Be a good gratitude role model by expressing your appreciation for your children and other good things in your life.
6. Encourage kids to openly express their gratitude. For example, by saying thank you to a friend for a fun play date.
7. Consider getting your child involved in a volunteer opportunity, like cleaning up a local park, visiting a local nursing home (when it’s safe to do so) or tutoring younger children.

Listen to the full Kids Considered podcast about gratitude.

Of the 511 adults surveyed from March-May, 2020, over 56% reported being very grateful, which was 17% greater than any other positive emotion (happy, hopeful, relieved, joyful). Sixty-nine percent of those asked also expected to be even more grateful in the future. 

“The study showed that in the face of crises and during troubling times, people rely on positive feelings to cope, and they seem to turn to gratitude more than any other positive emotion,” Emmons said.

A grateful approach to life takes intention, and is a choice, notes Emmons. He says cultivating an attitude of gratitude takes regular practice. “We must make the distinction between feeling grateful and being grateful. The latter is a choice that endures and is relatively immune from gains and losses. That gives the person a built-in psychological immune system to cushion them.”

Health benefits of gratitude

There are clear medicinal benefits to gratitude.

“There is evidence that grateful people are more resilient to stress in general, whether we’re talking about minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals,” noted Emmons.

He says clinical trials indicate that the practice of gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. It’s also been associated with higher levels of good cholesterol (HDL), lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), fewer symptoms of depression, less fatigue and higher levels of heart rate variability (a marker of cardiac health). 

A recent review of all of the studies on gratitude and cardiovascular health outcomes, published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, concluded that, “gratitude can be a low-cost intervention in health care that can lead to improved health behaviors and better cardiovascular outcomes for patients living with cardiovascular disease.”

Three ways to get started

“It can take some work at first, to be sure,” Emmons said. “It is essential to remember that gratitude is a choice, not an emotion.” 

  1. One good place to begin is with a gratitude journal. Record a few things that you’re thankful for each day. It can be simple, such as a hot bath, a walk with your dog or a delicious snack. One study showed that doing this for two weeks reduced perceived stress and depression among health care practitioners. 

    This article from the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center has tips for keeping a gratitude journal. 
  1. Another way to incorporate more gratefulness is to focus on the language you use. “Grateful people use the language of gifts, givers, blessings, fortune and abundance, while ungrateful people tend to focus on deprivation, regrets, need or scarcity,” explained Emmons. 
  1. Consider the attitude of gratefulness as the ability to feel grateful regardless of circumstances. “I think the biggest obstacle is that most of us, most of the time, reduce gratitude to a reaction to circumstances. We reduce it to feeling good after something good happens, but this is false. If that were true, then our gratitude would be totally conditional on what happens to us. Think of gratitude as a core aspect of resilience and helpful in times of crisis.” 

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Gratitude is good medicine

202105_sacramento-girl-supports-uc-davis-facility-dog-program-with-bat-mitzvah-gifts Tue, 04 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Sacramento girl supports UC Davis Facility Dog program with Bat Mitzvah gifts <p><span>The word mitzvah means &ldquo;good deed,&rdquo; and Sacramento resident Meredith Bluth celebrated her Bat Mitzvah last month with a very good deed indeed: she invited her friends and family to donate to the UC Davis Facility Dog program.</span></p> The word mitzvah means “good deed,” and Sacramento resident Meredith Bluth celebrated her Bat Mitzvah last month with a very good deed indeed: she invited her friends and family to donate to the UC Davis Facility Dog program.

Bluth had wanted to give back to a charity to mark her 13h birthday and the Jewish coming-of-age ritual  – and found the UC Davis Children’s Hospital Facility Dog program fund.

“Meredith loves dogs and helping kids, so the donation request was a natural fit,” said Alexa Bluth, Meredith’s mother. 

Meredith received presents as part of her virtual celebration, and many people also donated to help the facility dogs. So far, Meredith has helped raise $1,427. Gifts have come from Southern California, Arizona, Massachusetts and New Jersey.

Zeebee is one of the facility dogs at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. This photo was taken pre-pandemic.

Donations to the UC Davis Facility Dog program help to support the care of Huggie, Paloma, Zeebee and Danny that have been provided free of charge to UC Davis Children’s Hospital from Canine Companions for Independence. Facility dogs are specially trained canines that enhance the health care environment for young patients. They help children through challenging treatments and provide comfort and support. Donations help pay for the dogs’ medical care, food, grooming, supplements, supplies and toys to keep the dogs healthy, happy and ready to support kids in need.

“We are so grateful to Meredith for giving back to our facility dog program,” said Tony Hazarian, executive director of development at UC Davis Medical Center. “By supporting our dogs, she is also supporting our kids who rely on our dogs for support during their hospitalization.”  

202105_mind-institute-honored-by-chancellor-for-diversity-equity-and-inclusion-efforts-video Tue, 04 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT MIND Institute honored by Chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts (video) <p>The UC Davis MIND Institute received a department-wide award from the UC Davis Chancellor&rsquo;s Office for its significant efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion. Recent efforts include grants, healing circles and outreach to the medically underserved.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
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The UC Davis MIND Institute has been honored with a Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community. The honor is a result of extraordinary efforts by MIND Institute leadership, faculty, staff and trainees to expand diversity, equity and inclusion in all aspects of their work, research and patient care.

Renetta Garrison Tull, UC Davis vice chancellor of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), presented the award to a group representing the MIND Institute during a virtual ceremony last week.

The award was presented during a virtual ceremony April 28.

“We really appreciate this recognition,” said MIND Institute Director Leonard Abbeduto. “We’ve been committed to DEI work for a long time, but last year the violence against people of color really made us more reflective and energized and led us to expand our efforts.”

The MIND Institute has a history of commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, including training programs such as RISE-UP, for undergraduates pursuing careers to serve historically underrepresented groups and who are mentored by faculty members.

It’s important for us to continue developing a diverse pipeline of future leaders in the disability field,” said Janice Enriquez, an associate clinical professor in developmental and behavioral pediatrics who chairs the MIND Institute’s newly created Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. “Faculty mentor these talented students, have a presence in our community and strive to provide equitable care for individuals with neurodevelopmental disabilities.”

“We’ve established processes and mechanisms to keep DEI always at the forefront of what we do, and to recognize that it’s an ongoing process with no real endpoint.”

— Leonard Abbeduto
MIND Institute director

More recently, the MIND Institute has redoubled its efforts by supporting the Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s racial healing circles, organizing book clubs and training staff, as well as seeking deep reflection aimed at embedding diversity, equity and inclusion into its mission and structure. There is also a push for trainees at all levels to understand the social determinants of health, as well as a new partnership with the Transformative Justice in Education Center to address disability at the intersection of multiple cultural identities.

“All parts of the organization have gotten behind us – faculty, staff, trainees, our National Council of Visitors, which raises money for us - all have been energized and really motivated,” noted Abbeduto. “We’ve established processes and mechanisms to keep DEI always at the forefront of what we do, and to recognize that it’s an ongoing process with no real endpoint.”

Many MIND Institute faculty members have also commented on another, welcome benefit of the expanded efforts.

For the full list of this year's award recipients, see the Dateline feature.

“As we’ve engaged in DEI work, it’s really brought us together as a community,” said Abbeduto. We communicate more. We know each other better, and I think we have really pulled together and are more cohesive as an organization.”

Watch the full virtual awards presentation here. The MIND Institute section begins at about 41:00.

202105_thinking-of-skipping-your-second-covid-19-vaccine-shot-heres-why-you-shouldnt-video Tue, 04 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Thinking of skipping your second COVID-19 vaccine shot? Here’s why you shouldn’t (video) <p>Millions of Americans are skipping their second Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 shot. UC Davis Health experts say that means less protection from coronavirus, and immunity that won&rsquo;t last as long. They advise everyone to get that second dose.</p>
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Millions of Americans have skipped getting the second dose of their COVID-19 vaccine, and the numbers are only growing.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 8% of people who got one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines didn’t get their second shots.

That’s more than five million people.

UC Davis Health experts say it’s important to get your second shot to maximize protection against COVID-19.

The reasons vary, from the misconception that one shot is sufficient to concerns about side effects.

According to Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children’s Hospital, the second dose is important for two main reasons.

  1. Getting a second vaccine dose boosts your immunity.
  2. Getting a second dose results in longer lasting immunity.

Researchers at Cornell University and Boston Children’s Hospital found that 20% of Americans surveyed believed they were strongly protected after just the first dose. Another 36% said they didn’t know the amount of protection the vaccines provided.

A recent study from the CDC looked at people 65 and older, finding that protection increased from 64% to 94% after full vaccination.

“Would you rather have 64% or 94% protection?” asked Blumberg. “94% sounds a lot better to me.”

Another major reason some say they skipped getting the second dose? Concerns about side effects, which are more common after the second dose and may include fatigue, headache, muscle aches and fever.

Blumberg emphasizes that the side effects are “not that bad,” especially when compared with the protection of being fully vaccinated. He said to remember that younger people are likely to have more adverse reactions to any immunization, not just the COVID-19 vaccines.

Some medical experts, including our nation’s leading infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, have said side effects are just a sign that your immune system is reacting properly to the vaccine and building protection.  

“Whether you have side effects following vaccination or not, the vast majority of people are protected,” said Blumberg.

Additionally, Blumberg cited Phase 3 studies of the vaccines, which showed 95% protection against the disease.

Some people have struggled to get their second dose at the same vaccination site or on the date scheduled for them.

Blumberg said the first issue is the supply catching up to the demand, but now with three vaccines and potentially more coming soon, the model is changing. Vaccine distribution started at mass vaccination sites and has shifted to commercial pharmacies. Soon, Blumberg said, the vaccines will make their way to doctor’s offices. This could eliminate the access problem.

For those who aren’t able to get their second dose on the exact given date, don’t worry. The CDC said doses can be given up to six weeks apart. If it’s longer, that’s OK too, said Blumberg. It’s truly better late than never, in this case.

“Even a month or two too late, we fully expect it to work just as well.” said Blumberg.

Even if you’re a couple months late, you won’t have to restart your vaccine series. Whatever you do, advised Blumberg, just get your second dose.

202105_an-awesome-change-agent Tue, 04 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT 'An awesome change agent' (video) <p>Victoria Ngo, a Health Systems and Community Leadership Postdoctoral Fellow at the<span>&nbsp;</span>Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis, receives the UC Davis Chancellor's Achievement Award for Diversity and Community for her postdoctoral research.</p>
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For 18 years, the UC Davis chancellor has honored exemplary accomplishments that contribute in substantial ways to the development and well-being of the university’s diverse and evolving community.

When it came to naming a recipient for the postdoctoral scholar category, this year Chancellor Gary S. May presented Victoria Ngo with a Chancellor’s Achievement Award for Diversity and Community.

Victoria Ngo

“Dr. Ngo, you are an awesome change agent,” Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion said at the April 29 ceremony. “[You] demonstrate …commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on campus and in our communities by engaging with nursing students, medical students, nursing professionals and nurse leaders on the issues surrounding heath disparities and equity.”

Ngo is a Health Systems and Community Leadership Postdoctoral Fellow at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis. She is also an alumna of the School of Nursing’s doctoral program. Her research focuses on health equity, population health and provision of high-quality care to underserved communities. She also studies how to optimize information technology to improve the delivery and coordination of care in the community. 

In collaboration with UC Davis Health faculty, she co-leads the Anti-Racism and Cultural Humility (ARC) project which addresses nursing diversity, inclusiveness, health equity and anti-racism. She has co-led and co-evaluated full-day trainings for health system nurse executives and nurse leaders.

Ngo said the achievement is an honor and a team effort.

“I am so proud to be a part of UC Davis because of its demonstrated commitment to be an equitable and inclusive institution,” she said. “I believe that a more representative workforce can generate innovative questions and solutions to the complex problems we face every day in health care. How we design effective interventions, for example, requires researchers to truly understand the community’s needs. That is why I am dedicated to this anti-racism and cultural humility work as a postdoctoral scholar.”

While pursuing her Doctor of Philosophy degree, Ngo served as program director in Health Coaching and created extensive curriculum for training medical assistant health coaches and nurse preceptors in the Central Valley, an area medically underserved with a known health care provider shortage. As a graduate student researcher, she worked extensively on research projects which included the Interprofessional Central Valley Road Trip

For the full list of this year's award recipients, see the Dateline feature.

Ngo co-teaches, develops and leads group research projects, classes and programs focusing on issues of identity, power imbalances and disparities in health status and health care delivery.

“Since joining the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing, Dr. Ngo has been unwavering in her commitment to health equity and related research. This line of inquiry is vital if we are to understand which interventions work best for those who are most disadvantaged and who face the greatest barriers to access to care,” said Janice Bell, associate dean for Research. “It is also fundamental to achieving the school's vision of health equity for all, meaning that all people have an equal chance of reaching their full health potential without disadvantage by their race or ethnicity, socio-economic circumstances, environmental injustice, institutional racism or other structural inequities.”

202105_los-imanes-pequeos-son-un-enorme-riesgo-de-salud-cuando-se-tragan Mon, 03 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Los imanes pequeños son un enorme riesgo de salud cuando se tragan <p>Son coloridos, del tama&ntilde;o de un bocadillo y divertidos para jugar, pero si se tragan son capaces de perforar los intestinos. Expertos de UC Davis aconsejan a los padres que se mantengan alejados de los imanes de neodimio. Generalmente conocidos como imanes de tierras raras, estos son los imanes m&aacute;s potentes que est&aacute;n disponibles en el mercado.</p> Son coloridos, del tamaño de un bocadillo, divertidos para jugar, y son capaces de perforar los intestinos si se tragan.

Expertos de UC Davis aconsejan a los padres que se mantengan alejados de los imanes de neodimio.  Generalmente conocidos como imanes de tierras raras, estos son los imanes más potentes que hay disponibles y son fáciles de comprar.

“Estos imanes pueden causar mucho daño, requerir cirugía, o hasta provocar la muerte cuando se los traga. Estamos viendo más casos en nuestra sala de emergencias”, dijo Jonathan Kohler, director médico de traumatismo pediátrico en el Hospital de Niños de UC Davis.  

Estos imanes se venden sueltos, vienen en muchos colores vibrantes y generalmente se usan como juguetes para aliviar el estrés o kits de construcción.  Sin embargo, para un niño pequeño es muy fácil ponérselos en la boca y tragarlos.   Para los adolescentes, estos imanes pueden imitar las perforaciones decorativas del cuerpo cuando dos imanes se colocan en cada lado de la lengua, los labios o las mejillas –donde se pueden tragar accidentalmente.

“Cuando se tragan, estos imanes se pueden pegar uno al otro a través del intestino y provocar fístulas, que son conexiones anormales entre dos partes dentro del cuerpo, o pueden crear perforaciones en los intestinos”, dijo el gastroenterólogo pediátrico de UC Davis, Sunpreet Kaur

Qué hacer si su hijo traga imanes

Vea lo que ocurre cuando estos imanes se tragan. Fuente: Academia Americana de Pediatría

Si un padre descubre que su hijo ha tragado imanes, debe llamar inmediatamente al control de intoxicaciones al 800-222-1222 y llevar al niño a la sala de emergencias lo antes posible”, dijo Kaur.

“Mientras más rápido llegue a la sala de emergencias, más son las posibilidades de que podamos sacarle los imanes del estómago. Si se espera, los imanes pueden pasar el estómago y entonces no los podemos sacar y se puede requerir cirugía”, dijo Kaur.

Si no se hace nada, los imanes pueden formar agujeros en el aparato digestivo.

Los imanes de neodimio han sido vendidos bajo nombres tales como Buckyballs, Neocubre y Zen Magnets.

En el 2012, la Comisión de Seguridad de Productos al Consumidor suspendió la venta de sets de imanes de alta potencia e introdujo una regla para sacarlos del mercado.  La Corte de Apelaciones de EE.UU. anuló la decisión en el 2016.

Un análisis del Sistema Nacional de Datos de Intoxicación del 2018 al 2019 en la Revista de Pediatría reportó un aumento de un 444% en heridas por imanes del 2018 al 2019 cuando los sets de imanes de alta potencia reingresaron al mercado.

202105_covid-19-a-snapshot-of-where-things-stand-in-sacramento-and-at-uc-davis-health Mon, 03 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT COVID-19: A snapshot of where things stand in Sacramento and at UC Davis Health <p>Efforts to vaccinate local residents and health care workers against COVID-19 have helped reduce hospitalizations and positive tests. Health care professionals note dramatic reductions from the high numbers of patients last year, but say in recent weeks, those numbers have stayed steady.</p> COVID-19 news is mixed around the globe and around the country, with waves of new infections showing up in areas that previously seemed to be doing well. Vaccination clinics are up and running, and hospitalizations and case rates are down from the dramatic highs seen at the end of last year. 

But in recent weeks, progress has slowed in the Sacramento region. In California’s color-coded system that assigns each county to a “tier” according to COVID-19 positivity rates and cases, Sacramento County has been stuck in the “red tier” since mid-March, while other counties have moved down to “orange” or “yellow” levels. The red tier indicates substantial spreading of the virus continues and that requires stricter indoor capacity limits at certain businesses. At UC Davis Health, the rate of positive COVID-19 tests has hovered between 2 and 5 percent for weeks.

Health system experts note a similar stagnation among the numbers of COVID-19 patients in the hospital. “We’ve been treating patients with COVID-19 for more than a year now, and our staff has weathered the surges,” said J. Douglas Kirk, chief medical officer for UC Davis Medical Center. “The number of patients currently in the hospital is dramatically lower, having leveled off in recent weeks. We encourage people to get a COVID-19 vaccine and remain vigilant with masks and social distancing to prevent new waves of infections.”


Stuart Cohen, chief of infectious diseases, has observed the plateau. “Within the hospital, we’re ten times lower than we were at the absolute highest, but over the last two to three weeks, it seems the number of cases has been relatively flat,” he said.

Timothy Albertson, professor and chair of internal medicine, said at the peak, there were around 130 patients at the medical center for COVID-19 treatment. He referred to the current static situation as a “steady state level”. “It’s good in a sense that we can handle that,” Albertson said, “but I’m not seeing it go down to the lows that we saw after the summer wave.”

Currently there are 11 hospital patients being treated for active COVID-19. Five coronavirus patients are in the ICU.

The numbers may change, but the illness has not

“We have a year of experience in managing people. So, we are much more likely to take care of people more quickly and we have a handful of drugs that are somewhat effective.”

— Stuart Cohen

The virus “surges” over the past year have honed the medical staff’s approach to treating patients with COVID-19. “We have a year of experience in managing people,” said Cohen. “So, we are much more likely to take care of people more quickly and we have a handful of drugs that are somewhat effective.”

As for the patients who are hospitalized right now, “they are just as sick as they were, there are just fewer of them,” Albertson said.

Breaking through: vigilance and vaccines

To further reduce the number of hospitalized patients, both Cohen and Albertson say wearing masks and observing social distancing is crucial, as is getting more people vaccinated. “When we look at who’s getting infected, even within the health system, it’s unvaccinated people,” said Cohen. “They’re generally picking it up when they’re in groups with other people.” 

“We’re going to get as close to the concept of herd immunity only through vaccines,” said Albertson.

The vaccines turned things around when it came to COVID-19 infections among UC Davis Health staff, said Ann Tompkins, the interim director of employee health services. Before the COVID-19 vaccines were available, Tompkins said at the peak, in late November last year, there were 140 new positive tests in one week among staff members. That meant hundreds of workers out, as quarantine requirements stretched absences over a period of weeks.

To prepare for the vaccines’ release, she worked with health system administrators and staff to put together not only a vaccination clinic for employees, but also sub-zero storage facilities. “The second we received the vaccine, we had to get them in people’s arms. We just couldn’t wait an hour,” she explained.   

Tompkins used the hospital’s seasonal flu vaccine clinics as a model.  Workers set up inoculation stations at an auditorium.  The vaccination site ran from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week. “We were passionate about having easy access to the vaccine to the people who wanted it,” Tompkins said. 

And after employees were vaccinated? Absences due to positive COVID-19 tests are down to single digits. “Last week we had nine, this week we had one,” Tompkins said. “If I took an average from Feb. 1 to now, our average would be three a week.”

Vaccinating the community

The focus now is on vaccinating the community. At the beginning of April, Californians age 50 and over could obtain the vaccine. Mid-month, the list of those eligible expanded again. “We’re seeing 16 to 18-year-olds show up for the vaccine now that we are open to them,” said Michael Condrin, chief operating officer for ambulatory care. “We’re planning with Sacramento County as well in the event that 12-to-15-year-olds may be approved soon as well.”

Appealing to those hesitant to get the vaccine has been top of mind for health professionals. “Education provided by trusted community members and experts who look like the reluctant in a safe setting is key,” said Thomas Bullen, a UC Davis Health pediatrician.

To date, UC Davis Health has administered over 128,000 doses of vaccine to patients, community members and employees. Currently, the health system is working with community organizations to help with vaccination clinics that reach the medically underserved. UC Davis Health also has a vaccination site for the general public at the Scottish Rite Center on H Street in Sacramento. Reservations are required and can be made through the state’s centralized booking system MyTurn.CA.GOV.

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202105_unexpected-medical-condition-prompts-early-delivery-for-moms-sixth-pregnancy- Mon, 03 May 2021 07:00:00 GMT Unexpected medical condition prompts early delivery for mom’s sixth pregnancy <p><span>When Antelope resident Martel Calabretta was pregnant with her sixth baby, she was a seasoned veteran. But early on, she realized that baby number six was a very different pregnancy and required the specialty care that UC Davis Health provides.</span></p> When Antelope resident Martel Calabretta was pregnant with her sixth baby in 2019, she was a seasoned veteran. But early on, she realized that it was a very different pregnancy and required the specialty care that UC Davis Health provides.

Early ultrasounds determined that her unborn baby had a rare condition known as vascular ring. This is a congenital heart anomaly where the aorta or its branches form a ring around the trachea, also known as the windpipe, and the esophagus, which is the tube that connects the throat to the stomach.

At 24 weeks, Martel also had a medical issue unrelated to her baby’s condition: a sharp pain on her right side and swelling in her feet. These were symptoms of preeclampsia, a disorder that affects 5 percent of pregnant women which is characterized by high blood pressure, protein in the urine, and can lead to organ damage, if left untreated. 

About a week later, she was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center under the supervision of UC Davis Health obstetrician Bahareh Nejad, who also oversaw three of Martel’s other pregnancies.

“It’s been a privilege to partner with Martel in her pregnancies and see her family grow over the years, with such joy and love,” Nejad said. “I have cared for her and her beautiful family, as I would do a member of my own family. I am grateful for the trust she has placed in me to help her bring each cherished little baby into this world.”    

An early delivery

But complications soon followed. When Martel’s blood pressure began to rise to dangerous levels, doctors rushed her into cesarean section (C-section) surgery to protect her own health and that of her baby.

Benito Calabretta was born on March 12, 2020. He weighed just one pound, 1.3 ounces - a micro preemie.

“His eyes weren’t even open yet. He was so incredibly tiny and surreal. I remember looking at his 10 tiny fingers and his 10 tiny toes and just being in awe of this miracle of his one-pound life,” Martel recalled. 

He spent the next nine months in the UC Davis Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), getting the care he needed from the designated Level IV nursery, the highest level NICU available.

“I had never been in a NICU before. I never experienced that with any of my other kids,” Martel Calabretta said. “But the team there became our family. Doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and so many more … they are so special to us and such an appreciated blessing. We would see them every day and a lot of nights - which was a big deal during the height of COVID. The care they provided was not only the best, but also genuine and heartfelt.”

In his first months of life, Benito underwent heart surgery by UC Davis Pediatric Heart Center surgeons to repair his vascular ring.

He also had his patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) closure through interventional catheterization. The ductus arteriosus is an artery in the heart that normally closes after a full-term birth. But for many premature babies, this artery can’t close on its own and, or, does not close completely, leading to the condition called PDA. Twenty to 60% of all premature babies have PDA which can put them at risk of serious illness and disease, if not treated.

A special Christmas gift

Benito graduated from the NICU two days before Christmas.

“That was our Christmas present,” said Calabretta, who was beaming with excitement to have her baby home for the holidays.

Benito has required a tracheostomy tube and ventilator to help him breathe, as well as a gastrostomy tube, or G-tube, a surgically placed device in the stomach for feedings, both of which he should outgrow.

Despite his prematurity, he is developmentally on track.

These days, Benito still regularly sees specialists at UC Davis Health including physicians from ear, nose and throat, gastroenterology, pulmonology and cardiology. But he also has time to play with his siblings and enjoy family life, including a trip to the snow this past winter where he went sledding for the first time.

“Our faith in God, our family and our amazing UC Davis team are the only way we survived the emotional NICU rollercoaster,” Calabretta said. “We are so thankful for their knowledge, experience and their tender care.”