NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Archive for April, 2017

Ramon Bataller to Head Hepatology Section within Pitt’s Department of Medicine

Ramon Bataller to Head Hepatology Section within Pitt’s Department of Medicine The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Medicine has named Dr. Ramon Bataller as section chief of medical hepatology within the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition.

An internationally acclaimed physician-scientist and hepatologist specializing in alcoholic liver disease. Bataller had served as a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill since 2011.

Dr. Bataller has worked for more than 20 years treating patients with liver disease. He began his training at the renowned liver unit in the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain (2003-2011). While his early research centered on liver fibrosis, his current research is aimed at determining the molecular targets and the factors affecting mortality in alcoholic hepatitis.

His discoveries include identifying a function for systemic inflammation and its molecular drivers in alcoholic hepatitis. In addition, he has created histologic scoring systems that are used to assess patient prognosis. He is the principal investigator of a National Institutes of Health-funded U01 collaborative consortium (InTeam) that conducts translational research on alcoholic hepatitis.

Dr. Bataller holds leadership positions in key organizations, including serving as chair of the Alcoholic Liver Disease Special Interest Group in the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. He also is co-editor of the Journal of Hepatology, the discipline’s top academic publication.

He and Dr. Satdarshan (Paul) Singh Monga, director of the Pittsburgh Liver Research Center, will partner to create a multidisciplinary program focused on liver pathobiology. In addition, they will seek to recruit other investigators with a solid record of innovative translational research in the areas of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, fibrosis, regeneration, and inflammation.

The hepatology section plays a major role in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition’s No. 6 national ranking by U.S. News and World Report.

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Pitt Pharmacy’s OverdoseFreePA Project Expands

OverdoseFreePA, a collaboration among six partner organizations and 16 Pennsylvania communities, has expanded its resources for all Pennsylvanians to learn more about overdose and the way substance use disorders affect people, families and communities.

“By having additional resources in one place, communities can form a comprehensive strategy and get a good picture of what they need to do to increase their treatment and prevention efforts,” said Jill Oblak, project director, Pennsylvania Heroin Prevention Technical Assistance Center (TAC).

The one-stop resource contains information such as what to do when someone is overdosing and an educational toolkit for health care and criminal justice professionals, as well as family and friends of overdose victims.

News articles about overdoses in the state are housed on the website, along with details on overdose-related events, training sessions and expert speaker recommendations. A dedicated section guides school and work leaders on how to facilitate open and honest conversations about the harmful effects of substance use and disorders, overdose risks, the opioid overdose antidote naloxone, and the hope that recovery is possible.

“We really have to work together to resolve and reduce these use disorders in our culture and the stigma associated with this issue,” said Dr. Jan Pringle, director of Program Evaluation Research Unit, University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy.

In 2014, Pennsylvania was named one of 20 states with a statistically higher rate of fatal overdoses than the national average. That year, Pitt Pharmacy established TAC and developed OverdoseFreePA to increase public knowledge of overdoses and overdose prevention strategies.

Funding for the project is provided by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

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Symptoms and Treatment Methods for Sleep Apnea

We asked Dr. Deepa Burman, medical director of the UPMC McKeesport Portable Sleep Study Program, about symptoms and treatment methods for sleep apnea – a serious sleep disorder that occurs when airways are obstructed during sleep.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

A. Sleep apnea refers to interrupted breathing during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It is a serious disorder that causes the throat to close until airways become blocked and breathing gets interrupted or stops for a varying amount of time during sleep. This may decrease oxygen supply to the brain, causing people to wake up multiple times in the middle of the night.

What are some common symptoms and effects?

A. Common symptoms are breath pauses, frequent snoring and choking or gasping sounds during sleep. Those who suffer from sleep apnea often feel fatigue throughout the day and, in some cases, people will unintentionally fall asleep at undesired times. The lack of sleep causes people to wake up feeling unrefreshed and with morning headaches. Untreated sleep apnea can worsen and in some cases result in medical problems including high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and depression.

How do you know if you have sleep apnea?

A. In addition to having the symptoms and medical problems mentioned above, a sleep study is used to diagnose sleep apnea. In the past, a sleep study was only able to be conducted with an overnight stay in a sleep laboratory, but some patients had trouble sleeping in a new environment during the inpatient sleep study. Recent technological advances have made it possible for people to take the sleep study tests at home. This new form of testing is more convenient, cost effective and accessible to the public.

To participate in an at-home sleep study, patients simply pick up equipment at the hospital and are taught how to hook it up at home. The next morning, they return the equipment and the board-certified sleep medicine experts read the data to determine if sleep apnea is the cause of the sleep issues. Sleep apnea is a serious but easily treatable disorder, so people experiencing symptoms should contact their primary care provider.

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Living with Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Living with Inflammatory Bowel DiseaseSean Shapiro was a typical, healthy teenager – an athlete, good student and socially active guy in Monroeville, Pennsylvania, where he attended Gateway High School. But, during his senior year, he knew something was wrong with his health.

At the age of 18, Shapiro began experiencing painful digestive-related problems with frequent urgency to use the bathroom and troubling symptoms. After visiting a local gastroenterologist, he was diagnosed with colitis, an inflammatory disease that damages the digestive tract, specifically the large intestines, which is also known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

For the first few years, the disease was under control with proper medication, and he only experienced discomfort during seasonal transitions. In 2009, Shapiro graduated from high school and moved on to college.

Throughout his first year at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Shapiro had a normal college experience. The medication allowed him to focus on school work and building friendships, but soon, it wasn’t enough to control the disease. He began experiencing frequent and more severe levels of pain, which meant frequent visits to the university health clinic. Logistics became a major challenge – his specialist was in Pittsburgh. He was hospitalized several times between sophomore and senior years while his care team experimented with a variety of medications, none of which helped him maintain remission from his troubling IBD symptoms.

As his health challenges escalated, Shapiro wasn’t in the best mental state to focus on the demands of class work. During senior year midterm week, he began a liquid diet in attempt to alleviate pain, causing him to drop from 160 to 135 pounds. He fought through the pain and his drive to succeed enabled him to graduate. In February 2015, Shapiro had surgery at UPMC Presbyterian to remove most of his large intestine, leaving only the last 6 inches. Two follow-up surgeries over the next 15 months left him with a J-pouch, a storage space that surgeons create out of the small intestine that takes the place of the removed portion of the large intestine.

Today, Shapiro is healthy, has a full-time job and is back to being his active self. His advice to anyone struggling with IBD is to actively seek support, and concentrate on what on they can control, such as sleep, exercise and diet.

“This program helped me realize that I was not alone in the struggle against IBD, and served as another layer of support when I was at my lowest,” Shapiro said.

Shapiro is a patient at the UPMC Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center and part of the IBD connect program, which supports those struggling with Crohn’s disease or colitis.


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National Kidney Foundation Honors Pitt’s Paul Palevsky with Lazarus Distinguished Award

National Kidney Foundation Honors Paul Palevsky with Lazarus Distinguished Award Dr. Paul Palevsky has been selected to receive the Dr. J. Michael Lazarus Distinguished Award from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) during the organization’s upcoming Spring Clinical Meetings in Orlando. He is a professor of medicine and clinical and translational science in the Renal-Electrolyte Division of the Department of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He also serves as chief of the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System’s Renal Section.

“Through his tremendous work, Dr. Palevsky has helped reduce the risk of acute kidney injury and increase the likelihood of recovery from it, for many thousands of patients,” said Dr. Michael Choi, president and chair of the NKF Scientific Advisory Board.

Palevsky’s research focuses primarily on acute kidney injury and critical care nephrology. He was the study chair of the VA/NIH Acute Renal Failure Trial Network, a study evaluating the intensity of renal replacement therapy in critically ill patients with acute kidney injury. He currently serves as co-chair of the PRESERVE trial, which is studying the comparative effectiveness of saline and bicarbonate and the efficacy of N-acetylcysteine in preventing kidney damage following angiography. Palevsky has published more than 200 original articles, reviews and book chapters, and has served as an editor for clinical journals focused on nephrology.

The Dr. J. Michael Lazarus Distinguished Award was established to honor Dr. Lazarus for his major contributions to the clinical science and care of dialysis patients, and to recognize individuals whose research has yielded novel insights related to renal replacement therapy.

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