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

Archive for July, 2017

Facing Measles Outbreak, Europe Could Benefit from Pitt Public Health Project

As it wrestles with an ongoing measles outbreak, Europe may soon learn more about the impact of vaccination programs, thanks to a University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health project just getting underway.

This week, the World Health Organization issued a strong warning that measles continues to spread in Europe and has caused 35 deaths in the past year, the most recent in a 6-year-old boy in Italy. The Pitt Public Health project – based on a similar analysis of vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013, called Project Tycho – could give European countries some much-needed evidence to promote the value of vaccination.

Project lead Dr. Wilbert van Panhuis, assistant professor of epidemiology and biomedical informatics at Pitt, explained that most of Europe actually has high vaccination rates, but there are still pockets where many people are not vaccinated. Those unvaccinated and tight-knit communities are providing fuel to the outbreaks.

“In Europe, the reasons people aren’t vaccinated are very diverse, and there isn’t any single policy to encourage vaccination, such as a vaccination mandate to attend school like we have in the U.S.,” said van Panhuis. “So the public health messaging to advocate for vaccination can be more difficult.”

For example, he said, Eastern Europe has migrant communities that may not have easy access to regular vaccination; in the United Kingdom, many people are worried about the debunked idea that vaccines cause autism; Germany, Switzerland and France all have alternative medicine communities that opt-out of vaccination; and a swath of the Netherlands is home to religious communities that say vaccination goes against their beliefs. (more…)

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Leechburg Police Chief Optimistic About his Future


Nearly two weeks after losing his left arm in a fireworks demonstration accident, Leechburg Police Chief Mike Diebold recently spoke at UPMC Mercy about his experience and his future.

Diebold, a licensed pyrotechnician, has been a police officer for the past 20 years and spent the last 10 as the police chief in Leechburg, Pennsylvania.

“I didn’t think I was going to make it out of the ambulance the night they loaded me up,” he said. At the press conference, he had a smile on his face and is optimistic for the future. After four to six weeks of recovery, he will begin the process of being fitted for a prosthetic arm. He’s hopeful that he will be able to return to the force as a fully functional police officer.

Leeanna McKibben, chief nursing officer and vice-president of Patient Care Services at UPMC Mercy, said Diebold’s optimism has been present throughout his time at the hospital.

“[He] has been both brave and resilient and has fully participated in his care,” she said. “We wish him the best in his journey to recovery.”

With his fiancé Danielle Reinke by his side, Diebold said he was grateful for all the support his family and the community has given him. The local community has organized various fundraisers and created shirts that say, “We Stand By Ours, #teamdiebold15656.”

His gratitude didn’t end with the people of Leechburg. He also spoke of his treatment at western Pennsylvania’s only hospital with a comprehensive burn center and level one regional resource trauma center under one roof.

“I didn’t choose to blow my arm off,” Diebold said. “I didn’t choose UPMC, but I’m damn glad that helicopter pilot did.”

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ISMETT Governance Change Marks Milestone in Italy

ISMETT Governance Change Marks Milestone in ItalyIn a change that is expected to accelerate the translation of medical research into better patient care, UPMC-managed ISMETT now counts the Ri.MED Foundation as part of its governance structure. The foundation joins UPMC Italy and Civico Hospital as ISMETT shareholders, meaning closer coordination between Ri.MED’s research agenda and the highly specialized care provided at one of Italy’s leading transplant hospitals.

Established in 2006 by the Presidency of the Italian Council of Ministers, the Ri.MED Foundation is an international partnership among the Italian government, the Region of Sicily, the Italian National Research Council, the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC. Based in Palermo, Sicily, the foundation aims to promote, support and conduct biomedical research, with an emphasis on translating those discoveries into improved patient outcomes and a growing biomedical industry for the region.

With funding from the Italian government, Ri.MED is leading the construction of the Biomedical Research and Biotechnology Center in Carini, Sicily, where about 600 researchers are expected to work when the facility opens in 2021. Construction is likely to begin at the end of this year.

“The integration established with the new agreement sets out an ambitious project not just for southern Italy but for the entire country,” said Laura Raimondo, managing director of UPMC Italy. “Working together, ISMETT and Ri.MED aim to become a key pillar of Italian and European research.”

“The ISMETT-Ri.MED integration is an important milestone in the progression of relations between UPMC and the governments of Sicily and Italy,” added Dr. Bruno Gridelli, executive vice president of UPMC International and vice president of the Ri.MED Foundation. “It further strengthens UPMC’s ability to reproduce its model of innovation and excellence in health care delivery and research, tailoring it to the Italian environment.”

The first Italian hospital specifically dedicated to organ transplantation and high specialty therapies, ISMETT treats more than 30,000 patients a year with severe organ disease. In 2014, the Ministry of Health designated ISMETT as a government-approved research hospital, or Istituto di Ricovero e Cura a Carattere Scientifico (IRCCS). The acknowledgement rewards ISMETT for its excellence in research, training, quality of care and management of health services.

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Cancer Center Celebrates Pet Therapy Program

Cancer Center Celebrates Pet Therapy ProgramWith the popular 2010 song “Who Let the Dogs Out?” by the Baha Men playing in the background, 18 certified pet therapy dogs and their owners recently gathered at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside for the 2nd annual Pet Therapy Appreciation Day.

Top honors went to Tillie, a 12-year-old black Labrador retriever, who was the first dog to enter the pet therapy program at UPMC Hillman five-and-a-half years ago. To date, Tillie has clocked more than 350 volunteer hours. For that, she received a special “Silver Paw Award.”

While the dogs focus on patients, staff members and visitors each time they volunteer at UPMC Hillman, this time, they were the center of attention. Every dog was given a special “doggie bag” filled with treats and toys. After a group photo, they headed to the outside patio for a special treat of doggie ice cream.

“These animals offer our patients comfort in ways that medicine cannot,” said Laurin Scanlon, volunteer coordinator at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “Our patients form special relationships with the dogs and know them by name. They often ask for them when they arrive for treatment.” (more…)

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Pens Rally Brings Surprise Guests

What started out as just a post-season rally and a chance to share some well wishes for a Magee fan favorite turned into a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some lucky fans. Watch as Pittsburgh Penguins® mascot, Iceburgh, walks in before the coveted championship trophy and chants of “Let’s Go Pens” rain down from the balconies.

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