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

Partnership Between Pitt and Tsinghua Reaches Milestone

A highly innovative global partnership connecting the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine with the top science and technology university in all of China reached an important milestone this week.

On Monday, 13 Chinese medical students who previously spent two years in Pittsburgh as part of Pitt’s Tsinghua Scholars Program graduated from the Tsinghua University School of Medicine. They are the first Pitt-Tsinghua Scholars to earn their medical degrees. Initiated in 2012 to elevate the training of Chinese physician-scientists, the Tsinghua Scholars Program allows medical students from the university to undergo a rigorous, two-year biomedical research training program in Pittsburgh.

The historic agreement between Pitt and Tsinghua University was recently renewed for a second five-year term. The Tsinghua Scholars Program currently has 67 alumni and 25 active scholars on Pitt’s campus, where they work in the laboratories of some of Pitt’s most accomplished biomedical researchers. To date, 44 Pitt faculty members have participated as mentors.

Since the program’s inception, Tsinghua Scholars have been co-authors on more than 70 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals, and they have given more than 100 oral and poster presentations at local and national scientific meetings.

Building on the success of the program, the two medical schools are considering the formation of a combined M.D./Ph.D. program, which would be modeled after the highly successful Medical Scientist Training Program at Pitt and other U.S. medical schools. If implemented, it would be China’s first such dual-degree program.


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Miraculous First Father’s Day

Brandon Lischner is particularly grateful for his 7-month-old son — a “miracle” child because Lischner and his wife had very little chance of conceiving.

Lischner was first diagnosed with testicular cancer at the age of 18. He was single and didn’t give fertility preservation a serious thought before undergoing surgery and cancer treatments. When his cancer returned 13 years later, he was now married, and his doctors were adamant about sperm preservation before performing the surgery that was needed to treat his cancer, but would most likely make him infertile.

Three years later, the couple sought out in vitro fertilization at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC even though Lischner’s banked sperm count was extremely low as a result of his surgery and chemotherapy treatments.

With only a one in 100,000 chance of conceiving, the treatment was successful. Against the odds, Lischner is now “Daddy.”

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UPMC Mercy Wheelchair Wash Supports Pittsburgh’s Wheelchair Users

UPMC Mercy Wheelchair WashFor people who rely on wheelchairs for mobility, wheelchair maintenance is important to ensure their safety.

Volunteers from the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute washed and inspected both manual and power wheelchairs, performing minor repairs and evaluating potential problems. While their wheelchairs were being washed, guests saw demonstrations from rehabilitation-focused vendors and participated in a wheelchair skills obstacle course.

Paralympic gold medal-winning wheelchair rugby player Mark Zupan served as the event’s motivational speaker, inspiring guests with his personal journey. After his paralyzing injury as a teenager, Zupan went on to represent the United States at the 2004 and 2008 Paralympics and star in the 2005 documentary film Murderball.

To view photos from the 2017 Wheelchair Wash and Tune-Up, visit the UPMC Flickr gallery.

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Experts Tackle Aspiration in Lung Transplant Patients

Experts Tackle Aspiration in Lung Transplant PatientsA study led by researchers from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh aimed to minimize the risk of postoperative aspiration – food and liquid entering the airway – in the lung transplant population.

The goals were to determine the frequency of aspiration, assess how accurately speech-language pathologists can evaluate for aspiration in these patients at the bedside, and develop a standardized swallowing assessment protocol to improve care after lung transplantation.

Complications from gastroesophageal reflux have been extensively studied in the lung transplant population, leading to interventions for management postoperatively to prevent devastating complications, as well as long-term effects that may result in the development of rejection.

Oropharyngeal dysphagia is also increasingly recognized in this population, and speech-language pathologists can play a vital role in minimizing aspiration risk and associated complications in the postoperative period.

Brooke Baumann and Sara Byers, senior speech-language pathologists from the UPMC Department of Otolaryngology and Division of Speech-Language Pathology, discussed their findings, which were  recently published in The Annals of Thoracic Surgery.


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The Opioid Epidemic: Protecting Our Protectors

The Opioid Epidemic: Protecting Our ProtectorsRecent reports have highlighted a regional police officer who, after being exposed to potent opioids, had a possible associated toxicity.

This report recognized the unpredictable and potentially dangerous environments faced by law enforcement and medical responders almost every day.

As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate lives across Pennsylvania and the rest of the nation, law enforcement and medical responders are put at a greater health risk as they attempt to save the lives of those impacted by heroin addiction.

UPMC toxicologists and Pittsburgh Poison Center specialists have performed ongoing surveillance of drug identification in local and statewide trends surrounding the distribution and availability of heroin in collaboration with agencies such as the Drug Enforcement Agency, FB I and medical examiner’s office.

Through this research, we are now able to provide Pennsylvania State Police, Pennsylvania and Allegheny County departments of health and Allegheny County Office of the Medical Examiner practical recommendations to protect these individuals as they work to protect our communities.

As it turns out, the actual risk of an exposure to opioids leading to toxicity is unlikely. However, as we see expanding distribution of potent drugs, that risk continues to grow. Powdered drugs are not readily absorbed through the skin, but given the potency of drugs like carfentanil, even small exposures can be potentially dangerous — particularly when those handling the drugs are sweating or overheated. (more…)

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