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

UPMC Expands Services in Italy, Adds Wellness Center in Tuscany

UPMC Expands Services in Italy, Adds Wellness Center in TuscanyUPMC has expanded its services in Chianciano Terme, Italy, to include a new Medical Exercise and Wellness Center, aimed at preventing a variety of diseases linked to obesity and excess weight. The center offers customized, comprehensive wellness checkups, as well as patient education and tutoring, to residents of Tuscany and visitors to the region.

“Many major diseases worldwide are caused by a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, including poor diet, smoking and excessive consumption of alcohol,” said Dr. Bruno Gridelli, executive vice president of UPMC International. “With rising rates of cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, diabetes, chronic respiratory disorders and cancer, an increased emphasis on prevention is the only rational way for countries to face the economic and social impact of chronic diseases.”

The Medical Exercise and Wellness Center, part of the UPMC Institute for Health, helps those at risk for these diseases and those already diagnosed with them. Patients first receive a complete diagnostic checkup, typically followed by prescription of evidence-based physical exercise.

“If correctly adopted, exercise is strong medicine that can reduce and even eliminate the risks associated with chronic diseases and brain aging,” Gridelli said.

The new center includes fitness equipment from Technogym, which has equipped more than 65,000 wellness centers and 100,000 homes worldwide. An online technology platform connected with the machines allows patients and clinicians to manage and track their exercise routines. With a culture dedicated to wellness, Technogym is also partnering with the Medical Exercise and Wellness Center to conduct scientific research on how physical activity affects health.

UPMC opened the Institute for Health in Chianciano Terme in 2014, in partnership with the local health service, the Region of Tuscany and Terme di Chianciano, a company that operates and manages historical thermal premises in the region. Adding to UPMC’s successful transplant and cancer treatment services in Palermo and Rome, the institute attracts patients from throughout Italy and beyond with diagnostic screenings, imaging and procedures for a variety of diseases.

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Pitt-Developed Artificial Lung Shows Promise in Animal Model

Pitt-Developed Artificial Lung Shows Promise in Animal ModelUniversity of Pittsburgh researchers have developed and tested a wearable artificial lung that eventually could be used by patients with advanced lung disease. The new device, which showed positive results in a sheep model, promises to deliver greater mobility and increased odds for survival following severe lung damage.

Lung disease is a widespread problem in the United States. One type of lung disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is the third leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Lung Association. Caused by smoking or exposure to other lung irritants, more than 11 million people likely have COPD. In some cases, COPD causes severe damage to the lungs, requiring a lung transplant.

Those suffering from lung failure have limited options. After being placed on the organ transplant list, it normally takes several months for a patient to receive a lung transplant. During this time, patients are usually confined to the hospital bed, sedated and hooked up to costly and cumbersome heart-lung machines that function to replace their damaged lungs.

“Despite recent advances such as portable heart-lung machines, a truly wearable artificial lung has yet to be developed for clinical use,” said lead investigator William Federspiel,  Whiteford Professor of Bioengineering in Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering and director of the Medical Devices Laboratory at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Together with a multidisciplinary group of colleagues at Pitt, Federspiel’s team has developed and tested the Paracorporeal Ambulatory Assist Lung (PAAL). The device is both compact and lightweight. It’s about the size of a tissue box and weighs approximately 4 pounds – about the weight of a laptop. In their preliminary study, published recently in Journal of Heart and Lung Transplantation, the research team characterized PAAL by implanting it in live sheep.

The study found that PAAL meets the basic requirements for adult respiratory support following lung failure. The primary function of the lungs is to supply oxygen to the blood. PAAL supplied oxygen to the blood at levels roughly equivalent to human oxygen levels needed during resting, but more than enough for mobile sheep. Sheep in the study were monitored for six hours to demonstrate that PAAL is functional in a live animal, and to monitor its effects on the circulatory system. (more…)

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UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre Setting the Example for Standards of Cancer Care

UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre Setting the Example for Standards of Cancer CareThe UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre, an advanced radiation therapy center serving patients in southeast Ireland, is leveraging its successful track record of delivering high-quality cancer care to assist partner clinicians in Rome.

Having successfully completed three of its own Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation surveys, the gold standard in terms of global health care, the cancer center welcomed colleagues from UPMC San Pietro FBF on March 20 to share knowledge and information related to quality and safety standards.

“While we are incredibly proud that we have been JCI-accredited since 2008, we are even more proud of how that translates into exceptional patient care and are very excited to be able to share this experience with our colleagues from Rome,” said Catriona McDonald, director of operations at UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre.

The JCI accreditation process focuses on determining whether the right systems and processes are in place to support high-quality and safe patient care, and whether there is the culture and capacity to continuously improve care.

“Ensuring our patients receive the best possible care is our No. 1 priority, and demonstrating compliance with JCI standards serves as validation of this commitment,” said Elena Cino, director of operations at UPMC San Pietro FBF Advanced Radiotherapy Center, which is pursuing JCI accreditation. “We are fortunate to be part of UPMC’s global network where we can take advantage of the experience and expertise of our colleagues in Italy and worldwide and at a place like UPMC Whitfield.”

UPMC Whitfield Cancer Centre offers the most advanced radiation therapy to residents of the southeast region of Ireland. As part of UPMC CancerCenter, the facility leverages UPMC’s innovation and expertise from around the globe to deliver solutions and care to patients close to their homes.

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North Carolina Students Learn About Perfusion at Procirca

North Carolina Students Learn About Perfusion at ProcircaTwenty students from North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University (NC A&T) who are  enrolled in University of Pittsburgh engineering professor Dr. Harvey Borovetz’s distance learning class, “Artificial Organs,” recently made a seven-hour trek from their university to visit the Procirca Perfusion Simulation and Education Center at UPMC Shadyside.

Their journey from Greensboro to Pittsburgh was funded by a diversity grant provided through the Swanson School of Engineering as part of Pitt’s Year of Diversity initiatives.

Perfusion is the process of managing cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB), a technique that temporarily takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery, maintaining the circulation of blood and the transfer of oxygen to the body and removal of carbon dioxide. The device that supports CPB is often referred to as the heart–lung machine or “the pump.” Once CPB is initiated, the patient’s heart and lungs are stopped, providing the surgeon with a motionless, bloodless surgical field for safe and effective repair of cardiac disease.

During the two-day visit, students were exposed to clinical biomedical technologies and met with Pitt faculty, staff and students in Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering, and Procirca’s artificial heart program and perfusion staff.

Brandon D’Aloiso, a first-year student in UPMC’s cardiovascular perfusion program and a 2016 baccalaureate from Pitt’s Department of Bioengineering, explained the perfusion circuit to the group, how it works and how it’s connected to the native heart.

“I appreciated the opportunity to interact with professionals in the field, as well as Pitt faculty and students who are in a similar program to ours,” said Erika Johnson, a second-year master’s student in the biomedical engineering program at NC A&T. “It was intriguing to see the resources used by those in our profession and hear about the various academic and professional opportunities available.”


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Match Day Delivers Exciting News to Pitt’s Future Doctors

Match Day 2017

Over 150 University of Pittsburgh medical students recently gathered in the lobby of the Petersen Event Center anxiously awaiting envelopes with letters inside stating where they would spend their next three to seven years as medical residents.

This event is known as Match Day, and it occurs annually around the country. After many interviews and careful consideration, students and medical schools simultaneously rank each other and submit their top picks for a computer algorithm to match students to their future residency assignments. The results are placed in an envelope for students to open in unison on Match Day.

Joy Trybula, president of the Pitt School of Medicine Class of 2017, took the stage to offer words of encouragement to her nervous and excited peers. Mixed emotions filled the room as the future doctors held hands and linked arms with their support systems (parents, significant others and children) while they waited to learn of their destinations.

After receiving her degree in pharmacy from Purdue University, Trybula decided to attend medical school after realizing she wanted more patient interaction. During her pharmacy rotations, she had the opportunity to work with patients, sparking her interest in learning their full stories and thoroughly understanding their diagnoses.

Trybula and her husband are expecting a baby in a few months. Her top choice for residency was Feinberg School of Medicine – Northwestern University, so she could move back home and start her family.

At exactly noon, students rushed to pick up their envelopes and the room filled with celebratory hugs, excited screams and tears. Pictures were snapped and flowers were distributed as the students congratulated each other on their placements.

Trybula also learned her fate – she was matched with Northwestern University.

“My husband and I are so excited that we will be able to live in the same city,” she said. “He is starting a cardiology program in Chicago, so we will both be able to move there and start our family.”

Overall, Pitt medical students had great success this year as every student received a residency placement. Nationally, there were 42,000 total participants in this highly competitive program. The Class of 2017 will represent Pitt in 30 different states next year as they complete the final steps in their education.

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