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The BMC Brief

August 3, 2011 Volume 1, Issue 6

The Hub on Wheels: Bike Share Program Comes to Boston

Last week Boston launched Hubway, a city-wide bike-sharing program that allows participants to check out a bike in one location and return it to another. The program includes 600 bicycles parked at 61 docking stations located throughout the city, including a station near Boston Medical Center's campus, under the Yawkey building on Massachusetts Avenue.

Hubway bikes
Bikes at the Hubway station on Massachusetts Avenue

Hubway is designed for quick, one-way trips, such as running errands around the city. Any trip under 30 minutes is free, with incremental charges for longer rides. To participate, riders must first sign up for memberships — including a liability waiver and a pledge to wear a helmet — on Hubway’s website or at kiosk touch screens at docking stations. Annual membership is $85, with a current introductory offer of $60. Tourists or locals who don't have a membership can purchase passes for $5 per day at kiosks.

The program will operate nine months of the year, shutting down during the winter months of December, January and February. The docking stations, which are solar-powered weighted mobile structures, will be removed during that time.

Boston’s bike share program is the fifth in the nation (following Minneapolis, Miami, Denver and Washington, DC). Hubway executives say they envision the program growing to as many as 5,000 bikes at more than 300 kiosks in a few years.

Learn more about Hubway.

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Fat Tissue May Hold answers for Treating Obesity-Related Diseases

Most people are focused on the quantity of fat they’re trying to lose, not the quality of it. But what if the quality of that fat could hold the key to treating a variety of diseases and disorders, including diabetes and cancer?

Boston Medical Center (BMC) researchers have shown that the quality – not just the quantity – of adipose, or fat, tissue is a significant contributing factor in the development of inflammation and vascular disease in obese individuals. The study provides compelling evidence that the answer to treating cardiovascular disease and other obesity-related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and cancer, might be found in the adipose tissue itself. The findings appeared as a special feature on the iPAD version of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Noyan Gokce, MD
Noyan Gokce, MD, senior author of the study

While obesity is a leading preventable cause of death in the United States, its prevalence continues to increase rapidly among individuals of all ethnicities and age groups. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 33 percent of men and women above the age of 20 in the United States are obese and 68 percent are overweight.

Led by Noyan Gokce, MD, a BMC cardiologist, the researchers examined adipose tissue samples from both lean and obese individuals. The study subjects, all of whom were receiving care at BMC, included 109 obese men and women and 17 lean men and women between the ages of 21 and 55.

“While it is widely believed that obesity and inflammation are linked to cardiovascular disease, this study shows not all obese individuals exhibit inflammation that can lead to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer,” says Gokce, the study’s senior author. “Once we identify what harmful products adipose tissue is producing that is linked to causing systemic inflammation, we can explore treatments against it that could potentially combat the development of several debilitating obesity-related disorders.”

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BMC Conducts High Rate of Thyroid Testing in Pregnant Women

A recent study by Boston Medical Center (BMC) and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers demonstrates that BMC is at the forefront of thyroid testing in pregnant women, which can lead to the delivery of healthier babies.

Pregnant woman 

The study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that BMC conducts a high rate of thyroid testing in pregnant women, and that if the hospital had not performed this routine testing, approximately 80 percent of cases of mild hypothyroidism in the mother (a condition whereby the thyroid does not produce enough thyroid hormone) would not have been detected.

The thyroid hormone is important for child development in the womb. However, while there are observational studies that show that even slight maternal hypothyroidism is associated with adverse obstetric outcomes and lower child IQ, there is currently no interventional study to show whether treatment for mild hypothyroidism will lead to better outcomes. This lack of information has caused controversy about whether universal thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) screening is necessary in pregnancy.

The research team, led by Elizabeth Pearce, MD, MSc, Endocrinology, Diabetes and Nutrition, and Donny Chang, MD, PhD, an endocrine fellow, looked at the medical charts of 1,000 pregnant women to determine when and if they received a TSH test during their first prenatal care visit at BMC. The results showed that BMC had a higher rate of testing than previously published surveys. While the hospital did not conduct universal TSH screenings, they did conduct routine tests for women with no risk factors for hypothyroidism – a group who would normally not be tested under some current guidelines.

“Due to the fact that there are conflicting guidelines, we were surprised to find a high rate of testing here at BMC,” says Pearce. “Had BMC not conducted routine testing, there is the potential that many women with mild hypothyroidism would not have been identified.”

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What Do You Do, Missy DeVoy?

Name: Mary (Missy) DeVoy, RN
Title: Float Nurse
Department: Nursing
Years at BMC: Five

What brought you to BMC?
I started here as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in 2006 and once I graduated with a degree from Quincy College in 2007, I joined the Nursing staff. Recently I was fortunate to obtain a position in the nursing float pool, which I love.

Missy DeVoy, RN
Missy DeVoy, RN

What do you do as a float nurse?
I work with whatever hospital unit needs me that day. For example, I can work in an area for one day or several weeks. What’s great about it is I work all over the campus with a variety of people, and I’ve found the keys to success are being organized and flexible. Teamwork is also an important part of my job and I love that those in the float pool are committed to it. I enjoy the autonomy the job gives me and think of myself as not having one home, but many!

We hear you have several generations of family receiving care here. Tell us about it.
We have had five generations of family receive care here, dating back to my husband’s great-great grandfather. My husband was treated for 12 weeks in the Menino Pavilion and currently receives treatment for Crohn’s disease in the Gastroenterology clinic. We love the staff and are very fortunate to receive care from an amazing team, particularly Dr. Rob Lowe. BMC has saved lives in our family, including my niece who has a peanut allergy. My mother-in-law left her doctor of many years to receive care here and says she loves BMC because everyone is treated the same, whether you have $1 or $1 million. We take comfort in BMC being so well rounded in many fields. One family member says “There's nothing they haven't seen. They can handle anything." We wouldn't go anywhere else.

What do you like about working here?
The best part of my job is working with a population that not everyone gets to see. We are helping those who might otherwise not receive the care they need. It also makes me realize how grateful I am for all the little things in life and how truly fortunate I am.

Do you know a staff member who should be profiled? Send your suggestions to communications@bmc.org.

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In Their Words

Patients share their BMC experience

Letter writing 

Our son was seriously injured in a basketball game. He was treated on the scene by the Quincy Fire Department and then transported via ambulance to your emergency department. The trauma team that worked on our son that day was nothing short of spectacular. The professional, courteous and caring manner in which they performed their craft was impressive to observe. Once our son was stabilized, he was moved to the SICU and once again, BMC staff excelled in providing him with care. We feel it is very important to reach out and extend a thank you to all who assisted us and our son during a very stressful time. Please pass along our message of thanks and gratitude to the entire staff. Our son is doing well and on the road to recovery.

Quincy, Mass.

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News of Note

BMC awarded more than $1 million to expand HIV/AIDS patient care services
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has awarded a nearly $1.1 million grant to BMC to provide funding for HIV/AIDS support and case management services. The grant will include the expansion of BMC’s HIV clinic – already one of the largest in the state – allowing for a greater number of patients to receive more comprehensive care here.
Learn more about BMC’s HIV/AIDS services.

Tracy Battaglia and American Cancer Society members 
Tracy Battaglia, MD, MPH, (second from left)
with State Senator Scott Brown (center)
and members of the American Cancer Society

Battaglia meets with lawmaker, asks for support for cancer research
In her new role as Chief Medical Officer for the New England division of the American Cancer Society, Tracy Battaglia, MD, MPH, Women’s Health Group, recently met with Massachusetts State Senator Scott Brown. Battaglia, along with American Cancer Society board officers and government relations staff, met with Brown to request support for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget to sustain cancer research.

“My perspective was that of academic medical centers and the need to sustain funding in order to sustain training programs that attract the best and the brightest students," says Battaglia. “We can’t do that without research opportunities.”

BMC/BUSM researchers awarded $3.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse
BMC and Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers will use a recently awarded $3.5 million grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse to improve upon the “seek, test, treat and retain” paradigm in Eastern Europe among HIV-infected Russian and Eastern European injection drug users (IDUs) in narcology (addiction) care. Russia and Eastern Europe have one of the fastest growing HIV epidemics in the world, with transmission risk primarily from injection drug use, yet it is common in Russia for IDUs to receive delayed or no HIV medical care. The researchers, headed by Jeffrey Samet, MD, Chief of the Section of General Internal Medicine at BMC, will implement and assess a behavioral and structural intervention in Russia designed to support and motivate HIV-infected heroin dependent narcology patients to engage in HIV medical care and ultimately improve their HIV outcomes.

Researchers to use $9 million grant to investigate new treatment for sickle cell disease
Using a recently awarded five-year $9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), researchers, led by Martin Steinberg, MD, Director of BMC’s Center of Excellence in Sickle Cell Disease, and George Murphy, PhD, of BUMC, will mass-produce sickle cell anemia-specific induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells to better understand how certain genes are involved in the disease. Sickle cell anemia is noted for its extensive morbidity and high mortality. Currently there is only one Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug available for its treatment; however, not all patients respond to this treatment, so additional drugs are needed. Researchers will use this grant to create the largest library of sickle cell disease-specific iPS cell lines in the world.

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Awards and Accolades

Avrum Spira, MD
Avrum Spira, MD

Avrum Spira, MD, Chief, Computational Biomedicine at BMC, and Associate Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, was named the university’s 2011 Innovator of the Year, an award which recognizes a BU faculty member whose cutting-edge research and ideas resulted in the formation of companies that benefit society at large.

Spira’s research on lung cancer, Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (COPD), and the effects of smoking on airway epithelial cell-gene expression sparked development of a technology that allows for a non-invasive method for the early detection of lung-cancer. With this technology, Spira and BU colleague Jerome Brody, MD, founded Allegro Diagnostics of Maynard, Mass.

Sharon Levine, MD, Associate Director of BMC’s Geriatric Medicine Fellowship Program, has been named Chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine’s (ABIM) Subspecialty Board on Geriatric Medicine. As such, she becomes the subspecialty board’s representative to ABIM’s Board of Directors. Dr. Levine has been a member of the Subspecialty Board on Geriatric Medicine since 2007. ABIM sets the standards and certifies physicians practicing in internal medicine and its subspecialties who possess the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to provide high quality care.

BMC has 91 physicians listed in U.S. News Top Doctors, an online compilation of the top specialists and primary care doctors in geographic U.S. locations. Unlike the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals rankings, Top Doctors does not rank physicians. The purpose of the guide is to help consumers find providers who can best address their specific medical needs. Top Doctors are determined by U. S. News and Castle Connolly, a New York City-based company that has been working for nearly two decades to identify the nation's top doctors.

See BMC’s Top Doctors.

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