UM SOM launches ‘Program in Lung Healing’ to develop treatments for acute respiratory failure

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University of Maryland School of Medicine (UM SOM) Dean E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, and Jeffrey A. Rivest, MS, President and Chief Executive Officer of University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), today announced the official launch of a new "Program in Lung Healing," that will further the School's position as a national leader in research, education and clinical innovation for acute ailments of the lung and respiratory system.

Program Integrates Leading Departments and Programs

The program integrates many of UM SOM's leading departments and programs, including the Department of Medicine's Division of Pulmonary & Critical Care, under the leadership of Stephen N. Davis, MBBS, Jeffrey Hasday, MD, and Aldo Iacono, MD; the Department of Surgery under the leadership of Stephen Bartlett, MD, Richard N. Pierson III, MD, and Bartley P. Griffith, MD; and the Program in Trauma's Critical Care Division under the leadership of Thomas M. Scalea, MD, Si M. Pham, MD, Jay Menaker, MD and Karen Doyle, MBA, MS, RN.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), COPD, or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. The NIH also reports that more than 320,000 Americans are affected by acute respiratory failure each year, with COPD exacerbations, Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), influenza, and progressive pulmonary fibrosis as the primary underlying cause. The annual incidence of ARDS alone in the U.S. is 200,000 with more than 70,000 deaths each year.

"The Program in Lung Healing unifies and leverages our key assets and pioneering leadership in understanding how to treat the most critical patients with pulmonary failure," said Dr. Reece, who is Vice President for Medical Affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean at the UM SOM. "With our longstanding leadership in pulmonary medicine, trauma, transplantation and critical care, we are clearly establishing the University of Maryland Medicine's pre-eminence in the area of vital organ preservation – when the patient's life is truly on the line."

Adds UMMC's Mr. Rivest: "This new program is a great example of how we continue to invest in unique programs that ultimately will deliver the highest value for our critically-ill patients. By bringing together our unparalleled strengths in time-sensitive critical care medicine, we can maximize the potential outcome for our patients with the most severe cases of respiratory failure," he said.

Dr. Scalea, who is the Honorable Francis X. Kelly Distinguished Professor in Trauma Surgery, Director of the UM SOM Program in Trauma, and Physician-in-Chief for the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, commented: "We are fortunate to have some of the most talented and dedicated physicians and nurses in the country – now mobilized under this new national program. It is very exciting to see this vision come to fruition – where we have a multi-disciplinary approach, access to all of the tools, a proven model for critical care and a broad focus on research, education and clinical innovation all under the same umbrella."

Program to be Led by Leading Transplantation Surgeon

The new program will be led by Executive Director Bartley P. Griffith, MD, the Thomas E. and Alice Marie Hales Distinguished Professor in Transplant Surgery at the UM SOM. Dr. Griffith is regarded as one of the leading surgeons in the nation for heart and lung transplantation, aortic diseases and pulmonary thromboendarectomy.

The Program's leadership structure also includes Aldo T. Iacono, MD, the Hamish S. and Christine C. Osborne Professor in Advanced Pulmonary Care at the UM SOM, who will serve as Director of Outreach and Consultative Services. Dr. Iacono is nationally recognized as an outstanding transplant pulmonologist and a translational investigator focusing on novel anti-rejection therapy.

Hamish S. Osborne and Christine C. Osborne are among the founding supporters of the Program. Mr. Osborne's diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis resulted in a life-saving double-lung transplant at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He is the only reported patient to survive retransplantation after contracting a rare fungal disease called pulmonary mucormycosis after his first single lung transplant. "Implementing the University of Maryland's national pulmonary rescue and healing magnet program will be neither easy nor inexpensive," Mr. Osborne said. "It can only happen with generous philanthropic support and the hard work and innovative ideas of nationally and internationally acclaimed physicians and scientists. The end result will be well worth all of the hard work, innovation and expense however, because at the end of the day, there will be a Program in Lung Healing where patients can come and have their diseased lungs repaired, regenerated, or replaced, and upon discharge, they will be able to live long, productive lives free from breathlessness." Other founding philanthropic gifts have been provided by the Grayce B. Kerr Fund, and an anonymous donor.

The new Program brings together and leverages UM Medicine's leadership in surgery, lung transplantation, critical care, trauma and pulmonary medicine with an emphasis on research and education.

Nationally-Recognized Strengths in Lung Transplantation

UMMC is already established as a national leader in lung healing. Its Lung Transplantation Program has saved the lives of hundreds of patients who have received transplants. By replacing lungs that have ceased to function effectively, the program has given new life ­– new energy and new possibilities – to people whose lives have been restricted by debilitating conditions.

"Faculty within the Department of Surgery at the UM SOM have a superb reputation for redefining pulmonary research and advancing surgical options for patients with critical lung illnesses," said Stephen Bartlett, MD, the Peter Angelos Distinguished Professor of Surgery and Chair, Department of Surgery. Richard N. Pierson, III, MD, Professor and Associate Chair of Surgery, he noted, is a recognized leader in basic and translational research related to transplant immunology.

"Each year our researchers and surgeons earn millions of dollars in grant funding so that we can better understand and address lung disease for patients at our institution and around the world. This Program in Lung Healing will pave the way for even more research opportunities to change the lives of patients and families who are desperate for answers," added Dr. Bartlett, who is also the Surgeon-in-Chief and Senior Vice President for the University of Maryland Medical System.

Leveraging Leadership in Shock Trauma and Critical Care

The UM SOM is regarded as a world leader in trauma. Last year, the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) opened its new 140,000 sq ft Shock Trauma Critical Care Tower as the new home of its pioneering R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, with the capacity of serving more than 8,000 patients with lifesaving care annually. In August, the Center opened a new Lung Rescue Unit to evaluate and immediately determine the most effective treatment for each lung patient and serve as a bridge to either lung healing or transplantation. Si M. Pham, MD, Professor of Surgery, serves as surgical director of the Lung Rescue Unit, and Jay A. Menaker, MD, Associate Professor of Surgery, whose clinical specialty is in Emergency Medicine and Trauma/Critical Care, is medical director of the Unit.

Building on Discovery and Innovation in Pulmonary Medicine

The UM SOM is widely recognized for its significant research and discovery in the field of pulmonary medicine. Led by Stephen N. Davis, MBBS, the Theodore E. Woodward Endowed Chair and the Professor and Chairman of the UM SOM Department of Medicine and Physician-in-Chief at UMMC, and Jeffrey D. Hasday, MD, the Herbert Berger Professor of Medicine and Head of the Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine Division, faculty in the Division, along with faculty in the UM SOM Departments of Surgery and Anesthesiology, have participated in the NIH-funded ARDSNet (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome Clinical Research Network) for over two decades. ARDSNet studies performed at UM SOM have tested various approaches to ventilation, fluid support, optimal nutrition, and existing medications including statins and pentoxyphylline. The low tidal volume study, which was the first to show improved survival in patients with ARDS, was based on an original study performed at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Additional clinical research is focused on optimizing supportive care in patients with acute lung injury and developing new therapies that block lung injury. Dr. Hasday's laboratory is internationally recognized in the field of thermobiology, specifically how fever may worsen and hypothermia may improve ARDS. Other research in the Division focuses on a broad range of issues related to the prevention, arrest and reversal of lung disease. Current studies focus on deconditioning of ICU patients using an integrated program of physical rehabilitation, ventilator weaning and nutrition; genetic causes of COPD; mechanisms of acute lung injury including the benefit of blocking fever and developing new drugs; cutting-edge therapy of severe asthma using bronchial thermoplasty; and multiple basic mechanisms of lung injury, fibrosis and recovery that have the potential to lead to the next generation of therapeutics and diagnosis.

"This is an exciting development for UM Medicine in the field of lung healing, where we continue to conduct breakthrough clinical studies that focus on optimizing supportive care in patients with acute lung injury and developing new therapies that block lung injury," said Dr. Davis. "Creation of the new Lung Program in Lung Healing provides a catalyst to reorganize and streamline how we deliver appropriate, state-of-the-art care for patients with acute lung injury. Through enhanced clinical care and integrated training and research activities, the UM SOM Program in Lung Healing will save lives, generate important new knowledge, and produce the next generation of superbly trained lung and critical care physicians and scientists," he said.

Karen Doyle, MBA,MS, RN, Vice President of Nursing & Operations, R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, who oversees clinical operations and patient care for trauma, said, "This program is very exciting because it truly brings an organized, multi-disciplinary team approach together into a single unit – which is really the future of patient care. Essentially we are able to bridge the gap between cardiac surgeons and lung patients and create a bridge from acute lung injury to pre-lung transplant that will enable us to save many more lives."

Utilizing New Approaches for Lung Healing

According to Dr. Griffith, the School of Medicine's new program will explore other new scientific approaches to lung healing, including the use of stem cell therapy, tissue engineering, personalized diagnostics, as well as new technology platforms being developed for artificial respiration. Dr. Griffith and his team were the first in the world to free a patient from a mechanical ventilator allowing the patient to walk with the aid of an ambulatory artificial lung device. Two weeks later the patient received donor lungs. UMMC was also the first hospital in the U.S. to enroll a patient in a clinical trial that could expand the availability of donor lungs.

"There is a new awareness that lung failure can be treated in much better ways that are both time sensitive and that prevent further injury," Dr. Griffith said. "Simply put, we can save more lives using the Shock Trauma model, developing and utilizing new tools for lung treatment and mobilizing our teams of expert surgeons."

Added Dr. Scalea: "This new program is an example of what leaders do. We are already one of the busiest medical centers for patients with respiratory failure of all types. And, we are internationally recognized as a leader in each of the key areas that impact lung and respiratory failure. This program brings together our academic and research leadership with the vision and the clinical expertise to treat patients in ways that are unique anywhere in the world."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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