A new bone dysplasia and connective tissue disorder clinic for adults and children and a virtual microscopy medical education initiative were among nine grants funded by the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation (UAHSF) at its recent General Endowment Fund (GEF) committee meeting.
The GEF awarded a total of $1,250,000 for 2009 to the nine grant recipients across four categories: clinical care initiatives, medical education initiatives, laboratory research initiatives and patient-research initiatives. The awards support universitywide projects benefitting UAHSF and the School of Medicine.
|Peter Anderson recently received a $97,740 grant from the UAHSF’s General Endowment Fund for a virtual microscopy project that will feature a database of digitized slides for histology and pathology teaching.
The grant recipients are:
• Maria Descartes, M.D., genetics, “Bone Dysplasia and Connective Tissue Disorder Clinic for Adults and Children,” $120,000
• Kim Hoover, M.D., OB/GYN, “Development of a Pediatric and Adolescent Gynecology Clinic,” $121,600
• Marjorie Lee White, M.D., pediatrics, “Integration of Simulation-Based Education into First Year Medical Student Curriculum,” $95,775
• Andrea Cherrington, M.D., internal medicine, “Motivational Interviewing for Obesity,” $90,075
• Peter Anderson, D.V.M., Ph.D, pathology, “Virtual Microscopy for the New Integrated Medical Curriculum,” $97,740
• Steven Pogwizd, M.D., medicine, physiology and bio-engineering, “Cardiovascular Tissue and Cell Core,” $232,433
• Larry DeLucas, O.D., optometry, “Development of a High-Throughput Self-Interaction Chromatography System,” $194,227
• T. Michael Harrington, M.D., family and community medicine, “The Primary Care Research Collaborative,” $200,000
• Weei-Chin Lin, M.D., Ph.D., medicine, “Leukemia Translational Research Tissue Bank,” $49,786
A clinical benefit
Connective tissues are the structural portions of our body that essentially hold the cells of the body together. These tissues develop a framework, or matrix, for the body, and form a cellular glue that gives tissues their shape and helps keep them strong. The clinic seeks to provide integrated care for patients with anomalies in these functions.
More that 400 disorders impact the structure and function of connective tissue or bone structure. Some, like Achondroplasia or Ehlers Danlos, have a known genetic cause. In other disorders, like osteopenia or lupus, there may be genetic factors that predispose to their development. Still other disorders of collagen may be the result of infection or injuries or have no known cause. These disorders may involve hormonal, metabolic, structural and other abnormalities that are often difficult to determine as well as to treat.
Descartes is hoping to create a centralized location to care for patients with these disorders that considers many variables in diagnostics, intervention and research.
“Patients with connective tissue disorders require quite a lot of specialized medical care,” Descartes says. “What we have encountered in many of the children we see is that they go to a rheumatologist, an immunologist and others, and they still don’t have a defined diagnosis. I think this clinic will help this. It will provide them with specialists from a variety of disciplines in one area and enable us to treat as many aspects of their condition as we can in an integrated multidisciplinary fashion.”
A virtual resource
Because of the significant costs in time and resources involved in maintaining microscopes and glass-slide collections, many schools have switched to virtual microscopy for teaching histology and histopathology — important components of a well-rounded medical curriculum, says Anderson.
Anderson envisions that the virtual microscopy project with a database of digitized slides for histology and pathology teaching can be easily integrated into the new School of Medicine curriculum across multiple disciplines.
“The goal of our new integrated medical curriculum is to foster student-centered, lifelong learning. This virtual microscopy technology will help us as educators to achieve this goal,” Anderson said.
“My collaborators, Laura Cotlin, in Cell Biology, and Kristina Panizzi Woodley, senior instructional design specialist in Pathology, will work with me to accomplish this project. And telling of the faculty interest and investment in this project is the fact that all of the module directors for the first two years of the new medical curriculum wrote letters of support for this grant. This is definitely a tool that will facilitate integration in our curriculum.”
GEF faculty research and patient care grants were created in 1994 to enhance research and attract eminent scholars. The awarding of the grants is a highly competitive process.