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In the News

Spring 2013


(May, 2013) Reporters locally and nationally turn to the School of Medicine for expertise and research news. 
Here are examples from near and far.

James Hill, PhD, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center, offered analysis in Newsweek of a scientific finding that mice dosed with Viagra avoided weight gain while on a high-fat diet. “This is good science and very interesting,” says Hill, who also is director of the Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center at the University of Colorado, “but it is a long way from being at the point of human relevance. We know ‘brown fat’ can play a role in protecting against obesity in rodents, but it is not clear this mechanism has any role in man.”

Eric Zacharias, MD, assistant clinical professor, opined on the Mediterranean Diet study for ABC News Radio. “The study really is a potential game changer because it’s the first large dietary study in many years which has looked at disease event outcomes … such as heart attacks or strokes, as opposed to intermediate markers, such as effects on cholesterol or inflammatory markers in the blood,” he says. Zacharias is author of “The Mediterranean Diet: A Clinician’s Guide for Patient Care.”

Allison Kempe, MD, professor of pediatrics and director of the Children’s Outcomes Research Program at Children’s Hospital Colorado, was featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” report about electronic medical records. The report noted that a central database registry operated by the state of Colorado is incompatible with most of the systems doctors use, so they don’t update the database because it’s too much extra work. “A very small minority of practices can actually automatically upload their records,” she says. “Most practices are having to do double data entry, where they enter information manually into the registry.”


Kerry Hildreth, MD, geriatric research instructor, explained to Reuters Health that older men who use testosterone gel may see small improvements in their muscle-to-fat ratio but are unlikely to reap other benefits in flexibility, endurance and general ability to get around. She said her research found that testosterone “is widely used in people where it really may not be appropriate or may not provide the benefits that people think it’s going to. ”

Paula Riggs, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Division of Substance Abuse, commented in a Thomson Reuters article on marijuana legalization efforts and concerns about the substance’s impact on teenagers. She expresses concern that it will “affect their development for a very long time, if not forever.” Riggs is a board member of a group called Project SAM, which stands for Smart Approaches to Marijuana, formed after the passage of measures in Colorado and Washington states to legalize marijuana under state law.

Randy Ross, MD, professor of psychiatry, appeared on Colorado Public Radio to discuss the findings of a University of Colorado study of choline supplements during pregnancy.  The research found that choline—an essential nutrient found in foods such as liver, fish, nuts and eggs—reduces the rate of physiological schizophrenic risk factors in infants 33 days old. Researchers tested the infants to see if they screened out a repetitive clicking sound. “The babies who have had choline, the majority of them even by a month of age were not responding to the second sound, whereas for the babies who hadn’t had choline, about 60 percent of them were still responding to both sounds,” Ross explain

Eric Coleman, MD, MPH, professor of medicine, discussed hospital readmissions in an Associated Press report. “There couldn’t be a worse time, a less receptive time, to offer people information than the 11 minutes before they leave the building,” he said. Coleman offered techniques—such as having patients role-play how they’ll handle potential problems—to help prevent readmissions and ensure patients understand what they need to do when they go home.

Richard Zane, MD, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine, discussed drug overdose deaths in an Associated Press article that ran in news reports nationally. According to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 38,329 drug overdose deaths nationwide in 2010, with 60 percent involving prescription drugs. Zane says it appears that most serious painkiller overdoses were accidental. He adds that the University of Colorado Hospital is considering a rule that would prohibit emergency doctors from prescribing more medicine for patients who say they lost their pain pills.

Richard Krugman, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, described his service on the National Health Care Workforce Commission in a February article in The New York Times. “It’s like ‘Waiting for Godot,’” he says. “We are sitting on a park bench, waiting for Godot. We’ll see if he shows up.” The commission was created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act, but Congress has not funded it, so it cannot meet.

Marian “Emmy” Betz, MD, MPH, assistant professor of emergency medicine, commented to the Denver Post on her research finding that emergency room doctors and nurses could prevent firearm suicides by asking whether patients in distress have access to guns. “It’s a very touchy subject now because of the gun control debate, and that can make it harder for people to talk about it,” she said. “That’s frustrating. This is not a gun control issue; it’s a safety issue for people in crisis.”

Robert Eckel, MD, the Charles A. Boettcher Endowed Chair in Atherosclerosis and professor of medicine, offered comments on the findings of a new study of the Mediterranean Diet, which consists of a lot of fruit, fish, chicken, beans, tomato sauce, salads and wine. The study found that those eating the diet have a reduced risk of suffering heart-related problems. “This group is to be congratulated for carrying out a study that is nearly impossible to do well,” he tells The New York Times. Eckel also discussed the study in the Washington Post.

Sarah Allexan, a first-year medical student, garnered national attention for an article she co-wrote for the journal Pediatrics about the cause of blindness to Mary Ingalls, sister of “Little House on the Prairie” series author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Allexan and senior author Beth Tarini, MD, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan, concluded that scarlet fever was not likely to be the cause of Mary’s vision loss. “Scarlet fever is unlikely because there isn’t eye involvement with that disease,” Allexan tells U.S. News and World Report. The findings were also featured in USA Today and The New York Times.


Kim Heidenrich, PhD, professor of pharmacology, discussed a $60 million brain-injury research initiative launched in March by the National Football League. The four-year Head Health Initiative aims to improve diagnostic accuracy with better imagery tools. “I have concerns that the majority of the money is going toward diagnosis and not enough toward treatment,” Heidenrich said in Science magazine.