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Rising Stars - 2013

Department of Medicine

James R. Burton, Jr., MD
Associate Professor
Department of Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatolo
At a time when Hepatitis C treatment is rapidly evolving, Dr. Burton is playing a leading role in developing protocols for post-transplant patients trying to fend off recurrence of the disease. Since 2008, he has treated more than 200, often applying novel therapy combinations never before used in post-transplant patients. In collaboration with five other transplant centers around the country, he has amassed the largest cohort in existence on this unique, difficult-to-treat population, paving the way for research on drug interactions, side effects and overall virologic efficacy. He works with patients daily, as Medical Director of the University of Colorado Hospital Liver Transplant Program, is conducting several trials of new antiviral drugs against Hepatitis C , and is the primary investigator from CU for the multi-center NIH-funded Adult to Adult Living Donor Liver Transplant Cohort Study. In 2012, 5280 Magazine named Dr. Burton the top transplant hepatologist in Denver.

Brandon P. Combs, MD
Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine
At a time when an estimated 30 percent of health care expenditures are on things that don’t benefit patients, Dr. Combs is challenging the “more care is better” culture and encouraging a national dialogue about the human toll of medical overuse. In 2012, he and CU Instructor Dr. Tanner Caverly founded the Do No Harm Project, inviting medical trainees to submit – for online publication – clinical vignettes demonstrating harm from unnecessary care, or benefits from appropriate restraint or shared decision-making. The CU-based program is being adopted at other institutions nationally, and inspired the creation of a new “Teachable Moments” section in JAMA Internal Medicine, on which Combs and Caverly are associate editors. He is also conducting research in order to quantify and describe common examples of overuse in clinical practice, and is working to develop new curricula aimed at raising awareness about these issues among tomorrow’s physicians.

Amie Meditz, MD
Assistant Professor
Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

Since arriving at CU in 2003, Meditz has dedicated her career to exploring gender-based differences in HIV transmission and pathophysiology. Her aim is to improve the care of HIV-infected women or those at risk of infection. In 2011, she published a groundbreaking paper showing that – despite lower viral loads upon diagnosis, HIV-infected women (particularly nonwhite women in the South) suffer substantially worse outcomes then men. The study has since been used to inform federal HIV/AIDS resource allocation. In 2012, she authored another study demonstrating that as women age, they express more CCR5 (a receptor for HIV entry into cells) possibly making older women more susceptible to infection. She continues to investigate sex differences in virus replication, with the goal of discovering clues for future vaccine or drug development. By surveying local patients, she is also striving to better understand the unique needs of HIV-infected women in the context of other social and economic stresses.

Rebecca Schweppe, PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Medicine, Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes
Department of Pathology
Just two years into her professional career, Schweppe dropped a bombshell on the thyroid research community, publishing a 2008 genetic analysis showing that of 40 cell lines used for decades to study thyroid cancer, nearly half were either redundant or originated from non-thyroid cancers. Her landmark study led to a global re-examination of the thyroid cell lines, and prompted the NIH to fund the development of new ones. Schweppe has since published groundbreaking papers demonstrating that the Focal Adhesion Kinase (FAK)-Src pathway plays a key role in thyroid cancer growth and metastasis, and created the first-ever thyroid cancer bone metastasis model. She is now developing clinical trials to exploit this pathway as a therapeutic target for advanced thyroid cancer. Dr. Schweppe has successfully competed for K12 and ARRA Challenge grant funding through the NIH, and she currently has an R01 and American Cancer Society Research Scholars Grant for her work on FAK and Src.

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