BIDMC Researchers Named Among the "Most Influential Scientific Minds"
Nine researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center are among the investigators included in “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds 2014,” a comprehensive list compiled by analysts from Thomson Reuters ScienceWatch, a web resource for science metrics and research performance analysis.
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The scientists recognized as among the most influential “are performing and publishing work that their peers recognized as vital to the advancement of their science,” according to a Thomson Reuters statement. Researchers were identified based on the number of highly cited papers produced during an 11-year period from 2002 to 2012.
BIDMC investigators named on the “Influential Scientific Minds” list include
- Donald E. Cutlip, MD, CardioVascular Institute
- Michael D. Fox, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology
- C. Michael Gibson, MD, PhD, CardioVascular Institute
- Sharon K. Inouye, MD, MPH, Division of Gerontology
- Bruce E. Landon, MD, MBA, Department of Medicine
- Jeffrey J. Popma, MD, CardioVascular Institute
- Clifford B. Saper, MD, PhD, Department of Neurology
- Michael S. Seaman, PhD, Center for Virology and Vaccine Research
- Larry J. Seidman, PhD, Department of Psychiatry
Inclusion in the list is based on the number of “highly cited” papers that each of the researchers has published in his or her field. Scientific citations refer to the number of times that researchers have been acknowledged, or “cited” by other scientists as having inspired or guided their own research.
“This type of recognition carries enormous weight,” says BIDMC’s Chief Academic Officer Vikas P. Sukhatme, MD, PhD. “Such an objective analysis indicates the tremendous value of an investigator’s work to his or her own field and, more broadly, to biomedical research and the advancement of medical discoveries. We are proud to have investigators representing a wide range of BIDMC’s research included in this analysis. Their inclusion is a reflection of the widespread influence that BIDMC research plays in categories that include clinical medicine as well as microbiology, neuroscience, psychiatry and social sciences.”
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New OB/GYN Returns to Her Roots
Ebonie Woolcock saw her first cadaver during a summer science program when she was in high school. Far from being repulsed, she was entranced.
“I fell in love,” she says.
That teenager is now Dr. Woolcock, an obstetrician and gynecologist who recently returned to her Dorchester roots by joining the medical staff at Bowdoin Street Health Center. The circular path she took from her childhood in Codman Square back to the old neighborhood was one pitted with setbacks, but one that also taught her the value of perseverance — and role models.
It wasn’t until college that Woolcock first set eyes on an African-American doctor. “I had never seen a black doctor in real life,” she says. “The only one I knew was Bill Cosby on TV. For me, there was always this need to be visible to that brown boy, that brown girl, to show them that they could be a doctor too.”
Indeed, minority students are sorely underrepresented in medical schools, according to Tour for Diversity in Medicine, a nonprofit that travels to traditionally black colleges to encourage students to consider going to medical or dental school. According to cofounder Alden Landry, an emergency room doctor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans make up 30 percent of the US population, but only 6 percent of practicing physicians.
His group wants to increase those numbers. “Studies show that minority providers are more likely to practice in underserved areas and to treat patients on Medicaid and Medicare,” Landry says. “And patients are more likely to respond to providers who have the same racial or ethnic background as they do. Patient satisfaction is higher, compliance with medications and plans of care are higher.”
Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan, an internist who is president and CEO of the Dimock Center in Roxbury, says that has been her experience. Patients have said “that I speak to them in a way they understand, that they’re comfortable asking me questions,’’ she says. “Patients trust me because I look like them.”
Landry’s group plants the seed in students’ minds, and provides mentoring and support. “Everyone assumes physicians are geniuses and everything has been smooth sailing for them,’’ he says. “The reality is, we had pitfalls, detours, and wrong turns, but we still got to where we wanted to be.”
And that can be particularly true with physicians like Woolcock who overcame economic hardship and family tragedy. She was the daughter of a teenage mother who worked as an administrative assistant for the MBTA. Her father owned a small auto-mechanic shop.
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Study: Why the Elderly Have Trouble Sleeping
As people grow older, they often have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, and tend to awaken too early in the morning. In individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, this common and troubling symptom of aging tends to be especially pronounced, often leading to nighttime confusion and wandering.
Now, a study led by researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the University of Toronto/Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center helps explain why sleep becomes more fragmented with age. Reported online in the journal Brain, the new findings demonstrate for the first time that a group of inhibitory neurons, whose loss leads to sleep disruption in experimental animals, are substantially diminished among the elderly and individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, and that this, in turn, is accompanied by sleep disruption.
“On average, a person in his 70s has about one hour less sleep per night than a person in his 20s,” explains senior author Clifford B. Saper, MD, PhD, Chairman of Neurology at BIDMC and James Jackson Putnam Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Sleep loss and sleep fragmentation is associated with a number of health issues, including cognitive dysfunction, increased blood pressure and vascular disease, and a tendency to develop type 2 diabetes. It now appears that loss of these neurons may be contributing to these various disorders as people age.”
In 1996, the Saper lab first discovered that the ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, a key cell group of inhibitory neurons, was functioning as a “sleep switch” in rats, turning off the brain’s arousal systems to enable animals to fall asleep. “Our experiments in animals showed that loss of these neurons produced profound insomnia, with animals sleeping only about 50 percent as much as normal and their remaining sleep being fragmented and disrupted,” he explains.
A group of cells in the human brain, the intermediate nucleus, is located in a similar location and has the same inhibitory neurotransmitter, galanin, as the vetrolateral preoptic nucleus in rats. The authors hypothesized that if the intermediate nucleus was important for human sleep and was homologous to the animal’s ventrolateral preoptic nucleus, then it may also similarly regulate humans’ sleep-wake cycles.
In order to test this hypothesis, the investigators analyzed data from the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a community-based study of aging and dementia which began in 1997 and has been following a group of almost 1,000 subjects who entered the study as healthy 65-year-olds and are followed until their deaths, at which point their brains are donated for research.
“Since 2005, most of the subjects in the Memory and Aging Project have been undergoing actigraphic recording every two years. This consists of their wearing a small wristwatch-type device on their non-dominant arm for seven to 10 days,” explains first author Andrew S. P. Lim, MD, of the University of Toronto and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center and formerly a member of the Saper lab. The actigraphy device, which is waterproof, is worn 24 hours a day and thereby monitors all movements, large and small, divided into 15-second intervals. “Our previous work had determined that these actigraphic recordings are a good measure of the amount and quality of sleep,” adds Lim.
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