JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

April 8, 1998

For press inquiriesonly, please call (410) 955-6680.

Surgeons' Experience Helps Patients

A postdoctoral researcher has found that patients who undergo thyroid surgery do best if their doctors perform the operation frequently.

With her study, Julie Ann Sosa, M.D., won the Helen B. Taussig and Alfred Blalock Award, which will be given at Hopkins' 21st annual Young Investigators Day, an event to honor the brightest young Hopkins researchers.

"The highest-volume surgeons had the shortest length of patient stay and fewest postoperative complications both before and after adjusting for case mix differences in the patients they saw and hospital volume," says Sosa.

"At a time when we really need hard evidence on our side, Julie Ann's study has given us strong support for the value of clinical experience and expertise," says Neil Powe, M.D., who served as her mentor with Robert Udelsman, M.D.

Seventeen awards will be given at the event, which begins at 4 p.m. April 9 and is sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Medical and Surgical Association and other donors.

Among the winners are Brian Lewis, who won the first Mette Strand Research Prize for his work tracing the activity of c-Myc, a gene involved in cancer, cell growth and cell death. The c-Myc protein turns on a number of genes, and Lewis identified 20 of those genes, five of which hadn't been identified before.

"We're particularly interested in a gene called rcl, which apparently allows cells to grow when they're not anchored to something," says Lewis, a Ph.D. student under hematology director Chi Van Dang, M.D., Ph.D. "This could be important to some tumors' ability to metastasize, and if it is, we might be able to develop a pharmaceutical way to block it."

Lewis' award is named for Mette Strand, a world-class researcher and outstanding graduate student educator who died last fall.

"We knew this is how she would like to be remembered: by acknowledging and encouraging students' achievements in Ph.D. research," says Thomas August, director of pharmacology and a colleague of Strand's.

Other winners include David C. Johns, a Ph.D. student, for genetically modifying the excitability of heart and nerve cells; Victor Velculescu, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate who developed a technique for quickly assessing the activity levels of thousands of genes active at any given time in a cell; and Prasad Jallepalli, an M.D./Ph.D. candidate who identified a mechanism that helps regulate DNA replication.

To talk to these or any of the many other researchers honored at Young Investigators' Day, or to visit the day's activities, call me at (410) 955-8725.

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