It's Friday night and the road to D.C. was wet from the pounding rain as I made my way from the Flood City to Crystal City, from Flight 93 to the Pentagon, from America's County to America's Capital. Dinner consisted of an apple and some trail mix, and now it's time to prepare here in room 1205 at the Courtyard for a meeting tomorrow morning that may bring a new collaborator to the table for the Windber Research Institute.
The old line, "You have to pay to play," seems right on tonight.
The Research Institute has had a very active few weeks as we continue to attempt to expand and grow so that we might add additional jobs to the local economy. Some weeks, this proposition is harder than others. Moving forward, is often a major challenge. We are still hopeful that this will not be the case this time around.
On a much brighter note, however, our researchers and integrative health staff successfully completed Phase One of the Yamaha research program with Dr. Barry Bittman this week. This study should be completed by sometime this Fall. It was fun observing people as they played music to relax. Obviously, they never had any of my former music teachers. I'm convinced that would have been a research project. If you missed even one note, they GAVE you high blood pressure.
Our own Dr. Lori Field, a local native and Johns Hopkins grad, was written up in several prestigious publications for her work on African American breast cancer last week. She presented her findings at a major conference in San Diego and captured the attention of several key science writers.
According to Dr Field's analytical work, African American women are slightly less likely to be stricken with breast cancer, but, when they are, not unlike their black male counterparts with prostate cancer, the disease often strikes them younger and can be much more deadly.
She and her team compared tumors stored in our tissue repository from black and white women that were matched for both the stage of breast cancer represented and the age of the donor with the disease. All of these women were participants in our research activities, were either members or dependents of members of the U.S. military, and all were being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The fact that they were members of the military Tricare insurance program removes any previous bias from the equation that black women may not have had equal access to health care.
Our researchers found 65 genes with significant differences in activities between the black and white women. Very few of the identified genes had any previous link to breast cancer. Lori suggests that the possible differences could be caused by "an altered epigenetic chemical regulation of the genes." If you are be somewhat unclear as to what the full implications of that statement may be, I'm sure she would be happy to explain it over a cup of coffee.
Bottom line, however, is that Dr. Field and her peers at the Research Institute are working to find new targets for drugs that could improve survival for African American women.
You go, Lori. We are really proud of you and your work. (My kids always tell me that, without Lori back in high school in the 90's, they may have never gotten through advanced math and science.)
WRI's partnership on proteomic research through use of samples from our unique tissue repository was also announced last week with the Department of Energy's prestigious Pacific Northwest Lab.
It is my sincere hope that, within my lifetime, breakthrough science at WRI will lead to unique, new cures for our friends, families and loved ones.
Finally, we are still seeing growing progress with our fund drive. Last Saturday we hosted another successful social event where more than 120 people were present to learn more about WMC. It was a great night. Special thanks go out to the Foundation staff for all of their efforts and to the true driver behind this work, Fund Drive Chair, Attorney Tim Leventry. "We think we can. We think we can. We think we can."
Also at the event, our Chairman, Ted Hollern, was honored for his dedication, service and leadership at WMC since 1975. Ted received this award because of his hard work and commitment to the employees and medical staff of Windber Medical Center. Of course he will be the first to tell you that it is not about Ted, but believe me, it's about Ted. He has almost as few hours of sleep as some of the rest of us who carry the heavy mantle of responsibility to ensure the success and sustainability of a community hospital in a country where 47million people are uninsured and 78 million more of us are heading toward the proverbial hill.
It's unique when a 54, 57 or 102 bed hospital (depends on who's counting the beds), can not only survive in the United States but thrive. I've discovered that, no matter the size of the place, the issues are the same. Having been in leadership positions in a 150 bed, 650 bed and now smaller facility, the primary difference is in the amount of help, consultants and cash you have. In the bigger operations, you just add more zeros to the reports. It was a lot easier telling the story with a million dollars vs. $50,000, but it is what it is.
In spite of all of the challenges, and there were many more than normal this year, we're happy to report that WMC is headed toward it's best year in 102 years.
Now, we just need to keep up the good work in every area.