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2015 In Review: Megan’s Favorites

I was struggling with what to say about 2015 that Morgan and Erica hadn’t already said.

Then Hoos for Memory, a UVA student group that raises money and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease research, asked us on Twitter: “Is this the year of discovering vessels?”

I realized they were right. In June, UVA School of Medicine researchers announced they had discovered lymphatic vessels connecting the brain to the immune system. This discovery changed what we know about human anatomy and was nominated for Science’s Breakthrough of the Year.

Then, just last week, researchers shared they have identified the stem cells that grow into kidney blood vessels, a major step toward eventually growing functional kidneys.

So the UVA students called it: 2015, in a nutshell, the Year of Discovering Vessels.

Personal Favorite

The blood vessel research is interesting, but UVA researchers made other discoveries. Our team talked a lot this year about how to share complex research news, much of which is interesting but won’t directly impact patients for years.

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So that’s why I enjoyed working on our first research roundup. I highlighted:

  • A search engine that helps researchers who are drowning in data
  • A new strategy to treat a deadly parasite that infects 50 million people every year
  • Traveling advice: An airplane is a bad, bad place to have a medical emergency, so don’t fly without doctor approval if you just had surgery

Highlight Favorite

Baby Sam suffered from Intussusception is the most common abdominal emergency in babies.
Sam had intussusception, the most common abdominal emergency in babies.

I’ve worked with Amy Marshall for several years and watched her kids grow up. So it was startling to learn that her healthy, thriving son might not be here today if not for a UVA doctor.

As a baby, Sam got a condition called intussusception, a bowel obstruction. It’s treatable but can be fatal if it goes for too long. Amy was in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from home, and took Sam to the local emergency room when he began screaming and spitting up every hour. The emergency room staff misdiagnosed him. Sam got worse.

Finally, Amy called her pediatrician in Virginia, Jim Plews-Ogan, who knew right away what was wrong with Sam. She rushed Sam to the nearest children’s hospital, and after a simple procedure, he recovered.

Ogan didn’t personally treat Sam that night. Some might think he just did his job: He answered a frantic 4 a.m. page and correctly diagnosed his patient. But this story is a reminder that even little things can change someone’s life.

Tags: research

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