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ACC President Relays Olympic Torch

Credit: London 2012

It’s been more than a month since Dr. William Zoghbi found out about a nomination that by most measures is an opportunity of a lifetime. And the countdown to the real thing has begun.

On Monday, July 9, dressed in white, Dr. Zoghbi will relay the Olympic torch through a historic English town called Bicester.

“This is a very exciting opportunity,” said Dr. Zoghbi, who became the president of American College of Cardiology (ACC) earlier this year. “No matter how you try to imagine it, the experience would be different. But I can imagine a lot of people around me cheering me on, and your life story goes in front of you and you think about your aspirations for the future. It will be an exhilarating moment.”

The 56-year-old grew up in Lebanon. He said if it weren’t for the war, he probably wouldn’t have come to the United States in the late 1970s. “My life would have been quite different,” he said during a phone interview.

In the cheering crowd there will be his wife, his brother coming from Beirut, his friends from England and from ACC. He gets to keep the torch after his 300-meter run (roughly 0.2 miles), and he said he’s planning to display it at the Heart House, the ACC headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Zoghbi is the first from ACC to carry the Olympic torch. He is one of 22 selected by the Coca Cola Company because of his personal and professional dedication to promoting healthy lifestyles and for empowering civic engagement in communities, according to ACC. He will be representing ACC and the organization’s patient education portal, CardioSmart.

“Carrying the torch is a symbol of health in general, both mind and body,” said Dr. Zoghbi. “And my advice to physicians is that in addition to doing all the beautiful things that they do, to also think about the population in general and engage with their community in improving cardiovascular health.”

The 70-day Olympic Torch Relay leads to the Olympics Opening Ceremony on July 27. Lit in Greece, the Torch is carried by 8,000 selected participants who run through 1,000 towns and cities in the United Kingdom.

And we had to ask Dr. Zoghbi: “What is  your favorite Summer Olympics sport?” Soccer, he responded. But when we asked him which team he was pulling for, he said with a laugh, “That’s a secret.”

You can watch him live on July 9 here.

See who else is running on July 9, and learn other fun facts about the Olympic Torch Relay.

By Naseem S. Miller (@NaseemSMiller)

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Filed under Cardiovascular Medicine

Annual Meeting Focuses on Echocardiography and Its Future

©Ekko/Wikimedia Commons

Multimodality imaging is among the highlights of this year’s American Society of Echocardiography meeting, which starts on June 30 at the National Harbor, Maryland.

The society is pushing forward the concept, looking at different diseases and integrating different kinds of imaging such as echo plus nuclear, Cardiac CT, or Cardiac MR, in order to get the best diagnoses, said Dr. Melissa Wood, co-director of Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center Women’s Heart Health Program, Boston, and the chair of ASE Public Relations Committee.

“This isn’t just about echo, it’s also about all the other imaging techniques that are out there and how we can work together and deliver the highest quality of care,” said Dr. Wood in an interview. “It’s also about what’s superfluous, and what we don’t need to do.”

On the policy front, Accountable Care Organizations will be in the forefront during the meeting. Dr. Wood said that the speakers will address how “ACOs affect those of us who read echos and do them, and how they affect practices.”

Echocardiography will also leave this planet for a bit during a symposium. ASE president Dr. James Thomas has been in the past actively involved in doing research with the space station and helping pick the right echo machine to go up there, said Dr. Wood. “There’s substantial interest in microgravity and the heart, and how heart changes its function in space. It’s something that’s very unique, and there are lessons that can be learned from that, and that experience will be somehow useful in our clinical practices, whether it’s specific type of research techniques or specific types of information that are gained in that environment.”

Echocardiography is the second most commonly ordered test after EKG, according to Dr. Wood, and with the aging population, the use of the test is likely to increase.

“I see echo take off more because of this concern about heart failure being an epidemic. Echo as a way to diagnose heart failure before it becomes profound,” she said. And given the appropriate use criteria, “we’re tying to moderate the reasons echos are ordered, so they’ll continue to be fairly reimbursed by third parties and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services),” said Dr. Wood.

You can find the meeting’s program here. And be sure to check our coverage on ecardiologynews.com.

By Naseem S. Miller (@NaseemSMiller)

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Filed under Cardiovascular Medicine, Health Policy, health reform, Practice Trends

Feds Fund Two Cancer Information Apps

It sounds cute and perky, but Ask Dory! is actually an informative app that helps patients find information about clinical trials for cancer and other diseases.

©YANKIN CHAUVIN/fotolia.com

Along with another app, My Cancer Genome, the two recently won $20,000 each from the federal government.

Ask Dory! integrates data from www.clinicaltrials.gov. My Cancer Genome provides “therapeutic options based on the individual patient’s tumor gene mutations, making use of  National Cancer Institute’s physician data query clinical trial registry data set and information on genes being evaluated in therapeutic clinical trials,” according to a statement.

The two apps are part of the rapidly growing field of mHealth — or use of mobile devices for health purposes. Some are calling it an “mHealth bubble,” as thousands of groups large and small are rushing to develop the next great app for diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases, weight management,  addictions, and more.

Seeing the potential benefit for patients and providers, federal officials are providing incentives, and funding initiatives as simple as free text messaging reminders for pregnant women and new moms, to apps like Ask Dory!

“What makes these health IT challenges so powerful is their ability to catalyze the expertise and creativity of innovators both in and out of health care,” said Wil Yu, special assistant for innovation at the  Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC), which awarded the prizes.

In collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, ONC launched the “Using Public Data for Cancer Prevention and Control: From Innovation to Impact” challenge in summer 2011. The two winners were among four semifinalists who submitted their products to the ONC challenge in November 2011.

—Naseem S. Miller (@NaseemSMiller on Twitter)

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Filed under Health IT, IMNG, mHealth, Oncology, Practice Trends

Physicians Play Important Role in mHealth Integration

Evident from the growth in the size of exhibit hall and the number of participants attending the mHealth Summit this year is that the business and technology side of the field is growing fast. In fact, it’s growing so fast that a group of panelists called it the “mHealth bubble” during a vibrant discussion about the value of mHealth.

The parts playing catch-up are research and evaluation. That’s according to William T. Riley, Ph.D., chair of the NIH mHealth Interest Group, and program director at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Agencies such as the NIH are trying to figure out how best to streamline the research side of things to help with quicker deployment of mHealth products, and according to Dr. Riley, physicians play an important role in integrating mobile technologies in the health care system.

Here’s more from Dr. Riley:

Naseem S. Miller (@NaseemSMiller)

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Filed under Family Medicine, health reform, IMNG

mHealth Moving Fast, Raising Hope, And Questions

Hopes, ideas, and hundreds of apps, are floating in the hallways during the third annual mHealth Summit, marking the beginnings of a field that is still in its infancy and carries with it more questions than answers.

The federal government is pushing mHealth, launching programs like the Healthy Apps Challenge, which Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. Surgeon General, introduced in her keynote speech. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, introduced the SmokeFreeTXT program, a text messaging service that helps teens quit smoking. Ms. Sebelius also established the Text4Health Task Force last year to look at other uses of texting in promoting healthy behavior.

“As our phones get more powerful, they are becoming our primary tools for doing everything from getting directions to deciding where to eat, Ms. Sebelius said during her keynote speech on Monday.  “And increasingly, that includes using our phones to track, manage, and improve our health.  In the iTunes store alone, there are nearly 12,000 different apps related to health – a number that will probably have gone up by the time I finish speaking.”

New apps and programs are also being introduced throughout dozens of presentations. And the Exhibit Hall is bustling with booths and posters about different national and global apps and programs addressing a wide range of health issues, from diabetes to mental health to medication adherence and weight loss. But many questions remain: What iss the role of regulatory agencies like the FDA and FCC? What’s the role of the physicians? And what does the future hold?

 Joseph A. Cafazzo, Ph.D., the lead for the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation and an assistant professor at the University of Toronto provided some interesting answers, which you can watch — and comment on — below.

Check back with us, or follow me on Twitter for more from the summit.

—Naseem S. Miller (On Twitter @NaseemSMiller)

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Filed under Cardiovascular Medicine, Health Policy, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Primary care

mHealth Summit Kicks Off on Dec.5

The field of mHealth, or use of mobile devices for health purposes, is growing rapidly, and it can revolutionize the way physicians deliver care and patients access information or manage their diseases, experts say.

©Mariusz Black/fotolia.com

In fact, the field “has exploded across the globe, spreading more rapidly than any other technology in history,” according to the organizers of the mHealth Summit, which kicks of Dec. 5 in National Harbor, Maryland.

Roughly 3,500 people are expected to attend the Summit’s third annual meeting, an increase of about 1,000 from 2010. The number of exhibitors has increased from 125 last year to 300 this year.

Sessions, many of which include physicians in their panel of speakers, tackle a wide range of issues, including the management of chronic diseases, remote monitoring of patients, mHealth for fieldworkers, in addition to regulatory and policy developments, and the business side of the emerging technologies and their interoperability.

I’ll be there covering the meetings, and you can follow me @NaseemSMiller.

You can also:

  • Find more information about the Summit here.
  • Download its mobile app here.
  • And follow or join the twitter conversation with #mhs11

And let me know if you’re attending. I’d be very interested in comments and input from physician attendees.

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Filed under Health Policy, IMNG

Hats off to Tanzania Albinism Project

In Tanzania, where some of the oldest human fossils have been found, and where Mt. Kilimanjaro rises above the clouds, a group of international dermatologists are hoping to help a very vulnerable population.

The region has one of the highest incidences of albinism in the world. Although the condition is rare in the western world, it is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa, according to some studies. (While the incidence of this genetic condition is about 1 in 37,000 U.S. residents, the rate in this region is as high as 1 in 1,400.)

The people with albinism are also subject to discrimination, stigma and even murder.

Sun Damage to Back of an Albino Individual

But, another important concern is the health of the albinos whose pink skin is exposed to the African sunshine, and where many of the occupations are outdoors and in the field.

Many of the locals with albinism die of cancer before age 40; in fact, fewer than 2% make it to their 40th birthday. And almost all of the children with albinism show signs of sun damage before age 10.

Because of a lack of funding, many can’t afford hats to protect themselves; because of a lack of education, many don’t know the link between sun damage and cancer.

That’s according to Dr. David McLean, the secretary-general of the International League of Dermatological Societies, a nongovernmental organization affiliated with the World Health Organization.

Dr. McLean has been visiting the region for the past 2 decades, helping to establish and grow the Regional Dermatology Training Centre (RDTC), an ILDS program, in the town of Moshi in Tanzania.

He is also among a group who recently spearheaded a project to make hats — the ones with 7.5-cm rim — available to the albinism population in Tanzania. [Listen to Dr. McLean below.]

Called “Hats On for Skin Health,” a collaboration between the ILDS and Stiefel, the project is a global effort to raise funds for the purchase of hats and other protective items for albinos in Tanzania.

Sun-Protective Hat on an Albino Girl

The items will be distributed by RDTC that manages a mobile skin care clinic, which regularly visits people with albinism living in the region and educates the locals, especially parents, about albinism. The lesson they try to get across, said Dr. McLean, is to let their children play outdoors, but cover them up first.

The group has located a hat manufacturer in Moshi, which is currently producing template models for children and adults. Many of the workers, said Dr. McLean, have albinism. “We think that’s definitely part of the solution going forward,” he said.

The cost of manufacturing a hat in Africa? Less than $2.50. The hats are expected to last for at least for 10 years.
To start the campaign, Stiefel, a subsidiary of GlaxoSmithKline, has donated $25,000, and Dr. McLean hopes that dermatologists, other professionals, and even the public, get involved with the campaign.

“Our people are on the ground there. We know what happens to every donated dollar,” said Dr. McLean.

The group expects to have handed out at least 15,000 hats by this time next year. Visit www.hatsonforskinhealth.org to learn more.

(Photos courtesy of the patients and staff of the Regional Dermatology Training Centre, Tanzania.)

By Naseem S. Miller (@ReportingBack)

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Filed under Dermatology, IMNG