Monday, April 21, 2014

Gift of Arno A. Roscher, M.D., Supports Novel Gene Targeting Technology to Drive More Efficient Gene Therapy

Arno A. Roscher, M.D., a world renowned physician-scientist who directed Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at two distinguished Los Angeles-area hospitals, recently gave $100,000 to support Penn Medicine’s Gene Targeting Core and Laboratory.

Directed by Tobias D. Raabe, Ph.D., the Core and Laboratory performs and enhances novel CRISPR and TALEN technologies that allow genetic modification of mouse and human stem cells for both basic research and gene therapy in patients with unprecedented efficiency and specificity.

Dr. Roscher, who “likes to acknowledge that he was born in Albert Einstein’s birthplace of Ulm, Germany,” earned his M.D. magna cum laude at the Ludwig Maximillian University, Munich, Germany. He spent most of his career in Southern California, where he served on the leadership of both the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (1975-2001), and the former Granada Hills Community Hospital (1965-2003), where he is now an emeritus director. Since 1979 he has been clinical professor at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California.

During his nearly 60 years in medicine, Dr. Roscher has helped to bring about important changes in radiation oncology, surgical oncology, and heart transplant and cardiac surgery, on which he published in more than 25 patient - centered studies and clinical trials. He also played a significant role in championing fine needle aspiration pathology and stem cell research.

With this gift Dr. Roscher continues his career-long dedication to supporting advances in science and medicine. He has made it a priority to educate surgeons on genetics, regenerative medicine, immunology, and other leading-edge fields that are changing the prospects for patients.

He organized 33 annual Arno A. Roscher symposia, which were co-sponsored by UCLA, USC and UCI, and in 2009 created the Dr. Arno A. Roscher Annual Endowed Lecture at the International College of Surgeons (ICS). He has served ICS since 1968, and earned its highest distinction, the ICS Honorary Fellow. Through his interests, he has met Nobel Prize winners and many other leading minds in science and medicine.

“It’s especially meaningful to us that this gift comes from an accomplished, knowledgeable, and forward-thinking medical practitioner and scholar, who has had a great influence on the implementation of better treatments,” said Morris J. Birnbaum, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Dean, Biomedical Cores at the Perelman School of Medicine.

“Dr. Roscher is very attuned to promising developments in medical research, and we are proud to have his endorsement and acknowledgment that this work will have a great impact on how quickly the causes of and therapies for genetic diseases are delivered in the foreseeable future.”

The gift came about when Drs. Roscher and Raabe met at a scientific conference.

“It’s the newest of the new,” said Dr. Roscher of Dr. Raabe’s work, and he enlisted Dr. Raabe’s assistance in creating an exhibit at the International Museum of Surgical Sciences on ‘surgicogenomics,’ the field that is “emerging from the intersection of genetics and stem cell research and surgical practice.” The Museum is a Division of the International College of Surgeons, dedicated to improving the lives of patients through the development and education of its members and the advancement of the medical field.

Dr. Roscher’s gift will be used to speed the work of the Gene Targeting Core and Laboratory through funding an additional research specialist and materials and supplies, for the purpose of advancing ultra high efficient gene targeting in mouse and human stem cells.

“This support is making a real difference in how much we can accomplish, and comes at a pivotal time when we are working on technologies that have the potential to be game changing,” said Dr. Raabe. “We couldn’t be more grateful.”

Ribbon Cutting at Scheie Eye Institute

Four years in the making, building-wide renovations to the Scheie Eye Institute were celebrated by alumni, faculty, and friends this spring.

Focused on creating a better experience for patients, faculty, and staff, improvements were designed with input from all these groups. The result is more attractive and comfortable spaces along with improved technology for better scheduling and more convenient patient visits.

Home to the largest full-time ophthalmology faculty in Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York, Penn Medicine plays an influential role in the region’s health. Today more adults face eye disease than ever before. Many people say they would prefer death to blindness, and patients take action when their eyesight is threatened. As a result, eye specialists sometimes serve as primary care providers. Glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers may be first detected through an eye exam. Scheie’s collaborative and knowledgeable faculty often refer patients to general practitioners or specialists they need.

Dr. Joan O’Brien began this ambitious project soon after her arrival in 2010 as the William F. Norris and George E. DeSchweinitz Professor, Chair of the Department of Ophthalmology, and Director of the Scheie Eye Institute.

The large-scale rethinking of the facility and its practices very much reflects her commitment to patients and to creating an ideal environment for the pursuit of translational medicine.

Dr. Daniel Albert, M'62, a student of Dr. Scheie and mentor of Dr. O’Brien, presented the 8th Annual David M. Kozart Memorial Lecture. Dr. Albert and his wife Ellie donated a collection of antique instruments, ophthalmoscopes, spectacles, and rare medical texts, which can be seen in the new display area in the lobby of the Scheie Eye Institute.

Perelman School of Medicine Dean J. Larry Jameson helped to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the Department and noted that Ophthalmology is one of Penn’s most public-minded departments, participating in outreach to the local community through SightSavers and other programs.

The strength of the faculty/student/patient relationships in the Department is reflected in the very name of the Scheie Eye Institute. In the 1960s, as the department outgrew its location in the basement of HUP, Chair Harold Scheie called on his students and patients for support to build a new facility. This tradition of community and generosity is very much alive in the department today.

Michele Volpe, the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, commended Scheie as a strong partner in community outreach and in creating a culture of excellence. In closing she said, “It's wonderful to see you in an environment that so brilliantly supports and expresses your commitment to providing the best for our patients."

UPHS CEO Ralph W. Muller highlighted the excellent care provided at Scheie, which, with 14 subspecialties offers an unussual depth of expertise. He praised the collaborative design process, which included weekly meetings led by Drs. O’Brien and Alexander Brucker, noting that this way of working “involves each of us in innovation and improvement, and is vital to our future success.”

Dedicated Penn Center and New Bike Ride Fight Rare Diseases

In medicine, diseases affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans are considered rare, or “orphans.” Large pharmaceutical companies have little economic incentive in finding cures that will benefit so few, and academic investigators often work in isolation. Researchers focusing on one disease rarely talk with those working on another.

More than 7,000 diseases fit the “orphan” classification, affecting more than 25 million Americans.

Genetic abnormalities cause 80 percent of these diseases, giving them common elements. With this in mind, a donor came up with a powerful idea: What if we developed a “think tank” at Penn Medicine to unite scientists throughout the world? The Penn Center for Orphan Disease Research and Therapy was born.

The center operates globally as no other. With H. Lee Sweeney, Ph.D.,the William Maul Measey Professor of Physiology, as director, the Center brings together scientists, provides administrative resources and creates unusual partnerships. The center, through the donor’s generosity, has awarded $4.4 million in grants not just to researchers at Penn and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, but to investigators in the United Kingdom, Italy and Australia and even at the National Institutes of Health. More than 230 scientists world-wide count themselves as members of the new center.

Penn will bring more attention to orphan diseases with a symposium May 2 and the Million Dollar Bike Ride on May 3.

How can you help? Make your gift to the bike ride and to support this important research.

In addition, you can visit this site to register as a volunteer at the bike ride event.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ACC Celebrates a Momentous Milestone

On December 2, 2013, over 400 people came together to celebrate the Abramson Cancer Center’s 40th Anniversary of being designated a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. This momentous milestone granted us the opportunity to celebrate achievements in cancer research, patient care, and education during the last four decades that continue to bring hope to patients and their families affected by cancer.

We were pleased to award Bert Vogelstein, M.D., world-renowned geneticist from the Johns Hopkins University, with the inaugural Abramson Award and hear his special lecture, Cancer Genomes and Their Implications for Research and Patients.

A special thank you goes out to our generous sponsors who are helping to ensure that we will reach even more milestones over the next 40 years!

From left: Dean J. Larry Jameson, M.D., Ph.D., Alan J. Wein, M.D., FACS, Ph.D. (Hon), 
Noele Wein, and Daniel J. Keating, III, Chair, ACC Director’s Leadership Council.

 From left: Bonnie Gray, Leonard and Shari Potter, Mindy Gray, and Michele Jameson.

 From left: Geraldine Rosato, Jeffrey A. Drebin, M.D., Ph.D., Rafe and Tony Rosato.

 Founding donors, Leonard (far left) and Madlyn Abramson, Bert Vogelstein, M.D., 
and ACC Director, Chi V. Dang, M.D., Ph.D.

Visit for additional highlights and a full list of our generous sponsors who made this event possible.

Celebrate the 250th!

Medical Alumni Weekend 2015 to Feature Black Tie Gala, Saturday, May 16

All alumni are invited to for a black-tie gala in honor of School’s 250th anniversary on May 16, 2015, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

A symposium on the future of medicine will be held during the afternoon on Friday, May 15. Plans for both, including ticket prices, will be forthcoming.

Please note that Class Reunion events will occur on Friday night in 2015.

We hope you will save the date and help make this an occasion to remember.

Brotherly Love: Kennedy Twins Reunite at Penn Medicine

Identical twins Will and Greg Kennedy spent most of their lives together through college. But after their 2012 graduation from Princeton University, slightly divergent interests in medicine led to an ocean-wide separation.

While Will began his medical education at the Perelman School, Greg traveled to the United Kingdom for a master’s degree in the history of medicine at Cambridge University.

Greg Kennedy, M'17, and Will Kennedy, M'16, at Greg's White Coat ceremony on August 16, 2013.

Throughout their college years, the Kennedy brothers worked in an oncology laboratory at the Mayo Clinic, with both clearly intrigued by research. Will first became interested in the Perelman School during a medical school information session in his freshman year at Princeton. The Penn Medicine contingent, including faculty and a student panel composed of Princeton alumni, trumpeted the team-based learning environment, early clinical exposure, and expansive opportunities for research and service.

A year-and-a-half later, Will has found all of this to be true. He counts his learning teammates (the group with whom each Perelman student is matched during the first week of the first year) among his closest friends. Also, one of his research projects was accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Ear, Nose, and Throat Advances in Children. “The research opportunities and the willingness of Penn’s faculty to mentor students is a testament to the supportive environment and sense of community that attracted me here on my interview day,” Will said.

As an inaugural Perelman scholar, he also appreciates the chance that he had last year to meet Ray Perelman and thank him personally for his generosity.

Meanwhile, Greg, a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar, was busy abroad poring over the history of medicine. “I am especially captivated by doctors who not only made tremendous advances in clinical medicine, but acted as powerful patient advocates and changed the landscape of healthcare on a national level, such as Sidney Farber, Virginia Apgar, and Jack Geiger,” he said.

Greg, now living with his brother again, is trying to do just that as a first-year Perelman student. Although many factors drew him to Penn, his brother’s presence and a generous merit scholarship and additional financial aid package among them, it was the school’s unique ethos that appealed to him. “I was very impressed by a culture that prioritizes team-based, patient-centered learning, tremendous opportunities for scientific research and mentorship, and a strong commitment to local underserved patient populations,” Greg said.

Penn’s emphasis on early patient contact through the LEAPP (Longitudinal Experience to Appreciate Patient Perspectives) Program was particularly meaningful. Greg was paired with a premature neonate, which deeply resonated with him since he and his brother were also born prematurely at 26 weeks. Greg offered,

“Although I had some sense of the severity of our situation through family stories, I think LEAPP has given me a fuller understanding of the physical and emotional impact of prematurity not only on the patient, but on the entire family.”

Given their collegial and altruistic natures and steady involvement in the community, both have volunteered at the United Community Clinic, it's safe to say that the Kennedy brothers' reunion at the Perelman School represents a true symbiotic relationship for Penn and Philadelphia.

Monday, March 17, 2014

More Dollars, Less Debt

Scholarship Support at Record-Setting Pace in 2014

Thanks to our donors, 2014 is a banner year for scholarships, with the Perelman School distributing $14 million in financial aid -- the highest amount yet. This extraordinary investment in our students means that they can expect to graduate with an average debt nearly $35,000 below the national average.

Expanding scholarship support was a priority of the Making History campaign, and our donors responded enthusiastically. At the Campaign's close, in 2012, the amount of financial aid offered annually had more than doubled. These numbers continue to grow as we approach the School's 250th anniversary in 2015.

Financial aid ensures that the most talented students, regardless of need, choose Penn. Because of these scholarship dollars, their futures are brighter -- and so is ours. We are proud to introduce just a few of our scholarship recipients, including two new John Morgan scholars, whose ranks have now grown to seven.

James Baier, M'17: Barbara Mock Scholar

James Baier
James Baier majored in political science, economics, and philosophy at Central College and completed the post-baccalaureate pre-med program at Penn. Currently the Publicity and Outreach Coordinator for the Penn Human Rights Clinic, Mr. Baier previously worked to resettle refugees who had come to Des Moines, Iowa.

"When I join a medical relief organization after my residency, I will no doubt earn much less working abroad than I would in the United States, and unless my debt burden was low I would not have the flexibility to do this," he said. "This gift has truly enabled me to pursue my dreams as far as my passion will take me."

Justin Larkin, M'17: John Morgan Scholar

Justin Larkin
Justin Larkin earned a bachelor's degree from Brigham Young University, majoring in physiology and developmental biology and in Portuguese. His interests are surgery and fetal diagnosis and treatment. Dual-degree opportunities drew Mr. Larkin to Penn, and he hopes to complete a joint MD/MBA. He is co-chair of the governing board for the new Healthcare Management, Entrepreneurship, and Technology certifcate program at Perelman.

"Having grown up in a single-parent home, I imagined it would be impossible for me to go to college, and much less medical school," he said. "Because of selfless donations like your own, I am able to attend a great medical school like Penn."

Lauren Miller, M'17: John Morgan Scholar

Lauren Miller
Lauren Miller earned a bachelor's degree in neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh. She is interested in neurology, oncology, and surgery, and hopes to work in clinical practice and health policy. Last summer, Ms. Miller hiked the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain. Through Penn, she has volunteered for Puentes de Salud and the University City Hospitality Coalition's medical clinic.

"Financial considerations were a huge factor of my medical school decision," she said, "and I am beyond grateful that some of these fears and anxieties were dispelled by your generous gift."

Support the New 250th Term Scholarship Fund

Celebrate the Perelman School's once-in-a-lifetime anniversary with a gift that both honors our tradition of outstanding intellectual achievement and makes it possible for more of America's finest students to receive a Penn medical education. Please email Dave Edwards for more information.