LifeNotes | Winter 2022
Lifespan, Brown University Researchers to Develop Intelligent Spinal Interface
A new partnership between Lifespan and Brown University seeks to develop cutting-edge approaches for treatment of spinal cord injuries. The Center for Innovative Neurotechnology for Neural Repair (CINNR), created to execute the Intelligent Spinal Interface (ISI) study, brings together healthcare, academic, government, and private sector partners with the goal of creating novel neural modulation technology for functional restoration of the spine and brain.
Bridging the Gap
Currently in phase one, funded by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the study plans to enroll two patients with complete spinal cord injuries in the thoracic spine. Two sets of electrodes are surgically implanted in the spine, one above and one below the site of injury. Through a set of wires, the electrodes will transmit data to a computer, and are removed two to three weeks later.
“We’re attempting to record and stimulate the spinal cord, with the hope that we can one day bridge the electrical gap across the injury sites,” said Jared Fridley, MD, clinical principal investigator and director of Lifespan’s spinal surgical outcomes laboratory. “For example, if the patient wants to move their leg, the idea is we would record those signals, and then decode and transmit new signals to the area below the injury to help complete that action.”
“This first phase is meant to be a proof of concept, and a chance for us to discover what is possible,” said Dr. Fridley. “The second and third phases, funded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will move toward an all-in-one system with a mini computer that is implanted in the patient, replacing the wires.”
The project includes several commercial subcontractors, including Micro Leads, Intel, and Modular Bionics, who are developing the implanted computer.
If successful, Dr. Fridley hopes the device can become a widely used clinical tool. “Our ultimate goal is to develop a system to help patients with significant or complete spinal cord injuries build up feeling and sensation to some degree, help with bladder or bowel function, or even walk again.”
So far, the study has enrolled one participant.
A Hub for Future Research
Lifespan’s Norman Prince Neurosciences Institute recently helped secure and renovate a research space on Allens Avenue in Providence for both the ISI and other studies that involve movement and motor systems research.
“With this space, now have access to essentially a large rehab gym with top-of-the-line equipment from DARPA and the VA, including sophisticated camera systems for looking at participant kinematics, a research treadmill used to measure force, and a harness system for patient rehab,” said Dr. Fridley.
He estimates that the space is one of only a few of its kind in the country.
For questions about the study, email neurosurgery research coordinator Karina Bertsch at email@example.com.
Hasbro Children’s Offering New Treatment for Neuroblastoma Patients
A treatment recently approved by the FDA for high-risk pediatric neuroblastoma patients is now available at Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The monoclonal antibody Danyelza provides families with an additional treatment option for the rare cancerous tumor that usually affects young children.
“Danyelza is a targeted therapy which uses the body’s immune response to fight the cancer cells,” said Marlene Reidl, RN, clinical manager of pediatric hematology/oncology. “It can provide some hope when a patient has exhausted traditional treatment options like stem cell transplants and conventional chemotherapy.”
The drug is an injection given on days one, three, and five of each treatment cycle. It’s a high-risk medication that can result in symptoms such as anaphylaxis, pain, capillary leak syndrome, and fever.
“What makes our program unique is that we’re able to administer the treatment in an outpatient setting so that families only have to come in for the day,” said Reidl. “We partner with our nursing staff and infusion advanced practice providers to provide one-to-one care and monitoring after the infusion to make sure patients are safe to go home.”
Hasbro Children’s is the only facility in Rhode Island — and one of only a few nationally — to offer Danyelza.
Hasbro Children’s Hospital offers compassionate and world-class care for children and teens with cancer and blood disorders, close to home.
Newport Hospital Offers First-in-Rhode Island Procedure for Enlarged Prostate
A new surgical procedure for enlarged prostate performed in Rhode Island exclusively by Newport Hospital urologist Samuel Eaton, MD, results in fewer complications and faster recovery times. The technique, known as laser enucleation of the prostate, uses a surgical laser to remove tissue that is blocking urine flow.
Enlarged prostate, or benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), is a very common condition that affects virtually all men as they age. “As the prostate enlarges, it compresses the urethra making it more difficult to urinate,” said Dr. Eaton. “BPH causes issues like slow stream urgency, frequency of urination, and the need to get up at night.”
The standard procedures for enlarged prostate are transurethral resection of the prostate (TURP), which employs a camera and electric electrocautery to scrape out the central portion of the prostate; or simple prostatectomy, which removes the same portion through surgery but is generally reserved for very large prostates. The laser enucleation procedure combines advantages of each, allowing a minimally invasive approach that can treat prostates of nearly all sizes with less bleeding issues than either standard option.
The Miriam Hospital Launches Long COVID Clinic
A new clinic at The Miriam Hospital is treating patients with long COVID, a condition characterized by symptoms that persist for four weeks or more after an initial COVID-19 infection has run its course. Opened last November under the leadership of Jennie Johnson, MD, associate medical director of TMH’s Infectious Diseases & Immunology Center, the clinic has treated roughly 400 patients.
Long COVID, more formally referred to as PASC, or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19, has a wide range of symptoms that interfere with daily living. “Most commonly, we see people suffering with fatigue, or what we call post-exertional malaise,” said Dr. Johnson. “Where patients could run five miles before COVID, they now struggle to go a half mile.”
Long COVID patients can also experience brain fog or difficulty focusing, shortness of breath, headaches, changes in mood, and trouble sleeping. Dr. Johnson quickly realized the need for a specialized program after patients were coming in with persistent symptoms well after the area’s first COVID-19 spike in April and May of 2020.
“We’re also seeing a very heterogeneous mix of sufferers,” she said. “The condition doesn’t discriminate, anyone who has had COVID-19 can develop long COVID regardless of underlying comorbidities, age, or even the severity of the patient’s initial infection.”
Though much is still unknown about the emerging public health concern, Dr. Johnson noted that the vast majority of her long COVID patients see at least some improvement in their symptoms.
The Autism Project Donates Training Abroad
As part of their upcoming 25th anniversary celebration, Gateway Healthcare affiliate The Autism Project (TAP) recently donated training to an organization based in the African nation of Eswatini (also known as Swaziland). TAP’s 25 Hours for 25 Years initiative aims to donate 25 hours of autism training to organizations that would otherwise not be able to afford it.
The Swaziland Network for Early Childhood Development received four two-hour virtual sessions, abbreviated versions of existing TAP trainings such as Basics of Autism, Visual Supports, and Self-Regulation Strategies. Training Manager Ariana DeAngelis customized the trainings after researching the culture of Eswatini, including specific sensory challenges, social customs, and expectations around eye contact.
“We truly learned just as much from them as they did from us,” said DeAngelis. “We benefitted from hearing about the techniques they’re using, and it was inspiring to see what they are able to do without the resources we’re lucky enough to have here in the U.S.”
Attendees even engaged with the trainings amid political upheaval in Eswatini, including internet shutdowns and pro-democracy protests.
TAP was founded by a group of parents and teachers in Rhode Island public schools who saw a lack of resources for students with autism and implemented educational resources from around the country. “In a way, Eswatini is in the same situation we were 25 years ago,” said DeAngelis. “We’re glad to be able to pay it forward.”
Lifespan to Study AI Software for Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) is one of eight U.S. sites participating in a trial studying the use of artificial intelligence (AI) software to guide atrial fibrillation (AFib) ablation. Developed by French healthcare startup Volta Medical, the VX1 AI software uses a deep learning-based algorithm to analyze the cardiac electrical signals implicated in AFib.
The standard treatment for the heart rhythm disorder AFib is pulmonary vein isolation, a technique of cardiac ablation that uses either heat or cold energy to isolate abnormal electrical signals that can trigger AFib.
“The goal of the Tailored-AF clinical trial is to individualize the ablation approach for each patient,” said Lifespan cardiologist Michael Wu, MD, who is spearheading the clinical trial at RIH. “The software can identify and tag these electrical signals, differentiating between the ones that terminate AFib and the ones that don’t.”
The two-year trial is geared toward patients with persistent AFib, in which symptoms last longer than seven days. RIH began enrolling patients in November.
To learn more about the Tailored-AF trial, contact the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute at 401-606-1004.
New Sickle Cell Program to Combine Pediatric and Adult Services
Lifespan’s new comprehensive Sickle Cell Disease Program will merge the system’s existing pediatric and adult services, currently separate, into one continuum of care. Program Director Patrick McGann, MD, says this novel and innovative model will reduce gaps in care and improve outcomes for Rhode Island’s roughly 300 sickle cell patients. Without adequate monitoring and treatment, the lifelong condition can result in significant pain, chronic complications, and early mortality.
“The traditional model of sickle cell care includes treatment within a pediatric sickle cell program for about 21 years followed by what is often a harsh transition to adult providers,” said Dr. McGann. “For a number of reasons, including the socioeconomic challenges of young adults with sickle cell disease, the limited number of adult sickle cell specialists, and decreased resources within adult sickle cell programs, the outcomes for young adult patients are often quite poor despite the availability of effective sickle cell treatments.”
Having one unified program with shared resources to provide comprehensive and consistent care for both adults and children will eliminate this transition and offer sickle cell patients a dedicated team of nurses, pediatric and adult hematologists, social workers, psychologists, and several other support services throughout their lifetimes.
Dr. McGann said the program will make anti-racism a core value to ensure sickle cell patients receive optimal and equitable care across the healthcare system free of bias and discrimination. Because sickle cell disease is a genetic condition that primarily affects Black/African American individuals in the United States, patients have historically been marginalized and few hospital systems or funding agencies have identified sickle cell disease as a priority. The new program is evidence that sickle cell disease is truly being prioritized at Lifespan and in Rhode Island.
This type of combined program is rare in the United States, and Dr. McGann noted that Lifespan is at an advantage because the pediatric and adult programs are already located on the same campus at Rhode Island and Hasbro Children’s hospitals. If successful, this new program will be a model for other sickle cell programs across the United States to improve the care of individuals with sickle cell disease across their lifespan.
To learn more about the program, contact Dr. McGann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Sickle Cell Multidisciplinary Clinic of the Lifespan Cancer Institute provides the specialized care that adults with sickle cell disease require. Multidisciplinary care is carefully coordinated between patients and their families, and physicians and nurses from many specialties.
Center for Bariatric Surgery Earns National Accreditation
Lifespan’s Center for Bariatric Surgery (CBS), a program of Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals, has once again earned Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program (MBSAQIP) accreditation from the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS). Earlier this year, the Center’s adult, adolescent, and obesity medicine programs all received certification, a distinction held by only a few other centers in New England. This is the CBS’s first accreditation in obesity medicine, making it the only accredited program in southeastern New England.
“The comprehensive MBSAQIP accreditation process includes patient outcomes and patient experience numbers, making sure appropriate equipment like CAT scans, X ray tables, operating room tables, wheelchairs, lifts, and furniture is in place, and ensuring staff are specialty trained in bariatrics,” said CBS Manager Kellie Armstrong, MSN, RN.
Armstrong noted that the certification requirements go beyond just the weight loss surgery and consider the CBS’s comprehensive array of services, including pre and post-operative programming on behavior, health, and nutrition, and support groups throughout the whole process.
“This accreditation lets patients know that we’re offering all the necessary services to give them a safe, effective procedure, and that we’re providing care at the highest levels,” said Armstrong.
Bradley Program Will Provide Virtual Services Nationwide
A new Bradley Hospital initiative will provide much-needed services to pediatric mental health providers across the country. The REACH (Remote E-therapy for Adolescents and Children) program aims to partner with other pediatric provider systems nationwide to expand virtual access to psychiatric programs for children and adolescents.
“Our continuum of care and breadth of services are unique in the U.S., and for years we’ve wondered how we might be able to provide services outside the region,” said Bradley President Henry Sachs, MD. “Then the pandemic hit. We very quickly shifted to a telehealth model and found that the virtual services actually worked very well.”
Bradley staff members will provide its partial hospital program curriculum virtually, and work with client organizations to fit the services within their current treatment models. The five-day-a-week programs, not offered by most pediatric mental health providers, can act as a step down from an inpatient facility or a diversion for children who are on track to need them. Bradley’s offerings include programs designed for children with autism and developmental disabilities, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and those suffering with both psychiatric and medical illness.
“The huge increase in the need for pediatric mental health services during the pandemic has led to a crisis of kids being treated in inappropriate settings like hospital emergency rooms,” said Sachs. The REACH program also offers training to non-behavioral medical providers on topics such as de-escalation, trauma-informed care, and helpful interventions. REACH will also consult with organizations around how to establish the right treatment programs for their communities.
For questions about the REACH program, contact Dr. Sachs at email@example.com.
Lifespan Stroke Centers Achieve Gold Plus Recognition
Rhode Island, Newport, and The Miriam hospitals received 2021 Gold Plus national recognition from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for adhering to the high standards of the Get With The Guidelines program. The awards honor the hospitals’ commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment in accordance with nationally recognized, research-based guidelines.
Lifespan received awards in the following areas:
- Rhode Island Hospital received Stroke Gold Plus with Honor Roll Elite, Advanced Therapy, and Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll distinctions. It is the only hospital in Rhode Island to be designated a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission.
- Newport Hospital was awarded Stroke Gold Plus with Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll.
- The Miriam Hospital earned Stroke Gold Plus with Honor Roll Elite and Target: Type 2 Diabetes Honor Roll.
The Miriam Hospital and Newport Hospital each meet the rigorous national stroke care standards needed for certification by The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center.
On average, someone in America suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year. Early stroke detection and treatment are key to improving survival, minimizing disability, and speeding recovery times.
Bradley Hospital Conference Spotlights Suicide Prevention
The recent Bradley Conference fall series focused on the issue of suicide prevention, with workshops on screening, response training, and the latest suicide risk assessments. A longtime resource for behavioral health professionals, the conference this year featured the Suicide: Prevention, Screening, and Response training designed for the general public.
Rhode Island, like the rest of the country, is experiencing an increase in youth and adult suicidal behaviors, including deaths by suicide.
“At a time in which so many folks are experiencing increased stress, anxiety, and depression,” said Bradley Director of Clinical Innovation Margaret Paccione-Dyszlewski, PhD, “these conferences provided important take-aways to enable individuals to support each other until professional help can be obtained. Almost 1000 people have learned the basics of suicide prevention and are prepared to ask a few simple questions that may save someone’s life.”
Held virtually in accordance with COVID-19 safely guidelines, the conference was presented with grant support from the Rhode Island Department of Health Violence and Injury Prevention Program. The training sessions were facilitated by Scott Sylvester, LMHC, and Kimberly LaFountain, LMHC, along with Dr. Paccione-Dyszlewski.
Newport Hospital Named Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence
Newport Hospital has been designated a Diagnostic Imaging Center of Excellence (DICOE) by The American College of Radiology (ACR), setting it apart from all other hospitals in Rhode Island. The DICOE program goes beyond accreditation and recognizes best-quality imaging practices and diagnostic care, including a comprehensive assessment of the entire medical imaging enterprise that considers program structure, outcomes, patient care, and policies and procedures.
The hospital’s team of radiologists, staff, and administration invested nearly two years into the preparation, documentation, and accreditation that preceded the evaluation. The four-hour survey in May, conducted virtually due to pandemic restrictions, consisted of an intensive video conference with three surveyors: a radiologist, a radiology physicist, and a technologist.
To receive this elite distinction, facilities must be accredited by the ACR in all modalities they provide and in which the ACR offers an accreditation program. DICOE designation also requires participation in the Dose Index Registry and General Radiology Improvement Database; Image Wisely, an initiative that seeks to lower the amount of radiation used in imaging studies and eliminate unnecessary procedures; and Image Gently, which aims to improve imaging care of children worldwide.
“DICOE is centered around quality, and they specifically look for staff involvement in meeting our quality indicators,” said Christina Umlauf, MBA, RT(R)(CT), manager of imaging operations and quality assurance at Newport Hospital. “Our staff has really made great strides this year by becoming involved in hospital committees, departmental committees, and our new professional development program. This designation is a ‘congratulations’ to all of us.”
Lifespan Now Offering Bikini Anterior Hip Replacement
A normal anterior hip replacement is performed through a vertical incision on the front of the hip. The bikini anterior variation uses an incision in the horizontal direction along your natural skin folds and follows Langer’s lines, sometimes referred to as cleavage lines. The result is a less noticeable scar and improved healing of the incision.
Popularized in Europe, the procedure is offered by only a handful of providers in the U.S. Rather than “bikini anterior,” Dr. Cohen prefers to refer to it simply as a more cosmetic hip replacement, as it is equally effective for men and women.
Michael Koster, MD, Recognized for Efforts in Haiti
Michael Koster, MD, division director, pediatric infectious diseases, was recognized by Hasbro Children’s Hospital for his efforts to improve the quality of pediatric care in Haiti through the work of the St. Damien Collaborative. The unique program fosters the bi-directional exchange of personnel, information, and resources between St. Damien Hospital, Haiti's only free-standing children's hospital, and partner sites such as Hasbro Children’s.
The St. Damien Collaborative is one program of NPH (Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos, Spanish for “our little brothers and sisters”) USA, an organization that improves the lives of vulnerable children in Latin America and the Caribbean by supporting housing, health services, and educational programs.
“In receiving this award, I have to acknowledge all that I’ve gained in return,” said Dr. Koster. “Collaboration, friendship, the power of a smile, and above all a renewed belief in humanity.”
He also acknowledged the importance of the program’s educational exchanges — Hasbro Children’s recently hosted residents from Haiti, which Dr. Koster hopes the hospital can do again in the future.
RIH Partial Hospital Program Provides Virtual Support
The COVID-19 pandemic has expanded the need for mental health services, with many Americans reporting increases in mental illness and substance use. The Rhode Island Hospital Adult Partial Hospital Program provides intensive, short-term treatment Monday through Friday for adults facing significant mental health challenges. Now offered virtually, the program is more accessible than ever for those who need help.
“The Partial Hospital Program serves individuals who are feeling extremely distressed or overwhelmed and are not functioning as they normally would,” said program director Mark Zimmerman, MD. “This includes individuals who are feeling so depressed or anxious that they're unable to go to work or complete their usual household responsibilities.”
On average, patients are in the program for about five and a half hours per day and take part in three group sessions, as well as meetings with a therapist and the program’s psychiatrist. After patients check in by 8:30 a.m., the first group of the day takes place at 8:45, and the day ends usually around 1:30 p.m.
The program’s curriculum draws from a range of specialized treatments that include:
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), including CBT for insomnia
- Interpersonal psychotherapy
The program also features specialty tracks, including programming tailored to individuals with a history of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and those diagnosed with borderline personality and related disorders. There’s also a young adult track that serves individuals ages 18 to 25.
Because of the intensity of the services and the minimal waiting period (most patients are seen within a few days), the Partial Hospital Program can act as an effective alternative to a hospital stay.
The program’s group-based curriculum makes it particularly difficult to hold in person in the era of COVID-19, but the transition to a virtual model has been a resounding success. “We found that participants’ ability to acquire coping skills, deal with stress, and increase positive mental health factors, such as optimism, energy, and vigor were equivalent in the virtual model,” said Dr. Zimmerman. “In addition, reduction in symptoms and improvement in functioning were the same for patients treated in person or virtually.”
The RIH Partial Hospital Program is located in the Potter Building at 593 Eddy Street, second floor.
Learn more about the Adult Partial Hospital Program. To refer a patient, call 401-444-2128 or fax referrals to 401-444-8836.
Spine Institute Moving to New Providence Location
In winter of 2022, the Norman Prince Spine Institute location in the George Building at Rhode Island Hospital is moving across the street to 690 Eddy Street. Patients will appreciate the easy access to our newly renovated facilities, ample parking, and the latest technology.
To make a referral, call 401-444-3777 or fax 401-444-7249.
Dr. Mark Deitch Named The Miriam Hospital Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Medical Affairs
Dr. Deitch is a veteran healthcare administrator who comes to Lifespan from WellSpan Health, an integrated nonprofit health system serving South-Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland. He served as vice president of its orthopedic service line and was responsible for strategy, standardization, and growth of orthopedic services. Previously, he held positions as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute and University of Maryland Medical System, president of Greenspring Surgery Center, partner/attending orthopedic surgeon with OrthoMaryland, and owner/president of MD3 Orthopedics, all of Baltimore.
“I am very excited to arrive here at The Miriam Hospital and to help lead collaborative efforts to further enhance the hospital’s already outstanding reputation and rankings as a top provider of quality healthcare,” said Dr. Deitch.
He is board-certified in orthopedic surgery and a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. Dr. Deitch holds a Doctor of Medicine degree with distinction in research from Stony Brook University School of Medicine and a Master of Business Administration in medical services management from Johns Hopkins University.
Dr. Paul Larson Appointed Lifespan Physician Group Chief of Primary Care
Paul Larson, MD, MBA, has been appointed to the newly created position of chief of primary care at Lifespan Physician Group. Dr. Larson will oversee all Lifespan Physician Group primary care practices throughout Rhode Island.
Prior to joining Lifespan, Dr. Larson was based in Pittsburgh, where he was the medical director for Duquesne University Health Services. Previously, he held positions with University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a world-renowned healthcare provider and insurer.
Dr. Larson is certified with the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine, the American Association for Physician Leadership, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is an active member of the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and has held several committee leadership positions. He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in professional journals and presented extensively at national medical and educational conferences and forums.
Dr. Valentin Antoci Named Medical Director of Newport Hospital Total Joint Replacement Program
Valentin Antoci, MD, PhD, has been appointed medical director of Newport Hospital’s Total Joint Replacement Program.
An accomplished orthopedic surgeon and prolific researcher, Dr. Antoci has many years of experience as an orthopedic surgeon at Newport Hospital as well as at The Miriam Hospital’s Total Joint Center. He completed his surgical training at Harvard with privileges at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Dr. Antoci focuses on hip and knee adult reconstruction and has special interest in minimally invasive surgery, partial knee replacement, modern approaches, and implantation techniques, as well as various revision and reconstructive procedures.
“It is a privilege and an honor to be part of the Newport Hospital team. I appreciate the very high level of care at Newport, the operating room efficiency, and the kindness and empathy of the nurses on the hospital floor,” said Dr. Antoci. “More importantly, I appreciate the local patient population and the people of Aquidneck Island.”
Dr. David Curley Named Medical Director of The Miriam Hospital Emergency Department
David Curley, MD, PhD, has been appointed medical director of the Emergency Department at The Miriam Hospital. He most recently served as associate director of The Miriam’s Emergency Department, a position he has held since 2018, including during the entire COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Curley has been deeply involved in adjusting operations and updating protocols to respond to the pandemic and serves on many key committees, including his role as co-chair of the Emergency Preparedness Committee. He joined Brown Emergency Medicine in 2014 after completing his emergency medicine residency at the combined program of Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. He received his medical degree and PhD from the University of Vermont College of Medicine.
Dr. Curley succeeds Ilse Jenouri, MD, MBA, who served as the department’s medical director since her appointment in 2017. Prior to that she served as the associate director for six years.
Dr. Jennie Johnson Appointed Director of Lyme and Tick Borne Infections Center
Dr. Johnson also serves as an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and is an adjunct assistant professor of medicine at both Bryant University and Johnson and Wales University. She is also the assistant medical director of the Infectious Diseases and Immunology Center at The Miriam Hospital.
Dr. Johnson received her undergraduate degree in biology from the University of Pennsylvania. She went on to earn her medical degree from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Dr. Johnson completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland. She completed her fellowship in infectious diseases at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.
Dr. Karen Tashima Named The Miriam Hospital’s Physician of the Year
Infectious diseases physician Karen Tashima, MD, who led the launch of a local clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine and has served on the Governor’s COVID-19 Vaccine Subcommittee, was named the 2021 Charles C.J. Carpenter, M.D., Outstanding Physician of the Year at The Miriam Hospital.
Dr. Tashima, director of clinical trials at the hospital’s Immunology Center, serves as the principal investigator for a phase 3 clinical trial at The Miriam Hospital for the COVID vaccine developed by Novavax. She received an NIH grant to facilitate vaccine trials in Rhode Island and has been widely interviewed by the media during the pandemic.
She also serves as clinical research site leader for The Miriam Hospital, a research site of the Harvard/Boston/Providence AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) Unit, and oversees the Lifespan Clinical Research Center collaboration with the specimen processing laboratory at The Miriam Hospital.
Dr. Stephanie Graff Named Director of Breast Oncology
Before joining Lifespan, Dr. Graff held multiple positions at several locations of the Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute Network. She was national breast lead of clinical programs and associate director of the breast cancer research program in Nashville, and director of the clinical research program in Kansas City, Missouri.
Dr. Graff obtained a medical degree at University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine where she also completed a residency in internal medicine and later served as chief medicine resident with its partner, St. Luke’s Hospital. She completed a fellowship in hematology/medical oncology and sub-fellowship in breast oncology at the University of Kansas.
Dr. Abbas El-Sayed Abbas Named Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Thoracic Oncology
Abbas El-Sayed Abbas, MD, was named chief of thoracic surgery, Lifespan, and chief of thoracic oncology, Lifespan Cancer Institute. A nationally-recognized surgeon, he was one of the earliest adopters of robotic surgical systems in the world and has performed thousands of robot-assisted minimally invasive surgeries of the esophagus, lungs, and airways – including those to treat a variety of thoracic cancers. Under his leadership, Lifespan will offer many cutting-edge procedures not widely available locally and bolster its position as a provider of first choice for referring physicians and patients requiring thoracic surgery throughout New England.
Abbas’ areas of specialization include endoscopic procedures for gastroesophageal reflux disease, esophageal and bronchial stenting, robotic surgery for myasthenia gravis and thymic tumors, airway surgery, laser endoscopy and cryoendoscopy. His research interests include gene therapy for esophageal and lung cancer, the role of tumor initiating cells in the microenvironment of esophageal cancer, esophageal dysmotility, cryospray therapy and transplant immunology.
“I am beyond thrilled to join the team at Lifespan and Brown,” Dr. Abbas said. “The existing talent is incredible, and I plan to take advantage of the amazing resources we have in Rhode Island to build a unique and unrivaled thoracic medicine and surgery program. It will be one built on clinical excellence and academic superiority. In doing so, we will become a major provider of superb healthcare for all patients with thoracic disease in New England and beyond.”
Dr. Abbas earned a medical degree, with honors, at the Ain-Shams University School of Medicine in Cairo, Egypt. He completed his internship and residency at the University of Pennsylvania along with a postdoctoral research fellowship in gene therapy for thoracic malignancies.
Dr. Marwan Saad Named Director of Interventional Structural Heart Research
An interventional cardiologist with expertise in cardiac catheterization, coronary intervention, and transcatheter structural and valvular heart disease intervention, Dr. Saad received his medical degree and PhD in clinical research from Ain Shams Medical School, in Cairo. He completed his residency at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School/TRMC in Elizabeth, NJ; cardiology fellowship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock; and interventional and structural heart disease fellowships at Brown University.
Dr. Saad is a co-investigator of several randomized controlled trials including TAVR UNLOAD, AGENT-IDE, ECLIPSE, and CORCINCH-HF trials. His research focuses on examining and improving outcomes with coronary intervention, and transcatheter structural heart and valve intervention, especially in high-risk populations.
Dr. Saad is board-certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease, interventional cardiology, structural heart disease, as well as adult echocardiography, nuclear cardiology, and cardiovascular computed tomography. He received his medical degree and PhD in clinical research from Ain Shams Medical School, in Cairo. He completed his residency at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School/TRMC in Elizabeth, NJ; cardiology fellowship at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock; and interventional and structural heart disease fellowships at Brown University in Providence, RI.
Haitham S. Ahmed, MD, MSc, PhD
Psychiatrist Haitham Ahmed, MD, MSc, PhD, recently joined Lifespan Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Services for Adults.
Saud Alhusaini, MD
Saud Alhusaini, MD, is a neurologist who recently joined the Movement Disorders Program at Rhode Island Hospital.
Ross E. Barker, DO
Interventional pain management physician Ross Barker, DO, recently joined the Norman Prince Spine Institute.
Emily G. Blosser, MD, PhD
Obstetrician-gynecologist Emily Blosser, MD, PhD, joined Lifespan Physician Group, Newport Women’s Health.
Charles (Alex) Brake, PhD
Alex Brake, PhD, is a psychologist who recently joined the Adult Partial Hospital Program at Rhode Island Hospital.
Giuseppe S. D'Amelio, MD
Giuseppe D’Amelio, MD, is a psychiatrist who recently joined the young adult outpatient clinic in Providence.
Jennifer Keryn Enos, DO
Obstetrician-gynecologist Jennifer Enos, DO, recently joined Newport Women’s Health.
Dana B. Goetz, PhD
Psychologist Dana Goetz, PhD, joined Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Services for Adults, Rhode Island Hospital.
Caroline J. Golski, MD
Caroline Golski, MD, is a psychiatrist who joined the behavioral health ambulatory care center in East Greenwich.
Huiling Ji, MD, PhD
Internist Huiling Ji, MD, PhD, recently joined Metacom Medical, a Lifespan Physician Group Primary Care practice.
Narendra S. Kala, MBBS, MD
Narendra Kala, MBBS, MD, is a board-certified vascular neurologist who recently joined Rhode Island Hospital.
DaeHee Kim, MD
Interventional radiologist DaeHee Kim, MD, recently joined the Lifespan Cancer Institute.
Archen Krupadev, MD
Internal Medicine Physician
Archen Krupadev, MD, is an internal medicine physician who recently joined Lifespan Physician Group Primary Care, Newport.
Russell Morgan Marks, PhD
Clinical psychologist Russell Marks, PhD, joined the Rhode Island Hospital Adult Partial Hospital Program.
Andrew C. Martina, MD
Andrew Martina, MD, is a fellowship-trained psychiatrist who recently joined Lifespan’s psychiatry and behavioral health department.
Amy Marie Maselli, MD
Plastic surgeon Amy Maselli, MD, recently joined Lifespan Physician Group Plastic Surgery.
Krisztina Moldovan, MD
Krisztina Moldovan, MD, is a cerebrovascular surgeon who joined the Norman Prince Spine Institute and the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Rhode Island Hospital.
Nkenna K. Odom, MD
Board-certified family medicine physician Nkenna Odom, MD, recently joined Women’s Primary Care at the Women’s Medicine Collaborative.
Elizabeth M. Perelstein, MD
Elizabeth Perelstein, MD, is a vascular neurologist who recently joined Rhode Island Hospital.
Loreen Pirnie, MD
Board-certified psychiatrist Loreen Pirnie, MD, recently joined the adult partial hospital program at Rhode Island Hospital.
Stephan P. Pirnie, MD, PhD
Stephan Pirnie, MD, PhD, is a physiatrist who recently joined the Newport Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation team.
Prarthana Prakash, MD
Neurologist Prarthana Prakash, MD, joined the Movement Disorders Program at Rhode Island Hospital.
Victoria E. Quinones, PhD
Victoria Quinones, PhD, is a psychologist who recently joined the Norman Prince Spine Institute and Newport Outpatient Psychiatry.
Dana K. Rosen, PhD
Psychologist Dana Rosen, PhD, recently joined the Young Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Program.
Sarah Schmidhofer, MD
Sarah Schmidhofer, MD, is a psychiatrist who recently joined the Adult Partial Hospital Program at Rhode Island and Newport hospitals.
Timothy B. Steinhoff, MD
Director, Psychosocial Oncology
Timothy Steinhoff, MD, is a psychiatrist who joined the psycho-oncology program at the Lifespan Cancer Institute.
Estelle Torbey, MD
Estelle Torbey, MD, a board-certified electrophysiologist/cardiologist, recently joined the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute.
Katherine F. Visser, PhD
Katherine Visser, PhD, is a psychologist who joined the Young Adult Outpatient Psychiatry Program and Lifespan Recovery Center.
Matthew Jeffrey White, DO
Board-certified rheumatologist Matthew White, DO, recently joined Lifespan Rheumatology, Pawtucket.
Shiwen Yuan, MD
Shiwen Yuan, MD, is a psychiatrist who recently joined Lifespan Psychiatry and Behavioral Health Services.
Hasbro Children’s Joins Nationwide Study on Long-Term Effects of COVID-19
A team of interdisciplinary researchers at Hasbro Children’s Hospital will join the National Institutes of Health’s Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery (RECOVER) initiative to study the impact of Long COVID in infants, children, and adolescents. The $470 million study, which includes researchers from NYU Langone Health, Virginia Commonwealth University, Northeastern University, and the Translational Genomics Research Institute, will examine the potential long-term consequences on children’s ability to learn and play.
Together with the larger RECOVER initiative, the LEGACI (Life-Course Examination of Genomics and Neurocognitive Changes Following COVID-19 Infection) study will add to the unique multidisciplinary research community inclusive of diverse participants that are critical to informing the treatment and prevention of the long-term effects of COVID-19. LEGACI will:
- Enroll patients during the acute as well as post-acute phases of the SARS-CoV-2 infection
- Use mobile health technologies such as smartphone apps and wearable devices to gather real-world data in real time
- Characterize the incidence and prevalence of long-term effects from SARS- CoV-2 infection, including the range of symptoms, underlying causes, risk factors, and outcomes
- Address potential strategies for treatment and prevention
“While children appear to be resilient against COVID-19 and are much less likely to have severe illness or death, we don’t know how the disease affects their long-term health and development,” said Dr. Sean Deoni, director of MRI research at Rhode Island Hospital and associate professor of diagnostic imaging and pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “It’s something we need to answer quickly.”
The study hopes to recruit about 1,200 individuals, including 400 to 500 Hasbro Children's patients.
New COBRE Will Study Stress and Trauma in Early Life
The Miriam Hospital has received an $11.1 million federal grant to establish a Center of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE) in Rhode Island devoted to a growing field of inquiry – how stress and trauma early in life can have lasting impacts on our health and wellness.
The grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, will fund the creation of the STAR (Stress, Trauma, and Resilience) COBRE, which will be based out of the Center for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine (CBPM) at The Miriam Hospital.
Proposed research initiatives at the STAR center led by early career investigators include a project examining how childhood maltreatment impacts executive function, rumination, and mental health symptoms in adolescents as well as a clinical trial to study the impact of food insecurity on diet, inflammatory and metabolic markers, and summer weight gain. The center will also allow The Miriam Hospital to recruit a new faculty member and fund pilot projects for new research initiatives with a particular focus on health disparities.
“It is a critical time for research into stress and trauma, and the pathways to resilience. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the global burden of stress, trauma, and adversity, and has exaggerated racial, ethnic, and socio-economic inequalities,” said Laura R. Stroud, PhD, CBPM director and the project’s principal investigator. “It will support transformative research to understand how stress and trauma impact mental and physical health and develop novel approaches to interventions that will promote resilience across the lifespan. The COBRE will help The Miriam emerge as a leader and as a local and national resource in this area of research.”
The COBRE grant is for five years and is the first phase of what could ultimately span three phases over 15 years. Lifespan has succeeded in securing grants for COBRE centers devoted to a variety of critical areas of research in recent years including antimicrobial resistance, opioids and overdose, childhood and adolescent sleep, skeletal health and repair, cancer research development, and stems cells and aging.
Rhode Island Hospital Receives $1.9 Million For Sepsis Research
Rhode Island Hospital (RIH) was recently awarded a $1.9 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences to study better methods of identifying sepsis using RNA mapping. According to the Centers for Disease Control, sepsis, which occurs when the body attacks itself as a result of an infection, affects 1.7 million Americans every year, with 270,000 dying as a result. The estimated annual cost to the healthcare system is over $60 billion.
“To diagnose sepsis, we currently utilize a range of screening tests that look at things like respiratory rate, mental status, and blood pressure, but none of them are perfect,” said Rhode Island Hospital surgeon and principal investigator Sean Monaghan, MD. “Because sepsis is a complex disease process without a single diagnostic marker, we don’t have a ‘gold standard’ test to diagnose the condition,” he said. “With this grant, we’re hoping to discover that one marker, or at least one constellation of markers, that we can get from a single blood test.”
The study focuses on RIH ICU patients, with the goal of enrolling 75 with sepsis and 75 control participants. Researchers collect blood samples at days zero, one, three, and seven, which are sent out for analysis. “We receive the data and line it up with the RNA that aligns to the human genome (mapped reads) and with other things like pathogens, viruses, bacteria, and new antibodies (unmapped reads),” said Dr. Monaghan.
“Too often, we recognize sepsis in patients only after they are very sick with liver, lung, or kidney failure,” he said. “Early identification and treatment will save lives.”
For questions about the study, contact Dr. Monaghan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bradley Sleep Lab Leads Nationwide Research
The E.P. Bradley Hospital Sleep Research Laboratory recently led nationwide research into the effects of COVID-19 on children’s sleep schedules. In Spring of 2020, Sleep Lab Director Mary A. Carskadon, PhD, and associate director Jared Saletin, PhD, considered ways to measure the impact of COVID-related interruptions on school start times.
In collaboration with Lisa Meltzer, PhD, of National Jewish Health, they launched Project NESTED (the Nationwide Education and Sleep in TEens During COVID), which gathered data through a Facebook survey targeting middle and high school students in all 50 states. The survey had over 5000 respondents and was able to capture a broad sample, including every major population center, diverse racial and ethnic representation, and students from both public and private schools.
The survey asked a series of simple questions, including whether students were learning fully in person, fully remote, or a hybrid; when they were going to bed and waking up; and their learning style, either synchronized with a teacher over Zoom, or asynchronous using digital “take home” work.
The data showed that when schools were not in person, start times were later and students reported longer sleep times. Students that switched back and forth between online and in-person reported more variability in their sleep.
“This study illustrated that when you change the structure of school, you open up the opportunity for schedules that are better aligned with adolescents’ biology,” said Dr. Saletin. “Historically, school start times have been based on the needs of adults rather than the kids themselves.”
Adolescents experience what Dr. Carskadon has called a “perfect storm” of sleep issues. “Their changing biology pushes their internal clock to keep them up later, and they hit a wall in the morning with the start of school,” said Dr. Saletin. “They then oversleep on weekends to make up for it, creating a vicious cycle we refer to as ‘social jetlag.’”
Dr. Saletin hopes the results will encourage administrators to consider sleep as a mediating factor, given the overwhelming evidence that it plays a major role in both physical and psychological health.
Lifespan Holds Research Day Celebration
This October, Lifespan held its annual Research Day virtually to support and honor those across the system who perform the groundbreaking research that helps move medicine forward.
“This event was a chance for us to bring attention to all the hard work of our research staff, which is especially important given we’re still in the midst of a once-in-a-generation pandemic,” said Michael Henderson, vice president, Lifespan Office of Research. “Researchers are not usually the types to grandstand, so we’re excited to take a break from our daily grind of research and discovery and recognize those who put so much intellectual strength and creativity into keeping people healthy.”
Richard Koup, MD, deputy director of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center presented the keynote lecture entitled The Yin and Yang of SARS-CoV-2 and HIV Vaccine Development. Dr. Koup completed his residency in internal medicine at Rhode Island Hospital in the 1980s.
Nikos Tapinos, MD, PhD, director of molecular neuro-oncology research at Rhode Island Hospital’s Laboratory of Cancer Epigenetics and Plasticity and the 2020 Bruce M. Selya Research Excellence Award winner, spoke about the development of novel antibodies for cancer therapy and patents on techniques to lure migrating tumor cells towards targeted regions in the brain.
Lindsay Orchowski, PhD, the 2019 Selya Award winner, presented her research on the science and practice of sexual assault prevention.
The research celebration also featured an abstract competition, which allowed researchers to present a snapshot of work that they’re currently doing or that they plan to do in the categories of basic science, translational medicine, or innovation.
ACL Surgery Trial Now Enrolling Patients
A trial evaluating an innovative new procedure for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) restoration is now enrolling patients in Rhode Island. The multicenter, randomized BEAR (Bridge-Enhanced ACL Restoration) MOON (Multicenter Orthopaedic Outcomes Network) clinical trial will examine a procedure that uses a bioactive implant to achieve a less invasive surgery and improved ligament healing.
“The current standard for reconstruction of a torn ACL uses a patient’s own tissue or that of a donor to reconstruct the ligament using a tendon graft,” said Brett Owens, MD, Lifespan orthopedic sports medicine surgeon and the trial’s principal investigator. “One of the major challenges with this method is donor site morbidity, essentially the resulting damage to the tissue that can cause issues like kneeling pain or hamstring muscle deficits.”
The BEAR restoration procedure uses an implant, an extracellular matrix scaffold, that is placed between the torn ends of the ACL. The patient's blood is added to activate the implant, stimulate ligament healing, and allow it to reconnect. Preclinical studies also showed lower rates of osteoarthritis when the BEAR implant was used.
The 200-patient trial is supported by a $6 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health‘s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Other research sites include Cleveland Clinic, Ohio State University, University of Colorado, University of Minnesota, and Vanderbilt University.
Lifespan was a participant in the BEAR III cohort study, which looked at how age affected outcomes. In addition to Dr. Owens, Michael Hulstyn, MD, and Paul Fadale, MD, will perform the procedure and recruit patients for the trial at Lifespan.
Individuals between the ages of 18 and 55, who have recently suffered an ACL injury and will undergo surgery within 50 days of the injury, may be candidates to participate in the BEAR-MOON trial.
For information about enrolling a patient, email clinical research supervisor Cyndi Chrostek at email@example.com.