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McGill's top newsmakers are MUHC

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Published: 24 Feb 2006

Six of McGill's top ten newsmakers last year were MUHC researchers, including the top three positions.

For those who may have missed Daniel McCabe's "newsmakers" article in the McGill News this past winter, it might interest you to know that MUHC investigators make the biggest media splash of all McGill's researchers.

Every year McCabe conducts an exhaustive search of the media to discover which of McGill's faculty received the largest media coverage. "Each year the research accomplishments and insights of McGill faculty spark hundreds of news stories in the worldwide media," he says. In all, six of McGill's top ten newsmakers last year were MUHC researchers, including the top three positions.

"This clearly shows the enormous impact of MUHC research on the general public, and demonstrates the authority our experts command on the world stage," says Dr. Emil Skamene, Scientific Director of the Research Institute of the MUHC. "I'm very proud of all our researchers and their groundbreaking work."

The top MUHC newsmakers as covered in the winter issue of McGill News by Daniel McCabe are:

#1 Respiratory epidemiologist Dr. Sandra Dial was McGill's top newsmaker last year; she was featured in 108 different media. Dr. Dial discovered that drugs, such as heartburn medications, which reduce gastric acidity are potential risk factors for C. difficile infection outside of hospitals. The research was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). "We believe drugs that reduce gastric acidity provide a more hospitable environment within which C. difficile bacteria can colonize," she said. This discovery was one of three major research breakthroughs about C. difficile announced in December and highlights the leading role that McGill and its affiliated hospitals are taking to improve treatments and prevention techniques, as well as develop more rapid diagnosis for this disease.

#2 In second place is hematologist Dr. Jean-Pierre Routy, thanks, in large part, to an editorial he wrote in the British medical journal The Lancet in support of a research paper that outlined a promising new approach to combating AIDS. The study, by scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, demonstrated how valporic acid, best known for treating epilepsy, had properties that could coax the elusive HIV virus out of its cellular hiding places, opening it up to attack from anti-HIV medications. Dr. Routy is leading a follow-up study; he attracted the attention of 92 different media.

#3 Third spot goes to Dr. James Brophy, a cardiologist and Director of the Technology Assessment Unit at the MUHC. Dr. Brophy penned an editorial, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, touting the importance of a research study published in the same issue. The study in question indicated that an experimental diabetes pill, Pargluva, doubles the disk of heart attack, stroke and death. Dr. Brophy's editorial raised questions about whether the drug's developers had supplied thorough information about Pargluva to the US Food and Drug Administration. "Company-provided data might have fostered an 'illusion' of safety," wrote Dr. Brophy, who also made the news for a study he co-authored with PhD student Linda Levesque about the pain medication Vioxx. His study confirmed the drug's connection to an increased risk of heart attack among elderly patients who had never suffered a heart attack before. Dr. Brophy was featured in 91 different media.

#5 For Dr. Tom Hudson, Director of the McGill University/Génome Québec Innovation Centre and an RI MUHC geneticist, 2005 was a year to remember. He was profiled in Newsweek, appeared on the cover of the Globe and Mail, and had Maclean's readers credit him with the "Achievement of the Year in Healthcare" in a national poll. Hudson was one of the driving forces behind the International Haplotype (HapMap) Project, the first comprehensive catalogue of human genetic variation. The results, released last year, are expected to offer crucial insights into the genetics behind such common diseases as asthma, cancer and diabetes. Hudson led Canada's HapMap efforts. He was featured in 67 different media.

#9 Respiratory epidemiologist Dr. Margaret Becklake takes ninth place with appearances in 50 different media. Dr. Becklake led a study that offered some disquieting new information about the dangers of second-hand smoke. According to her research, kids who grow up in a household with a smoker appear to be far more susceptible to becoming addicted to cigarettes themselves when they reach adolescence.

Tied for ninth place with mentions in 50 different media is oncologist Dr. Joseph Ragaz. Much of the press attention was the result of a study Dr. Ragaz led on breast cancer. Dr. Ragaz and his team analyzed 20 years of follow-up data involving breast cancer patients and concluded that women who are at a high risk of recurrence should receive both radiation and chemotherapy following surgery. They noted that women who received both treatments had more positive outcomes.

The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) is a world-renowned biomedical and health care hospital research centre. Located in Montreal, Quebec, the institute is the research arm of the MUHC, a university health centre affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. The Institute supports over 500 researchers, nearly 1,000 graduate and postdoctoral students, and operates more than 300 laboratories devoted to a broad spectrum of fundamental and clinical research. The Research Institute operates at the forefront of knowledge, innovation and technology and is inextricably linked to the clinical programs of the MUHC, ensuring that patients benefit directly from the latest research-based knowledge. For further details visit: www.muhc.ca/research.

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. The MUHC is a merger of five teaching hospitals affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University — the Montreal Children's, Montreal General, Royal Victoria, and Montreal Neurological Hospitals, as well as the Montreal Chest Institute. Building on the tradition of medical leadership of the founding hospitals, the goal of the MUHC is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

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Contact: Ian Popple
Organization: MUHC Public Relations and Communications
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