Research Gets Boost from Anonymous Donor

Dr. Timothy A. Sanborn (left) and Dr. Glenn Murphy

Two physicians at NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) are beneficiaries of a generous gift from an anonymous donor who wants to advance their research into two areas: reducing childhood obesity and improving the anesthesia experience for surgery patients.

Timothy A. Sanborn, MD, Head, Division of Cardiology at NorthShore, is teaming up with community leaders in the Evanston area to bring healthier living to the area’s children and their families. The seed money received from the donor will help establish a registry and database of 1,250 children whose parents have agreed to share information on their child’s height and weight from the pediatric physical required of 0-5 year-old children attending preschool or in daycare centers.

“Once we have consent forms from parents, we will establish a database that will calculate the risk for childhood obesity from the height and weight information that is already available,” said Dr. Sanborn, who said he sees great potential in the program to prevent future problems such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease. “If we see a child with a high Body Mass Index, we can work with the family through educational tools and teach them about better nutrition and fitness habits early on, when it’s easiest to prevent obesity.”

The database is part of a cooperative program under a grant from the Evanston YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities initiative to help make policy and environmental changes to reduce or prevent childhood obesity. Partners include the Childcare Network of Evanston, Evanston/Skokie School District 65, the Evanston Health Department and other area organizations.

“Childhood obesity is a major health problem, with over 30 percent of children aged 2-19 being overweight or obese,” said Dr. Sanborn. “The idea is to make this program a success so we can launch it statewide and maybe even countrywide,” he said. Dr. Sanborn said the seed money from the donor is important because it will allow the group working on the initiative to seek larger funding grants from national organizations, such as the Center for Disease Control. “You need preliminary data in order to get larger funding, so this is a great help to establish the registry and database,” said Dr. Sanborn.
 
Glenn Murphy, MD, Director of Anesthesia Research at NorthShore, said he is using the gift to hire a college senior as an intern who is entering medical school and has expressed a desire to learn more about medical research, and particularly anesthesiology.  “We hire the intern for one year and expose the person to clinical research,” he explains. “With this donor’s generous gift, we’ll be able to hire a second person and expand our research. Our primary focus is making the anesthesia experience better for patients,” said Dr. Murphy. “It’s a win-win because we get help collecting data and advancing several research projects we are working on while the student gets a rich experience in the pre- and post operative hospital setting and seeing whether research is a good fit for them.”

The interns sign patients up for clinical studies, collect data, follow up with patients after their surgery and generally contribute to the improved quality of a person’s recovery following anesthesia. Dr. Murphy said the majority of patients, about 80 percent, may still suffer mild complications after surgery, such as nausea, fatigue, and pain. “So there is still room for improvement. Our studies are addressing what we can do with medications and newer monitoring technology to make sure patients feel better after surgery.”

One study currently underway is looking at safely using longer lasting medications that will provide pain relief for two days after surgery. Most pain medications last between one and three hours. “Our interns are very involved in colleting data, assessing and monitoring patients in several studies, and in one study, even following up with patients after a year to see how they are doing post-operatively,” said Dr. Murphy.

“This donation serves as a wonderful way to further our intern program, helps us achieve results with our research and really provides a great way to interest medical school students in anesthesia and medical research,” he added.

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