Innovators in the Spotlight

Guilherme Attizzani, MD, and Alan Markowitz, MD

“It’s so fulfilling to use this innovation to offer these high-risk patients the opportunity of a better quality of life.” – Guilherme Attizzani, MD

Guilherme Attizzani, MD, and Alan Markowitz, MD, again advanced the University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute’s growing reputation for pioneering lifesaving procedures in 2014 when they became the first in the U.S. to perform a new type of minimally invasive heart-valve replacement. It offers bright hope for a bleak problem: Surgically repaired mitral valves sometimes fail, and a second surgery can be highly risky. Drs. Attizzani and Markowitz insert a catheter through a 2-inch chest incision to install an artificial valve. Patients are typically walking within 24 hours and home in about four days, instead of several weeks.

Stanton Gerson, MD

Stanton Gerson, MD, extended his long track record of innovation in 2014 with another advance in the care of the deadly brain cancer called glioblastoma. Building on his basic research at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, he discovered in a clinical trial that patients’ outcomes improved when he supplemented chemotherapy with stem cells boosted with a strong DNA-repairing protein called MGMT. Dr. Gerson is Director of UH Seidman Cancer Center and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. For 30 years, he has studied ways to improve chemotherapy’s effects on both cancer cells and healthy stem cells. Today, his discoveries extend lives worldwide. “Innovative progress in medicine is never linear,” said Dr. Gerson. “That’s why it’s exciting.”

Jonathan Miller, MD

Jonathan Miller, MD, and his colleagues at UH Neurological Institute are solving problems at brain surgery’s outer frontiers. Their tools include computer linked brain implants that treat movement disorders, mental illness and someday, perhaps, even paralysis. “The opportunities that are opening up to us today are just breathtaking as we gain knowledge and insight and refine technology,” said Dr. Miller, Director of the Functional & Restorative Neurosurgery Center at UH Case Medical Center. Dr. Miller is a pioneer in the use of deep brain stimulation (DBS). He and DBS program Director Benjamin Walter, MD, are using it to treat Tourette’s syndrome, epilepsy, bipolar disorder and traumatic brain injury.

Pankaj Gupta, MD, MS

Pankaj Gupta, MD, MS, introduced a revolutionary eye-surgery technique in 2014 that restores vision and ends misery for patients such as John Barsa of Parma. Mr. Barsa, 73, says he was in near constant pain and “blind as a bat” because of a condition that swelled and blistered his corneas. Then Dr. Gupta delicately transplanted a sheet of cornea cells about 1/100th of the thickness of a dime in an operation called Descemet membrane endothelial keratoplasty, or DMEK. The difference from before to after “is like night and day,” said Mr. Barsa. DMEK usually offers better results and quicker recovery. “It’s probably one of the best things that we can do for our patients,” Dr. Gupta said.

Jane Little, MD and Umut Gurkan, PhD

Jane Little, MD, is co-developing a biochip that is tiny in size, but huge in its potential to revolutionize the care of sickle cell disease. Little and co-developer Umut Gurkan, PhD, of Case Western Reserve University, hope their chip becomes the basis for a simple finger-prick blood test to predict sickle cell disease’s excruciating and potentially organ-damaging attacks. “If we can better understand and anticipate attacks,” Dr. Little explained, “patients may be able to seek treatment to reduce pain and damage.” They’ve begun a clinical trial. Dr. Little is Director of the Sickle Cell Anemia Center at UH Seidman Cancer Center. Dr. Gurkan, who conceived the chip’s technology, leads the university’s Biomanufacturing and Microfabrication Laboratory.

Alex Y. Huang, MD, PhD

Alex Y. Huang, MD, PhD, heard skeptical snickers a couple decades ago when he told graduate-school colleagues he would focus on activating the human immune system to fight cancer. Today, Dr. Huang hears applause. His discoveries at the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital are attracting global attention. Dr. Huang is raising hope among patients, parents and peers worldwide for new ways to treat cancer without toxic chemotherapy drugs and radiation. “Cancer cells fool our immune systems by sending signals that they are friend, not foe,” said Dr. Huang. “Our challenge is to alert the immune system to this deception so it recognizes and attacks cancer cells.”

UH’s donor community and our affiliation with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine are catalysts for innovation. At UH Case Medical Center, Dr. Miller is the George R. and Constance P. Lincoln Master Clinician in Memory Loss and Behavioral Outcomes; Dr. Markowitz is the Marcella (Dolly) Haugh Chair in Valvular Surgery; and Dr. Huang is Theresia G. & Stuart F. Kline Family Foundation Chair in Pediatric Oncology. At the School of Medicine, Dr. Attizzani is Clinical Assistant Professor, Medicine; Dr. Markowitz is Assistant Clinical Professor, Surgery; Dr. Gerson is Asa and Patrick Shiverick – Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology; Dr. Miller is Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery; Dr. Gupta is Clinical Instructor, Ophthalmology; Dr. Little is Associate Professor, Medicine; and Dr. Huang is Associate Professor of both Pediatrics and Pathology.

Elevating Patient Care by Exploring and Expanding Its Limits

University Hospitals is advancing standards of care for patients worldwide through clinical research, innovation and our affiliation with Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

At any given time, more than 700 clinical studies are under way at UH Case Medical Center. Just a few of our many engines of innovation are:

  • UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute’s Research & Innovation Center, where more than 70 faculty, physicians and staff are conducting $21 million in research into new therapies using devices, drugs and our own bodies’ processes.
  • UH Seidman Cancer Center and two of its newest knowledge centers: The Kathy and Les Coleman Clinical Research Center and the Linda and Les Vinney Biorepository and Genomics Facility.
  • The Philips Healthcare Global Advanced Imaging Innovation Center and Case Center for Imaging Research, where we are developing new technologies and techniques to see inside the human body.
  • The Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute, where we are exploring new frontiers for a large and underserved segment of the cancer community.

Among America's Best in Every Area - Again and Again.

University Hospitals keeps earning more national acclaim for expertise and care quality. Case in point: For 2014 – 15, our flagship, UH Cleveland Medical Center, again holds firm among “America’s Best Hospitals” in the 2014 – 15 rankings from U.S. News & World Report. Only a handful of other premier hospitals, out of 5,700 nationwide, rank in the Top 50 in so many specialties. Learn more

2014 -15 U.S. News & World Report Best Hospitals

2014 - 15 U.S. New & World Report Best Children's Hospitals