Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

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Title: Ongoing Research at New Orleans Charity Hospital

Category: Child Care




One of the benefits of using less of the enormous space in our state's charity hospital in New Orleans is availability of space for research. Tulane and LSU are working together in 8,000 square feet within Charity Hospital at the new General Clinical Research Center. There are presently sixty research projects ongoing. The research includes many creative ideas thought up by the faculty, residents and students of both Tulane and LSU. Both schools received NIH grants. The studies range from gene therapy to ovarian cancer treatment, to the better understanding of the complexity of seafood allergies. Most of the studies are clinically oriented, meaning they are seeking answers to active diseases of human patients rather than pure lab research which is more abstract. In some cases, they are a few steps away from actual cures or treatment changes. The General Clinical Research Center, or GCRC at Charity, is a beehive of activity night and day. Doctors and nurses come in and out of the patients rooms, lab areas and hallways to discuss their findings. One of the most active doctors involved in the research is John Salvagio, M.D., who is vice-chancellor for research, the head of the medicine department at Tulane, and the director for the research center. Dr. Salvagio is also past president of the American Academy of Allergy and Immunology. He is an expert at getting grants and is working hard to keep the grant money coming in so that necessary supplies and help is available.

Now that the word is out, the number of patients coming to the center, wanting to be involved in the research, has tripled. This makes the need for increasing funding is critical. All AIDS research for both LSU and Tulane is being coordinated through this center.

Another exciting added value in the research center is its ability to attract teaching staff to both Tulane and LSU. Having a good place to do clinical research is an added benefit for any academic doctor or scientist. In next week's article, we will have more information on research projects at GCRC.




Another important person at the research center is Dr. Peter Kohler. He is the associate director of the center and is working on two research projects. First, he is studying the maternal transmission of Hiv virus. Only one in five babies born to Hiv infected mothers develops the HIV. No one is sure why, but he is studying a theory that an antibody crossing the placenta may be protecting the baby. The second project is on a rare disease called familial lupus. He is trying to figure out which factors cause certain members of the family to develop the disease and not others. Both of these projects involve the combination of LSU and Tulane researchers. Dr. Kohler feels that this uniting of LSU and Tulane medical scientists has been great for both schools and has helped us stop a lot of the political bickering which has always taken place at Charity.

Another person recently interviewed, who is a very active participant at the GCRC, is Gerri Hickey, RN. She enjoys the intellectual challenge of working on all of the new protocols incorporating her scientific and clinical knowledge which she gained from twelve years of acute care experience in another New Orleans hospital. She appreciates the chance to use her skills in helping the very indigent population she is treating in the process of doing the research. She talked about the closeness she feels to the patients and the tragedy of a recent case in which a mother died leaving several young children behind. The mother began preparing Miss Hickey and the other medical team members for her funeral before they even realized she was dying.

A fourth person interviewed in a recent article about the GCRC in the Tulane Medicine Magazine was medical student, Ron Gagliano. He is a junior medical student and loves research. He began research in his first year of college at Tulane. He was excited with the opportunity to continue research while going through medical school. He is involved in two projects at the GCRC. The first project involves a drug regimen for chronic bladder infections in spinal cord injury patients. The second project involves developing a treatment regimen for trichomonas, which is a common venereal infection. He is not certain as to what specialty he wants to go into at the present time but is certain that research will have lots to do with it.

We are certainly blessed that both of our state's fine medical schools got together and developed grants to fund this wonderful research taking place in unused space in our old Charity Hospital. Perhaps this will be expanded more as many of the patients in Charity will probably be moved to the newer Hotel Dieu Hospital down the street in the next few years.