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Obituary: Dr. Marie Olivia Fernando

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The untimely demise of Marie Olivia Fernando on 6th March 2008, belonging to the batch of 1970 at St. Johns Medical College, Bangalore will certainly bring immeasurable sorrow and grief to many who loved her and admired her, as a Friend, Colleague and a Doctor. Her humaneness and her concern for the downtrodden and the marginalized was unique and wholehearted. Her Father, the late Dr. Leo Fernando was a legend and was so well known and respected by all who knew him in Sri Lanka and abroad. Olivia had the same respect and had the capacity to listen patiently to anyone who came to her with their tales of woe, be it an illness or any personal problem. At St. Johns, she was a much loved person. She was always soft spoken and her gentle ways and mannerism was admired by all. May her soul rest in peace. (Posted by Dr. Marie\'s brother, Dr Christo Fernando) Condolence messages to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Surgeons crossing Sahara

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By Jane Lavender | The Bolton News 

TRANSPLANT surgeon Titus Augustine is swapping his scrubs for a steering wheel as he prepares to drive 4,000 miles for charity.

The consultant at Manchester Royal Infirmary will drive from Portsmouth to the Gambia in a 13-year-old 4 x 4, with just a colleague for support.

He said: "This will be a real challenge and is something I'm excited about but it's also for a very good cause. I'm really looking forward to it and also slightly apprehensive.

"I have some concerns about driving across the Western Sahara. Not only is it very remote but security there isn't 100 per cent."

Mr Augustine, from Lostock, will set off on January 11 and drive across France, Spain, Morocco, part of the Western Sahara, across Senegal and into the Gambia. He hopes to arrive on February 1.

There will be 28 cars taking part in the rally, which is completely unsupported, and Mr Augustine and his colleague, Hany Riad, a fellow consultant surgeon are raising cash for Pageant, a charity which supports education and related projects in the Gambia, as well as the MRI Charitable Fund, an organisation raising funds for research into transplants.

The duo, who have dubbed themselves the Transplant Titans' will stay in budget hotels for some of their journey but have taken a tent for the long stretch across the Sahara.

Mr Augustine, who will leave behind his wife, Sheila, and 21-year-old daughter, Aditis, also hopes his mammoth drive will raise awareness of the importance of signing up to the Organ Donor Register.

He said: "As a surgeon I see both sides of people waiting for transplants. Those who get them and those who don't. It's vital people sign up to become organ donors."

The Transplant Titans have already raised £10,000 with two events, one at the Living Room in Deansgate, Manchester, in November, and the other at the Holland Hall Country House Hotel in Upholland, near Wigan, but are appealing for people to donate to their cause.

People can sponsor them, and monitor their progress, by logging on to The car the team will be using has been donated to them by Synergy, a company which develops educational programmes for healthcare professionals, patients and their carers.

St John's Medical college & Bio-Rad Laboratories organize awareness seminar on Autoimmune Disorders

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Bio-Rad Laboratories today organised a awareness seminar on Autoimmune disorders in association with St John’s Medical College. The seminar is second in the three seminar series, which moves Hyderabad next.

Autoimmune seminars is a unique initiative by Bio-Rad Laboratories in its attempt to generate awareness on autoimmne disorders and its diagnosis amongst the medical fraternity. The seminar was attended by medical practitioners, pathologists, researchers among others who discussed some of the latest happenings in the emerging area of autoimmune diseases and their diagnostics.

Speaking on the occasion Dr Usha Kini, Head of Department of Pathology, St John’s Medical College said “It is important that diagnosis of autoimmune disorders is given due importance”. She congratulated Bio-Rad Laboratories for bringing together the Automotive fraternity to a common platform towards tackling these kind of disorders.

Autoimmune disorders are a result of body’s immune system mistaking self tissues for nonself, and subsequently mounting an inappropriate attack. Symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary widely on the type of disease. Some of the common symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, malaise etc. Specific symptoms could be as serious as destruction or change in size of an organ or a tissue. Diagnosis hence is an important aspect in autoimmune diseases, says Mr Dhiren Wagle, Country Manager, Bio-Rad Laboratories (India). Mr Wagle added “These tests determine the location and extent of damage or involvement. They are useful in charting progress of the disease and as baselines for treatment”.

Some of the Autoimmune disorders are as under:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis. Occurs when the immune system attacks and destroys the tissues that line bone joints and cartilage. The disease occurs throughout the body, although some joints may be more affected than others
  • Grave's disease. Caused by an antibody that binds to specific cells in the thyroid gland, causing them to make excessive amounts of thyroid hormone
  • Myasthenia gravis. A condition in which the immune system attacks a receptor on the surface of muscle cells, preventing the muscle from receiving nerve impulses and resulting in severe muscle weakness
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Occurs when the body produces antibodies that coat red blood cells
  • Pernicious anemia. Disorder in which the immune system attacks the lining of the stomach in such a way that the body cannot metabolize vitamin B12
  • Ankylosing spondylitis. Immune system induced degeneration of the joints and soft tissue of the spine
  • Vasculitis. A group of autoimmune disorders in which the immune system attacks and destroys blood vessels
  • Type I diabetes mellitus. May be caused by an antibody that attacks and destroys the islet cells of the pancreas, which produce insulin
  • Multiple sclerosis. An autoimmune disorder that may involve a virus affects the central nervous system, causing loss of coordination and muscle control

Autoimmune Seminars cover a wide gamut of disorders , some of which are complicated and difficult to understand . Seminars like these are an initiative from Bio-Rad to educate the medical fraternity which will further help in better treatment of patients suffering from these disorders .


High Security Trips Up Some Irradiated Patients, Doctors Say

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In one case last spring, a man being treated for an overactive thyroid gland was stopped by the authorities on two occasions while at a subway stop at Pennsylvania Station. In another case about a month ago, a woman who had undergone a diagnostic heart study was stopped while trying to drive out of Manhattan through a tunnel.

In both cases, the people involved had been treated with radioactive materials. And in both cases, doctors said, they were stopped by law enforcement officers armed with radiation detectors used to track possible terrorists.

Such reports are flowing into doctors' offices, physicians in the metropolitan region and elsewhere say.

The expanded use of radiation and metal detectors to guard against potential terrorism after Sept. 11, 2001, has prompted many unintended security stops, whether of cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment or of travelers with prosthetic limbs or pacemakers passing through airport metal detectors. Drug dealers have been known to mark their goods with radioactive material as a way of tracing it, and one doctor said he had heard of shipments being stopped at border crossings in Europe.

''This is all along the law of unintended consequences,'' Fred Mettler, the chairman of radiology and nuclear medicine at the University of New Mexico, said yesterday. ''The question is, 'How does the poor patient convince the law enforcement authorities that they are truly patients and not terrorists?' ''

To better prepare their patients for security episodes relating to their radioactive treatment, and to keep them from being mistaken for those who would do harm, doctors in New York are drawing up guidelines telling patients how they should react. Doctors say Police Department officials have recommended that patients carry letters from their doctors to avoid confusion, but the police said that they had issued no broad recommendations and that such letters would not suffice to resolve the matter.

Countless patients being treated for a variety of ailments may have had radioactive isotopes injected into their bodies and can therefore set off alarms at borders, bridge crossings or transportation hubs, or trigger the attention of authorities who have portable radiation detectors.

The woman stopped recently near the tunnel contacted her physician, Dr. Chaitanya Divgi, an expert in nuclear medicine in the radiology department at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. ''She called me from the cellphone,'' said Dr. Divgi, who could not identify the tunnel but added that he spoke with the officer and that the woman was later able to pass through. ''Doctors are talking about patients being stopped, about security alarms going off after patients are being administered radio pharmaceuticals.''

Doctors say they have not criticized law enforcement officers for their efforts, under which patients may be questioned intensely and subjected to body searches. Rather, most interviewed yesterday said the recent incidents pointed out one of the sometimes odd byproducts of the nation's heightened state of alert and gave them confidence that the authorities' detection equipment was working.

Dr. Christoph Buettner, an endocrinologist treating the man with the overactive thyroid who was stopped at Penn Station, said: ''They did not treat him badly. They just detected radioactivity and they had to pursue that, and that is obviously the right thing to do in these circumstances, in these times. We just want the cops to have a way to identify patients who have been treated with radioactive isotopes.''

As part of the Police Department's new measures to guard against potential terrorism, radiation detectors have been installed outside several city buildings. Also, about 250 radiation detectors, worn on the belt, have been distributed to officers. The devices are intended to form a sort of moving detection curtain so that police officers can interact with the public as they look for radioactive material.

When the Police Department installed radiation detection devices outside Police Headquarters in Lower Manhattan in June, a police inspector who had been injected with radioactive dye for a stress test reportedly set them off

The man with the overactive thyroid gland was stopped after authorities somehow detected gamma rays emitting from him and detained him for questioning, said Dr. Martin I. Surks, the director of endocrinology at Montefiore Medical Center who oversaw the man's treatment, which was administered by Dr. Buettner. The doctors could not say which law enforcement agency was involved.

A Police Department official said last night that the department could find no records to confirm that incident. Tom Kelly, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said he had no record of it, either. Cliff Black, an Amtrak spokesman, said yesterday that he was still researching the matter.

According to his doctors, the patient, a 34-year-old fitness instructor from the Bronx, was being treated for Graves' disease, a thyroid condition, with radioactive iodine (iodine-131). Sixty-three percent of it was concentrated into his thyroid gland, in the front of his windpipe in his lower neck, the doctors said.

''Three weeks after treatment, he returned to our clinic complaining that he had been strip-searched twice at major Manhattan subway stations,'' Dr. Surks and Dr. Buettner wrote in a letter to be published today in The Journal of the American Medical Association. ''Police had identified him as emitting radiation and had detained him for further questioning.''

The doctors said that the patient had requested that he not be identified publicly and that they were unable to reach him by phone yesterday. In their letter to the the journal and in interviews yesterday, Dr. Surks and Dr. Buettner said a police official had recommended that physicians who treat patients with radioactive material give them letters describing the isotope and dose, its biological half-life and the date and time of treatment. The doctors also said the police had recommended that patients be given a telephone number where they can reach the physician 24 hours a day.

But a police official said last night that the department had made no such broad recommendation. The official said police officers would not treat a letter from a doctor as sole proof that someone was above suspicion, but would conduct an investigation first


Queen’s seeks participants for national study on drugs

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Researchers Dr. Iqbal Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia patients are being sought
By Helen Altonn | This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Tuesday, August 6, 2002

The National Institute of Mental Health is looking for Hawaii patients with Alzheimer's disease or schizophrenia for two major studies on relatively new drugs.

The Queen's Medical Center is one of few sites selected in the national multicenter study to conduct research on both diseases.

The goal is to see if new medications prescribed to treat schizophrenia and psychotic symptoms in Alzheimer's patients improve mental and physical health and reduce emergency room visits.

"It's real good for patients, for the community, our nation and our reputation," said Dr. Alan Buffenstein, University of Hawaii assistant professor of psychiatry and clinical director for Queen's Counseling Services. Buffenstein is chief investigator for the schizophrenia study.

Dr. Douglas Smith, UH assistant professor of psychiatry, is working with him.

Dr. Iqbal "Ike" Ahmed, UH professor of psychiatry associated with Hawaii State Hospital and Queen's, is principal investigator for the Alzheimer's study.

The researchers will receive nearly $1 million in grants and medicines for the project over the next three years.

Buffenstein said the economic impact of schizophrenia "is huge, and even small improvements are important.

"As evidenced all too tragically for us here in Honolulu, the recent problem with the patient who got out of control at the Ala Wai brings up again all sorts of issues about schizophrenia, the success and utility of medication treatment, and so on."

Buffenstein is trying to recruit 30 patients -- so far he has 13 -- who could stay in the initial part of the schizophrenia study for 18 months. They would be followed officially for up to two years, with periodic evaluations after that, he said.

Ahmed has signed up nine people and wants at least 15 for a nine-month study of new antipsychotic medications for Alzheimer's patients.

"There is no good experimental data which shows which medications might work best in what type of people and in what type of symptoms and what are the side effects," he said.

The local studies are part of a $45 million NIMH research project called "Clinical Antipsychotic Trials of Intervention Effectiveness."

"Whatever the results are, they will be published," Buffenstein said, pointing out there is no particular bias.

The only drug trials up to now have been sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry, which is more interested in short-term studies to show medications are safe and get them to the market, he said.

"But the reality is, schizophrenia is a chronic illness, and all these medications are very special, unique compounds. They don't really cure schizophrenia, but control it like insulin controls diabetes."

The illness tends to recur when people stop taking the medications, he said. "Schizophrenia causes people to be very flat, withdrawn, and not really connect with others too much. ... It's a huge burden on the economy because it stops people from going to work and being useful."

Some older medications cause deformities in terms of movement disorders, weight gain, high diabetes and premature deaths, he said.

An estimated 10,000 Hawaii residents have schizophrenia, with about 4,000 on the Medicaid rolls, Buffenstein said.

Commonly prescribed atypical antipsychotic drugs are being examined, free to patients, plus the newest drug for schizophrenia and a new antidepressant for Alzheimer's patients.

Insurance companies are interested in the study because the drugs are extremely expensive, Buffenstein said, estimating patients will receive about $450,000 worth of donated medicines in two years.

Hawaii has an estimated 20,000 Alzheimer's patients, according to the Alzheimer's Association of Hawaii.

For more information, call 585-5406 about the Alzheimer's study, and 585-5408 about the schizophrenia study.


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