Newswise — During the COVID-19 pandemic, Johns Hopkins Medicine Media Relations is focused on disseminating current, accurate and useful information to the public via the media. As part of that effort, we are distributing our “COVID-19 Tip Sheet: Story Ideas from Johns Hopkins” every Tuesday throughout the duration of the outbreak.

We also want you to continue having access to the latest Johns Hopkins Medicine research achievements and clinical advances, so we are issuing a second tip sheet every Thursday, covering topics not related to COVID-19 or the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Stories associated with journal publications provide a link to the paper. Interviews with the researchers featured may be arranged by contacting the media representatives listed.

 

CANCER DOCTORS CALL FOR MORE TRAINING IN PALLIATIVE CARE AND DELIVERY OF ‘BAD NEWS’

Media Contact: Valerie Mehl

Oncologists who practice and teach at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center are calling on medical oncology training programs to invest substantially more time educating physicians about palliative care and how to talk to patients about “bad news.”

In a commentary published on April 9, 2020, in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the physicians noted studies showing that cancer doctors deliver bad news to patients an average of 35 times a month. “However, few have training in how best to do so,” says Ramy Sedhom, M.D., a medical oncology fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and lead author.

According to the researchers, oncology fellows — those who have embarked on lengthy post-doctoral training programs specializing in cancer care — report getting more coaching on how to perform technical procedures such as bone marrow biopsies than how to conduct a meeting with patients and families facing difficult or limited choices in care and disease outcomes. At the same time, Sedhom says, research suggests that how doctors frame difficult conversations can influence and direct patient preferences for treatment or palliative care.

As advances in treatment have increased in number and complexity in recent years, many oncologists have moved from practicing general medical oncology to focusing on just one or two cancers, says Thomas J. Smith, M.D., professor of oncology and director of palliative medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“As a consequence,” he says, “the abilities of these doctors to predict patient outcomes becomes even more complicated and highlights the need for palliative care training.”

Smith, Sedhom and colleagues previously surveyed accredited oncology training programs in the United States, finding none that offered a combined or integrated medical oncology and hospice/palliative care medicine program. Seventy-three institutions, including Johns Hopkins Medicine, offer the training in separate programs.

Smith and Sedhom say their commentary finds that training in the science of communication can help oncologists effectively address patient emotions and in turn, help patients and their families make more informed decisions about treatment choices.

 

NEW FRAILTY WEBSITE AND TWITTER ACCOUNT SEEK BETTER LIFE, HEALTH AND WELLNESS FOR SENIORS

Media Contact: Waun’Shae Blount          

The United States is aging. According to projections by the Urban Institute, 80 million Americans — one in five — will be age 65 and older by the year 2040. One consequence of an older-growing population is frailty, the increased vulnerability with advancing age to medical and surgical complications, falls and risk of death.

To provide seniors, caregivers, researchers, health care professionals and others with user-friendly and informative resources about the relatively new discipline of frailty science and its value for the older nation to come, the Johns Hopkins Older Americans Independence Center (JHOAIC) Frailty Science Program has launched a new website (frailtyscience.org) and Twitter account (@frailtyscience).

The comprehensive website consists of a frailty overview, surveys of both research and clinical topics, professional resources, patient and caregiver educational materials, and a blog (frailtyscience.org/blog-and-commentary). Both it and the active Twitter feed feature timely information about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on older adults.

One example of the wide variety of resources offered by the frailty science website is the online Johns Hopkins Frailty Assessment Calculator. This valuable tool gives clinicians and researchers a standardized method to consistently and accurately identify those patients who are most frail. The user enters five standardized measurements and receives an automatically generated score, yielding a classification of frail (score 3 to 5), pre-frail (score 1 or 2) or robust (score 0).

“The new website and Twitter account respond to an urgent need to get important state-of-the-art information on frailty out to a broad audience,” says Jeremy Walston, M.D., co-director of the JHOAIC and professor of geriatric medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “We want to show how this science can have a positive effect on the health, lifespan and wellness of older adults.”

“Frailty, its identification, treatment and prevention, has been considered the major reason that geriatric medicine exists,” says Karen Bandeen-Roche, Ph.D., co-director of the JHOAIC and professor of biostatistics at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her 2015 study found that frailty is present in nearly one out of every six noninstitutionalized older adults in the United States. 

Jenna Mammen, M.D., M.Phil., Ph.D. and assistant professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, sums up the goal of the new website and Twitter account by saying, “We hope to improve the understanding of how frailty develops, how to best assess it and how to best treat and prevent frailty-related decline.”

“In particular, the blog will explore areas where there is a knowledge gap in frailty and resiliency science — and where more discovery will benefit many,” she adds. “The website also will promote academic rigor in scientific inquiry.”

Moreover, the Frailty Science team hopes that the blog serves as a forum for presenting new insights and areas needing further investigation, and that the Twitter account engages stakeholders to share ideas and foster collaboration to expedite advances in frailty and resiliency research.

Tony Teano, communications and marketing specialist for the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health, contributed to this news item.

 

BUMPUS NAMED DIRECTOR OF PHARMACOLOGY DEPARTMENT AT JOHNS HOPKINS MEDICINE

Media Contact: Ayanna Tucker

Namandjé Bumpus, Ph.D., has been appointed director of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She is the first African American woman to become a department director at the medical school, as well as currently being the only African American woman chairing a department of pharmacology at any medical school in the United States.

Bumpus joined the medical school faculty in 2010 as an assistant professor of medicine. During her tenure, she held two key positions in the Office of the Dean of the School of Medicine: the school’s first associate dean for institutional and student equity and, later, as the associate dean for basic research.

Known for her research on HIV drugs, particularly her work on the impact of genetics on the way these drugs are processed in the body, Bumpus has been widely recognized as a leader in pharmacological research. She has received many awards, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2016 from President Barack Obama.

As director, Bumpus hopes to grow the department’s expertise in studying drug effects in living organisms, or in vivo pharmacology, and understanding drug effects on interconnected biological systems, or systems pharmacology, through the recruitment of new faculty.

“We’ll be improving our research capabilities in drug design, defining how drugs impact the body from cellular levels to organ systems, and understanding variability in patient response to drugs,” says Bumpus. “There is a lot of opportunity for us to grow and bring in faculty with exciting research in these broad areas. This also will provide the opportunity to expand and diversify the educational experiences that we provide students and postdocs.”

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