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Derek C. Angus

University Of Pittsburgh School Of Medicine Creates Nation’s First Department Of Critical Care Medicine

PITTSBURGH, January 17, 2002 — The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has established the nation’s first department of critical care medicine (CCM) at a medical school. The department will focus on training intensivists, physicians who specialize in the management of critically ill patients requiring care in an intensive care unit.

"Recent studies have shown that critically ill patients substantially benefit from being treated by intensivists; reinforcing the fact that there is a great need for critical care specialists. We are pleased and excited to be the first medical school to make an active commitment to training the intensivists of tomorrow," said Arthur S. Levine, M.D., senior vice chancellor, health sciences, University of Pittsburgh and dean, School of Medicine.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine has continuously been a leader in the development of the field of CCM; Peter Safar, M.D., established one of the first ICUs in the country at UPMC Presbyterian and developed the first multidisciplinary fellowship training program in CCM. Since its inception, this world-renowned program has trained more than five hundred intensivists, who now care for patients in ICUs all over the United States and in many other countries.

The world’s leading institution for training intensivists, the School of Medicine is one of the only medical schools in the U.S. to incorporate critical care medicine as an integral part of an internal medicine clerkship. Currently with more than $5 million per year in research funding, the CCM program at the University of Pittsburgh has more external funding than any similar program in the country. The new department's research agenda ranges from genetic studies of patients with sepsis, a life-threatening condition that affects about 750,000 Americans per year, to studies of the molecular mechanisms responsible for neurological impairment following pediatric head trauma to the development of new drugs to treat serious illnesses, such as acute respiratory distress syndrome.

"All of the pieces were in place for the University of Pittsburgh to take the lead in this area; forming an independent department of critical care medicine was the next logical step. The creation of the department will help us build on an already strong foundation of research and facilities," said Mitchell P. Fink, M.D., Watson Professor of Surgery, Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine and the founding chair of the department of CCM.

Dr. Fink came to the University of Pittsburgh in 1999 from Harvard Medical School where he was the Johnson and Johnson Professor of Surgery and the surgeon-in-chief at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. His research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health for the past 15 years. Dr. Fink has been recognized as one of the best in the

field of critical care medicine, having the honor of delivering the Millennium Lectureship and the Laerdal Memorial Lectureship of the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the Presidential Citation Honor Lectureship of the American College of Chest Physicians. He is a past-president of the Shock Society and the Surgical Section of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. Dr. Fink has authored or co-authored more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific publications and more than 100 book chapters and review articles. He has edited numerous textbooks, and is on the editorial boards of leading basic science and clinical journals, such as the American Journal of Physiology and Critical Care Medicine.

The creation of the department is the direct result of the widely reported need for CCM specialists caused by the nation’s aging population. A study led by University of Pittsburgh researcher Derek Angus, M.D., M.P.H., published in the Dec. 6, 2000 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), predicts that the demand for care will outpace the supply of intensivists by the year 2010; with the shortfall equaling 22 percent of demand by 2020 and 35 percent by 2030.

This potential deficit in care has also been acknowledged by the business community due to the solid evidence that intensivists decrease mortality and decrease costs. The Leapfrog Group, a Business Roundtable-sponsored commitment to mobilize employer purchasing power to initiate breakthrough improvements in healthcare, has listed the staffing of intensive care units (ICUs) with physicians with credentials in CCM as one of their recommendations to help health systems reduce medical errors. The group, made up of Fortune 500 companies and other major health care purchasers, has agreed to purchase health care only from hospitals that provide ICU staffing by CCM trained physicians.

Prior to the development of the CCM department at the University of Pittsburgh, CCM was a division of the department of anesthesiology. Many resources in the department of anesthesiology, such as the Peter Winter Patient Simulation Center, will be shared between the two departments.

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