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Vital Signs

Celebration serves as a foundation for $250-million campaign

Today we are faced with an enormous explosion of new knowledge," Dr. Stephen Spielberg, DMS's dean, told a crowd of people who gathered at DHMC at the end of November to celebrate medicine at Dartmouth. "The challenge then is how to integrate this new knowledge into our curriculum—the teaching of medical students—and into the care of patients."

The "Celebrating Dartmouth Medicine" event featured a dinner for DMS and DHMC supporters, plus panel discussions and presentations the next day by prominent faculty members. Held just a few weeks after Dartmouth College's announcement of a Collegewide campaign to raise $1.3 billion by 2009, the DMS event laid a foundation for the official launch of DMS and DHMC's portion of the campaign, which has a goal of $250 million; that launch is scheduled for late May.

Session: A session titled "Are We Better Off Today than 200 Years Ago?" was a reprise of a panel offered at the College launch in New York City. Once again, Dartmouth alumna Susan Dentzer—health correspondent for the PBS NewsHour, as well a DHMC Trustee, a DMS Overseer, and a former College Trustee—moderated a provocative discussion between Dr. Mark Israel, director of Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center, and Dr. John Wennberg, director of the Center for the Evaluative Clinical Sciences (CECS).

"I think there's no question that the future is extraordinarily bright," said Israel. He described several advances, including new drugs, that have been made in medicine. "The beginning of the end of cancer is today and the things that we do today."

Wennberg, however, pointed to problems in the health-care system—variation in health-care utilization across the country; inequitable distribution of resources; and the fact that too much health care can be worse than too little. He also noted that medical innovations should not be rushed to market but must be thoroughly evaluated to see what works best. And, he added, providers should encourage patients to weigh the risks and benefits of health-care choices so they make informed decisions about their own care. "Most of the decisions are being made by the providers and not the patients," he said.

Productive: At another session, titled "Rehabilitation of People with Severe Mental Illness," Dr. Robert Drake talked about his success achieving what everyone else had assumed was impossible—helping the severely mentally ill find employment and reestablish productive lives. Drake is director of the New Hampshire-Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center.

The final session, on "Pain, Suffering, and Opportunity," featured presentations by Dr. Joyce DeLeo, director of the Neuroscience Center at Dartmouth; Dr. Joseph Cravero, director of the PainFree Program at the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth; and Dr. Ira Byock, director of palliative medicine at DHMC. DeLeo described her research on the mechanisms of chronic pain and her efforts to help biotech companies translate lab discoveries into drugs. Cravero, who has been evaluating sedation safety and efficacy, explained how the PainFree Program, created in 2002, helps children undergo medical procedures without undue anxiety or pain. And Byock, an internationally renowned advocate for high-quality end-of-life care, talked about what DHMC is doing to ensure comfort and dignity for people who are dying.

Attendees also had a chance to interact with Dartmouth medical students to learn about student-run community service projects. And the Dermatones, an a cappella singing group made up of first- and second-year DMS students, treated everyone to a special performance.

"We shared with you just a very small fraction of what goes on" at DMS and DHMC, Spielberg said in his concluding remarks: basic sciences, applied sciences, clinical care, and community outreach. During the campaign, he said, "we'll talk about our goals for the future . . . in terms of the things that we really feel committed to doing for the Upper Valley, for New England, for our country, and for our world. It will be great fun and joy for all of us to continue that dialogue as we're going forward in trying to transform medicine."

Laura Stephenson Carter

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