Taking Bold Steps
n this presidential election year, our minds are churning with the daily controversies, questions and concerns raised as the candidates take the long run for our nation’s top office. It’s a time for change in our country; the status quo is under scrutiny. Americans want to re-examine what matters most in their lives and discover new ways to approach old problems. “Health and medicine” is among the top three worries of almost all of us, along with the war and the economy. We are wrestling with how to guard the health and well-being of our children, how to care for our injured soldiers returning from war, and how to more successfully battle infectious organisms as well as a host of chronic diseases that threaten to shorten our lives. The UMDNJ students and residents who will be our future health care providers are preparing to take on many challenges that our current health providers are wrestling with right now.
In this issue of UMDNJ Magazine, we have chosen to focus on three of this presidential year’s biggest health challenges, although there are far more that quickly come to mind. The first is war injuries. Traumatic brain injury — or TBI — is called the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan battles. The military has said that 20 percent of all returning soldiers from these conflicts will have some degree of TBI. If there is encouraging news here it is that UMDNJ clinician-researchers are discovering new — and more successful — approaches to TBI and their expertise is becoming recognized far beyond New Jersey.
The second is autism, which is diagnosed in 1 out of 150 children in the U.S. right now. In New Jersey, the numbers affected are even higher. While this is not a new problem, it is one that has taken on a new urgency. While investigators search for the reason behind these alarming figures, others identify ways to provide early intervention to the many affected children. UMDNJ’s autism group includes researchers and clinicians from all three of our medical schools. Pooling their expertise and knowledge in many specialty areas, they are coming up with truly innovative approaches to treatment.
Bacteria have challenged mankind forever, but the antibiotic-resistant variety has been creating misery for a much shorter period. Of particular concern are staph infections that run rampant in hospitals and crop up sporadically in the community with potentially disastrous outcomes. UMDNJ’s infectious disease experts are right on the case and they assure us that in New Jersey, the situation is well under control, and while we need to be careful, we should not be panicked. After reading the article, you will have more confidence that our scientists are several steps ahead of those wily bacteria.
As you read these features, I think you will agree with me that the University’s researchers and clinicians are taking bold and effective steps toward remedying these major health challenges.
William F. Owen, Jr., MD
President of UMDNJ