November 6, 2000
Volume XXXIII, No. 37

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Dr. Stuart Shapira

A patient database is one of the new initiatives taken on by Dr. Stuart Shapira, chief of the Division of Genetics and Metabolic Disorders. Having taken on his responsibilities last winter, he also is encouraged by the enhanced training among the personnel who do pediatric rotations in the Health Science Centerís Department of Pediatrics.

"Iím encouraged by the changes that have come to fruition; clinical and research activities have been enhanced," said Dr. Shapira. "Weíre continuing to grow in the division with new ideas for improving patient care and clinical functions."

The patient database allows clinic staff and physicians "to incorporate information into electronic medical records, which will include typed and dictated input of data," said Dr. Shapira. "We have also implemented pre- and post-clinic care activities, such as clinical genetics conferences, to discuss, diagnose and treat patients."

Dr. Shapira believes that his departmentís work in genetics will expand in the years ahead.

"Genetics is becoming ever more important in treating patient diseases," said Dr. Shapira, who in high school looked at how traits are passed down from one generation to another in a crossbreeding experiment with mice. "We need to continue to evaluate families and individuals for genetic predispositions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, neurologic diseases, Parkinsonís and Alzheimerís."

Dr. Shapira, who teaches third-year medical students and residents in the genetics clinic, knows the use of genetics to treat diseases is in its infancy.

"If someone has a genetic problem, it canít be treated with gene therapy right now," said Dr. Shapira. He notes one example of what can be found today to treat certain genetic disases. "Through a heel-stick blood sample and applying genetics, newborns are tested for PKU (phenylketonuria), a rare, inherited metabolic disease that can cause brain damage and result in mental retardation and other neurological problems when not treated within the first few weeks of life."