Don’t Let the Flu Sneak Up on You – Get Your Flu Shot Now

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 24, 2015

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that the 2015-2016 flu season, which begins in October and typically peaks during December to February, is off to a slow start. Still, health officials at the CDC warn that the slow start doesn’t mean that we won’t see a jump in flu activity later in the season. So take advantage of the lull in flu activity and get your flu shot now – it’s the most effective way to prevent illness due to influenza.

Have questions about flu vaccination? We have answers to some of most common questions and concerns.

  • Five Reasons to Get Your Flu Shot – The flu is more serious than you may realize. According to a study by the CDC, more than 200,000 people in the United States, on average, are hospitalized each year for illnesses associated with seasonal influenza virus infections. Certain adults are at higher risk for serious illness and complications from the flu. Read about four more reasons to get your flu shot this year.
  • Sorting Out Your Choices for Flu Vaccination – Trivalent or quadrivalent? Injection versus nasal spray? High dose versus standard dose? Today, you have many options when it comes to choosing a flu vaccine. Learn about the options and how to choose a flu vaccine for yourself or members of your family.
  • Confused about Flu Vaccination? Get the Flu Facts. – Do you know why you need a flu vaccine every year and what’s the best time to get vaccinated? (Hint – it’s not too late to get your flu shot for this flu season.) Read on to get the flu facts and then take a brief quiz to test your knowledge of flu facts.
  • Vaccinations – Not Just for Kids, Adults Need Them Too! – Remember, you need more than a flu vaccine to stay healthy. The CDC also recommends that adults receive periodic vaccines to protect against pneumonia, bacterial meningitis, shingles, hepatitis A and B, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and other illnesses. Review the list of CDC recommendations and talk to your health care provider.

Visit for more information about flu vaccination and where you can get a flu vaccine.


TEDMED 2015: Breaking Through to Create a Healthier World

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 20, 2015


Brigham and Women’s Hospital sponsored the Innovation Lounge at TEDMED 2015.

Technology: implantable electronics as an alternative to medication in treating serious illness.

Entertainment: adapting the rules of improvisational acting to help caregivers interact with Alzheimer’s patients.

Design: transforming trash and sewage into clean drinking water through the creation of a novel water purification plant.

What do these topics have in common? They were among the fifty presentations made at the annual TEDMED conference, exploring how technology, entertainment and design are transforming health and medicine.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) was an innovation sponsor at the 2015 TEDMED conference. This year’s conference focused on how visionary physicians, researchers and performing artists are breaking through the status quo to create a healthier world.

Several speakers with connections to BWH also were among the featured speakers:

  • Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, is the U.S. Surgeon General. Prior to his appointment in 2014, Dr. Murthy was a physician at BWH. Dr. Murthy discussed how happiness can help people lead healthier, more fulfilling lives. He cited research that shows happiness can lead to improvements in many health measures, such as heart rate and inflammation levels. He also recounted a recent visit to a San Francisco middle school that has been able to boost self-reported happiness levels among its teachers and students through the use of meditation. Since beginning the program, the school has seen reductions in school violence and lower absenteeism rates among faculty. Read more about the program.
  • Suzy Brown, MD, MS, is a former BWH intern and resident in internal medicine. She currently practices at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as a heart failure specialist. Dr. Brown is also a musician who performs with her songwriter husband, Scott Sax. Dr. Brown has discovered that being a musician helps her manage the demanding emotional aspects of treating patients with heart failure.
  • Thomas H. Lee, MD, is a practicing internist/cardiologist at BWH. Dr. Lee is exploring how to deliver compassionate patient care through empathy in order to reduce patient suffering. Dr. Lee has previously written about reducing patient suffering in the New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Sangeeta Bhatia, MD, PhD is a biomedical engineer at BWH and MIT. Dr. Bhatia’s laboratory is adapting technologies developed in the computer industry for medical applications such as tissue regeneration, stem cell differentiation, medical diagnostics and drug delivery. Read more about her transformative work.

Presentations from TEDMED 2015 will be available for viewing over the coming months. In the meantime, we hope you’ll be inspired to look for creative ways to improve health in your home, office, or community. As Dr. Murthy noted, complex problems don’t always require complex solutions.

– Jamie R.

Partners HealthCare Biobank – Advancing Personalized Medicine

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 19, 2015

20140404; Friday, April 4, 2014, Boston, MA, USA; Partners HealthCare Biobank leaders Susan A. Slaugenhaupt, MD, and Elizabeth Wood Karlson, MD, talk about the promise of the Biobank project in Dr. Slaugenhaupt's lab space inside the Massachusetts General Hospital Simches Research Building Friday morning April 4, 2014. background: "The Partners HealthCare Biobank is a large research program designed to help researchers understand how people’s health is affected by their genes, lifestyle, and environment. The Biobank collects and maintain samples and information from individuals who receive their care at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital. These materials will be used in research to better understand many different diseases." ~ adapted from Partners website Partners HealthCare annual report project with Hill Holliday ( 2014 © lightchaser photography )

Partners HealthCare Biobank leaders Dr. Elizabeth W. Karlson (left) and Dr. Susan A. Slaugenhaupt.

The Partners HealthCare Biobank is a program designed to help researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and other Partners HealthCare institutions understand how people’s health is affected by their genes, lifestyle, and environment.

By understanding a patient’s genetic makeup, physicians can screen more aggressively for diseases that their patients are predisposed to and develop plans to reduce the chances of developing specific diseases. Ultimately, the goal is to define and classify subgroups of patients based on how they respond to certain treatments, which will help physicians choose the best medications for individuals. This is known as personalized medicine.

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Smoking:  When It Comes to Quitting, One Size Does Not Fit All

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 17, 2015


If you smoke, get ready for all sorts of “quit now” messages, as this year’s annual Great American Smokeout is November 19. That said, if you’re one of the majority of smokers who wants to quit, these messages can seem simplistic and frustrating.

Tobacco/nicotine dependence is what you have, and this addiction is a chronic condition that may require several courses of intervention before you’re cured. And there are numerous approaches to smoking cessation, some of which have a scientific base, and some of which don’t.

In an interview with Dr. Jennifer Haas, an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who has conducted federally-funded research on smoking cessation, Dr. Haas provides an expert view on what works and why it can work for any individual who is motivated to quit (MTQ) or even cut down.

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Surgery Options for Gynecologic Cancers

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 12, 2015

Colleen M. Feltmate, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery in Gynecologic Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Michael G. Muto, MD, gynecologic oncologist, performed the first robotic radical hysterectomy in New England in September of 2006.

Drs. Colleen Feltmate and Michael Muto performed the first robotic radical hysterectomy in New England.

For many women with gynecologic cancers, surgery is often the first line of defense. Colleen Feltmate, MD, Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery in Gynecologic Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC), explains surgical options to treat these gynecologic cancers.

Minimally Invasive vs. Open Surgeries

Minimally invasive surgery, or laparoscopy, is increasingly used to treat gynecologic cancers, often with the assistance of a robot. Robotic surgery can give surgeons improved control and precision during intricate procedures, and requires only a few small incisions, as opposed to larger, open surgeries.

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Every Second Counts – Diagnosing and Treating Acute Aortic Syndrome

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 10, 2015

Acute aortic syndrome is a serious heart condition where the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the rest of the body.

Acute aortic syndrome is a serious heart condition that affects the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the rest of the body.

Acute aortic syndrome is a serious heart condition where the aorta, the main blood vessel that supplies blood to the rest of the body, malfunctions due to a tear (dissection), bleeding in the wall of the aorta (a hematoma), or an ulceration. Acute aortic syndromes are life-threatening and require immediate medical care. Statistics suggest that the risk of mortality increases quickly after the onset of an acute aortic dissection, so rapid diagnosis and treatment is critical.

Acute aortic syndromes occur in two groups of people. Most tend to be older people (65 years+) who have conditions such as high blood pressure or atherosclerosis. Another group is younger patients who may have a genetic predisposition, such as a connective tissue disorder like Marfan syndrome, or have experienced trauma. In cases where a patient has a genetic predisposition, physicians may recommend that family members also undergo screening and genetic testing to assess their risk of developing an acute aortic syndrome.

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Impact of Precision Medicine on Health Care

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 5, 2015


Identifying the most important mutations in cancer cells can help to develop targeted therapies.

The goal of precision medicine is to gather, analyze, and synthesize information about a person’s genes, proteins, microbes, environment, and health and combine this with data from the medical literature, clinical trials, and population health studies, to predict, prevent, and treat diseases for individual patients and populations of patients.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are applying precision medicine concepts to three areas to improve patient care.

  • Cancer: Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) has been a leader in research to systematically test large numbers of mutations and identify the genetic culprits in cancer cells. This genetic information can help determine the best way to care for cancer patients by using targeted therapies to attack tumor cells with specific abnormalities.

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Testosterone Therapy’s Effect on the Heart and Quality of Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 3, 2015


Taking testosterone may not improve men’s sexual function or quality of life.

Recent Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) research has found that testosterone use among men doesn’t appear to increase their risk of developing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), a condition that can lead to severe cardiovascular diseases. The same study, however, also found that these same men failed to realize the quality of life benefits that are often the primary goals of testosterone therapy.

Testosterone, a hormone primarily secreted by the testicles, plays a key role not only in male reproductive tissues, but also in muscle growth, bone mass, and metabolism. As men get older, their testosterone levels naturally decline – an average of one percent a year after age 40. In an attempt to counter this natural decline, an increasing number of men over the past decade have turned to testosterone therapy.

Although previous studies aimed at examining rates of adverse cardiovascular events in men taking testosterone have produced conflicting results, concerns remain that testosterone therapy might increase a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke. BWH investigators developed the Testosterone’s Effects on Atherosclerosis Progression in Aging Men (TEAAM) trial to explore whether there is link between testosterone use and atherosclerosis, a critical risk factor for heart attack and stroke. The three-year study found that administering testosterone to older men (over 60) with low to low normal testosterone levels had no effect on the progression of hardening of the arteries, but also did not significantly improve sexual function or health-related quality of life.

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A New Frontier of Newborn Care: Understanding Brain Development in Preterm Babies

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 29, 2015

One in nine babies in the U.S. is born prematurely.

One in nine babies in the United States is born prematurely. Thanks to innovations in medical care, more than 90 percent of these babies survive. However, nearly half of preterm infants may be at risk for learning problems later in life. Dr. Terrie Inder, Chair of the Department of Pediatric Newborn Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), is working to overcome this challenge.

Dr. Inder, who is dual-trained in pediatric neurology and neonatology, is expanding BWH research programs to study newborn brain development. One area of her research is the use of brain imaging to predict the likelihood of future learning problems. In 25 percent of preterm babies, Dr. Inder explains, brain imaging mirrors that of full-term babies, indicating a low risk for the development of learning problems. However, in about 20 percent of preterm babies, researchers see changes in brain imaging that suggest an increased risk for learning problems later in life. Based on these findings, additional therapy and support services may be recommended to positively influence brain development.

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What Is the DNA Damage Response?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 27, 2015

Stephen J. Elledge, PhD

Stephen J. Elledge, PhD

Stephen J. Elledge, PhD, is a co-recipient of the 2015 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award for discoveries that have illuminated the DNA damage response. Learn more about DNA damage response and Dr. Elledge’s contributions to this area of study.

Our DNA is under constant threat of damage from a variety of physical and chemical sources. From the natural byproducts created when we digest food to ultraviolet light from the sun, a multitude of factors can react with our DNA and cause chemical changes. Some risk factors for DNA damage – such as smoking cigarettes – can be eliminated, but others cannot.

If left unchecked, chemical changes to DNA can have severe health consequences, leading to cancer and other diseases related to cell growth. If detected, damaged DNA can be repaired by molecular tools within cells that can remove or restore the damaged portion of DNA. The DNA damage response (DDR) refers to the pathway that senses DNA damage and sets in motion the needed steps to repair and protect DNA.

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