Top FoMD News Stories of 2017

Celebrating the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry's top newsmakers of the year

Ross Neitz - 21 December 2017

As 2017 comes to a close we look back at the news and newsmakers that helped elevate the reputation of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry both in Canada and around the world.

From research revealing how pets could lower your baby's risk of allergies and obesity, to a new and improved method of treating C. difficile, to important insights into the usefulness and accuracy of home blood pressure monitors, faculty members have left a lasting mark on the world's health over the past year.

Here is a look back at our top 10 stories to hit the news in 2017:

1.New York Daily News: Having a dog could lower your baby's risk of allergies and obesity

There may be another reason to adopt a puppy besides the guaranteed adorable presence-raising babies with pets boosts immunity and helps prevent allergies and obesity, says a new University of Alberta study. Researchers found there is more bacteria diversity in homes with a dog or cat, said pediatric epidemiologist Anita Kozyrskyj.

2. The New York Times: Come On In. The Water's Fine (Mostly)

A team of scientists at the U of A has devised a new way to estimate the amount of urine in a pool by measuring levels of an artificial sweetener commonly present in people's urine. Lindsay Blackstock, a graduate student who helped Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology professor Xing-Fang Li lead the study, is quoted.

3. Reuters Health: Home blood pressure monitors may not be accurate enough

Even as doctors are increasingly relying on home blood pressure monitoring to manage patients with hypertension, many of the devices are too inaccurate to be useful, according to a small study. About 70 per cent of the time, home monitors weren't accurate within 5 mmHg, which is considered clinically important, researchers say. And 30 per cent of the time the devices were 10 mmHg off the mark. U of A associate professor of medicine Jennifer Ringrose led the study.

4. The Globe and Mail: AI company that conquered Go game opens office in Edmonton

One of the world's best known companies in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) is setting up shop in Alberta. DeepMind Technologies Ltd., a U.K. firm that was acquired by Google in 2014 and is now part of Google's parent company Alphabet Inc., announced it is establishing a satellite research office in Edmonton, a key hub for AI in Canada. Three U of A professors will lead the effort, including Patrick Pilarski, whose work focuses on applying artificial intelligence to rehabilitative medicine.

5. National Post: Capsule for fecal transplant as good as colonoscopy to treat C. difficile: study

A Canadian study led by Dina Kao, associate professor of medicine at the U of A, has found that a fecal transplant for treating clostridium difficile in the gut is effective whether it's delivered by colonoscopy or by swallowing a capsule.

6. CBC News: Respiratory problems affect 1 in 5 firefighters after Fort McMurray wildfire

Nearly a year after a wildfire devastated Fort McMurray, many firefighters who worked to save the city are facing lingering health problems, according to preliminary findings of new research. The U of A study found one in five of the 355 firefighters surveyed reported persistent respiratory issues including coughing, breathlessness, wheezing and chest tightness.

7. National Post: Canadian synthesizes a better smallpox vaccine-just in case terrorists bring the disease back

Even though smallpox was eradicated 37 years ago, Canadian researcher David Evans has just unveiled what promises to be a better, safer version of the 221-year-old smallpox vaccine.

8. CTV News: University of Alberta doctors raise alarm about rare coyote tapeworm in humans

Infectious disease expert Stan Houston warns of a rare tapeworm that, until recently, hadn't been seen in humans in Canada since the 1920s.

9. National Post: Youth depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts reduced as result of University of Alberta pilot program

A pilot program held in Red Deer between 2013 and 2015 could help Alberta students improve their mental health for a cost of about $150 per student every year, says U of A psychiatry professor Peter Silverstone.

10. Edmonton Journal: University of Alberta opens cutting-edge radiation therapy training facility

The U of A's fledgling radiation therapy program celebrated a major milestone Tuesday by officially opening a unique training facility touted to be the next best thing to delivering real cancer treatment.