UI College of Medicine holds annual Health Research Week


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The University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine celebrated the 25th anniversary of its Health Sciences Research Week, kicking it off with Stanford and Yale-educated speaker Kenneth Kendler.
Kendler spoke at Medical Educational & Research Facility  to medical students and faculty Tuesday afternoon. He was one of three lecturers for the week.

Kendler discussed the genetic relationships that occur between psychiatric disorders such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

“Right now, there are indirect implications [with this knowledge and the mental-health community],” Kendler said. “There could be direct implications. It’s too early to tell.”

He said he has been working on this type of research since 1978.

Kendler, the director of the Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral Genetics, did not attend the UI; however, both his parents did, and he was named after Kenneth Spence, a former head of the UI Psychology Department.

Kendler said it is important for the medical community, and the general public, to look at mental illnesses in the new light the research has cast on it, because it tends to be a misunderstood issue.

“Certainly, there has been an increase in interest in psychiatric disorders,” he said. “We want to reduce the stigma and also the misbelief that disorders are a result of poverty or weakness — they are common.”

UI Hospitals and Clinics spokesman Tom Moore said the research week is an annual event that aims to help people’s curiosity involved in medical research.

“Research is a dynamic field,” he said. “[The research week] provides an opportunity for those who are interested to learn more about a field or who wish to see more about a field they are interested in.”

The event does not cost anything for the Carver College of Medicine.

Donna Hammond, executive associate dean for the college, said the week has been such a success over the years because of the collaboration it fosters among medical peers.

“It is such a collaborative environment,” she said. “The level of collegiality is not matched anywhere else. [The week of events] held the fabric of culture in the medical school.”

Two more speakers — Andrew Feinberg, who will present a lecture on the basis of epigenetics of diseases, and H. Sebastian Seung, who will discuss the relationship between EyeWire and the retinal connectome — will give their lectures today.

Moore said the research week aims to feature a variety of speakers present, because of the diversity in medical research today.

“There are numerous new topics to discuss,” he said. “We’ve always had many different types of speakers.”

The UI has been a leader in research for many years, and U.S. News and World Report recognized the research achievements accomplished by the medical school in 2013, ranking the UI No. 28 for having the best research center in the country, just behind the Mayo Clinic.

Although he can only speak for his expertise area, Kendler said, he believes the UI Department of Psychiatry is a leader in research in the country.

“Some of the best early studies that have been done [regarding my research] have been done here,” he said. “I only know of my area of psychiatry, but they do an excellent job in research.”

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