Rural medicine, Down syndrome programs receive federal support

By Staff

Several programs of the University of Colorado School of Medicine, including efforts to bolster rural health care and to research Down syndrome, got a recent boost from the omnibus federal spending bill.

"Down syndrome research and rural health care are areas of real need in Colorado, the nation and around the world," said M. Roy Wilson, M.D., M.S., University of Colorado Denver chancellor. "We are grateful to our federal lawmakers for helping us make the case for the importance of continued funding in these areas, which are crucial to the health and wellness of citizens in our own backyard and around the globe."

The School of Medicine's rural track is in line for $575,000. The program is designed to address the shortage of physicians for Colorado's rural population by increasing the number of doctors and improving health care in rural areas.

"The rural track, in its fifth year, now costs about a quarter of a million dollars a year," said Mark Deutchman, M.D., the program's director. "This is a substantial step for a growing program."

The money will be used for students in the rural track — now about 10 percent of the medical school — and to provide rural-medicine experience for all medical school students.

The rural health-care problem is serious in Colorado. In 2007, no active licensed physicians lived in Bent or Washington counties, according to the Colorado Health Institute. Three other counties — San Juan, Mineral and Costilla — had one active licensed physician each. Fewer than five active licensed physicians lived in each of 10 other rural counties.

The Linda Crnic Institute for Down Syndrome (LCI) at the University of Colorado School of Medicine will receive $1.5 million, thanks to the recently signed federal omnibus bill. Sens. Michael Bennet and Mark Udall and Reps. Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis led the effort with the support of the Colorado delegation.

The work of the LCI aims to eradicate the ill effects on cognitive function in people with Down syndrome. LCI researchers will break new ground and use a new model to bring researchers in a variety of disciplines together with clinical providers. Day-to-day challenges in patient care will be communicated to researchers and, conversely, emerging research opportunities in the laboratory will be conveyed to clinicians and clinician-researchers.

The $1.5 million, restricted to the sole support of LCI, will include buying medical laboratory equipment needed to conduct research on Down syndrome with the goals of understanding the biological basis for cognitive deficits and discovering effective new treatments.

The faculty will focus on the full spectrum of activities needed for success: basic research, clinical research and clinical care and treatment of children, adolescents and adults with Down syndrome.

The economic impact of the Institute could extend to the discovery of new treatments, pharmaceuticals and procedures for restoration of neural function in individuals affected by a host of developmental brain disorders, most notable Down syndrome.