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The UNC School of Medicine’s 2021 Annual Research Report demonstrates the breadth of exceptional research and is a compilation of the most noteworthy 1-2 research highlights over the past year provided by each department. Janet Rubin, MD, vice chair for research in the department of medicine contributed the following to recognize the high impact work of several medicine faculty.

Victor Garcia, MD, Angela Wahl, PhD, and Seth Berkowitz, MD.

As we all desperately await a way to treat COVID-19, beyond prevention, the following publication has metrics that are incredible (following February publication, by December 2021 it had been accessed >107K times with a >1700 Altimetric).

Using Victor Garcia, PhD’s humanized mouse model, Angela Wahl, PhD, led the work in the Nature publication, “SARS-CoV-2 infection is effectively treated and prevented by EIDD-2801.” The study used immunodeficient mice implanted with human lung tissue to show that the antiviral agent EIDD-2801 efficiently inhibited SARS-CoV-2 replication in the lung post infection, as was also effective as pre-exposure prophylactic treatment. Kudos to the team! For a more nuanced experience, readers are referred to Dr. Garcia’s marvelous DOM Grand Rounds available on line: “The COVID-19 Pandemic: A View From the Bench.”

A second highly significant paper is from our Division of General Internal Medicine. Led by Seth Berkowitz, MD, MPH, “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Participation and Health Care Use in Older Adults : A Cohort Study” published in Annals of Internal Medicine concerns a specific, and growing group in the US, seniors who are not only using Medicare, but also Medicaid, a program which serves low income families. These seniors, who have high rates of health care use, also have issues with nutrition. While they are eligible for nutrition assistance from SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), they frequently don’t participate in programs. Dr. Berkowitz’s group examined data from these federal programs to estimate how gaining food assistance affected use of medical resources: they found that participation in SNAP was associated with ~25% fewer inpatient admissions and lower health care costs (~$2400). This data should convince us that small outlays in nutrition assistance can substantially improve the health of senior Americans.

Janet Rubin, MD
Vice Chair for Research
Department of Medicine