UCSD professor named to Time list of influential people in health care

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A UC San Diego epidemiologist was named today to Time magazine's 2018 list of the 50 most influential people in health care.

Dr. Steffanie Strathdee, associate dean of global health sciences at UCSD's School of Medicine, was recognized for her successful efforts last year to keep her husband, psychiatry professor Tom Patterson, from dying due to a drug-resistant bacterial infection the World Health Organization classifies as the world's deadliest.

Strathdee urged the team of scientists and doctors to use an experimental treatment for the infection using bacteriophages -- small viruses that act as parasites to bacteria by infecting and neutralizing them.

"It's a great honor to be recognized for my efforts to bring phage therapy into the 21st century in North America, but it all started with my single-minded desire to save my husband's life, and it truly reflects a team effort," Strathdee said.

The magazine's list honors people who "have changed the state of healthcare in America this year, and bear watching for what they do next."

Patterson was the first American patient with a systemic infection to receive bacteriophage treatment, according to Robert "Chip" Schooley, the lead doctor on Patterson's treatment team. UCSD Health doctors have since treated five more patients with bacteriophages. Doctors cleared a patient of a years-long, chronic infection this year using the treatment, allowing the patient to receive a life-saving heart transplant, officials said.

All six treatment regimens required emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

"The saga of Tom's remarkable recovery -- and the incredible efforts of UC San Diego Health doctors and scientists, led by Steffanie and Chip, was a real-life medical drama," said UCSD Vice Chancellor of Health Sciences Dr. David Brenner. "There are few places in the world with the resources, talented people and collaborative spirit required to do what was done here, to save a man's life when every other tool of modern medicine was failing."

The UCSD School of Medicine founded the center for Innovative Phage Applications and Therapeutics in June with the help of a three-year, $1.2 million grant from university Chancellor Pradeep Khosla. Strathdee and Schooley co-direct the center, the first of its kind in North America.

"IPATH builds upon what we've learned and will apply rigorous principles that span from bench to bedside to better understand the potential role for phage therapeutics in the treatment of patients with infections that cannot successfully be treated with currently available antibiotics," Strathdee said.

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