UW News

Health and medicine


May 27, 2022

Critical race theory at center of UW study of unequal access to treatment for opioid addiction

Opioid use disorder is an addiction crisis in the United States that has become increasingly lethal during the COVID-19 pandemic. To preserve access to life-saving treatment during the pandemic, federal drug agencies loosened requirements on physicians for treating these patients, including moving patient evaluations away from in-person exams to telemedicine. This federal policy change focused…


May 26, 2022

Video: Alexes Harris draws attention to low representation of people of color in bone marrow registry

Bald woman in hospital bed looking at nurse examining medications beside her

In 2016, Alexes Harris was diagnosed with a rare blood cancer. But a search for a bone marrow donor turned up only five matches, and none ended up being a donor. People of color are underrepresented in the bone marrow registry; according to Be The Match, the nation’s largest bone marrow registry, white people have a 79% chance of finding a match. But a Black person’s potential match is only 29%, and Asian and Latinx people both have about a 47% chance. People of Native American ancestry have a 60% chance of finding a match.


May 7, 2022

Consensus approach proposed to protect human health from intentional and wild forest fires

Prescribed forest fire

All forest fire smoke is bad for people, but not all fires in forests are bad. This is the conundrum faced by experts in forest management and public health: Climate change and decades of fire suppression that have increased fuels are contributing to larger and more intense wildfires and, in order to improve forest health…


May 6, 2022

Model finds COVID-19 deaths among elderly may be due to genetic limit on cell division

Graphic of immune response

Your immune system’s ability to combat COVID-19, like any infection, largely depends on its ability to replicate the immune cells effective at destroying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease. These cloned immune cells cannot be infinitely created, and a key hypothesis of a new University of Washington study is that the body’s ability to…


Four UW researchers elected to the National Academy of Sciences for 2022

Four faculty members at the University of Washington have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences for 2022: Elizabeth Buffalo, professor and chair of physiology and biophysics; Joseph Mougous, professor of microbiology; Dr. Jay Shendure, professor of genome sciences; and James Truman, professor emeritus of biology.


May 3, 2022

UW nursing, midwife experts address abortion issue in light of leaked SCOTUS opinion

Two University of Washington nursing and midwife experts in maternal health have provided the following quotes on the issue of restricting abortion or making it illegal — seen as increasingly likely due to the Supreme Court draft opinion, leaked to Politico on Monday. Molly Altman is an assistant professor in the UW School of Nursing…


Many pathologists agree overdiagnosis of skin cancer happens, but don’t change diagnosis behavior

Doctor Examining Patient

As the most serious type of skin cancer, a melanoma diagnosis carries emotional, financial and medical consequences. That’s why recent studies finding that there is an overdiagnosis of melanoma are a significant cause for concern. “Overdiagnosis is the diagnosis of disease that will not harm a person in their lifetime. If melanoma is being overdiagnosed,…


March 29, 2022

Scientists identify overgrowth of key brain structure in babies who later develop autism

New research from the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) Network, which includes the University of Washington, finds that the amygdala, an area of the brain critical for interpreting emotions, grows too rapidly in infants who go on to develop autism.


March 8, 2022

O-pH, a new UW dental tool prototype, can spot the acidic conditions that lead to cavities

Patient in dental exam

You and your dentist have a lot of tools and techniques for stopping cavities, but detecting the specific chemical conditions that can lead to cavities and then preventing them from ever getting started is much harder. Now, in a new study, University of Washington researchers have shown that a dental tool they created can measure…


February 28, 2022

UW authors in IPCC report emphasize threats to human health and well-being

Two University of Washington experts in climate change and health are lead authors of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The new report titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptations and Vulnerability, published Monday morning, details in over three thousand pages a “dire warning” about the consequences of inaction on reducing…


February 16, 2022

Unexpected findings detailed in new portrait of HIV

Using powerful tools and techniques developed in the field of structural biology, researchers at the University of Washington and Scripps Research have discovered new details about the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV. The findings bring into focus the basic architecture of the virus just above and below its surface and may help in the design and…


February 11, 2022

Smartphone app can vibrate a single drop of blood to determine how well it clots

Close up of a person holding a phone with a plastic attachment that holds a cup under the camera. The person is adding a red solution to the cup.

Researchers at the UW have developed a new blood-clotting test that uses a single drop of blood and a smartphone vibration motor and camera.


February 3, 2022

For the uninsured, crowdfunding provides little help in paying for health care and deepens inequities

New research from the University of Washington shows that people in states with higher medical debt and lower rates of insurance coverage are more likely to try to raise money but less likely to succeed.


January 24, 2022

Fast, cheap test can detect COVID-19 virus’ genome without need for PCR

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a new test for COVID-19 that combines the speed of over-the-counter antigen tests with the accuracy of PCR tests that are processed in medical labs and hospitals. The Harmony COVID-19 test is a diagnostic test that, like PCR tests for COVID-19, detects genetic material from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. But whereas conventional PCR tests can take several hours, the Harmony kit can provide results in less than 20 minutes for some samples and with similar accuracy.


January 13, 2022

UW Pharmacy’s Drug Interaction Database, built to promote medication safety, wins national innovation award

Pills on a table

The UW School of Pharmacy’s Drug Interaction Database — the core research tool from the school’s nonprofit Drug Interaction Solutions team — is celebrating both a national award for innovation and two decades of independent funding through licensing agreements with companies, research institutes and regulatory agencies around the globe.


December 9, 2021

3D imaging method may help doctors better determine prostate cancer aggressiveness

picture of research leads with microscope

A team led by the UW has developed a new, non-destructive method that images entire 3D biopsies instead of a slice for determining prostate cancer aggressiveness. The 3D images provided more information than a 2D image — specifically, details about the tree-like structure of the glands throughout the tissue.


November 17, 2021

A chatbot can help doctors better understand incoming emergency department patients’ social needs

A row of green chairs in a waiting room

A team led by the UW developed a chatbot that could ask emergency department visitors about social needs, including housing, food, access to medical care and physical safety.


October 28, 2021

Countermarketing based on anti-smoking campaigns reduces buying of sugary ‘fruit’ drinks for children

spoonful of sugar with raspberry on top

Public health messages such as in the image below — designed to reduce parents’ purchases of sugar-sweetened beverages marketed as fruit drinks for children — convinced a significant percentage of parents to avoid those drinks, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington and the University of Pennsylvania. The UW-led study set…


October 5, 2021

UW joins USAID’s $125M project to detect emerging viruses with pandemic potential

Showing a bat

To better identify and prevent future pandemics, the University of Washington has become a partner in a five-year global, collaborative agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development. The newly launched Discovery & Exploration of Emerging Pathogens – Viral Zoonoses, or DEEP VZN project, has approximately $125 million in anticipated funding and will be led…


September 23, 2021

Video: Arsenic makes these south Puget Sound fish unsafe to eat

Big mouth bass close up

Researchers at the University of Washington and UW Tacoma have been studying arsenic levels in the mud, water and in creatures from lakes in the south Puget Sound area. Eating contaminated fish or snails from these lakes could lead to health risks.


August 16, 2021

New analysis of landmark scurvy study leads to update on vitamin C needs

It was wartime and food was scarce. Leaders of England’s effort to wage war and help the public survive during World War II needed to know: Were the rations in lifeboats adequate for survival at sea? And, among several experiments important for public as well as military heath, how much vitamin C did a person…


July 26, 2021

Scientists model ‘true prevalence’ of COVID-19 throughout pandemic

US map with states represented by hexagons showing COVID-19 infection fatality rate

Two University of Washington scientists have developed a statistical framework that incorporates key COVID-19 data — such as case counts and deaths due to COVID-19 — to model the true prevalence of this disease in the United States and individual states. Their approach, published the week of July 26 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, projects that in the U.S. as many as 60% of COVID-19 cases went undetected as of March 7, 2021, the last date for which the dataset they employed is available.


July 16, 2021

20 UW researchers elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021

Twenty scientists and engineers at the University of Washington are among the 38 new members elected to the Washington State Academy of Sciences for 2021, according to a July 15 announcement. New members were chosen for “their outstanding record of scientific and technical achievement, and their willingness to work on behalf of the Academy to bring the best available science to bear on issues within the state of Washington.”


July 13, 2021

From ‘distress’ to ‘unscathed’ — mental health of UW students during spring 2020

A table in the living room with a cup of tea, a laptop and a stack of books on top. Behind the table is a couch and a bike

To understand how the UW’s transition to online-only classes affected college students’ mental health in the spring of 2020, UW researchers surveyed 147 UW undergraduates over the 2020 spring quarter.


June 15, 2021

Drug rebates for insurers tied to higher costs for patients, especially the uninsured

Federal agencies that regulate drug pricing and healthcare insurance are concerned that an industry practice of using rebates to lower drug costs for insurers has led to increases in list prices and out-of-pockets costs for patients. To investigate whether patients with or without insurance were paying more because of rebates to insurers, researchers led by…


June 11, 2021

Smartphone camera can illuminate bacteria causing acne, dental plaques

Image of a smartphone that was modified for a scientific experiment.

Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a method that uses smartphone-derived images to reveal potentially harmful bacteria on skin and in oral cavities. Their approach can visually identify microbes on skin contributing to acne and slow wound healing, as well as bacteria in the oral cavity that can cause gingivitis and dental plaques.


May 17, 2021

UW’s Dr. Catherine Karr: ‘Major chronic health problems facing children today’ linked to air pollution

Catherine Karr

With evidence of the health hazards facing children from air pollution growing, The American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday published a policy statement meant to bring those hazards to light and to encourage and direct policy to improve children’s health. Policy co-author Dr. Catherine Karr, a professor in the University of Washington’s School of Public…


May 14, 2021

$38M set of gifts from Ballmer Group to address behavioral health crisis aims to bolster workforce, resources across Washington through UW-led programs

big green trees frame an empty bench

The University of Washington today announced that the School of Social Work and Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and the Behavioral Health Institute at Harborview Medical Center are part of a transformational $38 million set of gifts from Ballmer Group to support a broad, collaborative response to the state’s behavioral health crisis. The gifts aim to address the state of Washington’s serious workforce shortage in the community behavioral health system, in large part by supporting statewide education and training innovations at partner institutions developed through the University of Washington.


April 30, 2021

UW’s new Mobile Health & Outreach Van will serve community and student experience

People around medical van

Getting basic health care to medically underserved populations in Seattle, while providing real-world experience for students hoping to practice in a health care field, takes wheels. Now, through a student-led, interdisciplinary effort by health science departments at the University of Washington, those “wheels” — on the new UW Mobile Health & Outreach Van — are ready.


April 13, 2021

Vaccines debate: ‘Escape variants’ of the coronavirus are a serious future threat

gloved hand holds vial of vaccine

With COVID-19 cases on the rise again in many parts of the country — including Washington state where three counties were pushed back to Phase 2 effective Friday — there’s a growing debate between continuing to give both doses of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines close together, or giving them months apart in order to get…


April 7, 2021

Perinatal patients, nurses explain how hospital pandemic policies failed them

Pregnant person

With a lethal, airborne virus spreading fast, hospitals had to change how they treated patients and policies for how caregivers provided that treatment. But for maternity patients and nurses some of those changes had negative outcomes, according to a new University of Washington study. “We found that visitor restrictions and separation policies were harming families…


March 19, 2021

‘A turning point’: UW Population Health Initiative’s pandemic grants changed how the university works

Rainier horizon

A year ago, seemingly overnight, streets emptied, shops boarded up, grocery shelves were cleared, schools closed and the University of Washington led universities nationwide in moving all instruction online. Nearly all of us disappeared inside, stunned and staring out at a world suddenly paralyzed by something we’d only seen in movies or read about in books:…


March 9, 2021

Dr. Anne McTiernan releases memoir, ‘Cured: A Doctor’s Journey from Panic to Peace’

Balancing motherhood and medical school is a challenge, but panic attacks and memories of childhood trauma make the path all the more difficult. With therapy, Dr. Anne McTiernan found her way through. Now she discusses her experiences in an intimate memoir, “Cured: A Doctor’s Journey from Panic to Peace.”


February 25, 2021

Q&A: Race, medicine and the future power of genetic ancestry

Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine that they “do not believe that ignoring race will reduce health disparities” but rather that “such an approach is a form of naive ‘color blindness’ that is more likely to perpetuate and potentially exacerbate disparities,” five Black geneticists set out to explain the pitfalls of leaving race…


February 22, 2021

Effective treatment for insomnia delivered in a few short phone calls

Person holding phone

Insomnia — trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up too early — is a common condition in older adults. Sleeplessness can be exacerbated by osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis causing joint pain. While there are effective therapies for treating insomnia in older adults, many people cannot get the treatment they need because…


February 10, 2021

List of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists includes seven from UW

collage of portraits

Seven University of Washington scientists are included in Cell Mentor’s list of 1,000 inspiring Black scientists, published in December 2020. Cell Mentor is a collaborative resource between Cell Press and Cell Signaling Technology.


February 5, 2021

To counter health impacts of racism, UW School of Nursing establishing Center for Antiracism in Nursing

Systemic racism has for generations undermined the health of individuals and communities across America, a public health crisis that has made the pandemic even more deadly and destructive for people of color. Recognizing that nurses play a central role in and hold major responsibility for the health of individuals and communities hit hard by historic…


January 31, 2021

Bleeding gums may be a sign you need more vitamin C in your diet

fruit orange

Current advice from the American Dental Association tells you that if your gums bleed, make sure you are brushing and flossing twice a day because it could be a sign of gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal disease. And that might be true. So if you are concerned, see your dentist. However, a new University…


January 26, 2021

Anti-poverty policies can reduce reports of child neglect

parents with young child walking in a park

A University of Washington study analyzes how a state’s refundable Earned Income Tax Credit can lead to fewer reports of child neglect, by reducing the financial stress on families.


January 12, 2021

New treatment allows some people with spinal cord injury to regain hand and arm function

A hand picking up a tiny bead

Using physical therapy combined with a noninvasive method of stimulating nerve cells in the spinal cord, University of Washington researchers helped six Seattle area participants regain some hand and arm mobility.



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