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Innovations in Research & Patient Care

UM Research Breakthroughs of the Past Decade

  • 2011 – Faculty sequence the genome of the E. coli that caused a deadly European outbreak. Their work is done so quickly it is published as the outbreak continues, marking a new age of efficiency and speed in genomics technology.
  • 2011 – The School of Medicine is one of only two universities to collaborate with IBM on developing a groundbreaking artificial intelligence technology known as Watson, evaluating its potential applications in the field of medicine.
  • 2011 – Faculty publish articles detailing their leadership role in unraveling the science behind the deadly anthrax attacks of 2001. Their work began the emerging field of forensic genomics.
  • 2011 – Faculty find that low-intensity exercise improves walking for Parkinson’s disease patients. They also begin a study evaluating low-impact exercise and computerized memory training for improving and preserving memory in these patients.
  • 2010 – Faculty surgeons complete the world’s first robotically assisted, minimally invasive aortic valve bypass surgery.
  • 2010 – Researchers discover that bitter taste receptors are located in the smooth muscle of the bronchus in the lungs; additional investigation explored bitter substances to activate these receptors as a means to treat asthma and COPD.
  • 2010 – Faculty member invented a device called the GammaPod, which could eliminate traditional surgery and radiation for women with early-stage breast cancer.
  • 2009 – Researchers complete the genomic sequencing of the human rhinoviruses (common colds) and assemble them into a “family tree,” showing the commonalities and differences.
  • 2009 – Physicians use a new, smaller artificial lung device,   developed at the UMSOM, allowing the patient to remain active while awaiting a lung transplant; first time device was used in a patient in the U.S.
  • 2009 – Faculty surgeons perform four-way kidney transplant surgery on patients from four states; first time single-incision laparoscopic surgery was used in multiple kidney exchange.
  • 2008 – Researchers discover gene mutation that appears to help prevent cardiovascular disease by significantly reducing triglycerides in the blood.
  • 2008 – Researchers pinpoint key receptor in Celiac Disease, called CXR3; key gluten receptor in the intestine opens the gateway through which gluten enters the body and triggers a faulty immune response in celiac patients.
  • 2007 – Developed a marker that identifies energy-producing centers in nerve cells, which provides a tool to track brain cell metabolic changes.
  • 2007 – Discovered that cocaine exposure in an animal model causes permanent damage to a part of the brain responsible for judgment and learning new behaviors.
  • 2006 – Discovered that the effectiveness of beta blockers in patients with chronic heart failure depends on the genetic makeup of receptors in the heart.
  • 2006 – Discovered a fat hormone called omentin that may explain the link between obesity and a person’s likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes.
  • 2005 – The first in the U.S. to combine minimally-invasive heart bypass surgery and stented angioplasty at the same time.

Historical Milestones


  • First removal of an ovary by laparotomy.


  • First division of the recti muscles of the eye to correct strabismus.


  • First medical school in US to build its own hospital for clinical instruction.
  • World's first removal of the parotid gland.
  • First successful removal of a uterine cervix from female patient in US/Great Britain.


  • First treatise on eye disease in America.


  • First course in the nation on hygiene or preventive medicine.
  • Created anterior leg splint for fracture of the lower extremities .


  • First textbook on preventive medicine written.
  • World’s first successful second Caesarean operation on the same patient.


  • First systematic monograph on febrile illness in America.


  • Initial report of chemical changes in blood produced by disease.
  • First American medical school to make anatomical dissection compulsory.


  • Initial use of microscope in America for diagnosis of cancer.
  • First application of exfoliative biopsy for diagnosis of cancer.


  • Initial report of scleroderma in the U.S.


  • First chair of gynecology and pediatrics ("Diseases of Women & Children") in the nation established.


  • First chair in the nation for diseases of the eye & ear.


  • First confirmation that electrical stimulation of the human cortex on one side stimulates the muscles on the opposite side of the body.


  • Initial treatise on leprosy in Baltimore.


  • First description of blastomycosis.


  • First experimentally induced case of yellow fever.


  • Discovery of Wright’s stain.


  • First description of a new disease, histoplasmosis.


  • Use of splenomegaly as index of severity and extent of malaria in population group.


  • Nation’s first rural crippled children’s clinic organized.


  • Initial clinical report of a pheochromocytoma diagnosed successfully & cured surgically.


  • Index case of murine typhus fever which led to rickettsial isolation in rats & fleas.


  • Initial detection and clinical report of disseminated histoplasmosis (Darling’s Disease) in Maryland


  • Initial catherization of renal and hepatic veins in humans; pioneering studies of normal hepatic circulation and in disease states


  • Development of new simplified technique for cultivation of tubercle bacilli


  • Initial therapeutic cure of scrub typhus fever; first demonstration of successful active chemoprophylaxis.
  • First successful specific antibiotic treatment of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
  • Initial specific therapeutic cure of typhoid fever.


  • Pioneer in the use of epidemiologic methods in the etiologic study of chronic diseases.
  • Initial convincing publication establishing the relationship of cancer and cigarette smoking.
  • World’s first ER diagnosis of traumatic pericardial effusion using echocardiography.


  • First successful treatment of septicemic and pneumonic plague with broad spectrum antibiotics given orally.


  • Initial clinical report of low-dose insulin regimen for treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis.


  • Clarification of pathogenesis of hypocalcemia during magnesium deficiency.


  • Clarification of role of endotoxin in typhoid fever and other gram-negative infections.


  • Clarification of role of catecholamines and their metabolites in hyper- and hypothyroidism.


  • Demonstration of androgenic stimulation of secretion of growth hormone at puberty.


  • Discovery of new children’s disease affecting the central nervous system, CoA Transferase deficiency.


  • Initial report of visualization of rickettsia in skin tissues using the immunofluorescence (IF) technique.


  • First to show that E. coli could cause diarrhea in humans by more than mechanism.


  • Developed microwave scalpel which would inhibit bleeding during critical operations.


  • First genetically engineered cholera vaccine tested.
  • Discovered the plant steroid ouabain in the human circulatory system.


  • Developed beta interferon to alter the course of multiple sclerosis


  • Developed Copolymer1 for mild to moderate forms of multiple sclerosis


  • Developed two new surgical procedures for treatment of severe diffuse emphysema.
  • Led study that resulted in FDA approval of Prostacyclin for treatment of primary pulmonary hypertension.
  • Introduced non-surgical procedure to treat patients with inoperable brain aneurysms.


  • Performed the most laparoscopic kidney removals from living kidney donors in the world


  • Cancer researchers discover why some cases of breast cancer may be resistant to chemotherapy.
  • Some types of fat associated with reduced stroke in men.
  • Rotavirus vaccine found to be effective in poor countries.
  • Vitamins C & E temporarily block some harmful effects of high-fat meals.
  • First in Maryland to implant an electrical device, called the vagus nerve stimulator, that helps control epileptic seizures in people not helped by medication.


  • First in the United States to open the most technologically advanced, all-digital nuclear medicine facility featuring state-of-the-art, real-time diagnostic images of organs as they function.
  • Pioneered development of high-dose chemotherapy treatments for slow-growing cancers.


  • Developed first blood test to detect the enzyme telomerase, which can indicate the early spread of lung cancer.
  • Performed more kidney transplants than any other medical center in the U.S., and became the second largest center for pancreas transplant.
  • Discovered first clear link between autism and gastrointestinal disorders.
  • Developed a successful blood cleansing procedure to enable people on kidney dialysis to receive a kidney transplant without fear of immediate rejection.


  • Discovered receptor in the brain that is key to understanding the blood-brain barrier - the nearly impenetrable interface between the bloodstream and the brain.
  • First to offer new treatment for inoperable liver cancer, TheraSphere, a therapy that uses microscopic glass beads to deliver radiation directly to tumors.
  • Introduced Intensity Modulated Arc Therapy (IMAT), which delivers a higher, more uniform concentration of radiation that attacks tumors while sparing surrounding organs and tissues.
  • Discovered genetic biomarker for earlier diagnosis of cancer of the esophagus that may lead to better, more effective treatment.
  • Developed an edible vaccine in the form of a genetically engineered potato that delivers protection against E. coli, a common cause of fatal diarrhea in children around the world


  • Center for Vaccine Development determines that existing smallpox vaccine can be diluted in order to drastically increase the number of available doses


  • University of Maryland Center for Vaccine Development is first to test the safety of a new genetically engineered vaccine for anthrax. 
  • Opened the nation’s most technologically advanced surgical facility. The “OR of the Future” combines the latest in video and information technology in 19 new operating rooms in order to provide the best possible care by enhancing patient safety and operational efficiency.
  • First U.S. medical center to use Statscan, a new, low-dose X-ray scanner that provides full body images in 13 seconds. Located in the medical center’s Shock Trauma Center, it is used to rapidly evaluate severely injured patients, when every minute counts.
  • Among nation’s first medical centers to repair “wide-neck” brain aneurysms with a new   stent/coiling technique, providing a non-surgical option to help more people with life-threatening brain aneurysms. 
  • Participated in a landmark, federally sponsored study to evaluate the use of lung volume reduction surgery as a treatment for severe emphysema.


  • In what may be a major breakthrough in understanding interstitial cystitis, Dr. Susan Keay completed the first total description of a toxin that is found in the urine of 95 percent of patients with the chronic painful bladder disorder. Her study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
  • Researchers in the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science found that parts of the brain can be trained to take over damaged areas, and that a specialized rehab program for stroke patients that involves repetitive, simultaneous movement of both arms, activates new pathways in the brain. Two-thirds of the patients in their study had functional improvements even though their strokes occurred, on average, four years earlier. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
  • Acupuncture relieves pain and increases function for people with osteoarthritis of the knee, according to a four-year study by Dr. Brian Berman and Dr. Marc Hochberg which was published in Annals of Internal Medicine. 
  • Cardiac surgeons at UMMC were the first in the U.S. to implant a heart pump as part of a multi-center study comparing two different types pumps as a permanent treatment for heart failure (instead of as a bridge to transplant).


  • Dr. Angela Brodie won the prestigious Charles F. Kettering Prize for her pioneering work in developing aromatase inhibitors, a new class of drugs widely used today to treat breast cancer. The prize, which she received in June, recognizes the most outstanding recent contribution to the diagnosis or treatment of cancer.
  • The Center for Vaccine Development was selected by the NIH as one of only three U.S. sites to test a vaccine against avian flu. (The results were positive in terms of vaccine protection).
  • Another study, led by Eric Manheimer of the UM Center for Integrative Medicine, found that acupuncture provides true pain relief for people with low back pain. Manheimer’s article, which analyzed dozens of studies from around the world regarding acupuncture for back pain, was published in Annals of Internal Medicine.
  • Parkinson’s disease specialist Dr. Lisa Shulman was a principal investigator in a study that found that the experimental drug rasagline gives patients with advanced disease more functional time during the day compared to a placebo. The study was published in Archives of Neurology.
  • Stroke specialist Dr. Stephen Kittner led a study that found that women who have migraines accompanied by visual symptoms have a greater risk of stroke—25 percent higher— than those who do not have migraines. And, the study of more than 900 women found that those who have vision loss along with migraines have a 70 percent greater risk of stroke. The findings were presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Conference.
  • A study by Dr. Michael Miller showed for the first time that laughter is linked to healthy function of blood vessels. It appears to cause the inner lining of blood vessels to dilate in response to increased blood flow. Results of the study, which involved showing volunteers funny and disturbing movies, were presented at the American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions.  
  • Contrary to conventional thinking, a kidney transplant can significantly improve heart function among people on dialysis with advanced heart failure. That finding comes in a study by Dr, Ravinder Wali from Nephrology, which was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
  • Dr. Niel Constantine led the development of a highly sensitive blood test to detect abnormal prions that cause fatal neurological diseases, including Mad Cow and Creutzfeld-Jacob disease. If the test proves effective with further studies, it could be used to screen animals and humans for those diseases while they are still alive—something not possible now
  • Establishment of a Center for Health Disparities, an innovative program to eliminate ethnic, racial, geographic and socioeconomic differences in the diagnosis and treatment of illness among people in Maryland’s underserved communities.
  • The CVD received a $3.5 million grant from the Gates Foundation to vaccinate children in Mali against bacteria that cause fatal meningitis and other serious infections.
  • Creation of “Get Fit Maryland,” a SOM/UMMC partnership to encourage people to walk 10,000 steps a day to lose weight and improve their health.

Clinical Milestones

  • UMMC was the first hospital in Maryland to receive designation as a Primary Stroke Center from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. It indicates that the stroke program meets rigorous new standards and performance measures in caring for stroke patients and offering state-of-the-art treatments.
  • UMMC opened the Roslyn and Leonard Stoler Pavilion, a state-of-the-art outpatient center for cancer patients that provides multidisciplinary care in a modern, comfortable setting.
  • UMMC became the first hospital in the U.S. to combine minimally-invasive heart bypass surgery and stented angioplasty in the same operating at the same time. The so-called hybrid procedures are performed in a specially outfitted operating room. This approach is more convenient and less stressful for patients and provides the best treatment options for opening particular vessels.
  • UMMC was the first hospital in Maryland to perform a “domino” liver transplant—an unusual procedure in which one man received a new liver from a deceased donor to cure a paralyzing disease. Then, that man’s liver was transplanted into another man suffering from liver failure. Since the paralyzing disease takes decades to develop, this “used” liver provided a lifesaving option for the second patient.