News of the University


Five regional clinics operated by the Talbert Group were purchased by the U to expand its capabilities for providing medical care ranging from sniffles to surgery. The University also is acquiring the Talbert Medical Group of Utah, which consists of 50 primary-care physicians who treat patients in eight outpatient centers along the Wasatch Front. The resulting combination of the University of Utah Health Network and the School of Medicine faculty now includes 750 physicians at University Hospital and eight outpatient centers from Ogden to Orem.

The addition of clinics and health-care providers is intended to increase the patient base that is essential to the U's educational mission, according to President Bernie Machen. Besides improving opportunities for training primary-care physicians, the expanded network should make a more efficient University of Utah health system attractive to a wider variety of health plans, he says.

The U paid $35 million for the acquisitions. The money came from reserves established by medical departments at the University Health Sciences Center, according to Dr. Randall Olson, professor and chair of ophthalmology who also chairs the School of Medicine's Faculty Practice Organization. "Departments have been setting aside reserves in order to build their academic programs, some for as long as 30 years," says Dr. Olson. "If we don't become market competitive, we are doomed to failure," he adds. The acquisition of more specialty clinics could follow.


Bidding farewell to the biggest conference in the nation, Utah, BYU, Air Force, Colorado State, Wyoming, UNLV, New Mexico, and San Diego State in May announced plans to form their own conference. The presidents of the eight schools announced their intention to form a new league beginning July 31, 1999. In a statement, the eight presidents said they depart the Western Athletic Conference "reluctantly," citing problems that could not be solved, mostly due to the WAC having 16 member schools. Many of the departing schools were upset over a decision last spring to split into permanent East-West divisions. They say that would have deprived them of many of their traditional rivalries. President Machen says the reorganization was necessary as a means of addressing the untenable cost and geographic demands of WAC membership.

The schools left behind are Fresno State, Hawaii, San Jose State, Southern Methodist University, Rice, Texas Christian, Texas-El Paso, and Tulsa.


Scientists at the University of Utah Howard Hughes Medical Institute have found the genetic cause for a progressive form of heart failure that kills more than 100,000 people each year in the United States. University researchers working in conjunction with colleagues at the Mayo Clinic have identified the gene mutation that causes the heart damage called idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy. They have also described a mechanism that helps explain how the mutation causes the damage to the muscle.

Their findings were reported in a journal article that appeared in Science.

In the United States, heart failure affects 700,000 people a year and accounts for between $10 billion and $40 billion in annual medical costs. Understanding what causes one form of heart failure in this case, dilated cardiomyopathy should help scientists better understand the disease in general. This research may one day lead to the diagnosis of heart disease before symptoms develop, as well as to improved treatments.

The research team at the University's Eccles Institute of Human Genetics is seeking families to participate in the cardiomyopathy research project. Families with members who have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure of unknown causes, but who have no coronary artery disease, are invited to call 585-5754 for more information about the research.


Plans for President Bernie Machen's public installation are unfolding for Homecoming Week, September 21-26. The events will coincide in order to emphasize University connections across campus, between generations, and among alumni, faculty, staff, and students. Installation of the University's thirteenth president will take place at the Huntsman Center at 11 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 25 and everyone is invited. President Machen will give his first major speech on his vision for the University of Utah. In conjunction, a series of academic discussions will take place on campus throughout the week. Tuesday, Sept. 22, Bioethics and Genetics, a philosophical discussion, will be led by Professors Margaret Battin and Ray Gesteland at 1:30 p.m. at the Marriott Library Gould Auditorium. Wednesday, Sept. 23 there will be a performance and panel, Engineering the Arts, at 7:30 p.m. at the Marriott Center for Dance. Thursday, Sept. 24, Richard Delgado, a professor of law at the University of Colorado, will give an address on diversity in higher education at the Marriott Library Gould Auditorium at noon. Following it will be a panel on social sciences and service-learning from at 2:00 p.m, featuring professors Cathleen Zick and Irv Altman, also in the Library auditorium.

For more information, see the Alumni calendar of events on p. 40, or online at


The desire of volunteers from the University of Utah Lowell Bennion Community Service Center to observe the center's tenth anniversary by providing a community with a lasting gift has led to the establishment of a nature park along the Jordan River. Some in the Glendale neighborhood who have worked on the project call it Bend in the River Park; all call it a successful collaboration with promising outcomes.

The project symbolizes the concept of building communities by bringing together Glendale and Poplar Grove residents, Parkview Elementary students, community organizers, and University volunteers to clean up and rehabilitate two acres south of Jordan Park at 1130 S. 900 West. Julie Johnson Monson BS'67, a sixth-grade teacher at Parkview Elementary, says the school's involvement is enabling at-risk students to value nature despite Jordan River environs being somewhat sullied. "One of the most positive aspects of the project was that [Bennion Center Director] Irene Fisher had enough faith in our students to listen to them about what they thought ought to be done to make Bend in the River a place to begin understanding where nature lives," says Monson.

True to her nature, Fisher says the children's designs for pathways and a safe place to learn from wildlife experts about area muskrat, mallards, and songbirds have been truly inspiring. The study-area project, still underway, is being supported by Salt Lake City and made possible by a two-year, $40,000 grant from General Electric's Elfun project.


Ordinarily, bathtub rings aren't something academics fight to preserve.

Unless, of course, the tub is one that was filled during the Pleistocene epoch and drained some 15,000 years ago, and that covered much of what is now Utah.

The Bonneville shoreline, says geology professor Marjorie Chan, "is like a big bathtub ring." When ancient Lake Bonneville disappeared from the Great Basin, it left behind remnants of its ancient beach. But Chan and others fear the precious ring is disappearing as a result of encroaching urbanization. Chan says that lost forever will be an excellent outdoor laboratory in which to study Earth sciences.

U researchers and others are scrambling to collect as much information as possible on the prehistoric lake. Data include geologic clues to the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes in the area and a rich fossil record including mammoths, mastodons, and prehistoric versions of the horse, camel, musk ox, and bison.

"I don't think there's any way we, as the living generation, can evaluate the loss this would constitute to future generations," says geology professor Don Currey. Meanwhile, he has been arguing for laws to protect some of the geologic artifacts that, without protection, could disappear for all time.


Philosopher and longtime University of Utah faculty member, Virgil C. Aldrich, 94, known for his work in aesthetics and the theory of perception. His book, The Philosophy of Art, was translated into six languages. A philosophy conference, "Ethics and Boundaries," was held at the University of Utah in his memory this spring.

Jeffrey Stephen Lee, 53, BS'67, assistant professor in the department of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine and director of industrial hygiene at the Rocky Mountain Center for Occupational Safety and Health.

Bill Meek, 76, football coach at two Texas schools as well as Kansas State and Utah. He finished his coaching career with six seasons at the U, 1968-73, where he had a 33-31 record.