I3 Venture awards info

Emory is full of fledgling biomedical proto-companies. Some of them are actual corporations with employees, while others are ideas that need a push to get them to that point. Along with the companies highlighted by the Emory Biotech Consulting Club, Dean Sukhatme’s recent announcement of five I3 Venture research awards gives more examples of early stage research projects with commercial potential. This is the third round of the I3 awards; the first two were Wow! Read more

Take heart, Goldilocks -- and get more sleep

Sleeping too little or too much increases the risk of cardiovascular events and death in those with coronary artery disease, according to a new paper from Emory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute. Others have observed a similar U-shaped risk curve in the general population, with respect to sleep duration. The new study, published in American Journal of Cardiology, extends the finding to people who were being evaluated for coronary artery disease. Arshed Quyyumi, MD and colleagues analyzed Read more

Repurposing a transplant drug for bone growth

The transplant immunosuppressant drug FK506, also known as tacrolimus or Prograf, can stimulate bone formation in both cell culture and animal Read more

Education

Emory med student makes early-career contribution on inherited metabolic disorder

Medical student Colin O’Shea is the first author on a paper published May 21 in the journal Pediatrics. Before beginning medical school, O’Shea worked at the National Human Genome Research Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health.

He was working with Charles Venditti, MD, PhD, a leading researcher at NHGRI studying methylmalonic acidemia(MMA) MMA is an inherited metabolic disorder in which the body can’t break down certain amino acids and fats, leading to a buildup of methymalonic acid and ammonia.

The NHGRI has a more detailed description of this research HERE.

Medical student Colin O'Shea

Infants with MMA can have developmental delays, recurrent vomiting and seizures. The disease can be detected through metabolic screening for newborns, and a low-protein diet combined with dietary supplements can help manage the disease.

O’Shea’s research could give parents a better idea of what to expect, and give doctors clues for warning signs when monitoring a patient’s progress. His paper represents the largest study (43 individuals, over six years) so far of the cognitive and neurological status of people with MMA. He worked with a team of psychologists, clinicians and radiologists at the National Institutes of Health to compile information on participants. The ages at which the participants in the study were evaluated ranged from 2 to 32.

“Colin worked hard to make this happen, and I think the larger point is that students at the beginning of their careers can really make an impact,” says Venditti.

The data shows that the IQ scores of people with MMA vary quite a bit (the mean is around 85), with seizures and high ammonia levels being predictors of lower scores. O’Shea’s team found that the IQ scores of people with MMA tend to be lower than neurotypical individuals, but their scores are generally stable and cognitive decline is not a necessary feature of the disease. On neurocognitive tests, people with MMA do appear to have a particular deficit in processing speed. O’Shea, Venditti and their colleagues write that this finding was “particularly striking” and it may reflect damage to the part of the brain known as the basal ganglia.

“I am excited by the prospect of continuing to work in the field of inherited disorders,” O’Shea says. “That said, Emory has opened up many
doors to me with regard to future careers. I’ve enjoyed almost every subject I’ve been taught thus far, so I’m still deciding what path I’d
like to choose.”

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Emory’s nursing students and faculty span the globe to provide medical care to those in need

This summer, students of Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing’s  accelerated BSN (ABSN) program are embarking on a two-week immersion experience at five sites around the world—the City of Refuge in Atlanta, Moultrie, Ga., West Virginia, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. From June 12 to 24, ABSN students will work with local health care providers and community partners to provide health care, community assessments, program evaluations and a sustainability project in each location. Though service learning has long been a pillar of Emory’s School of Nursing, this is the first time the nursing school has offered an immersion experience of this magnitude.

At the City of Refuge in Atlanta, students are working in the HEALing Community Center, a community clinic that provides health care and various resources to Atlanta’s homeless population. During their time at the City of Refuge, nursing students are focusing on the maternal-child homeless population and interacting with more than 500 patients and residents of Eden Village at the City of Refuge, which also serves as transitional housing for mothers and their children. The HEALing Community Center provides primary care and outpatient surgery to patients who might not otherwise have access to medical care.

Just four hours from Atlanta in Moultrie, Ga., another team of nursing students is spending two weeks caring for farm workers and their families. The Migrant Farm Worker Family Health Program has allowed Emory nursing students to provide critical nursing care to more than 15,000 people. The nursing students will examine children by day and set up mobile clinics to treat adult farm workers in the evening, while evaluating the impact the program has had on the community since its inception in 1994.

For the first time, nursing students and faculty will be traveling to West Virginia to partner with Cabin Creek Health System. Students will evaluate how well the health system’s Medicaid disabled population’s mental health needs are being met. They will see patients in clinics and in their homes, asking them about their mental health needs and issues that drive patients to use other sources of care such as emergency departments and urgent care centers.

In the Bahamas, nursing students are stationed on the small island of Eleuthera to further develop partnerships with community organizations, educational institutions and The Bahamian Ministry of Health. Emory students are evaluating what Bahamian communities view as priorities for their health and then assessing what strengths and areas of growth exist. Nurses from Emory are working with local nurses to provide primary care to clinic patients and conduct health education seminars for primary and secondary school students.

In the Dominican Republic, Emory is partnering with two programs in Hospital San Vincente de Paul’s in San Francisco de Macoris. Students will evaluate the volunteer doula program and update the data collection tool of the Kangaroo Mother Care project, a method of caring for premature infants that involves constant skin to skin contact in place of an incubator. Infants who might otherwise spend their first days or weeks in an incubator are now with their mothers 24/7. Additionally students will visit hospitals at the provincial periphery and observe the workings of the referral system within the public health infrastructure.

Teaching students more than just clinical care, service learning trips offer nursing students the opportunity to develop respect for unfamiliar cultures while facing real-world health care challenges such as working with interpreters and facing medical supply shortages.

“We often hear that opportunities like this take both our students and faculty back to the start of why they wanted to become nurses,” says Corrine Abraham, RN, MN, a nursing instructor and the International Academic and Cultural Exchange Coordinator at Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.“They not only enhance their clinical capabilities, but they also sharpen their caring skills, which are the heart our field.”

Follow Emory’s School of Nursing students in the field.

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Improving the lives of those with rare blood disorders

While many people have never heard of an eosinophil, most people do know what a white blood cell is and have some understanding of its disease and infection-fighting role in the human body.

While these strange-sounding cells play an incredibly important part of the immune system by helping to fight off certain infections, when eosinophils occur in higher than normal numbers in the body without a known cause, a rare eosinophilic disorder may be present.

Typically, eosinophils make up less than five percent of circulating white blood cells in healthy individuals and can vary over time, but when the body wants to attack a substance, , eosinophils respond by moving into the area and releasing a variety of toxins. When the body produces too many eosinophils, they can cause chronic inflammation, resulting in tissue damage within the body.

Emory cardiologist Wendy Book serves as president of the American Partnership for Eosinophilic Disorders (APFED), one of the organizations within the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Book recently accepted the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award on behalf of APFED. The award, named for NORD’s founding president, is presented each year to a NORD Member Organization for demonstrating outstanding leadership and representation of its members.

“I am honored to be part of a collaborative effort among patients, families, physicians, researchers, policy makers and others to develop diagnostics and therapeutics for rare diseases,” says Dr. Book. “We are grateful to work with NORD and other member organizations to provide a voice for those living with rare, and often poorly understood, diseases.”

The awards were presented at the annual NORD Partners in Progress Celebration.  Each year, NORD—a nonprofit organization that represents the 30 million Americans with rare diseases—celebrates pioneering achievements of individuals, organizations, and companies in public policy, patient advocacy, medical research, and product development.

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Talent in the pipeline

The Pipeline program, an initiative led by Emory medical students to improve college readiness and promote health career interest among Atlanta high school students, held graduation ceremonies Wednesday night at Emory University School of Medicine.

Graduating seniors and their mentors. All 19 seniors have at least one college acceptance, reports Pipeline co-founder Zwade Marshall.

Leaders at South Atlanta School of Health and Medical Sciences credit Pipeline with sparking interest in health science careers and bolstering attendance and academic performance.

“We see more leadership, not just in class but in the whole building,” says Edward Anderson, a teacher who coordinates the program. “Students are picking up the torch and running with it. I believe they will be future leaders and have a great impact.”

Sophomores, juniors, and seniors have access to a distinct curriculum with a classroom component, one-on-one mentoring by Emory undergraduates, and hands-on demonstrations. Sophomores explore infectious diseases and HIV/AIDS. Juniors study neuroscience. And seniors—who get help with college application coaching—focus on cardiology and community outreach, culminating in a health fair that they organize at their school.

Pipeline is run by Emory student volunteers with the support of the School of Medicine Office of Multicultural Medical Student Affairs, the Office of University-Community Partnerships, and the Emory Center for Science Education.

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Medicine Through the Ages

Sometimes treasures are hidden in plain sight. Take for example the enormous mosaic that graces Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center Administration Building, conveying the history of medicine through the ages through 2.5 million small mosaic chips.

Installed in 1996, the mosaic is the work of Italian-born artist Sirio Tonelli.  Dr. John Skandalakis (1920-2009) of Emory University was familiar with the artist through previous work on the Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Atlanta. It was Dr. Skandalakis, director of the Centers for Surgical Anatomy and Technique, who was a key force in commissioning the mural.

Yet this piece of campus, 66 feet long and three stories high, remains largely unknown on the Emory University campus. Interested in seeing the mural in person? WHSCAB, at 1440 Clifton Road on Emory’s Atlanta campus, is open to the public during normal weekday hours. A brochure available in the lobby not only gives background information but provides a key to the identities of the over 30 historical figures and events pictures on the mosaic.

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Dr. Kutner Receives Award for Excellence in Public Health

Michael Kutner

Michael Kutner, PhD, the recipient of the 2011 Charles R. Hatcher, Jr, MD Award

The Rollins School of Public Health is on a 35-year trajectory that dreams are only made of. What began as a small working group tasked with formulating a strategic plan for Emory’s school of public health, evolved into a Masters of Community Health program (MCH) and degree in 1975. Finally, in 1990, Emory approved the public health school, the university’s first new school in 71 years. Michael Kutner, PhD has been there every step of the way, and as a result is the recipient of the 2011 Charles R. Hatcher, Jr, MD Award. The award honors faculty members from Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center who, through their lifetime of work, exemplify excellence in public health.

For 40 years, Dr. Kutner has played a key role in building the school of public health and advancing programs of research across the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.  He joined Emory’s School of Medicine in 1971, was a key figure on that small planning group for a school of public health, and served as Interim Chair of the medical school’s Department of Statistics and Biometry in 1986.

When Dr. Hatcher and the Board of Trustees approved the creation of the Emory University School of Public Health in 1990, Dr. Kutner was appointed the inaugural Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.  As he has stated on numerous occasions that subsequent events after this appointment “went way beyond our wildest dreams.”

He played a major role in creating the organizational structure of the school—curriculum, strategic faculty and chair recruitments, committees, policies and procedures—and for securing its initial accreditation.

Dr. Kutner always carried public health with him. In 1994, he served as Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, and returned to the Rollins School of Public Health in 2000.  In 2004, he was named Rollins Professor and Chair of the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, where he served until 2009.

Throughout his Emory career, Dr. Kutner has provided critical support for biomedical research.  He developed the Biostatistics Consulting Center, collaborated with scores of investigators, and has co-authored over 150 articles in leading health and medical journals.   He is former Director for Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design for the Atlanta Clinical and Translational Science Institute and is currently the Biostatistics Core Director for the Center for AIDS Research.  He is known around the world for his widely adopted textbooks, Applied Linear Regression Models and Applied Linear Statistical Models.

Dr. Kutner’s lifetime contributions to research, teaching and mentoring are not only legendary, but they give integrity and energy to public health and to Emory. On April 5th, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center and the Rollins School of Public Health will celebrate Dr. Kutner’s distinguished career with a reception in the RSPH Klamon Room at 4 p.m.

RSVP to Nancy Sterk at nsterk@emory.edu.

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March madness: National global health case competition features 13 universities

March Madness of a different flavor overtook Emory University March 18-19 as more than 200 students, judges, observers and staff convened for the first national Emory Global Health Case Competition.

The competition involved 20 teams of five students each, representing at least three academic disciplines per team. Emory fielded eight teams, and 12 teams came from leading universities across the country: Dartmouth, Princeton, Penn, Cornell, Yeshiva, Duke, Vanderbilt, UAB, USC, UCSF, Rice, and Texas A&M. All these universities are members of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

The first-place team, from Emory (l-r): Jason Myers, Candler School of Theology; Abdul Wahab Shaikh, Goizueta Business School; Stephanie Stawicki, Laney Graduate School; Andrew K. Stein, Goizueta Business School; Jenna Blumenthal, Laney Graduate School; Krista Bauer (judge), GE director of global programs; Meridith Mikulich, School of Nursing (not pictured)

As in two past local and regional case competitions, this year’s event was student initiated, developed, planned, staffed and conducted.

This year’s signature sponsor was GE, with additional sponsorship from Douglas and Barbara Engmann, and internal Emory funding.

“Global health continues to grow as a primary interest of students at universities across the United States, and the Emory Global Health Case Competition has gained a reputation as the leading national team event to showcase the creativity, passion, and intellect of our future leaders in global health,” says Jeffrey Koplan, MD, MPH, director of the Emory Global Health Institute.

The Feb. 17, 2011 issue of The Lancet included an article by Koplan and Mohammed K. Ali, assistant professor of global health at Rollins School of Public Health on the benefits of problem-based competitions to promote global health in universities.

Teams worked through the night on Friday for their Saturday morning presentations. The case involved a proposal for improving conditions in several East African refugee camps in the face of a severe budget cut. Judges were blinded to the academic affiliations of the teams, but Emory won the top two prizes (first prize was $5,000). UCSF and Dartmouth received honorable mentions, and Rice was given an innovation award.

 

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The Scientist ranks Emory one of top 15 best places to work for postdocs

This year, the readers of The Scientist magazine have ranked Emory University as the 11th best place to work for postdocs in the United States. Among Emory’s strengths, respondents cited training and mentoring, and career development opportunities.

The top U.S. institution was the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The top international institution was University College, London. Emory has previously ranked as high as number 4 (in 2006) in The Scientist’s best places to work for postdocs survey.

The ranking was based on responses from 2,881 nontenured life scientists working in academia, industry or noncommercial research institutions. 76 institutions in the United States and 17 international institutions were included.

Emory employs nearly 700 postdoctoral fellows in laboratories in the School of Medicine, Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Rollins School of Public Health and Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

After receiving their PhD degrees, life sciences graduates launch their research careers by working for several years as postdoctoral fellows in the laboratories of established scientists. In addition to engaging in sometimes grueling laboratory research, many postdocs teach, mentor graduate and undergraduate students and apply for their own funding on a limited basis.

 

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Emory Fellow and Heart Transplant Survivor Rides in Rose Parade

Dr.Shih and her husband Chad Aleman, MD, decorating and dedicating a rose on the actual float prior to the parade.

Dr.Shih and her husband Chad Aleman, MD, decorating and dedicating a rose on the actual float prior to the parade.

Jennifer Shih, MD, a current Fellow in the Department of Allergy and Immunology at Emory University School of Medicine and a heart transplant survivor, was an honored guest on the Donate Life float in the 2011 Rose Parade.

Dr. Shih, second from left, riding on the Donate Life float, which won the trophy for best theme

Dr. Shih, second from left, riding on the Donate Life float, which won the trophy for best theme

Dr. Shih was one of five winners who received a trip to Pasadena, California, and an opportunity to be in the Rose Parade through an essay contest sponsored by Astellas’ Ride of a Lifetime.

In 2004, after Dr. Shih had completed three years of pediatric residency to fulfill her dream of becoming a pediatric cardiologist, her world was suddenly turned upside down.

She was on call one night Cincinnati Children’s Hospital when she started feeling tired and short of breath. She knew something was wrong. Instinctively, she performed an echocardiogram and found fluid around her heart.  Shih diagnosed herself with a heart condition, giant cell myocarditis.

Her condition quickly deteriorated and within a week of being hospitalized, she was told she would die without a heart transplant. She was placed on a BiVAD (Bi-ventricular Assist Device) to keep her alive.

Less than two weeks after self-diagnosis, she received a life-saving heart transplant.

Although she wasn’t able to practice pediatric cardiology anymore due to the activity and risk of infection exposure post-transplantation, she was able to change her specialty to allergy and immunology. Shih says her experience makes her a more empathetic doctor because she truly understands what it is like to be a patient.

Along with her family and friends, Shih created the Have a Heart Benefit Fund in 2004, which raises money to provide patient care, education and research the transplant field.  She says she has always loved helping people, and she felt this would be a great way of showing her appreciation to donor families.

“I would not be alive today without my gift of life. I am a testament to the impact becoming an organ donor can be. You can have the opportunity to save eight lives in one day by being an organ donor… how many of us would have that opportunity otherwise?” Shih asks.

Read Jennifer’s winning essay.

Posted on by Wendy Darling in Uncategorized 1 Comment

Anticipating approval from a renowned scholar

Charles Raison, MD, with the Dalai Lama

When Charles Raison hosted a fundraising dinner for Jestun Pema, the sister of His Holiness the Dalai Lama some years ago as a faculty member at the University of California at Los Angeles, little did he know his future would become intertwined with His Holiness.

Raison, who is a psychiatrist and an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine, began his career at Emory in 1999. Since that time, he has emerged as one of the leaders in Emory’s remarkable relationship with the Dalai Lama through the Emory Tibet Science Initiative (ETSI) and his research on the potential health benefits of compassion meditation.

The Dalai Lama recently visited Emory in his role as Emory Presidential Distinguished Professor and presided over a series of conferences related to ETSI.  Raison made a presentation to His Holiness during the Compassion Meditation Conference.

Read more

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