e-Update: News for University of Miami Miller School of Medicine Faculty and Staff

Up Front

David M. Seo, M.D.

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David M. Seo, M.D.

UHealth Part of Select Collaborative Using IBM’s Watson to Tackle Major Diseases

UHealth – the University of Miami Health System is part of a cognitive imaging collaborative that will be using IBM’s Watson to bring cognitive imaging into daily practice to help physicians address some of the most challenging illnesses affecting the U.S. population. The IBM Watson Medical Imaging Collaborative will be used to examine breast, lung, and other cancers; diabetes; eye health; brain disease; and heart disease and related conditions, such as stroke.

Cancer imaging at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and ophthalmology imaging from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, both part of UHealth, will be implemented as part of this consortium. Brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, will be led by UHealth’s neurological experts while endocrinologists and other multidisciplinary teams will focus on diabetes.

Read more about the Big Data collaboration »

More News

From left, Michael Mandich, Jason Jenkins, Eric Feder, Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., and Adam Carlin.

From left, Michael Mandich, Jason Jenkins, Eric Feder, Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., and Adam Carlin.

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Hosts Cancer Moonshot Summit

Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine hosted a Cancer Moonshot Summit on June 29 as part of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden’s nationwide effort to make more therapies available to more patients, while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage. Across the country, hundreds of cancer centers, hospitals, and patient advocacy groups hosted summits – from Miami to Anchorage, Alaska.

As a special surprise, representatives from the Miami Dolphins visited the Sylvester Cancer Moonshot Summit to present a check for more than $5 million for cancer research at Sylvester that was raised during this year’s Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC).

Read more about the Cancer Moonshot Summit »

From left, Coleen M. Atkins, Ph.D., with W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.

From left, Coleen M. Atkins, Ph.D., with W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.

Novel Drug Shows Potential for Aiding Memory and Learning after Traumatic Brain Injury

Treating rats with an experimental drug at three months following a traumatic brain injury improves their memory and learning ability, as reported in a new study published online in the July edition of The Journal of Neuroscience. The drug, a selective phosphodiesterase 4 subtype inhibitor (PDE4B), is currently under development by Tetra Discovery Partners, a privately held biotechnology company, and is being tested as a potential therapy for TBI by researchers at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The article, “Chronic Cognitive Dysfunction after Traumatic Brain Injury is Improved with a Phosphodiesterase 4B Inhibitor,” was written by Coleen M. Atkins, Ph.D., associate professor of neurological surgery, W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project and Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery, Senior Associate Dean for Discovery Science, and professor of neurological surgery, neurology and cell biology, and Mark E. Gurney, Ph.D., CEO of Tetra Discovery Partners.

Read more about the new drug »

From left, Alana Grajewski, M.D., with Marcelo Varela.

From left, Alana Grajewski, M.D., with Marcelo Varela.

City of Miami Declares ‘Dr. Alana Grajewski Day’

Alana Grajewski, M.D., a transformative pediatric glaucoma specialist with Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and UHealth, was recognized on June 23 by Miami Mayor Tomas P. Regalado and the City Commission for her innovative work in treating and preventing glaucoma in children throughout the world. For her dedication and service, the City of Miami declared June 23, 2016, “Dr. Alana Grajewski Day.”

“It’s important to recognize those who every single day work in silence and do the right things for the community,” said Regalado, who considers Bascom Palmer “one of the jewels of Miami.”

Read more about Dr. Grajewski »

J. Sunil Rao, Ph.D.

J. Sunil Rao, Ph.D.

Dr. J. Sunil Rao Named Interim Chair of Public Health Sciences

J. Sunil Rao, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Division of Biostatistics, has been named Interim Chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences.

He is a member of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and his primary disease area of focus has been colorectal cancer — from screening for early detection, to unraveling the genomic determinants of progression, to the identification of patients who are the most likely to respond (or not respond) well to given treatments.

Read more about Dr. Rao's appointment »

Seated, from left, Hilda Capó, M.D., Janet L. Davis, M.D., M.A., David Greenfield, M.D., John Guy, M.D., Carol Karp, M.D., Byron Lam, M.D., Richard Parrish II, M.D., William Smiddy, M.D. Standing, from left, Laurence Gardner, M.D., Eduardo Alfonso, M.D., John Clarkson, M.D., Vittorio Porciatti, D.SC.

Seated, from left, Hilda Capó, M.D., Janet L. Davis, M.D., M.A., David Greenfield, M.D., John Guy, M.D., Carol Karp, M.D., Byron Lam, M.D., Richard Parrish II, M.D., William Smiddy, M.D. Standing, from left, Laurence Gardner, M.D., Eduardo Alfonso, M.D., John Clarkson, M.D., Vittorio Porciatti, D.SC.

Bascom Palmer Eye Institute Honors Recipients of Chairs and Professorship

Nine faculty members at the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine were honored recently during a ceremony that was unique not only in its size and scope, but also in providing a first for the internationally renowned Institute.

The event, hosted on June 16 by the Department of Ophthalmology, commemorated two of the highest accolades in higher education. Eight faculty members were inducted into chairs that recognize clinical and scientific research, while one was inducted into a professorship that acknowledges contributions in basic science research.

Read more about the ceremony »

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D.

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D.

Dr. Sara J. Czaja Named Director of Center on Aging

Sara J. Czaja, Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and currently Scientific Director of the Center on Aging, has been appointed the Center’s Director.

Czaja has extensive experience in aging research and a long commitment to developing strategies to improve the quality of life for older adults. Her work in aging, cognition, functional assessment, family caregiving and using technology to benefit older people is of national and international prominence. She holds secondary appointments in the Departments of Industrial Engineering, Neurology and Psychology. She also serves on the Executive Committee for the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute.

Read more about Dr. Czaja's promotion »

Ivette Motola, M.D., M.P.H.

Ivette Motola, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Ivette Motola Named Assistant Director of Gordon Center

Ivette Motola, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine in the Division of Emergency Medicine and Director of Simulation Education for the UM-Jackson Memorial Hospital Emergency Medicine Residency Program, has been named Assistant Director of the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Motola has been Director of the Gordon Center’s Division of Prehospital and Emergency Healthcare since 2008. In her new role, which took effect June 1, she will assist Gordon Center Director S. Barry Issenberg, M.D., professor of medicine and medical education, who was named Senior Associate Dean for Research in Medical Education in April, with the center’s overall direction and management.

Read more about Dr. Motola's promotion »

From left, Lourdes Molleda, M.P.H., Daniela Castillo Onetto, San Carlos de Maipo Foundation in Chile, Danielle Sutton, Monica Bahamon, M.P.H., Marcelo Sanchez Ahumada, M.S., San Carlos de Maipo Foundation, Hilda Pantin, Ph.D., Maria Tapia, M.S.W., Yannine Estrada, Ph.D., Richard Catalano, Ph.D., President, Society for Prevention Research, Maria Rosa Velázquez, M.P.A., Krystal Sardinas, M.P.H., and Willy Prado, Ph.D.

From left, Lourdes Molleda, M.P.H., Daniela Castillo Onetto, San Carlos de Maipo Foundation in Chile, Danielle Sutton, Monica Bahamon, M.P.H., Marcelo Sanchez Ahumada, M.S., San Carlos de Maipo Foundation, Hilda Pantin, Ph.D., Maria Tapia, M.S.W., Yannine Estrada, Ph.D., Richard Catalano, Ph.D., President, Society for Prevention Research, Maria Rosa Velázquez, M.P.A., Krystal Sardinas, M.P.H., and Willy Prado, Ph.D.

Research Team Led by Dr. Willy Prado Receives Award for Hemispheric Public Health Work

A Miller School research team led by Guillermo “Willy” Prado, Ph.D., Miller Professor of Public Health Sciences, Director of the Division of Prevention Science and Community Health, and Dean of the Graduate School, has received the 2016 International Collaborative Preventive Research Award.

The award, which was presented in San Francisco on June 2 at the annual meeting of the Society for Prevention Research, was given to the researchers for their hemispheric public health work with the Miller School-developed Familias Unidas program, which is currently being implemented and evaluated in Chile and Ecuador.

Read more about the research award »

Antoni Barrientos, Ph.D.

Antoni Barrientos, Ph.D.

Dr. Antoni Barrientos Receives Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award from NIH

Antoni Barrientos, Ph.D., professor of neurology, has received a highly prestigious Maximizing Investigators’ Research Award (MIRA), or R35 award, from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The five-year grant, totaling more than $4.5 million, consolidates three RO1 awards and gives Barrientos the status of “NIH investigator.” The MIRA program, currently in a pilot testing phase, supports investigators’ overall research programs through a single, unified grant rather than individual project grants. The goal is to provide investigators with greater stability and flexibility, thereby enhancing scientific productivity and the chances for important breakthroughs.

Read more about the MIRA program »

Dorraya El-Ashry, Ph.D.

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Dorraya El-Ashry, Ph.D.

Sylvester Breast Cancer Researchers Receive New Grant from Prevent Cancer Foundation

Dorraya El-Ashry, Ph.D., breast cancer researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and associate professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, as well as co-principal investigator Marc E. Lippman, M.D., Deputy Director of Sylvester and Kathleen & Stanley Glaser Professor at the Miller School, recently received a $126,000 grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation to study the early detection of breast cancer metastasis. The grant will be paid out over one year.

“With more than 200,000 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year and approximately 50,000 deaths from breast cancer in 2015 alone, prevention of this disease is of paramount importance,” said El-Ashry. “However, while the prevention of breast cancer is a top priority, deaths from the disease are due to metastasis. This means there is an urgent need to be able to determine a patient’s risk for metastasis early on so that the patient and doctor can determine the best therapeutic strategy.”

Read more about the research grant »

Jeong Hee Cho-Vega, M.D., Ph.D.

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Jeong Hee Cho-Vega, M.D., Ph.D.

Molecular Diagnostics Separate Malignant from Benign Melanocytic Tumors

Jeong Hee Cho-Vega, M.D., Ph.D., a skin cancer expert at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and colleagues have shown that a relatively simple, multi-step molecular diagnostic algorithm can help determine whether rare, atypical spitzoid tumors are benign spitz nevi or malignant melanomas. This new protocol could ensure that patients receive the right therapies to match the severity of their tumors. The study was published in the journal Modern Pathology.

“Atypical spitzoid tumors are kind of borderline,” said Cho-Vega. “If you see them under a microscope, some features look malignant, some benign. By looking at the molecular signature, we can say this is more likely a melanoma signature or this is more likely a benign signature.”

Read more about the research »

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., dons a special Sylvester fire helmet from Captain Butch Smith.

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., dons a special Sylvester fire helmet from Captain Butch Smith.

Sylvester Researchers Expand Firefighters Cancer Initiative with Renewed Funding

Surrounded by firefighters, advocates and lawmakers, researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center announced that they are extending the Firefighters Cancer Initiative started nearly one year ago. The goal of the partnership between South Florida’s only academic-based cancer center and more than a dozen South Florida fire rescue departments is to better understand why firefighters may face a higher risk of cancer and find ways to improve their health and safety.

At the event held at Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of Sylvester, announced that the project is heading into its second year with $1.5 million of additional state funding, thanks primarily to the support of State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, Chair of the House Government Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, and State Rep. Frank Artiles.

Read more about the extended research partnership »

Alzheimer's disease research team.

Alzheimer's disease research team.

New Grants Expand Miller School Researchers’ Pursuit of Genetic Connections to Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia in the elderly and occurs in all ethnic and racial groups. It affects more than 5 million people age 65 and older in the United States alone and there is currently no effective treatment or cure. By identifying the genetic factors that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease risk or protect against it, researchers hope to improve diagnosis and treatments and potentially prevent the disease.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics (HIHG) have been awarded two new contracts from the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health. These newly awarded contracts are part of a global initiative to detect genetic factors associated with Alzheimer’s disease risk in an effort to identify new targets for drug development.

Read more about the new grants »

Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Alberto J. Caban-Martinez, D.O., Ph.D., M.P.H.

Walking Meetings Could Give Office Workers Longer, Healthier Lives, Study Shows

Changing just one seated meeting per week at work into a walking meeting increased the work-related physical activity levels of white-collar workers by 10 minutes, according to a new study published by public health researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

The study, published June 24 in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s journal Preventing Chronic Disease, suggests a possible new health promotion approach to improving the health of millions of white-collar workers who spend most of their workdays sitting in chairs.

Read more about the research study »

Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., seated at center, at the congressional briefing.

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Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., seated at center, at the congressional briefing.

UM’s Chief of Infectious Diseases Speaks about Zika Threat at Congressional Briefing

Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., Chief of Infectious Diseases and professor of medicine at the Miller School of Medicine, spoke about the Zika virus threat at a recent briefing held by the Florida congressional delegation in Washington. Stevenson shed light on the limited knowledge base researchers currently have on Zika and the need for academic research funding.

Topics included the likelihood of an outbreak in Florida, the delegation’s bipartisan support for President Barack Obama’s full $1.9 billion funding request, and how the potential for a Zika outbreak in the U.S. is altering reproductive decisions for a generation of American women and families.

Christine Thomas, Ph.D.

Christine Thomas, Ph.D.

Dr. Christine Thomas Delivers Commencement Speech to Her Alma Mater

Christine Thomas, Ph.D., professor of neurological surgery and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, has been researching neuromuscular weakness, fatigue, spasms and regeneration at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine for 26 years. She was recently recognized for her research contributions by her alma mater, the University of Otago in New Zealand, where she gave the commencement speech.

Thomas encouraged the new biomedical sciences, physical education, surveying, dentistry, pharmacy, health sciences and medicine graduates to challenge themselves and their limitations to attain success. She noted that work and life are unpredictable, so it is important to be open to adjusting goals and plans.

Read more about the commencement speech »

UM Veterans Network Seeks Input

The University of Miami Veterans Network wants your input on how the University can better honor and highlight members of the UM community who have given an extra measure of themselves through their service in our nation’s armed forces. The UM Veterans Network is a collaborative group whose members represent the Veterans Student Organization, the Veterans Employee Resource Group, the Office of Alumni Relations and other community members interested in supporting veterans.

Your opinions and ideas are important as they embark on building a robust UM Veterans Network. Please consider providing your input via this short survey through October 3.

Go Green in the Office!

Environmental Health and Safety is now a Green Office. Congratulations to Executive Director Ken Capezzuto and his whole team for their efforts in promoting sustainability in the workplace! If, like EHS, you want to help with sustainable practices in the office, ask Green U to schedule a 15-minute presentation in your next staff meeting. Each applicant to the program can benefit from an additional 50 points on their Well ’Canes card!

For more information, visit miami.edu/greenu or contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Human Trafficking Conference on Coral Gables Campus September 9

A conference on stopping human trafficking through a mix of awareness and activism will be held at the BankUnited Center on the University of Miami’s Coral Gables campus on Friday, September 9, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The conference, “Organizing for Change: Students Taking Action Against Human Trafficking,” is being held in partnership with The Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade, with numerous other organizations, including University of Miami Women’s and Gender Studies, and Project Freedom: Medical Students Against Human Trafficking, participating.

Neural Engineering Research Symposium, October 13

UHealth – the University of Miami Health System and the College of Engineering will hold the first Neural Engineering Research Symposium on October 13, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., in the auditorium of the Lois Pope LIFE Center. Neural engineering facilitates the development of new clinical technologies for the assessment of neurological function and the treatment of neurological diseases. The goals for the symposium are to energize fundamental aspects of neural science, engineering and reparative medicine, and facilitate collaborations across various disciplines. Featured speakers will be Jonathan Wolpaw, M.D., Director of the National Center for Adaptive Neurotechnologies, and Justin Sanchez, Ph.D., Acting Deputy Director of the Biological Technologies Office at Darpa. You are invited to be part of this event. To submit an abstract for presentation, click here. The deadline for submissions is August 20.

Register Now for Synergy 2016, November 3-6

Registration is open for Synergy 2016, a multidisciplinary approach to interventional oncology, being held November 3-6 at the Eden Roc Miami Beach. The international conference has now been endorsed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the world’s leading professional organization for physicians and oncology professionals caring for people with cancer. Synergy 2016 will feature extended ablation and embolization workshops, world-renowned speakers from multiple disciplines, and the latest developments in medical, interventional and surgical therapeutic options.

More information, including the complete agenda, is available here. To register, click here.

40th Anniversary Miami Neonatology 2016 Open for Registration

Miami Neonatology 2016, to be held this year from Sunday, November 6, through Tuesday, November 8, at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, is now open for registration. The conference strives to provide medical professionals with comprehensive knowledge of the leading trends and best practices in neonatology. Presentations will highlight the most current concepts in the pathogenesis, management and prevention of problems in the newborn infant.

Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Miami Neonatology has become one of the largest and most prestigious international conferences that address issues in perinatal and neonatal medicine. Attendees will participate in an extensive educational program featuring new developments in treating conditions that are causally associated with morbidity and mortality in the neonate.

Read more about Miami Neonatology 2016 »

Save the Date: Miami Winter Symposium to Explore Diabetes January 22-25, 2017

The University of Miami’s 50th Miami Winter Symposium — “Diabetes: Today’s Research, Tomorrow’s Therapies” — will take place January 22-25, 2017, at the Hyatt Regency Miami. The annual event highlights advances in scientific discovery and brings together hundreds of researchers from the academic and industrial worlds.

Reduced registration fees are available at www.miamiwintersymposium.com for all University of Miami faculty, staff and students by entering the Miami registration portal. Fee waivers will be available to UMMSM personnel at the same portal, with preference given to those presenting posters — one waiver per poster. Applications will be dealt with in the order received. The abstract submission deadline is November 7, 2016.

*** Reminder: Submission Deadline for the Next Issue ***

The next issue of e-Update will be published on Tuesday, January 24. The deadline for submissions will be the prior Wednesday, January 18, at noon.