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

Up Front

Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D.

Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D.

Novel Stem Cell Trial for Cervical Spinal Cord Injury to Start with the Miller School’s Miami Project

A novel clinical trial using human neural stem cells for the treatment of cervical spinal cord injury is beginning at the Miller School of Medicine. Allan D. Levi, M.D., Ph.D., professor and Robert M. Buck Distinguished Chair in Neurological Surgery, is the principal investigator of the Pathway Study, which is the first clinical study designed to evaluate both the safety and efficacy of transplanting stem cells into patients with traumatic injury to the cervical spinal cord.

The trial will use HuCNS-SC® cells, purified human neural stem cells developed by StemCells, Inc., a leader in the research and development of cell-based therapies for the treatment of disorders of the central nervous system. The trial will be conducted as a randomized, controlled, single-blind study and efficacy will be primarily measured by assessing motor function according to the International Standards for Neurological Classification of Spinal Cord Injury. The primary efficacy outcome will focus on change in upper extremity strength as measured in the hands, arms, and shoulders. The trial will follow the patients for one year from the time of enrollment.

Read more about the clinical trial »

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Janice Egeland, Ph.D., in 2006, displaying the world's largest bipolar pedigree from the Amish Study.

Janice Egeland, Ph.D., in 2006, displaying the world's largest bipolar pedigree from the Amish Study.

Decades of Research Pay Off with Promising Link to Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

In 1942, when Janice A. Egeland was only 8, she already had her sights set on a career in medical research. Inspired by Paul de Kruif’s 1926 classic book Microbe Hunters, she wrote in her diary that she hoped someday to make a medical discovery that would help sick people.

Now 80, a Ph.D. and professor emerita in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Egeland appears to have achieved her goal. She and collaborators at three other institutions have identified what may be the molecular pathway underlying bipolar I (manic depressive) disorder (BPI), a breakthrough that could lead to better drugs for treating BPI, as well as depression and other related mood disorders. Their findings have been published online in Nature Molecular Psychiatry.

Read more about the research findings »

Breast Cancer Care and Substance Abuse Awareness and Education to Benefit from Posner Trust

Two generous contributions totaling $4.675 million are being made to the University of Miami from the 2008 Revocable Trust of Gail S. Posner, who was a longtime resident of Miami Beach. These contributions will go a long way in helping both breast cancer patients and those battling substance abuse.

A gift of $3.3 million will create the new Gail S. Posner Pavilion for Breast Cancer Care at the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute in the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. In addition, an endowed gift of $1.375 million will create the “Tina Posner Substance Abuse Education and Treatment Fund” to improve treatment and awareness of substance abuse through the Sandler Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Education in the Division of Student Affairs. The contributions are in support of Momentum2: The Breakthrough Campaign for the University of Miami.

Read more about the gifts »

From left are Tianli Xia, Ph.D., Jeonghyun Ahn, Ph.D., and Glen N. Barber, Ph.D.

From left are Tianli Xia, Ph.D., Jeonghyun Ahn, Ph.D., and Glen N. Barber, Ph.D.

Studies Provide Insights into STING Sensor’s Role in Inflammation-Driven Cancer

A cellular sensor that stimulates the body’s immune system to fight infectious diseases can also promote chronic inflammation that results in certain forms of cancers, according to a University of Miami Miller School of Medicine researcher.

“The ability to turn on or off the sensor known as STING (for stimulator of interferon genes) has significant clinical implications for the control of auto-inflammatory diseases and cancer,” said Glen N. Barber, Ph.D., Chairman and Professor of the Department of Cell Biology, Eugenia J. Dodson Chair in Cancer Research, and Associate Director for Basic Research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our research provides fresh insight into the causes of inflammation-driven malignant disease and may provide a basis for therapeutic strategies to help prevent particular cancer types.”

Read more about the study »

David J. Lee, Ph.D.

David J. Lee, Ph.D.

Dr. David J. Lee Appointed to NIH Advisory Council, Selected to Lead Florida Cancer Registry

David J. Lee, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences, has been appointed to the NIH National Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Advisory Council for a four-year term.

“Attending my first council meeting was an eye opening experience, given the breadth and public health importance of the portfolio of research funded by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders,” Lee said.

As a member of the council, Lee will advise the secretary of health and human services and director of the NIH and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders on the conduct and support of research and research training, health information dissemination and other programs for hearing disorders and other communication processes.

Read more about Dr. Lee »

From left are Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Jacob McCauley, Ph.D., Michael Benatar, M.D., Ph.D., Rebecca Schüle, M.D., Zane Zeier, Ph.D., Stephan Züchner, M.D., Ph.D., and Evadnie Rampersaud, Ph.D.

From left are Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Jacob McCauley, Ph.D., Michael Benatar, M.D., Ph.D., Rebecca Schüle, M.D., Zane Zeier, Ph.D., Stephan Züchner, M.D., Ph.D., and Evadnie Rampersaud, Ph.D.

NIH Funds ALS Research Consortium Headed by UM Neurologist

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, have awarded University of Miami Miller School of Medicine neurologist Michael Benatar, M.D., Ph.D., a $6.24 million cooperative agreement award to establish a Rare Diseases Clinical Research Consortium that will study amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a group of related disorders.

This consortium will be part of the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network (RDCRN), an initiative of the Office of Rare Diseases Research.

Read more about the consortium »

From left, Chuanhui Dong, Ph.D., Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., Scott Brown, Ph.D., and Kefeng Wang, M.S.

From left, Chuanhui Dong, Ph.D., Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., Scott Brown, Ph.D., and Kefeng Wang, M.S.

Study Suggests Vascular Testing Labs Lack Accreditation in Regions of U.S.

An interdisciplinary group of researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine recently published a study that found a lack of accredited outpatient vascular testing facilities in some regions throughout the U.S., including the southern stroke belt.

“These results are very significant for healthcare providers, patients and their families as well as for payers and policy makers,” said the study’s lead investigator, Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology and Vice Chair for Clinical Translational Research. “A high number of unaccredited facilities gives the impression that no one is watching these labs.”

Read more about the study »

Gaofeng Wang, Ph.D.

Gaofeng Wang, Ph.D.

Miller School Geneticist Wins NIH “EUREKA” Award for Innovative Diabetic Neuropathy Research

Gaofeng Wang, Ph.D., associate professor of human genetics and Director of the Division for Functional Genomics at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, has been awarded $800,000 for a four-year grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for an innovative research project on diabetic neuropathy. The grant is part of the highly competitive NIH program EUREKA — Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration — that supports unusually bold research projects and enables scientists to test novel concepts, tools and approaches that have potential to transform research.

Diabetic neuropathy, a major complication of diabetes that affects millions of Americans, currently has no effective treatments, other than pain management. Wang will use the EUREKA grant to test an unconventional hypothesis that a deficiency in vitamin C with diabetes impairs the epigenome, which could lead to neuropathy. If confirmed, the research could lead to new treatment options to delay or prevent the condition.

Read more about the grant »

From left, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Stephen Nimer, M.D., Joan Scheiner, Chair of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Board of Governors, Phil Corey, Govindarajan Narayanan, M.D., Linda Corey, and Robert Quencer, M.D.

From left, Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Stephen Nimer, M.D., Joan Scheiner, Chair of the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Board of Governors, Phil Corey, Govindarajan Narayanan, M.D., Linda Corey, and Robert Quencer, M.D.

Sylvester Unveils Philip and Linda Corey Patient Reception Area at Interventional Radiology Clinic

With the cutting of a ceremonial, bright orange ribbon, the leadership and faculty of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine officially unveiled the new Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Interventional Radiology Clinic, and dedicated the new Philip and Linda Corey Patient Reception area.

Both areas will provide patients with a full-time, dedicated clinical space for certain interventional radiology procedures. Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D. said the Miller School is fortunate to have the support of generous donors who help build new pillars to UHealth – the University of Miami Health System

Read more about the clinic »

JJ Vance internship team members are, from left, Aaron Uhlenberg, Larry Adams, Andrea Pace-Gonzalez, Derek Dykxhoorn, Ph.D., Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., and Anthony Griswold, Ph.D.

JJ Vance internship team members are, from left, Aaron Uhlenberg, Larry Adams, Andrea Pace-Gonzalez, Derek Dykxhoorn, Ph.D., Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., and Anthony Griswold, Ph.D.

JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship Becomes NIH-Funded Program

Jeffery M. Vance, M.D., Ph.D., professor of human genetics and neurology and Director of the Center for Genomic Education and Outreach at the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, received a $500,000 five-year summer training grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to expand the annual JJ Vance Memorial Summer Internship in Biological and Computational Sciences, a program that provides high school students with the unique opportunity to be directly involved in scientific research.

Dr. Vance and Margaret A. Pericak-Vance, Ph.D., Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Professor of Human Genomics and Director of the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, established the JJ Vance internship in 2002 at Duke University in memory of their son, Jeffery Joseph (JJ). They relocated the program to the John P. Hussman Institute in 2009, where it has continued to grow every summer. In the program’s inaugural year at the University of Miami, six students applied for five available positions. By 2014, 63 students from 30 South Florida high schools applied for 11 positions. The grant will now give 12 students the opportunity to participate in the program each year.

Read more about the program »

Miller School M.D./M.P.H. students Rammy Assaf, M.A., and Jennifer auf der Springe present the study findings at the AAP National Conference.

Miller School M.D./M.P.H. students Rammy Assaf, M.A., and Jennifer auf der Springe present the study findings at the AAP National Conference.

Hidden Population: Thousands of Youths Take on Caregiver Role

While the typical preteen or adolescent can be found playing sports or video games after school, more than 1.3 million spend their free time caring for a family member who suffers from a physical or mental illness, or substance misuse.

These “caregiving youth” are a hidden population who are at risk of school failure and poor health due to the chronic physical and emotional stress of their responsibilities at home, said Julia Belkowitz, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and author of a study titled “Caregiving Youth Project: A School-Based Intervention to Support a Hidden Population in Need” that was presented by M.D./M.P.H. students and co-first authors Rammy Assaf, M.A., and Jennifer auf der Springe October 11 at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition in San Diego.

Read more about the study »

John E. Lewis, Ph.D.

John E. Lewis, Ph.D.

Research Identifies Tai Chi as Effective Smoking Cessation Tool

Research led by John E. Lewis, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, has identified Tai Chi exercise as an effective intervention to treat tobacco addiction.

The study, “A Pilot Feasibility and Acceptability Study of a Tai Chi Exercise Intervention on Smoking Cessation,” showed that post-intervention 11 out of 12 participants smoked less and seven (58 percent) had quit altogether. The findings were published in the Journal of Addiction and Therapy.

Read more about the study »

Donald M. Buckner, M.D., right, receives a retirement card from longtime colleague Ken Goodman, Ph.D., Director of Bioethics and Co-Director of UM's Ethics Programs.

Donald M. Buckner, M.D., right, receives a retirement card from longtime colleague Ken Goodman, Ph.D., Director of Bioethics and Co-Director of UM's Ethics Programs.

Dr. Donald M. Buckner Retires After 40 Years of Service

Since 1973, Donald M. Buckner, M.D., has touched the lives of countless babies and their families as a skilled pediatric surgeon at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he has been an invaluable Miller School of Medicine faculty member. After 40 years of service, Buckner has retired as associate professor of surgery, but will remain available to Ethics Committees at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center/University of Miami Hospital and Clinics and Jackson Health System.

Buckner’s interest in ethical issues surrounding impaired newborns in the 1980’s led to weekly ethics rounds in the neonatal intensive care unit – the first of their kind.

At a September 30 retirement celebration, dozens of faculty, staff, students, residents and fellows thanked Buckner for his commitment to teaching and training generations of surgeons in South Florida and around the country.

Open Enrollment and Benefits Fairs Kick Off This Week

Open Enrollment kicked off this week and brings the annual Benefits Fairs to the Miller School of Medicine Wednesday, October 15, through Friday, October 17. The fairs will feature a Workday preview, a glimpse at the new career and compensation program, benefits vendors, giveaways, free chair massages, flu shots and more. Click here to view the complete schedule.

Open enrollment runs through Friday, October 31, and is your annual opportunity to review, enroll in, or make changes to your medical, dental, flexible spending and disability benefits. If you are currently participating in the University’s medical plan, please remember that your medical plan elections do not roll over. You must either elect or decline medical coverage for 2015 as well as confirm your smokers’ and spousal surcharge elections during Open Enrollment. If you do not, you and your covered dependents will be placed in the Aetna HRA option, and the increased smokers’ and spousal surcharges will apply for 2015.

Read more about open enrollment »

From left are Sophia Galvin; Todd Kimpton of JM Family Enterprises; Dana Hill of Florida Blue; Beatrice Louissaint, President and CEO, Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council; John Shipley; Jay Narang of GDKN Corporation; Erasmo Acosta of The Miami Herald; and Dionne Vidal from American Airlines. <em>Picture courtesy of Afreeman Photography</em>

From left are Sophia Galvin; Todd Kimpton of JM Family Enterprises; Dana Hill of Florida Blue; Beatrice Louissaint, President and CEO, Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council; John Shipley; Jay Narang of GDKN Corporation; Erasmo Acosta of The Miami Herald; and Dionne Vidal from American Airlines. Picture courtesy of Afreeman Photography

University of Miami Recognized for Minority Business Development

In recognition of its commitment to diversity, the University of Miami received the Local Corporation of the Year Award from the Southern Florida Minority Supplier Development Council at the 39th annual awards gala at Jungle Island. The Council’s highest honor, the award is presented to South Florida organizations that consistently demonstrate a commitment to women and minority business development.

Accepting the award on behalf of the University, John Shipley, Vice President of Finance and Treasurer, noted that it solidifies the ongoing work of the Business Development Program, which manages supplier diversity at UM, and the importance of University support in South Florida’s diverse community of business owners.

Read more about the award »

From left, Jennifer S. Cohen, Executive Director of HR-Benefits, and Nerissa E. Morris accept the AHA Fit-Friendly Worksite designation from Stephanie de Souza, Development Director at the American Heart Association.

From left, Jennifer S. Cohen, Executive Director of HR-Benefits, and Nerissa E. Morris accept the AHA Fit-Friendly Worksite designation from Stephanie de Souza, Development Director at the American Heart Association.

UM Named a Fit-Friendly Worksite

For the fourth consecutive year, the American Heart Association has named the University of Miami a Fit-Friendly Worksite. The gold level designation honors the University for taking steps to enhance the health and well-being of its faculty and staff through workplace wellness programs and facilities.

“We are excited to once again receive this honor,” said Nerissa Morris, Vice President for Human Resources and Chair of the UM Wellness Advisory Council. “We know that a healthy workforce leads to an engaged workforce, which is why it is important that we continue to offer various wellness programs throughout the year for faculty and staff.”

The University’s wellness offerings include wellness centers on the Coral Gables and Miller School of Medicine campuses; the Well ’Canes incentives program that motivates employees to participate in wellness activities to earn up to $300 cash; Walking ’Canes, Be Smoke Free, Weight Watchers at Work; and free preventive care benefits for faculty and staff who are on a UM healthcare plan.

To learn about UM’s wellness programs, visit miami.edu/wellcanes.

Alan Leshner to Present “Science and Societal Values” October 22 as Part of Adrienne Arsht Distingui

As part of the Adrienne Arsht Distinguished Speaker Series in Ethics, Alan Leshner, chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and executive publisher of the journal Science, will present “Science and Societal Values” on Wednesday, October 22, at 6 p.m. in the Student Activities Center Grand Ballroom on the Coral Gables campus. In his lecture, Leshner will draw upon examples form evolution, genetics, cosmology, neuroscience, and synthetic biology.

Find out how to register »

Word on Workday: Stop by at This Year’s Benefits Fair for a First-Hand View of the Workday System

Stop by the Workday HR booth at this year’s HR Benefits Fair (October 15-17) for a first-hand look at the new system and enter for a chance to win one of three iPad minis. Visitors will have the opportunity to participate in a hands-on demonstration of the Workday HR system. Workday experts will be onsite to show faculty and staff what the system looks like, how it functions and answer any questions visitors may have about the system or the project.

A series of Employee Self-Service (ESS) functions will be shown during the hands-on demonstrations, such as how to view your pay slips, update your emergency contact information, request time off, and more.

Read more about the Word on Workday »

National Cyber Security Awareness Month Tip on Cyber Crime—Don’t Be a Victim

During National Cyber Security Awareness Month, the University of Miami Information Technology department is sharing important information, tips and resources that focus on different cyber security issues, including cyber crime, mobility and online safety.

This week’s National Cyber Security Awareness Month article focuses on cyber crime. Today, as with any commercial enterprise, cyber crime has evolved into a complex, highly organized operation. Combatting cyber crime requires a combination of strategies and techniques.

Read more about Cyber Security Awareness Month »