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

Up Front

Coleen Atkins, Ph.D., and W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.

Coleen Atkins, Ph.D., and W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D.

Scientists Awarded $2 Million to Treat Cognitive Dysfunction After Brain Injury

W. Dalton Dietrich, Ph.D., Scientific Director of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and Kinetic Concepts Distinguished Chair in Neurosurgery, and Coleen Atkins, Ph.D., assistant professor of neurological surgery, have been awarded a $2 million, five-year grant by the National Institutes of Health to further develop a promising compound that could potentially help millions suffering from brain injury regain cognitive function.

The grant is a collaboration with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, West Virginia University and Tetra Discovery Partners, a pharmaceutical company based in Michigan.

With the grant, the researchers will develop a phosphodiesterase (PDE) enzyme inhibitor drug patented by Dietrich, Atkins, and Mark Gurney from Tetra Discovery Partners. Called compound A33, the drug is being tested for the treatment of chronic cognitive deficits resulting from traumatic brain injury.

Read more about the grant »

More News

Adrian S. Ishkanian, M.D.

Adrian S. Ishkanian, M.D.

Researchers Develop More Accurate Test for Predicting Prostate Cancer Recurrence Risk

Researchers at cancer centers in Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S., including the Miller School of Medicine’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, have developed a breakthrough diagnostic test to identify which men are most likely to have a recurrence of prostate cancer after localized treatment with surgery or radiotherapy. Their findings have been published in the November issue of Lancet Oncology.

Stratifying patients based on their relative risk of recurrence has long been an inexact science. Between 30 percent and 50 percent will have their cancer return due to undertreatment of aggressive disease that has already spread outside the prostate gland but was not found during their initial procedure. At the same time, men who are defined as low to intermediate risk are often overtreated because current tests are unable to identify those who have more aggressive disease. This can cause unnecessary treatment leading to toxicity and unneeded expense.

Read more about the research »

Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D.

Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D.

Renowned Neuropsychiatric Researcher Receives Distinguished Investigator Grant

Claes Wahlestedt, M.D., Ph.D., Leonard M. Miller professor and vice chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and Associate Dean for Therapeutic Innovation, is one of 15 researchers nationally to receive a Distinguished Investigator Grant from the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation.

The grants support innovative projects in diverse areas of neurobiological and behavioral research that seek new potential targets for understanding and treating psychiatric disorders that affect one in four people, including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

Read more about Dr. Wahlestedt »

Johanna Kreafle

Johanna Kreafle

Miller Student Receives AMA Recognition for Patient Education Initiative

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine student Johanna Kreafle recently won an American Medical Association poster competition for a novel program she co-founded that educates patients about their health in the waiting room as part of their doctor visits.

More than 400 of the country’s best residents, students and fellows competed in seven categories at the AMA Research Symposium held November 7 in Dallas. Kreafle won the poster category for public health and epidemiology.

Read more about the award »

From left, Alejandro Caicedo, Ph.D., Per-Olof Berggren, Ph.D., and Midhat Abdulreda, Ph.D.

From left, Alejandro Caicedo, Ph.D., Per-Olof Berggren, Ph.D., and Midhat Abdulreda, Ph.D.

Young Blood Vessels Give New Life to Aging Islets, Researchers Find

A team of international researchers, led by investigators at the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine and Diabetes Research Institute (DRI), has found that young capillary vessels can rejuvenate aged pancreatic islets.

The study finding is significant because it suggests that targeting inflammation and fibrosis in the small blood vessels of the islet may offer new treatment options for diabetes. The research has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Islets, which contain the beta cells responsible for secreting the blood-glucose-regulating hormones insulin and glucagon, typically decrease in function with age. The researchers hypothesized that the decrease in function might not be due solely to a decrease in glucose-sensing or hormone-secreting capacity, but also to a decrease in blood supply caused by inflammation and scarring of the vessels. Replacing the islet vasculature in grafts transplanted into young mice restored the islets to full function, even at an advanced age.

Read more about the research »

Patients, physicians and ISCI staff reunited October 27.

Patients, physicians and ISCI staff reunited October 27.

Patients Reunite to Celebrate Six Years of ISCI Clinical Trials

Several years ago, Deborah Wilson suffered a debilitating heart attack that left her so weak even getting up from a chair left her winded. But now, the 63-year-old woman is doing water aerobics, dancing and even bowling again. She also got to see the birth of her great-grandson.

“I am doing things again I wouldn’t even have thought about doing a few years ago,” said Wilson. “There was a time I couldn’t do anything unless I had assistance.”

Wilson credits her renewed vigor to the stem cell therapy she received four years ago as part of a cardiac stem cell clinical trial conducted by the Interdisciplinary Stem Cell Institute (ISCI) at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. She was one of nearly 60 patients who gathered together recently to celebrate the sixth anniversary of patient clinical trials at ISCI.

Read more about ISCI »

Barth A. Green, M.D., left, receives congratulations from Robert M. Quencer, M.D.

Barth A. Green, M.D., left, receives congratulations from Robert M. Quencer, M.D.

Dr. Barth A. Green Commemorates 20 Years as Chair of Neurological Surgery

Surrounded by hundreds of colleagues, family and friends, Barth A. Green, M.D., celebrated 20 years as Chair of the Department of Neurological Surgery. With more than 39 years at the Miller School of Medicine, Jackson Memorial Hospital and Miami VA, Green has developed a world-class program renowned in the surgical management of complex spinal cord injuries and disorders.

“I’ve been at the University of Miami for nearly 40 years, with 20 as Chair of neurological surgery; everyone here has been a part of my life,” Green said. “The most important thing I learned in life is you are who you hang out with. So what a wonderful team and village I’ve had the privilege of working with over these years. Each morning when I come to work, I get goose bumps just thinking about the future of UM, Jackson, the VA and our medical center … how we’re at the cusp of so many new and amazing opportunities, and I get to be a part of it all.”

Read more about Dr. Green »

William J. Whelan, Ph.D., D.Sc.

William J. Whelan, Ph.D., D.Sc.

Honoring a Miller School Giant

Veteran University of Miami scientist William J. Whelan, Ph.D., D.Sc., professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, recently celebrated his 90th birthday in the company of colleagues, family and friends.

The ceremony took place on Friday, November 14, in the 7th floor auditorium of the Lois Pope LIFE Center. Whelan joined the Miller School of Medicine in 1967 and has been a transformative force in the science research arena. He has received many awards and has been recognized for his numerous seminal scientific contributions to the field of glycogen synthesis and carbohydrate metabolism.

“Dr. Whelan is a dedicated professor who has been instrumental in shaping the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s graduate program and mentoring students and young scientists alike,” said Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute.

Joshua M. Hare, M.D., presented “Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy: Mechanistic Insights and Translational Pathways,” at the November 21 Miami CTSI Translational Research Boot Camp.

Joshua M. Hare, M.D., presented “Cardiac Stem Cell Therapy: Mechanistic Insights and Translational Pathways,” at the November 21 Miami CTSI Translational Research Boot Camp.

CTSI Boot Camp Offers Introduction to Translational Research

At the eighth annual Foundations of Translational Research Boot Camp hosted November 17-21 by the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), students, fellows and early career investigators gained a better understanding of the translational research process.

The Boot Camp, which took place at the Fieldhouse at The BankUnited Center, offered an extensive introduction to translational research, covering topics on team science, biostatistics, grant writing, commercialization of innovations, research ethics and human subject research protection.

Read more about the Boot Camp »

UM Joins Partnership for a Healthier America

The University of Miami is joining the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) in a three-year commitment to make its campus healthier by adopting guidelines around food and nutrition, physical activity, and programming.

PHA works with the private sector and honorary chair First Lady Michelle Obama to make healthier choices easier. In joining the partnership, the initiative will impact nearly 17,000 students and more than 14,000 faculty and staff on campus.

Read more about the initiative »

Early Deadline for Submissions

Please note that the submission deadline for the December 2 issue of MED is Tuesday, November 25, at noon. Any requests received after the deadline will be processed the following week. Happy Thanksgiving!

Miami Heat Partners with TeamUM United Way Campaign

Three-time NBA champions the Miami Heat are once again partnering with the University of Miami to offer a limited number of tickets to upcoming regular season games in February. University of Miami faculty and staff who make their 2014 United Way contributions online through myUM by December 31 can receive two complimentary tickets to see the Miami Heat in action. Leadership-level contributors (one percent) will receive four complimentary tickets. Each ticket will be accompanied by a food voucher for the night of the game.

Tickets will be available for the following games:

  • February 21, 2015 vs. New Orleans
  • February 23, 2015 vs. Philadelphia
  • February 28, 2015 vs. Atlanta

Again, tickets are limited, and the offer above is only for faculty and staff who have made their 2014 United Way contributions online through myUM by December 31. Remaining tickets will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Details for ticket distribution will be announced in early 2015.

The TeamUM 2014 United Way campaign ends December 31. Please log into myUM to make your contribution today. For more information, visit the TeamUM United Way website.

New cartridge recycling bins help conserve resources and support the United Way.

New cartridge recycling bins help conserve resources and support the United Way.

UM Establishes New Toner and Cartridge Recycling Program

Contributing empty ink and toner cartridges to be “re-used” (remanufactured) instead of simply “recycled” helps save energy, reduce air and water pollution, and conserves natural resources. Green U and Dade Recycling are partnering to help the University of Miami make the most of its old ink and toner cartridges and toner bottles.

Currently available on the RSMAS and Coral Gables campuses, bins for the medical school can be ordered by sending an email request to greenu@miami.edu.

Best of all, proceeds from the program will be donated to the United Way.

Help Support Autism Research, Education and Patient Care at 2015 WalkAbout Autism

The Dan Marino Foundation WalkAbout Autism, which provides needed funds for local providers of autism treatment services, including the Debbie School, a division of the Mailman Center for Child Development, will be held Saturday, January 24, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Sun Life Stadium.

Less than five years ago, one in 110 children and one in 70 boys were diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, one in 88 children and one in 54 boys are being diagnosed with autism. In response, the University of Miami combined its autism-related clinical, research, education and community outreach efforts into a unified team — UM Autism Programs.

UM Autism Programs will once again be participating in this year’s WalkAbout Autism and encourage all UM faculty, staff and students to join them. Since 25 percent of funds raised will go directly to the Debbie School, if you cannot participate in the walk, please consider supporting a walker or donating.
To join the UM Autism Program team or support a walker, visit the event website.

Miami Winter Symposium Fee Waivers Still Available

The deadline to submit abstracts for the 2015 Miami Winter Symposium, “Towards Personalized Cancer Medicine,” has passed, but limited funds still remain to provide fee waivers for Miller School of Medicine faculty, staff and trainees who wish to attend.

Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and registration is available online at www.miamiwintersymposium.com. Be sure to register through the UM section. When fee waiver funds are exhausted, discounted registration will still be available to UM personnel by registering through the general section.

In the unlikely event that fee waiver funds are unspent by Friday, December 19, this will be the final deadline for applications. The symposium will take place January 18-21 at the Hyatt Regency in Miami.

Dolphins Cycling Challenge V to Include First 5K Walk/Run

For the first time since its inception, the Dolphins Cycling Challenge (DCC) will include a 5K walk/run, providing something for everyone interested in supporting lifesaving cancer research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. The walk/run will be held at Sun Life Stadium on Sunday, February 8, the second day of the two-day ride that spans three counties.

The University is once again honored to partner with the Miami Dolphins for the DCC, which has raised more than $7 million for groundbreaking research and patient care at Sylvester. These funds have helped build programs that have made a difference in the lives of countless cancer patients across South Florida.

Read more about the DCC »

Edna C. Shalala

Edna C. Shalala

Edna C. Shalala 5K Run/Walk Honors a ‘True Icon’

A pioneering lawyer, tennis champion, and supporter of women’s athletics, Edna C. Shalala, UM President Donna E. Shalala’s mother, was “a true icon” whose vibrancy until her death at age 103 last week inspired all who knew her.

Members of the UM family can honor and advance her legacy on Saturday, December 13, by participating in or supporting the inaugural Edna C. Shalala 5K Run/Walk, which will benefit the Edna C. Shalala Women’s Athletics Fund.

Ann Helmers

Ann Helmers

Faculty and Staff Support the U: Staff Member Helps Open Doors for Students and the Community

Ann Helmers knows that the University of Miami is a powerful force for changing lives. The director of Career Services and Alumni Relations at the College of Engineering, Helmers is a longtime donor to United Way, and has contributed to the UM Annual Fund campaign. “I am very proud of our University and glad to be able to give back,” she said.

Helmers has strong ties to UM, both personally and professionally. She began working at the University in 1981, two years after earning her bachelor’s degree in education. She would go on to earn her M.B.A. in 1990. She also met her husband, Terry, a University alumnus and systems analyst in the information technology department, at UM. Nearly three decades later, both of the couple’s children are UM alumni, too. Dan majored in ecosystem science and policy, graduating in 2011, and Caroline in history, graduating this past spring.

Read her story »

Research News

Coulter Center for Translational Research 2016 Commercialization Grant Request for Proposals

The Wallace H. Coulter Center for Translational Research is accepting applications for its FY16 commercialization grant. The Coulter Center provides funding and expertise for projects that address an unmet clinical need, have commercial potential, are protectable and belong to the University of Miami.

The deadline for applications is 8 a.m. on Tuesday, January 6, and a mandatory information session will be held on Tuesday, December 2, from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Batchelor Children’s Research Institute, Baxter Conference Room. The information session will introduce the Coulter Center and the Office of Technology Transfer team, discuss the application requirements and expectations, and allow time for a Q&A. To attend, please RSVP here.

Please contact Andrew Vinard at 305-243-3446 with any questions or for an application.