e-Veritas Archive | February, 2016

Patient Marks a Decade of Insulin-Free Living

Special to UM News

DRICelebrating a significant 10-year milestone, Tallahassee resident Chris Schuh, 64, is grateful to be alive. Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 30, Schuh received an islet cell transplant at the Diabetes Research Institute (DRI), and has been living free from insulin injections for a decade.

On February 11, Schuh met with her DRI doctors for a celebratory post-islet transplant follow-up. She joins other DRI transplant recipients who have been living insulin free, some for more than 10 years, demonstrating that natural insulin production can be restored in diabetes patients.

“The fact that it has worked so long is an incredible delight,” said Schuh. “To not worry about testing my blood sugar every time I walk out the door, or having to test 10 times a day, to not have to deal with the uncertainty of diabetes, it’s just plain old wonderful. I’m extremely grateful to be alive, and the only reason I am is because of the knowledge, care and expertise of the Diabetes Research Institute.”

Type 1 diabetes, also referred to as insulin-dependent diabetes, is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly sees the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas as foreign and destroys them.

The Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is the largest and most comprehensive research center dedicated to curing diabetes. A pioneer in islet cell transplantation, the DRI is aggressively working to develop a biological cure for all people affected by diabetes. To patients like Schuh, this life-changing procedure couldn’t have come soon enough.

“My body became resistant to insulin,” she said. “No matter how strict I was with what I ate, or how detailed I was with the records I kept, it didn’t matter. My blood sugar numbers were always high, which is poison to your system.”

Now retired, Schuh spent her career as an executive of a statewide Florida association that required traveling – something that was too dangerous to do on her own.

“I couldn’t travel alone,” she said. “Stress makes your blood sugar go low, taking too much insulin makes you go low, activity can cause you to go low – I would never know when that was going to happen.”
A low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia, can be a dangerous condition that can cause fainting, seizure, coma or even death.

Worried that she wouldn’t live to see the age of 50 or even see her daughter off to college, Schuh found a glimmer of hope when she read a small item in the newspaper that was calling for clinical trial patient applications.

“That little three-inch column in the paper helped change my life!” she said.

After checking with her endocrinologist, Schuh applied to be a candidate for the DRI’s islet transplantation clinical trials. Following an intense screening process, she was accepted as a participant and was called for her first infusion of insulin-producing cells.

Although she lived decades of being on a rigid schedule of eating at specific times, which was always matched with insulin intake, Schuh remembered a feeling she had never really felt before shortly after the transplant.

“I finally felt hungry,” she said. “Something as simple as eating food became a whole new experience.”

Schuh was insulin-free for a short time following the first transplant but needed another infusion of cells. Since that second transplant, she has been free of insulin injections for 10 years, which is a significant benchmark.

“I feel alive and vibrant,” Schuh said. “Nothing is holding me back. I’ve taken master gardening classes. I rode a mule into the Grand Canyon. I’ve traveled the world without worry. I swam with dolphins.”
Schuh had never thought she would make it past 50, due to the severity of her diabetes and hypoglycemic reactions.

“One thing I want parents, kids, and all others affected by diabetes to know is that the cure is coming. Do not dismay. It will happen in our lifetime,” said Schuh, who firmly believes in and supports the Diabetes Research Institute’s singular mission – to find a biological cure for diabetes.

Building on these promising outcomes, the DRI is developing the DRI BioHub, a bioengineered “mini organ” that mimics the native pancreas. While various BioHub platforms are being tested in preclinical and clinical studies, the DRI is also developing strategies to eliminate the need for anti-rejection drugs and reset the immune system to block autoimmunity.

To learn more about clinical trials or the work of the Diabetes Research Institute, call 1-800-321-3437 or visit the DRI website.

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Professor to be Awarded UCD’s Ulysses Medal

Special to UM News

Susan Haack, Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, Cooper Senior Scholar in Arts and Sciences, professor of law, and professor of philosophy at the University of Miami College of Arts & Sciences, recently learned that she is to be awarded the Ulysses Medal given by University College, Dublin (UCD).

The Ulysses Medal is the highest honor given by UCD. The medal was inaugurated in 2005 to highlight the creative talent and brilliance of its alumnus James Joyce, the celebrated Irish novelist and poet. The UCD Ulysses Medal is awarded to individuals whose work has made an outstanding global contribution.

“This news came as a complete surprise,” said Professor Haack, “but a very pleasant one! Of course I am, as I told the President of UCD, both honored and delighted.”

Previous recipients of the medal include Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who is credited for creating the theory of generative grammar; President Bill Clinton who was recognized for his commitment and contribution to Ireland’s peace and prosperity, and the elimination of poverty, disease, and suffering worldwide; Mary McAleese who served two terms as the eighth President of Ireland; and novelist Edna O’Brien for her contribution to Irish literature over five decades.

Dr. Haack’s work ranges from philosophy of logic and language to epistemology, metaphysics, philosophy of science, pragmatism—both philosophical and legal—and the law of evidence, social philosophy, feminism, and philosophy of literature. Her books include Philosophy of LogicsDeviant Logic, Fuzzy Logic: Beyond the Formalism; Evidence and InquiryManifesto of a Passionate Moderate; Defending Science—Within Reason; Putting Philosophy to Work; and Evidence Matters: Science, Truth, and Proof in the Law. Dr. Haack’s work has been published in 14 languages, and she is invited to speak around the world.


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Three Separate Library Catalogs Become One

By Sarah Block
Special to UM News

Librarians and staff from across UM’s three campuses are collaborating on the implementation of a new and improved library cataloging system, expected to debut in May.

Librarians and staff from across UM’s three campuses are collaborating on the implementation of a new and improved library cataloging system, expected to debut in May.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 18, 2016) —Library users at the U are about to witness a big transformation in how they locate and access information from the University’s libraries.

UM’s seven libraries across the Coral Gables, Miller School of Medicine, and Rosenstiel campuses are collaborating on a full overhaul of the online system that will streamline how materials are acquired, tracked, browsed, searched, and discovered. Most significantly, the new system, expected to debut this May, will integrate three independent systems into a single search and discovery platform for accessing the University’s millions of library holdings.

“Faculty and students on all campuses will be very pleased to discover that, with one search, resources from across the seven libraries will be displayed on their screen,” said Professor of Law Sally Wise, chair of the Faculty Senate Library & Information Resources Committee and director of the Law Library. “This will be especially beneficial for those researching across multiple disciplines. All libraries now collaborate on providing resources, and it will be very exciting to see them displayed to the researcher at one time.”

UM selected the new system following a search process that involved representatives across the three campuses. A team of 34 librarians and library and UM Information Technology staff chose the platform as the unified solution that would replace the disparate library systems, enable the library to streamline its workflows, and provide better patron services. The libraries are working with Ex Libris Group to lead the migration to the new system. When the months-long process is complete, UM’s resources will run through two Ex Libris programs, Ex Libris Alma for resource management, and Ex Libris Primo for discovery and delivery.

The transition will align the functions and features of UM’s catalog with a large number of research libraries worldwide that have adopted Ex Libris technologies, including the London School of Economics, Austrian Library Network, and the University of Edinburgh, as well as fellow Association of Research Libraries members Emory and Brandeis universities.

“The powerful combination of Ex Libris Alma and Primo forms the leading solution enabling libraries to move ahead with a unified platform that benefits both staff and patrons,” said Eric Hines, president of Ex Libris North America.

Many of the team members who developed the request for proposals and assisted in vetting and evaluating a range of vendors are now part of the implementation team, a total of 25 librarians and staff, working with Ex Libris throughout the transition to the new system.

“We are eager to unify and streamline our systems efficiently and effectively,” said UM Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc.

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Professors’ Film Debuts at Miami Film Fest

By Lizzie Wilcox
Special to UM News

Sweet-Dillard-4WEBDillard High School in Broward County is home to one of the country’s most successful high school jazz bands. Sweet Dillard is a documentary that follows the Dillard High School Jazz Ensemble through its struggles and triumphs during the 2014 academic year.

The film, which is almost two years in the making, will premiere on March 6 during the Miami International Film Festival. Two School of Communication professors assisted in the creation of the film: Jim Virga, director, and Dia Kontaxis, editor. They co-produced the film with Mike and Sue Stocker, whose  son played in the prestigious jazz ensemble.

Sweet Dillard focuses on the director of the band, Christopher Dorsey, an imposing figure who strives to teach his students music with a steady beat of life lessons. Both Virga and Kontaxis noted, as educators, what a pleasure it was to see the way Dorsey taught and interacted with his students.

“He’s inspirational and I think the way he inspires his students went through the screen to me as an editor,” Kontaxis said.

Virga said that working with the students was also an amazing experience. “They’re just such incredible musicians,” Virga said. “Just to be around the band, and watch them play, and watch them progress, it’s such a pleasure.”

Virga and Kontaxis hope the film will remind people that art is a big part of education.

“We are all big proponents of the arts in education and we felt like this was a good opportunity to showcase how valuable both are and also how far someone can go with some hard work,” Virga said.

Kontaxis wants viewers to take from the film the difficulties of being a teenager, the love and dedication of being their teacher, and how the arts can transform lives. “It’s a film that celebrates them, but that the same time you want to show the struggles that they go through,” Kontaxis said.

According to both Virga and Kontaxis, they wanted the film to be complete in time for the Miami International Film Festival. Having met their deadline, the film’s premiere will be in South Florida to a local audience and the Dillard High School Jazz Ensemble will play a live performance.

“We would love for Dillard High School to get more support coming out of this documentary, to have people recognize how much work is there,” Kontaxis said.

Virga, a film professor, has made other documentaries which have been shown at film festivals. However, he said that he is most excited about this project because of the theme and the main character, Mr. Dorsey. Virga added that Jeffrey Stern, another School of Communication professor who is also an Emmy-winning dialogue editor for Boardwalk Empire, helped with the post-production sound. “We’re really supported by our department to make the project,” Virga said.

Kontaxis was able to bring this project to one of her classes. All of the students who worked on it got credit as assistant editors. After the Miami International Film Festival, Sweet Dillard will be shown at the San Luis Obispo International Film Festival in California.

“Hopefully this is just the beginning,” Virga said. Sweet Dillard premieres Sunday, March 6, at 1 p.m. in O Cinema Miami Beach, 500 71 St, Miami Beach, FL 33141. – See more at: http://com.miami.edu/news/2016/02/11/soc-professors’-film-makes-it-big-screen#sthash.B7QniDQb.dpuf

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Engineers Week Explores Diversity in STEM Disciplines

Hundreds of students attend a week of events to learn more about engineering and change the perception that it’s not for women or minorities.

By Barbara Gutierrez
UM News

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (February 25, 2016) — When College of Engineering senior Kyrah Williams got up to speak during Tuesday’s A Force for Change, Diversity in STEM forum, she voiced a concern many of her fellow students have on their minds.

“When you look at me what do you see?” posed Williams, president of the University of Miami chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, which co-sponsored the event. “My outer appearance shows that I am an African-American woman. What you cannot see are my passions and plans to become a successful engineer. Due to first impressions of me, society will label me as a minority in the workplace and in life.”

Being stereotyped and feeling isolated were two of the many issues that were brought to light during the forum, which featured UM President Julio Frenk, College of Engineering Dean Jean-Pierre Bardet, and Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Whitely.

The forum, which drew about 50 students, faculty, and staff members to the UM Faculty Club, was part of Engineers Week, an annual weeklong celebration that calls attention to the contributions engineers make to society and emphasizes the importance of learning math, science, and technical skills. Other events included a duct tape competition, a demonstration of a concrete canoe built by UM engineering students, and the “Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day,” which welcomed more than 150 girls from South Florida high schools to the University to stimulate their interest in the world of engineering through lectures and activities.

“How can we foster issues of diversity in the workplace if we don’t start in our school?” Williams asked at last Tuesday’s diversity forum.

Frenk said he was pleased to join the conversation because the meeting was a confluence of two of his aspirations for the future of the University. UM strives to be an “excellent university” and thus be strong in the fields of applied sciences and engineering. A $100 million gift from longtime UM benefactors Phillip and Patricia Frost towards those academic areas makes that goal more attainable.

The president added that, as “an exemplary university,” UM has a responsibility to provide a model for the larger society through the values and behaviors it embraces. “The value of diversity is at the core of an exemplary university,” he said. “Diversity is the right thing to do because we value every life equally. Every human being deserves the same opportunity.”

Beyond diversity, Frenk said, the University has to develop a “sense of belonging” so that every individual feels like they are welcomed into the institution. “Stereotyping and assigning certain characteristics to a group of people corrodes that sense of belonging,” he said.

Reading from a letter that he co-signed with other deans from the American Society of Engineering Education, Bardet said he was committed to bringing in more Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans to STEM education and to the College of Engineering. As part of this commitment, Bardet said the college would create partnerships with more diverse institutions, such as Miami Dade College and Florida A&M University, with the goal of increasing underrepresented minorities at UM.

Also, the college will commit to hiring more minority faculty members. Bardet recognized Professor Vincent Omachonu, who was at the gathering and is the only African-American professor at the college, which has 57 full-time faculty members.

“The fact that we are having this conversation is a great step in a very positive direction,” Whitely said.

She also agreed that recruiting minority faculty had to be a priority since many could become mentors to students. “When you have those mentors, things are easier simply because somebody else has gone down the very same path and will be with you,” Whitely said.

During the question-and-answer period, students brought up concerns about their schools – which included lack of diversity in the faculty, lack of financial resources, and lack of support from the faculty, as well as curriculums that occasionally did not directly serve their needs.

Engineering senior Natasha Koermer said some of her female peers had been told not to pursue the engineering field because “it was not for women.”

Bardet committed to hearing more about their concerns, and said he would set up focus groups as a way to address and resolve them.

The UM chapters of Minority Women in Medicine and the National Association of Black Accountants also sponsored the forum.

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