Tag Archive | "miller school of medicine"

Melissa Institute Conference Focuses on Preventing Bullying

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Melissa Institute Conference Focuses on Preventing Bullying

By Richard Westlund
Special to UM News

In his remarks, Isaac Prilleltensky, dean of the School of Education and Human Development, emphasized the importance of justice and fairness in developing healthy children.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 9, 2015)–Strengthening peer relationships, conducting genetic research, limiting access to firearms, and developing more effective family-centered interventions are important steps to reducing childhood violence, according to several counseling and clinical professionals at the University of Miami.

Debra J. Pepler, distinguished research professor of psychology at York University, Toronto, Ontario, also provided her insights and recommendations as the keynote speaker for “Preventing Aggression and Bullying in School and Community: Multi-Systemic Approaches,” an October 3 conference at the Newman Alumni Center.
The conference was presented by The Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment and the School of Education and Human Development, which is the new home of the nonprofit institute. Etiony Aldarondo, associate dean for research and director of the school’s Dunspaugh-Dalton Community and Educational Well-Being Research Center, welcomed attendees and moderated the panel discussion.
In her talk, Pepler outlined the connections between “Childhood Aggression and the Developing Brain.”  She said that positive or negative relationships leave a chemical signature on a child’s genes that can be temporary or permanent.
“If a child has a stressful experience, the brain adapts negatively,” she added. “For instance, peer victimization leads to high levels of stress hormones and is linked to depressive symptoms.”
Emphasizing the importance of warm, coaching, and positive relationships for troubled children, she said, “Aggressive children are not just bad kids. They just have missed important developmental opportunities in relationships. We need to focus on their individual strengths, help them control anger and anxiety, and build a sense of empathy and respect for others.”
In his presentation, “Promoting Wellness and Fairness in Schools and the Community,” Isaac Prilleltensky, dean of the School of Education and Human Development, emphasized the importance of justice and fairness in developing healthy children. “Children are very sensitive to injustice and react in a healthy way,” he said. “That creates problems if a child feels an injustice has been perpetrated and he or she is the victim.”
Prilleltensky also focused on this issue of “mattering,” a sense that children are recognized by their parents, teachers, and peers and feel they can make a difference in the world.  “When children feel invisible, they often react in aggressive ways,” he said. “We don’t want them to start dominating other children, nor do we want them to feel helpless. We have to find the sweet spot in the middle, focus on their strengths, and teach skills to promote positive behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.”
As associate professor and interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Miller School of Medicine, Judy Schaechter, M.D., has seen many children who have been critically injured by firearms. “It is our job to ask questions about firearms before these tragic events take place,” she said. “Then, we need to use this information to prevent violence.”
In her talk, “Family-Centered Screening for Violence and Weapon Injury Risk,” Schaechter said firearms are involved in half of teenage suicides and in numerous deaths of children of all ages. Since studies show that locking and unloading a gun reduces the risk of a shooting in the home, health professionals need to educate parents on taking steps to safeguard their weapons, she said.
However, the Florida Firearms Owners Privacy Act—which is being challenged in the courts—prohibits providers from recording firearm ownership information in a patient’s medical record. “We need the courage to talk to children, adolescents, and parents about firearms,” she said.
Clinical psychologist and SEHD professor Daniel Santisteban outlined his research on “Intervention Strategies and Prevention Resources for Family Aggression.”  He focused on the importance of developing and testing family-based interventions, particularly for minority and Hispanic families.
“Early intervention is particularly important with adolescents,” he said. “Since aggression, drug use, and risky behaviors are often linked to severe depression, ADHD, or other behavior disorders, we need to treat the individual while providing support and education to the other members of the family.”
Santisteban also believes that technology, such as online videos, can help make family-centered therapy more convenient and successful. “Our goal is to help parents provide effective guidance, promote attachment, and bring stability and safety to the home environment.”


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Mailman Center’s Friday Noon Interdisciplinary Lecture: Minority Religions and Child Treatment Part II

The Friday Noon Interdisciplinary Lecture Series sponsored by the Mailman Center for Child Development will feature Walter Lambert, associate professor of clinical pediatrics and medical director of the University of Miami’s Child Protection Team, from noon to 1 p.m. on Friday, October 17 at the Mailman Center, room 3023, 1601 NW 12th Avenue, on the Miller School of Medicine campus. Lambert will continue his discussion on the role of religious beliefs of some of the minority religions and their impact on maltreatment and child-rearing. Part I was featured on October 10.


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$1 Million Grant from State of Florida Will Support UM HIV/AIDS Research

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$1 Million Grant from State of Florida Will Support UM HIV/AIDS Research

Special to UM News

From left, Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Professor of Medicine Mario Stevenson, and Senator Rene Garcia.

From left, Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Professor of Medicine Mario Stevenson, and Senator Rene Garcia.

MIAMI, Fla. (September 23, 2014) – Governor Rick Scott and Senator Rene Garcia visited the Miller School of Medicine Monday to present a check from the state of Florida for $1 million to advance HIV/AIDS research. The funding will help support ongoing AIDS research programs and extend the research capacity of UM’s Center for AIDS Research through synergistic collaborations with investigators at other institutions in South Florida. In addition, the funds will promote the creation of the University of Miami HIV/AIDS Institute, which will serve as the umbrella under which clinical, research, and philanthropic activities at UM will be coordinated. Read the full story

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Neonatal Touch Therapy Pioneer Receives Golden Goose Award in Washington

Special to UM News

From left are Golden Goose Award recipients Gary Evoniuk, Ph.D., Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Tiffany Field, Ph.D., and Katie Eimers, who accepted the honor on behalf of her late grandfather, Saul Schanberg, M.D., Ph.D.

From left are Golden Goose Award recipients Gary Evoniuk, Ph.D., Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., Tiffany Field, Ph.D., and Katie Eimers, who accepted the honor on behalf of her late grandfather, Saul Schanberg, M.D., Ph.D.

MIAMI, Fla. (September 19, 2014)—A long-time Miller School of Medicine developmental psychologist, whose touch therapy program has transformed the health of hundreds of premature infants, was honored in Washington, D.C., for her holistic treatment approach that was enhanced by research with rats.

Tiffany Field, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, psychology and psychiatry and Director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami’s Mailman Center for Child Development, received the Golden Goose Award on September 18 at a ceremony at the Library of Congress.

The prestigious award, created in 2012 by a coalition of business, university and scientific organizations, honors scientists whose federally funded research may not have seemed to have significant practical applications at the time it was conducted but has resulted in major economic and other benefits to society.

Field accepted the award along with two of her research collaborators, Cynthia Kuhn, Ph.D., and Gary Evoniuk, Ph.D. Her third collaborator, the late renowned neuroscientist Saul Schanberg, M.D., Ph.D., discovered more than three decades ago how rats licking their pups helped induce their offspring’s growth. In his lab, he and collaborators Kuhn and Evoniuk – who were studying infant rats at Duke University Medical School – decided to rub the pups’ backs with tiny brushes and witnessed the same outcome.

Field, whose research team was already massaging preterm infants at UM, learned from the rat pup study that increasing the stimulation to moderate pressure was critical for growth. When her research group applied more pressure, actually moving the skin, the preterm infants gained more weight and were discharged, on average, six days earlier. Since starting the research program in 1982, she has seen hundreds of fragile, preterm infants at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital rapidly gain weight and make other notable improvements.

“Originally we were using light stroking because these infants are so fragile. But that was the wrong kind of touch. Much like tickling, it increases heart rate and blood pressure,” said Field. “Using moderate pressure massage involves moving the skin, and that’s when we see the positive results.”

Applying moderate pressure propels a cranial nerve to send signals to the gastrointestinal tract, which then releases food absorption hormones. This increases motility along with many other benefits, said Field, whose breakthrough research has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and Johnson and Johnson.

The infants who were massaged for 15 minutes, three times a day, gained 47 percent more weight, were more alert and responsive, and were released from the hospital an average of six days earlier than premature babies who were not massaged.

In receiving this year’s award, Field and her collaborators join a list of elite scientists, selected by a panel of respected scientists and university research leaders.
“Researchers massaging rats: sounds strange, right?” said U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tennessee, who first proposed creation of the Golden Goose Award. “But infant massage has given premature babies a better start. Off-the-wall science saves lives.”

The research findings also reversed long-held beliefs in U.S. hospitals that touching preterm infants was detrimental. “It took a long time for neonatal intensive care units to overcome that attitude,” said Field.

Field’s approach to preterm infant care has been highly influential, as massage therapy is now used by close to 40 percent of neonatal intensive care units nationwide, a number that is steadily increasing. The program has also resulted in significant cost savings, since hospital stays are shortened by nearly a week.

“I hope receiving an award like this will convince Congress to commit more money to NIH funding and also help more neonatal intensive care units see the need to massage babies to help them grow,” said Field.

One out of eight infants in the U.S. is born prematurely, with associated costs that have been estimated at $52,000 per infant, or $26.2 billion annually nationwide. A recent analysis estimates the savings from Field’s approach at about $10,000 per infant, with annual nationwide savings of $4.7 billion.

Additional studies by Field and others around the world have continued to show beneficial outcomes of infant massage and revealed the underlying physiological mechanisms involved. Schanberg and Kuhn collaborated with her, using insights from the animal work to explore potential physiological and hormonal mechanisms responsible for the benefits of touch in human infants.

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Faculty and Staff Support the U: Radiologist Jorge Guerra Loves Building Bridges—to Students, Patients, and Alumni

Jorge Guerra Jr.

Jorge Guerra Jr.

Former administrator and faculty member Jorge Guerra, B.S. ’68, M.D. ’72, has watched the University of Miami’s national reputation for excellence grow over the past four decades. A recently retired professor in the Department of Radiology at the Miller School of Medicine, Guerra also has contributed to the University’s success, donating annually to his alma mater for the past 34 years.

“It’s been very exciting to see the ascent of our University,” says Guerra, who completed his residency at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach after earning his medical degree in 1972.

Board-certified by the American Board of Radiology, Guerra is a specialist in vascular interventional radiology and loves taking care of patients. He also was involved in the medical school’s administration for 15 years, working closely with its partners, Jackson Memorial Hospital and the VA Hospital, which both contribute to the school’s excellent training program.

“I am deeply committed to academic medicine,” he says. “I’m very proud of the Miller School’s role in educating the next generation of physicians, providing excellent clinical services, and growing our research programs in a challenging economic environment. I also believe it is important to build strong ties between medical students and alumni. After all, we alumni were all students once, and they will be our alumni in the future.”

In keeping with his commitment, Guerra has contributed annually to the University through the United Way since 1980. He also has helped fund scholarships for medical students and donated to the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center for medical research. Guerra’s continued generosity earned him membership in the University’s Loyalty Society, which honors alumni donors who make gifts for two or more consecutive years.

“I feel very closely connected to the University of Miami as my alma mater as well as my former employer,” Guerra says. “I have seen so much progress over the years, and I know that my gifts, regardless of size, do make a difference.”

Read about other faculty and staff who support the U.


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