Tag Archive | "miller school of medicine"

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Miller School Researcher Finds Peace Teaching Meditation

By Myranda Tarr
Special to UM News

Lunthita Duthely

Lunthita Duthely

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (September 28, 2016) – Meditation is not just a pastime for Lunthita Duthely, B.A., ’86, B.S., ’86, M.S., ’92, an assistant research professor at the Miller School of Medicine. Though the faculty member spends much of her time guiding medical student research and managing HIV/AIDS research databases within the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, her heart also lies with instructing free meditation classes at the Patti and Allan Herbert Wellness Center and the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center.

Born in New York City of Haitian descent, Duthely began her undergraduate education at the University of Miami in 1981, studying computer science and chemistry. It was during these formative years when Duthely took her very first meditation class at the U.

“I benefited greatly from UM’s free meditation classes,” explains Duthely. “After that first experience, I knew my life was changed for the better.”

Upon completing her dual undergraduate degrees, Duthely received her first permanent position at the Miller School. The UM alumna brought together her skills in database programming with her interest in medicine and health, specifically HIV/AIDS research, to work as a programmer and analyst.

“The HIV/AIDS epidemic was on the rise in South Florida and I was eager to get involved with that research,” says Duthely, who also holds a doctor of education from the University of Phoenix. “What’s more, the epidemic was also affecting the Haitian community, which hit very close to home.”

Soon after, a perfect opportunity opened up to create and manage databases supporting HIV/AIDS research within the Department of OB/GYN. Duthely delayed her original plans to move to Europe in order to pursue this three-year commitment.

Nearly a decade after her first meditation class, Duthely began meditating on a regular basis and continues to practice with Master Sri Chinmoy. Seeing the incredible effects of meditation in her personal and professional life, Duthely became a meditation instructor in 1994 and has been teaching at the Herbert Wellness Center since 1997.

“I saw how the practice of meditation impacted my life, and so many others I met,” she says. “I was motivated to share the experience with others.”

The Department of Wellness and Recreation believes that achieving optimal health requires finding a balance between physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, occupational and global wellness, the seven dimensions of wellness. Duthely finds that practicing meditation has had a positive impact on all aspects of her life.

“I teach at the Herbert Wellness Center because I truly believe in all dimensions of wellness and try to live by them each and every day,” adds the instructor. “Also, as a meditation facilitator representing Sri Chinmoy Centres International, it is our philosophy to offer classes free of charge.”

Meditation classes at the Herbert Wellness Center and UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center are free and open to the public.

There are three remaining classes at the Herbert Wellness Center taking place on Friday, October 21, Friday, November 18, and Monday, December 5, all from 7:30 to 9 p.m. For more information or to register for a class, call 305-284-5433 or click here.

The three remaining classes at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center take place on Fridays, October 21, November 18, and December 16 from 1 to 1:45 p.m. For more information, click here. Duthely also teaches Hatha yoga classes at the UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center on Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.

Duthely believes everyone should take a few minutes a day to “recharge” their inner battery with a quiet and still mind.

“Meditation is perfect for anyone who inhabits Mother Earth and breathes this precious air,” she says.

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UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center Celebrates Its 10th Anniversary with a Month of Special Activities

uhealthwellnessanniversaryThe UHealth Fitness and Wellness Center on the Miller School of Medicine campus begins a monthlong celebration of its tenth anniversary on Monday, October 3, with an array of fitness workshops, free giveaways, fitness challenges, special exercise classes, and much more.

Visit the the center website  or the front desk for a  list of events open to members and prospective members.


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Zika Won’t Be Last Threat to Emerge

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Zika Won’t Be Last Threat to Emerge

Globalization, increased travel, and climate change are all contributing to the spread of vector-borne diseases.

By Robert C. Jones Jr.
UM News

zika2A plane flies over Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, spraying pesticides. A pregnant woman decides to work full-time from home, secluding herself to her Miami apartment—whenever she does venture outside, she dons long pants and a hooded sweatshirt, even with daily temperatures in the 90s. And Miami Police officers give away cans of mosquito repellent to the homeless.

Such are the measures being taken to contain the spread of the Zika virus in Miami. Eventually such tactics, combined with education, counseling, and vaccine development, could very well prove successful in wiping out the disease.

But as sure as death and taxes, another virus, spread by a mosquito or other vector, will emerge and begin to spread, prompting health professionals to take action to contain and eradicate it. A group of experts at the University of Miami, which will host a special panel discussion on the Zika virus this Thursday on its Miller School of Medicine campus, are in agreement on that.

“Throughout human history pathogens have always co-evolved with us, and despite our best efforts to suppress either the pathogens themselves or the vectors that transmit them, most bugs have been very successful at evading control,” explains Justin Stoler, an assistant professor of geography and regional studies in UM’s College of Arts and Sciences, whose research explores the geographic patterns of urban health disparities, particularly in the developing world.

Could climate change, or more specifically warming temperatures, fuel the spread of disease-carrying vectors? The conditions must be right.

“Mosquitoes don’t like extreme weather either. If it just gets warmer and precipitation declines, things will dry out, and that’s not good for mosquitoes,” said Larry Kalkstein, a bioclimatololgist in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, who studies the impact of weather on all things living. “Basically what we’re talking about is a potential shifting of the range [of vectors], rather than just an expansion.”

Globalization of travel and trade coupled with unplanned urbanization quite probably plays a much larger role in the proliferation of vector-borne diseases.

“Anything that’s anywhere can easily get everywhere,” said Chris Cosner, a professor of mathematics who has investigated outbreaks of Rift Valley fever in Egypt. “When there was much less global travel, Zika was an isolated, obscure disease in an African forest. But once everybody can get anywhere, it [the disease] is out there trying to be pandemic. And it’s not the only disease out there waiting to do that.”

Cosner states a sobering fact, one with which other experts agree.

“There are many arboviruses (any of a group of viruses that are transmitted by mosquitoes, ticks, or other arthropods) and other pathogens that are obscure in the tropics, but with increased global connectivity and travel, it is likely that these neglected pathogens will potentially move from isolated areas to more populated places outside their restricted ranges,” said Doug Fuller, a professor of geography and regional studies who examines the distribution patterns of mosquitoes around the world.

“Zika is not currently in Wynwood and Miami Beach because of climate change. Zika is here because of globalization and increased air travel and because lower-resource countries are now rapidly developing,” said Stoler. “There are all these other pathogens lurking in tropical forests waiting to emerge, and there are additional superbugs emerging out of livestock populations. But climate change will, to varying degrees, shape how long some of these pathogens disperse and persist.”

It is likely that in the not-too-distant future, physicians and health officials, much like they are doing now with Zika, will be forced to react to a new outbreak of an unheard of virus, searching to find ways to wipe it out. Their efforts could be hampered by a system that merely reacts to crises rather than investigate their root causes and form action plans that can be implemented whenever there’s an outbreak.

“Zika, Ebola, Chikungunya—these are not new pathogens. The clinical community has known about these viruses for decades, but our knowledge of each is still limited. This is because there has not been a great effort to really understand what is making people sick in the Global South (those regions of the world made up of Africa, Latin America, and developing Asia including the Middle East) beyond the major diseases of malaria, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis—all of which have been on the decline,” explains Stoler.

“High-income countries, for all their best intentions in fighting emerging pathogens, haven’t really done their due diligence to find out what exactly is circulating, and where,” said Stoler, who is collaborating with the University of Ghana’s West African Centre for Cell Biology of Infectious Pathogens on a project to improve diagnosis, prevention, and control of febrile illnesses in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I like the metaphor of the United States healthcare system where we don’t emphasize preventive care and take a more reactive approach to medicine in our fee-for-service system,” Stoler said. “Our Zika control efforts are a similar band-aid, as they do not address the root causes of infectious outbreaks. We need to diagnose and study emerging diseases in their place of origin, and learn about how they transmit so that when something like Zika inevitably jumps across the continent, we can say, ‘Hey, we’ve seen that before. We know what it does. Here’s what we need to do.’ ”

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Zika Forum Addresses Research, Clinical Care, Public Health Challenges

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Zika Forum Addresses Research, Clinical Care, Public Health Challenges

By Richard Westlund
Special to UM News

zikaUniversity of Miami President Julio Frenk called on Congress to approve emergency federal funding for Zika research, treatment, and monitoring at a Zika forum hosted by UM Thursday. “We need to weigh the cost of inaction with the modest price tag of this proposal,” Frenk said, referring to a deadlock in Washington over allocating $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion to address this immediate public health threat.

“The cost of caring for children born with serious health challenges, as well as the failure to develop new treatments and the loss of our collective sense of security from government inaction, is many times higher than the dollars being discussed in Congress,” Frenk said at the panel discussion presented by the Miller School of Medicine and UHealth – the University of Miami Health System at the Lois Pope LIFE Center.

Laurence B. Gardner, interim dean of the Miller School, welcomed faculty, staff, students, public officials and many members of the media to the Zika forum, which included presentations by Miller School experts on the front lines of research, infectious disease, obstetrics and pediatric care, prevention, and the spread of vector-borne disease.

Questions from attendees ranged from the University’s leading-edge laboratory research on potential Zika vaccines, treatments, and diagnostic tools to the latest clinical advice for pregnant women and the importance of aerial spraying in Miami Beach to control the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the virus.

‘’We take this threat very seriously,” Frenk said, noting growth of the University of Miami Zika Global Network, which focuses on research, discovery, education, and care. “We are collaborating locally, nationally, and internationally to deal with this global threat.”

Research priorities

From a research perspective, the most pressing priority is development of a simple, inexpensive diagnostic tool for the Zika virus, followed by development of a vaccine and treatment both pre- and post-infection, said David Watkins, vice chair of research in the Department of Pathology. “There is a DNA-based vaccine that has protected monkeys against Zika that should be going into human trials in November,” he said. “Other vaccines are also being developed, and there is great hope on this front.”

Mario Stevenson, professor of medicine, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, and director of the Institute of AIDS and Emerging Infectious Diseases, said the Miller School’s longstanding collaboration with infectious disease researchers in Brazil provided a “heads up” on the serious nature of Zika. “That has helped us respond more quickly to this threat and leverage the research infrastructure in place here,” he said.

Frenk also emphasized that point, noting the importance of being ready for the next pandemic. “From AIDS to Zika, we face an entire alphabet of viruses,” he said. “Investing in our capacity for fundamental scientific research lets us retool our capabilities to meet new threats.”

Clinical care

Currently there are 80 pregnant women in Florida with confirmed exposure to the Zika virus, said Christine L. Curry, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, who consults with the state Department of Health. “While Gov. Rick Scott has said all pregnant women have the right to be tested, the lack of resources has affected our ability to conduct tests and provide timely results,” she said.

As a clinician, Curry says her patients have a long series of questions about Zika, including the risks of microcephaly, a birth defect in which the infant’s head is smaller than normal, as well as vision, hearing and potential developmental delays. “It is very difficult to quantify those risks, because new data keeps emerging,” she said. “As we learn more about Zika, we are finding that some infants may look normal at birth, but fail to meet developmental milestones in their first year.”

Later in the forum, when asked about exposure to insecticides to repel or kill mosquitoes, Curry came down firmly on the side of protection.  Staying indoors, wearing long sleeved tops and pants and using repellents are important steps in reducing the risk of mosquito bites, she said.

In pediatrics, one of the clinical challenges is early diagnosis of children carrying the Zika virus, according to Ivan A. Gonzalez, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics and specialist in pediatric infectious diseases. “Knowing an infant or child has been exposed to Zika could help physicians develop clinical protocols,” he said. “We also need to monitor these children closely to learn more about the long-term outcomes.”

The public health challenge

As Florida faces the Zika threat, there is much that can be learned from other countries where tropical diseases are endemic, said several panelists.  Mosquito control has been shown to be effective in many regions, and should be a priority for Wynwood, Miami Beach and all of Miami-Dade County, said John Beier, professor of public health sciences and chief of the Division of Environment and Public Health.

“We are all at risk in South Florida, especially with so many visitors moving through our neighborhoods,” Beier said. “We need to invest in mosquito control, because it’s essential to our quality of life here.”

Paola N. Lichtenberger, assistant professor of clinical medicine and director of the Tropical Disease Program, noted that there are significant differences between Zika and dengue, Ebola, and yellow fever. “This is the first time we have seen a tropical virus associated with microcephaly, and the first time we have seen sexual transmission of the virus,” she said. “In some ways, we are starting from zero. But we need to know how this virus behaves in order to develop vaccines and treatments.”

Alina Hudak, deputy mayor of Miami-Dade County, also addressed the Zika public health challenge facing the region. “We need to educate the community about the importance of taking individual precautions, controlling mosquitoes, and breaking the cycle of transmission,” she said. “Our efforts in Wynwood have dramatically reduced mosquito counts, and we are hopeful that aerial and truck spraying in Miami Beach will have the same results.”

Concluding the session, Frenk and several panelists emphasized the importance of a collaborative approach to combating Zika. “It’s not just what the city, county, or state can do to fight mosquitoes,” Lichtenberger said. “It is everyone’s responsibility to prevent a generation of children growing up with birth defects from this virus. Learn about Zika, pay attention to what’s happening here, and take action to protect our community.”

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Search Begins for Medical School Dean

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Search Begins for Medical School Dean

School of Communication Dean Gregory J. Shepherd is charing the search committee.

School of Communication Dean Gregory J. Shepherd is chairing the search committee.

Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the School of Communication, has been appointed chair of the committee that will conduct the University of Miami’s historic search for a new dean of the Miller School of Medicine. As Shepherd noted in a recent message to the medical school community, “Recruiting a new dean is not just about the Miller School of Medicine and UHealth — it is critically important to the wider University of Miami community and indeed to all of South Florida.”

In his message, Shepherd committed to conducting a fair, open, and appropriately transparent national and international search “to find a deep and diverse pool of candidates.”

President Julio Frenk has charged the search committee with forwarding top candidates to Steven M. Altschuler, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs and CEO of UHealth – the University of Miami Health System, and UM Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc.

The other members of the search committee are:

  • Lilian M. Abbo, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and chief of Jackson Health System Infection Prevention and Antimicrobial Stewardship
  • Eduardo C. Alfonso, M.D., chair, Department of Ophthalmology and director, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute
  • Marie-Denise Gervais, M.D., assistant dean for admissions and diversity
  • Noor Joudi, Student Government executive president
  • Mahendra Kumar, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences
  • Karl L. Magleby, Ph.D., chair, Department of Physiology and Biophysics
  • JoNell Potter, ARNP, Ph.D., professor and director of research and special projects, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Matthias Salathe, M.D., professor of medicine and chief of Pulmonary Critical Care
  • Judith L. Schaechter, M.D., M.B.A., chair, Department of Pediatrics
  • Carl Schulman, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H., professor of surgery and director of the William Lehman Injury Research Center
  • Omaida C. Velazquez, M.D., chair, Department of Surgery
  • Stephan Züchner, M.D., Ph.D., chair, Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Department of Human Genetics

This distinguished group will be working with Phillips DiPisa, an executive search firm serving health care and life sciences organizations.

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