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UM Investigators Win $13M in State Zika Research Grants

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UM Investigators Win $13M in State Zika Research Grants

Special to UM News

The Florida Department of Health announced Feb. 1 the award of 12 grants totaling $13,170,784 from the 2016-17 Zika Research Grant Initiative to investigators at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami Health System. The grants are more than half of the $25 million state fund supporting a total of 34 Zika research projects at UM and nine other institutions.

Florida Governor Rick Scott said, “I am proud to announce the recipients of these important research grants today. While we are currently in winter months when Zika is not as prevalent, we must remain vigilant and continue to do everything we can to help protect pregnant women and their developing babies. I look forward to seeing the innovation and progress of Florida’s world-class research institutions as we continue to work together in the fight against Zika and to find a vaccine.”

State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said, “I am grateful for Governor Scott’s leadership that enables us to provide researchers in Florida funds to expand the body of knowledge related to Zika, particularly in the areas of prevention and effects on infants and children.”

“Despite the time pressures related to the Zika Research Grant Initiative, investigators from the Miller School of Medicine and across the state responded with projects that have the potential to quickly advance both science and benefit to patients,” said Daniel Armstrong, Ph.D., Director of the Mailman Center for Child Development and Chair of the Florida Biomedical Research Advisory Council. “It is clear that the Miller School, UHealth and other Florida investigators are leading in innovation and impact, and increased funding support is needed to bring the best of science to patients who will benefit.”

Laurence B. Gardner, M.D., interim Dean of the Miller School of Medicine, credits the leadership of Dushayantha Jayaweera, M.D., Executive Dean for Research, in encouraging faculty to submit proposals for research funding. “It’s a reflection of the high quality of our faculty that we had so many successful applications,” Gardner said.

The Zika Research Grant Initiative focused on vaccine development, innovative diagnostic testing or therapeutics, and health effects of Zika, and included discovery science, clinical studies, screening and prevention, and dynamic change team science studies. UM investigators were funded for work in all of these areas, and include:

• Sylvia Daunert, Pharm.D., M.S., Ph.D., Excma.Dra., Lucille P. Markey Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology: “Antibody-based Zika diagnostics,” $1,141,585

• Natasa Strbo, M.D., D.Sc., research assistant professor of microbiology and immunology: “Development and testing of novel secreted GP96-Ig Zika virus (ZIKV) vaccine,” $981,901

• Emmalee S. Bandstra, M.D., professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology: “Health effects of Zika virus,” $1,989,654

• Sapna Deo, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology: “Rapid RNA test for Zika virus,” $199,280

• Gaurav Saigal, M.D., professor of clinical radiology: “Characterization of Zika-positive and exposed children using enhanced MRI techniques and correlations with neurodevelopmental outcomes,” $1,141,457

• Ramzi Younis, M.D., professor of otolaryngology: “Early diagnosis and rehabilitation for craniofacial disorders in congenital Zika syndrome,” $1,140,125

• Glen N. Barber, Ph.D., professor and chair of cell biology: “Evaluation of novel vaccines that prevent Zika infection,” $1,141,582

• Claudia A. Martinez, M.D., associate professor of medicine: “Cardiovascular complications related to Zika virus infection,” $963,109

• Ivan Gonzalez, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics: “Evaluation of infants for Zika related end organ damage: A team science approach,” $1,989,654

• Mario Stevenson, Ph.D., professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases: “Identification of the duration of ZIKVpersistence to guide reproductive health decisions,” $1,141,582

• Shanta Dhar, Ph.D., associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology: “Nano-formulations of anti-helminthic drugs for Zika therapy and prevention,” $1,141,582

• Mark E. Sharkey, Ph.D., research assistant professor of medicine: “Development of a rapid diagnostic assay for Zika virus infection,” $199,273

The grant programs are administered by the Florida Department of Health and implemented by the Biomedical Research Advisory Council. All of the grants were externally and independently peer reviewed by scientific experts.

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Register for the SunSmart 5k on February 4

Come run along the scenic shores of Key Biscayne at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 4 for the eighth annual SunSmart 5k that benefits cancer research at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Join the community of 300 runners who will receive free post-race skin cancer screenings by a Sylvester physician. The event is hosted by medical students at the Miller School of Medicine. Register at SunSmart5k.com.


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Register Now for 50th Annual Neurology and Stroke Intensive Conference February 9-11

Neurology&Stroke The 50th annual Neurology and Stroke Intensive course, presented by the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Neurology at the Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay on Thursday and Friday, February 9-10, will provide clinicians with the most recent developments in the diagnosis and management of neurologic disorders, including stroke.

It will cover the latest advances in the different fields of neurology and neuroscience, including epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, movement disorders, neuromuscular diseases, CNS infections, and migraine, all of which are critical in solving clinical problems, diagnosing and treating patients, and improving the quality of patient care.

In addition, a dedicated stroke seminar on Saturday, February 11, is designed as a stand-alone, eight-hour CME activity. For centers planning to seek stroke center status or already designated as a stroke center, this course will provide stroke teams with the most up-to-date evidence in the field of stroke diagnosis, treatment and prevention.

In addition, difficult diagnostic and therapeutic problems in movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, and stroke will be presented, including an exchange of information between faculty and attendees with case presentations, dedicated discussions, and question-and-answer sessions after each presentation, as well as panel discussions.

For more information or to reserve your spot, visit www.cme.med.miami.edu.


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M.D./M.P.H. and Nursing Students Prepare for the Unthinkable

Special to UM News


Nursing and M.D./M.P.H. students assumed the roles of first responders and patients during disaster drills at the Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education.

MIAMI, Fla. (December 12, 2016) — The Gordon Center for Research in Medical Education doesn’t usually take care of patients, but on one recent Saturday it served as a makeshift hospital for M.D./M.P.H. and nursing students working together on a complicated, frightening possibility: How would they respond to a terrorist attack at Marlins Park?

Triage for the disaster drill was in the lobby, a large emergency department was set up downstairs, and other areas included a medical/surgical floor, pediatrics, an intensive care unit, and OB/GYN.

“We ran two scenarios so that each student had the opportunity to play both a provider and a victim role,” said Ivette Motola, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Division of Prehospital and Emergency Healthcare and assistant director of the Gordon Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. “In the first scenario — a bombing and active shooter at the stadium — every area in the hospital had to figure out how to get the patients in, how to treat them, whether to send them home — the same thing that happened at the Boston Marathon bombing. The students who weren’t health care providers in the first scenario were the victims or family members, and then in between we flipped them.”

In the second scenario, the active shooter came to the hospital, Motola said. “The students had to manage sheltering in place, and some were given the role of incident commander and public information officer. We were a little concerned about the level of the challenge and having them all have active roles, but it came together beautifully.”

Casey McGillicuddy, a second-year M.D./M.P.H. student who wants to pursue a career in disaster medicine, shared Motola’s enthusiasm for the experience. “This was a great opportunity to take away the silos between medical and nursing students,” she said. “Nurses will be such a huge part of the rest of my career – it was great to learn from each other.”

Directing the exercise from the School of Nursing and Health Studies was Susana Barroso-Fernandez, Ph.D., R.N., director of simulation operations for the school’s International Academy for Clinical Simulation and Research.

“Nurses are the largest body of first responders in any disaster,” Barroso-Fernandez said. “When you look at a situation of this magnitude, you can pick up a nursing journal or read an article or watch the news, but unless we give them the experience of the front line and put them in that situation, they graduate not knowing what it feels like.

“In this day and age, unfortunately, it’s not a matter of if something happens, it’s when.”

The exercise was McGillicuddy’s capstone project, so she was involved in planning from the beginning. “After the Orlando massacre and the Boston Marathon, we were interested in doing an active-shooter exercise,” she said. “The roles had to be very carefully planned — for example, ‘You are a gunshot victim, right lower leg, and are experiencing shock.’ ”

Thinking about the unthinkable is critical for medical and nursing students, Motola said. “Because disasters don’t happen very often it’s hard to get people to focus on preparing for it, but the idea is to have health care providers who have thought about it and are prepared for it.”

Emergency management professionals who participated in the exercise stressed that message, McGillicuddy said. “They said some of our decisions weren’t necessarily right or wrong, but should it occur in real life we’ll be ready, and we won’t be panicking. It’s always better to have action than inaction.”

“Nursing school is an amazing experience,” Barroso-Fernandez said. “This exercise gives you an opportunity to step back. Because even if you’re working at a hospital during a disaster, it’s a different experience than coming in for your regular shift.”

Many of the nursing students will qualify to join the Medical Reserve Corps after graduation and be available for assignment during a disaster. Building relationships with the M.D./M.P.H. students was valuable preparation for those and other experiences, Barroso-Fernandez said. “At the end of the day what we all want is to enhance patient care and improve patient safety, whatever the scenario.”



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Behavioral Medicine Pioneers Honored

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Behavioral Medicine Pioneers Honored

By Alex Bassil
UM News


Stephen M. Weiss, and Marc D. Gellman

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (December 8, 2016)—Stephen M. Weiss, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Miller School of Medicine, and Marc D. Gellman, Ph.D., research associate professor of psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, were honored last week by the International Congress of Behavioral Medicine for their contributions to the interdisciplinary field that combines medicine and psychology.

Weiss, who is widely considered one of the founders of the field, received the ICBM’s Lifetime Achievement Award on December 7 at the ICBM’s 14th Congress in Melbourne, Australia. He has served as president of both the international society and the Society of Behavioral Medicine (USA).

“I’m not old enough for such an honor,” he joked when asked about the award, adding, “Well, perhaps approaching 80 means if you will ever receive such an honor from your colleagues, maybe sooner is better than later.”

Gellman, was honored with the Distinguished Career Contribution Award for his widely acknowledged contributions to the development of behavioral medicine, which is particularly relevant today, given that many illnesses, like diabetes and lung cancer, are often caused by behavior. He is editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine and a former board member of both the USA and international societies.

In expressing his gratitude for the award, Gellman said, “It means so much to me to be acknowledged by my international colleagues. This award would not be possible without the exceptional contribution of so many members of the International Society of Behavioral Medicine.”

The international congress attracts global experts in behavioral medicine and related disciplines to foster research collaborations that contribute to the science and practice of behavioral medicine.


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