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UM Joins Alliance to Improve Health Care

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UM Joins Alliance to Improve Health Care

UM News

UnidasCORAL GABLES, Fla. (October 30, 2015)–For the purpose of improving the skills of physicians, nurses, and health care professionals in general who give care to the 20 percent of the population with the lowest income in Mesoamerica, the Carlos Slim Foundation(FCS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the University of Miami, have joined forces to make available to health care personnel two graduate programs intended to strengthen knowledge in the areas of maternal and child health, thus enhancing the quality of health care.

Through the graduate programs in Maternal and Neonatal Health (AMANECE) and Latin American in Vaccinology (DILAVAC), offered through the Online Interactive Platform for Health Education (PIEENSO) developed by the Carlos Slim Foundation, the enrolled professionals will benefit from academic programs with the participation of national and international experts. Both graduate programs are endorsed by prestigious Mexican academic institutions such as UNAM and IPN, and now also by the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

In 2016, thanks to this alliance coordinated through the IDB, the Carlos Slim Foundation will help Mesoamerican countries with 2,000 scholarships at a cost of $1,500 dollars each. Complementing this effort, the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine joins this initiative by providing the academic endorsement to the fellows who complete the graduate programs.

Helping to reduce the gaps in health equity and strengthen knowledge in the areas of maternal and child health care for the professionals working in the most disadvantaged sectors of Mesoamerica have been the triggers for this tripartite alliance whose main goal is to help bring down one of the most worrisome scourges of the region: the mortality rate of women of reproductive age and of children under five.

“The IDB is committed to this academic initiative because by implementing the online graduate programs it is investing in the training of health care personnel in the region, a key element to improve the quantity and quality of maternal, neonatal and child health services to the poorest populations in Mesoamerica,” said Luis Alberto Moreno, president of the Bank.

“The alliance formalized today among our three institutions is an important step to consolidate, through the academic endorsement of an institution as prestigious as the University of Miami, the investment effort in human capital that the Carlos Slim Foundation has developed through PIEENSO, the online training platform for health care professionals,” said Marco Antonio Slim, a member of the Foundation’s Administrative Council.

University of Miami President Julio Frenk noted; “As a hemispheric institution, the University of Miami is dedicated not only to the generation of knowledge, but also to ensure that such knowledge is made available to those who need it. The mission of our Department of Public Health Sciences is to improve the health of the Americas population through the development of local capabilities in the region.”

“Our department is committed to supporting initiatives to create capacity and translate research findings into public health practice throughout the Americas,” said Jose Szapocznik, professor and chair of Public Health Sciences and director of the Clinical and Translational Science Institute. “We are delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with two such prestigious institutions in our common mission of improving the health of Mesoamerica. Dr. Viviana Horigian – in spearheading the formation of this alliance – has created new opportunities not only for professionals in Mesoamerica,  but also for our faculty and students.”

With these training programs, the Carlos Slim Foundation, the University of Miami, and the IDB support the strengthening of the quality and coverage of health care services for which the governments of Mesoamerica are working through the Mesoamerican Health Initiative.

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Register Today for Miami Neonatology 2015

Register today for Miami Neonatology 2015, which will be held at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach from November 11-14. Miami Neonatology strives to provide medical professionals with comprehensive knowledge of the leading trends and best practices in neonatology. Presentations will highlight the most current concepts in the pathogenesis, management, and prevention of problems in the newborn infant.

The conference provides attendees with an extensive educational program featuring new developments in treating conditions that are causally associated with morbidity and mortality in the neonate. Participants will understand the importance of the preventive approach in minimizing medical complications and optimizing developmental outcome.

Important topics will include prenatal conditions that may jeopardize the fetus and management of acute neonatal complications, as well as issues relating to long-term developmental outcome. The goal of this educational activity is to provide attendees with improved competency, performance, and quality of care for newborns.

A one-day pre-conference workshop, “Advances in Respiratory Care,” will be held on November 11.

To register, visit the conference website. For more information, contact Lizbeth Castellano, conference coordinator, at lcastellano@med.miami.edu or 305-243-2068.

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Basketball Players Help Test Concussion Goggles

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Basketball Players Help Test Concussion Goggles

By Maya Bell
UM News


Members of the men’s and women’s basketball teams volunteered to test the portable, concussion-detector goggles in their training room at the BankUnited Center last week.

CORAL GALES, Fla. (October 23, 2015)—As a guard on the Hurricanes women’s basketball team, Laura Cornelius doesn’t worry much about suffering a concussion. “I take care of myself,” she says.

But the 5-8 freshman from the Netherlands was surprised to learn that the rate of concussion, the most common form of mild traumatic brain injury (TBI), has been growing among athletes, especially female athletes, and particularly female soccer players. As Dr. Mikhaylo Szczupak, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Miller School of Medicine’s Department of Otolaryngology, notes, “Female soccer players of all ages, from peewees to pros, have one of the highest rates of concussion, almost on par with football players.”

So last week, Cornelius was happy to join many of her teammates and many players on the men’s basketball team in their training room at the BankUnited Center for a voluntary research study aimed at testing a portable, head-mounted goggle system that is designed to quickly and accurately diagnose mild TBI on the sidelines.

The study’s principal investigator, Michael E. Hoffer, professor of otolaryngology and director of the Department of Otolaryngology’s Vestibular and Balance Program, was awarded a $500,000 grant from the NFL, Under Armour, and General Electric to determine whether the IPAS system is effective at diagnosing a mild TBI and, secondarily, ruling one out in both athletes and non-athletes.

‘‘I think it was interesting, and actually fun,” said Cornelius, upon completing the test, which took less than 15 minutes and consisted of tracking 3D images displayed in the goggles. “And one day it will really help a lot of people.”

Developed by Neuro Kinetics, Inc. (NKI), a Pittsburgh-based company and partner in the grant, the I-Portal PAS goggle is outfitted with software that records eye movements, balance, and reaction time to determine whether an athlete who has been shaken up on the field can return to play or should seek further medical attention.

Members of UM’s football team, the women’s soccer and volleyball teams, and club sports teams already have tested the goggles, contributing the baseline data that one day could help the goggles win approval as a medical device. If so, Szczupak sees a future where the portable concussion detectors become a common piece of equipment on the sidelines of every sport, at every level.

“Right now, there is no universally accepted gold standard for detecting a concussion,” he said. “Working with NKI, UM researchers have developed a method to diagnose the disorder on a sophisticated $250,000 rotary chair found in specialized balance centers. But these prototype goggles cost, by order of magnitude, considerably less, and the hope is, one day, they will be affordable enough to be found on every sideline—not just at professional games, but at middle and high schools, league sports, and your daughter’s soccer game.’’



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Colleagues Remember Distinguished Researcher and Educator Eckhard Podack

Eckhard Podack

Eckhard Podack

During his long and distinguished career as a cancer researcher at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Eckhard Podack, M.D., Ph.D., made a series of scientific discoveries pointing the way toward more effective treatments for lung cancer, infectious diseases and disorders of the immune system. The renowned professor and Chairman of the Miller School’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Podack passed away on Thursday, October 8, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Our loss is substantial, not only of a friend who we adored and shared wonderful memories with, but also of a colleague whose talent was akin to those who have received the Nobel Prize,” said Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, and CEO of UHealth, the University of Miami Health System.

A fellow in the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Podack was widely respected around the world for his pioneering laboratory studies and dedication to finding better treatments for cancer patients and patients with severe infections, such as HIV and listeriosis. In the past four decades, Podack wrote or contributed to more than 305 professional articles, books and monographs.

“This is a sad loss to Eckhard’s family, his colleagues, his department, the School and basically to all of humanity from his unfinished work,” said Karl L. Magleby, Ph.D., professor and Chair of the Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

A native of Germany who became interested in cancer research at an early age, Podack joined the Miller School in 1987 and became department Chairman in 1994.

Diana M. Lopez, Ph.D., professor of microbiology and immunology and Director of the department’s Undergraduate Program, invited Podack to Miami to speak about his research in 1985 after meeting him at two scientific conferences.

“You could tell immediately how brilliant he was,” she said. “Our faculty was very impressed, especially our Chair at the time, Dr. Wayne Streilein. He was charged with building our immunology program, and he thought it was a momentous achievement that we were able to attract a scientist of Eckhard’s caliber to Miami. He was doing translational work here before anyone else. When Wayne left to go to Harvard in 1994, Eckhard succeeded him.”

Together Lopez and Podack recently introduced a highly successful new undergraduate course that he had created called Innate Immunity.

“He was passionate about teaching,” Lopez said, “and we had 102 students sign up for the first course. He taught it, and the students loved it. He was just as passionate about his research, and before he died he was very excited about a new project he was beginning. Eckhard especially enjoyed helping young scientists start their career. He was not only a brilliant scientist, but also a very nice man. He is going to be irreplaceable.”

“Eckhard was an exceptional educator who was loved by his students, faculty and staff,” said Sylvia Daunert, Ph.D., Professor and Lucille P. Markey Chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Associate Director of the Dr. John T. Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute. “He was also dedicated to turning scientific discoveries into effective clinical treatments.”

In the early 1990s, Podack created a monoclonal antibody to seek out and attach to CD-30, a receptor on lymphoma cells. He sold the technology to Seattle Genetics, which developed SGN-35, a therapy designed to target only cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue alone.

Podack also discovered Perforin-1 and, more recently, Perforin-2, antibacterial proteins that help the body’s immune system defend against infectious disease. One of Podack’s last published studies, “Perforin-2 is essential for intracellular defense of parenchymal cells and phagocytes against pathogenic bacteria,” appeared online September 24 in the eLife Sciences Journal. He was the lead author of the Miller School study.

“Eckhard’s work on immune therapies for cancer, and the killing of microorganisms with the Perforin family of proteins that he discovered, will have a long-lasting impact on our fellow humans,” Goldschmidt said.

Another of Podack’s accomplishments was developing a novel lung cancer vaccine using gp-96, a heat shock protein, to treat non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for 85 percent of all lung cancers. For these patients, surgery and chemotherapy are often the only options, so this treatment will fill a substantial need.

While conventional vaccines are used to prevent infectious diseases, Podack’s treatment revs up the immune system to produce T cells and natural killer cells to fight the cancer. He also developed tumor necrosis factor receptor (TNFR) 25 agonists and antagonists that allow the immune system to attack cancer cells more effectively.

In order to translate his discoveries into clinical treatments, Podack launched Heat Biologics in 2008 to develop “ImPACT” (Immune Pan-Antigen Cytotoxic Therapy), a proprietary cell-based immunotherapy for use in the treatment of a wide range of cancers. Heat Biologics completed a successful initial public offering in 2013, and continues to develop its leading-edge therapy.

Podack earned his medical degree from Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1968, and his doctoral degree from Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany, in 1972. He also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in biochemistry in 1974 at Georg-August University.

He joined the Department of Immunology at the Research Institute of Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, in 1974. A decade later, he joined New York Medical College as professor of microbiology and immunology, and also became professor of medicine, before moving to Miami in 1987. Since 2009, he was also a guest professor at Shandong Gallo Institute of Virology at Shandong Academy of Medical Sciences in Jinan, China.

“Eckhard was a giant in his field, and his work will continue to advance through his outstanding colleagues in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and beyond,” Goldschmidt said. “We want to extend our sincerest condolences to Eckhart’s beloved wife, Kristin, and the entire Podack family.”

The Miller School will schedule a celebration of Podack’s life in the near future.

Donations in his memory may be made to:
Partners in Health: https://donate.pih.org/give-today
Florida Grand Opera: http://tickets.fgo.org/contribution/index.aspx
FGO donations should be designated for Mainstage Productions as a Memorial Gift in the name of Dr. Eckhard Podack.

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30th Great Sports Legends Dinner Raises $12M to Cure Paralysis

Special to UM News


A host of VIPs came together to raise money for The Buoniconti Fund for research and clinical trials aimed at curing paralysis.

MIAMI, Fla. (October 12, 2015) — Celebrities, sports legends, corporate leaders, and others joined NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti, his son Marc, and event chair Mark Dalton as they hosted a sold-out crowd in celebration of the 30th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner to benefit The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis.

Held at New York’s famed Waldorf Astoria on October 6, the dinner paid tribute to philanthropic heroes and sports icons who inspire and motivate those affected by spinal cord injuries, and raised more than $12 million for research and the Human Clinical Trials Initiative at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Read the full story

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