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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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UM and Melissa Institute Present Inaugural Conference October 3 on Preventing Aggression and Bullying in School and Community

CORAL GABLES, Fla.  (September 11, 2014)—It is estimated that about 60 percent of 4th to 8th graders are the victims of bullying. Studies show that the consequences of this abuse can psychologically affect victims until middle age, with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

An important inaugural conference will be held Friday, October 3, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Newman Alumni Center on the Coral Gables campus to discuss ways to prevent and help victims and their families deal with the aftermath of bullying incidents. The conference is co-sponsored by UM’s School of Education and Human Development (SEHD) and the Melissa Institute, a nonprofit organization housed within SEHD that is dedicated to preventing violence and promoting safer communities.

Titled “Preventing Aggression and Bullying in School and Community: Multi-Systemic Approaches,” the conference will bring together professionals in the field, including Isaac Prilleltensky, SEHD dean, Judy Schaechter, interim chair of pediatrics at the  Miller School of Medicine, Daniel Santisteban, a clinical psychologist and professor at SEHD, and  Debra Pepler, Distinguished Professor of Psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario. Pepler is the keynote speaker.

Open to the general public, the event is complimentary for UM faculty and students. The registration fee is $25, with proceeds benefitting The Melissa Institute.  For more information call 305-284-2930. To register online go to: www.MelissaInstitute.org.

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Sign Up for 5K RUN 4-LIFE on Hollywood Beach to Benefit Organ Donation

The Miller School’s Life Alliance Organ Recovery Agency, in partnership with the Florida Lions Eye Bank and the University of Miami Tissue Bank, will hold a 5K (3.1-mile) RUN 4-LIFE  to benefit organ, eye, and tissue donation education efforts on Sunday, October 26, from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Charnow Park, 300 Connecticut Street, in Hollywood, Florida. Starting and ending at Charnow Park, the 5K run/walk course winds along the Hollywood Beach strip.For more information and to view the course, visit www.splitsecondtiming.com/run-4-life-5k.


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UM Ranks Among the Nation’s Best for Hispanic Students

UM News

Ranked No. 2 this year, tHe Miller School of Medicine has been in the top five of HispanicBusiness's best schools for Hispanics students since 2005.

Ranked No. 2 this year, the Miller School of Medicine has been in the top five of HispanicBusiness’s best graduate schools for Hispanics since 2006.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (August 28, 2014)­—The University of Miami stands out among the “cream of the crop” for Hispanic students seeking advanced degrees, according to HispanicBusiness Magazine, which selected the top 10 graduate programs in medicine, business, law, and engineering at institutions of higher learning across the nation for its 2014 Annual Diversity Report.

Only 40 schools made the prestigious list in at least one of the four disciplines, but UM had the distinction of being one of only two universities with three programs in the top 10, a near sweep. The Miller School of Medicine ranked No. 2 in the nation, Miami Law came in at No. 3, and the School of Business Administration placed eighth.

Published online August 20, the rankings are based on five categories, including the percentage of Hispanic students and faculty in each program and the efforts the programs make to attract and retain the students. “The schools on our lists are well-rounded and have made notable efforts to engage the Hispanic community,” the magazine said.

The Miller School, which has ranked among the top five in the nation for Hispanics since 2006, “has always had a goal of attracting and supporting a student demographic that mirrors the community and population we serve,” said Alex J. Mechaber, senior associate dean for undergraduate medical education and associate professor of medicine. “The ranking is a testament to that.”

Added Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, “As medicine is becoming increasingly global, the medical schools that are at the top of this list are the ‘next best schools’ of the U.S. Our commitment to diversity, a key value for our University, drives our efforts to engage and support the Hispanic community.”

The School of Law is proud of its long-standing commitment to diversity and equality. Standing at the crossroads of the Americas with a focus on serving students and having faculty and staff from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds, the school offers an abundance of opportunities that enhance a student’s legal education. Whether it is through the International LL.M. programs, J.D. curriculum or short courses for foreign lawyers, the school provides an educational environment that is diverse, inclusive, and one that promotes cross-cultural competencies.

“We are very proud to be consistently ranked in the upper echelon of law schools that serve the widest range of communities,” said Dean Patricia D. White. “The best law schools are those that nurture cultural competencies, preparing students for an increasingly complex and global world. I am very happy to say that our law school is one of those and will continue to stay true to this commitment.”

At the School of Business Administration, which has made the list for five consecutive years, Dean Eugene Anderson said the school is proud of its commitment to providing an inclusive and supportive environment for all students. “A diverse community, in the broadest possible sense, is essential to the character of our school, the ideas that we generate, the education and professional development of our students, and the contribution that both make to business and society,” he said.

Among services the school provides to Hispanic graduate students is career counseling, including scholarships to attend the annual career fair of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs (NSHMBA). The School’s Ziff Graduate Career Services Center also provides a student liaison for the South Florida NSHMBA Chapter, connects Latin American students with Latin American companies for employment, and provides networking opportunities and panel discussions through the Latin American Business Association. The school also offers the NSHMBA University Partnership Program Scholarship to select applicants who demonstrate a commitment to the Hispanic community.


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