e-Veritas Archive | November, 2015

Faculty Senate Cancels December Meeting

The Faculty Senate has cancelled its meeting scheduled for Wednesday, December 9. The next Senate meeting will take place in January.  For more details visit www.miami.edu/fs.

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Organs on Chips: Researcher Creates Human Organs that Mimic Real Ones

By Bárbara Gutiérrez
UM News

Agarwal 2

Using traditional engineering materials, stem cells harvested from rodents and humans, and 3-D printing, Ashutosh Agarwal is creating artificial human organs that mimic the real things, providing researchers with a new way to study organ function and underlying disease pathways.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 24, 2015) – Imagine a heart beating outside of the human body. Imagine that the organ acts just like the real thing but can be handled and studied like any other object. What possibilities would that create for physicians, scientists, pharmaceutical researchers, and other scholars?

Ashutosh Agarwal, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Miami, is ready to answer those questions. He is creating “Human Organs on Chips.”

In a revolutionary new approach, he combines traditional engineering structures such as metal or plastic with stem cells from rodents and humans to create a heart, pancreas, and lungs that mimic the real organ—including normal functioning and diseased organs. The chips, about the size of a USB stick or credit card, are created through 3-D printing and 3-D milling with intricate, precise measurements.

UM News spoke to Agarwal about his research. Here are some of his observations:

What excites you about this research?

Recreating human organ-level complexity in a dish, in both health and in disease, opens up several important applications. We can now test drug molecules before running clinical trials, dive deep into disease mechanisms, and create better stem cells for therapy.

What is the most important aspect of this approach?

Nobel Prize-winning American physicist and visionary Richard Feynman famously said: “What I cannot create, I do not understand.” By building models of human disease on a dish, we will enhance the understanding of the underlying disease pathways. Current projects include type 1 diabetes, stage IV lung cancer, cardiac diseases, and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.

What kind of response has there been to your research in the past?

The significance of this research endeavor has been well recognized by federal funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, and regulatory agencies such as the FDA, and received recent interest from pharmaceutical companies. The lab has received major grant funding from the NIH. I have served on “Placenta on a Chip” workshop organized by Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Wait What” conference organized by DARPA, as well as given a lecture at the “Futures of Cardiovascular Medicine” symposium by the American College of Cardiology (a primarily clinical conference).

Describe the process from being an idea to practicality.

We follow the engineering iterative process of Design –> Build –> Test.

Once we get interested in a disease model (typically through a clinical collaboration/announcement of a new funding initiative), we start with a physiology textbook. We study the template of how the body builds that organ and use that as a design template for our efforts in the lab.

In addition to mimicking the organ level structure, our devices allow evaluation of organ level function. We then populate these devices with cellular material sourced from human patients or stem cells. Based on the behavior of engineered tissues, we modify and optimize our devices. The last crucial step is validation by comparing our lab discoveries with clinical outputs.

Why is research in this area important (or relevant) for the average person?

Our tools will enable cheaper and faster drug development, discovery of therapies for some of the most intractable human diseases (such as type 1 diabetes, heart failure, lung cancer, and pulmonary fibrosis), and help make stem cell therapy a reality. Right now drug testing is first done on animals before it is approved for use on humans. That process is not always successful, and it is very expensive. We think we can make animal testing irrelevant.

What happens next?

The tools we are building in the lab need validation from two sources: clinicians, who are trying to understand and cure diseases, and pharmaceutical companies, who are developing new drugs. Validation from these two final ‘customers’ is the next step.

What’s the coolest thing about this development or something unexpected about it?

The interdisciplinary nature of the work. Currently, I am managing a group of folks with very different backgrounds and expertise. My postdoc has a Ph.D. in space propulsion, one of my technicians has a medical degree, and the other is a stem cell expert.

My master’s student is a chemical engineer with expertise in fluid transport physics. The three Ph.D. students are working on creating a Heart on a Chip, Diabetes on a Chip, and Pulmonary Fibrosis on a Chip. It’s a rich collaborative environment, and we learn from each other all the time!

The research is supported by the following: UM College of Engineering, Dr. John T Macdonald Foundation Biomedical Nanotechnology Institute at UM (BioNIUM); National Institutes of Health (Diabetes on a Chip); BioNIUM Research Award (Lung Cancer on a Chip), and UM-FIU Nanotechnology Award (Heart on a Chip).

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Band of the Hour Honors the Newmans for Their Support

UM News

Newmans Band of the Hour

During halftime of the Miami-Georgia Tech game, Judi Prokop Newman and her husband, Robert Newman, admired the new Band of the Hour uniforms and instruments made possible by their generosity.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 23, 2015) — The Phillip and Patricia Frost School of Music recognized Robert and Judi Newman for their generous support of the Frost Band of the Hour marching band at a special halftime presentation at Sun Life Stadium during last Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech.

Judi Prokop Newman, B.B.A. ’63, and her husband, Robert Newman, made a significant donation this summer to support new equipment and uniform purchases for UM’s marching band. Their gift enabled the Band of the Hour to purchase 115 new marching band instruments and a full set of newly designed uniforms with a sleek, reinvented image. The Newmans are excited to contribute to the growth of UM’s pageantry arts under the visionary leadership Jay C. Rees, professor of music and director of athletic bands.

The Newmans were honored during the marching band’s halftime performance by UM President Julio Frenk and Director of Athletics Blake James, along with Rees and the entire Frost Band of the Hour.

“We were thrilled to recognize the Newmans’ contribution to the band program by surprising them with a commemorative white shako hat with orange-tipped feather plume, personally autographed by Frenk, James, Frost School of Music Dean Shelly Berg, and myself,” Rees said.

Judi Newman is a University trustee, alumna, and Frost School of Music advisory board member. Robert Newman is an honorary alumnus, ’08, and former member of the University’s Entrepreneurship Programs Advisory Board. They are longtime and beloved major supporters of the University of Miami, including a gift that named the 72,000-square-foot Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center. The Newman Alumni Center opened in 2010 and has become one of the most popular gathering places on the University’s Coral Gables campus.

At the Frost School of Music, the Newmans are major donors to the William Hipp Endowed Scholarship Fund, named in honor of the former music dean. They also provide substantial support to the school’s annual Winter Wonderful holiday gala, benefiting music mentoring scholarships for the Frost School’s Donna E. Shalala MusicReach Program.

The Frost Band of the Hour is the marching and pep band at the University of Miami. It is the largest and one of the most exciting, visible, diverse, and involved student groups on the UM campus, performing challenging custom musical arrangements and contemporary drum corps-style drill design.


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Steven M. Altschuler Named Senior Vice President of Health Affairs and CEO of UHealth

UM News

Steven Altschuler

Steven M. Altschuler

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (November 24, 2015)—Steven M. Altschuler, a renowned physician and health care administrator who served as president and chief executive officer of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and The Children’s Hospital Foundation for the past 15 years, has been named senior vice president of health affairs at the University of Miami and chief executive officer of UHealth-University of Miami Health System.

In his new position, Altschuler will be responsible for the strategic and operational leadership of the University’s clinical delivery system, which includes the University’s hospitals, faculty practice plan, and clinics. He will report directly to UM President Julio Frenk and fulfill an advising role to the executive vice president and provost of the University, the senior vice president of business and finance and chief financial officer of the University, and the Board of Trustees in order to provide strategic leadership to align clinical and research investments.

Miller School of Medicine Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, the founder of UHealth and dean since 2006, will continue to serve as the head of the school, providing academic leadership to its educational and research missions.

“I am extremely grateful for the University’s confidence in me to lead this amazing system, along with the help of a skilled and dedicated team. The opportunity to be part of the institution during such an innovative era in health care and scientific research is exciting,” said Altschuler, who begins his new post on January 1, 2016.

“Steven Altschuler has a wealth of experience as a leader in both health care administration and the delivery of excellent and compassionate patient care. As senior vice president of health affairs, he will spearhead UHealth’s continued advancement as a world-class academic medical enterprise serving the Americas and beyond,” said President Frenk. “We are grateful to Dean Goldschmidt, who has been instrumental in the Miller School’s progress as one of the nation’s top medical schools and will continue to provide leadership in our academic and research efforts.”

Altschuler led CHOP’s transformation from a traditional academic medical center into a world leader in pediatric health care, research, education, and advocacy for children, with strong ties to the University of Pennsylvania. The organization has approximately 14,000 employees, including nearly 1,200 full-time physicians and researchers, at 50 different care sites in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In FY 2015, the foundation, hospital, and affiliates had approximately $5.4 billion in assets and $115 million in charitable contributions. Research expenditures were approximately $340 million, and the hospital supported the clinical and research training of 135 residents and 275 fellows. Since 2003, with the exception of only two years, U.S. News & World Report has ranked CHOP the No. 1 children’s hospital in the nation.

Altschuler was associated with CHOP as a postdoctoral fellow in 1982, becoming an assistant physician in 1984 and serving as chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief of CHOP from 1997-2000. He also was a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania from 1985-2000. Since retiring from CHOP in June 2015, Altschuler has been board chair of Spark Therapeutics, a leading gene therapy company that is a spinoff of the Center of Cellular and Molecular Therapeutics at CHOP.

Altschuler received his B.A. in mathematics from Case Western Reserve University and his M.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. He was an intern and resident at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston before serving as a postdoctoral fellow at CHOP.

“The recruitment of an esteemed leader like Dr. Altschuler reflects the continued momentum at the University of Miami and UHealth, as we seek to grow and improve our University’s contribution to our great city. This appointment is the latest step in the evolution of UHealth as a world-class medical enterprise that is driven to excel in both patient care and patient experience,” said Stuart Miller, chair of the UM Board of Trustees.Dean

Goldschmidt said it is a pleasure and an honor to pass the baton for UHealth and UM health affairs to Altschuler, whom he described as “an extraordinarily accomplished leader of medicine for the 21st century.”

“His past accomplishments are simply formidable, and our institution will benefit immensely from his expertise and talent,” Goldschmidt said. “I am delighted to have a chance to refocus all of my attention on the Miller School of Medicine and work with our faculty, staff, students, and trainees who are doing a fabulous job in promoting our ascension in the ranks of top-tier U.S. medical schools. All of us at the medical center are deeply grateful to President Frenk and the Board of Trustees for the recruitment of Steven Altschuler.”

As South Florida’s only academic-based health system, UHealth combines patient care, research, and education to create a leading-edge approach to health care. UHealth’s comprehensive network includes three hospitals: Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Hospital, and Bascom Palmer Eye Institute; more than a dozen outpatient facilities in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Collier counties; and more than 1,500 physicians and scientists.

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Inspired by Sight-Restoring Surgery, Patient Access Director Becomes Culture Coach


Natacha Caballero

A decade ago, Natacha Caballero, director of patient access at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, came to the University of Miami as a temporary employee looking for an opportunity. Today, in addition to her duties at Sylvester, she volunteers as a culture coach through the Building a Better U Together initiative. As a culture coach, Caballero and a Disney consultant co-facilitate training sessions to teach faculty and staff about our common purpose, values, leadership traits, and service standards. In this issue of DIRECCT Talk, Caballero shares what makes her tick.

Share a moment in your career when you realized the reach and impact of the University.

Years ago, while working at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, I was able to witness a breakthrough discovery by Dr. Victor Perez, a cornea specialist. He used a blind woman’s tooth to restore her vision. After failed cornea transplant surgeries, Dr. Perez and other UM physicians successfully restored her vision after nine years. How incredible was this!!! I knew then I was working for an organization that was transforming lives even before the new common purpose was rolled out.

Share a moment when you felt most proud of working for UM.

I was part of The Essential’s of Leadership pilot program last year and was able to see how much dedication the U put forth to developing its leaders. I felt proud of working for UM because in the 10 years I have been here, I have seen many changes come and go and I have been a firm believer that one day we would get to this place and have programs like these to provide our leaders with the tools they need to do their jobs successfully. Earlier this year, I graduated from the program and even President Shalala attended the ceremony. That was a BIG deal! I was in awe of how much time and effort went into coordinating this event. I proudly posted my pictures on social media, and I was filled with pride to be a part of such an incredible organization. I decided at that moment I wanted to be an advocate for this change by becoming a culture coach. As a coach, I am able to not only promote new changes coming to the University but to be a driving force living the change and encouraging other members of the U to embrace it with optimism and positivity.

Share a story of a patient, student, colleague, or leader who has positively impacted your life.

There is only one person who comes to mind when I think about this question. I have worked with her for eight years after she recruited me to Patient Access. Kassandra Lage, my current executive director, has consistently demonstrated a positive attitude and acted as a role model throughout all these years. She not only exhibits enthusiasm in this field, she values ongoing learning and growth. Her approachability and ability to listen have been key in my development as I feel I can always count on her no matter how difficult the situation may be. In addition, she shares her knowledge and motivates me to teach and guide others as well.

Tell us why you chose UM, and why you choose to continue your career here.

The U has seen me grow professionally and mature as a leader. I started working here 10 years ago as a temporary employee and I am incredibly proud and honored to work in a place where growth is valued and possible. I choose to continue working here because I want to be part of the successes of our organization and continue to push it towards future growth and culture transformation.

DIRECCT Talk focuses on the ways faculty and staff exemplify the DIRECCT values—diversity, integrity, respect, excellence, compassion, creativity, and teamwork—that drive UM’s culture.


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