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Health and Human Services

International Conference at UToledo Targeting Human Trafficking Grows to Record Level

In the wake of high-profile sex trafficking charges against financier Jeffrey Epstein and singer R. Kelly, this dark world of modern-day slavery is under an intense spotlight and garnering global attention.

Survivors, researchers and advocates around the world are coming together this week for the 16th Annual International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference at The University of Toledo.

This year marks the largest event since the conference began at UToledo in 2004 and for the first time features an art exhibit in collaboration with the UToledo Department of Art to raise critical consciousness for social justice.

“We are proud so many people want to learn about human trafficking,” said Dr. Celia Williamson, Distinguished University Professor and director of the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute. “Our conference brings sex and labor trafficking out of the shadows and helps end abuse. More than ever before, we have the opportunity to educate, collaborate and save lives.”

The conference, which — to date — has welcomed presenters from 42 states and 30 countries, is Thursday and Friday, Sept. 19 and 20, in the Thompson Student Union on Main Campus.

UToledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the Lucas County Human Trafficking Coalition host the conference.

Williamson recently published a new book titled “A Seat at the Table: The Courage to Care About Trafficking Victims,” which tells her life story and transition from at-risk for trafficking to a world-renown social worker and researcher, working directly with victims and revolutionizing global anti-trafficking efforts.

At this year’s conference, Williamson will unveil her new, free human trafficking risk assessment tool (HTRISK) that she developed with support from the Ohio Children’s Trust Fund, as well as release the findings from her study of 400 Ohio youth. That presentation will be Friday, Sept. 20, at 9 a.m. in the Thompson Student Union Ingman Room. Watch the livestream on the UToledo Alumni Association website.

“With limited time, money and resources, advocates need to know which youth are at the highest risk for sex trafficking and then do their best to prevent it,” Williamson said.

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, from 9 to 10 a.m., 475 high school students from the area will gather in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium for Human Trafficking 101, where they also will learn about dating violence and participate in a poetry slam.

For a full schedule of presentations, visit the conference website.

New this year, the UToledo Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute and the College of Arts and Letters partnered together for an art exhibit titled “Faces of Trafficking,” which features people from the greater Toledo community who are leading the fight to end trafficking.

“It is an opportunity to bring to life the people impacted by human trafficking and to provide a path for the community to join the fight,” Barbara Miner, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Art, said.

The tall black-and-white photography installation called “The Pillars” features people on the front lines in the war against trafficking.

“These are warriors holding up the ceiling of hope,” Miner said. “Using an arresting, striking style, we’re showcasing people like Celia Williamson as well as medical and law enforcement professionals among others who work under the radar and often go unnoticed, but who are working tirelessly to protect people suffering through contemporary slavery.”

Artwork created by current and former art students in response to trafficking stories and the global issue also will be on display.

The free, public exhibit can be see from Thursday, Sept. 19, through Friday, Dec. 6, at the UToledo Center for the Visual Arts on the University’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus. Gallery hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The UToledo Center for the Visual Arts also is featuring a special project, “A Thousand Hands, A Million Stars,” a collaboration uniting visual art, poetry, music and dance produced by former UToledo faculty member Denise Ritter Bernardini.

Deans Appointed to Vice Provost Roles to Advance Health Affairs

The Office of the Provost has appointed two deans to take on additional responsibilities as vice provosts.

Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs, has been appointed to serve as vice provost for educational health affairs.

Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing, has been appointed to serve as vice provost for health affairs for interprofessional and community partnerships.

In his vice provost role, Cooper will serve as a liaison between the Office of the Provost and the deans of the four health-related colleges with a focus on facilities and college resources related to health education.

In her vice provost role, Lewandowski will serve as a liaison between the Office of the Provost and the external community for targeted health-related partnerships and initiatives, and will be responsible for the development and implementation of interprofessional collaborations among the University’s health-related academic programs.

Doctoral Student’s Research Brings New Insight to Removing Breastfeeding Barriers

A new study from The University of Toledo suggests providing more robust support for new mothers who experience stressful life events leading up to the baby’s birth, such as a lost job or a critically ill family member, could improve breastfeeding rates.

Slightly more than half of U.S. mothers follow the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that their infants receive only breast milk for the first six months of their lives.

Dugat

Vickie Dugat wanted to better understand what barriers may exist for women — and identify efforts that might remove some.

“There’s a lot of data that suggests it’s beneficial for both mother and baby to breastfeed for six months,” said Dugat, a health education doctoral student in the UToledo College of Health and Human Services. “This is an issue that we need to talk about, and one that needs to be researched more deeply.”

There are a variety of reasons why new mothers may either choose not to breastfeed or find themselves unable to do so. A lack of family and social support, embarrassment, personal preference, lactation problems, and work-related issues are commonly cited in studies of American breastfeeding practices.

As Dugat sifted through the existing literature, she noticed that little work had been done examining the association between prenatal stressful life events and exclusive breastfeeding.

With help from Dr. Joseph Dake, professor and chair of the UToledo School of Population Health, Dugat linked up with a pair of Ohio University researchers to dig into the issue.

Using a data set of nearly 44,000 U.S. mothers, researchers compared breastfeeding statistics for an infant’s first three months with self-reported incidents of 13 major stressful events in the mother’s life during the year prior to birth.

Included in that list were separations or divorce, homelessness, moving to a new address, bills that couldn’t be paid, someone close to them suffering with a drug or alcohol problem, lost jobs, and the death or serious illness of someone close to them.

Their findings, published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, found a clear connection between higher numbers of stressful life events and lower rates of exclusive breastfeeding for three months.

Of the U.S. mothers included in their data set, 52 percent of those who did not report any major stressful life events in the year prior to giving birth were more likely to breastfeed exclusively for three months. Among women who experienced three or more stressful life events, that dropped to just 32 percent.

While the findings were consistent across most demographic groups, the association between stressful life events and shorter duration of breastfeeding was most pronounced for women younger than age 30.

“The implication is it might be possible to create policies or programs to educate lactation consultants and physicians on which population may need a little bit more assistance when it comes to breastfeeding and handling stressful life events,” said Dugat, who was lead author on the study. “We could also potentially improve breastfeeding practices with efforts that minimize exposure to stressful life events.”

Originally from Florida, Dugat completed her undergraduate work at the University of Florida and earned a master’s in public health from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.

She chose UToledo for her doctoral work after meeting Dake at a conference and learning the flexibility she’d have in her research here.

“Something that we pride ourselves in is that we do not assign our doctoral students to a particular faculty member when they come in,” Dake said. “There are benefits to that, but our program is geared a little more toward allowing them to explore and shift their research interests, as long as it’s under the oversight of a faculty member who can be a good mentor to them.”

For Dugat, who is passionate about improving the health of mothers and infants, that freedom to pursue her interests was crucial in selecting a doctoral program.

“I absolutely love that. With other Ph.D. programs, sometimes you have to do the research that faculty are already doing,” Dugat said. “Having that flexibility and the ability to be creative in my research is what attracted me here.”

Thanks to the relationship Dake has built with Ohio University through the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health, he was able to make a connection for Dugat with researchers who had similar areas of interest.

“We really try to push the idea that if you love what you do, you spend time on it, and you’re passionate at what you do, you’re going to be a better professional, and you’re going to be more successful in it,” Dake said.

Annual medical student white coat ceremony to take place Aug. 9

The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences will welcome a new class of medical students with an official white coat ceremony Friday, Aug. 9, at 10 a.m. in Nitschke Auditorium.

The white coat ceremony, held during the week of orientation, is a long-established tradition for first-year medical students that emphasizes the principles of their chosen profession and prepares them for the journey to become medical professionals.

This year, 175 students will take part.

“This ceremony underscores the foundation of the medical profession for first-year medical students,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “The white coat serves as a symbol of their entry into medical school. It reiterates their commitment to professionalism, educational excellence, and their service to others through medical care.”

Seventy-six% of the incoming class are from Ohio, and nearly one-third are from northwest Ohio. A total of 14 states — including California, Illinois and New York — are represented.

In addition to the presentation of a white coat, the event will include a welcome from Cooper, a keynote address on humanism in medicine, and a recitation of the Medical Student Pledge of Ethics.

A livestream of the event is available on the College of Medicine and Life Sciences white coat ceremony website.

In addition to first-year medical students, UToledo also has white coat ceremonies for students in a number of other programs.

• The College of Medicine and Life Sciences will host white coat ceremonies for students in the Physician Assistant Program Friday, Aug. 23, and students in the Biomedical Sciences Program Thursday, Sept. 5.

• The College of Nursing will hold a white coat ceremony for incoming undergraduate and graduate students Wednesday, Sept. 4.

• The College of Health and Human Services will hold a white coat ceremony for first-year physical therapy and respiratory care students in their junior year, which is the first year of their professional program, Friday, Aug. 30.

• The College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will hold a white coat ceremony for students in both the Doctor of Pharmacy Program and Pharmaceutical Sciences Program Thursday, Aug. 22.

New Study Finds Large Rise in Suicide by African-American Adolescents

A large-scale study from The University of Toledo of young African Americans who have attempted or died by suicide suggests there is a greater need for mental health services in urban school districts, and that we need to do a better job in convincing parents and caregivers to safely secure firearms and ammunition in the home.

Taking those measures, Dr. James Price said, could save lives.

Price

Price, UToledo professor emeritus of health education and public health, recently authored the largest study to date that examines suicidal behaviors of African-American adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19.

The study, which was published in the Journal of Community Health, found the rate of suicide deaths among young black males increased by 60 percent from 2001 through 2017. Researchers documented a 182 percent increase in the rate of suicide deaths of young black females during that same time period.

“There are far more African-American adolescents attempting suicide than has been recognized in the past, and their attempts are starting to be much more lethal,” Price said.

Currently, suicide is the second leading cause of death after homicide for African Americans between the ages of 13 and 19, and the rate continues to climb. Equally troubling is that the methods black youth are using in suicide attempts are among the most lethal.

Price and a co-researcher at Ball State University found 52 percent of the 560 males aged 13 to 19 who died by suicide from 2015 to 2017 used firearms — a method for which the fatality rate approaches 90 percent. Another 34 percent used strangulation or suffocation, which has a fatality rate of about 60 percent.

Among the 204 females who died by suicide over that time period, 56 percent used strangulation or suffocation and 21 percent used firearms.

“When we look at research with these adolescents, we find that they report their attempt to suicide is a cry for help. Two-thirds of the kids didn’t really want to die, but they’re using the most lethal form of attempting suicide,” Price said. “If you can have those lethal forms of suicide inaccessible to them, then that period of crisis and not seeing the irreversibility of this impulsive decision will pass. And with adequate mental health services available to young people, you may actually reduce the chance they’ll do that act again.”

Previous surveys have found that among inner-city elementary school students whose parents own a handgun, three-quarters knew where the gun was kept.

Keeping firearms locked away, unloaded and separate from ammunition unequivocally would reduce unintentional firearm injuries and impulsive suicide attempts, Price said.

The research also suggests a far greater need for mental health services in African-American communities. Public health researchers have repeatedly documented that black youth are less likely than the youth population as a whole to receive adequate mental health treatment, setting the stage for situations that contribute to self-harm.

“What needs to be done early on is to make sure that young people have adequate access to mental health-care services, and mental health-care services have always taken a backseat to other forms of health care,” Price said. “If you look at where young people in urban areas, especially adolescents, are getting mental health care, it’s in the schools.”

Previous studies have found increasing mental health access in urban public schools could reduce suicide attempts by as much as 15 percent, Price said.

“While that doesn’t solve all the problems, it’s a good first step toward reducing the problem toward severe self-violence,” he said.

If you or someone you know is thinking or talking about suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800.273.8255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org for additional resources.

Dana Cancer Center to hold annual survivor celebration June 6

The Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center at The University of Toledo Medical Center will host its fifth annual Cancer Survivor Celebration Thursday, June 6.

“Each year of survivorship is a reason for joy,” said Renee Schick, manager of Renee’s Survivor Shop in the Dana Cancer Center. “We want to recognize and honor our patients and their caregivers for their strength and courage through the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

The annual event, which will take place from 5:30 to 8 p.m., honors and celebrates the Dana Cancer Center’s past and present patients, as well as their loved ones, for their strength, courage and survivorship.

Survivors and their guests will be treated to inspirational stories, food, music, a photo booth, and displays from a number of area support groups. Cancer treatment experts, including UTMC oncologist Dr. Danae Hamouda, also will be on hand.

This year’s guest speaker will be Dr. Michelle Masterson, a breast cancer survivor, retired associate professor and former director of the Physical Therapy Program in the College of Health and Human Services.

“I hope my story can inspire and help others to stay strong and positive, to fight hard, and to never give up,” Masterson said. “I also hope this celebration helps to get the word out to the Toledo community that we have excellent, expert, comprehensive and compassionate cancer care right here at the UTMC Dana Cancer Center.”

The event is free, but reservations are requested: Email eleanorndanacancercenter@utoledo.edu or call 419.383.5243.

National Youth Sports Program celebrates 50 years at UToledo

The National Youth Sports Program at The University of Toledo will soon celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The three-week summer camp, hosted on UToledo’s campus every year since 1969, provides a blend of athletic and educational programming for income-eligible children to help them build social skills, confidence and healthy lifestyles.

About 150 area youth between the ages of 9 and 16 are expected to participate in this year’s program, which takes place weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. beginning Monday, June 3, and running through Friday, June 21.

Registration information is available on the UToledo NYSP website.

“For 50 years, the administration at The University of Toledo has seen the National Youth Sports Program as an asset to the community and to the University. There’s a lot of credit due to a lot of people, and I’m proud we’re able to continue offering this enriching experience,” said Dr. Ruthie Kucharewski, professor and chair in the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, and administrator of the National Youth Sports Program.

A celebration to recognize the 50th university will be held Sunday, June 9, at noon in the Health Education Center Gym.

Students stretched on the track during UToledo’s National Youth Sports Program.

The National Youth Sports Program was established by an act of Congress in 1968. UToledo was one of the first universities in the country to offer the federally funded program the following year.

Though federal funding for the program has since been cut, UToledo continues to operate the camp through fundraising and in-kind donations.

Participants receive instruction in a number of sports and recreational activities, such as soccer, basketball, track, swimming and fishing.

In addition to the athletic and recreation therapy activities, the youth are provided educational and health programs; academic tutoring; information about nutrition and personal hygiene; peer-refusal skills; and alcohol, tobacco and other drug seminars. The camp also schedules field trips and hosts a guest speaker every day at lunch to inspire the children to become the best version of themselves.

“We want to make our community’s youth well-rounded individuals. We’re helping them to grow emotionally, psychologically, physically and socially through a variety of constructive recreational activities and educational experiences,” Kucharewski said. “I think that the experiences the children have at NYSP helps stimulate their imagination about their future, about what they might aspire to be when they grow up.”

College of Health and Human Services’ interim dean announced

Interim Provost Karen Bjorkman has announced Dr. Barry Scheuermann’s appointment as interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services, effective July 1, following Dr. Christopher Ingersoll’s resignation late last month.

Scheuermann

The University will begin a national search for the position this fall.

Most recently, Scheuermann has served as the College of Health and Human Services’ associate dean of academic affairs.

He has held various administrative and faculty appointments since joining UToledo in 2003.

“I want to thank Barry for his willingness to serve The University of Toledo during this transition,” Bjorkman said. “I also want to thank Chris for his dedication to UToledo. As a proud Rocket alumnus, we wish Chris nothing but the best in his new role.”

UToledo public health expert awarded Fulbright grant to Taiwan

A University of Toledo public health expert will spend six weeks in Taiwan this spring to help one of that country’s top universities internationalize its public health curriculum.

Dr. Jiunn-Jye Sheu, a professor in the College of Health and Human Services’ School of Population Health, received a Fulbright Specialist Award to advance global health initiatives.

Dr. Jiunn-Jye Sheu showed off his Fulbright Specialist Award. He leaves this week for National Taiwan Normal University, where he will help revise and refine its public health curriculum.

The trip to National Taiwan Normal University in May will be his first as part of the Fulbright program.

“To become a Fulbright Specialist or Scholar really comes with enthusiasm. We have so many qualified, outstanding faculty at The University of Toledo, and I’m very proud and pleased to have been selected,” Sheu said. “I think it’s meaningful I’m able to make such a contribution to help people in Taiwan and the United States.”

He will provide guidance to National Taiwan Normal University, which is working to revise and refine its public health curriculum to meet the same standards set by the accrediting body in the U.S.

Sheu, who earned his bachelor’s degree at National Taiwan Normal University, also will help the school toward its goal of adding more English-instructed courses.

Taiwan has a robust health-care system, but as a fully developed country, residents face many of the same chronic health threats as the United States — heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke are among the 10 leading causes of death.

“Good patient education can prevent unnecessary costs in health care,” he said. “Unfortunately, patient education has not been mandated in Taiwan or the U.S. I want to investigate in collaboration with Taiwan scholars how they work patient education into the national health insurance system and how that is effective and efficient.”

Much of Sheu’s research work is focused on quantitative analysis of public health data, particularly on youth risk behaviors and the ways in which patients and health-care providers make choices that influence care.

Recently, using path modeling, he worked with Dr. Colleen Taylor, assistant professor in the College of Nursing, to investigate the factors that go into how nurses make decisions about administering pain medication in patients recovering from operations. The study was named the 2017 best research paper of the year by the journal Orthopaedic Nursing.

Sheu also collaborated on soon-to-be-published research into how pregnant women adhere to prenatal care recommendations and the health protective behaviors of women who had gestational diabetes.

“These types of studies provide a better understanding about how people make their decisions and how people act in terms of their health-related behaviors,” he said. “We’ve always known their stated reasons, but without this technique, we don’t know how those reasons interact with each other and which are direct and indirect influences.”

Entertainment icon Katie Holmes to deliver commencement address May 4

Katie Holmes, a native Toledoan who rose to fame as an actor, producer and director, will return to her hometown to deliver the keynote address during The University of Toledo’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, May 4.

A Notre Dame Academy alumna and international icon of screen, stage and film, Holmes will address 2,078 candidates for degrees — 2,023 bachelor’s and 55 associate’s candidates. The event will take place at 10 a.m. in the Glass Bowl.

The University’s graduate commencement ceremony is scheduled the same day at 3 p.m. in the Glass Bowl, and will commemorate 915 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Analese Alvarez, an educator and musician who has recorded with the Grammy Award-winning rock group Fleetwood Mac, will be the keynote speaker. She is a candidate for a doctoral degree.

Both ceremonies are open to the public and can be viewed live on the University Views website.

President Sharon L. Gaber will present Holmes with an honorary doctor of humane letters degree before the keynote address.

“The University of Toledo is pleased to welcome Katie Holmes as our commencement speaker to inspire our newest alumni as they celebrate receiving their degrees,” Gaber said. “As a Toledo native with close, personal connections to the University, we are eager for her to share her experiences and accomplishments in the entertainment industry and as an entrepreneur and philanthropist.”

Holmes

Holmes is an internationally recognized film and television actor, producer and director, as well as a Broadway actor and an entrepreneur.

An exceptional student at Notre Dame Academy, Holmes was accepted to Columbia University, but deferred to embark on an entertainment career. She made her feature film debut in “The Ice Storm” in 1997, then established herself as a rising young actor the next year in the television show “Dawson’s Creek.” For six years, she played Joey Potter, a character still recognized in pop culture.

Holmes has appeared in supporting or starring roles in more than 30 films and television programs, including acclaimed performances as Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in “The Kennedys” and “The Kennedys: After Camelot,” Hannah Green in “Wonder Boys,” Rachel Dawson in “Batman Begins,” April Burns in “Pieces of April,” Rita Carmichael in “All We Had,” and Paige Finney in “Ray Donovan.”

Her credits as a director and producer include “All We Had,” “Touched With Fire,” “The Romantics” and “The Kennedys: Decline and Fall.”

Holmes made her Broadway debut in a revival of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” in 2008 and played the role of Lorna in “Dead Accounts” in 2012.

As an entrepreneur, Holmes managed and designed a well-received fashion line, Holmes & Yang, with Jeanne Yang, from 2009 to 2014.

Her philanthropic efforts include the Dizzy Feet Foundation, an organization Holmes co-founded in 2009 that increases access to dance education in the United States. She also supports the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes; Love Our Children USA, a national nonprofit organization that fights violence and neglect against U.S. children; Raising Malawi, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to helping vulnerable children in extreme poverty through health, education and community support; and the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation.

Alvarez

Graduate ceremony speaker Alvarez has been an educator for nearly two decades and is a candidate for an education doctorate in educational administration and supervision.

The Santa Barbara, Calif., native has enjoyed an outstanding career teaching high school music, highlighted by leading her previous school’s music department to become a Grammy Signature Schools recipient in 2015. She has continued teaching music while pursuing her doctorate at UToledo by serving as a graduate assistant for the Rocket Marching Band and athletic bands since 2015.

Alvarez”s long career as a musician includes recording with Fleetwood Mac on “The Dance” and appearances on “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” and Nickelodeon’s “The Big Help.” She also was a member of the Los Angeles Laker Band, a subset of the University of Southern California’s Trojan Marching Band. She has performed with numerous professional ensembles, including The Desert Winds and the Gold Coast Wind Ensemble.

A volunteer club advisor for Gay Straight Alliances, Alvarez co-chaired the Southern Nevada chapter of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network and served the Gay and Lesbian Center of Las Vegas. During the past year, she has been executive director at Equality Toledo, where she has worked to support the local community.

Alvarez earned a bachelor of music degree from the University of Southern California and a master of music degree from Northern Arizona University, both in music education.

UToledo’s spring commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

UToledo’s College of Law will host its commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. Angelita Cruz Bridges, a 2000 graduate of the College of Law who serves as an assistant United States attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, will give the commencement address.

The next week — Friday, May 10, at 4 p.m. — the College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony in Savage Arena. Dr. Scott Parazynski, a physician and inventor whose career included serving 17 years as an astronaut, during which time he flew five space shuttle missions and conducted seven spacewalks, will be theutoledo.edu/commencementrmation, visit the commencement website.