UToledo News » Medicine and Life Sciences

UToledo News

Categories

Search News

Archives

Resources

Medicine and Life Sciences

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.

CommunityCare Clinics to Hold Golf Fundraiser July 27

The CommunityCare Clinics will hold its fifth annual golf tournament Saturday, July 27, at 1:30 p.m. at Heatherdowns Country Club, 3910 Heatherdowns Blvd.

All proceeds from the tournament will benefit the CommunityCare Clinics and its patients.

The free medical clinic run by University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences’ students in collaboration with local medical professionals provides comprehensive care to Toledo’s uninsured and medically underserved community. During the past year, the clinics have provided care to more than 5,000 patients.

“We are so excited to be holding our golf outing again,” said Hannah Staats, a second-year medical student and director of public relations for the clinics. “We work year round to treat patients, and this event is a huge part of that.”

Staats added, “Our patients are mostly the underserved population of Toledo, and many do not have insurance. Because of this, we have to work hard to raise the money to provide medications and services for these patients.”

The cost of the golf tournament is $85 per player, $70 per student player, and $20 for dinner. If you are not a golfer, you can still attend the dinner.

The tournament will be run with teams of four.

Casual attire is recommended, as well as nonmetal spikes.

”We can’t help our patients without the assistance of the Toledo community, and we would love to have your support of the CommunityCare Clinics through this event,” Staats said.

The deadline to register is Friday, July 19. Go to the CommunityCare Clinics Golf Tournament website.

For more information, check out the CommunityCare Clinics’ website.

Medical Student Earns Fellowship to Study Blood Clotting in Cancer Patients

Innovative research that may explain the precarious connection between lung cancer and serious blood clotting disorders has earned a University of Toledo medical student a fellowship with the North American Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis.

Adam Meisler, who will be entering his second year of medical school, was one of only three students in the country to receive the 2019 award. The fellowship includes a $5,000 stipend and a $1,000 award to the lab.

Medical student Adam Meisler took a blood sample for his research focusing on the connection between lung cancer and blood clotting disorders. Meisler is one of three students in the country to receive a fellowship with the North American Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis for his research.

“This is a huge honor for him,” said Dr. Randall Worth, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and assistant dean for student affairs in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “You don’t often have students who have a fellowship on their resumé when it comes time to apply for residency. Adam is an outstanding student. If he maintains that, it’s going to put him at the top of the national competitive scale.”

Lung cancer patients have an elevated risk of strokes, heart attacks and pulmonary embolisms. Approximately one-fifth of the 150,000 annual deaths tied to lung cancer in the United States are the result of large blood clots.

Meisler’s project is focused on whether cancer-fighting T-cells bonding with blood platelets in those patients might explain why.

“We suspect that the interaction between platelets and T-cells is largely contributing to that phenomenon,” Meisler said. “If we can find a way to break up those aggregates, I think that would be huge.”

In healthy individuals, a relatively small portion of T-cells are attached to blood platelets — somewhere around 15 percent. However, in lung cancer patients, Meisler and Worth have found as many as 65 percent of their T-cells are bonded with platelets.

Worth said science has already shown that a portion of lung cancer patients who have had a stroke or heart attack don’t respond to the normal anti-coagulants that would be prescribed to prevent a second event.
“There’s a big push from the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Heart, Lung and Blood trying to understand why that is,” Worth said. “I think with these platelet T-cell aggregates, we may have discovered the time bomb.”

With the fellowship, Meisler will continue his research and present his findings at the North American Society for Thrombosis and Hemostasis conference next spring.

“To apply my research to something as high impact as lung cancer is really special,” Meisler said. “This project and the fellowship is definitely making me lean toward a future specializing in hematology-oncology.”

UToledo professors invent safer way to treat prostate cancer

Two innovative professors at The University of Toledo from different fields of expertise teamed up to create a clever, common-sense way to solve a problem in treating prostate cancer, the second leading cause of cancer in men.

Recognizing the potential, the Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded $150,000 to the startup company founded by the mechanical engineer and medical physicist to develop and commercialize the new technology they invented that allows a higher level of radiation to safely be delivered at each session, decreasing significantly the number of treatment sessions needed to eradicate the cancer, while reducing damage to nearby, healthy tissue.

Dr. Mohammad Elahinia, left, and Dr. Ishmael Parsai developed the rectal retractor, which could help treat prostate cancer. The Ohio Third Frontier Commission awarded $150,000 to their startup company to commercialize the new technology.

Dr. Mohammad Elahinia, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, and Dr. Ishmael Parsai, professor and chief medical physicist in the UToledo Radiation Oncology Department and director of the Graduate Medical Physics Program, created the company called Retractor with the support of UToledo Launchpad Incubation, Rocket Innovations and the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program.

The new, patent-pending technology, which is being tested on cadavers, is a minimally invasive device that moves the rectum away from the vicinity of the radiation fields targeting the prostate cancer. This allows for the delivery of higher doses of more focused radiation beams, resulting in shorter treatment days while reducing damage to healthy rectal tissue.

the rectal retractor

“The rectal retractor provides a safer, more efficient way to treat prostate cancer,” Elahinia said. “The medical device is inserted into the body and set in motion by passing a small electrical current in a reliable, clean, silent process known as nitinol actuation, solving the persistent challenge in radiation therapy of prostate tumors.”

“Instead of a patient undergoing daily radiation treatment sessions for nearly two months in a conventional method of radiotherapy, he can come in and have five sessions,” Parsai said.

Through his work with patients at the Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center at The University of Toledo Medical Center, Parsai came up with the idea for the rectal retractor and approached Elahinia to engineer a prototype.

“Normally during radiation therapy for prostate cancer, we work to reduce as much as possible the impact of the radiation dose on any healthy organs, such as the bladder and rectum, but often some damage to healthy, nearby tissue is unavoidable,” Parsai said. “This new device, however, allows us to move the rectum out of the field of radiation so we can eliminate the risk of sacrificing healthy tissue while safely delivering a higher dose for more effective treatment of the tumor. This especially is promising when implementing what is called high-dose rate brachytherapy, as well as newer techniques such as stereotactic body radiotherapy for treatment of prostate cancer.”

While the retractor will mainly serve prostate cancer patients, it also can be applied during radiation therapy for all pelvic tumors, such as cervical, uterine, vaginal and endometrial cancers.

The award to Retractor is part of $2.25 million given by the Ohio Third Frontier Commission to develop new technologies and move them out of the lab and into the marketplace.

“Ohio’s world-class research and medical institutions are developing breakthrough technologies,” said Lydia L. Mihalik, director of the Ohio Development Services Agency and chair of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission. “We are helping get these products to market where they can make a difference.”

The Ohio Third Frontier Technology Validation and Start-Up Fund provides grants to Ohio institutions of higher education and other nonprofit research institutions. The funding is to demonstrate that a technology is commercially viable through activities such as testing and prototyping. The ultimate goal is to commercialize the technologies.

Retractor is a success story for UToledo’s Launchpad Incubation program and Rocket Fuel Fund. LaunchPad Incubation provides entrepreneurial assistance, state-of-the-art facilities and valuable resources to early-stage, technology-based concepts and startup companies. The Rocket Fuel Fund is a program in the UToledo Office of Research funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration to support early-stage technology development.

“We serve the community, faculty, staff and students,” Brian Genide, director of incubation and venture development at Launchpad, said. “Our team helps with the advancement of early-stage technology concepts, providing funding support for feasibility testing, proof-of-concept validation and prototyping. Our team also has proven to increase the success of grant applications.”

Launchpad Incubation is located in the Nitschke Technology Commercialization Complex. Go to the LaunchPad Incubation website for more information on how the program helps launch new businesses.

Annual CampMed program shows area students their potential in studying medicine

The University of Toledo will provide more than three dozen teens from across northwest Ohio a hands-on introduction to studying medicine during its annual CampMed program.

The students, all of whom will be high school freshmen this fall, will be on Health Science Campus Thursday and Friday, June 13 and 14.

Now in its 22nd year, CampMed gives students who excel in science and mathematics a window into what it’s like to pursue a career as a physician or medical researcher.

“We want to inspire these students and help give them an outline of how to prepare for an education in medicine,” said Courtney K. Combs, director of the UToledo and Ohio Area Health Education Center programs. “As much as CampMed is educational — and it really is — we also want it to be a fun time for the kids. It’s summer. It’s camp. It might be the first time they’re surrounded by kids their own age who have the same interests. We try to make it as hands-on as possible.”

Under the guidance of UToledo faculty members and physicians, the students will be taught Heartsaver CPR, learn how to suture, and practice forming a cast. They’ll also receive hands-on tours of the Emergency Department at The University of Toledo Medical Center, the gross anatomy lab, and the Jacobs Interprofessional and Immersive Simulation Center.

Second- and third-year medical students serve as camp counselors.

Most of the students who attend CampMed are underrepresented minorities in medicine, from underserved rural or urban communities, or the first in their family planning to attend college.

“We want to encourage these students to help them realize that a career in medicine is a realistic goal for them. Some of them may have never even been on a college campus before,” Combs said. “We want to provide that exposure to let them know if they work hard and are serious about their schoolwork now, this could be an option and The University of Toledo College of Medicine would welcome them.”

CampMed, which began in 1998, was implemented by and is coordinated through the UToledo Area Health Education Center program, which works to improve the well-being of individuals and communities by developing the health-care workforce.

The competitive scholarship program requires students to submit a letter of recommendation from a science or math teacher or guidance counselor, grade transcripts, and a personal essay to be chosen to participate.

UToledo precision medicine researcher edits premier textbook on cellular response to stress

Within every living cell are microscopic proteins that play the role of chaperone when things get dicey.

Called heat shock proteins, the molecules have a starring role in a cell’s response to external stresses such as excessive temperatures, infection or exposure to toxins.

Asea

“There is always motion in the cell, but when stressors come, those motions can actually stop. When they stop, the cell dies,” said Dr. Alexzander Asea, a professor in The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Heat shock proteins prevent that from happening.”

By wrapping themselves around other proteins, heat shock proteins preserve order and essential functions within the cell, ensuring it can survive.

Asea has studied heat shock proteins for more than 20 years. His work has been key in identifying and developing potential targets for cancer vaccines and in identifying new cancer biomarkers.

Recently, Asea collaborated with Dr. Punit Kaur, an assistant professor also in the Department of Medicine, to edit a new textbook called “Regulation of Heat Shock Protein Responses.”

Kaur

“The book provides the most comprehensive review on contemporary knowledge on the regulation of heat shock protein responses and the consequences to human diseases and disorders,” Asea said. “Since we know heat shock proteins have a very important role in regulating a sort of immune response against stress, many have been working on designing drugs targeting that action.”

The book, published by Springer Nature, is available in both digital and print versions.

Asea, who also is director of the new Precision Therapeutics Proteogenomics Diagnostics Center, joined UToledo in 2018 from MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, where he was a visiting professor of radiation oncology. He also has taught at Harvard Medical School, the Boston University School of Medicine and the Morehouse School of Medicine.

At UToledo, Asea is playing an important role in furthering the precision therapy cancer treatment program by using proteogenomics to better understand an individual patient’s disease so doctors can identify the specific targeted therapies that are most likely to help them.

“It’s a more wholistic approach. For precision medicine, we have to look at the whole human and not just part of the human,” he said. “That’s what makes medicine now really exciting.”

UTMC dysautonomia expert wins patient choice award

The University of Toledo and Dr. Blair Grubb have been recognized by the Dysautonomia Support Network for innovative research into a group of conditions that affect the body’s autonomic nervous system.

The accolades are part of the nonprofit patient support and advocacy group’s first Patient’s Choice awards and will be presented Thursday, June 6.

Grubb

Grubb, a Distinguished University Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, and director of electrophysiology services at The University of Toledo Medical Center, is one of the world’s foremost experts in syncope and disorders of the autonomic nervous system, including postural tachycardia syndrome, or POTS.

“As a leader in the field for over a decade, Dr. Grubb continues impacting standards of practice and expanding treatment options for various forms of dysautonomia,” said Amanda Aikulola, president and executive director of Dysautonomia Support Network. “Over and over again, patients return to him because of his passion and desire not only to practice medicine, but also to leave a lasting impression on those he has cared for.”

Grubb will receive the Revolutionary Research Award. UToledo will receive the Powerhouse Research Award. Nominations and voting were done by patients.

The autonomic nervous system controls our most basic life functions, regulating our breathing, heart rate and blood pressure without us ever thinking about it.

When the system malfunctions, the body can no longer control those functions. Symptoms can include rapid heart rate or slow heart rate, excessive fatigue, thirstiness, shortness of breath, blood pressure fluctuations and bladder problems.

“People with these conditions can be really devastated. They’re frequently wheelchair-bound or bedridden. We often see some of the worst cases, but we have a good track record of making people better,” Grubb said.

Grubb pioneered many of the diagnostic and treatment modalities that now are commonly used for these disorders, and UTMC was the first center to describe that POTS could occur in children.

“We are one of the world’s leading centers for research on this and in finding new and innovative therapies looking for new ways to treat people,” Grubb said. “I think this recognition is an acknowledgement of that.”

Grubb previously has been named Physician of the Year by Dysautonomia International and received the Medical Professional of the Decade Award from the British Heart Rhythm Society and Arrhythmia Alliance.

Physician who explored space to speak at UToledo College of Medicine commencement May 10

Dr. Scott Parazynski, a pioneering explorer, inventor, astronaut and physician, will deliver the commencement address at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences’ graduation ceremony Friday, May 10.

A total of 238 degrees will be awarded: 166 doctor of medicine degrees, nine doctor of philosophy degrees, 59 master’s degrees, and four graduate certificates.

Parazynski

The commencement ceremony will begin at 4 p.m. in Savage Arena.

“I am beyond thrilled to come celebrate this great milestone with the healers of the @UToledoMed Class of 2019!” Parazynski wrote on Twitter after he was announced as the commencement speaker.

Parazynski, who earned a medical degree at Stanford Medical School, can easily lay claim to being one of history’s most well-traveled explorers.

He has ascended Mount Everest, spent more than eight weeks orbiting the Earth and more than 47 hours on spacewalks with NASA, visited Antarctica, and conducted scientific research beneath the surface of one of the globe’s highest lakes in Chile.

Parazynski also served as the personal onboard physician for the late John Glenn when the former senator returned to space in 1998, and has founded multiple research and development companies.

“It is an honor to have Dr. Parazynski address our graduates,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “Dr. Parazynski was selected by a committee of medical students and faculty from a national pool in recognition of his extraordinary accomplishments both professionally and through personal explorations.”

The College of Medicine will award Parazynski an honorary doctor of science degree.

One of Parazynski’s current projects is with Fluidity Technologies, a company he founded to focus on developing disruptive control devices for everything from drones to surgical robots.

First graduates of joint J.D./M.D. program look to future at the intersection of law and medicine

Mark Fadel came to The University of Toledo well-informed about what lie ahead.

One of his brothers is a surgeon. Another, an attorney. Fadel had seen firsthand the rigors of completing just one of those degrees.

He was embarking on both simultaneously. Law and medicine combined.

Mark Fadel and Alexis Holman are the first graduates of the University’s J.D./M.D. program.

“Watching them go through those programs individually, they sacrificed a lot,” he said. “To do it together was very difficult. It took a lot of perseverance.”

After six years of intense study, switching between medical textbooks and case law, clinical rotations and writing projects, Fadel will join Alexis Holman as the first graduates of UToledo’s J.D./M.D. program.

Holman also is set to receive the valedictorian award at the law commencement ceremony.

“There is a famous quote, ‘Faith is taking the first step when you do not see the top of the staircase.’ That is a great analogy for the program,” Holman said. “There were some challenging moments for us, but I am so happy we saw it through. Graduation will be a special moment.”

One of roughly two dozen such programs in the country, UToledo’s joint degree, established in 2013, is geared toward individuals who are driven to work at the intersection of medicine and law who seek opportunities to shape the future of health-care policy.

D. Benjamin Barros, dean of the College of Law, said it takes an amazing amount of talent, ambition and perseverance to complete two professional doctorates in such a short time frame.

“The combination of the two degrees can be very powerful. There are a wide range of intersections between law and medicine, and there are only a few people who are fully trained in both,” Barros said. “Recipients of this joint degree are well-poised to be leaders in a wide range of areas, including health-care policy, health-care system management and health-care regulation. We are incredibly proud of Alexis and Mark.”

After graduation, Fadel is going to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for a residency in otolaryngology, more commonly known as an ear, nose and throat specialist. He has already taken the bar exam and expects to learn his results within the month.

Holman will head to the University of Michigan for a residency in anesthesiology. She elected to take the bar exam after learning where she matched for residency.

Each said their respective residency programs were receptive to their dual degrees and the perspective that brings. They intend to continue researching and writing on medical law topics while in residency.

Looking further into the future, Holman and Fadel see a wide range of opportunities to put their unique training to use.

“With the changing face of health care — the shift to bigger medicine and increase in regulation — I was interested in trying to give physicians a seat at the table to help shape the future of care delivery in the United States,” Holman said.

Fadel and Holman already have had their work recognized at a national level, winning the Hirsch Award in the American College of Legal Medicine Student Writing Competition in back-to-back years. Fadel was recognized in 2018 for a piece arguing for stronger limitations on who can opt out of measles vaccinations read the UT News story. Holman won in 2019 for a paper questioning whether the FDA’s processes for determining equivalency between name brand and generic drugs were sufficient; read the UT News story.

“We are very proud of these two for their academic accomplishments and excellence,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “They were the pioneers of this new program, and they have set an excellent example. They have a bright future ahead of them.”

Holman and Fadel credited faculty in the College of Law and College of Medicine and Life Sciences for being open to working with them as the first students in the program, and each other for their support during the difficult parts of their journey.

“Watching our friends match, graduate, sit for the bar, and participate in all the exciting things you do at the end of each of these programs was pretty hard to watch,” Fadel said. “We always wondered when it would be our moment and, finally, it came.”

The College of Law commencement is Sunday, May 5. The College of Medicine and Life Sciences commencement is Friday, May 10.

Law student wins American College of Legal Medicine Student Writing Competition

Alexis Holman, College of Law J.D./M.D. joint degree student, was named the Hirsh Award winner in the American College of Legal Medicine Student Writing Competition.

The American College of Legal Medicine is the preeminent national organization for law and medicine. This marks the second year in a row that a UToledo law student has won first place in the annual writing competition.

Holman

As the first-place winner, Holman was asked to present her research for “Is Bioequivalence a Sufficient Measure of Equivalence?” at the American College of Legal Medicine 2019 annual meeting last month in Los Angeles.

The paper focused on the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) regulation of generic medications. As generic medications are subject to less extensive review than brand drugs, manufacturers must only prove that they are the “bioequivalent” of the brand drug. Holman researched whether certain classes of brand and generic drugs could be used interchangeably without consequences for the patient.

“In my paper, I aim to establish that the evidence is insufficient to conclude whether using bioequivalence to establish true equivalence is adequate, especially for narrow therapeutic index drugs, which operate over a small range of acceptable dosages and blood concentrations,” Holman said. “Even if the current bioequivalence guidelines are medically sufficient, there are additional issues stemming the regulatory designation of equivalence, such as pharmacy auto-substitution and legal remedies in the case of patient harm from generic drugs.

“Overall, more research must be conducted so that the regulatory and legal framework surrounding generic drug approval can address the many consequences of deeming two drugs interchangeable,” she said.

“FDA approval of generic prescription drugs plays a crucial role in health-care costs and patient access to treatment,” said Elizabeth McCuskey, professor of law, who co-directs the University’s J.D./M.D. and J.D./M.P.H. joint degree programs. “Ms. Holman’s research adds a fresh perspective to this complex regulatory regime, exposing important considerations for doctors, patients and regulators. Her medical education enables Ms. Holman to take a deep dive into the scientific literature informing prescribing decisions, while her legal education enables her to reveal potential weaknesses in the regulatory regime underlying generic approval, as well as the legal rights patients unwittingly give up when taking generic drugs. This interplay of regulation, medical judgment and legal consequences that makes Ms. Holman’s research so valuable exemplifies the interdisciplinary power of UToledo’s J.D./M.D. joint degree program. She is poised to be a leader in health-care policy, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll tackle next.”

Holman was born and raised in Toledo. She earned her bachelor’s degree in brain, behavior and cognitive science from the University of Michigan.

She will complete her J.D./M.D. joint degrees this spring. She matched with her top choice, the anesthesiology residency program at the University of Michigan, where she plans to pursue clinical training and medico-legal research.