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Medicine and Life Sciences

Early Interest in COVID-19 Testing Helped UTMC Launch Lab Services

As the world watched a novel coronavirus begin to spread beyond central China, a team of molecular experts at The University of Toledo Medical Center were already weighing how they might be able to test for the dangerous new disease here in northwest Ohio.

Just a handful of cases had been confirmed in the United States at that time, and testing was barely off the ground in the country. Only the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was providing laboratory services.

Working in the lab are, back row from left, Heather Byrd, Nicole Ortiz and Heather Kvale, and front row from left, Michelle Lewandowski, Holly Mohon and Shauna Rasor.

Even so, Dr. Ji-Youn Yeo, a UTMC molecular specialist who earned her Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from UToledo, was eager to put a plan together.

Her early push paved the way for UTMC’s pathology laboratory to become the first location in northwest Ohio capable of testing samples for COVID-19.

“Dr. Yeo said, ‘I want to do this,’ and put it in motion. When she came to us, it was really early, but we knew we could do it,” said Cynthia O’Connell, the lab’s administrative director.

A few weeks later on March 18 when Abbott Molecular received an emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a new test using one of its molecular instruments, UTMC jumped at the opportunity.

By March 23, UTMC’s lab was up and running. The lab has the ability to test up to 180 samples per day and return results in less than 48 hours.

“We had the right equipment here, and we had folks who had the knowledge,” O’Connell said, noting that a number of individuals inside the lab, elsewhere in the hospital, and in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences deserved credit for the project coming together in such a short amount of time.

Microbiology supervisor Heather Byrd worked to source the difficult-to-find swabs necessary for doing the testing. Molecular specialist Heather Kvale and microbiologist Nicole Ortiz worked to get confirmed positive and negative samples from Columbus and Detroit to validate the UTMC test.

There also was help from Dr. Travis Taylor, assistant professor in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, who created the viral transport media needed to keep testing swabs safe until they’re examined in the lab — another material in very short supply across the country.

One of the biggest contributions to the speed with which UTMC was able to start testing came from Yeo, who also worked as a postdoctoral fellow under Dr. Bina Joe, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. Yeo still regularly collaborates to research in the Joe lab focusing on microbiome sequencing.

On the COVID-19 project, Yeo modified the test to make it safely work at UTMC and then ensured the accuracy following those modifications.

“Dr. Yeo made validation of this testing seemingly effortless, minimizing the number of runs it took to bring this online and saving days’ worth of testing. Her organization helped us go live as fast as possible,” Kvale said.

For O’Connell, the biggest payoff is seeing how UTMC is able to help the region.

“It’s wonderful to be able to do something for the community. We’ve had so many other hospitals say thank you. Many times, they were waiting seven or eight days to get results back. We can provide results in less than 48 hours,” O’Connell said. “It’s nice to be able to help.”

UToledo Medical Students Learn Residency Placements Via Virtual Match Day Event

A total of 165 fourth-year medical students at The University of Toledo learned their residency placements March 20 during a live-streamed, virtual Match Day event.

The annual Match Day celebration is a highly anticipated moment for medical students in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences and at medical schools across the country. Soon-to-be physicians discover at the same moment where they will spend the next three to seven years in residency as they train in their chosen specialties.

Under normal circumstances, students gather together in person with family and friends to share the experience of learning the next step in their careers. However, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the need to limit large gatherings, UToledo celebrated the 2020 Match Day remotely.

“We know this is a very important time in the lives of our students, and one they expected to spend with friends and colleagues as they take one of the final steps before going out into the community as physicians,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “We worked very hard to create something special despite the difficult realities we’re living with right now. We are so proud of this class of fourth-year students who will soon be providing care in the communities in which they’ll be practicing.”

In addition to the 165 who learned their match Friday, two individuals had already matched with the U.S. Armed Forces, bringing the total to 167.

The number of students who matched with The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences residency programs increased 30% over the previous year, while the total number of students staying in the greater northwest Ohio region increased nearly 50% over the 2019 match.

“We are delighted so many of our students will be staying in our region as they begin their careers as physicians,” Cooper said. “One of our key missions is to provide a pipeline of well-trained, well-qualified physicians to care for our region’s health. It’s encouraging to see such a large increase in the number of students who matched in northwest Ohio.”

Among the other institutions where UToledo students will do their residency work are Yale, Brown, Emory, Duke, the University of Chicago, the University of Michigan, the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic.

Match Day Goes Virtual: UToledo Medical Students Asked to Share Photos, Videos

Celebrating online — that’s what 165 fourth-year medical students at The University of Toledo will do when they find out where they will continue their training Friday, March 20.

This unprecedented time calls for a virtual Match Day event. The live stream will start at 11:30 a.m. on the College of Medicine and Life Sciences website.

The highly anticipated annual ceremony will take place at noon as UToledo graduating medical students will join thousands of their peers across the country to open emails that contain their match.

To recognize this memorable day in a safe way, Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs, invites students to share their social media posts, photos, videos and messages during the live-stream event.

Students are asked to use #UToledoMatch on social media posts. In addition, students may send messages, photos from watch parties and more to medsocial@utoledo.edu. Photos and videos of students opening their emails to learn where they matched are encouraged.

Special GIF stickers for UToledo’s virtual Match Day have been created: Search UToledo in the Instagram and Snapchat apps.

Medical students spend months interviewing with hospitals and universities across the nation to determine where they want to continue to their medical training.

Students rank their top institutions, and academic and community-based health systems rank their top student choices. A computer algorithm administered by the National Resident Matching Program then puts together the students and residency programs.

Residents are licensed physicians who care for patients under the supervision of attending physicians while they continue to train in their chosen specialties.

Last year, 165 UToledo fourth-year medical students matched into positions in 23 specialties at institutions in 28 states.

UTMC Infectious Disease Expert: What You Need to Know About Coronavirus

As schools close and anxiety soars about the spread of coronavirus across the U.S., an infectious disease expert at The University of Toledo Medical Center explains why it’s critical for families to follow safety measures.

“You need to be prepared for the fact that this is likely to get worse,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, associate professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “It’s not going to be business as usual for a while.”

Hanrahan

COVID-19, now a global pandemic, is different from the flu, and Hanrahan said people can make changes in their daily lives that will save thousands of Americans if they take the coronavirus seriously now at the beginning stages of the outbreak in our country.

The Ohio Department of Health said on March 12 it is likely that 1% of the state’s population currently has the virus and cases are expected to double every six days.

“It is true that influenza has killed more people in this country to date than coronavirus has, but we can expect that to change over the coming weeks and months,” Hanrahan said. “The death rate from coronavirus relative to the total number of infections far exceeds influenza.”

Though children aren’t developing severe cases of coronavirus, they are carriers. Hanrahan said closing schools is meant to stop them from spreading it to the most vulnerable populations.

“Most people — the vast majority of people — will do well with this if they contract coronavirus, but we have to remember, even the people who get mildly ill need to be very careful because they serve as reservoirs of virus for people who are at risk.”

She said 20% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 end up in intensive care units. Without a vaccine or a cure, it’s up to all citizens to protect themselves and those at high risk.

“People who are over age 60, and especially people over age 80, have a greatly increased risk of having severe illness requiring intensive care units and from dying from this disease,” Hanrahan said. “We have medication for influenza. We do not yet have medication for coronavirus. We have a vaccine for influenza, and we do not yet have a vaccine for coronavirus. And it will also take some time to develop a vaccine. This is different than H1N1 influenza, which happened in 2009 and SARS that happened in 2003.”

Hanrahan said people should practice social distancing as a successful infection-control strategy. That means staying six feet away from others.

“People cough or spit. When they’re talking or coughing or sneezing, if you’re standing within six feet of a person who is ill, you can potentially inhale those droplets and end up getting sick,” Hanrahan said. “You should stay away from large gatherings, or basically stay away from people at all if you’re really high risk.”

Other ways to protect yourself include:

• Stay home if you don’t need to go out, especially for those who are high risk;

• If mildly ill, stay home instead of going to the doctor;

• If experiencing serious symptoms with shortness of breath or chest pains, call your doctor;

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially in public;

• If coughing, cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your elbow;

• Wash your hands after using tissues for coughing;

• Frequently wash hands with soap and water or use a hand-hygiene product; and

• Stay away from people who are sick.

If you suspect you have coronavirus and experience severe symptoms, Hanrahan said to call your doctor’s office first.

“Don’t just go to your doctor’s office,” Hanrahan said. “Make sure that you call ahead and let them know that those are the symptoms you’re having. Get direction about what they would like you to do. Not all healthcare facilities are going to be prepared to be able to deal with the coronavirus.”

Also, she said tests are not yet available to everyone, and there’s a shortage of supplies that healthcare workers will need.

“For example, the solution that the viral swabs are transported in is on backorder,” Hanrahan said. “What that means practically is that there is a limit to the number of tests that we do, and we need to reserve those tests for people who are critically ill or people who have had direct contact with a case. If you’re mildly ill and have cold symptoms, it really is not likely that you’re going to be tested.”

Hanrahan also said to keep in mind doctors and nurses, themselves.

“It’s really important that we not overwhelm our healthcare systems because if we do that, we’re going to put a lot of people at risk,” Hanrahan said. “We put patients at risk, we put healthcare workers at risk. It causes a lot of problems. Look at what’s going on in Italy right now. They are having massive social disruption, and their healthcare workers are having to make terrible decisions about rationing healthcare.”

Hanrahan is often asked when life will return to normal.

“People keep asking how long this is going to last, whether it’s going to get better in the summer,” Hanrahan said. “The answer to that is that no one knows at this time. We do know what has happened in China. We can see what is happening in Europe. China took some pretty dramatic measures early on, and it looks like their level of infection has peaked and hopefully is starting to decrease. The number of new cases they’re reporting is going down as the number of new cases in Europe have gone up a great deal. Most of the new cases happening right now are in Europe.”

Instead of focusing on the numbers, Hanrahan said to focus on your family.

“It’s going to be really important that people take this seriously and that they do things to protect themselves,” Hanrahan said. “The thing to focus on is what you can do now for yourself and your family to help protect yourself.”

UToledo Mental Health Experts Offer Tips to Cope With Coronavirus

As the spread of COVID-19 continues to widen, mental health experts at The University of Toledo say it’s natural for people to feel nervous — but it’s important not to let that fear take over your life.

“With all of the focus on this situation, it is easy to feel threatened and vulnerable,” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the UToledo College of Nursing and a clinical psychologist, who has extensive experience in trauma research and disaster mental health. “One of the most important things we need to do to cope with the concern or anxiety all of this might engender is to keep things in perspective and not inflate the risk.”

Unquestionably, the outbreak represents a major public health challenge. On March 11, the World Health Organization officially recognized COVID-19 as a global pandemic, and many states — including Ohio — have issued states of emergency.

While the threat of COVID-19 is real and greater than illnesses such as seasonal influenza, experts say it is important to keep things in perspective. The majority of individuals worldwide who have been confirmed to have the illness suffer from minor symptoms. The World Health Organization says about 80% of cases recover without needing any special treatment.

Experts also say it is important people remember actions being taken by governments and public health officials aren’t being done out of panic, but out of a medically sound strategy to reduce our collective risk.

Here are some additional suggestions from UToledo mental health experts:

Get factual information and take realistic precautions.

Avoid social media in favor of information from reputable sources such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and your local health department.

Reputable sources have consistent recommendations, including frequent hand washing, staying home if you’re sick, and not wearing a mask if you are healthy.

“It is completely understandable for those individuals at high risk, those with chronic medical conditions, or older adults to experience more anxiety and/or worry,” said Dr. Jason Levine, associate professor in the UToledo Department of Psychology. “Anxiety in many instances is an adaptive response to threat. It can be motivating and protective. However, overwhelming anxiety can be stifling and cause significant disruption in one’s daily life and functioning.”

Avoid an overdose of media.

Focusing too much on minute-to-minute reporting of the situation can have a negative effect and can increase your feelings of immediate threat and vulnerability. Staying informed is important, but obsessing over media coverage can trigger your fight or flight response to a threat when the actual threat is relatively low.

“Constantly watching TV or reading news reports about the COVID-19 virus can scare you into believing that you need to worry about the virus constantly, right now, this very minute,” Lewandowski said. “Knowing the real facts from reputable sources is important for us to take realistic precautions. Relying only on information from Facebook or other social media platforms is never a good idea. Misinformation abounds on these sites.”

During the Iraq War in 2008, Lewandowski was part of a research team that found that the more people watched the news about the war, the more anxious they felt, and the more mental health symptoms they reported.

Work to keep yourself mentally healthy as well as physically healthy.

Mental health experts say anxiety has a biological purpose, with those feelings helping to push us to take steps to prepare and protect ourselves.

Experts suggest thinking about ways you have dealt with anxiety in the past and being open to exploring new strategies. For example, you might talk to a friend or family member, use mindfulness or meditation, read a book, watch an uplifting movie, or get some exercise.

“Try to develop a new routine and not fall into unhealthy practices like binge eating or drinking more,” said Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Psychiatry. “Eating healthy, engaging in exercise, getting enough sleep, and maybe trying some new relaxation apps on your phone are ways you can stay physically and mentally healthy.”

Have and be a support network.

It’s important to maintain contact with family, friends and co-workers. Reach out. Keep in touch with and check on people who are particularly at risk or isolated and alone to help them stay connected and supported. Using FaceTime or other video-chatting apps may help to decrease feelings of isolation.

With disruptions in schedules, cancellations and other social distancing measures, it can be easy to fall at loose ends. Besides keeping up with your schoolwork or working from home on your job, figure out how you can use this time as an opportunity to do things you might not have had time for in a normal course of events.

Get help if you need it.

While some anxiety and nervousness are natural, mental health experts say if you find yourself panicked or if your fear about the situation is enough that it begins interfering with daily responsibilities and functioning, it would be wise to consider a consultation with a primary care or behavioral health provider.

“It can be helpful just to have someone to talk to about our concerns and anxieties. Some people who have a history of mental health issues or who are already feeling overwhelmed by life challenges may find their anxiety or depression heightened during a stressful period such as this,” McCullumsmith said.

UToledo to Host Forum With University Experts Addressing Coronavirus

The University of Toledo will host a public forum featuring health experts to address the latest information on the novel coronavirus, now known as COVID-19.

The forum, Protecting Health: Addressing the Spread of the Novel Coronavirus,” will be held from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 4, in Collier Building Room 1000A on the UToledo Health Science Campus.

A panel of UToledo faculty experts will address the causes of the disease and how it spreads, ways to avoid exposure to infectious diseases, and efforts underway to respond to the outbreak. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Joan Duggan, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

UToledo experts on the panel will include:

• Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, associate professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Infectious Disease;

• Dr. Jason Huntley, associate professor of medical microbiology and immunology;

• Dr. Linda Lewandowski, professor and dean of the College of Nursing; and

• Dr. R. Travis Taylor, assistant professor of medical microbiology and immunology.

The panel discussion will be followed by a question-and-answer session with guests in attendance.

The free event is sponsored by the UToledo Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

For those unable to make it to campus, the forum will be streamed live at utoledo.edu/video.

Reception for Health Science Campus Artist Showcase Set for Feb. 21

The 15th annual Health Science Campus Artist Showcase will take place from Monday, Feb. 17, through Wednesday, April 8, on the fourth floor of Mulford Library.

This year’s exhibit features work from more than 30 artists who are students, faculty and staff in the health sciences from Health Science and Main campuses, as well as The University of Toledo Medical Center.

Woodson

On display will be a variety of 2-D and 3-D artwork, including paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and mixed media.

An artist reception will be held Friday, Feb. 21, from 4 to 6 p.m. on the fourth floor of Mulford Library. Dr. Donna Woodson, professor emerita of medicine, will give a talk, “Art is Good for Your Health,” at 4:30 p.m.

Woodson teaches the elective course Art and Medicine: Using Visual Literacy to Improve Diagnostic Skills in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. She is a longstanding participant in the Health Science Campus Artist Showcase; three of her pieces will be featured in this year’s exhibit.

Light refreshments will be served at the reception, where attendees will have the chance to win books on art and medicine.

Visitors can view the artwork during regular library hours: Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to midnight; Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday from 9 a.m. to midnight.

For more information on the free, public exhibit and reception, visit the University Libraries’ website or contact Jodi Jameson, assistant professor and nursing librarian at Mulford Library, and member of the artist showcase committee, at 419.383.5152 or jodi.jameson@utoledo.edu.

Researchers Seek New Treatment for Sepsis Through Innovative Approach

New research from The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences suggests it may be possible to treat septic shock with drugs that are already part of the clinical repertoire.

Screening existing pharmaceutical agents for unexpected applications is increasingly seen as a valuable tool for establishing new treatments, particularly within the field of oncology research.

Pan

Dr. Kevin Pan, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology, is applying that innovative approach to sepsis, a life-threatening condition in which the body’s extreme immune response to infection damages its own organs.

“Severe sepsis is a big problem in the clinic,” Pan said. “There are about 750,000 annual cases in the U.S. alone, and we do not have very effective treatments beyond targeting the original infection with antibiotics. We are hoping to find new ways within our existing drug library to regulate the immune response and directly treat sepsis.”

By focusing on existing drugs, researchers hope to advance therapies more quickly and with less cost than the novel drug discovery process.

Pan and his collaborators at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, recently published a study in the journal Scientific Reports that found a drug called rolipram protected mice from E. coli induced septic shock.

“Our research shows rolipram can reduce inflammatory cytokine production and increase mouse survival. This suggests rolipram might be a novel therapeutic agent for fighting against sepsis in the clinical setting,” Pan said.

Rolipram was originally developed as an anti-depressant and has been studied for a number of other potential applications, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Pan’s team is the first to show it might protect against sepsis.

Treatment for sepsis is largely limited to flooding the body with antibiotics and fluids. However, the growing problem of antibiotic resistance means many bacterial infections can be difficult to kill, allowing the body’s overheated immune response to go on unchecked.

By exploring new ways to modulate that immune response, Pan and his collaborators hope to provide a complimentary treatment to go along with antibiotics that can prevent damage to critical organ systems.

“This is early stage research, and rolipram is known to have difficult side effects. However, our work proves the potential of repurposing drugs to treat septic shock,” Pan said. “We plan to continue working with rolipram, and are beginning tests on a number of other drugs.”

New Biomarker Could Better Predict Diabetic Kidney Disease

Clinicians may soon have a better way to predict which of their diabetic patients are most likely to develop kidney disease, allowing for earlier interventions that keep patients off lifelong dialysis or transplant waiting lists.

In a study led by Dr. Rujun Gong, professor and director of kidney research at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, researchers analyzed how an enzyme present in urine can be used as a novel biomarker for diabetic kidney disease progression.

Gong

The study was published in the journal Kidney International.

“The research in this field is very important,” Gong said. “There is a pressing need to more precisely determine which diabetic patients are at the highest risk, as early intervention and intensive treatment can prevent this certain cohort of patients from developing diabetic kidney disease and kidney failure.”

Diabetic kidney disease is the No. 1 cause of kidney failure in the United States, accounting for nearly half of all new cases, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Prior research has shown approximately 40% of diabetics will develop kidney disease, but Gong said clinicians lack a reliable way of determining which patients will be affected.

“Right now, testing patients for albuminuria, or protein in the urine, is considered by some as a gold standard diagnostic,” Gong said. “However, in the field of nephrology practice, there is a huge debate about the test’s usefulness. There is evidence suggesting it is not accurate.”

By examining cell culture and animal models and performing a retrospective study of diabetic patients in China, Gong and his collaborators from the Brown University School of Medicine and Zhengzhou University concluded that an over-activation of an enzyme called GSK3-beta was strongly linked to the progression of diabetic kidney disease, and a better indicator of disease development than albuminuria.

GSK3-beta plays a key role primarily in the insulin pathway, helping the body transform glucose — or sugar — into glycogen — or stored energy — and back again. The enzyme is also pivotal for other cellular processes and can be measured in urine because it is present in cells shed from the kidney.

“The idea here is to take advantage of these exfoliated cells as a liquid biopsy,” Gong said. “It’s not painful. It’s not invasive. We can simply collect the urine and examine the exfoliated kidney cells as a biomarker.”

The incidence rate of diabetes has risen sharply. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the percentage of Americans living with diabetes rose from 4.4% in 2000 to 7.4% in 2015, while the World Health Organization says the number of people with diabetes has risen from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.

As the number of people with diabetes continues to grow, Gong said it is important to give clinicians new tools to keep their patients healthy. If a physician knows a diabetic patient is prone to developing kidney disease, they can take steps to reduce the risk by ensuring tighter glycemic control, strictly monitoring blood pressure, avoiding nephrotoxic drugs, and prescribing other protective medications.

Beyond being a biomarker, GSK3-beta may be a therapeutic target itself, as it is implicated in a number of kidney conditions. Previous research by Gong under the support of the National Institutes of Health grant found that very small doses of lithium, frequently used as a medication for conditions such as bipolar affective disorder, can inhibit GSK3-beta and accelerate the recovery of renal function.

The next step for researchers is to conduct a large-scale randomized study to further confirm the ability of GSK3-beta to predict diabetic kidney disease.

Using Visual Literacy in the Classroom

“Visual literacy is not just about art …”

We’ve all heard the adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Learning to read those pictures gives us advantages in both work and life. The University of Toledo and Toledo Museum of Art’s Visual Literacy Initiative is paving the way for what it means to speak visual.

Visual literacy is defined as being able to read, comprehend and use visual images effectively. The initiative provides faculty with visual literacy tools to prepare students for the future. To date, the initiative has advanced student learning across all disciplines by launching visual literacy modules for UToledo faculty to use with their students.

UToledo students visited the Toledo Museum of Art for a visual literacy exercise called Back to Back Drawing.

“Visual literacy is not just about art. It’s about understanding the world around us through observation, critical thinking, perspective and collaboration in a vast world of images and visual stimulation,” Dr. Heidi M. Appel, dean of the Jesup Scott Honors College, said. “To communicate successfully in our increasingly image-saturated culture, we must also learn to read, understand and critique images — to become literate in visual language.”

The ability to speak visual will be important in all fields of study and employment whether it’s to read and design schematics, visualize problems and solutions, see data, diagnose patients, interpret clinical images, or communicate information.

“Visual literacy is a way to engage students to begin the process of deep learning and creative thinking,” Dr. Arun Nadarajah, UToledo professor of bioengineering, said.

There are new University of Toledo courses that focus exclusively on visual literacy in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the Honors College, and the College of Arts and Letters.

Shari Norte, assistant lecturer in the School of Exercise Rehabilitation Sciences, left, and Mirta Parodi, senior lecturer of Spanish, participated in a visual literacy activity that challenged teams to build something with Legos and write instructions so others could replicate the same object.

All faculty now can include visual literacy in their courses using modules and exercises to support instruction while achieving student learning outcomes. The modules are made to be easily adaptable and span across all disciplines.

“We’re all visual learners. These modules are a great way to infuse our already vital subject areas with more active learning strategies that increase visual literacy,” Dan McInnis, assistant lecturer in the Jesup Scott Honors College, said. “The visual literacy modules and exercises assist me as a faculty member to deliver specific skill sets to students, giving them conduits to stronger visual understanding.”

One module from the initiative titled Infographic Creation and Interpretation “is designed to meet student learning outcomes and provide students with an understanding of the use of infographics for communicating complex ideas efficiently and effectively.” Students also have shared their experience with this module. One student said, “This module taught me that we process pictures faster than words, so by having a picture represent information, people want to share.” Another student said, “Infographics should be an aid to help us tell a story.” Not only did this module teach students how to interpret and read infographics, it taught them how to create their own infographics. A student reflected on his experience: “The module put the ‘common sense’ of visual interpretation into words. It helped me understand why we need concise, accurate and appealing infographics beyond ‘they look nice and are easy to understand.’”

Another student said, “I feel more confident when analyzing an infographic. I look at its content, the structure of the image, how clear it is, if it’s simple, how did they emphasize on the problem. For the design, I pay attention to the colors, if it’s attractive, how easy it is for me to digest and retain the information provided.”

The visual literacy modules and exercises are made available through the Visual Literacy webpage or Blackboard. To access the visual literacy modules and exercises through Blackboard, use the Faculty Support tab on the top of your Blackboard page to find Other Resources and select the Visual Literacy link. Visual literacy will then show up as one of your organizations below your courses. You’ll find instructions on how to use the modules and exercises there.

Campus community members are invited to explore visual literacy modules and exercises during open houses:

Friday, Jan. 31, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in Nitschke Hall Room 5013;

Friday, Feb. 28, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the Center for the Visual Arts Conference Room on the University’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus.

Friday, April 24, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in MacKinnon Hall Room 1370.

An extended workshop also is planned for Friday, March 27, from noon to 3 p.m. in Toledo Museum of Art Room 128.

Register to attend an open house or workshop on the University Teaching Center website.

To inquire more information about the Visual Literacy Initiative and its campus-wide efforts, visit the Visual Literacy Initiative website or contact visualliteracy@utoledo.edu.

Mejias Santoro is an academic and adult programs coordinator at the Toledo Museum of Art.