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Health and Human Services

Three Rockets Named MAC Distinguished Scholar Athletes

Three University of Toledo student-athletes were named Distinguished Scholar Athletes from the 2019-20 winter season by the Mid-American Conference. The awards were received following strong contributions in the field of competition and exemplary work in the classroom.

Women’s indoor track and field athletes Rayna Horner and Petronela Simuic were named Distinguished Scholar Athletes, as was Izzy Jones from the women’s swimming and diving team.

Horner is a sophomore majoring in pre-social work; she has a 3.774 grade-point average. Simuic is a senior majoring in health promotion and education; she has a 3.695 GPA. And Jones, a redshirt junior, is studying kinesiology and has a 3.734 GPA.

The award is given to student-athletes who have excelled in athletics and academics. Following each season, any student-athlete with a 3.20 GPA and participation in at least 50 percent of the contests is automatically named to the Academic All-MAC Team for each sport. First-year students and junior college transfers in their first year of residence are not eligible for the award.

New for this 2019-20 academic season, the selection for the Distinguished Scholar Athlete included all student-athletes that were recognized as All-MAC selections and Academic All-MAC selections from their respective sport, along with maintaining a 3.50 GPA and above. Previously, a voting process among the MAC Faculty Athletic Representatives determined the selection of the Distinguished Scholar Athletes. MAC membership voted for the change in recognizing the Distinguished Scholar Athletes during the conference spring meetings in June 2019.

UToledo Experts Share What You Need to Know About COVID-19 as States Reopen

As governments begin easing restrictions that were put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, public health and infectious disease experts from The University of Toledo are offering insight into what you need to know about the novel coronavirus, how to protect yourself, and how to protect others.

The virus is still here. We have to act accordingly.


While the number of newly confirmed cases in many states — including Ohio and Michigan — appears to have peaked, the virus hasn’t gone away or become less dangerous.

“We all yearn for the way life was in the pre-pandemic days, and we are going to get there, but this is going to be the situation for a while,” said Dr. Brian Fink, an epidemiologist and professor of public health. “We have to respect that and continue taking the same precautions.”

Though it’s tempting to see businesses reopening and leisure activities resuming and think the threat of the virus is behind us, Fink said the reality is the novel coronavirus is still spreading across the United States.

Take steps to protect your own health and the health of others.

“People do still need to be careful,” said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, an associate professor of medicine and chief of infectious diseases at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “One of the worst things that people could do at this point is go out and resume their normal behavior. We would certainly have a resurgence.”

Diligent handwashing, avoiding touching your nose and mouth, staying home if you’re sick, and social distancing should all continue, UToledo experts said. Individuals who are older or high-risk because of underlying health conditions should be more careful.

Fink said there are simple things you can do. For example, when shopping, avoid picking up an item and then putting it back, and keep your distance from other shoppers. It’s also important, he said, to make decisions based not only on your own risk, but the risk of those around you.

“It’s difficult. We all want to see our friends and family,” he said. “We just have to be patient. If we’re patient and we follow the guidelines as best as possible, we’ll be back to normal sooner rather than later, even though that’s going to take time,” Fink said.

Wearing a cloth face covering does make a difference. Wear one if you’re around others.


The shifting guidance from public health officials on mask usage has caused confusion and pushback, but Hanrahan encourages people to wear a simple mask or cloth face covering when around other people.

“Two things are happening. The person wearing the mask is reducing the amount of stuff they’re putting in the environment, and they’re also reducing the amount they breath in,” she said. “It’s not going to prevent everything, but there is some protection.”

Hanrahan said face coverings, combined with continued social distancing and new measures being implemented by businesses, such as clear barriers at cash registers and limits on the number of people allowed in one place at one time, will reduce the overall risk.

Fink said its important people recognize things such as mask recommendations or requirements are being done for the benefit of everyone, not to target specific individuals.

“I always tell my students there are going to be people in the population who aren’t going to be happy. We’re seeing that,” Fink said. “But we’re putting these guidelines in place for the health and well-being of everyone.”

Individuals with pre-existing health conditions are most vulnerable, but no one is immune to the illness.

As physicians and researchers learn more about COVID-19, there are also some troubling discoveries. Along with older Americans and those who have diabetes, compromised immune systems and chronic lung diseases, Hanrahan said doctors are finding people with morbid obesity and high blood pressure are at high risk of complications.

“Hypertension alone would not necessarily be thought of as a potential problem with a viral infection, but it actually is,” she said. “For people who have those conditions or other underlying medical conditions, they really need to think about whether it makes sense for them to go to the grocery store or be around a lot of other people.”

Additionally, there are an increasing number of reports of children developing a severe inflammatory response linked to COVID-19, even when they weren’t previously sick.

“COVID-19 is not just affecting people who are at high risk for complications,” Hanrahan said.

Scientists and physicians have learned a lot about the virus, but we’re still a long way from having routine treatments or a vaccine.

The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was completely unknown before it began spreading among people early this year. Since then, there has been a tremendous amount of research both in how the virus spreads and potential ways to treat or prevent it.

“We have learned a lot about this virus,” Hanrahan said. “Most of the spread really is by droplets, typically within a few feet of the person. The social isolation part, keeping six feet of distance, that does actually make a difference.”

Doctors also have a better idea how to manage the virus, and hundreds of drugs are being examined to potentially fight COVID-19 and its effects. Some, including the antiviral drug remdesivir, are showing promising early results. Progress also is being made in vaccine development.

However, while there is reason for hope, Hanrahan said it will take time to get any of these therapeutics in the quantities needed. Gilead Sciences, which makes remdesivir, anticipates making a million courses of that drug globally by December.

“That’s not going to be enough to treat people if we get a really huge outbreak. This is unfortunately going to be with us for a while,” Hanrahan said. “That’s why it’s important everyone continue to treat this pandemic seriously.”

State Awards UToledo $613,436 to Lead Harmful Algal Bloom Research Projects

The University of Toledo is among four Ohio universities to receive a total of $2.08 million from the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative in this year’s round of state funding to address Lake Erie water quality and find solutions for algal bloom toxicity.

UToledo scientists situated on the western basin of Lake Erie from diverse research areas were awarded $613,436 to lead four projects related to protecting public health:

• Dr. April Ames and Dr. Michael Valigosky, assistant professors in the School of Population Health in the College of Health and Human Services, will assess microcystin inhalation risk to shoreline populations;

• Dr. Steven Haller, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, will work to create a new therapy for microcystin exposure and hepatotoxicity using naturally occurring Lake Erie bacteria that removes microcystin released by harmful algal blooms in drinking water;

• Haller also will conduct deep phenotyping of human organ biobank specimens for cyanotoxin exposure in at-risk populations; and

• Dr. Von Sigler, professor of environmental microbiology in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, will investigate any risks to beach visitors who come in contact with sand along a beach that has had bloom-enriched water wash up on the shoreline.

The UToledo Lake Erie Center research vessel helps to monitor the lake’s water quality.

“Foreshore sands are frequently contacted by beach visitors and are known to play a crucial role in accumulating bacteria, often harboring potentially pathogenic bacteria in densities exceeding those in nearby waters,” Sigler said. “Although no data is currently available that describes the ecology of microcystis in sands, there is potential for human health impacts.”

UToledo and Ohio State University lead the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative, which consists of dozens of science teams across the state and is managed by Ohio Sea Grant.

Researchers from UToledo, Ohio State University, the University of Akron and Bowling Green State University will lead 12 newly announced projects — four from UToledo — to track blooms from the source, produce safe drinking water, protect public health, and engage stakeholders.

The selected projects focus on reducing nutrient loading to Lake Erie, investigating algal toxin formation and human health impacts, studying bloom dynamics, and better informing water treatment plants how to remove toxins.

Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, professor of ecology, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and co-chair of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative, examines a water sample aboard the UToledo Lake Erie Center research vessel.

“Thanks in part to past HABRI projects, the primary threat of microcystin algal toxin to our Lake Erie-sourced drinking water has been greatly diminished,” said Dr. Thomas Bridgeman, professor of ecology, director of the UToledo Lake Erie Center and co-chair of the Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative. “Even under the best-case scenario, however, we are likely to be living with harmful algal blooms for many years to come. This new set of HABRI projects allows us to follow up with questions about other algal toxins such as saxitoxin and anatoxin that we know much less about, long-term exposure to toxins, and secondary routes of exposure, such as inhalation.”

Harmful algal blooms are not only a Lake Erie problem.

“Many lakes and rivers across Ohio are having similar issues,” Bridgeman said. “Several new projects are dedicated to helping smaller Ohio lakes and rivers use remote sensing, groundwater tracing and improved toxin-testing methodology.”

Previous HABRI projects have developed algal toxin early warning systems for water treatment plants, changed the way state agencies collect data for fish consumption advisories, and helped modify permit procedures for safer use of water treatment residuals as agricultural fertilizer.

“Lake Erie is an invaluable resource and a true treasure for the state of Ohio, and we have a responsibility to do all we can to preserve it and protect it,” said Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE). “I’m pleased that our university researchers are collaborating to lead this endeavor.”

The projects also aid the efforts of state agencies such as the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

“Direct engagement with these front-line agencies continues to allow HABRI scientists to develop research proposals that address both immediate and long-term needs of the people tackling this important statewide issue,” said Dr. Kristen Fussell, assistant director of research and administration for Ohio Sea Grant, who leads the initiative’s daily administration.

A total of $9.1 million in funding was made available through ODHE in 2015 and designated for five rounds of HABRI projects. Matching funding from participating Ohio universities increases the total investment to almost $19.5 million for more than 60 projects, demonstrating the state’s overall commitment to solving the harmful algal bloom problem.

Information about HABRI projects, partner organizations and background on the initiative is available on the Ohio Sea Grant website.

The UToledo Water Task Force, which is composed of faculty and researchers in diverse fields spanning the University, serves as a resource for government officials and the public looking for expertise on investigating the causes and effects of algal blooms, the health of Lake Erie, and the health of the communities depending on its water. The task force includes experts in economics, engineering, environmental sciences, business, pharmacy, law, chemistry and biochemistry, geography and planning, and medical microbiology and immunology.

Water quality is a major research focus at UToledo, with experts studying algal blooms, invasive species such as Asian carp, and pollutants. Researchers are looking for pathways to restore our greatest natural resource for future generations to ensure our communities continue to have access to safe drinking water.

UToledo Students Join Volunteer Army of Contact Tracers

A group of nursing, public health and physician assistant students from The University of Toledo is playing a vital role in the region’s effort to curb the spread of coronavirus by serving as volunteer contact tracers.

Contact tracing is a core tool that public health officials use for stopping the spread of infectious diseases. It sounds deceptively easy — interview patients with a confirmed illness, find out who they were in close contact with, notify those individuals, and ask them to pay close attention to their health and limit their exposure to others.

In reality, it’s a time-consuming process that, in a pandemic, can quickly overwhelm existing resources.

Joseph Dake


“Those calls take a fair amount of time,” said Dr. Joseph Dake, professor and chair of the UToledo School of Population Health. “When there’s only three or four cases coming in per day, that’s no problem. When we get to 30 or 50 cases per day, it’s much more difficult for health departments to keep up.”

In early April, after speaking with Lucas County Health Commissioner Dr. Eric Zgodzinski, Dake put out a call for volunteers interested in being trained as contact tracers. The first group of students began working with the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department on April 8.

As of the first week of May, the Volunteer Contact Tracing Program has grown to include 57 public health students, 65 students from the College of Nursing and five students from the physician assistant program. Nearly 100 additional nursing students will be trained early this summer.

“Dr. Dake took the idea of using UToledo students for contact tracing far beyond my expectations,” Zgodzinski said. “Through the work of UToledo, this will allow us to take what we have and may be used as a national model and training program for any local health jurisdiction to protect their community from COVID-19.”

Together, UToledo students have made more than 350 calls to individuals in Lucas County who have either tested positive or been identified as having been in close contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“This is vitally important. You’ll hear a lot in the next few weeks about contact tracing and the need for more trained individuals. At the end of the day, the whole idea is prevention,” Dake said.

The National Association of County and City Health Officials estimates the nation is likely to need nearly 100,000 contact tracers — tens of thousands more than currently exist.

“We really need to have stronger infrastructure for mass contract tracing,” Dake said. “We’re really trying to make sure we build the capacity the right way.”

Dake has been in contact with officials at the Ohio Department of Health and shared one of UToledo’s training modules to be incorporated in their training program.

Bailey Kurtz


The training program developed by Dake takes about six hours of independent study. The students must then do a full mock interview with a faculty member or clinical instructor who is part of the team, and be cleared before they begin making calls.

One of the first students trained was Bailey Kurtz, who is in her first year of the Master in Public Health Program.

“There are times where I’ll spend an hour and a half talking to someone who’s in the hospital and doesn’t have anyone to talk to,” she said. “It’s not just about the data collection. It’s about making sure people in our community are doing OK. Being that light to answer their questions and give them some peace of mind.”

Kurtz, who hopes to eventually go to medical school, estimates that she has made between 20 and 30 calls since she finished training. She’s providing a crucial service to the community and getting hours that count toward her required internship.

The pandemic and their response to it is also giving Kurtz and her peers perspective that’s likely to last the rest of their lives.

“We have to prepare for the unknown. We have a unique opportunity as young professionals. We can implement some of that preparation into our careers later in life,” she said. “We’re going to be talking about this for the rest of our professional careers.”

UToledo’s National Youth Sports Program Canceled This Year

The University of Toledo is canceling this year’s National Youth Sports Program (NYSP) due to the pandemic.

It would have been the 51st year for the free three-week camp that provides recreational and educational opportunities for local income-eligible children.

“Following the COVID-19 update provided by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, UToledo is taking action to reduce exposure risk for the safety of our faculty, staff, students and campus visitors. Therefore, we are canceling the 2020 National Youth Sports Program,” said Dr. Ruthie Kucharewski, professor in the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, and NYSP administrator.

This is the first time the summer tradition for kids has been canceled, according to Kucharewski.

“Thank you for your continued support of UToledo. We hope to see you at next year’s camp,” she said.

Starting in 1968, UToledo was one of the first universities in the country to offer the federally funded program sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

After federal funding for the program was cut, the University has continued to operate the camp through fundraising, in-kind donations, and commitment from the University to provide some support and facilities.

Ph.D. Candidate Aims to Impact Next Generation of Mental Health

Clark Ausloos wanted to find a way to have the biggest possible impact on the world.

A Ph.D. candidate in The University of Toledo’s Counselor Education Program, his goal has always been to serve people who consistently face discrimination or who find themselves underrepresented in traditional mental health communities. Through his doctoral program, he’s found a way to not only help those people individually, but to raise the overall quality of care received by the entire population.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

As a researcher and instructor in best practices for serving marginalized or stigmatized populations, Ausloos gets a chance to shape the future of mental healthcare.

“I can teach other future counselors how best to work with their clients,” he said. “So, in a way, I’m fortunate to be able to impact clients’ lives, as well as students and their families through my teaching.”

Fueled in part by a 2019 grant from the National Board for Certified Counselors Foundation, Ausloos is working to identify new ways to make sure all clients and students get the same level of care, regardless of their affectional or sexual orientation, or gender identity and expression.

“I’d like to work toward competencies and standards that counselors can use both in schools and in clinical counseling settings,” he said.

Clark Ausloos presents research

Clark Ausloos, a Ph.D. candidate in UToledo’s Counselor Education Program, presented his research with doctoral student Lena Salpietro at the North Central Association for Counselor Education and Supervision Conference.

He’s already making strides. Dr. Madeline Clark, one of Ausloos’s research partners, said their work has produced a set of best practices for working with specific demographic groups.

“Clark developed a research agenda that focuses on supporting trans and gender expansive youth in mental health and school settings, publishing multiple articles in peer-reviewed journals,” she said.

It’s a great result for any researcher, but it’s especially rewarding for Ausloos, who admitted he wasn’t excited about the idea of committing to a life of research early on.

“It’s something that can be really intimidating to people, and UToledo really allowed me to stand on my scholarly legs and really excel in that way,” he said. “I thought it’d be really scary. Now I realize that it’s just asking questions and being curious about things.”

In addition to his research and teaching activities, Ausloos also has worked to support access to mental healthcare at UToledo. A member (and later president) of the Chi Sigma Iota counseling honor society, he participated in an annual Wellness Fair at UToledo. The event was specifically designed to showcase new ways to stay healthy on college campuses in addition to highlighting community wellness initiatives students might not otherwise have known about. The educational aspect of the event fit perfectly with Ausloos’ ongoing focus on education and awareness.

Clark Ausloos posed with students

Clark Ausloos consults with various groups on campus, including providing these students tips and tricks to manage stress during final exams.

After graduation, Ausloos plans to continue his research work while finding new opportunities to help students gain counseling and mental health-related skills, a focus he thinks will continue to boost the next generation of mental health professionals.

“To hear stories about my students using interventions with clients, and how those clients go on to do well after that, I feel fortunate to be able to have that impact.”

Softball Player Never Gave Up

Morgan Paaverud has been filled with a competitive spirit since grade school. Growing up in Anoka, Minn., she earned a spot on her high school’s swim team as a seventh-grader. She excelled in that sport to the point where she qualified for the state meet as a sophomore and junior.

During that time, however, she discovered a passion for softball. By her sophomore year, she was traveling around the country, competing in national tournaments and improving her skills. It was then that she started to realize where her future lay.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“As I started putting more time into softball, I developed friendships with teammates who also had the love for softball and dreamed about playing college softball,” Paaverud said. “They pushed me to work even harder than I was. I began to fall in love with it. Swimming definitely kept me in shape, but my heart was in softball.”

It was that love for softball that brought Paaverud to the Glass City as she accepted a scholarship to play for the Rockets in 2016. Her experience at UToledo lived up to her expectations and more.

“My experience as a softball player here was unbelievable,” Paaverud said. “It molded me into the person I am today. I learned the true meaning of what hard work really is. From putting in the extra practice time, to 6 a.m. workouts, to the time spent in the classroom.”

Paaverud’s academic efforts can be seen by her 3.65 grade-point average. She will receive her bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy Saturday, May 9. It’s a field that is responsible for planning, organizing and directing recreational activities to promote health and well-being for patients who are physically, mentally or emotionally disabled. She plans on taking a national exam to become a recreational therapist in July and then apply for occupational therapy school in fall 2021.

Morgan Paaverud posed for a photo during a UToledo class trip to the Smoky Mountains to learn how to facilitate an outdoors group while navigating risks when hiking in the mountains.

“I really didn’t know what recreational therapy was as a freshman, but a former academic advisor thought I would like it and the impact it has on individuals,” said Paaverud, who arrived on the UToledo campus as an exercise science major. “It has been the best experience. Our Recreational Therapy Program is one of the best in the country and prepares you for the real world. There are five different clinical rotations and an internship that prepares us to be the best therapist possible.”

Paaverud also was pushed to excel on the softball diamond. After coming off the bench in her first two seasons as a Rocket, she opened her junior year as the team’s starting first baseman. Midway through the year, though, she was hitting just .111 at the plate, nowhere close to her own expectations. She found herself on the bench, but wasn’t ready to quit on herself.


“Morgan came to me asking for another shot at playing time,” Coach Joe Abraham said. “She wasn’t hitting well and had been benched the previous weekend against Akron. We were playing Oakland in a mid-week doubleheader, and I was planning to give her one start anyway. We started her in the first game and she had a huge game. Then we started her in game two. She had another big game. She was a starter for us from that point forward.”

“The key for me was to be relentless,” Paaverud said. “I knew that if I wanted something, I needed to keep working for it. I knew if I wanted to be a starter, I had to have an outstanding game. I happened to go 6 for 7 with a home run and five RBIs that day. It was the best day I have ever had in my career. It showed me the importance of working hard and to keep pushing to get what you want.”

Paaverud and her teammates displayed that same attitude at the end of their 2019 season. That’s when the Rockets came out of the consolation bracket to become the lowest seed ever to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament.

“We never gave up. We kept pushing and grinding it out until it was over,” Morgan said. “I feel like that is a true definition of anything is possible. We barely made it into the tournament as the No. 7 seed and then won five games in less than 48 hours to win it all. It felt like I was on cloud nine for the week after we won it. It still feels surreal. It’s a memory I will cherish forever in my softball career as a Rocket.”

Student-Athlete Gained Lifelong Impact From Basketball

To say that Luke Knapke took advantage of his basketball scholarship from The University of Toledo would be an understatement.

On the hardwood, Knapke went from becoming a big man “project” out of high school to becoming one of the best centers in Rocket history. In the classroom, he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree during his five years on campus. It goes without saying he is extremely thankful for the opportunity he was provided.

CELEBRATING SUCCESS: During this time when we cannot come together to celebrate our graduates, UToledo is recognizing the Class of 2020 with a series of feature stories on students who are receiving their degrees. Help us celebrate our newest UToledo alumni. Visit utoledo.edu/commencement to share a message of support to graduates and come back online Saturday, May 9, to take part in the virtual commencement ceremony.

“Being part of the basketball program was very, very special to me,” Knapke said. “I made a lot of great friendships and had the pleasure of being led by a lot of great coaches. Each person that was a part of Toledo basketball impacted me in a way that I will not forget.”

Rocket fans certainly won’t forget Knapke’s contributions on the court. He was part of teams that won 82 games and a pair of Mid-American Conference West Division titles. He finished his career as the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots and is one of five individuals to score more than 1,400 points and grab at least 800 rebounds.

Head Coach Tod Kowalczyk credits much of Knapke’s on-court success to his determination to be the best.

“Luke is one of the hardest workers I’ve coached,” Kowalczyk said. “We knew there was a good possibility he would be a very good player, but to his credit, he put the work in every day to reach his potential.”

That type of perseverance transferred into the classroom as well for Knapke, who was a double major in marketing and management as an undergrad. After graduating in May 2019, the four-time Academic All-MAC team member continued his studies and will receive his master’s degree in recreation and leisure studies this spring. Outside of the classroom, the Maria Stein, Ohio, native also completed summer internships with the Toledo Mud Hens, Toledo Walleye and Team Sports.

Luke Knapke finished his Toledo career as the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots and is one of five individuals to score more than 1,400 points and grab at least 800 rebounds.

“I learned different things from each of my internships,” Knapke said. “With the Mud Hens and Walleye, I Iearned how promotions are developed. I also saw how they set up their ticket and merchandise sales for their fans. With Team Sports, I found out about what really goes into the equipment side of sports.”

His experiences on and off the court have allowed Knapke to grow into the person he is today.

“I am a much better leader than I was coming in as a freshman,” Knapke said. “I am much more comfortable talking with people I may not know, and I know what it takes to be successful outside of basketball based off what we learned in basketball.”

Now Knapke is ready to explore the world using the tools he acquired as a member of the men’s basketball program. Next fall, he will begin his professional career in Belgium.

“Playing professional basketball is something I’ve always dreamed of and it feels really good to have the opportunity to make that a reality.”

Student Employee and Supervisor of Year Honored

Cailey Giuffre was named the UToledo Student Employee of the Year during a virtual award ceremony hosted by Career Services. More than 60 students, family members, faculty and staff watched the April 14 online event.

The junior majoring in paralegal studies is a student worker in Parking and Transportation.

Giuffre received the award given to a student who, in her or his work role, exemplifies reliability, quality work, initiative, professionalism and unique contributions.

“Cailey enjoys staying busy and helping others. Our department’s job is to uphold the rules,” Sarah Farkas, manager of parking and transportation, wrote in her nomination. “Cailey always acts with high ethics and moral integrity while speaking with every caller or visitor trying to get out of a parking ticket or get away with not buying a parking permit.

“She takes more than 100 calls a day and never knows how she will be treated by the person on the other end of the phone,” Farkas wrote. “She treats everyone the same. She is respectful, doesn’t raise her voice, is informative, and firm but fair. She is always helpful.”

“Having an on-campus job has given me the flexibility I need in order to always be able to put school first,” Giuffre said. “With the extra support of my co-workers and boss, I believe I am a more successful student and am more prepared for a career after college.”

Guidelines for the award were established by the National Student Employment Association and the Midwest Association of Student Employment Administrators. Giuffre automatically is entered to contend for the state title, with the potential to advance to regionals and nationals.

All 20 students nominated for the award were recognized during the online event. Watch this tribute video, which was produced by Derek Roiter, student videographer in Career Services and film major who will graduate this spring.

“Even though we could not be together on campus for this event, we felt it was important for the show to go on so we could acknowledge the hard work and notable accomplishments of our student workforce,” Shelly Drouillard, director of career services, said. “We could not do what we do without our student workers.”

For the first time, a Supervisor of the Year Award also was presented during the program. Daniel Miller, university photographer in University Marketing and Communications, received the inaugural honor.

“The impact Dan has had on my work life, academic life and personal life is astounding. I look forward to coming to work in the morning before my classes I am taking, and if I need advice, I know I can always go to him,” Jessica Jacobs, photography assistant in Marketing and Communications, wrote in her nomination.

“Dan’s greatest characteristics are patience, relevant advice, and passion for their job,” Jacobs, a sophomore majoring in respiratory care, wrote. “Whenever I come to him about a problem, work or otherwise, he always listens to me closely and gives me advice to better the situation. I am grateful that not only I have an understanding boss, but a great mentor in work and in life.”

“I love working with students because I have the chance to positively impact their lives by not only teaching, but advising,” Miller said.

“Student employees expressed an interest to honor their good bosses,” said Joshua Vail, student employment specialist in Career Services. “We were happy to honor that request.”

A full recording of the 2020 virtual awards ceremony is available on the UToledo Career Services YouTube channel.

College of Medicine and Life Sciences Researchers Set Focus to COVID-19

In response to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, researchers in The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences have swiftly pivoted their focus to projects aimed at thwarting the pandemic.

UToledo scientists are pursuing new treatments, searching for biomarkers that could help physicians better understand disease progression, exploring the body’s immune response to the virus, and investigating the intricacies of the virus itself in hopes of helping build a vaccine.

A research task force led by a pair of veteran medical scientists in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences has been established to foster collaboration and share resources and ideas across the University. More than 100 individuals — including faculty from the UToledo colleges of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Nursing, Health and Human Services, Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and Engineering — have joined the conversation.

“Our faculty have really stepped forward to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “Ultimately, COVID-19 will be solved by innovative scientists who figure out how we effectively treat and prevent this.”

The UToledo Medical Research Society on April 17 approved $25,000 in funding to each of three projects in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences to jump start research aimed at confronting COVID-19.

Two of those projects are for clinical trials of drugs that might reduce the severity of symptoms.

Dr. Cheryl McCullumsmith, professor and chair of the UToledo Department of Psychiatry and the co-chair of the COVID-19 research task force, is investigating whether fluoxetine, a commonly prescribed antidepressant, might be a novel treatment able to prevent serious complications from COVID-19.

The drug, sold under the brand name Prozac, has previously been shown to block expression of a cell-signaling protein called Interleukin-6 that can trigger an overwhelming immune response called a cytokine storm. In COVID-19, cytokine storms can prove fatal.

“Fluoxetine has extraordinarily strong evidence in its action as a blocker of IL-6 and cytokine storms in both animal models of infection and in human illness such as rheumatoid arthritis and others,” McCullumsmith said. “This project aims to prevent serious outcomes such as hospitalization, respiratory failure and death in people when they are first infected with COVID-19. The goal is to use an existing drug in a new way to prevent serious complications of COVID-19 during the time it will take scientists to develop more lasting solutions, such as vaccines and antiviral treatments.”

In the second project, Dr. Elissar Andari, assistant professor of psychiatry, is moving to test whether oxytocin, a non-steroid hormone known for its role in sociality and attachment, can reduce hyper-inflammation and boost T-cell counts to help the body fight off COVID-19.

“Oxytocin is safe and has been prescribed clinically for more than 50 years,” Andari said. “We believe the mechanisms by which this drug can have a potential is through its known anti-inflammatory effects, as well as through its protective and pro-immune responses. Oxytocin also has known interaction with the ACE2 system, which is the receptor host of the virus.”

Both clinical trials are planned to begin after receiving final approval from the University’s Institutional Review Board.

The third project granted seed funding from the Medical Research Society will go to a project overseen by Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Vijay-Kumar is investigating flagellin — a bacterial component previously shown to eliminate viral infection — as a possible way to harness innate immune responses to fight the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. His project is also aimed at identifying biomarkers that can help clinicians diagnose the early and late stage biomarkers.

“We expect flagellin will serve as an effective therapeutic to restore impaired early anti-viral immune responses, prevent viral entry, and protect against lung and heart damage,” Vijay-Kumar said. “Additionally, we will investigate to what extent DNase I, an enzyme used to treat cystic fibrosis patients, will offer protection against virus-induced lung pathology at late stages.

The Medical Research Society was created in 2014 by a group of community donors to support biomedical research at UToledo. Seed funding from the society has helped provide early data to leverage major grants from nonprofits and federal funding agencies. To date, UToledo faculty have received more than $5.1 million in external funding for projects initially supported by the society.

“It is wonderful to see the engagement of our community leaders who support the Medical Research Society and who have funded three of the projects that are aimed at this scourge,” Cooper said. “This funding will allow our researchers to fast-track these crucial projects.”