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University Opens New Germ-Free Research Facility

The University of Toledo is expanding its microbiome research capabilities with the creation of a new germ-free laboratory that will provide unique opportunities for scientists investigating the link between gut bacteria and chronic conditions such as hypertension.

Researchers in the UToledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences have been at the forefront of innovative research that suggests the particular makeup of our individual gut bacteria has major implications on our health.

Doing the honors to mark the creation of a new germ-free laboratory on Health Science Campus were, from left, Scott Bechaz, associate director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources; Dr. Lisa Root, attending veterinarian and director of the Department of Laboratory Animal Resources; Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, director of the UToledo Microbiome Consortium; Dee Talmage, chair of Women & Philanthropy; Marja Dooner, chair of the Women & Philanthropy Grants Committee; Dr. Bina Joe, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology; and Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs.

The research is particularly promising with relation to high blood pressure — so much so that the University has recognized the work among its spotlight areas of unique distinction.

“We have been working with available models asking as many research questions as we can. We are getting definitive links, but we haven’t yet found definitive answers for mechanisms,” said Dr. Bina Joe, Distinguished University Professor and chair of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. “It is our hope this new lab will help provide those answers and open avenues for new therapeutic methods.”

By studying germ-free animal models that completely lack microbiota, Joe and other UToledo researchers will seek to further their understanding of how the colonies of tiny organisms that call our bodies home benefit or harm human health.

The project received $65,000 in grant funding from Women & Philanthropy and matching funds from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

While germ-free models are used for a variety of research applications, UToledo’s lab will be one of the only academic sites in the country with germ-free rats, which Joe said more closely mimic human disease states.

Preliminary work on the new Women & Philanthropy Germ-Free Facility for Biomedical Research is underway, with the facility expected to be up and running in 2020 under the guidance of Dr. Matam Vijay-Kumar, director of the UToledo Microbiome Consortium.

“The Women & Philanthropy grant is what is fueling this. We’re extremely grateful for their investment,” Joe said. “I think they see the value in promoting a woman scientist, and they see the value in the technology. We at The University of Toledo want to remain the first to fully understand these links and mechanisms in order to develop new clinical approaches. Rather than taking pills and monitoring your blood pressure every day, you might eventually be monitoring your microbiota and transferring beneficial ones as needed.”

“Women & Philanthropy is proud to be a part of such critical research and cutting-edge technology here at The University of Toledo,” Dee Talmage, chair of Women & Philanthropy, said. “It is a pleasure to support this important medical research, particularly when it has such a national impact.”

Women & Philanthropy has allocated up to $65,000 for 2020 grants to be awarded next spring. Learn more on the Women & Philanthropy website.

Health Information Administration B.S. Core Courses Certified

It’s official: All 15 online classes in The University of Toledo’s Health Information Administration Program have received national Quality Matters certification.

Two more online classes in the program recently received Quality Matters certification: Ambulatory Clinical Classification Systems and Services, and Integrative Capstone Experience.

That means the UToledo Health Information Administration Program for a bachelor of science degree is the first undergraduate program at the University to have all core courses certified by Quality Matters.

“We are so proud to have another online degree program with all required courses certified by Quality Matters,” Dr. Barbara Kopp Miller, dean of University College, said, noting classes for a master of arts degree in recreation administration were certified last year. “Our faculty are ensuring their online classes meet the nationally recognized Quality Matters peer review process so they are delivering the best online courses for UToledo students.”

Marie Janes and Nilgun Sezginis, senior lecturer and associate lecturer in the School of Population Health, respectively, have been working on receiving this distinction for the online classes in the Health Information Administration Program since 2016. To date, their program has the most Quality Matters-certified classes.

Janes said the Quality Matters certification demonstrates the program has the correct level of teaching materials, course expectations are clear, and the curriculum produces learning outcomes that can be measured.

Sezginis, who also is a doctoral candidate in the UToledo Health Education Program, said, “The students are receiving the best quality education and learning opportunities because we are making sure that all of our courses are meeting national standards.”

The University has 95 online courses certified by Quality Matters. Janes with eight classes and Sezginis with seven courses have the most individual course certifications.

Quality Matters is a nonprofit organization that provides standards for courses and program review to support quality assurance goals. A recognized leader in quality assurance for online education, its mission is to promote and improve the quality of online education and student learning nationally and internationally through the development of current, research-supported and practice-based quality standards and appropriate evaluation tools and procedures.

The organization also provides recognition of expertise in online education quality assurance and evaluation along with professional development in the use of rubrics, tools and practices to improve online education.

Official Quality Matters course reviews coordinated through UToledo Online are conducted by a team of certified peer reviewers who teach online and have been trained and certified by the organization.

The review process centers around the application of the Quality Matters Higher Education Rubric. The standards outlined in the rubric were developed and are periodically revised based on research and established standards in the fields of instructional design and online learning.

Any UToledo faculty member interested in learning more about the official Quality Matters course review process are encouraged to visit UToledo’s Does Quality Matter?

UToledo Study Estimates Impact of Opioid Epidemic at $1.6B in Northwest Ohio

Fatal overdoses tied to Ohio’s ongoing opioid epidemic cost the metropolitan Toledo economy $1.6 billion and more than 2,000 jobs in 2017, according to a new study by The University of Toledo.

At $1.6 billion, the total economic impact of the opioid epidemic is equivalent to approximately 4.5% of the region’s gross domestic product — or roughly the same amount of economic activity generated annually by the entire private construction industry.

“The University of Toledo has an important role to play in addressing the major issues that affect northwest Ohio and beyond,” UToledo President Sharon L. Gaber said. “This research provides another piece of the puzzle as we work together to confront the opioid epidemic.”

The research was led by Dr. Oleg Smirnov, associate professor of economics, in close collaboration with members of The University of Toledo Opioid Task Force.

“Over a relatively period of short time, the number of deaths from opioid overdose has skyrocketed, and the crisis doesn’t show any signs of abating,” Smirnov said. “This report helps give us a better understanding of how the epidemic affects our region and also provides a benchmark to evaluate the effectiveness of our community’s ongoing response.”

Among the report’s key findings:

• Fatal opioid overdoses directly resulted in $1.27 billion in lost economic output in 2017.

• Each overdose death costs the economy $8.67 million.

• The indirect, or spillover, effects of fatal opioid overdose were $329.2 million in 2017.

• Premature deaths caused by the opioid epidemic cost metropolitan Toledo the equivalent of 2,082 jobs in 2017.

• While Narcan is relatively expensive at approximately $130 per dose, there is clear evidence the economic benefit outweighs the cost of administering the drug.

“These new findings add valuable context to our understanding of and response to the opioid epidemic,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, vice provost for faculty affairs, professor of public health, and co-chair of the UToledo Opioid Task Force. “The research can be used to advocate for funding that goes toward prevention efforts and treatment of opioid use disorder. It also can be used to inform local businesses how this epidemic is affecting the job market and creating financial loss in the community.”

The report’s calculations are based on data from the Ohio Department of Health’s Ohio Public Data Warehouse, which documented 147 fatal opioid overdoses in Lucas, Wood, Fulton and Ottawa counties in 2017. Data from 2017 is the most recent finalized figures available.

State records show those four counties had 22 deaths attributed to opioid overdose in 2007. The state data relies on the official cause of death listed on state-issued death certificates and differs slightly from fatal overdose data from local sources.

“While it may seem morbid to put a price on human life, there are established economic models that show how an individual’s premature death ripples through the economy,” Smirnov said. “This report shows just how costly each death is to our entire community, on top of the personal loss of a friend, brother, sister or parent. The opioid crisis may appear hidden to some, but it affects all of us.”

To calculate the economic cost of a fatal opioid overdose in metro Toledo, researchers began with a federally established finding that a premature death has an economic cost of $9.4 million. By adjusting for northwest Ohio’s lower per-capita income and lower cost of living, they arrived at a figure of $8.6 million per premature death and $1.27 billion in lost economic output in 2017.

Each fatal overdose also hurts the economy indirectly. As spending and demand for goods and services shrink, employers may begin to reduce staffing. In turn, individuals who have lost their jobs cut back on their own spending. UToledo researchers calculated those indirect, or spillover, effects cost the local economy $329.2 million in 2017, while reducing full-time equivalent employment by 2,082 jobs.

The total economic burden in UToledo’s report does not include calculations from non-lethal overdoses. While those incidents do have costs associated with them — emergency room visits, criminal justice proceedings and mental health services, for example — the spending stays within the local community.

The report also offers some hints that the region’s response to the opioid epidemic is making a difference.

For example, a comparison of overdose-related 911 calls received by Lucas County dispatchers in 2016 and 2017 to the total number of overdose deaths in those years found the mortality of opioid overdoses declined from 8% in 2016 to 6% in 2017.

Researchers attribute that to first-responders dealing with opioid overdose more effectively, particularly with the use of naloxone.

UToledo’s research also supports the notion that the expanded use of naloxone prevents not only additional deaths, but also significant damage to the local economy.

While first responders in Lucas County administered an estimated $1 million-plus worth of naloxone in 2017, a single premature death would have cost the regional economy $8.6 million.

Access the full economic impact report online at utoledo.edu/economic-impact/opioids.

President, Dean Named YWCA Milestone Honorees

The University of Toledo President Sharon L. Gaber and College of Graduate Studies Dean Amanda Bryant-Friedrich are being recognized by the YWCA of Northwest Ohio for their leadership and empowerment of women.

The YWCA announced on Dec. 4 that Gaber has been named the recipient of the 2020 Milestone Award for education and Bryant-Friedrich is the recipient for science.

The UToledo leaders will be recognized at the 25th Annual Milestone Awards scheduled to take place Thursday, March 12, at 11:30 a.m. at the Seagate Center in downtown Toledo.

The Milestones Awards Luncheon was established in 1996 to recognize women of northwest Ohio who have demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities and who, through their efforts and accomplishments, have opened doors for other women to achieve their potential. The awards recognize women for their contributions in the arts, business, education, government, sciences, social services and volunteerism.



Cram Jam to Take Place Dec. 8

Students: See you at Cram Jam! Be there Sunday, Dec. 8, from 8 to 10 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union South Dining Hall.

Cram Jam gives students a chance during finals week to take a break and relax with a late-night breakfast.

“The Cram Jam will provide students an opportunity to de-stress before exams,” said Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs and vice provost. “Student success and well-being are among my top priorities.”

The menu will include eggs, pancakes, French toast, bacon, sausage, hash browns, cereal, muffins, fruit, salad and pizza.

“Additionally, this is the perfect time for faculty and staff members to interact with students in a relaxed setting and to wish our Rockets good luck on upcoming final exams,” Cockrell said.

Students must bring Rocket ID for admission.

Fore more information, call the Division of Student Affairs at 419.530.2665 or email studentaffairs@utoledo.edu.

UToledo Selected for National Program to Help People With College Credit Complete Degrees

An estimated 35 million Americans have some college credit, but did not earn their degree. Four million completed at least two years of course work.

To help them cross the finish line, The University of Toledo has been selected to participate in Degrees When Due, a three-year national initiative led by the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

The program gives colleges and universities resources to re-engage students who have some college credit and help them complete their degrees.

UToledo is part of the second cohort of colleges and universities across the country participating in Degrees When Due.

“This is a great opportunity to accelerate our efforts to reach out to students who were on the path to success, but had to stop their studies short of a degree,” said Dr. Karen Bjorkman, UToledo interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “We are eager to welcome them back and support them as they accomplish their goals and improve their lives.”

The nine-month program provides online tools and resources to help audit previously earned and transfer credits to determine each student’s best pathway to graduation.

In Ohio, an estimated 136,672 people are eligible to receive an associate’s degree with the college credit they’ve already earned.

“Our Degrees When Due institutional and state partners are building a strong pathway to degree attainment for all students, including by providing an on-ramp for those who have paused their studies or ‘stopped-out,’” said Dr. Michelle Asha Cooper, president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy. “The Institute for Higher Education Policy enthusiastically welcomes the selected institutions and states to this effort. Through this initiative, they will increase student success, serve a diverse set of student populations, and join us in addressing one of higher education’s most pressing challenges: degree completion.”

UToledo Cricket Team Continues Winning Tradition

The University of Toledo Cricket Club has won the Michigan Cricket Association’s Division I Championship this fall, besting 24 teams from across the Midwest.

The club finished the season with an 11-1 record.

The UToledo Cricket Club celebrated after winning the Michigan Cricket Association’s Division I Championship this season.

“The club has been a part of Toledo and the surrounding areas for the last four years,” said Akshay Chawan, captain of the club and associate network engineer in Information Technology. “Our organization’s goals are to build a proud tradition of developing cricket and life skills, with a dedication to teaching teamwork, sportsmanship and a competitive spirit.”

Chawan is among UToledo alumni on the team, along with Keyur Kulkarni, Club President Mohmmad Majid and Sai Hitesh.

UToledo students on the team are Sahil Patel, Hassan Sajwani, Hitanshu Dudeja, Akshay Roge, Gandhar Yedsikar, Shardul Sawant, Abhijeet Thakur, Saaj Aryamane, Shubham Gaikar, Vighnesh Nayak and Rohit Jadhav.

Community members Rodcliff Hall and Chinmay Kushare also play for the club.

“The University of Toledo Cricket Club has been able to showcase its talent and achieve some accolades in the last three years. We are very proud of our achievements and the hard work of a lot of people connected with the club that has led to on-field success,” Roge said.

The UToledo Cricket Club also won the runner-up trophy at the Michigan College Cricket Championship this year.

“Each and every player aspired to be best for the team and not to be the best on the team,” Kulkarni said. “In the past three years, this commitment has yielded the UToledo Cricket Club with many accolades.”

Last year, the team won the Greater Toledo Cricket Club Championship. In 2018, the club was Division II runner-up, which led to competing in Division I this year. In 2017, the club reached the semifinals in the Michigan Cricket Association Division II. And in 2016, the team won the American College Cricket Midwest Championship and competed in the national tournament in Florida.

Highest runs this season for UToledo were community member Israr Ul Haq with 231 and Chawan with 190. Highest wickets for the club were Chawan with 16, Aryamane with 14 and community member Adeel Ahmed with 7. Chawan was named man of the match in the championship game, while Hitesh and Roge received that honor during the semifinals.

Then came victory at the Michigan College Cricket Championship this season. The team began by beating Wayne State and Saginaw Valley State University in league play before a semifinal win against the University of Michigan at Dearborn. They lost a rematch with Wayne State in the final round, but the UToledo Cricket Club brought the runner-up trophy to campus.

UToledo alumni Rohan Kapkar and Arjun Ajbani joined the team during the college cricket championship, and Ajbani was named the most valuable player of the tournament.

“The UToledo Cricket Club is an emerging and highly respected team in our area,” Majid said. “We would love the University community to support its cricket club and learn more about the sport.”

For more information, visit the UToledo Cricket Club Facebook page or contact Chawan at akshay.chawan@utoledo.edu.

K9 Therapy Topic of Social Work Event Dec. 6

Some four-legged special guests will be on campus for a K9 therapy event Friday, Dec. 6, at The University of Toledo.

Hosted by the Human Interaction and Health and Wellness class in partnership with officers from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, the event will take place from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in Health and Human Services Building Room 1711.

Officers will be drive from Columbus, Ohio, with their therapy dogs for the event.

“Through having the officers and their K9 therapy dogs visit The University of Toledo and share about their work, we hope to raise awareness on how therapy dogs in police settings can benefit both individuals and communities,” said Dr. Janet Hoy-Gerlach, associate professor of social work.

Officers with Franklin’s Therapy K9 Unit will discuss the history of therapy dogs in law enforcement, and the daily work that primarily revolves around children with a focus on trauma, mental health and victim’s advocacy.

The Franklin County Sheriff’s Department started the first law enforcement K9 therapy program in Ohio in 2017; at that time, the department was one of six agencies in the United States with such a program.

Therapy K9 dog programs in law enforcement settings typically focus on victim support and advocacy, as well as community-police relations.

“Individuals who experience a traumatic crime can receive comfort and support from the therapy dogs as they go through the various legal system processes,” Hoy-Gerlach said.

She added, “Communities may experience more positive police relations through the therapy dogs helping to facilitate positive engagement and interactions during community police work.”

For more information on the free, public event, contact Hoy-Gerlach at janet.hoy@utoledo.edu.

UToledo Engineering Students to Present Senior Design Projects Dec. 6

Designing smarter traffic lights. Restoring farmlands to wetlands. Printing 3D violins so students in low-income and remote areas have access to instruments.

These are just a few examples of projects UToledo engineering students will present to the public at the Senior Design Expo. The event will take place Friday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Nitschke Hall and the Brady Center at The University of Toledo.

As part of required senior design/capstone projects, about 60 UToledo engineering teams worked with local businesses, industries and federal agencies to help solve technical and business challenges. Students will present their final prototypes, provide hands-on demonstrations, and answer questions about their experiences at the expo.

Caroline Shipman’s five-member team worked on the violin project with the Toledo Symphony and music director Alain Trudel. The group developed and printed a 3D violin, composed of five parts. They wanted the violin to “be as easy to assemble as a Lego kit,” said Shipman, a mechanical engineering senior who will graduate in December.

Shipman has played violin for more than 15 years and says she was excited to combine her passions for STEM and music on the project. The 3D violin costs about $150, as opposed to a starter violin that usually costs $400.

“It was awesome to see it go from concept to holding a physical prototype in your hands,” she said. “To give access to a child who didn’t think they could play an instrument — who knows? One day they could become a concert master.”

Engineers are problem-solvers at heart. The challenges the UToledo students tried to solve with their senior projects could make life easier for manufacturers, homeowners, those with disabilities, and anyone who drives a car. Many of their projects address timely issues such as school security or environmental problems, along with a host of other topics that include:

• Helping the Toledo Zoo recycle grey water created by its splash pad;

• Designing goggles to aid in the remote diagnosis of strokes;

• Creating an immersive training tool to help users learn how to defend against cyber threats;

• Building a fishing rod that will allow a man with limited arm mobility pursue his passion; and

• Designing a speaker/microphone system for a woman with ALS to use near or under an oxygen mask so people can hear her better.

The expo also will feature a high school design competition from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Nitschke Auditorium.

Some UToledo and high school projects address autonomous vehicles. The vehicles have been a focus of a number of events sponsored by the College of Engineering throughout 2019. The final Technology Takes the Wheel program will be held in conjunction with the Senior Design Expo.

The seventh event in the seminar series will take place Friday, Dec. 6, from 8 to 10 a.m. in Nitschke Auditorium. The “Preparing Your Workforce for the Future” panel discussion will be moderated by WTVG reporter Lissa Guyton and feature representatives from AAA, SSOE Group and Sinclair Community College. A Tesla will be the featured on-stage vehicle, and attendees will hear from Dr. Jack Marchbanks, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, and Rich Granger, managing director of workforce development for DriveOhio.

Attendees are encouraged to bring new, unwrapped toys for the annual Hope for the Holidays campaign. UToledo is partnering with 13abc Action News and the Salvation Army. Rocky and Rocksy will be there to collect donations.

Faculty, Staff Encouraged to Join International Allies Program

The Center for International Studies and Programs would like to invite UToledo faculty and staff members who have international backgrounds or experience to participate in the International Allies Program.

UToledo employees are encouraged to self-identify as a resource for international students and participate in international-related activities.

“Many international students miss the connection and sense of belonging from their home country, and the goal of this program is to provide a friendly environment and reliable resource to support our international students,” Xinren Yu, assistant director of the Center for International Studies and Programs, said.

Participants also may be a resource when international delegations visit The University of Toledo, Yu added.

Participants will:

• Be listed on the Center for International Studies and Programs’ website for easy access;

• Serve as a cultural connection for students from the same country;

• Be contacted when delegations from the same country visit campus;

• Be invited to an annual lunch/dinner for training purposes and to provide suggestions for the program; and

• Receive an International Allies Program sticker to display in the office.

“We encourage all domestic and international faculty and staff members to join us for this initiative and make The University of Toledo a more welcoming place for our international students,” Yu said.

Employees are encouraged to fill out the International Allies Program form.

For more information, email the Center for International Studies and Programs at cisp@utoledo.edu.