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Archive for July, 2009

Statewide honors awarded to engineering graduates, faculty member

When Ryan McChesney, a 2009 graduate of UT’s College of Engineering, was selected as the Outstanding Engineering Student for 2009 by the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers, it was a shock.

According to McChesney, Richard Springman, UT engineering technology instructor and director of student support, asked him a few questions and requested his resumé, telling McChesney it was for a scholarship he had already won instead of the application for the award.

“It completely took me by surprise to find out that I was selected. It is a great honor to receive this award,” McChesney said.

“This award will show future employers that I am dedicated to what I do and that I am willing to do what is necessary to complete the task at hand as best I can,” McChesney said.

“What the students learn in the classroom is a great foundation for the real world and sets us up for success in our future engineering careers,” McChesney said of the preparation he received from the UT College of Engineering.

McChesney wasn’t the only College of Engineering representative to be honored recently.

Also recognized were Aaron Thrush, a 2001 UT College of Engineering alumnus; Dr. Douglas Nims, UT associate professor of civil engineering; and the UT College of Engineering.

The Ohio Society of Professional Engineers named Thrush Ohio’s Young Engineer of the Year for 2009 and named Nims the Outstanding Engineering Educator for 2009.

After 19 years of teaching at UT, Nims said it is gratifying to be recognized with a statewide award. Nims said the most rewarding honor was receiving a letter of thanks from his former student, Thrush, reflecting on his positive experiences in Nims’ classrooms at UT.

To top off the 2009 awards from the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers, the College of Engineering and the Toledo Society of Professional Engineers won Best Overall Engineers Week observance.

New program at UT uses law to teach high school students leadership lessons

A program newly expanded to Toledo is using the law to sharpen Toledo Public School ninth-graders’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills as the Ohio Supreme Court and state and local bar associations partner with The University of Toledo College of Law.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Lanzinger will speak to the 29 students attending the five-week Law & Leadership Institute Thursday, July 30, at 9:30 a.m. in Law Center Room 1011 on Main Campus.

“Historically, the legal profession’s diversity has been lacking. We want to use this program to reach out to minority and economically disadvantaged students to show them what the law is like and what skills are required for success,” said UT Law Professor Marilyn Preston, who is directing the program. “We want to use the Law & Leadership Institute to create a pipeline that will illuminate the legal path for a more diverse population.”

The Law & Leadership Institute began last summer as a pilot program for youth to compete at high academic levels through the use of legal and educational programming. The program is designed to foster vision, develop leadership skills and confidence, and cultivate a passion to pursue higher education and a legal career.

Students entering the ninth grade will learn about the theory and practice of law, meet with guest speakers from all areas of the legal profession, examine the litigation process, and end the summer with a mock trial competition.

“The Law & Leadership Institute recognizes that there are talented young people in Ohio who, given academic opportunities and support, would make excellent members of the legal profession,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer. “The institute provides that opening and prepares interested high school students from the city schools to face the rigors of higher education and offers them an opportunity to ‘dream the dream’ of becoming an attorney.”

Students will be invited back to the program each summer through graduation, and new groups of students from each grade level will enter the program behind them. Preston said UT also plans to engage the students periodically during the academic year.

The Law & Leadership Institute is modeled after a similar program in New York City that has seen marked increases in participating students attending and graduating from college. Launched in Cleveland and Columbus last summer, the program has expanded to include Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron and Toledo.

“Whether these students choose legal careers, the ability to write well and the critical thinking skills the law helps to develop will serve students well as they become leaders in a broad array of professional careers,” Preston said.

The institute is sponsored by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, local bar associations and all Ohio law schools.

Essays are ‘Chicken Soup’ for UT physician’s soul

A common criticism of modern medicine is that today’s physicians excel in clinical skills, but often lack the personal components so vital to the patient-doctor relationship.



Dr. Blair Grubb would agree.

“It’s my thought that physicians have lost touch with being human,” Grubb, professor of medicine and director of UT’s electrophysiology program, said candidly. “We’ve been trained to treat diseases; we don’t treat people.”

Grubb, a worldwide expert in the area of syncope, or fainting, could be considered medicine’s “Renaissance man.” In a field where professional detachment and clinical efficiency are considered necessary, he’s found that sharing anecdotes, sentiments and snippets from his 29 years in medicine brings a measure of relief.

“All physicians, if they allow themselves, have transformative experiences with their patients,” Grubb explained. “It’s how you think about them at the end of the day that matters. It’s helpful if we allow ourselves to be human.”

Grubb’s reflections about life as a physician have been widely published in professional publications as well as mainstream self-help books. Most recently, his personal essays have appeared in Jewish Stories From Heaven and Earth: Inspiring Tales to Nourish the Heart and Soul; Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living Catholic Faith: 101 Stories to Offer Hope, Deepen Faith, and Spread Love; and Chicken Soup for the Jewish Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit.

Jewish Stories Full coverThe Chicken Soup books are meant to inspire and encourage, actions that seem at odds with Grubb’s everyday work environment. Diseases of the heart often go hand in hand with death, a fact that has been explored in his essays.

“While we are told in medical school and residency to show ‘respect for the dead,’ our actions all too often fall far short of this ideal,” Grubb writes in “Washing the Dead.” “We tend to see death as some kind of failure on our part as physicians, rather than the natural or inevitable process that it is.”

Grubb began gathering his thoughts in the form of personal essays after a chance encounter in 1996. In France for a medical conference, he contacted a French physician with whom he’d collaborated years earlier. Grubb’s assistance had helped garner a diagnosis and successful treatment for the French physician’s granddaughter.

9781935096238The physician’s wife, seriously ill herself, gave Grubb an old Menorah she saved after a Jewish friend was taken by German forces during World War II. The woman didn’t know what to do with the Menorah, which is a meaningful symbol of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah.

“When I found out what really happened to the Jews, and how many of the people I knew had collaborated with the Nazis, I could not bear to look at it,” the woman told Grubb, as shared in his essay “It Should Again See Light.” “Yet I kept it, hidden, waiting for something, although I wasn’t sure what. Now I know what I was waiting for. It was for you, a Jew, who helped cure our granddaughter, and it is to you I entrust this.”

“I wrote that essay because I had trouble telling the story,” Grubb said. “I still do.”

“It Should Again See Light” was the first of Grubb’s personal essays to be published. After it appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, it also was featured in a story on National Public Radio.

5197dj1lqdl_bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-arrow-clickwebtopright35-76_aa240_sh20_ou01_1Five of Grubb’s essays appear in Jewish Stories From Heaven and Earth.

“I was honored to be featured in that book because my essays appear with essays from people like Elie Wiesel,” Grubb said.

Steadfastly in tune with the cutting-edge advances in medicine, Grubb takes an old-fashioned approach to writing. Putting pen to paper, he usually produces each essay in one sitting. Since he’s done the editing in his head beforehand, most don’t take long.

Grubb’s artistic side has been exhibited in a series of published poems and line drawings, as well. He has plenty of support at home; his daughter is an art student at UT, and his wife, also a physician, has written articles for local publications.

“One of the best things about my job is the ability to share in the lives of other people,” Grubb said. “Physicians have some of the highest rates of burnout, depression and suicide. Reminding myself of the humanity all around me helps me cope.”

High school students to attend UT Physics and Astronomy Summer Camp

The University of Toledo is giving 25 area high school students the opportunity to learn more about physics, astronomy and the impact science has on world issues Wednesday, July 29, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and Thursday, July 30, from 7 p.m. to midnight in McMaster Hall Room 4009 on Main Campus.

The Physics and Astronomy Summer Camp will introduce students to alternative energy methods, such as wind turbines and solar cells, and help them view the world through the eyes of an astronomer.

“Since students are the future, the hope is that this outreach activity will help excite them about science, by not only exploring the heavens but also by reinforcing how science can beneficially impact environmental and economic issues of the day,” said Dr. Rick Irving, UT assistant research professor of physics and astronomy.

This event also will provide 11 students in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates the opportunity to help plan and supervise daily activities for the camp.

These students have been selected from colleges around the country to conduct research of their choice with UT faculty mentors for a 10-week period. The National Science Foundation provides each student with a stipend to participate in the program.

For more information, visit http://astro1.panet.utoledo.edu/~rirving/current_camp.html.

CFO outlines budget amendment process

UT Chief Financial Officer Dr. Scott Scarborough outlined the University’s budget amendment process in his Budget Exchange Journal Monday morning, identifying a three-stage process following state budget cuts that have left the institution with an $8 million academic enterprise budget gap and a $1 million hole at the hospital.

The stages Scarborough identified are:

1. UT will closely examine all non-revenue producing programs, non-essential support services, and all cost-saving and revenue-enhancing ideas offered by the University’s internal Finance and Strategy Committee;

2. UT will have informal conversations with the unions about voluntarily rescinding negotiated salary increases; and

3. If steps one and two are insufficient, the University will work with deans and vice presidents to reduce the work force.

The University also will look to a spring 2010 tuition increase, structured to help UT recapture about $2 million in state funding, he wrote.

“To offset a portion of this lost funding, the state of Ohio has authorized public universities to raise undergraduate tuition by 3.5 percent for both years of the biennium,” Scarborough wrote. “At UT, we will likely raise tuition this fall, but scholarship every dollar back to students. Beginning in the spring, however, we will not scholarship the tuition increase back to students.”

Scarborough said he would discuss the budget further when he hosts a town hall meeting Tuesday, July 28, at 11 a.m. The meeting will be Webcast at video.utoledo.edu, and questions can be submitted to townhallquestions@utoledo.edu both prior to and during the forum.

Also included in Scarborough’s post was a list of five principles that will guide the budget amendment process. Highlighting transparency, strategic focus and respect for those adversely affected by budget decisions, he also emphasized that UT’s new reality was not temporary.

“We will recognize the current economic challenges for what they are — an ongoing challenge to make the University of the future a leaner and more narrowly focused organization that continues to deliver academic quality in a dynamically changing world,” Scarborough wrote. “This is our new reality, and it isn’t a short-term challenge — it is here to stay.”

Read Scarborough’s journal post here.

Physician assistant recognized for community, professional service

As president and CEO of Life Connection of Ohio, the not-for-profit organ procurement organization, and a physician assistant for 36 years, Michael G. Phillips not only understands the most basic qualities of life, he works each day to improve them.



Phillips recently was recognized as a Distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Physician Assistants for his outstanding service to his profession, commitment to advancing health care for all people, and exemplary personal and professional development.

“It is truly an honor to be recognized with fellow physician assistants who have a sincere commitment to delivering the highest quality of care possible in their respective fields of practice,” Phillips said. “I have been fortunate to be able to dedicate my career to organ donation and transplantation.”

In 2003, Phillips helped co-found UT’s Human Donation Science Program, the first and only academic program in the country designed to prepare individuals to coordinate the organ donation and transplant process.

The Human Donation Science Program recently has been approved to become a master’s degree program in the College of Medicine.

Phillips, who also serves as an instructor in the Department of Urology, is recognized as an expert in his field for his extensive writings, including books, chapters and journal publications on organ and tissue procurement and transplantation.

“It is a privilege and my duty to give back to my community by sharing my knowledge and expertise to advance the profession and make a difference in the lives of patients and their families,” Phillips said.

Professor named Fellow of American Institute of Chemical Engineers



Dr. Steven LeBlanc, UT professor of chemical engineering and associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering, has been elected a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

This grade of membership testifies to the high honor and esteem LeBlanc is held by his peers through his distinctive professional accomplishments and contributions, according to Dr. Nagi G. Naganathan, dean of the UT College of Engineering.

“Election to the prestigious grade of Fellow signifies sustained, high-impact contributions by a member of a technical society,” Naganathan said. “In addition to his on-campus contributions as a member of our faculty and administration, Dr. LeBlanc has made lasting contributions in mentoring and guiding people of all ages in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields through his National Science Foundation and American Institute of Chemical Engineers summer workshops. This is a well-deserved honor.”

LeBlanc’s service contributions to the college, University and the community are numerous. Most notably he has chaired and co-chaired several forums on engineering education and was recognized in 2001 as the featured educator in chemical engineering education.

And he has received numerous awards, including the Young Chemical Engineer of the Year in 1984, the Herb Thober Award for Chemical Engineer of the Year in 1993, UT’s Outstanding Teacher Award in 1982 and the American Society for Engineering Education North Central Section Outstanding Teacher in 2001.

LeBlanc will be formally recognized at the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ annual conference in Nashville in November.

Artist inspired by imperfection

"Menageri in Gold" by Dan Boos

"Menageri in Gold" by Dan Boos

Growing up with a speech impediment and an undiagnosed learning disability, UT alumnus and local artist Dan Boos communicated his thoughts, wants and needs by drawing pictures.

Boos’ earliest influence comes from his grandfather, who used crayons to teach him about color, lines and forms. From there, his passion for fine arts began.

“I believe that my interest in art became a constant as a result of experiencing those efforts to channel a message and witnessing the response of others to them,” Boos said.

His inspiration goes beyond his grandfather and other well-known artists to an ancient Japanese belief system known as Wabi-Sabi, in which one learns to find beauty in imperfection.

Boos said his inspiration for his paintings, sculptures and pottery comes from things such as cracks in the sidewalks, splashed tar and cars mangled from accidents. “I am most stimulated and motivated by things imperfect and accidental,” Boos wrote on his MySpace page.



He will showcase his diverse collection of acrylics at The University of Toledo’s 17th annual Art on the Mall on Sunday, July 26, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Main Campus.

The public is invited to browse or buy at the free event, where Boos’ portraits, figures, seascapes and abstracts will be among works by more than 100 artists.

From his past involvement with Art on the Mall, Boos said, “I often hear people mention that they enjoy Art on the Mall as much and even more than the Ann Arbor show, and I agree with their perspective.”

For more information about the event or artists, contact the UT Office of Alumni Relations at 419.530.2586, 800.235.6766 or visit www.toledolalumni.org.

Division of Student Affairs to improve communication with all students

In April, The University of Toledo Division of Student Affairs budget was cut 5 percent and led to multiple layoffs, including many in the Office of Student Involvement.

After rising concerns of who will take over the duties of those laid off, the division has created a functional organizational chart to ensure each area of Student Affairs is properly supported, and it has adopted new strategies to communicate more effectively with students.

Once a draft of the functional chart was posted, the division held an open forum titled “Students Speak” June 24 to ensure it would receive more student input. The open forums are an opportunity for all students to voice their comments and concerns, said Dr. Kaye Patten Wallace, vice president for student affairs.

The division plans to make these forums a monthly occurrence that will vary in location and time in order to fit a wide range of students’ schedules.

“I’m excited about the opportunities these strategies will provide to improve our communication with all students,” Patten Wallace said. “Now we’re going to be where the students are and will give them more chances to come directly to us.”

Facebook is another tool the division is utilizing so students can be updated with information quickly and they can view or respond to anything at their own convenience.

With almost 750 fans following the division’s updates, Patten Wallace sees it as a perfect opportunity to open up students for more discussion about the progress of Student Affairs and new ideas or events that are planned.

The division also plans to create a Student Advisory Board made up of representatives from larger student organizations.

The board will meet monthly with Patten Wallace to provide student input on future decisions and bring any student issues to the division’s attention.

To further open communication between Student Affairs and all students, the division will present a monthly report at the Student Senate meetings and will set aside office hours each week for students to walk in and express their comments or concerns.

Rui Li, a member of the International Student Association, has faith in the student-centered staff of the division and all student leaders on campus.

“I believe as long as we stand together and work for the good of the student body, things will work out,” Li said.

To become a fan of the Division of Student Affairs on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/utstudentaffairs.

UT pediatrician: Better data needed to help combat childhood obesity

More and better data are needed to determine what types of approaches work best in combating childhood obesity, according to a University of Toledo pediatrician.

Dr. Joan Griffith talked about the dangers of overeating with patient Miesha Richardson.

Dr. Joan Griffith talked about the dangers of overeating with patient Miesha Richardson.

Dr. Joan Griffith, associate professor and interim chief of general pediatrics, reviewed the practices of 80 childhood-obesity prevention programs administered by schools, academic teaching hospitals, community hospitals, clinics, health-care plans, community health centers and other groups across the country, hoping to identify what she called “a best practice for addressing childhood obesity in low socioeconomic and diverse communities.” She also analyzed recommendations of a 1998 national childhood obesity expert committee and interviewed five key childhood obesity authorities.

However, her study was not able to identify the best practice because of variations and inconsistencies in the programs’ data-collection efforts. For example, only 49 of the 80 programs she examined provided outcomes data.

Her study, “Assessing Childhood Obesity Programs in Low Socioeconomic and Diverse Communities,” was the result of work she did while earning a master of public health degree in 2007 from Harvard University, where she completed the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy Program. It appeared in the May issue of the Journal of the National Medical Association.

“Our results imply that improvement in data collection/documentation by childhood obesity program leaders is the linchpin to identification of evidence-based effective interventions,” Griffith said.

Given the magnitude and the complexity of the problem, she said there is an urgent need to evaluate what are thought to be the best practices and evaluate their long-term effectiveness.

“If we are looking to determine the best practices, it’s critical that information is based on scientific evidence,” she said.

Griffith said the study provides some evidence that programs that encourage lifestyle changes, focus on the family, emphasize prevention and involve the community do the best job when it comes to gathering and analyzing data.

Generally recognized as a health time bomb, childhood obesity is linked to an increased risk of health problems later in life, including cancer, heart problems and diabetes. While genetics plays a role, Griffith said the culprits are increased consumption of unhealthy, calorie-laden fast foods and lack of physical exercise.

The obesity epidemic, she said, won’t be solved overnight because it is multifaceted. Parents, pediatricians, nurses, nutritionists, schools, hospitals, clinics, community health organizations, businesses and government all have roles in preventing and reducing childhood obesity.

Parents need to take the initiative by monitoring the amount and kinds of food their children eat, by providing nutritious meals, and by watching how much kids exercise, according to Griffith. They also should eat the way they want their children to eat and make sure their children are not watching too much television or spending too much time with video games, computers and cell phones. Parents who are concerned about a child’s weight should talk to their pediatricians and try to implement some simple steps to improve health.

“Parents should set the example by being active with their children,” she said. “We have become a technologically advanced country to our detriment. Too many children spend too much time sitting in front of the television.”

School systems can provide physical education and nutrition education and need to pay attention to what they are feeding children, she said. Cities must have parks and bicycling and walking lanes to encourage children to exercise.

“It is much better to prevent childhood obesity than to reverse it,” she said.

Griffith spent 21 years in the U.S. Air Force as a physician, retiring as a colonel, before moving into academic medicine.