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University Women’s Commission program to offer advice: ‘Just breathe’

“Just Breathe: Using Technology and Relaxation to Prevent Anxiety and Improve Stress Tolerance” will be the topic of the University Women’s Commission’s Lunch and Learn Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Knox

Dr. Michele Knox, UT professor of psychiatry, will speak at the event, which will take place from noon to 1 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1035 on Health Science Campus.

Acute stress often leads to muscle tension, rapid/shallow breathing, increase in heart rate, and changes in stress hormones — adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

These in turn affect the regulation of the immune system and inflammation. Prolonged stress can lead to the development of various physical and mental health conditions. Knox wants to introduce students and employees to new strategies to combat these afflictions.

“I will be showing the attendees why and how to use technology to help learn to prevent and reduce stress. I will show them technology that I use to help patients with anxiety disorders learn to bring about a state of relaxation to counter or prevent the impact of stress,” Knox said. “I hope that attendees will learn a basic skill that they can use on a daily basis to reduce or prevent stress and its outcomes.”

Campus community members are invited to bring their lunch and attend the free event.

UT Department of Art students’ work appears on area electronic billboards

The creations of University art students are on display throughout the Toledo area for the next several weeks, appearing on electronic billboards as part of an annual exhibition.

Each fall, Barry Whittaker, UT associate professor of art, organizes the exhibition of juried student work. The digital billboard space was donated by Lamar of Toledo.

“While studying art, it is important to see how images can move beyond classroom and gallery walls to interact with the city where you live,” Whittaker said. “Lamar has been a great partner in this project by providing students with the opportunity to see their work illuminated and at a large scale in many locations around the city of Toledo.”

A total of 19 works from 14 artists are featured in the exhibition.

The digital billboard locations are at Reynolds Road at Airport Highway, Glendale Avenue at Byrne Road, Tremainsville Road at Laskey Road, Washington Street at Huron Street, Woodville Road at East Broadway Street, the Anthony Wayne Trail at Western Avenue, I-75 at Berdan Avenue, and I-75 at Monroe Street.

Works on the billboards were created by 14 student artists: Austin Baker, Donna Beauregard, Taylor Carey, Colin Chalmers, Jason Chappuies, Alaina Coote, McKenzie Dunwald, Chen Gao, Lindsay Haynes, Alexa McLaughlin, Tyler Saner, Ashley Simmons, Valerie White and Lydia Yant.

UT online programs move up in U.S. News rankings

The University of Toledo continues to improve its place in the U.S. News & World Report list of the top online bachelor’s programs.

UT is ranked 114 out of 348 total institutions listed in the 2019 Best Online Programs ranking, an increase from 125 last year and 142 in 2017. The University is ranked 67 out of the public universities.

The rankings are determined based on criteria that includes student engagement, student services and technology, faculty credentials and training, and expert opinion.

Specific to online programs, there is a focus on graduate indebtedness, course delivery, and academic and career support made available to students remotely. UT made improvements in each of those categories in the most current rankings list.

“The University of Toledo is committed to student success, and an important part of achieving that goal is providing flexible learning options and supportive faculty and staff whether students are on campus or online,” UT Interim Provost Karen Bjorkman said.

The UT College of Nursing also is now ranked in the 2019 Best Online Nursing Programs. The University offers online RN to bachelor of science in nursing completion, and Master of Science in Nursing — Nurse Educator and Doctor of Nursing Practice programs designed to help nurses achieve their professional advancement goals.

For additional information about the rankings, visit the U.S. News & World Report website.

UT research assistant to appear on ‘Jeopardy!’

This microbiologist studies Lyme disease at The University of Toledo and finally made good on his lifelong dream to appear on “Jeopardy!”

Who is John Presloid?

Correct. The UT research assistant will make his “Jeopardy!” debut Wednesday, Jan. 16.

UT alumnus and employee John Presloid, right, posed for a photo with Alex Trebek during an appearance on “Jeopardy!”

“It felt like an accomplishment just being there, just being on the stage,” said Presloid, who works in the Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology in UT’s College of Medicine and Life Sciences. “I watched the show every day growing up. My first audition was actually like a week after my 18th birthday. Pretty much as soon as I turned 18, I’ve been applying nonstop.”

He finally broke through in October after his fourth in-person audition, earning the right to fly to Culver City, Calif., meet longtime host Alex Trebek, and go head to head with two other trivia superstars.

The questions he answered and where he placed is a closely guarded secret — you’ll need to tune in to find out — but Presloid said the overall experience was even better than what he had expected.

“I thought it was going to be very serious and I’d be really nervous. But I just had a blast the entire time,” he said. “One of the things they tell you is they want a poker face; they want you to look serious and not give anything away.”

“One of the handlers kind of jokingly wagged her finger at me for smiling, but she was like, ‘Question right, question wrong — you’re always smiling or laughing. That is your poker face.’ It was just so much fun.”

Presloid earned a bachelor’s degree in pharmacology from UT in 2004 and a master of science degree in biomedicine in 2008. He’s spent the last four years working in the lab of Dr. Mark Wooten, UT professor of medical microbiology and immunology, who studies Lyme disease and melioidosis, a bacterial infection common in tropical climates.

He was actually working in the lab when a colleague knocked and said he had a phone call from a “Jeopardy!” producer.

A dedicated reader who naturally soaks up information, Presloid said he felt well-prepared, though he did brush up on some fine arts topics such as classical composers and opera.

“I tried to cram a little bit, but I didn’t want to drive myself crazy,” he said. “I kind of balanced between feeling comfortable but not losing sleep over it.”

Presloid likened being on “Jeopardy!” to playing sports. There were a few anxious jitters at the start, but once you’re involved in the game, you sort of fall into the zone.

“It goes by really fast. I’m actually kind of excited to see it on TV because there’s so much I don’t remember,” he said. “All the contestants were hanging out all day and most of them were really, really cool. You expect some people might be too competitive or off-putting, but I think everyone had the same goals and the same dream, and everyone is just so excited to be there. It was just unbelievable.”

In Toledo, the episode featuring Presloid will air at 7:30 p.m. on WTOL-TV Channel 11.

Interim dean named for College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Dr. John Plenefisch, associate dean for the UT College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, has been named interim dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

Plenefisch

Plenefisch will lead the college effective Tuesday, Jan. 15, while Dr. Karen Bjorkman serves in her new role as interim provost and executive vice president of academic affairs.

“The College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics is recognized for its high-quality educational programs, excellent faculty and staff, and has a growing reputation as a center of internationally recognized research,” Plenefisch said. “I look forward to working, through my new position, with faculty, staff and students in the college and stakeholders across the University on the continued academic success of students in our sciences and mathematics programs, and on the support and enhancement of our faculty’s research efforts.”

Plenefisch, who joined UT in 1996, is an associate professor of biological sciences.

Prior to joining UT, Plenefisch worked at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Connecticut.

He earned his PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut.

UPDATED: UT Lake Erie Center Jan. 17 talk canceled

The UT Lake Erie Center announced Monday afternoon this talk is canceled.

The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center is hosting a free, public event about the collaborative efforts to re-establish a self-sustaining lake sturgeon population in the Maumee River.

Dr. Chris Vandergoot, research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, will give a talk Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. at the Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

Dr. Chris Vandergoot, research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, held a young lake sturgeon prior to its release in the Maumee River last fall.

“We want to bring awareness to the importance of the Maumee River watershed and restore a native fish species to the Lake Erie ecosystem,” Vandergoot said.

UT is a partner in the regional, state and federal teamwork to restore giant, ancient sturgeon to Lake Erie that culminated in thousands of juvenile sturgeons being released into the Maumee River in October.

“Lake sturgeon populations were once abundant throughout Lake Erie, particularly in the western basin. Currently, only two self-sustaining populations occur lake-wide. Those are in the Detroit and Niagara rivers,” Vandergoot said. “Our reintroduction efforts seek to re-establish a spawning population in the Maumee River, which is one of the spawning aggregations extirpated due to over-fishing and habitat degradation.”

Vandergoot is an expert in using acoustic telemetry to track fish. Acoustic telemetry involves implanting fish with special tags that produce sound that can be detected by a large network of receivers installed around the Great Lakes. It is a way to determine where fish are moving within the lakes and learn about their behavior and habitat use. Some of the sturgeon released into the Maumee River last year have these tags.

Two years ago, a UT graduate student helped the Toledo Zoo secure $90,000 in federal grant money to build a sturgeon rearing facility along the Maumee River. Dr. Jessica Sherman-Collier, who has since received her doctorate in ecology from UT, assisted the project by verifying that spawning and nursery habitat still exist in the Maumee River to sustain a population of the fish that can live to be 150 years old and grow up to 300 pounds and eight feet long.

The Lake Erie Center is UT’s freshwater research and science education campus focused on finding solutions to water quality issues that face the Great Lakes, including harmful algal blooms, invasive species and pollutants.

Water quality is a major research focus at UT. With more than $14 million in active grants underway, researchers are looking for pathways to restore the greatest natural resource for future generations.

Vandergoot’s talk is part of the Lake Erie Center’s Public Lecture Series.

A shuttle will be available to transport passengers from UT’s Main Campus to the Lake Erie Center and back. The shuttle will depart at 6:15 p.m. from the south side of Bowman-Oddy Laboratories, 3100 West Towerview Blvd. Passengers must reserve a spot. Email lakeeriecenter@utoledo.edu or call 419.530.8360 to make a reservation for the shuttle.

Art exhibit reflects on ownership of self images

This January The University of Toledo Department of Art is hosting an exhibition of the work of guest artist Rowan Renee, a genderqueer artist self-identifying as they.

“No Honor No Heart” will be on display from Monday, Jan. 14, through Thursday, Feb. 14, in the Center for the Visual Arts Gallery on UT’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus.

“Together but Separate” is part of Rowan Renee’s exhibit titled “No Honor No Heart,” which is on display through Thursday, Feb. 14, in the Center for the Visual Arts Gallery on UT’s Toledo Museum of Art Campus.

Renee’s work includes images of their nude body that have been reclaimed and altered.

“In 2013, I was in a legal dispute with a former partner and collaborator, a copyright lawyer, over ownership and access to nude images of my own body that we co-authored,” Renee said. “[This] is an installation that reclaims these lost images, asserting the transformative power of artistic labor for experiences of sexual abjection.”

A free lecture will be held Friday, Feb. 1, at 6 p.m. in the Toledo Museum of Art Little Theater. An opening reception for “No Honor No Heart” will follow from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Center for the Visual Arts Gallery.

“I use photography to interrogate how sexual bodies are gendered, victimized, policed and punished,” Renee said. “Through photographic, printmaking and sculptural techniques, I produce and appropriate images that intervene on issues of authorship, the representation of queer and feminine bodies within the art-historical canon, and the intersection of homophobia and misogyny in sex law and copyright law.

“Abjection, as a queer concept and aesthetic framework, informs my manipulation of images. Through jouissance, the hard-won pleasure found in the labor of making, I see a means to construct transformative meaning from experiences of violence, persecution and erasure that threaten queer and feminine subjects.”

Renee currently works between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Ann Arbor, Mich. Their career began as a street artist in 2006, when they joined the Miss Rockaway Armada, a collaborative flotilla of junk rafts founded by the artist Swoon.

In the past, Renee traveled across 10,000 miles of the United States taking tintype portraits of people living off the grid, worked to rebuild a Sandy-flooded bungalow in the Rockaways as a live-work artist space, and founded a small photography business called Brooklyn Tintype.

Recently, they have received awards from the Aaron Siskind Foundation, the Rema Hort Mann Foundation and the Anchorage Museum of Art, as well as fellowships from the Jerome Foundation, the McColl Center for Visual Art and Ossian Arts at the Jain Family Institute. In 2018, Renee weas named an Elsie Choy Lee Scholar by the University of Michigan.

Their work has been profiled on NPR, in The New York Times, VICE, Hyperallergic, Huffington Post, American Photo Magazine and Guernica, among other publications.

The free, public exhibition can be seen Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information, contact contact Brian Carpenter, UT lecturer of art and gallery director, at brian.carpenter@utoledo.edu.

UT researcher calls on FDA to change rules to address spine screw contamination

A University of Toledo researcher is calling for a revamp of how operating room personnel store and handle the screws used in spinal fusion surgeries after results from a multicenter trial found high levels of contamination on supposedly sterile implants.

“Our findings about the prevalence of contaminated pedicle screws are concerning, to say the least,” said Dr. Aakash Agarwal, an adjunct professor in the UT Department of Bioengineering. “We immediately need to ensure all surgical implants are truly sterile. Our research unequivocally demonstrates that we have not been doing things correctly.”

Dr. Aakash Agarwal, shown here holding a prepackaged surgical screw, has petitioned the FDA to revamp how screws used in spinal fusion sureries are handled to avoid contamination.

Spinal fusion surgeries generally require four to six pedicle screws, but in the vast majority of procedures performed in the United States, surgeons begin with a tray containing 100 or more screws of different sizes to ensure the right size is immediately available within the operating room.

Because so few implants are used in each procedure, most screws are washed and sterilized repeatedly with other contaminated instruments from the operating room before they are actually used during a surgery.

But Agarwal said that isn’t practical or safe, and he’s calling on the Food and Drug Administration to ban the process in the United States.

In a paper published in the Global Spine Journal, a team of experts led by Agarwal found screws that had been repeatedly reprocessed are harboring a number of contaminants, including corrosion, soap residue and organic tissue.

“We randomly selected screws from four different trays of cleaned, wrapped and sterilized screws. Every screw we took out was contaminated, and they were about to go into a patient’s body,” Agarwal said. “The health-care system and patients would really benefit if we start packaging screws individually. The repeated reprocessing system in trays should be banned.”

The researchers recently submitted a formal petition along with their data to the FDA.

Agarwal and his fellow researchers — which included Dr. Steven R. Garfin, interim dean of the University of California at San Diego School of Medicine, and Dr. Jeffrey C. Wang, co-director of the University of Southern California Spine Institute and president of North American Spine Society — presented evidence in a separate paper that individually sterile-packed screws also are picking up contaminants as they are handled in the operating room.

The researchers devised a study in which two groups of individually packaged screws were used during live spine surgeries at multiple centers across the United States. One group of screws had a built-in intraoperative guard, while the other group did not have such a guard. The screws were prepared for insertion then sent away for analysis.

“All 26 surgeries in the study had bacterial growth on the unguarded screws. That was the major finding, which surprised everyone,” Agarwal said. “Even if you provide screws in an individually sterile package, the way it’s handled in the operating theater makes it unsterile.”

That could potentially lead to infection and biofilm formation at the screw-bone interface.

No microbial growth was detected on the screws that had integrated guards, which is meant to shield the screw itself from being exposed to air or touch while loading it onto the insertion device.

The findings were published in Global Spine Journal and multiple conference proceedings. It also has been published by news media, including Becker’s Spine Review, Spinal News International, Orthopedic This Week and Orthopedics Today.

Also involved in the research were Dr. Vijay Goel, Distinguished University Professor and Endowed Chair and McMaster-Gardner Professor of Orthopaedic Bioengineering at UT; Dr. Anand K. Agarwal, professor at UT’s Engineering Center for Orthopaedic Research Excellence; Dr. Hossein Elgafy, professor of orthopaedic surgery at UT; and Dr. Boren Lin, postdoctoral fellow at UT’s Engineering Center for Orthopaedic Research Excellence.

Data on surgical site infections following spine surgery varies, but a recent randomized trial from Mount Sinai Beth Israel hospital in New York found a 12.7 percent incidence rate. Agarwal said that could represent up to 100,000 patients suffering from surgical site infection in the United States alone.

“We shouldn’t be knowingly putting bacteria and other contaminates inside a patient’s body. With the disclosure of these evidences, it would be impossible to not undertake necessary safety measures,” Agarwal said.

In addition to his faculty appointment at UT, Agarwal is the director of research and development for Spinal Balance, a private company that was founded in 2013 by a group of UT research professors. The firm, with its corporate office at the UT LaunchPad Incubation building, was created in part to address the problem of surgical site infection stemming from contaminated implants.

Agarwal also was recently appointed to the editorial board of the Clinical Spine Surgery journal by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins for his contribution toward original research and peer reviews in the spine field.

Virtual Dementia Tour gives UT occupational therapy students lesson in empathy

Unfamiliar surroundings, confusing instructions and dulled senses are a recipe for frustration and anxiety.

They’re also a window into the life of someone who is living with dementia.

Participants in the Virtual Dementia Tour put on vision-limiting glasses and other items that dull their senses to recreate the confusion and frustration dementia patients experience in their daily lives.

Every fall, a group of second-year students in The University of Toledo’s nationally ranked occupational therapy doctorate program make their way to the West Park Place senior living community to participate in the Virtual Dementia Tour, an experiential learning program designed to give them a taste of what dementia patients struggle with every day.

“It’s a good opportunity to have an empathetic lived experience,” said Dr. Alexia Metz, UT associate professor of occupational therapy. “We hope this gives our students an anchor point to think back to in a moment where a client is having a challenge or a frustration, and to think creatively about how to teach caregivers and people in other professions to have some of that empathy.”

Developed by P.K. Beville and donated to the nonprofit group Second Wind Dreams, the Virtual Dementia Tour immerses students — if only for a few minutes — in the experience of struggling to do things that wouldn’t normally take a second thought.

“It’s going to be a very eye-opening experience, I promise you,” said Kirsten Pickle, executive director of West Park Place. “When you leave here today, we want you to have a little better understanding of the prevalence of dementia, the impact of dementia on caregivers, and what a person with dementia may be experiencing.”

To ensure the experience is as meaningful as possible, most of the specific methods are kept under wraps. Participants are outfitted with an array of gear that alters their senses and then asked to complete a list of everyday tasks alongside a partner.

For many of the students, even those who have been around or cared for those with dementia, the Virtual Dementia Tour was indeed eye-opening.

“It really demonstrated how much our experiences and abilities are shaped by our senses and knowledge of the environment around us. It was much more frustrating and anxiety-provoking not being able to complete simple things or locate objects than I had expected it to be,” said Emily Ottinger, a second-year occupational therapy doctoral student.

“It really helped me to view dementia as something more than just a memory issue, and to consider all of the other related barriers so that when I do work with individuals who have a dementia diagnosis, I can provide better and more holistic treatment.”

Occupational therapists often work directly with Alzheimer’s patients, but even those who don’t practice in geriatric care settings are likely to encounter individuals with dementia throughout their career as the number of dementia patients continues to grow.

The Alzheimer’s Association estimates 5.7 million Americans are living with the disease. As the Baby Boomers age, the association projects that number to increase to 14 million by 2050.

Because of that, Metz said it’s important to give students all the tools possible to ensure they’re both understanding caregivers and compassionate advocates.

“You fall short in teaching if you teach this kind of thing straight from a book. To feel that innate frustration coming from inside you rather than just seeing it from someone else gives them a much better understanding,” she said. “It prepares our students to be better occupational therapists.”

UT Student Nurses Association is Ohio chapter of the year

The University of Toledo’s Student Nurses Association chapter is again tops in the state.

The award comes from the Ohio Student Nurses Association, which recognized the group’s outstanding work in leadership development and community service. UT is also one of just a handful of schools nationwide to receive the Stellar School Award from the National Student Nurses Association, recognizing its continued involvement in the organization.

Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the College of Nursing, left, and Patricia Sopko, an instructor in the UT College of Nursing and the adviser of the Student Nurses Association, right, showed off the UT chapter’s award with students, from left, Jensyn Huffman, Hunter Perrin, Rylee Rosentreetor and Allison Patton.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said Christopher Foy, a senior working toward his bachelor’s of nursing degree and UT’s chapter president. “It’s just a nice way to verify that we’re actually making an impact in our community.”

The Student Nurses Association, which has chapters at colleges and universities across the country, is dedicated to fostering professional development and promoting the standards, ethics and skills that students will need as they enter the profession as licensed nurses.

“It is truly a leadership program,” said Patricia Sopko, an instructor in the UT College of Nursing and the adviser of the UT Student Nurses Association. “It’s really important to learn how to multitask, work as a team, delegate responsibility, and be comfortable speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves. They’re learning all those leadership skills without even realizing it.”

Sopko said one of the projects that helped UT earn chapter of the year was its volunteer mentorship program that pairs students in their first semester of nursing school with students who are deeper into the curriculum.

The UT chapter is also heavily involved in community service projects. The group has held stuffed animal drives for Lucas County Children Services, provided health education and after school programming at Sherman Elementary, worked with Mom’s House Toledo to adopt local families for the holidays, and recently led a drive to register bone marrow donors. That effort added nearly 100 names to the national registry.

“I’m so proud of the work our College of Nursing students do throughout the community,” said Dr. Linda Lewandowski, dean of the UT College of Nursing. “Their dedication to helping others is inspiring, and through The University of Toledo’s Student Nurses Association, they are building leadership skills that will serve them well as they move into their professional careers. It’s wonderful to see them get this well-deserved recognition.”