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Cancer Research Symposium highlights UT’s work in precision therapy

The University of Toledo’s research in immune therapy and precision molecular therapy for treating cancer was acknowledged in 2018 as an area of emerging research excellence with the potential to generate national attention.

At UT’s second Cancer Research Symposium held late last year, Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, told assembled faculty and students from across the University they must all work together to turn that potential into reality.

Dr. Christopher Cooper, executive vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, delivered the opening remarks for the 2018 UT Cancer Research Symposium. The event, held last month, focused on the work of UT researchers whose findings are advancing precision cancer therapies.

“Our job is to make it an area of excellence,” he said. “We need to move from emerging to being excellent in cancer immune therapy and molecular precision therapy. To get there is going to require success both at the bench and at the bedside.”

The symposium, attended by more than 120 physicians, research scientists and students, was focused on UT’s efforts to create a precision cancer therapy program that will develop more targeted treatments thanks to the huge scientific advances in how we understand not just cancer, but the way it affects specific individuals.

It was only two decades ago that scientists decoded the human genome and just a decade ago that scientists first sequenced one individual’s DNA. At the time, those were extraordinarily lengthy and expensive projects. Today scientists can sequence an individual’s DNA for roughly $1,000, said Dr. F. Charles Brunicardi, director of the Cancer Program in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

“We think it will keep decreasing in cost where it will become a routine part of every one of our medical charts,” Brunicardi said. “And that’s where we’re trying to go today with a precision cancer therapy program where we’re using foundation medicine to sequence patient’s cancers and then tailor the therapy toward the targets that we find.”

The symposium featured nearly two dozen UT faculty presenters from the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics who discussed topics including genomic sequencing, immunotherapy for breast cancer, novel drug discovery, and how drugs already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration might be able to be repurposed for cancer treatment.

The event also featured a keynote address from Dr. Jian-Ting Zhang who provided perspectives on establishing a targeted drug discovery program. Zhang, formerly professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the Indiana University School of Medicine, will join UT as chair of the Department of Cancer Biology in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences in February.

“This is the best of academia, where we bring together people from different disciplines and different approaches and we tackle important problems that matter to our community, our region and our world,” Cooper said.

More information about the symposium and the presented research can be found by visiting the UT Cancer Research Symposium website.

Submissions sought for 2019 Health Science Campus Artist Showcase

Mulford Library is seeking submissions for its 2019 Health Science Campus Artist Showcase.

The deadline to apply for consideration to be included in the annual event is 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11.

The library is accepting submissions from UT faculty, staff and students in the health sciences — nursing, medicine, pharmacy and the health professions — as well as UT Medical Center employees.

To be considered for the show, digital images of artwork can be sent to hscartshow@utoledo.edu, along with a submission form that can be found with guidelines on University Libraries’ website.

Artists will be notified if their submitted pieces have been accepted no later than Wednesday, Jan. 16, and will receive instructions for bringing in their artwork to the library for the showcase.

The showcase will be on display from Feb. 18 through April 10 on the fourth floor of Mulford Library. In the past, artwork included photography, painting, drawing, sculpture, jewelry making, quilting, multimedia, graphics, wood carving and more.

An opening reception featuring a talk by Dr. Paul H. Brand, associate professor emeritus of physiology and pharmacology, and accomplished artist, will be held Friday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m. in Mulford Library.

Questions about the showcase can be directed to Jodi Jameson, assistant professor and nursing librarian at Mulford Library, who is a member of the artist showcase committee, at 419.383.5152 or jodi.jameson@utoledo.edu.

National science leader and Toledo native to deliver UT commencement address Dec. 15

The head of the nation’s oldest and one of its most prestigious laboratories will return home, as Toledo native Michael Witherell is set to deliver the address during The University of Toledo’s undergraduate commencement ceremony Saturday, Dec. 15.

Witherell, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) in Berkeley, Calif., will address 1,474 candidates for degrees, including 1,437 bachelor’s and 37 associate’s candidates. The event will take place at 11:30 a.m. in Savage Arena on Main Campus.

Witherell

UT’s graduate commencement ceremony is scheduled at 8 a.m. in Savage Arena and will commemorate 641 candidates for doctoral, education specialist and master’s degrees, as well as graduate certificates. Md Kamal Hossain, emerging cancer researcher and candidate for a doctoral degree at the University, will be the speaker.

Both ceremonies are open to the public and can be viewed live on the UT Views website.

Witherell, a distinguished physicist, educator and science leader, developed the foundation for his future at Toledo’s St. Francis de Sales High School. Salutatorian at age 15, he earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Michigan and a doctorate in experimental physics from the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After a distinguished career as a university professor performing research in particle physics, he devoted himself to leading large research institutions.

In 2016, Witherell was named director of Berkeley Lab, the oldest of the 17 labs in the
U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories systems. Berkeley Lab is a global leader in fundamental and applied scientific research in physical, biological, energy, computing and environmental sciences. The lab’s employees have earned 13 Nobel Prizes and played a role in the discovery of 16 elements on the periodic table, among its honors. The lab is managed for the DOE by the University of California.

“Our mission at Berkeley Lab is solving the nation’s most challenging problems through great scientific and technological discoveries. I believe that the national assets in addressing these problems include public universities and the students whom they are educating,” Witherell said.

Before joining Berkeley Lab, Witherell spent six years as director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. He was vice chancellor for research at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where he also held a presidential chair in the Physics Department.

His primary research interest is in studying the nature of dark matter. He was a contributor to the LUX experiment, which in 2016 published the most sensitive search for interactions of dark matter particles with normal matter. He is now part of an international research team that is building a successor to LUX, known as LZ, which will be three orders of magnitude more sensitive. Data collection is expected to start in 2020.

Witherell is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He chairs the Board of Physics and Astronomy of the National Academies and serves on the National Academies’ Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy.

“As a nationally recognized, public research university, The University of Toledo is pleased to have Dr. Witherell as our fall commencement speaker. Research not only helps us to discover new knowledge that advances all areas of study, but also instills critical thinking skills that our students can use to approach problems systematically and come up with solutions that improve everyday life,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We look forward to Dr. Witherell sharing his insights with our graduates, especially since he grew up in Toledo and has since made tremendous contributions through research.”

Witherell’s personal success can be traced back to the Glass City, as well. He and his wife, Elizabeth Hall Witherell, head of the Princeton Edition of Henry Thoreau’s writings, grew up in the same west Toledo neighborhood and were high school sweethearts. They have a daughter, Lily.

“The foundation for my career and life was my extended family in Toledo,” Witherell said. “Their support and the value they put on education and public service were central to my personal and professional development.”

Hossain

Hossain, the graduate ceremony speaker, is a native of Dhaka, Bangladesh, who came to UT as an industrial pharmacist with a passion to develop innovative medicines.

“I’ve always been interested in studying health-related fields due to the suffering of people in my homeland from different types of disease,” Hossain said. “My focus is to develop a specific targeting approach for a more effective cancer vaccine. My research examined the utilization of a natural antibody already present in human serum that makes the vaccine more convenient to target tumor cells.”

He is a candidate for a doctor of philosophy degree in medicinal chemistry in UT’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

UT’s fall commencement ceremonies will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Graduate Studies; Health and Human Services; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; and University College.

The College of Law will host its commencement ceremony Sunday, May 5, at 1 p.m. in the Thompson Student Union Auditorium. Later that week — Friday, May 10, at
4 p.m. — the College of Medicine and Life Sciences will hold its commencement ceremony in Savage Arena.

For more information, visit the UT commencement website.

Staff Leadership Development Program’s first cohort graduates

Twenty-one University of Toledo staff members who were in the Staff Leadership Development Program’s first cohort graduated Nov. 8 and were officially recognized at a luncheon held in their honor in the Thompson Student Union.

The program was launched in 2017 based on feedback gathered during the strategic planning process from employees who wanted a formal pathway to grow professionally.

“I’m very proud of this inaugural class,” said President Sharon L. Gaber. “No one can ever change the fact that each of them was a member of our first cohort, marking a milestone not only in their tenure with UT, but also in the University’s history.”

“Our goal for this program is twofold — to help candidates grow in their existing positions, as well as to prepare them for expanded leadership roles at UT in the future,” noted Wendy Davis, associate vice president and chief human resources officer.

The one-year Staff Leadership Development Program includes complimentary courses, lectures, assessments and experiential learning facilitated by UT senior leaders, faculty and other subject matter experts.

“Each participant was carefully selected by a multidisciplinary team and completed all required assignments, readings and a capstone project in order to graduate,” said Carrie Herr, director of the Center for Continuous Improvement, who has oversight of the program.

The program has been very well-received, with members of the first cohort representing a wide range of staff positions and departments across UT campuses, according to Herr.

“I would definitely recommend this program to others,” said Kelly Donovan, who works at UT Medical Center. “I was able to foster great relationships with future leaders from various departments, plus had access to our current leaders. And the program instilled leadership skills and confidence that I’ll be able to use for future career goals.”

“What I valued most was learning about so many different facets of higher education, from human resources and recruitment to student affairs, legal and financial matters,” said Craig Turner, who works in the College of Business and Innovation. “I also had the opportunity to gain insights firsthand from UT’s leaders, such as Dr. Gaber, Provost Andrew Hsu and Dr. Chris Cooper, in addition to meeting new colleagues from throughout our campus community.”

In addition to Donovan and Turner, first cohort UT Staff Leadership Development graduates are Stefanie Bias, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; Stacey Jo Brown, Office of Legal Affairs; Candace Busdiecker, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; Lori DeShetler, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; Josh Dittman, Intercollegiate Athletics; Shelly Drouillard, Career Services; Jamie Fager, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Beth Gerasimiak, Office of the Provost; Melissa Hansen, College of Medicine and Life Sciences; Heather Huntley, Office of the Provost; Angelica Johnson, College of Arts and Letters; Deirdre Jones, College of Business and Innovation; Sara Lockett, Purchasing/Finance; Elliott Nickeson, Internal Audit and Compliance; Daniel Perry, Facilities and Construction; Jason Rahe, Division of Technology and Advanced Solutions; Staci Sturdivant, College of Health and Human Services; Tiffany Whitman, University College; and Matthew Wise, Division of Technology and Advanced Solutions.

A second cohort began course work in October and will graduate in November 2019.

Members of the first cohort to graduate from the Staff Leadership Development Program posed for a photo last month with President Sharon L. Gaber, seated center, and Lawrence R. Kelley, executive vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer, second from left seated, and Carrie Herr, director of the Center for Continuous Improvement, seated between Kelley and the president.

Nov. 30 deadline to register for Toledo Cancer Research Symposium

The University of Toledo is hosting its second annual Toledo Cancer Research Symposium Friday, Dec. 7, in partnership with ProMedica.

The event will provide a forward-looking perspective of local cancer initiatives and feature discussions about novel research being performed by UT faculty, including presentations on immunotherapy, precision therapeutics and biomarker discovery.

Dr. Jian-Ting Zhang, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at Indiana University, will give a plenary lecture about targeted drug discovery programs.

Registration is open through Friday, Nov. 30.

For a full schedule and to register, visit the Toledo Cancer Research Symposium website.

AIDS/HIV topic of Nov. 30 discussion

As HIV has gone from a near-certain death sentence to a manageable lifelong condition, public attention has largely shifted to other diseases.

But HIV isn’t going away. More than 1,000 people are currently living with the virus in Lucas County, and new cases continue being diagnosed every year, including 42 in 2017.

“Now that HIV is no longer necessarily a killer as long as it’s properly treated, it’s lost a bit of attention. But the prevalence hasn’t gone down,” said Brandon Lewis, a second-year medical student at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and president of the PEOPLE Club, a student group focused on the health-care needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

The PEOPLE Club, in partnership with The University of Toledo Medical Center’s Ryan White Program, will host a discussion about HIV and AIDS Friday, Nov. 30, ahead of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

The free event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. in Collier Building Room 1000B on UT’s Health Science Campus. The event is open to the general public, though students in the medical field are especially encouraged to attend.

Featured speakers will include Dan Barbee, chief executive officer of UTMC, and Dr. Joan Duggan, associate dean of faculty affairs in the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and director of UTMC’s Ryan White Program. There also will be a panel discussion with three clients of UTMC’s Ryan White Program who are living with HIV, as well as free HIV testing.

“Our tagline is debunking the myths,” Lewis said. “We want to break the stigma and misconception of what it’s actually like to live with HIV. By explaining that, we hope to help educate both patients and future medical professionals who may be interacting with those patients once they begin practicing.”

The Ryan White Program offers comprehensive care for individuals and families affected by HIV/AIDS in Lucas County and the surrounding area. Its services include adult primary care, mental health counseling, case management and advocacy.

Reservations are encouraged to Lewis by email to brandon.lewis4@rockets.utoledo.edu.

UT Leadership Institute 2018-19 class announced

Last year, 21 faculty from across the University participated in the second year of the UT Leadership Institute.

The program was launched in fall 2016 by UT President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu to provide professional development to help prepare future academic leaders.

“We started this program to help our fantastic faculty members develop into future academic leaders,” Gaber said. “We believe the UT Leadership Institute accelerates success in higher education administration.”

“For faculty who are interested in exploring leadership opportunities in higher education administration, participation in the UT Leadership Institute is an excellent opportunity,” Hsu said. “Our third cohort of faculty represents faculty from eight colleges and University Libraries. I look forward to the many contributions they will make as emerging leaders of the University.”

Following a competitive application process, a third cohort of 22 faculty members was selected to participate in this year’s UT Leadership Institute. This year’s participants are:

• Dr. Ammon Allred, Philosophy, College of Arts and Letters;

• Dr. Jillian Bornak, Physics, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics;

• Dr. Lucinda Bouillon, School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Services, College of Health and Human Services;

• Dr. Maria Coleman, Chemical Engineering, College of Engineering;

• Dr. Joan Duggan, Medicine, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Kevin Egan, Economics, College of Arts and Letters;

• Dr. Michael Ellis, Medicine, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Rodney Gabel, School of Intervention and Wellness, College of Health and Human Services;

• Dr. David Giovannucci, Neurosciences, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Lynn Hamer, Foundations of Education, Judith Herb College of Education;

• Dr. Dana Hollie, Accounting, College of Business and Innovation;

• Dr. A. Champa Jayasuriya, Orthopedic Surgery, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. David Kennedy, Medicine, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Lisa Kovach, Foundations of Education, Judith Herb College of Education;

• Sarah Long, School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health and Human Services;

• Julia Martin, University Libraries;

• Amy O’Donnell, Management, College of Business and Innovation;

• Dr. Jorge Ortiz, Surgery, College of Medicine and Life Sciences;

• Dr. Youssef Sari, Pharmacology, College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences;

• Dr. Rebecca Schneider, Curriculum and Instruction, Judith Herb College of Education;

• Dr. Qin Shao, Mathematics, College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; and

• Dr. Puneet Sindhwani, Urology, College of Medicine and Life Sciences.

The first meeting of this year’s UT Leadership Institute cohort was held Oct. 5 and will be followed by monthly meetings throughout the academic year.

Participants will discuss various aspects of leadership in higher education and engage in discussions with members of the UT leadership team and invited speakers, with presentations focusing on leadership styles, critical issues facing administrators, funding, and diversity and inclusion.

President Sharon L. Gaber, second row standing at right, posed for a photo with most of the members of the 2018-19 class of the UT Leadership Institute during last month.

Nov. 27 deadline to order poinsettias from Satellites

Make the season even more festive: Order a poinsettia from the Satellites Auxiliary.

The poinsettias range in price from $6 to $16 and are available in an array of colors, including red, white, pink, and blue with gold. The plants vary in size from 4.5 inches to 7.5 inches and by the number of blooms.

UT students Andrew Yim and Jessica Shippy checked out some poinsettias at the Satellites Auxiliary’s sale last year in Rocket Hall.

Fresh wreathes measuring 14 inches also are available for $11.

“Every year we do this sale as more of a service for our campuses than as a fundraiser,” Lynn Brand, president of the Satellites, said. “We keep our costs very low, and the small amount of profits benefit our scholarships for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, the College of Nursing, and the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.”

Poinsettia order forms must be received by Tuesday, Nov. 27. Email lynn.brand@utoledo.edu, fax to 419.383.3206, or drop off to Volunteer Services in Dowling Hall Room 75.

Orders will be available for pickup from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Main Campus Monday, Dec. 3, in the Rocket Hall Lobby and on Health Science Campus Tuesday, Dec. 4, in the Four Seasons Bistro Atrium. All poinsettias will be foiled and sleeved.

Payment is due at the time of pickup; options include cash, checks, and payroll deduction on Health Science Campus.

The Satellites Auxiliary is a group designed to promote education, research and service programs; provide support of patient programs in accordance with the needs and approval of administration; conduct fundraising events; and offer volunteer services.

For more information on the annual sale, contact Brand at lynn.brand@utoledo.edu.

Volunteer patient advocate assistants holding stuffed animal drive for ER pediatric patients

Children who come into the emergency room are presented with a strange and often frightening environment. Receiving a stuffed animal from one of UT Medical Center’s volunteer patient advocate assistants can help calm some of those fears and make a big difference in a child’s experience.

To ensure all pediatric patients who come through UTMC’s emergency room can receive a stuffed animal, the master of science in biomedical science in medical sciences volunteer patient advocate assistants group is holding a stuffed animal drive Tuesday, Nov. 6, through Friday, Nov. 9, from noon to 2 p.m. in the Four Seasons Bistro.

Members of the master of science in biomedical science in medical sciences volunteer patient advocate assistants group are collecting stuffed animals to give to pediatric patients in the emergency room.

All stuffed animal donations must be new. Monetary donations also will be accepted. All proceeds will be used to purchase stuffed animals. This is the second year for the program.

Volunteers from the master of science in biomedical science in medical sciences work throughout the hospital, but much of their time is spent in the emergency room.

“The seemingly small act of giving a stuffed animal can significantly help calm a scared and anxious child, allowing our wonderful ER staff to provide effective and compassionate care,” said Ben Talbot, one of the 18 members in the volunteer patient advocate assistants group.

Many of the group’s members plan to attend medical school.

“Our objectives are to develop good communication skills so that as physicians we will be better prepared to communicate with our patients,” Talbot said. “In addition, we help facilitate improved medical care by advocating for patients we are in contact with, as well as help improve doctor-patient communication by assisting with explaining complicated medical concepts in terms patients can understand.”

2018 report for Ohio’s Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative highlights UT water quality research

Ohio Sea Grant released today its 2018 update on the statewide Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) documenting three years of progress seeking solutions for harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie.

The University of Toledo, situated on the western basin of Lake Erie, is one of the lead universities in the initiative, which consists of more than 50 science teams from 10 Ohio universities working on critical knowledge gaps identified by state agencies that include the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA), Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

The initiative is funded by the Ohio Department of Higher Education and matching funds from participating universities. It is led by UT and Ohio State University.

The 38-page report features a variety of important research activity underway by members of the UT Water Task Force to protect the public water supply and public health, including Dr. Tom Bridgeman’s work to understand the vertical movement of algae up and down the water column to help water treatment plant operators better prepare for and reduce the amounts of algae they’re taking into their system over the course of a day, as well as Dr. Jason Huntley’s research using naturally occurring Lake Erie bacteria to develop treatments that can break down microcystin in drinking water.

Bridgeman is professor of ecology and director of the UT Lake Erie Center. Huntley is associate professor in the UT Department of Medical Microbiology and Immunology.

The third-year report reveals that the state of Ohio continues to benefit from the initiative:

• Early warning systems and forecasts of bloom size and location are giving water treatment plants a high-resolution picture of what could be affecting the drinking water they draw from Lake Erie.

• Researchers are working directly with water treatment plant operators to provide practical guidance about producing safe drinking water for cities and towns dealing with algal toxins.

• OEPA modified its permit procedure to better safeguard Ohioans when HABRI projects showed that crops might take in microcystins from water treatment residuals used on farm fields. New HABRI research is helping OEPA refine the methods it uses to analyze these byproducts of water treatment and better assess exposure risk.

• OEPA sought out HABRI researchers to help develop a Lake Erie open water impairment listing policy, and HABRI projects have helped collect data critical for refinement of this indicator. Ohio EPA listed the open waters of the western Lake Erie basin as impaired based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data and have plans to update it based on HABRI researchers’ recommendations.

• ODNR has changed the way that information is collected on algal toxin concentrations in sportfish fillets, sampling more frequently during the harmful algal bloom season and from a wider range of Lake Erie locations to better understand how harmful algal blooms affect sportfish.

• HABRI has driven information sharing and priority setting between universities and agencies, positioning Ohio to better prevent and manage future crises through ongoing collaborations.

“Having the collaboration with our sister agencies to coordinate research priorities and funding is critically important,” said Craig Butler, director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency. “Likewise, having through HABRI a consortium of university experts to take our priorities and quickly do critical, practical research with conclusions that we can immediately use to inform policy and the public is invaluable.”

The Ohio Department of Higher Education made $7.5 million available for four rounds of research funding (before matching funds by participating universities) since 2015. Ohio Sea Grant manages the projects, which also include a $500,000 match from OEPA in 2018. Results from the most recent 21 funded projects are expected in 2020.

“Colleges and universities around Ohio are making positive contributions to our state each and every day,” said Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor John Carey. “The Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative is a model of collaborative problem-solving that we should strive to replicate wherever possible. I am so encouraged to see how our higher education assets are being used, alongside other state and local partners, to address real issues that are facing Ohioans.”

Information about HABRI projects, as well as partner organizations and background on the initiative, is also available on the Ohio Sea Grant website. The report can be downloaded directly at ohioseagrant.osu.edu/p/qjpof/view.

The Ohio Sea Grant College Program is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Sea Grant, a network of 33 Sea Grant programs dedicated to the protection and sustainable use of marine and Great Lakes resources. For more information, visit the Ohio Sea Grant College Program website.