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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.

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.

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.”

Football player named Freshman All-America by Football Writers Association of America

University of Toledo defensive end Jamal Hines was named to the Freshman All-America Team by the Football Writers Association of America, the organization announced today.

Hines started 10 games as a true freshman, moving into the starting lineup in week three vs. Nevada. For the season, he had 49 tackles, 9.0 tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks. He also added two interceptions and recovered one fumble.

Hines is the first Rocket to make the Football Writers Association of America Freshman All-America Team since wide receiver Eric Page in 2009.

Princeton Review names UT College of Law among best law schools in U.S.

The Princeton Review once again selected The University of Toledo College of Law in its prestigious list of the top 165 law schools in the country.

The UT College of Law ranked No. 1 for professor accessibility in Ohio and Michigan, and tied for No. 1 in Indiana. Nationwide, UT’s law school is tied for third in the category of professor accessibility with 14 other schools with a score of 97 out of 99. Six schools tied for the No. 2 spot.

“What makes the UT College of Law special is that faculty members are deeply involved in their students’ learning and professional development from day one,” said Geoffrey Rapp, associate dean for academic affairs and Harold A. Anderson Professor of Law and Values. “Our faculty get to know our students — where they are from, where they want to be, and what kind of law they aspire to practice. This puts them in a position to provide support to help students reach their goals.”

The Princeton Review does not rank law schools on an overall basis.

The Princeton Review surveyed 17,700 students attending law school about their school’s academics, student body and campus life. The student surveys for the 2019 list were collected during the 2017-18, 2016-17 and 2015-16 academic years. The ratings also are based on institutional data.

Dean named interim provost

The University of Toledo’s most senior dean will serve as interim provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

Dr. Karen Bjorkman, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics since 2010, will lead academic affairs starting Tuesday, Jan. 15.


“Dr. Bjorkman is a well-respected leader on our campus who is passionate about supporting student and faculty success,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “We have made great progress on achieving the goals set forth in our strategic plan. With Dr. Bjorkman as our chief academic officer, I know we will continue to enhance the educational experience for our students and our faculty scholarly research and service activity.”

Bjorkman, also a Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and the Helen Luedtke Brooks Endowed Professor of Astronomy, has been a member of the UT faculty since 1996 when she joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

“I appreciate this opportunity to continue to help move the University forward in a different role,” Bjorkman said. “It is important to me that we don’t lose momentum and that we keep moving in positive directions, increasing student retention and graduation rates, and growing the research, scholarship and creative activities of faculty across our comprehensive university.”

Dr. Andrew Hsu, who has served as UT’s provost since 2016, has been named the president of the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He will work with Bjorkman for several weeks to ensure a smooth transition and complete his tenure at UT at the end of February. The president thanked Hsu for his leadership in implementing the University’s strategic plan and initiatives to enhance student success.

Bjorkman is a leader in the research field of stellar astrophysics, applying spectropolarimetry to better understand the variable gaseous disks around massive stars. Her research has focused on studying the physical characteristics of these disks and the mechanisms behind their formation and variability.

In 2017, Bjorkman was named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific and engineering society, in recognition of her important contributions to scientific discovery.

“I look forward to working with faculty across the breadth of our colleges to support their research and creative scholarship, to continue to improve and enhance our student success outcomes, and to build bridges between STEMM areas, professional schools, and the arts and humanities so that we ensure our graduates have the wide range of skills and experiences they need to be successful in today’s increasingly interdisciplinary world,” Bjorkman said.

Prior to joining UT, Bjorkman was a scientist in the University of Wisconsin’s Space Astronomy Laboratory and a systems engineer for Martin Marietta Denver Aerospace.

She earned her PhD and master’s degrees in astrophysics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The University plans to conduct a national search for provost at the beginning of the next academic year.

Men’s basketball team receiving votes in this week’s Associated Press, USA Today coaches poll

Toledo (12-1) will enter its 78th season of Mid-American Conference play with a 10-game winning streak when it hosts Ball State (9-4) Friday, Jan. 4.

The contest will be televised live nationally on the CBS Sports Network with a tipoff time of 7 p.m. in Savage Arena.

Sophomore Marreon Jackson and the Rockets will play Ball State Friday, Jan. 4, at 7 p.m. in Savage Arena.

UT was ranked No. 6 in last week’s collegeinsiders.com Mid-Major Poll and has moved up to No. 43 (as of Dec. 30) in the NCAA NET rankings.

BSU enters league play with eight wins in its last nine contests and is ranked No. 82 in the NET rankings.

Toledo turned in a dominant defensive performance in its most recent outing, a convincing 77-45 home triumph over Penn (10-3) in Savage Arena. The victory came against a Quaker squad that had posted wins over defending NCAA champion Villanova and Miami (Fla.) earlier this season. Penn’s 45 points were the fewest by a Rocket opponent since a 59-44 win over Eastern Michigan in the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals. In addition, Toledo limited the Quakers to a 30.5 field-goal percentage, the lowest by a UT opponent since Miami (Ohio) shot 30.4 percent Feb. 13, 2016.

Seniors Jaelan Sanford and Nate Navigato paced a balanced attack against Penn with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Junior Willie Jackson tied his career high with 16 rebounds to go along with eight points. He teamed with junior Luke Knapke (9 points, season-high 10 rebounds) and freshman AJ Edu (6 points, 7 rebounds) to help the Rockets own a 45-35 advantage on the glass. Knapke and Edu also dominated the paint defensively with four and two blocked shots, respectively.

Senior Tayler Persons leads Ball State with 16.8 points per game and a 43.2 three-point field-goal percentage. Juniors K.J. Walton and Tahjai Teague also are scoring in double digits at 15.0 and 14.5 points per game, with Teague grabbing a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game.

Friday’s matchup will pit the MAC’s top two three-point shooting squads (UT 39.2 percent, BSU 38.4 percent) and two of the top three-point defending squads (UT 29.2 percent, BSU 31.3 percent).

For tickets, go to the Toledo Rockets website, call 419.530.GOLD (4653), or stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office in Savage Arena. UT employees and retirees may purchase tickets at half-price; UT students are admitted free with ID.

New vice provost for faculty affairs appointed

Dr. Amy Thompson started her new job as vice provost for faculty affairs Jan. 1.


Thompson served as interim associate vice provost for faculty affairs and professor of public health, and provides oversight for the faculty orientation program, the UT Leadership Institute, and the University’s faculty awards program. In addition, she provides leadership for the new Future of Higher Education forums that are held monthly by the Office of the Provost.

In her new role, Thompson also will be responsible for the administration of faculty personnel processes, policies and procedures; faculty leadership and development programs; and additional faculty success initiatives related to the priorities of the University’s strategic plan.

“Amy joined the Office of the Provost last summer and has provided outstanding leadership for a number of initiatives that strengthen and support faculty success at UT,” Dr. Andrew Hsu, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said. “In her new position, she will continue to help faculty members achieve new levels of success.”


Dr. Jamie Barlowe, who serves as interim vice provost for faculty affairs, announced her plans to retire in the new year. Barlowe has been a UT faculty member since 1990 as a professor of English and women’s and gender studies. She also served as dean of the College of Arts and Letters, formerly the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences, for six years. During her time at UT, she also has served as an associate dean, department chair and president of Faculty Senate.

“Jamie is a valued member of the Office of the Provost’s leadership team, and her wisdom, experience and knowledge will be greatly missed,” Hsu said. “I am grateful that she will help with the transition during the month of January.”

Thompson has been a member of the UT faculty since 2007 and has served as director of the Center for Health and Successful Living in the College of Health and Human Services. She is the immediate past-president of the University’s Faculty Senate. She was selected to serve as a Fellow in the Mid-American Conference Academic Leadership Development Program in 2017-18, and last year served as a Fellow in UT’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. She also served as a Fellow in the Office of the Provost in summer 2018.

Thompson received a PhD in health education and a master of science and education in public health from UT. She received a bachelor of science in public health from Central Michigan University.

UT selects new provider for Student Health Insurance Plan

The University of Toledo has selected a new provider for the Student Health Insurance Plan.

Payer Fusion LLC will manage the spring 2019 Student Health Insurance Plan available to undergraduate and graduate students. UT and the company entered into an agreement Dec. 31.

“We are excited about this new partnership and believe it will be positive for our students,” said Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, vice president for student affairs.

Enrollment for spring 2019 through the UT Student Health Insurance Plan managed by the new provider, Payer Fusion LLC, is available for coverage that begins Jan. 1. Students can complete the enrollment forms available at utoledo.edu/studentaffairs/student-advocacy/student-health-insurance.

The voluntary enrollment period will be Jan. 1 through Jan. 31. Payer Fusion LLC will send a temporary insurance card to students via email. Once enrolled, students will be able to utilize those services at the start of the new year. Those who enroll after Jan. 1 will be backdated to have the coverage beginning Jan. 1.

The costs and coverage for spring 2019 are expected to match the costs and coverage for the fall 2018 semester. Aetna will be the network provider for UT.

In addition, the new contract with Payer Fusion LLC will include a patient advocacy program in which students with past claim concerns can call 1.866.752.8881 or email studentstoledo@payerfusion.com for help working through any past concerns. Students with specific questions about their personal health insurance claims should contact Tonya Tressler, student insurance management representative, at 419.530.3474 for assistance.

Students who are required to have health insurance and were enrolled in the Student Health Insurance Plan for fall 2018 will be automatically enrolled for spring 2019. Students who are required to have health insurance coverage can continue to waive that coverage through Jan. 31, 2019, via the myUT portal.

“We are pleased to be able to continue to offer students the opportunity to voluntarily enroll in a UT Student Health Insurance Plan and appreciate your patience through this transition,” Cockrell said.

10 in a row: Men’s basketball team stifles Penn’s offense in 77-45 victory

Toledo (12-1) turned in a dominant defensive performance on Saturday afternoon en route to its 10th straight victory, a convincing 77-45 triumph over Penn (10-3) in Savage Arena.

The victory came against a Quaker squad that had posted wins over defending NCAA champion Villanova and Miami (Fla.) earlier this season.

Penn’s 45 points were the fewest by a Rocket opponent since a 59-44 win over Eastern Michigan in the 2014 Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals. In addition, Toledo limited the Quakers to a 30.5 field-goal percentage, the lowest by a UT opponent since Miami (Ohio) shot 30.4 percent on Feb. 13, 2016.

Seniors Jaelan Sanford and Nate Navigato paced a balanced attack with 15 and 14 points, respectively. Sophomore Marreon Jackson also scored in double digits for the fourth time in five games, finishing with 12 points and a team-high three steals.

Junior Willie Jackson tied his career high with 16 rebounds to go along with eight points. He teamed with junior Luke Knapke (9 points, season-high 10 rebounds) and freshman AJ Edu (6 points, 7 rebounds) to help the Rockets own a 45-35 advantage on the glass.

Knapke and Edu also dominated the paint defensively with four and two blocked shots, respectively.

Junior AJ Brodeur led Penn with a game-high 19 points.

Toledo will begin league play Friday, Jan. 4, with a nationally televised matchup vs. West Division rival Ball State (9-4) in Savage Arena. Tipoff time for the contest will be 7 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network.

For tickets, go to the Toledo Rockets website, call 419.530.GOLD (4653), or stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office in Savage Arena. UT employees and retirees may purchase tickets at half-price; UT students are admitted free with ID.