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UT College of Medicine to hold commencement May 25

Dr. Josiah D. Rich, who is known for his research on infectious diseases and addictions, will be the speaker for The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences’ graduation ceremony Friday, May 25, at 2 p.m. at Stranahan Theater.

A total of 200 degrees will be awarded: 161 doctor of medicine degrees, nine doctor of philosophy degrees, 25 master’s degrees, and five graduate certificates.

Rich

Rich will receive an honorary doctor of science degree.

“It is an honor to have Dr. Rich address our graduates,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “Dr. Rich was selected by a committee of medical students and faculty from a national pool in recognition of his efforts to improve health care and his work related to addiction, especially as it relates to the national opiate epidemic.”

Rich is a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University in Providence. He also is a practicing infectious disease specialist at the Miriam Hospital and at the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, caring for prisoners with HIV Infection and other diseases since 1994.

An expert in the care and prevention of disease in addicted and incarcerated individuals, Rich’s research looks at the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS and co-morbid conditions, especially among these populations. He has had continuous federal research funding for more than two decades and has published nearly 200 peer-reviewed publications.

Rich is the director and co-founder of the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at the Miriam Hospital. He is also the co-founder of the Nationwide Centers for AIDS Research Collaboration in HIV in Corrections initiative. Rich has advocated for public health policy changes to help people with addiction; this includes improving legal access to sterile syringes and increasing drug treatment for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated populations.

In 2015, Rhode Island’s Gov. Gina Raimondo appointed Rich as an expert adviser to the Overdose Prevention and Intervention Task Force, charged with formulating a strategic plan to address addiction and stop overdose deaths in Rhode Island. He also has served as an expert for the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine.

In April, Rich spoke about the opioid crisis in front of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism. And on May 8, he testified for the House Committee on the Judiciary’s hearing titled “Challenges and Solutions in the Opioid Crisis.”

Rockets earn 3.235 grade point average in spring semester

UT student-athletes earned a combined grade point average of 3.235 in the 2018 spring semester, Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien announced today.

It is the seventh consecutive semester in which UT student-athletes have earned a semester GPA above 3.2, and the 19th straight semester of at least a 3.1 GPA.

“Our athletic teams are made up of student-athletes who are very serious about their education. We are proud of their consistent level of academic excellence,” O’Brien said. “For our entire department to attain a 3.2 GPA for each of the past seven semesters is an achievement worth celebrating.

“We would also like to give recognition to all the dedicated people who support their efforts — our Student-Athlete Academic Services staff, our faculty and our coaches.

“Congratulations as well to Head Coach Linh Nguyen and our women’s cross country program for recording the highest GPA among our teams last semester.”

This past semester, 61 Rockets earned the right to participate in the spring commencement ceremony at the Glass Bowl May 5.

“The Student-Athlete Academic Services staff continues to be impressed with the academic success of our student-athletes,” said Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Services Ericka Lavender. “We are proud to know that they can compete at the highest level academically in addition to their athletic commitments every semester.”

The women’s cross country team set the pace with a team GPA of 3.675, just edging out women’s golf (3.673).

Faculty members recognized for outstanding scholarly and creative activity

With the support of University Libraries and a subcommittee organized by the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, President Sharon L. Gaber and Provost Andrew Hsu have recognized 26 faculty members from across campus with outstanding contributions in scholarly or creative activity over the past three years.

These contributions include articles in leading scientific journals with high standing that have attracted significant attention in the community; monographs that were published by premier academic presses that have received positive external reviews; and exhibits or performances of creative activity that have received high acclaim.

“I am pleased that the University Libraries contributed by identifying UT faculty articles and books published in preeminent journals and publishing houses,” said Beau Case, dean of University Libraries.

“Faculty members are raising the profile of The University of Toledo across the breadth of disciplines and programs at UT,” said Dr. Frank Calzonetti, vice president for research. “The excellent work of faculty members in disciplines outside of science and engineering is quite impressive and sometimes goes unnoticed.

“All too often research grant dollars are associated with faculty scholarly and creative activity,” Calzonetti said. “In some disciplines, such as in biomedical science, faculty members cannot sustain their research programs that lead to discoveries and publications without external funding to support laboratory needs. However, in many disciplines, such as pure mathematics or history, external funding is not as critical to faculty success in scholarly and creative activity.”

“Given the many faculty members who have had outstanding contributions in scholarly and creative activity over the past three years, it was a tall order to determine just 26 who should be recognized at this time,” said Dr. Ruth Hottell, chair and professor of the Department of World Languages and Cultures, and selection committee member.

The following faculty members were recognized:

• Dr. Abdollah Afjeh of the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering;

• Dr. Ana C. Alba-Rubio of the Department of Chemical Engineering;

• Dr. Melissa Baltus of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology;

• Dr. Joe Elhai of the Department of Psychology;

• Dr. Kristen Geaman of the Department of History;

• Dr. Blair Grubb of the Department of Medicine;

• Daniel Hernandez of the Department of Art;

• Dr. Terry Hinds of the Department of of Physiology and Pharmacology;

• Dr. Bina Joe of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology;

• Dr. Dong-Shik Kim of the Department of Chemical Engineering;

• Dr. Kristin Kirschbaum of the Instrumentation Center;

• Dr. Ashok Kumar of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering;

• Dr. Beata Lecka-Czernik of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery;

• Dr. Barbara Mann of the Jesup Scott Honors College;

• Elizabeth McCuskey of the College of Law;

• Dr. Thor Mednick of the Department of Art;

• Dr. Munier Nazzal of the Department of Surgery;

• Dr. Kim E. Nielsen of the Department of Disability Studies;

• Dr. Michael Rees of the Department of Urology;

• Dr. Denise Ritter Bernardini of the Department of Music;

• Dr. Donald Ronning of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry;

• Stephen Sakowski of the Department of Theatre and Film;

• Dr. Yanfa Yan of the Department of Physics and Astronomy;

• Dr. Matt Yockey of the Department of Theatre and Film;

• Rebecca Zietlow of the College of Law; and

• Evan Zoldan of the College of Law.

Book launch to celebrate new UT Press title ‘Caps, Capes, and Caring’

A new book that chronicles a century of nursing education in the Glass City has been released by The University of Toledo Press.

“Caps, Capes, and Caring: The Legacy of Diploma Nursing Schools in Toledo” was written by Patricia Ringos Beach, Susan J. Eisel, Maria E. Nowicki, Judy Harris Szor and Beth E. White.

Mulford Library on Health Science Campus will host a book launch Wednesday, May 23, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on the fourth floor of the library. Signed copies of the book will be available for purchase, and the authors will be present to speak with attendees.

Between 1893 and 1999, there were eight hospital-based diploma schools of nursing in Toledo: Flower Hospital School of Nursing, Maumee Valley Hospital School of Nursing, Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, Riverside Hospital School of Nursing, Robinwood/St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, St. Vincent Hospital School of Nursing, Toledo Hospital School of Nursing, and Toledo State Hospital School of Nursing.

This core group of schools, operating for more than 100 years, sent registered nurses into the community to care for the sick and teach community members how to stay healthy. Graduates from these schools continue to provide care and comfort, and educate future nurses.

The authors, all hospital diploma school graduates, taught together as nursing faculty at the Toledo Hospital School of Nursing. Beach, Eisel, Nowicki and Szor are alumni of MCO/MUO/UT, where they received advanced degrees in nursing and education.

In the course of writing the book, the authors interviewed nearly 100 Toledo diploma school graduates. Their memories and stories are celebrated in the book, which also includes historical images and photographs.

The book is $24.95 and available at utoledopress.com.

Light refreshments will be served at the free, public event.

For more information on the launch party, contact Jodi Jameson, assistant professor and nursing librarian at Mulford Library, at jodi.jameson@utoledo.edu or 419.383.5152.

UT partners with Ohio’s public universities in efforts to close attainment gap

The University of Toledo is partnering with Ohio’s 13 other public universities to raise awareness of the value of public higher education and spur efforts to produce more college graduates to close the state’s higher education attainment gap.

The statewide campaign, called Forward Ohio, seeks to mobilize public support for enhanced investment in public higher education and ensure that it is a public policy imperative for state government.

“We know that higher education is a smart investment for the college graduate who will earn $1 million more than a high school graduate over the course of a lifetime,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “It also is a smart investment for the state because Ohio needs a highly skilled workforce to attract and retain the jobs of the future. Public universities like The University of Toledo play an important role in training the majority of those skilled workers.”

Studies indicate that about 66 percent of jobs in Ohio in 2025 will require degree, certificate or other postsecondary workforce credentials. Currently, just 44 percent of working age Ohioans have these credentials.

The Forward Ohio campaign illustrates how maintaining a strong system of public higher education is essential to closing the attainment gap and meeting the economic and workforce needs of the state’s business community.

In addition to producing the workforce of the future, public universities also have direct economic impacts on their communities. In northwest Ohio, UT is the region’s second largest employer and has a $3.3 billion annual impact on the community. For every $1 invested by the state into UT, $10 of economic impact is generated to the local economy.

UT also is an exceptional value for students providing a high-quality education with one of the lowest tuition rates among Ohio’s public universities.

The value of a UT degree has been validated by external sources such as Schools.com, which ranked UT Ohio’s best four-year college when analyzing criteria such as affordability, flexibility and student services. The website LendEDU also ranked UT the top Ohio public college for the lowest student debt. Most recently, Student Loan Hero listed Toledo third in its list of the 20 cheapest cities in the country for college students, a ranking based on cost-of-living data in college towns where students benefit from low room and board costs on and off campus.

“UT and all of Ohio’s public universities provide significant value to our students and to the state,” Gaber said. “I join my fellow university presidents in advocating for enhanced support for strong public higher education to move Ohio forward.”

Visit the Forward Ohio website at forwardohio.org for more detailed facts, figures and success stories.

New genetic analysis center at UT to accelerate research in disease prevention, detection and treatment

The University of Toledo Women & Philanthropy Genetic Analysis Instrumentation Center will be unveiled Thursday, May 17, at 6 p.m. with a ceremony in Health Education Building Room 100 on Health Science Campus, followed by tours of the facility located on the second floor.

The center, which increases the capability of UT researchers in the College of Medicine and Life Sciences to develop preventative, diagnostic and treatment strategies for diseases such as cancer and heart disease, was created with the help of nearly $60,000 from Women & Philanthropy, the largest grant ever awarded by the volunteer organization that supports UT initiatives.

A researcher works in the Women & Philanthropy Genetic Analysis Instrumentation Center.

“This is a critical investment that advances the research mission of UT,” said Marcy McMahon, chair of Women & Philanthropy. “We believe it will serve to improve public health and retain and attract talented scientists dedicated to curing diseases.”

“The center truly transforms work in the emerging field of molecular diagnostics,” said Dr. David Kennedy, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and co-director of the UT Women & Philanthropy Genetic Analysis Instrumentation Center. “By saving valuable time and using a high-quality process, it sets new standards for molecular testing and incorporates all workflow steps from sample preparation to genetic marker detection.”

“We are extremely grateful for the significant investment provided by Women & Philanthropy to establish the center, which will greatly enhance our capability to investigate numerous diseases and develop potential therapies,” said Dr. Steven Haller, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine and co-director of the new center with Kennedy.

The researchers recently received three grants totaling $450,000 from the Ohio Department of Higher Education to support their water quality research into how exposure to algal toxins, such as microcystin, affects organ function and to create new therapies to prevent and treat organ damage, especially in vulnerable patient populations.

“Although scientists in UT’s Department of Medicine are involved in many cutting-edge research projects vital to human health areas, they lacked the ability to process and examine multiple human and experimental samples for genetic analysis without significant delay,” McMahon said. “The Genetic Analysis Center meets that need.”

The UT Women & Philanthropy Genetic Analysis Instrumentation Center also received more than $45,000 in support from Qiagen, a biomedical company headquartered in Germany, to help pay for instruments, including:

• The Qiagen TissueLyser II, a tissue processor that allows up to 192 biological samples to be processed at the same time;

• The QIACube HT, a DNA-, RNA- and protein-extraction system that uses nucleic acid to quickly and easily purify DNA, RNA, protein and miRNA from almost any type of sample, including cells, tissues and food, as well as from bacteria and viruses in animal samples;

• The QIAgility, an automated liquid handling system that provides rapid, high-precision setup for polymerase chain reaction, a technique used to amplify, or make many copies of, a segment of DNA; and

• Real-time multiplex polymerase chain reaction thermal cyclers that use a centrifugal rotary design to allow each reaction tube to spin in a chamber of moving air, which keeps all samples at each step of the cycling program at exactly the same temperature. The system contains integrated Q-Rex software for data integration and analysis.

Women’s track and field assistant coach voted best in conference

Fourth-year Women’s Track and Field Assistant Coach Sam Bluske was named the Mid-American Conference Outdoor Track and Field Assistant Coach of the Year.

“It’s a pretty big honor, but in reality I think it really goes to our entire staff and the women I coach every day,” Bluske said. “I’ve been very fortunate to be at a place where they show up and they love what they do and who they do it for, and at the end of the day it’s them out there doing it.

Bluske

“Our program has come so far in the four years that I’ve been here.” Bluske added. “I was really fortunate to walk into a very solid team that went to NCAA my first year. That entire class graduated in one year so we went from being in the NCAA National Championships to being ninth in the cross country conference meet, which was really hard emotionally. So just watching our hard work and recruiting of these women over the past three years and watching them go from barely ever being on the podium to now winning conference titles is probably the most special part of being at Toledo.”

Bluske’s recognition comes following the 2018 MAC Outdoor Track and Field Championships hosted by University at Buffalo. The Rockets earned the second best finish in program history after taking third with 74 points, with senior Janelle Noe breaking the conference 1,500m record by finishing in 4:17.01. Following the meet, Noe was selected First Team All-MAC while senior Petronela Simiuc and sophomore Athena Welsh were selected Second Team All-MAC.

Head Coach Linh Nguyen thinks his assistant is very deserving of the honor, describing it as “recognition of hard work.”

“It’s something that the coaches vote on and when other coaches know that you have someone on your staff that works hard, it’s really nice for them,” Nguyen said. “I’m happy for Sam and proud of her.”

Bluske has been instrumental to the continued growth of UT’s distance runners. Toledo’s long haulers earned nine top-five finishes at this season’s outdoor championships and set eight new personal records while at Buffalo. The weekend also saw Welsh earn the program’s sixth best time in the 5K (16:28.35) and Simiuc earn the program’s second best time in the 1,500m (4:18.73).

Coming to Toledo in 2014, Bluske helped the women’s cross country team reach the MAC Championships in her first season. She also assisted in their third-place finish at the NCAA Regionals, where they toppled No. 8 Michigan and No. 19 Ohio state, finishing the year with a No. 21 national ranking. The 2017 season saw the cross country team finish runners-up at the MAC Championships.

Bluske also was present during the tail end of Liz Weiler’s career at UT. Bluske coached Weiler to the NCAA East Preliminary Round of the 3,000m steeplechase, where she finished 17th in 10:04.04.

Recently Bluske has taken Joan Jepkirui under her wing. Jepkirui finished top 20 in the 5K at the NCAA East Regionals during the 2016-17 season, and took fourth in the 10K at this season’s outdoor championships (34:38.72).

Looking to the future, Bluske was clear in what she wants to see the program achieve and has a handle on how to get there.

“I want a trophy next year, one three times the size we were just given,” Bluske said. “As long as I’m busting my butt this summer recruiting and trying to bring in the best class possible and being a good role model for the women, we’re going to get this program back to the conference championship.”

Bluske and the Rockets now look to the NCAA East Prelims. The Rockets will send a strong core of distance runners to compete Thursday through Saturday, May 24-26, in Tampa, Fla.

Teams across region to calibrate water-quality sensors for Lake Erie buoy network

Scientists from nearly a dozen organizations throughout the region are visiting The University of Toledo Lake Erie Center Tuesday, May 15, to calibrate equipment that will be deployed in buoys across Lake Erie to measure water quality throughout algal bloom season.

“It’s like in the old movies when the mission leader says, ‘Let’s synchronize our watches,’ before the team splits up,” Dr. Tom Bridgeman, UT professor of ecology and director of the UT Lake Erie Center, said. “This collaboration helps to ensure conformity of data coming from the probes for the next few months.”

UT’s water quality and sensor buoy annually rides the waves off the shore of the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon.

Partners in the early-warning buoy network will do the calibration between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Those include researchers from Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University, as well as water treatment plant operators in the cities of Oregon, Toledo, Elyria, Avon, Sandusky and Lorain. LimnoTech, YSI and Fondriest Environmental are local companies providing technology support.

UT’s water quality and sensor buoy annually rides the waves off the shore of the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge and Conference Center in Oregon. It is part of an early-warning network of buoys throughout the western Lake Erie basin that provides live data vital in the assessment of harmful algal blooms.

“We go out on our research vessel at least once a week for sampling throughout the summer, but the buoys are out there all the time,” Bridgeman said. “Even when it’s too rough for boats to be on the lake, the buoys can alert if something is developing or changing quickly.”

The buoys are equipped with what is called the YSI EXO sonde, a black and blue instrument composed of several probes to measure various water quality parameters, including how much blue-green algae is present, water temperature, clarity, oxygen levels, turbidity and pH.

It’s one piece of the battle plan to track and combat the growing harmful algal bloom in order to sound the early warning for water treatment plant operators as they work to provide safe public drinking water.

“We are watching very closely and are prepared,” Bridgeman said.

UT medical student receives Sarnoff Fellowship for cardiovascular research

A third-year medical student at The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences was selected as a 2018-19 Sarnoff Fellow.

Rahul Mital, who is studying to work in the field of pediatric cardiology, is one of nine students across the United States awarded the honor.

Mital

“This is a very competitive, prestigious award,” said Dr. Christopher Cooper, dean of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences, and executive vice president for clinical affairs. “We are proud of Rahul and look forward to his achievements in cardiovascular research.”

The Sarnoff Fellowship program offers medical students enrolled in accredited U.S. medical schools the opportunity to spend a year conducting intensive work in a biomedical research facility in the United States other than the medical school in which they are enrolled.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity that lies ahead of me and plan to make the most of it,” Mital said. “Being a member of the Sarnoff Cardiovascular Research Foundation and partaking in world-class research while receiving mentorship and guidance is truly an invaluable step in achieving my goals.”

Rahul plans to study cardiogenesis, which is the development of the heart in the embryo, and how to use gene therapy as a potential treatment for congenital heart disease.

“No child deserves to be born with a congenital heart disease, but the unfortunate truth is that congenital heart disease is the most common type of birth defect, affecting 40,000 births per year in the United States alone,” Mital said. “If a greater understanding of the underlying pathophysiology is achieved, patient care can move away from expensive surgeries and lifelong follow-ups, and instead be focused at the molecular level.”

The full-time Sarnoff Fellowship is a one-year award of $32,000 for the 2018-19 academic year. Fellows also receive financial support for travel and moving expenses.

The 2018-19 Fellows were introduced at the Sarnoff Foundation’s 38th Annual Scientific Meeting last week in Boston.

UT researchers’ paper receives award from American Educational Research Association

Dr. Snejana Slantcheva-Durst, a faculty member in the Higher Education Program, and Dr. Mingyang Liu, data systems analyst from Institutional Research, received the exemplary paper award from the Special Interest Groups (SIG): Measurement and Assessment in Higher Education within the American Educational Research Association.

The honor was for their paper on “Confidence to Perform in the Global Marketplace: Constructing and Validating a Survey Instrument for Community College Students.”

Dr. Snejana Slantcheva-Durst, left, and Dr. Mingyang Liu, right, posed for a photo with their award, which they received from Dr. Natasha Jankowski, Special Interest Groups chair of the American Educational Research Association.

The award is targeted for anyone submitting a paper to the SIG track, and eligibility for the recognition requires acceptance of the paper into the SIG program.

“Winning the award reassured me that the research Ming and I did could be of use,” said Slantcheva-Durst, associate professor in the Judith Herb College of Education. “More importantly, I was very happy that it was this specific study that received the award — a study where I worked with someone I have known as a student in the Higher Education Program, then as a PhD candidate in another College of Education program, and then as a colleague. For me, this award reaffirmed the value in collaboration with students and colleagues.”

Their paper focuses on global awareness and the ability to work in an increasingly global environment. They studied college students’ confidence to perform in the global market place and their beliefs in their own abilities to successfully carry out job-related tasks.

“Our goal was to operationalize this concept, and design and test an instrument that gauges that confidence,” Slantcheva-Durst said.

The instrument they developed can be used to assist educators in evaluating the results of their efforts to increase students’ global awareness.

“We hope findings from this paper can offer useful feedback to college internationalization-focused staff in their efforts to assess outcomes of international initiatives for college students, thus supporting program assessment, evaluation of student growth, and institutional decision-making,” Liu said.

Liu and Slantcheva-Durst traveled to New York City to receive their award earlier this month.

“I think this award is very affirming that our research really makes a difference in the field, and I want to continue to pursue this direction in the future as a quantitative researcher in social sciences,” Liu said.

The American Educational Research Association is a national society that strives to advance knowledge to encourage scholarly inquiry related to education, and to promote the use of research to improve education and serve the public good.