By Lisa Brown
The American Heart Association presented its 2016 Gold Heart Award to Professor of Medicine and Assistant Provost for Faculty Development Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, FAHA. The Gold Heart Award is the highest honor the association gives in recognition of continued, distinguished service. The award was presented at the association’s 2016 Gold Heart Banquet in Dallas on June 21.
Benjamin also serves as a professor of epidemiology at BUSPH, an attending cardiologist and vice chair of faculty development/diversity within the department of medicine at BMC, and an investigator at the Framingham Heart Study. She was recognized by the association for outstanding contributions supporting the development and mentoring of early career investigators. An AHA volunteer since 1992, Benjamin is a member of the Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology and was the council’s 2010-12 chairperson. She also is an associate editor for Circulation and the 2015-17 chairperson of the AHA Statistics Committee.
Biomedical Engineering and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute have established a new collaborative program, the Biomedical Bridge BUilders Initiative. It is designed to accelerate the commercialization of clinician-inspired medical device innovations by partnering with graduate engineering biodesign and product development teams.
Clinical care providers on the Medical Campus are invited to email short (one page or less) descriptions of a medical device clinical challenge. These descriptions may be an early product idea or a project that is already underway that could benefit from a team of graduate biomedical engineers (BME), trained in the biodesign product development process. Graduate engineers will work part-time under your clinical guidance while they complete their graduate studies at the College of Engineering. Applications may be submitted immediately with an official “Start Date” for the first projects of Sept. 2. Questions? Email email@example.com.
Teams will consist of a BME faculty supervisor plus four BME students and graduate students from other BU Engineering Departments, if their specialty skills are required. All biomedical team members will have HIPAA training, and all necessary tests and inoculations to be approved as Clinical Observers at BMC. If your idea is selected, you will serve as the Primary Clinical Advisor to the team, meet with them on a regular basis, and serve as their sponsor for their Clinical Observership so that they can see the current Standard of Care firsthand.
Related IP resulting from inventions will be assigned to Boston University or BMC under current Patent Policies. Each initiative is expected to file at least one Invention Disclosure.
On Friday, June 17, Medical Campus students, faculty and staff joined together in a moment of silence and reflection in remembrance of the lives lost and irrevocably changed during the tragedy that occurred in Orlando, Florida. In honor of those no longer with us and to express what cannot be said with words, pianist Moises Fernandez Via performed a short musical piece.
The Boston University Clinical & Translational Science Institute (CSTI) is accepting registration for “Mentoring the Mentor: Training for Clinical and Translational Researchers.” This is a sophisticated interactive training program that uses case studies developed and vetted with other CTSI groups around the country.
All Medical Campus mentoring research faculty are encouraged to advantage of this rare training opportunity geared toward experienced faculty. This is a great opportunity to interact with and learn from colleagues in other disciplines. A certificate will be supplied to include in your training grant applications.
Seminars are held on Wednesdays, Noon-1:30 p.m. and lunch is provided. Questions? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org More information? Go to http://www.bu.edu/ctsi/training-education/seminars-and-workshops/
Space is limited. Registration deadline: Sept. 9.
On Saturday, June 4, students, faculty, and staff from Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) participated in the Healthy Athletes® Special Smiles® initiative at the Special Olympics Massachusetts Summer Games at Harvard University’s Murr Center.
More than 1,800 athletes from the Greater Boston area converged on Harvard University’s Athletic Complex to participate in athletic events such as Aquatics, Gymnastics, Power Lifting, Tennis, Track & Field, and Volleyball. Dentists and dental students were on hand at the Special Smiles clinic to offer oral screenings, health education and prevention services, and referrals to athletes who need follow-up care. They also provided individually-fitted mouth guards to participating athletes.
Special Smiles is just one component of the Healthy Athletes Program offered during the Summer Games. Others include Fit Feet (a podiatry clinic), FUNfitness (physical therapy), Healthy Hearing (an audiology clinic), and Special Olympics-Lions Clubs Opening Eyes (vision).
The Special Smiles clinic was staffed by 30 GSDM volunteers who were joined by volunteers from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Mount Ida College, and Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and Delta Dental.
“Special Smiles is a fun and important event and I am proud that GSDM has participated in it for so many years,” said Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter. “Thank you to all of the GSDM volunteers, and especially to Director of Alumni Relations & Annual Giving Ms. Stacey McNamee who works extremely hard every year to organize the Special Smiles event.”
Senior Global Clinical Adviser to Special Olympics Healthy Athletes Special Smiles Dr. Steve Perlman PEDO 76 worked with Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver to start the Special Smiles program in 1993. Dr. Perlman’s passion to eliminate health care disparities for people with disabilities led to the founding of the Healthy Athletes program.
Submitted by GSDM Communications.
The Summer Training as Research Scholars (STaRS) program welcomed 19 high achieving undergraduates to an immersive 10 week summer research experience in laboratories across the Medical Campus. Students are typically rising juniors or seniors.
The BUSM STaRS program, funded by the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, has trained 48 scholars since 2013, receiving more than 1,400 applications. Trainees work with faculty and fellow students on biomedical research projects, building powerful and lasting relationships. Past participants have been admitted to highly competitive graduate programs and medical schools throughout the country, including programs at BUSM.
Mentors include: Steven Borkan, MD; John H. Connor, MD; Isabel Dominguez, PhD; Andrea Havasi, MD; Feng Hui, MD, PhD; Jiyoun Kim, MD; Matt Layne, PhD; Jennie Luebke, PhD; Laertis Oikonomou, PhD; Dan Remick, MD; Rick Ruberg, MD; Karin Schon, PhD; Francesca Seta, PhD; David Sherr, PhD; Jeffrey Siracuse, MD; Deborah Sterns-Kurosawa, PhD; Richard Wainford, PhD; Renda Weiner, MD; Lee Wetzler, MD; Andrew Wilson, MD.
STaRS officially kicked off on Monday, June 6 and will conclude with a research symposium on Thursday, August 11. More information http://www.bumc.bu.edu/gms/admissions/stars/
The Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (BU-CTSI) offers consultations through the Clinical Research Informatics and Technology Consultation (CRITC) Service for BU/BMC researchers.
The CRITIC consultations help researchers identify, develop and implement the effective and efficient use of information technology and informatics in their clinical studies.
Free 1-hour One-on-One Consultations Are Available
Shanahan is a member of the BU-CTSI’s Clinical Research Informatics Team and Faculty Lead for BU-Profiles and Research Networking. Consultations and short-term services are provided free of charge. More extensive consultations will be offered for a fee.
Watch the video!
The BUMC Department of Public Safety recognized 40 members of the department for their exemplary service Tuesday, June 7. Approximately 175 family and friends of the honorees and BUMC/BMC faculty and staff attended the ceremony.
Norwood Chief of Police Bill Brooks delivered the keynote address. Jeffrey W. Hutter, DMD, MEd, Dean and Spencer N. Frankl Chair of Dental Medicine at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, and BMC President and CEO Kate Walsh recognized not only the honorees, but all members of the department, for the services they provide to the medical campus and the hospital 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. “The vital work that each and every one of you perform on a daily basis allows us to care for our patients, perform research in our labs and educate our students in a safe environment. Thank you for everything you do to keep us safe.”
A former football player describes brain disease symptoms and angst
Tim Fox, the 62-year-old former New England Patriots safety, was describing to a room full of brain scientists at the Boston University School of Medicine (MED) the ferocious style of play that he’d been trained in from an early age, one that had led to countless head injuries during his 20-year college and pro career. “We were taught to use your head to tackle,” he said. “It was to be used as a weapon.”
Fox, who also played for the Los Angeles Rams and the San Diego Chargers, recalled two occasions as a Patriot when he was knocked unconscious, revived, and sent back on the field, where he was knocked unconscious again. “The doctor would come over and ask you, ‘What’s your birthday, what’s your phone number,’” he said. “Your buddy would be sitting next to you, he’d whisper in your ear, give you the answer, you give the answer to the doctor, and you’re back in the game.”
Some 50 scientists—from MED and School of Public Health (SPH), the Cleveland Clinic, the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, the Mayo Clinic, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and other major institutions around the country—gathered on the medical campus Wednesday to launch their landmark, seven-year, $16 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)–funded study aimed at diagnosing CTE, a degenerative brain disease, during life. CTE, which is associated with repetitive brain trauma and characterized by changes in behavior, mood, and cognition—including the development of dementia—can currently be diagnosed only by postmortem examination of the brain. It has been found in professional football players, boxers, and other athletes with a history of repetitive brain injuries.
Robert Stern, the clinical core director of BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease & Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center, who is leading the study, introduced Fox at the meeting.
“I’d like to do anything in my power to help you folks get to the bottom of this,” Fox told the scientists. He said he has significant cognitive impairments—memory problems, difficulty with organizational tasks, severe mood changes—that he believes are clear symptoms of CTE. He said that he’d gotten lost driving to the meeting on the Medical Campus—“and I’ve lived here for 25 years.” As for his mood, he said, “my irritability factor has gone through the roof.”
The symptoms Fox described have been identified in people who were found, after death, to have had CTE. Does Fox have CTE? “We don’t know,” Stern said. And that, he said, is the point of the study: To develop ways of diagnosing CTE during life as well as to examine risk factors—repetitive hits to the head and genetics, among other things.
“We have to figure out why some people get this disease and some don’t,” Stern said.
He and his colleagues will study 240 people: 120 former NFL players (with and without CTE symptoms), 60 former college football players (with and without CTE symptoms), and 60 control subjects who have never played contact sports or experienced any type of brain trauma. Researchers will examine the participants at MED and three other centers: the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., and the New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City. In addition to extensive clinical examinations, participants will undergo positron emission tomography (PET) imaging, MRI scans, blood work, and other tests with the potential to detect changes in the brain associated with CTE. Data will be shared with researchers worldwide.
Stern is one of four principal investigators on the study. The others, whom he introduced yesterday, are Martha Shenton, director of the Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory and senior scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health; and Eric Reiman, executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute. Stern and others at the meeting emphasized the sweeping, multidisciplinary, multi-institution, collaborative nature of the research they are about to embark upon together. “We hear about this often as ‘the Stern study,’” Stern told his colleagues. “I can’t stand that, and I’ve been trying to do everything possible to undo that.”
Cummings, who is a physician, talked about the importance of early diagnosis. “How can we inform athletes, soldiers, other people involved in repetitive brain injury, about their future?” he said. However, he added: “This is not just about diagnosis. Eventually, this has to be about prevention and treatment.”
Cummings also sounded a cautionary note. “This is a very newsworthy study,” he said. “As representatives of the study, we all need to make sure we accurately represent what the study is and what it isn’t. This is not epidemiology. This is a convenient sample of people we’re able to recruit for the study. We cannot extrapolate from what we see to the entire population. The scientific process is key. This is about open, transparent interrogation. It’s about asking questions, finding answers, trying to set all our pre-inclinations aside.”
“This is funded by the public in order to help the public,” he added. “We want to protect athletes’ brain health and I believe everyone involved in athletics wants that. There is no advantage in having an athlete who is beaten up and can’t sustain a high level of performance. We want to protect against the effects of head injury wherever it occurs. We’re concerned about soldiers, traffic accidents, domestic abuse. This is a set of lessons that will have wide implications in society.”
Stern noted that the new study will build on the groundbreaking work of MED professor of neurology and pathology Ann McKee, director of the CTE Center and associate director of BU’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center (ADC), who first identified the telltale mark of CTE—tiny tangles of a protein called tau, clustered around blood vessels—in the dissected brain of a boxer who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
McKee, who oversees the ADC Neuropathology Core’s Brain Bank and has studied the brains of more than 200 people found to have CTE, gave the group an overview of her eight years of research into CTE. “We know this is a very biased sample,” she said. “You can’t take anything from these numbers in an absolute sense. But if this were a rare disease, there’s no way we could be this successful at brain collection. I couldn’t just go out and say, ‘I’m going to look at some strange, unusual disease and collect 200 cases in seven years.’ What this says is that this disease is much more common than we thought. Your study is going to show that.”
She showed a montage of the faces of dozens of athletes who have been found to have CTE over the years. “This is a study about people,” she said. “We do this because we are speaking for those people who can’t speak for themselves any longer. We tell their stories because people need to know.”
A Congressional investigation found last week that top NFL health officials had improperly pressured the NIH to remove Stern, who has been critical of the NFL, from the study. When the NIH refused, the NFL backed out of a signed agreement to pay for the study, according to the investigation by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Stern has declined to comment, saying he prefers to focus on the important science.
This BU Today story was written by Sara Rimer. She can be reached at email@example.com. Photos by Cydney Scott.