By Lisa Brown

BUMC Hosts Annual Health Equity Symposium

April 12th, 2018 in Featured

Sir Michael Marmot, a University College London professor of epidemiology and director of its Institute of Health Equity, was the keynote speaker at the BU Medical Campus Annual Health Equity Symposium on April 10. “Why treat people and then send them back to the conditions that made them sick?” he asked. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

Sir Michael Marmot, a University College London professor of epidemiology and director of its Institute of Health Equity, was the keynote speaker at the BU Medical Campus Annual Health Equity Symposium on April 10. “Why treat people and then send them back to the conditions that made them sick?” he asked. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

In Baltimore’s Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood, half of the families have single parents, a third of the boys have a criminal record by age 17, and the median household income in 2010 was $17,000. The life expectancy is 63.

In Baltimore’s Roland Park neighborhood, 93 percent of the families have two parents, juvenile arrests are rare, and the median household income is $90,000. The life expectancy is 83.

Michael Marmot, a University College London professor of epidemiology and director of its Institute of Health Equity, offered these stark statistics at the BU Medical Campus Annual Health Equity Symposium, held April 10. In his keynote address, Marmot, a world expert on health equity, described driving through the Upton/Druid Heights neighborhood and seeing red slashes marking houses for demolition. “Can you imagine what it’s like to live in a neighborhood where every second house is condemned?” he asked. “Why treat people and then send them back to the conditions that made them sick?”

Health disparities—any difference in health outcomes between populations­—are a tough nut to crack. They involve myriad factors that lie outside the traditional health-care system, such as housing, employment, racism, gun violence, immigration status, availability of food, and access to public transportation.

The Health Equity Symposium poster session offered research on topics from refugee women’s health to language barriers to disparities in health screenings. Photo by Cydney Scott

The Health Equity Symposium poster session offered research on topics from refugee women’s health to language barriers to disparities in health screenings. Photo by Cydney Scott

Hospitals, medical schools, and health-care providers are starting to tackle these disparities, from many different angles. The half-day symposium was part of that effort, said event co-organizer Jenny Siegel, MD, a BUSM assistant professor of medicine. The symposium gathered researchers from across the Medical Campus to network, find future collaborators, and learn about health equity efforts at BU and throughout the area.

“It’s a new time in health care,” said Thea James, a BUSM associate professor and Boston Medical Center associate chief medical officer and vice president of mission, speaking at the symposium. Health-care providers need to go beyond treating emergencies over and over, said James—“those are just downstream consequences of what happened upstream.” They need to help dismantle the barriers that keep patients from thriving and shift focus “from charity to equity.”

Speakers, panel discussions, and a poster session captured both the breadth of the issue and the many programs attempting to address it. Researchers presented posters on topics that included improving hospital experiences for patients with autism, how doctors can address immigrants’ legal needs, and disparities in prenatal screening. Third-year medical student Anita Knopov (BUSM’19) presented data on racial residential segregation and firearm homicides. Her study noted that black people make up 59 percent of firearm homicide victims, but only 14 percent of the US population, and her work correlated these homicide rates to areas with high racial segregation. She said she decided to research the topic after seeing a preponderance of patients with gunshot wounds or scars. “The term ‘health disparities’ is a huge umbrella,” she said, “but the first right to health should be a right to live.”

Researchers discussing work at the Health Equity Symposium poster session. Photo by Cydney Scott

Researchers discussing work at the Health Equity Symposium poster session. Photo by Cydney Scott

The health effects of violence also came up during a patient perspective panel, where BMC patient Sarah Zene related leaving a violent husband decades ago. “I never knew there was help for battered women until I went to my doctor and she told me about it,” said Zene. “I think if I didn’t ask for the help, I would be dead by now.”

Zene’s story offered some prescriptions for overcoming health disparities with a holistic array of treatments. After a doctor helped her escape a bad relationship, a violent neighborhood, and a drug addiction, she said, her health-care team at BMC turned to treating her diabetes and high blood pressure. The hospital staff tackled her health conditions not only with medication, but also with acupuncture and Zumba, and by providing her with fresh food and teaching her how to cook with fewer carbs. “My diabetes was out of control, and now it’s under control,” she said. “It’s what you eat!”

In his keynote address, Marmot said he was heartened by his visit to BU, and he noted a growing interest in the social determinants in health throughout the world. He said colleagues often complain that Americans aren’t interested in solving these problems, but he disagrees. “There is a great deal of activity in the United States, it’s just not at the federal and state government level. Seeing places like this is hugely encouraging.”

This BU Today story was written by Barbara Moran

Groundbreaking for “New” Goldman School of Dental Medicine

April 9th, 2018 in Featured

Dean says SDM is “on its way into and beyond the 21st century”

  • Ground was broken April 5 for the School of Dental Medicine expansion and renovation  
  • The façade will be redone and two state-of-the-art additions constructed
  • The facility will embody the vision of the group practice model of dental medicine

Under a wind-whipped tent on an unseasonably cold April 5, Jeffrey W. Hutter, dean of the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine, hosted a celebratory rite of spring he’d first envisioned nine years ago: the groundbreaking ceremony for his school’s three-year, $112 million renovation and expansion.

The idea for the major expansion—and cutting-edge modernization—of the school’s seven-story building at 100 East Newton Street grew out of the strategic planning that began in 2009, said Hutter, the Spencer N. Frankl Professor in Dental Medicine. “Our vision,” he said, “was to become the premier academic dental institution providing excellence across dental education, research, oral health care, and community service to the global population.”

Hutter said the project, which adds 48,000 square feet, includes a seven-story addition that will have administrative space, instruction, and preclinical spaces and a two-story addition with a new 140-seat auditorium. The new building will also have a state-of-the-art patient treatment center with 10 group practices and 10 patient treatment rooms in each, as well as a new patient entrance on the corner of East Newton and Albany Streets and a new reception area. A new façade with contemporary sheathing and lots of glass will allow in natural light. And while all this construction is going on, Hutter said, classes will continue as scheduled, and patients will be seen without interruption.

Jeffrey W. Hutter hosted the groundbreaking ceremony

Jeffrey W. Hutter, School of Dental Medicine dean, hosted the groundbreaking ceremony for the state-of-the-art renovation and major expansion of his school’s building.

Other speakers at the groundbreaking were Robert A. Brown, University president, Karen Antman, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus, David Lustbader (CAS’86, SDM’86), chair of the SDM Dean’s Advisory Board and a major contributor to the building’s renovation, and Marty Martinez, city of Boston chief of Health and Human Services.

Brown told the attendees that under Hutter’s strategic planning and “very careful fiscal management,” the dental school has followed “a path to academic leadership built around the group practice model for modern dental medicine.

“Living with the noise and the disruption of the construction will not be pleasant,” Brown said, “but the result will be spectacular.” SDM, he said, is “one of the very best dental schools in the country.”

Antman said the construction would require the temporary relocation of some students and staff. “But remarkably, everyone is eager,” she said. “One group will be moving three times and even they were eager. They were excited for the end result.”

Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine rendering.

A rendering of the completed Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine. Image courtesy of SmithGroupJJR

Lustbader recalled a lunch with Hutter in the dean’s office back in 2010, where it all began. “He laid out the vision for the new dental school and he asked me to write a large check—which I did,” Lustbader said. “This is really the culmination of one man’s vision. He’s very modest and he likes to say it’s a team effort, but a team needs a quarterback and this would not have happened without him.”

Also present yesterday were the lead architects for the project, Chris Purdy and David Johnson of the architectural firm SmithGroup JJR. Hutter thanked the architects, along with “the engineers, planners, communicators, faculty, staff and students, and many other professionals” who he said had become part of the SDM “project planning team.”

This BU Today story was written by Sara Rimer.  Photos by Jake Belcher

New, Improved Digs in Store for Goldman School of Dental Medicine

March 27th, 2018 in Featured

Striking architecture, state-of-the-art clinics, modern student spaces

  • The Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine is about to undergo a three-year, $112 million renovation
  • The building facade will be redone, and its interior mostly gutted and reconfigured
  • No disruption to classes or patient care is expected

A major three-year, $112 million renovation of Boston University’s Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine is expected to begin shortly, and when it’s complete, the school will look almost unrecognizable.

Contemporary sheathing and new windows will freshen up the building’s exterior, while the interior will be mostly gutted and reconfigured to draw in natural light and create more open spaces. A seven-story addition will be built along the west and north sides of the building. Patient treatment areas will be designed to accommodate cutting-edge technology, and a large new auditorium is in the works. During the renovation, classes will be held as scheduled and patients will continue to be seen, although some departments and offices will be moved to temporary spaces while the work is being done.

“The Medical Campus is delighted that the dental school will now begin the construction of the building that they have been planning for a decade,” says Karen Antman, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the Medical Campus. “The architecture is striking, the clinics will be state-of-the-art, and the students will have modern student study and relaxation space.”

When the school moved to its present home at 100 East Newton Street in 1970, the building was only three stories high. In 1973, four stories were added, and today the building is “maxed out,” says Jeffrey Hutter, Spencer N. Frankl Professor in Dental Medicine and dean of SDM. Formally known as the Lawrence J. and Anne Cable Rubenstein Building, it’s home to more than 800 students and 300 faculty, as well as staff and volunteers. Some 33,000 patients receive care there every year.

The building’s light-filled clinical and treatment areas will increase by 60 percent and will be more comfortable.

The building’s light-filled teaching and clinical areas will increase by 60 percent and will be more comfortable.

“It’s clearly something we need,” Hutter says. “This facility has served the school well, but we have grown out of it. It’s going to right-size our building.”

When the conversation about a renovation first began, he says, architectural firm SmithGroupJJR surveyed peer dental schools and found BU at the bottom in terms of square footage per students and faculty. “I tell the students, ‘This will add value to your diploma,’” he says.

When completed, the four-phase project will have added an additional 48,000 square feet to the building without substantially expanding its footprint. Since space is hard to come by on the Medical Campus, this way of expanding makes the most sense, Hutter says. Before the project began, the school held multiple town hall meetings for the community. “The goal is to put the least amount of disruption on the patients, students, and residents,” he says.

Infographic by Meaghan Glendon

Infographic by Meaghan Glendon

Phase I, which began with site mobilization on February 24, will see a new first floor student and resident lounge and study area as well as a new patient entrance on the corner of East Newton and Albany Streets. Hutter says he’s excited about the school’s gaining a more visible “front door” on Albany Street, in the heart of the South End. The expanded building will almost abut a new 1.6-million-square-foot life science and technology office complex called Exchange South End, which was announced last fall by Boston developer Abbey Group. The existing SDM entrance at 100 East Newton Street will remain open for students, residents, faculty, and staff.

Patients using the new Albany Street entrance will be greeted by receptionists and proceed to a new patient elevator bank, with two elevators. Previously, everyone in the dental school relied on just two elevators (which will also be renovated, bringing the total to four). The first floor will be home to a new lounge and collaborative study space for students and residents, along with a new main patient waiting area.

Upstairs, teaching and clinical space is expected to increase by 60 percent, and classrooms and labs will expand by 14 percent. An existing cafeteria is being transformed into a 140-seat auditorium and the school’s Simulation Learning Center will be moved from across the street (650 Albany Street) to the third floor of the Rubenstein Building.

Rendering of the new student lounge

The first-floor student lounge and study area should be finished by October.

The school teaches and uses the Group Practice Model, meaning teams of dentists and specialists practice and collaborate to treat patients. The building’s 10 new group practice spaces, made up of 10 patient treatment rooms each, are slated to become more comfortable and flexible. “One thing we stressed—any patient who comes into the school, we treat like they were walking into the best private office in the city of Boston,” Hutter says. “Now you can look outside, there are larger spaces, it’s the whole experience.”

The building will receive a terra-cotta cladding that will cover the existing concrete exterior, with a large expanse of glass added at the entry level. The seven-story addition will tie seamlessly to the existing structure with brick of a similar color and a glass curtain wall.

Despite the short-term headaches that come with a renovation of this size, students are eagerly anticipating the new space. “My classmates can’t wait,” says class president Sloane Kaminski-Ditzel (SDM’18). “Nowadays, everything in dentistry is becoming digital, and BU is leading the way in dental education and adapting this modern technology.

“It’s really nice that the building will be catching up.”

This BU Today story was written by Amy Laskowski.

BUMC Students Organize Walkout in Support of #ENOUGH, Gun Violence Prevention

March 14th, 2018 in Featured

com walkout

On Wednesday, March 14, more than 300 Boston University Medical Campus students, faculty and staff walked out of their classes and offices in their white coats or adorned in orange to demonstrate solidarity with the victims of gun violence in Parkland, Fla., and other cities and towns around the country.

Watch the walkout on Facebook live!

The walkout was a combination memorial and protest action. Participants wanted to honor the lives of the 17 killed at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, as well as send a message to state and federal lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws. See the Facebook album for more images of the walkout.

The walkout, held at 10 a.m., was one of more than 3000 that occurred simultaneously across each time zone at locations across the country as part of a national program called “#Enough: National School Walkout,” which was coordinated by young people within Women’s March Youth Empower. The BUMC event was a joint effort between BUSM medical students and the BUSPH Activist Lab, with participation from Boston Medical Center.

Event speakers included Eileen Costello, Chief of Ambulatory Pedicatrics, Boston Medical Center and BUSM Instructor of Medicine; Harold Cox, BUSPH Associate Dean of the Public Health Practice and Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences; Anita Knopov, BUSM ‘19; Aldina Mesic, BUSPH ‘18; Rebecca Webb, BUSM ‘20.

“We’re here today because 17 people were killed. Seventeen people lost their lives because of a senseless, selfish act by a person with a gun. This has happened again and again. We are here to say one simple word, ‘Enough!’, said Cox.

“As medical professionals we know that the problem of gun violence goes far beyond the mass shootings covered by the media. We know that there were nearly 38,000 gun deaths in the United States in 2016. We know that firearms are the third-leading cause of death for children in the US. We know that on average, 96 people die from firearm-related injuries every day,” Webb said.

“At Boston Medical Center, we understand the tremendous impact the gun epidemic has on the communities we serve. As the largest safety net hospital in New England and a Level 1 trauma center, we treat the victims of gun violence on a daily basis..(and want) to remind the world that Gun Reform is Healthcare Reform, and that Gun violence is a Public Health Issue,” said Webb.

“Today we stand here to say, ‘Enough.’ We say enough to an endless cycle of violence and inaction. We say enough to the undue influence of the NRA. We say enough congressional inaction,” said Mesic.

“Let us not forget the inspiring example set by the students of Stoneman Douglas High School, who in the face of tragedy have mobilized. They have used the national spotlight to urge political and corporate leaders to address gun violence. They have pressured dozens of companies into cutting ties with the NRA. They have pushed retailers to restrict the sales of assault rifles. Their tireless effort has shifted our national dialog and have brought us here to the national school walkout,” said Knopov.

The walkout was followed by a BUSPH Dean’s Seminar, “#Enough: Community Forum on Gun Violence. Moderated by Cox the panelists included David Jones, Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy & Management; Michael Siegel, Professor of Community Health Sciences; Michael Ulrich, Assistant Professor of Health Law, Policy & Management; and Ziming Xuan, Associate Professor of Community Health Sciences.


Celebrating the Arts at BUMC

March 13th, 2018 in Featured


Dean Young with BUSM students.

BUMC students, faculty and staff gathered in Bakst Auditorium to welcome BU College of Fine Arts (CFA) Dean Harvey Young to the Medical Campus and to celebrate five years of “Arts Lab,” a collaboration between the CFA, Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at the School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center.

The event featured brief performances of projects that connect students, faculty, staff and patients through the arts. Dean Young reiterated his commitment to the program and emphasized the importance of the arts to connect individuals and foster intellectual and spiritual fulfillment.

The event was coordinated by Moises Fernandez Via, Director of Arts Lab, and Rafael Ortega MD, Associate Dean, who also participated in the performances. Patients also performed and expressed their gratitude for the care they have received from our staff and for the opportunity to express their artistic talents on our campus. The BUMC Band closed the event with an all-inclusive jam.

Director of NIDCR, Dr. Martha Somerman, to Speak at GSDM Science Day

March 12th, 2018 in Featured

757Science Day at the Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) is an annual event, highlighting and showing research from pre-doctoral and post-doctoral students and fellows. This year’s Science Day, which will be held on Thursday, March 15, 2018, features a particularly distinguished keynote speaker, Martha J. Somerman, DDS, PhD. Somerman, Director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), who will be presenting a talk on “NIDCR: Catalyzing Research & Innovation.”

Somerman has served as Director of NIDCR since August 2011. Previously Somerman served as Dean of the University of Washington School of Dentistry for nine years. Dr. Somerman also serves as an Adjunct Investigator in the Laboratory of Oral Connective Tissue Biology, where she researches the development, maintenance, and regeneration of dental, oral, and craniofacial tissues.

NIDCR is the leading supporter of dental, oral, and craniofacial research in the United States, with an annual budget of over $400 million. NIDCR supports basic, translational, and clinical research, as well as research training and career development programs.

This year’s Science Day opens with two poster viewing sessions. Dr. Somerman’s keynote then follows lunch. Before noon, attendees can also visit the annual Vendor Fair. Science Day activities including Vendor Fair will be held in the Hiebert Lounge in the BU School of Medicine (BUSM) Instructional Building. The oral presentations will be held the following day, March 16, from 9 a.m. to noon in the Instructional Building,  L106/109.

Submitted by GSDM Communications.


Helping Postdocs Take Charge of Their Lives

February 1st, 2018 in Featured

CAS alum new director of Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs

Sarah Hokanson, the new director of BU’s Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs office, wants to help the University’s postdocs launch successful careers. Photo by Dan Aguirre

Sarah Hokanson knows what it’s like to be a perpetually waiting postdoctoral researcher. “When I was a postdoc, I felt like I was always waiting for something to happen—for my experiment to work, for my principal investigator to talk to me, for someone to offer me a job,” she says, of her three-year fellowship in biophysics at Cornell University. “The life sciences can be slow. It took me a year to purify my enzyme.”

A decade after graduating from the College of Arts & Sciences with a bachelor’s in chemistry, Hokanson (CAS’05) returned this spring as program director of the University’s newly expanded campus-wide Professional Development and Postdoctoral Affairs (PDPA) office. Her message for postdocs: “You don’t have to wait.” Science may be slow, she says, but that doesn’t mean you have to hold off on making decisions about your career—or the rest of your life. She wants to help postdocs take charge. Her appointment is part of the University’s increasing efforts to help postdocs in all fields get the most out of their training at BU and launch successful careers.

“Postdocs are in transition,” Hokanson says. “We have a responsibility to make sure that we as an institution are giving them everything they need to be successful. If someone’s really driven in academia, what can we do to make them more competitive? Is it that they don’t have enough publications? How can we help? If someone wants to go into industry or work in science policy or something else, how can we help them transfer their skills somewhere else?”

The University opened PDPA on the Medical Campus four years ago under Linda E. Hyman, School of Medicine associate provost for the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences, with Yolanta Kovalko (MET’04,’08) as administrative manager. Under Hokanson’s direction, PDPA is now expanding to include all postdocs at the University, and she and Kovalko will work closely with Gloria S. Waters, vice president and associate provost for research, as well as with Hyman.

“We are delighted to have Sarah in this critical role for the University,” Waters says. “She brings not only a deep understanding of the issues which postdocs face, but also a sensitivity to the complexity of the issues and the needs of the various stakeholders. She is able to think creatively about the challenges postdocs and their mentors face and she wants to systematize, as well as document and quantify, our success in providing postdocs with the right environment to achieve their goals.”

Hyman says she welcomes Hokanson’s appointment. “It is very gratifying to see the entire University embrace the postdoc community and recognize how important they are to us,” she says. “With the Medical Campus jump-starting the effort four years ago, we hope that we have provided Sarah with the foundation and infrastructure she needs to hit the ground running.”

Compiling data to get a clearer picture

One of Hokanson’s first tasks has been to compile data on postdocs, an effort that is complicated at BU, as elsewhere, because they are connected more closely to individual departments than to the overall institution. She says she hopes to help the University develop a set of policies for postdocs that will provide more consistency.

There are 525 postdocs across the University, with two thirds of them focused on biomedical research. The average salary for postdocs across both campuses is about $47,000 a year, according to preliminary data. While the average length of time a postdoc spends in a training position varies widely by school across BU, Hokanson says, initial data from 2014 puts the institutional average at three and a half years.

She is wrapping up an anonymous survey on how postdocs view their training experience at BU and what skills they want to develop while they’re here. She plans to present the data at a town meeting sometime in the next several months. Meanwhile, she has begun hosting events to bring postdocs together.

“I am very confident of Sarah’s abilities, based on what she has already accomplished in her short tenure,” says Sarah Mazzilli, who has a PhD in cancer pharmacology and experimental therapeutics and began as a postdoc in the pulmonary research lab of Avrum Spira (ENG’02), a MED professor of medicine, pathology and laboratory medicine, and bioinformatics, 18 months ago. “Because of her, I now know more about postdoc data and have met more postdocs from diverse programs in the last month than I had since I arrived.” Mazzilli is the postdoc rep on the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences PhD steering committee.

The postdoc is supposed to be a temporary period of mentored training in advanced research. For many people, though, especially those in the life sciences, the postdoc has become the default next step after earning a PhD.

“Should everyone be a postdoc?” Hokanson asks, echoing a question being asked across the country by senior researchers, university leaders, and postdocs themselves. “I don’t think so. We need to do a better job of directing PhD students and postdocs toward the right path. Not every job needs a postdoc.”

Postdocs are generally paid through a variety of fellowships, trainee grants, and research project grants, with the majority at BU paid by federal research grants awarded to individual principal investigators (PIs). The latter arrangement creates “inherent stress” around a PI’s conflicting responsibilities, as a mentor and as a scientist “whose primary mission is to complete the research, and any time spent training the postdoc is time not spent on research,” the National Academy of Sciences Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy concluded in its 2014 report The Postdoctoral Experience Revisited.

“There are tremendous pressures on faculty, too,” Hokanson says. “Their careers are dependent upon the productivity of their postdocs and graduate students. In addition to their own personal growth as scientists, postdocs are here to perform a job that involves doing bench science and generating results. They are the hands of science contributing to the success of the lab. If things are working well, there’s a balance between productivity and mentoring. I now have accountability to train and support postdocs. But I want postdocs to remember that they own a piece of this accountability, too.”

With the number of postdocs, particularly in the life sciences, exceeding the available tenure-track academic research jobs across the country, most will not find jobs in academia, but in industry, government, science policy, law, education, and other fields. Hokanson says she wants to work with faculty to help them become more familiar with these nonacademic career options so they can better guide their postdocs.

Jumping the tracks

Her own path shows that there are many ways to build a career in science. She earned a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biophysics and did a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and completed a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein Postdoctoral National Research Service Award Fellowship at Cornell from 2010 to 2012.

“I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do,” she says. “I was competitive. A lot of people were saying, ‘You were born to be an academic researcher,’ but it just didn’t feel right for me.”

So she “jumped the tracks,” as she puts it, and went to work at the British Consulate-General in Boston as a senior officer for the Science and Innovation Network. “It was a risk,” she says. “Most people said, ‘Where does it lead? It’s a dead end. She’s not even British, she’s throwing it all away.’”

But Hokanson says the job gave her valuable hands-on training in science policy. She got to work with top research scientists from industry and academia as well as with university administrators and government leaders in Britain and the United States. “The people who I thought had the coolest jobs were the university administrators,” she says.

During her time at the consulate, she was promoted to US deputy director of the Science and Innovation Network. The constant travel eventually became too hard on her family. She and her husband, David, a biochemical scientist, have three-year-old twins, Finn and Erik.

Hokanson arrived at BU 14 years ago as a premed freshman majoring in English. Then she took an introductory course in chemistry to fulfill her premed requirements and became fascinated by molecules. As a sophomore, she became a peer-led team learning teacher for the same introductory chemistry course, and switched her major to chemistry, with a minor in English. She joined the lab of Sean J. Elliott, a CAS professor of chemistry. “Sean changed my life,” she says. “I fell in love with doing research while in his lab. He was the first person who really believed in me as a scientist. He transformed me from an average but extremely interested chemistry student into a credible researcher.”

She connected with the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), which provides funding for faculty-mentored research by undergrad students in the humanities, natural sciences, medicine, arts, and education, and ended up publishing five papers as an undergraduate and winning national and international recognition for her work on how thioredoxin proteins combat oxidative stress in cells.

“Any successes I’ve had so far can be traced back to the support that I had at BU,” Hokanson says, “and I’m excited to build on that success here.”

A version of this article originally appeared on the BU Research site.

This BU Today story was written by Sara Rimer.

What a Government Shutdown Means to BU

January 22nd, 2018 in Featured, Research

The shutdown of the federal government has stretched into a third day after Capitol Hill lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a spending bill over the weekend. Photo By Drew Stephens The shutdown of the federal government has stretched into a third day after Capitol Hill lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a spending bill over the weekend. Photo By Drew Stephens

Investigators should continue working on and submitting proposals to Sponsored Programs

  • Shutdown of federal government enters third day
  • BU investigators should continue working on and submitting proposals to Sponsored Programs as indicated
  • Federal student financial aid should not be impacted by shutdown

With Congress and the White House locked in a failure to agree on a spending bill, the federal government remains shut down for the third day. The shutdown, the first since 2013, affects the lives of Americans in numerous ways, as described in this Washington Post story.

At Boston University and universities across the country, the shutdown’s most immediate effects are likely to impact researchers working with federal grants. In a letter being sent to BU faculty Monday morning, Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, advises investigators to assume that deadlines for proposal submissions will remain unchanged.

To learn more about what the government shutdown means to the BU community, BU Today spoke with Jennifer Grodsky, the University’s vice president for federal relations.

BU Today: What does the shutdown mean for investigators who are submitting proposals for federally sponsored research?

Grodsky: For now, it means that some of their program managers and contacts at federal agencies may not be available. But even though it is unsettling to hear that agencies are closed, faculty should continue to work on their proposals as if the government were still open. It’s possible some government systems may not be working. For example, the National Science Foundation has announced that FastLane, its web-based grants management system, is closed during the shutdown. But the best thing investigators can do is have their proposals ready so that Sponsored Programs can process them according to the most up-to-date guidelines given by each specific agency.

Will the shutdown delay deadlines for a grant proposal?

We don’t know yet, so it’s really important that investigators continue to prepare and submit their proposals to Sponsored Programs in a timely manner. It’s also really important to remember that regardless of the headlines about the political situation, we need to proceed as if there will be no change in grant submission deadlines.

What about researchers who are currently working under federal contracts grants? Should they continue to work?

Yes, researchers should continue to work on their grants and contracts unless their agency or program officer has advised them otherwise. Faculty should keep in close touch with their Sponsored Programs contacts and check the Research Support website for updates.

Are some federal agencies still operating? Which agencies are open and which are closed?

Essential federal personnel are working, and each agency defines “essential” differently. You can see how every agency operates in a shutdown by looking at the agency contingency plans on the White House Office of Management and Budget website.

What does the shutdown mean for students?

Fortunately, federal financial aid should not be impacted. The US Department of Education has explicitly stated that Pell Grants and student loans will continue as normal. The small number of students enrolled in the BU Study Abroad Washington program who were scheduled to begin internships with federal agencies on Monday may see those internships delayed.

Will the shutdown affect faculty and staff at all?

Faculty and staff who planned to travel to Washington, D.C., for meetings with federal officials should check whether their federal contact will be available to meet. Most federal agency staff will not be working during the shutdown. Similarly, if a faculty or staff member has invited a federal official to visit BU, it’s possible the visit would need to be rescheduled.

How long is the shutdown likely to last?

That is the question everyone in Washington is trying to answer. A bipartisan group of legislators is working to negotiate a deal that would reopen the government for several weeks and give lawmakers more time to find a long-term solution. While a shutdown could last just a few more hours, I’m mindful that the last government shutdown, in 2013, lasted more than two weeks.

This BU Today story was written by Art Jahnke.


CTSI to Test New Approach to Health Care Delivery

December 7th, 2017 in Featured, Research

Investigators at Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute (BU-CTSI) and colleagues have been awarded a five-year, $8.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) to develop, test, and disseminate a replicable, high-quality coordination of care approach for vulnerable populations experiencing disparities.

Called TRIP (Translating Research Into Practice), it will focus on African American women with breast cancer and the disparities they face in in time-to-treatment, quality of treatment and delayed follow up to abnormal tests.


In addition to BU-CTSI, investigators include Tufts CTSI, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Catalyst (the Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center), and University of Massachusetts Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS).

David Center, MD

David Center, MD

“This is an important approach to implementing clinical care. Models that work in one institution with selected patient populations must be tested at other institutions to ensure that best practices can be transferred. This program will begin to tell us how to approach diagnosis of breast cancer in women from many different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds, said  David Center, MD, Director of the BU-CTSI. “This is a perfect use of the NCATS Cooperative CTSA Innovation Award network, which funds unique ideas from individual CTSIs that propose to use the resources of multiple CTSA institutions.”

In partnership with the Boston Breast Cancer Equity Coalition, a diverse group of local community stakeholders whose mission is to achieve equity for all women with breast cancer, TRIP researchers found that three evidence-based strategies known to reduce delays in care have failed to make it into practice as a result of persistent patient and health system barriers:

  • A navigator for every vulnerable patient to solve problems and provide support and guidance through the complex health care system;
  • A regional registry to help providers and navigators track their patients; and
  • Resources to help navigators identify social determinants of health (e.g., food and housing insecurity).

TRIP will integrate these strategies into a cohesive package across six hospitals, with the goal of assisting 1,100 women seeking breast cancer care over the next five years. A key aspect of the project is to test the effectiveness of the combined approach.If successful, TRIP can be adapted to the treatment of any disease in other communities impacted by health disparities.

TRIP will be led by principal investigators Tracy Battaglia, MD, MPH of BU-CTSI; Karen Freund, MD, MPH of Tufts CTSI; Jennifer Haas, MD, MPH of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Catalyst; and Stephenie Lemon, PhD of UMass CCTS. The six participating clinical sites are Boston Medical Center, Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tufts Medical Center. Boston Breast Cancer Equity Coalition, Boston Patient Navigator Network, the University of Chicago, and the Institute for Translational Medicine will build a coalition of stakeholders and provide community engagement support.

“The rapid rate of scientific discovery far outpaces the ability of our health care system to integrate evidence into every day practice, especially in cancer care for low income, racial ethnic minority patients who remain less likely to receive timely, quality treatment,” said Battaglia, who also is a BMC internal medicine physician. ”Sustainable solutions require collaboration among all community stakeholders, including patients, providers, public health practitioners, health systems and scientific investigators. Community engaged research conducted in real life settings is necessary to ensure scientific discoveries reach all populations.”

TRIP is in its start-up phase, consisting of stakeholder interviews, implementation planning, and development of the registry and screening tools. Then the academic, clinical and community partners will have four years to implement and test TRIP across the six participating hospitals.

Once completed, this community engaged program will demonstrate the feasibility of community-academic partnerships to provide innovations in information-sharing and systems implementation that will translate into reductions in health disparities for vulnerable patients facing any disease.

“This innovative model of care links multiple clinical systems and community resources to meet the many needs of women with breast cancer in Boston,” said Lemon, professor of medicine in the Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School and co-director of community engagement at the UMass CCTS.  “However, people with different conditions and in different locations experience similar struggles. If we find this model to be effective, it has potential to transform collaborative care delivery for other disease conditions and in places across the country. We have the goal of scaling up the care delivery model once we have completed the initial project in Boston. We have engaged partners from Chicago to be the first to work with us to identify ways to spread our model.”

TRIP is supported by the National Center For Advancing Translational Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number U01TR002070, and by the NIH Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research The content of this release is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

BUMC Public Safety Officers Recognized for Hard Work, Dedication

October 12th, 2017 in Featured

On Tuesday, Oct. 10, BUMC Public Safety officers were honored for the work they do to ensure the safety of our patients, students, faculty, staff and visitors every day.

Congratulations to the officers who were recognized, and thank you to all members of the Department for your hard work and dedication.