By Lisa Brown

Peregrine Falcons Find a Home at the Medical Campus

August 18th, 2015 in Uncategorized

A family of peregrine falcons have made a nest on a window ledge atop the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Building. Photos by Anita DeStefano, PhD, professor of Biostatistics and associate director of the BUMC Genome Science Institute.

A family of peregrine falcons have made a nest on a window ledge atop the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Building. Photos by Anita DeStefano, PhD, professor of Biostatistics and associate director of the BUMC Genome Science Institute.

High above Talbot Green a pair of watchful eyes scopes the concrete canyon below looking for its next prey. This isn’t a scene from Mission Impossible. It’s more like a National Geographic documentary.

Perched on a window ledge atop the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Building, two peregrine falcons have decided to make the BU Medical Campus their home.

COM Falcon 2

“It’s simply fascinating that such beautiful wildlife can exist in this urban area,” said Anita DeStefano, PhD, professor of Biostatistics and associate director of the BUMC Genome Science Institute.

DeStefano noticed the male and female falcons in late spring and began taking pictures of the birds from the rooftop of the medical campus parking garage. In early summer, she observed two falcon chicks in addition to the adults. After reading a recent article on BU Today about another pair of falcons on the Charles River campus, DeStefano contacted Ursula and Dave Goodine, certified volunteer observers for Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

That evening, DeStefano met with the Goodines to point out the nest site and to observe the adults with one of their fledglings.

According to Ursula Goodine, peregrine falcons are the fastest flying birds in the world – reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour during a dive. They feed on pigeons and other small birds.

In 1964 nesting pairs of Peregrines were extinct in the eastern United States, but over time, conservation success was responsible for changing them from “endangered” to “protected” status. There are now more than 30 nesting pairs in Massachusetts.

Contrary to popular belief, peregrine falcons do not build a nest. They lay their eggs on cliffs.

“As the falcon population increased, some birds looked for other territories and began using tall buildings instead of the natural landscape of cliffs and quarry ledges to raise their young,” said Goodine. “This just reveals how adaptable peregrines have become in order to perpetuate their species.”

In an effort to help facilitate a safer environment for the birds, experts from the MassWildlife Natural Heritage and Endangered Species program have set up simple wooden “nest-boxes” lined with gravel in several locations throughout the city.

The Goodines now are working on a plan to have one installed on the BU Medical Campus this fall to give the birds time to acclimate to its presence. They hope the pair of falcons will use it next spring.

“Reintroduction programs have helped Peregrines make an amazing recovery,” said Goodine. “While city living poses all kinds of dangers to these birds, they are resilient and their population has rebounded quite well.”

 

Grant Preparation Workshops Begin Sept. 17

August 17th, 2015 in Uncategorized

BU Medical Campus Investigators, graduate students and faculty members are invited to a grant preparation workshop on Thursday, Sept. 17 to learn more about the process of submitting individual research grants (R01) to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This workshop,  which will be held on the BU Medical Campus, will include presentation by Sarah Yeboah of the Office of Sponsored Programs and Renna Lilly of the Office of Proposal Development and will cover the necessary steps to submit a NIH proposal through Boston University’s Office of Sponsored Programs. Dr. Carter Cornwall will discuss the NIH study section review and a general structure to follow when writing your grant.

Grant Preparation Workshop – Administrative Presentation

  • Thursday, Sept. 17
  • 2-4 p.m.
  • BUSM Housman Building, R-115

The second part of this series includes a small group session, where investigators will present drafts of their actual grant applications for feedback from peers and faculty who have successfully been awarded grants and served on NIH study sections. This session will be especially helpful to those who plan to submit NIH grants for the February/March submission cycle.

Grant Preparation Workshop -Grant Critiques

  • Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 9 and 10
  • Location and time to be determined

Interested investigators, graduate students and faculty members are invited to attend the Sept. 17 session. For a more thorough critique of your grant in December, you must attend this first session. You are not obligated to participate in the critique if you attend the administrative portion.

If you have any questions, please contact Renna Lilly, Office of Proposal Development, at rolilly@bu.edu.

BU Clinical and Translational Science Institute Renewed

August 14th, 2015 in Announcements, Featured, Research

Boston University’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute, directed by David Center, MD has received a four-year, $23,487,980 renewal from the National Institutes of Health.

David Felson, MD leads the section to train the next generation of translational scientists and George O’Connor, MD directs the clinical resources, which will facilitate the testing and translation of discoveries between bedside and bench for Boston University researchers.

The BU CTSI is part of the National Center for Advancing Translational Science Network of 60 University-based translational hubs.

Student Behavioral Health Services Available on Medical Campus

August 6th, 2015 in Featured

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 2, behavioral medicine services for students will be available on the Medical Campus. All full-time students are eligible for care, regardless of health insurance. Part-time students who have the Aetna Student Health insurance also are eligible.

The clinic will be located in the Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Building, 85 E. Newton St., Suite 816. Initially, it will be staffed two days per week – Mondays from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Wednesdays 9 a.m.-5 p.m. – by clinicians not affiliated with the Medical Campus. Hours will increase with demand. The location was chosen specifically to be mindful of maintaining student privacy and confidentiality.

The following services will be available:

  • Evaluation
  • Consultation
  • Short-term treatment (both medication management and psychotherapy)
  • 24-hour coverage for psychiatric emergencies

When longer-term treatment is indicated, students will be referred to a provider in the community.  Student Health Services is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of all patient health information in accordance with all applicable federal and state laws. To make an appointment, please call 617-353-3569 and request an appointment at the BUMC clinic.

New Campus Faculty Development Appointments Announced

July 30th, 2015 in Announcements, Featured

Emelia Benjamin

Emelia Benjamin

Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, FACC, FAHA, professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at BUSM and BUSPH, and a clinical cardiologist at BMC, has been appointed BUMC Assistant Provost for Faculty Development and Robina M. Bhasin, EdM, also has been appointed BUMC Director of Faculty Development.

Benjamin is deeply engaged in the professional development of health care professionals and has a fundamental commitment to mentoring majority and underrepresented minority early-career, mid-career and established investigators in epidemiology, genetic epidemiology and academic medicine. She has co-developed and led faculty development efforts on the Medical Campus with her colleagues at GSDM, BUSPH and BUSM over the last five years, and also led an ACE/Sloan Foundation on Faculty Flexibility, which focused on mid-career faculty development.

Benjamin is co-PI of the Framingham Heart Study core contract, and PI or Multi-PI of ~10 RO1s since 1998, including a current MPI grant on the genetics of atrial fibrillation. She has published more than 400 original research articles and is listed on the Thomson Reuters List of Highly Cited Researchers (top 1%) in medicine.

She also is the recipient of multiple honors, including the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Paul Dudley White Award, AHA Women in Cardiology Mentoring Award, AHA Functional Genomics and Translational Biology Mentoring Awards, and Department of Medicine mentoring and inpatient teaching awards.

Robina Bhasin

Robina Bhasin

Robina M. Bhasin, EdM, our new director of Faculty Development, came to BUSM in 2013 as the director of Faculty Development and Diversity for the Department of Medicine. She has more than 12 years of experience in the creation, implementation and evaluation of domestic and international professional development programs for health practitioners and educators.

“Together they will continue to focus on improving the breadth of professional development and mentoring programs for our Medical Campus faculty,” said Karen Antman, MD, Provost, BU Medical Campus, and Dean, BUSM.

10th Annual McCahan Day Draws 100+

July 9th, 2015 in Uncategorized

placeholder.

BUMC Medical Education Day presentations

More than 100 faculty, staff, residents and students attended John McCahan Medical Education Day at the BU Medical Campus. Hosted by the Department of Medical Sciences and Education, it was held on May 20.  This was the 10th anniversary of the annual event that showcases academic innovation and teaching ideologies. The theme of the day was “Teaching Professional Competencies,” and it covered a variety of topics relating to how educators can improve and reevaluate teaching models.

The day-long event included five workshops and a poster session displaying nearly 50 abstracts. The keynote address “Changing Culture: Upending Our Notions of Professionalism,” was given by Jo Shapiro, MD, FACS, associate professor of Otolaryngology at Harvard Medical School. She shared her particular interest in professionalism and peer support programs.

Placeholder poster session

Placeholder poster session

Dr. McCahan attended and remarked on the history of this event and was honored for his outstanding commitment to medical education. In addition, past chairs of the planning committee, Drs. Sharon Levine (BUSM), Ann Zumwalt (BUSM) and Robert Schadt (SPH), were honored for their dedication to this event.

Please visit the McCahan Day website here to view Dr. Shapiro’s presentation.

Young Investigators Gather for Inaugural Genetic Epidemiology and Functional Genomics Workshop

July 9th, 2015 in Featured, Research

placeholder

placeholder Young investigators from nine states and five countries gathered on the Medical Campus for inaugural Genetic Epidemiology and Functional Genomic workshop.

Thirty-five young investigators gathered on the BU Medical Campus for the inaugural Genetic Epidemiology and Functional Genomics Workshop held in July. The meeting was hosted by the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), the Center for Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research and Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology at BU School of Medicine (BUSM).

Hailing from nine states and five countries, attendees heard from faculty and staff from the Framingham Heart Study (FHS), BUSM, Harvard Medical School, University of Massachusetts Medical School and others who presented on how they have utilized FHS data to answer career-building questions as well as specific instruction on how to analyze and access the FHS data. The group also attended a series of working lunches led by BUSM’s Emelia J. Benjamin, MD, ScM, on professional development topics.

Program Director Vasan S. Ramachandran, MD, DM, FACC, FAHA, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Chief of the Section of Preventive Medicine & Epidemiology, and Principal Investigator of the FHS, developed the program because of the burgeoning availability of data from cohort studies, including genomic data, and the urgency of training the next generation of translational scientists with a focus on early stage investigators.  “We are excited that we were able to highlight cutting-edge talks on genomic research, career development and grant writing tips, and training to access and analyze Framingham Heart Study data,’” said Ramachandran.

“The meeting was organized as part of a broader series of initiatives to equip faculty and fellows to interrogate large human cohort studies to better understand human disease,” added David L. Coleman, MD, Wade Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine. “In so doing, we hope to expand the capacity of our research community to use the power of extraordinary biomic information in well-phenotyped cohort studies to answer clinically important questions.”

For any inquires or questions about the program, please contact Dr. Ramachandran.

Dan Berlowitz Honored as VA Researcher

June 11th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Dan Berlowitz

Dan Berlowitz

Dan R. Berlowitz, MD, MPH, has been selected as the recipient of the VA’s 2015 Under Secretary’s Award for Outstanding Achievement in Health Services Research,the highest honor for a VA health services researcher. It represents exceptional achievement in improving the health and quality of care of Veterans, inspiring and training the next generation of health services researchers, and enhancing the visibility and recognition of VA research nationally.

Berlowitz, professor of Medicine and Health Policy Management at BUSM and BUSPH, is a leading health services researcher and former Co-Director of HSR&D’s Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research, located in Bedford, Mass., and Boston. From 2004 to 2013, he served as Director of HSR&D’s Center for Health Quality, Outcomes and Economic Research, and since 2012, he has served as Acting Chief of Staff for the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial VA Hospital in Bedford. A former HSR&D Research Career Development Awardee (CDA), Dr. Berlowitz’s research relies on strong methodological expertise in the areas of quality assessment, risk adjustment, and the use of large databases. His work focuses on assessing and improving the quality of healthcare for Veterans, with particular emphasis on ambulatory and long-term care settings.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine-Yeshiva University and his MPH from Boston University.

Could an Ebola Treatment Already Exist?

June 11th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Research led by a NEIDL scientist finds hope in Zoloft, Vascor

Immunologist Gene Olinger, in the attire of his profession, thinks existing drugs for depression and heart disease might be effective against Ebola. Photo courtesy Gene Olinger

Immunologist Gene Olinger, in the attire of his profession, thinks existing drugs for depression and heart disease might be effective against Ebola. Photo courtesy Gene Olinger

What if Zoloft and Vascor—safe prescription drugs that you can pick up at your CVS for depression and heart trouble, respectively—could treat Ebola?

A government study led by a researcher at BU’s National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) suggests that this may be the case. If confirmed effective in humans—a finding that immunologist Gene Olinger says will take several years—doctors might sprint to a treatment well ahead of the standard 15-year, $1 billion-and-up process of developing and marketing a new drug.

When the researchers treated 10 mice infected with Ebola with Vascor (bepridil), customarily used to control blood pressure in heart patients, all the mice survived the often-deadly virus. When they treated 10 mice with the antidepressant Zoloft (sertraline), 7 survived. The next step, Olinger says, will be to test the drugs in guinea pigs and monkeys.

Olinger is associate director for maximum containment training at NEIDL and a School of Medicine adjunct associate professor of infectious diseases. His study’s drug analysis was done at his lab in Maryland, where he works as a contractor with the National Institutes of Health. NEIDL, on the Medical Campus in Boston’s South End, is awaiting approval for Biosafety Level 4 research, which would include on-site, live-virus Ebola studies.

“This is exactly the type of work that the NEIDL was designed to support,” says NEIDL director Ronald Corley, a MED professor. Olinger’s research, like NEIDL’s, he says, aims at “taking our basic understanding of pathogens and translating that information into potential therapies.”

Olinger’s work with viral hemorrhagic fevers (VHF) such as Ebola began a dozen years ago, when he was a civilian employee with the Army. Ebola has killed more than 11,000 Africans in an outbreak that began a year and a half ago alone.

“We started to develop a drug screen using a live virus” that might find effective therapies, Olinger says. Given the time and expense—and failure rate—of developing new drugs, “I was tasked to find a way to do something quickly.” It made sense to screen existing Food and Drug Administration–approved drugs, not just for the time saved, but because “the repurposing approach has been used in infectious diseases before,” he says. He cites two prominent examples: Viagra was originally a heart treatment drug before its effectiveness against erectile dysfunction was discovered, and thalidomide—used for nausea in pregnant women until it was found to cause birth defects—today is “a very good cancer drug.”

Olinger and his team screened 2,600 drugs, representing 90 percent of the FDA-approved pharmaceutical library, he says. Of those screened, 80, ranging from antihistamines to treatments for breast cancer, heart disease, and depression, appeared to have some effectiveness against Ebola. The drugs were put in dishes along with cells infected with the disease, to see if the drugs might block the virus. Those that looked most effective were tested in mice.

Olinger says the effective drugs appear to work by damming up cellular pathways through which Ebola enters. “We do know there are synergistic combinations that are possible,” he says, meaning that an ultimate therapy might involve a cocktail of several drugs, similar to the way HIV is treated.

The findings of Olinger and his team, published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, surprised even him. “I was shocked at the breadth of the type of drugs that had an impact,” he says, such as drugs blocking estrogen receptors in the cells. “Why would a virus need an estrogen receptor?” he says. “I could see years of research just on a basic level just off that one finding.”

Olinger is a codeveloper of ZMapp, an experimental drug that has shown promise against Ebola during the recent African outbreak. He had hoped to go to Africa to help with the outbreak, he says, but was thwarted when the private firm he works for couldn’t get insurance to cover any evacuation costs. Instead, he filled in for colleagues who did go during meetings in Geneva of the World Health Organization.

This BU Today story was written by Rich Barlow. He can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

Translational Research Highlighted During Annual GSDM Research Retreat

May 27th, 2015 in Uncategorized

(l-r) Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska, Dr. Avrum Spira, and Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter

(l-r) Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska, Dr. Avrum Spira, and Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter

Translational research was the theme of the 2015 Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) Research Retreat which took place on April 13th, 2015, in the Hiebert Lounge. Translational research applies findings from basic science to enhance human health. Along with team science, a translational science approach to research is increasingly important in the development of successful research programs which impact public health and well-being. Faculty from GSDM and the Boston University Medical Campus community presented a variety of topics relevant to translational research, and gave an overview of its successful implementation at Boston University.

The morning began with a poster viewing session followed by opening remarks given by Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter and Associate Dean for Research Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska. Dr. Kukuruzinska then introduced the first speaker Associate Provost for Translational Research and Director of the Boston University Clinical and Translational Science Institute Dr. David M. Center. Dr. Center’s talk, “Performance Enhancing Science,” was followed by four presentations given by GSDM faculty who are engaged in ongoing translational research:

  • Professor, Director for the Center of Clinical Research (CCR), and Assistant Dean for Faculty Development Dr. Judith Jones gave a presentation titled “Center for Clinical Research,” which discussed the CCR and how clinical researchers can take advantage of its services.
  • Professor and Chair in the Department of Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopedics Dr. Leslie Will gave a presentation titled “The Use of Salivary Biomarkers in Addressing Problems in Orthodontics.”
  • Professor in the Department of Health Policy & Health Services Research and Director of Behavioral Science Research Dr. Belinda Borrelli presented “Translating Basic Science and Health Behavior Theory to Improve Public Health.”
  • Professor and Chair in the Department of Pediatric Dentistry Athanasios Zavras presented “Pharmacogenetics of Head and Neck Adverse Effects.”

Associate Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Bioinformatics and Chief of the Division of Computational Biomedicine in the Department of Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine Dr. Avrum Spira gave the keynote address for the event. His talk titled, “Translating gene expression signatures into personalized approaches to disease management,” discussed how many clinical problems are best solved with a team science approach. Dr. Spira’s research group discovered a gene expression signature which is being used to develop less invasive clinical procedures for diagnosing lung cancer.

The retreat concluded with closing remarks followed by lunch. Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health Dr. Yvette Cozier won an award for Best Poster, as voted on by attendees. Her project was titled “Self-Reported Oral Health of Middle-Class Black Women in the United States.”

Dr. Maria Kukuruzinska said, “I am very pleased with the quality of the presentations at this year’s Retreat. I feel they truly highlighted the important translational work being conducted within our School and University.”

Photos are available on Facebook and Flickr.

Submitted by GSDM Communications.