Boston University Medical Campus will be open Friday, Feb. 5.
BUSM MD and GMS classes will be held as scheduled, unless notified by course instructor. Medical, PA and GMS students who are assigned to inpatient services or clinics are expected to be present, if possible. Students who are assigned to outpatient services should check with their course director or the policy at the clinical site.
The Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine will follow normal school hours. All Patient Treatment Centers will be open for patient care and all classes will be held as scheduled, unless notified by the Office of Academic Affairs. GSDM students who are on externship should check with the policy at their respective externship site.
BU School of Public Health classes will be held as scheduled, unless notified by course instructor.
Please consider public transportation, if available, for travel to the medical campus to reduce traffic on the roadways. Employees who are part of the BUMC parking program should park in your assigned lot or garage.
MED offshoot now an international leader in research, graduate education
When the School of Public Health launches a yearlong celebration of its 40th anniversary tonight, it will be celebrating one of Boston University’s great success stories. The school has grown from a small department within the School of Medicine to become an international leader in graduate education and research, placing 10th in the most recent U.S. News and World Report rankings.
By all accounts, the appointment of Sandro Galea as dean has been a shot of adrenaline for the SPH graduate study and research programs and interdisciplinary degrees. Over the past 12 months, he has overseen structural and curriculum changes designed to keep pace with a changing world and ensure that SPH continues to graduate students who “are actually the doers in public health,” as Galea, whose long résumé includes a stint in Somalia with Doctors Without Borders, puts it.
In addition to tonight’s kickoff celebration for the SPH community at Boston’s Algonquin Club, the school is marking its anniversary with a symposia series, regional and global receptions around the country, a photo contest, and a gala dinner scheduled for November. The anniversary reflects a story of determination, creativity, and being a major force for change, from environmental threats to patients’ rights.
SPH was established in 1976 as a program within MED’s sociomedical sciences and community medicine department, with an initial class of 54 master of public health students and 20 nondegree students. Initially the school’s curriculum was practical rather than theoretical, with classes scheduled for only Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evenings, so those with full-time jobs could attend. The first students were almost exclusively health professionals seeking to further their education. At the time, there were only two concentrations: Health Delivery Systems and Health Research and Evaluation.
“At first, the people we attracted were nurses, doctors, hospital administrators, and people who worked in public health,” says Leonard Glantz (CAS’70, LAW’73), an SPH professor emeritus of health law, bioethics, and human rights. “And most people in public health were not trained in public health; they were trained in sociology or political science or nursing.”
At the start “it was like a mom and pop operation,” recalls Theodore Colton, chair of the epidemiology and biostatistics department from 1980 to 1999. Trained at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Colton arrived at BU just as the school was preparing for its first accreditation visit. He says the founding dean, Norman A. Scotch (CAS’51, GRS’52), was “a great gambler in terms of the idea of a school of public health.” Scotch had previously been head of MED’s sociomedical sciences program and is credited with guiding SPH through the accreditation process at a time when Boston’s only graduate school of public health was at Harvard. Today, the school bestows an annual teaching award in his name to an SPH faculty member who has made an “outstanding and sustained contribution to the education program.” Scotch died in 2014, at age 86.
SPH’s first graduating class, in 1979, was a small group of 46 master’s students, all part-time. Last year, the school awarded 1,078 degrees to students from 43 countries (the first international student was accepted in 1981), with master’s or doctoral degrees in epidemiology (the school’s first PhD program, started by Colton), biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, and health policy and management and master’s programs in global health, health law, bioethics, and human rights, maternal and child health, and social and behavioral sciences. The school also offers a PhD program in leadership, management, and policy, as well as dual degrees with other schools: MED, the School of Law, the School of Social Work, the College of Arts & Sciences, the Questrom School of Business, and Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences.
Informing drunk-driving laws, patients’ rights, legal health proxies
Much of that growth is attributed to Robert Meenan (MED’72, Questrom’89), who served as dean for 21 years, stepping down in 2014. Under Meenan’s watch, the school expanded dramatically. He guided SPH’s move from MED to its current home in the Talbot Building, overseeing the renovation of the historic former hospital to house the school. “It was the first time all the SPH faculty were together in one building,” says Glantz.
As well, Meenan instituted a practicum requirement for master’s students. “Meenan was very businesslike,” says George Annas, a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor, an SPH professor of health law, policy, and management, a MED professor, and a LAW professor, “but he always remembered that we’re an academic institution.”
SPH earned full accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health in 1983, and graduated its first doctoral candidate in 1985. Today, as it continues to send public health professionals into the field, SPH is a research leader at the forefront of major studies, including the sweeping, historic Framingham Heart Study, the Black Women’s Health Study, and the New England Centenarian Study, as well as important studies on gun violence, and recently, on e-cigarettes. Faculty in six departments—biostatistics, community health sciences, environmental health, epidemiology, global health, and health law, policy and management—conduct research that contributes to public health policies around the world.
Those who associate the public health field only with preventing communicable diseases might be surprised to learn that it was SPH research that informed the nation’s drunk-driving laws and led to the institution of patients’ rights and the establishment of legal health proxies. As a profile in the January 2016 edition of the venerable medical journal The Lancet notes, “BU SPH brought attention to physical disability as a public health problem, contributed to the understanding of the effects of environmental toxins in conditions such as Gulf War syndrome, and was the catalyst for international reconsideration of the value and ethics of placebo-controlled trials.”
“For all of the school’s growth over the last four decades, I think what’s been remarkable is our ability to stay true to our core mission: producing top-tier scholarship that maintains a deep commitment to improving the health of populations, particularly vulnerable populations, locally and globally,” says Galea, who succeeded Meenan as dean. “We will continue to reshape our research and curriculum to meet new challenges, but we’ll never abandon an approach rooted in real-world education and practice. That’s what has distinguished us in the past, and that’s what will allow us to continue to grow.”
Annas, who, like Glantz, has a law degree, notes that at the time SPH was evolving, there was “an outbreak of hospital regulations, and the sense that there were people who needed to know about these things, none of which were taught in medical school.” In defining its mission, SPH had to “not be like Harvard; that was easy,” says Annas. “Harvard was a great international school of public health, but not one focused on local public health.”
“Our students tend to be idealistic, and they come to a place that supports their idealism, a place where they have role models and support systems,” says David Ozonoff, an SPH professor and chair emeritus of environmental health, who headed the department from 1977 until 2003 and directed SPH’s Superfund Research Program for 20 years.
Choosing to work in the trenches rather than climb the corporate ladder
A look at SPH’s earliest catalogues, which Colton has stashed in his office, show him along with Glantz, Annas, and Ozonoff as scruffy young academics with long hair and beards. “I went to medical school in the ’60s, when public health was a very low-status specialty,” says Ozonoff. “If you said you were going into public health, it meant you’d be in the South Bronx reading TB screens for the rest of your life.” But like so many of his peers at that time, Ozonoff was an anti-war and civil rights activist (he organized a group of physician draft resisters), and public health spoke to his values. SPH beckoned to students and faculty who were eager to work in the trenches rather than climb the corporate ladder.
Ozonoff was invited by Scotch to launch the environmental health program, and his first task was to establish a basic curriculum. “There was no department; it was called a section, and I taught everything. I also wanted to do research, so the question was, what’s going to be the nature of this department,” Ozonoff says. “The occupational part of this thing was closed off, because there was Harvard, which had very good occupational health program, and you don’t get in the same niche with a giant. What they weren’t doing was environmental and community stuff, so I said that we’re going to concentrate on working with communities that have their air and water contaminated by big business. That suited my politics perfectly. And we were the only ones doing that.”
It turned out, he says, that “there were a lot of top-notch, smart young people who wanted to do this, too, and could have gone anywhere, but they came to us because we had something the other places didn’t—the opportunity to make their life and their politics whole.”
The SPH website describes the school’s mission thus: “to improve the health of populations locally, nationally, and internationally, with a special focus on the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable.” Through education and research, the school seeks to make a needed difference in the real world.
Today, the school is on the cusp of the “next leap forward,” says Glantz. “We have a new dean who’s a real public health visionary.” Galea, who has already effected change on many levels, has been commended by colleagues like Glantz and Annas for his decision to combine two departments last September—health law, bioethics, and human rights and health policy and management—to create the health law, policy, and management department. The new department, Galea says, will be at “the forefront of the global scholarly conversation about the role of laws, policies, and health systems in shaping the health of the public.”
“He believes in the social determinants of health,” Glantz says. “And that poverty matters,” adds Annas. And SPH continues to attract students who share these concerns. “What we’re most proud of is what our students do,” Glantz says. “We have graduates in state government, city government, federal government, and all over the world doing all sorts of important and interesting work. People don’t come to SPH in order to become rich or famous. They are people who are dedicated to communities, and we give them the skills to be effective.”
From Ozonoff: “It’s not a school for prima donnas.”
This BU Today story was written by Susan Seligson, Senior Writer for BU Today and Bostonia.
SPH professor concerned about virus, but also “prepared to be alarmed”
On February 1, 2016, Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared Zika virus “a public health emergency of international concern.” Chan’s statement said the 2016 outbreak is an “extraordinary event” and a public health threat to the world.
For decades the virus, transmitted by the Aedes mosquito, affected mostly monkeys in equatorial Africa and Asia. In humans, Zika occasionally caused a mild, flu-like illness. A story in today’s New York Times also reported a case discovered in Texas earlier this week of Zika virus infection transmitted by sex, raising new concerns about how the virus is spread.
Then something changed. In 2007, Zika started popping up in the Pacific islands, and in 2015, scientists detected the virus in the Americas, where it is now “spreading explosively,” according to WHO. Most alarming, says Chan, is the possible connection between Zika and microcephaly—babies born with small heads and neurological deficits—and also Zika’s possible link to other neurological syndromes like Guillain-Barré.
BU Today spoke to Donald Thea, a School of Public Health professor of global health and director of the Center for Global Health & Development, about Zika, asking what we know and what we still need to learn.
BU Today: This virus was discovered in 1947, but only recently has it become an international concern. When did you realize that it might be something bigger or different?
Thea: It was the reports of microcephaly that were coming out of northeast Brazil that concerned everybody. Our Brazilian colleagues noticed that there was a sharp increase in that area. And because it seemed to be concurrent with the outbreak of this virus, they put two and two together and assumed that there was a connection. However, a firm epidemiologic connection is yet to be established.
That was in October 2015?
Yes. Preceding that, there had been reports of increases in microcephaly in an outbreak that occurred in French Polynesia in 2013. And that was the first place that in retrospect we saw this disease begin to emerge. Prior to that, there had never really been any reports of microcephaly or Guillain-Barré syndrome that I’m aware of.
The microcephaly numbers in Brazil are really high.
I think we have to be a little bit careful about those numbers. The latest numbers seem to indicate that there are about 4,000 cases of microcephaly reported from Brazil. But microcephaly is a syndrome; it’s not a disease, and there are variations in how you define it. It is characterized by a small cranium, a small brain, and poor brain growth. Now, there’s normal variation in head size. So people have gone back and reassessed the first 700 cases out of the 4,000. And they have declassified as microcephaly or found other causes for about 400 of those cases. Those numbers are approximate, but it’s really quite interesting. In Brazil, they’re beginning to question the numbers. A 26-fold increase in microcephaly in one year seems to be very, very high. And the term that they’ve used is “almost not credible.”
Still, it appears that there’s a big increase in microcephaly. Is there something else that might be causing it?
So that’s part of what we have to be careful about. Microcephaly is quite a rare condition, but we do know that there are a number of other infections that cause it. Making the diagnosis of Zika can be tricky, also. It’s not particularly easy to do. You get infected, you become symptomatic, you have virus in your blood, and that virus in your blood lasts for about a week, during which time you can diagnose it with laboratory tests. But because this virus is of the same family as dengue, chikungunya, West Nile, there are cross-reactions.
What’s a cross-reaction?
When you’re infected with a virus, your body mounts an antibody response to that virus. Say you had dengue in the past, and I give you a Zika test—your Zika test may be a false positive, because your body still carries antibodies to dengue that caused the Zika test to be positive. So we have to be very careful about the tests that we use, when we use them, and how we apply them to populations. This is garden-variety disease outbreak surveillance, but it has to be done properly for us to get a really sound idea of what is the actual incidence of Zika in the population.
Is the WHO response excessive, since we know so little? Is it a result of the widespread criticism of its slow response to Ebola?
I think our experience with Ebola was very sobering. And if, in fact, this relationship between Zika virus infection and microcephaly exists, these are potentially devastating effects on children, on the next generation. And if there is widespread transmission, affecting newborn children, it’s obviously a very, very serious problem and a deeply emotional problem. But as George Annas’, Sandro Galea’s, and my opinion piece in the Boston Globe indicates, we do think that the WHO may have acted prematurely in calling this an international public health emergency.
What other central nervous system problems might be connected to Zika?
There appears to be evidence of central nervous system calcification on ultrasounds of some of the children. There also appears to be diminished natural brain formations. Gyri and sulci are the normal curves and indentations in the brain, and they seem to be different or less in some of these children. But again, we are absolutely at the very beginning of investigating this disease and its effects and cannot yet conclude that these changes are due to infection with Zika.
The vast majority of people who get Zika are asymptomatic, which is also a little bit worrisome. Of people who get infected, 80percent have no symptoms; 20 percent have the typical syndrome, which is very, very mild. And prior to some of the reports of Guillain-Barré, which need to be confirmed, it’s essentially a very benign illness, not typically requiring hospitalization. So these more profound effects are obviously very worrying.
And those other central nervous system effects have not been verified?
Is Zika spread only through mosquitoes? I’ve heard rumors of one case spread through sex.
Yes. There was a researcher in Senegal, and he came back to the United States and apparently infected his wife, who had never left the country.
So what do we do about single isolated reports like that?
I think that probably they fall into the category of “biological curiosity.” And even if we did find it in semen, the timing of transmission is probably relatively short. And therefore sustaining an epidemic through sexual transmission in a population would be nowhere near being akin to HIV. But then again, as we’ve seen with Ebola, Zika also could also be sheltered in the testes and remain in the semen for some time.
So right now the mosquitoes are the big worry?
Yes, Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus.
Aedes aegypti is the worst mosquito ever. It spreads everything, doesn’t it?
Well, for sheer devastation, Anopheles, which carries malaria, is worse. But Aedes is a particularly difficult mosquito because unlike Anopheles, which breeds in clean water, Aedes seems to have an affinity for dirty water. So it tends to breed in small pools of dirty water like you would find in tires in the backyard during the rainy season, or plates, or pots, of any kind. And so urban transmission is more prevalent with diseases of Aedes than is rural transmission.
What measures are being taken now to prevent transmission ? Are people just spraying for the mosquitoes? Are they spraying DEET all over themselves? A pregnant woman can’t spray DEET on herself, can she?
Well, you may have to. Brazil has mobilized 220,000 army recruits who are fanning out over, I think, the urban and peri-urban area of Rio, where the 2016 Olympics are going to be, spraying with insecticides to try to bring the mosquitoes under control. But basically, we have no vaccine; we have no treatment. The only thing we can do to protect ourselves is to wear protective clothing or apply insect repellent, or remove ourselves from areas where the mosquito tends to be active—go behind screen doors, in air-conditioned rooms.
This sounds like a real problem for pregnant women in Brazil.
Potentially it is. And the recommendation by the authorities there to simply not get pregnant is very problematic, because there are all sorts of issues related to the availability of family planning services. Birth control pills and other products can be difficult to obtain, even if you have a highly motivated population.
How is the virus spreading to other countries? Are the mosquitoes piggybacking on people and getting on airplanes?
No, the more important factor is the transfer of the reservoir of the virus. So people who have the virus in their bloodstream travel to an area that does not have Zika, get bit by a mosquito, and then it goes on to bite other people. That is how it starts out.
Do we have these mosquitoes in Boston?
We really don’t have Aedes aegypti in Boston. We certainly don’t have it during the winter, during the fall, during the early spring. However, we do have Aedes albopictus, which is also known as the Asian tiger mosquito. It’s much hardier than Aedes aegypti and has been able to sustain colder temperatures.
It seems like every day, the world map has bigger splotches of Zika on it.
But we have to be really careful, because that could be an artifact in the same way that the microcephaly could be an artifact. It may well be that there had been lots of Zika in these areas, we just never looked for it. It’s not a common test. It’s not a highly available test. It’s a disease presentation that mimics others, looks like dengue, looks like chikungunya. So it may well be that there’s lots of Zika out there that we just never knew about.
So you’re saying a lot of research needs to happen really quickly. How?
Funds need to be mobilized, and national and international bodies like the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization really need to step up and convene expert panels so we can get the best and most current information available on the table for everybody to see. We need to get the best minds together to plan out in a structured and rational way how to study this disease.
Do you see that starting to happen?
Yes. I mean, the health system and the public health research community in South and Central America are quite sophisticated, and there’s obviously a lot of concern. They’re beginning to do some of these epidemiologic studies. There’s a Phase 1 candidate vaccine that hopefully will be tested sometime during this calendar year. So there’s a lot of effort and energy being mobilized. But we will need more.
We touched on Ebola and you said that situation was sobering. But are there things that happened there, lessons learned, that might be applied now?
I think one of the lessons that we learned in West Africa was that it’s important to react quickly. And I think one of the other lessons that we learned is that it’s really important to have global surveillance, and it’s really important to build local capacity to do the kind of surveillance you need to get the earliest warning of these disease outbreaks.
Some experts are saying they’re concerned about Zika, but the WHO’s Chan says it’s alarming. Are you concerned or alarmed?
I’m concerned, but prepared to be alarmed. I’m prepared to be alarmed when there’s new data.
What would be the step down from concerned? Do you think it’s going to drop to “relaxed”?
I don’t think so. When it comes to the kinds of effects that may be linked to this, I don’t think anybody’s ever going to feel relaxed, unless we show conclusively that these devastating effects are not due to Zika. But we should never relax regarding the global nature of infectious diseases. There’s always a new one just around the corner.
BU Medical Campus students, faculty and staff are invited to join the Department of Public Safety and their partners from the Boston University Police and Boston Police departments at a town meeting. Learn about the collaborative work being performed by our public safety, police and emergency preparedness representatives.
There will be a panel discussion moderated by Connie Packard, the Executive Director of Support Services, and plenty of time for you to ask questions and give feedback regarding safety and security in and around the medical campus neighborhood. Your BU ID will be required to attend. There will be handouts with valuable information provided at the end of the session.
- Wednesday, Jan. 27
- 3:30-5 p.m.
- Keefer Auditorium
Advancing Public Health Science for Global Health: A Health Research Funder’s Perspective
Tuesday, Jan. 26
BUSM Instructional Building, Hiebert Lounge
Live-Streaming Available During Event
Alain Beaudet, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)
Alain Beaudet, MD, PhD. is the President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) since July 2008. Previously, he was the President and CEO of the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ).
Among his many accomplishments, Beaudet was associate director (research) at the Montreal Neurological Institute (MNI). He was also Professor at McGill University’s Neurology-Neurosurgery and Anatomy-Cell Biology departments. He has authored over 175 original articles and 40 monographs and book chapters.
Beaudet has received numerous distinctions and awards, including two honoris causa doctorate degrees. He is a member of the National Order of Quebec and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
Beaudet earned a medical degree and a PhD in neuroscience from the Université de Montréal. He completed his postdoctoral training in France and Switzerland. His career as a neuroscientist spanned from Neuroendocrinology to Pain, with a focus of the mechanisms of action of biogenic amines and neuropeptides in the brain.
BUMC researchers are invited to the grand opening of the BUMC Supply Center, a new onsite provider of Thermo Fisher Scientific products for research needs. The Center, located in the BUSM Instructional Building in room L901, will stock frequently used products with 24/7 accessibility and prices may be discounted because there will not be a charge for freight.
There will be an open house on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 11 a.m.-12:50 p.m., in room L112 in the BUSM Instructional Building with door prizes and refreshments. In addition, researchers will have an opportunity to learn more about the new Center and how it will work, and may register to use the Center. Questions? Contact Brian Dangel, Brian.firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-583-2502
Feb. 3 BUMC Supply Center Open House
Wednesday, Feb. 3
11 a.m.-12:50 p.m.
BUSM Instructional Building, L112
As part of the celebration of the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday, members of the medical campus community gathered in the Hiebert Lounge on Wednesday, Jan. 20, in the afternoon to hear UMass Boston Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Winston E. Langley, discuss the similarities of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national poet of Bangladesh and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Langley is the author of “Kazi Nazrul Islam: The Voice of Poetry and the Struggle for Human Wholeness,” and is considered the first Western scholar to study Nazrul.
“Considering that Islamic affairs are such a burning topic in today’s political discourse and that Nazrul Islam was a Muslim who spoke powerfully against fascism, oppression, discrimination and religious fanaticism, we asked Professor Langley to enlighten us about the poet’s contributions, in the context of Martin Luther King’s legacy. This is an intellectual challenge that only a scholar of Professor Langley’s stature could handle,” explained Rafael Ortega, MD, professor of anesthesiology and vice-chairman for academic affairs in the department of anesthesiology at BUSM as well as associate dean Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs.
In an impassioned voice, Langley compared the two men, who despite their obvious differences (race, religion, etc.) shared similarities as moral leaders and activists of their generation. Both understood that belonging to or identifying with one particular group invariably meant the exclusion of others and was the basis for among other things intolerance, injustice, bigotry, humiliation and could possibly lead to torture and murder. He cited as examples, the refugees crisis in Europe, the rise of Boko Haran and ISIS, the Charleston church shooting as well as the recent terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
The event was sponsored by BUSM’s Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs in collaboration with the BMC Events Committee, Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine Office of Diversity, BU School of Public Health and the BMC Minority Recruitment Program.
Medical Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Nazi Doctors, Racial Hygiene, Murder and Genocide
Students, faculty and staff are invited to
“Medical Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Nazi Doctors, Racial Hygiene, Murder and Genocide”
Wednesday, Jan. 20
BUSM Instructional Building, L109 A/B
This talk is being given in memory of Robert Berger, MD, BUSM ’56, Distinguished Alumni Award recipient 1982, former Chief of Cardiac Surgery at BUSM and Director of Cardiovascular Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Berger was a holocaust survivor who analyzed the science behind the hypothermia experiments that took place in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. His paper, which was published in the May 1990 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, found that the methods used by Nazi researchers were unsound, their approach erratic, the resulting reports “riddled with inconsistencies.” Dr. Berger found evidence of data falsification and suggestions of fabrication.
Michael A. Grodin, MD
Professor of Psychiatry; Family Medicine; Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights, Boston University
Co-director, Joint Project in Jewish Legal Bioethics of the Institute of Jewish Law
Professor, Jewish Studies, Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies
Director, Project on Ethics and the Holocaust
An internationally recognized expert on the Holocaust, Grodin received a special citation from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in recognition of his “profound contributions – through original and creative research – to the cause of Holocaust education and remembrance.” Grodin was the 2000 Julius Silberger Scholar studying Holocaust Survivors and was granted the 2014 Kravitz Humanitarian award of the Psychoanalytic Institute. He has delivered more than 400 invited national and international addresses, written more than 200 scholarly papers, and edited or co-edited seven books including ” Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code: Human Rights in Human Experimentation” and “Jewish Medical Resistance in the Holocaust.” He has just completed a first draft of a new book “Jewish Spiritual Resistance in the Ghettos During the Holocaust.”
This presentation is sponsored by three student groups: the Maimonides Society, the BUSM Student Historical Society and the Student Internal Medicine Group.
More than 50 BUMC faculty, course and program directors gathered Dec. 21-22 in Hiebert Lounge to take part in the two-day joint faculty development program, “Critical Thinking Strategies for Health Professionals.” Led by Gerald Nosich, PhD, a noted authority on the subject, the workshop was designed to help teaching professionals engage their students in critical thinking within the discipline or subject matter they are studying.
“If you’ve been teaching a course three or four times and you get into a rut, these workshops help you think more creatively and critically in a variety of ways,” said Lance Laird, M. Div, Th.D, assistant director of the Master of Science Program in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practice in Graduate Medical Sciences. “It’s a great way to review and revaluate how you are teaching and drawing your students into the course.”
Researchers from Boston University, the Cleveland Clinic, Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, have been awarded a $16 million* grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH/NINDS). This seven-year, multi-center grant will be used to create methods for detecting and diagnosing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) during life as well as examining risk factors for CTE.
CTE is a degenerative brain disease characterized by changes in behavior, mood and cognition, including the development of dementia. Currently it can only be diagnosed post-mortem through examination of an abnormal form of tau protein. CTE has been found most often in professional contact sport athletes (e.g., boxers, football players) who have been subjected to repetitive blows to the head resulting in symptomatic concussive and asymptomatic subconcussive trauma. Neuropathologically-confirmed CTE has been reported in individuals as young as 17 and in athletes who only played sports through high school or college. It also has been found in non-athletes who experienced repetitive head impacts, including military service members.
According to the researchers, although the neuropathological features of CTE have become further clarified in recent years, the clinical presentation of CTE is still not well characterized and there remains no method to diagnose it before death. “There are so many critical unanswered questions about CTE. We are optimistic that this project will lead to many of these answers, by developing accurate methods of detecting and diagnosing CTE during life, and by examining genetic and other risk factors for this disease,” explained lead principal investigator, Robert Stern, PhD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery, and anatomy & neurobiology at Boston University School of Medicine, where he is Clinical Core director of the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease and CTE Center.
Through this grant, NINDS is funding a longitudinal study of former NFL players, former college football players and a control group of individuals without any history of contact sports or brain injury. Participants will be examined at one of four centers across the country, including Boston University School of Medicine; Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas; Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and NYU Langone Medical Center, New York City.
Participants in the study will undergo extensive clinical examinations, as well as state-of-the art PET scans, advanced MRI scans, experimental blood tests and other potential methods of detecting changes in the brain associated with CTE. Researchers also will refine and validate specific criteria for clinical diagnosis of the disease and will investigate genetic and head impact exposure risk factors for CTE in order to begin to determine why some people are more prone to get CTE than others. Project data will be shared with researchers across the country and abroad to facilitate a more complete understanding of this disease, ultimately leading to successful methods of preventing and treating CTE.
The other principal investigators are Jeffrey Cummings, MD, ScD, (director, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas and Cleveland; the Camille and Larry Ruvo Chair of the Neurological Institute of Cleveland Clinic; and professor of medicine, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University); Eric Reiman, MD (executive director of the Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, Phoenix) and Martha Shenton, PhD (director, Psychiatry Neuroimaging Laboratory and senior scientist, Brigham and Women’s Hospital; professor of psychiatry and radiology, Harvard Medical School). The project involves a group of approximately 50 investigators, representing 17 research institutions.
“There is an urgent need to clarify the clinical and biological consequences of repetitive head impacts in athletics and to use this information to find the best ways to treat and prevent those consequences,” said Reiman. “It is both a great privilege and responsibility to help in that endeavor.”
“This research is an exciting and important opportunity to acquire new information about the potential devastating consequences of repetitive head impact including CTE,” said Shenton. “We hope that by gaining this knowledge, new avenues of treatment will emerge for those who experience debilitating symptoms from repetitive brain trauma.”
“We currently have no method to diagnosis CTE during life and it is crucial to take the next steps to better understand this disease,” said Cummings. “This grant will allow us to take what we know about CTE and move to the next level of research, with the end goal of diagnosing these athletes at early stages of the illness when treatments may help prevent the progression of the disease.”
*Editor’s Note: NIH/NINDS Grant No. U01NS093334; the exact amount of the award is $15,859,906