Category: Uncategorized

The Power of Scholarships

October 2nd, 2015 in Uncategorized

Gratitude, excitement and anticipation – these three words describe the 2015 BUSM Scholarship Dinner on Thursday, Sept. 24.

In a candle-lit room at the Hotel Commonwealth in Boston, 18 medical students gathered together to meet – for the first time – their scholarship donors.

Dean Antman with students Adam Johnson (Class of 2017) and Karanda Bowman (Class of 2016)

Dean Antman with students Adam Johnson (Class of 2017) and Karanda Bowman (Class of 2016)

“Today is really important,” said Nick Smith, BUSM Class of 2016. “Getting to meet the face behind who’s doing this for me – it’s really special.”

To his surprise, Smith’s donor was Aram Chobanian, MD, President Emeritus, Boston University and Dean Emeritus of the School of Medicine.

“It’s terrific,” said Smith. “The weight that I’ll have in terms of debt going forward is that much less. Every little bit counts.”

Thanks to scholarships established by generous donors, every year students who otherwise could not afford a BUSM education can pursue their dream of becoming a physician.

According to Emir Morais, co-interim director of BUSM’s Student Financial Services, the cost of medical education presents a high barrier for many applicants – and a significant burden for many graduates. In fact, the Association of American Medical Colleges reports that 79 percent of medical students have debt of $100,000 or more after medical school.

“Scholarships help relieve some of the financial burden put on these students during and after their medical education,” said Morais. “These funds support their education and their intellectual, professional and personal development. It gives them the opportunity to attend a medical school that fits their passions and a chance to choose a field they care about.”

Over dinner and dessert, the students and donors were greeted by Dean Karen Antman, MD, who introduced Karanda Bowman, Class of 2016, and Adam Johnson, Class of 2017. Both students spoke about how their scholarships were a critical component in attending medical school.

“You haven’t just given me a gift,” said Johnson. “You’ve given my family a little more hope that everything really will be alright.”

As the students parted ways with their donors, handshakes and hugs were exchanged. Pleasantries and advice about medical school filled the room. But as this writer will attest, two common, contagious sentiments elevated this event – honor and gratefulness.

“We have to give kids the opportunity to be able to go to medical school without worrying about huge debts,” said Elaine Kirshenbaum, a BU donor since 1983. “It’s an honor to be able to support them.”

View the Facebook album.

Transgender at BU

September 21st, 2015 in Uncategorized

Students find a welcome, but want a few changes

Ray arrived on the BU campus two years ago as a freshman from Texas who identified as female and lesbian. A sociology class that October changed everything.

“Some theorist had talked about how everything we think about in society is a social construct,” Ray (a pseudonym) says. “We were talking about that in direct relation to gender, and there was a moment when I felt, in my brain, like something fell apart. I could feel the fabric of my reality crumbling. It was scariest thing I’d ever felt. I was like, ‘Maybe I’m not a female.’ That thought had never crossed my mind before. It was really shocking to me as an 18-year-old. What am I supposed to do with this information?”

Ray (CAS’17) came to BU in part because it promised a more welcoming environment than that in Texas. “I had never really thought about identifying as transgender while I was growing up or at school, but I think that may have been due to lack of exposure and lack of a comfortable space to explore,” Ray says. “When I came to BU, a lot of things changed for me, perspective-wise.”

So Ray spent much of freshman year grappling with gender identity in “crisis mode,” and on-campus counseling didn’t provide an answer. “People can point you to resources,” Ray says, “but it’s your personal identification that only you can figure out internally.”

These days, Ray identifies as neither male nor female, but somewhere else on the gender spectrum. Like many people in the trans community, Ray rejects the idea of gender as purely binary, and prefers “they” as a singular pronoun, instead of he or she.

Ray found like-minded people to talk to at BU’s student Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism and the Trans* Listening Circle hosted there: “I knew I had peers in that space that I could talk to about what I was feeling. That’s where I went to find support.”

There’s no count of transgender students at the University, and no one interviewed really wants to venture a guess. An unrelated survey on the climate around sexual misconduct taken last March and April found that about one percent of 5,875 student respondents identified as trans, gender queer, or other.

“I will say that, anecdotally, it seems the number of students who are publicly identifying as trans or nonbinary is on the rise,” says Stacy Ulrich, director of the College of Arts & Sciences Student Programs & Leadership and faculty advisor of the Trans* Listening Circle.

Ray is one of three transgender students who agreed to talk to BU Today about their experience at BU, where, they say, the University has done a good bit to support trans people, but still needs to do more.

Clearly this year is a turning point. The transition of Caitlyn Jenner created the biggest media splash, following Orange Is the New Black actress Laverne Cox, who made the cover of Time magazine in 2014 in a story touting “the social movement poised to challenge deeply held cultural beliefs.” The White House recently hired its first openly transgender staffer. And just last night, Jeffrey Tambor won the Emmy award for outstanding lead actor in a comedy series for his role as Maura Pfefferman in the acclaimed Amazon series Transparent.

But not all the news is promising. According to Time, between January and August this year, 15 trans people were murdered, most of them young women of color.

Cameron Partridge, an Episcopal chaplain at BU, came out as a transgender man 14 years ago when he was a doctoral student. He says it’s important to remember that “the Trans Day Remembrance movement started about a mile from BU, with the killing of Rita Hester in 1998.” Hester, whose killer was never found, was stabbed to death in her apartment in Allston. Many in the trans community believe that her murder was a hate crime, and a yearly vigil held in remembrance has grown into the national movement.

Suicide is also a major issue. A study by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Williams Institute found that 41 percent of trans people try to kill themselves at some point in their lives, compared with 4.6 percent of the general public.

Pronouns matter

Discussion of transgender issues has been front and center on many campuses this year. Harvard recently began accepting “they” and other gender-neutral pronouns as part of the registration procedure. Women’s colleges, including Wellesley and Smith, decided after public discussion to accept applications from transgender women.

“It’s such a weird cultural moment. So many people are becoming aware that trans people happen—and we have always happened everywhere,” says Michelle Samuels (GRS’16), a transgender woman who began her transition in earnest a year ago, when she came to BU to pursue a master’s in the Creative Writing Program.

“Society is at this point—and the campus is at this point—where we are trying to get our head around it all,” says Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), BU’s dean of students. “There is a cultural shift that is happening as far as how you engage with transgender people, and how we are all respecting what that means, how we are making sure we respect the dignity and worth of that individual.”

The three BU students have not been openly threatened or harassed, and they say their lives in the BU community are defined, for better or worse, by small moments: an awkward, distressing encounter at the door of a FitRec bathroom, or a helpful faculty member going beyond the call of duty to cut through red tape.

“If my professors didn’t support me, I think the whole thing would have been much harder,” says Jamie Weinand (MED’17), who came out as a transgender man during the last school year. “They made me feel really empowered to be who I am.”

Transgender people and their supporters pay careful attention to the words they use to describe themselves and their journeys, especially names and pronouns: he, she, they.

“For a trans student, that’s who they are,” says Ulrich. “Having others respect you as a person is one of the most important things in life, and you want to feel like you’re respected by the person that’s teaching you in classroom, by your roommate, by your friends, by staff you interact with on a daily basis.”

Samuels, who was hired this month as an assistant editor and social media coordinator in the School of Public Health communications office, says SPH has been wonderful and her overall BU experience positive, including with those in her MFA program.

“I haven’t experienced any kind of classic textbook harassment or meanness or bullying,” says Samuels. “On the other hand, there are the everyday things that really grind you down. Pronouns are a big one, being misgendered by strangers, accidentally misgendered by people who know my pronouns, being called ‘sir’ at the burrito truck.”

Tangling up gender and sexuality

It’s not uncommon for gender and sexuality to get tangled up as young people grapple with their identity. All three students say they’d come out as gay or lesbian to family members and others before they fully understood that what they were struggling with was more about gender than sexuality. Samuels says her feelings of femininity were a source of confusion, given that she was—and is—attracted mainly to women. At first, those feelings seemed to fit certain stereotypes.

So Samuels first came out as a gay man. “Erroneously!” she says, with a big laugh.

Although people increasingly address gender identity in high school and even before, many confront the issue during their college years. “People are solidifying who they are,” says Partridge. “They have a little freedom, space from their home context, so it’s a time of exploration. That’s just true in general.”

Samuels avoided the issue during her relatively happy undergraduate years at Hampshire College. “One of things that kind of scared me when trying to figure this out was that I haven’t known for my entire life,” she says. “I’ve known something was off my entire life, but I think most people feel kind of off most of their lives. I started to bump up against gender role stuff in middle school. I started thinking a lot about the idea of being female-bodied in high school. It’s a thing that has gradually become clearer. But the fact that I didn’t say at age five, ‘I’m a girl,’ doesn’t mean I’m not trans. People come to it differently.”

When she came to BU for grad school, Samuels made a pact with herself to take advantage of the Boston area’s many medical and counseling resources and start working it out. “The more attention I gave to it, the more the excuses and doubts started to look flimsier and flimsier, and the need to transition continued to feel very pressing,” she says.

Talking with a social worker at Student Health Services Behavioral Medicine started to help with her internal conflict, known as gender dysphoria, and she now seeing a therapist at BU’s Danielsen Institute.

“I started at Fenway Health with hormone replacement therapy back in the middle of March,” she says. “I joined a support group in Cambridge of student-age and grad-student-age people. It’s really proven the great place to be doing it that I expected Boston to be, and BU’s doing a pretty good job too.”

In summer 2014, before Weinand came out as trans, one of his School of Medicine professors asked him and another student for help writing a new piece of curriculum for the first-year Introduction to Clinical Medicine course. The professor wanted to offer students some instruction in patient interviewing that took into account gender identity.

“And I thought, wow, you have the initiative to want to include this in your class? That’s wonderful,” Weinand says.

The module they wrote debuted this past spring in the class, taught by Nanette Harvey, a MED assistant professor, and has since became part of the resource library for the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine. Weinand is also the first author on a study published in the Journal of Clinical & Translational Endocrinology that concluded hormone therapy in transgender adults is safe with supervision.

Weinand says faculty and administrators helped make his campus experience after coming out a positive one, especially Karen Symes, MED assistant dean of student affairs, and Douglas Hughes, associate dean of academic affairs. Single-stall, gender-assigned bathrooms on the Medical Campus became gender neutral. Gender-identity and pronoun-selection options were added to the online admissions form. Weinand’s chosen name appeared on paperwork before it was in the directory.

“The Medical Campus has been awesome,” says the upbeat Weinand.

BU can be proud, but more can be done

Some BU policies directly support trans people, and as Ulrich says, “BU should be proud of that.” For example, University health insurance covers hormone therapy and some other aspects of a transition, and BU has a gender neutral housing option, created in part to ensure that LGBT students feel safe in their living situation, although the policy is not specifically crafted for them.

Trans students seeking counseling can find support at Behavioral Medicine, as Samuels did. And Partridge says he is available to anyone who wants to talk informally. He can be reached through Marsh Chapel.

But Ulrich and others believe more can be done to make the University a welcoming place for trans students. This summer, she and a pair of students associated with the Trans* Listening Circle spoke on transgender issues to a meeting of the University administration’s Campus Activities Team—a group whose mission is to develop an environment conducive to learning and personal development for all students.

“The big takeaway here was the extreme deficit in knowledge and programming around LGBT issues at BU,” team chair Raul Fernandez (COM’00), associate director of Student Activities, says. “We need to do more, and we need expert staff members that are specifically assigned to work with this population, and to educate the rest of us on related issues.”

Until now, trans students have had to rely on individual faculty and administration members to step up, and that will change, says Elmore.

“What we’re trying to do with the working group is look at ways that those things can happen systematically,” he says. “This is about a cultural shift in thinking…so it can happen with students saying, ‘Here’s who I am, here’s what I’m about, and this is why I may need a set of circumstances that may not happen very often.’” That will probably include more and better-marked gender-neutral bathrooms and changes in policies or operations concerning how students are identified in college systems, he says.

“I think we were doing a lot of this before some of the national attention that this summer has brought to it,” Elmore says. “The great thing about this summer is that it’s gotten us all thinking a lot about it, and hopefully that does help us to move a bit faster.”

Practical challenges

Students hope that administrative attention will help solve some of the day-to-day problems and bureaucratic glitches that trans students can still face. Ray found it difficult to negotiate a new gender-neutral housing arrangement after a planned roommate didn’t return to school. Samuels, who graduates in January, spent weeks trying to make sure her correct name would appear on her diploma, and ended up prodding the Registrar’s office via email for a quick change.

“They wrote back pretty quickly saying, ‘We do not currently have a policy,’” she says. “They said, ‘We’re working on developing one. But in the meantime, we’re changing names and gender on a one-by-one basis and we’ll put that it right in.’ And they did.”

Samuels is still trying to get a new ID and picture, which also appears in the directory accessible to faculty. In the outdated picture now in use, she has a beard, she says, and seeing it is both strange and painful.

Weinand complains about the lack of a gender neutral restroom in FitRec. “Basically you’re telling me that transgender people who don’t feel comfortable in the assigned gender restrooms can’t work out or have to go work out and feel uncomfortable,” he says. “I’ve certainly done the thing where I use the outside locker and don’t go into the single-sex bathroom, and I just hold it.”

He’s had doors slammed in his face, he says, and has heard more than one nasty comment when he was still using the women’s restroom. He takes a deep breath, his otherwise cheerful demeanor gone for a moment.

“If you are wondering, if you don’t know the gender of someone or what bathroom they’re supposed to use, don’t worry about it, it’s not your issue,” Weinand advises, then smiles again. “I’ve also had people who did the opposite, who found me as a fairly masculine-presenting persona and still held the door for me when I was entering the women’s restroom…whether that person knew it or not, it was a huge ally move.”

The heart of the college experience is the classroom, and the students say that most, but not all, professors are quick to accommodate new names and pronouns.

“It’s hard for students to be empowered by what they’re learning when they’re hampered by not being able to be who they are in the classroom,” says Partridge, who navigated the issue as a grad student. “When they can be who they are, the classroom becomes this launching pad, not in a utilitarian career sense, but in a full-human-being sense.”

Support is welcome, probing questions less so, say Partridge and the trans students. Fellow students who find out that a classmate is trans should ask about pronouns, but not about their old name or what their family thinks. Particularly troubling to trans people are invasive questions about medical transitioning. None of your business, they say.

“For the first time, people are sort of aware that people transition, that people are trans,” says Samuels, “and that means there are a lot of people who react really horribly, and a lot of people who have every good intention don’t know how to go about it, and there are people who go and educate themselves, which is wonderful, and people who expect trans people to educate them—which is exhausting, but better than nothing.”

For many trans people, their story is still in progress, and they may be feeling vulnerable about it, Partridge says. Let them decide what parts of their story to share and with whom. “I think a good rule of thumb is, people’s stories are theirs to tell,” he says.

“Here’s the hard part,” says Elmore. “We can put a lot of systems in place, but there’s still going to be the interaction that students are going to have with each other—in offices, in workplaces, in residences, in classrooms—where you want this higher order thinking about the dignity and worth of a human being. And that’s where it will be awkward, and that’s where it may butt up against some old views that people have had for so long, or people who have been indifferent or haven’t even thought about this issue.”

This BU Today article was written by Joel Brown.

New GSDM Students Gather for 2015 Professional Ceremony

September 15th, 2015 in Featured, Uncategorized

Students seated during the 2015 Professional Ceremony

Students seated during the 2015 Professional Ceremony

Four-year DMD 19 and two-year AS DMD 17 students from Boston University Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM) marked the end of their first week of orientation on Friday, July 31, at one of the most significant events in the educational careers of our dental students, the annual Professional Ceremony.

The students marched into the ceremony grounds, the Talbot Green, and took their seats under a large white tent. Hundreds of friends and family members looked on and cheered as the DMD 19 and AS 17 students participated in the 2015 Professional Ceremony.

Assistant Dean of Students Dr. Joseph Calabrese welcomed the crowd under the packed tent.

Dean Jeffrey W. Hutter as well as Boston University Medical Campus Provost and Boston University School of Medicine Dean Dr. Karen Antman delivered the opening remarks, while student anxiously anticipated receiving their BU pins.

The Keynote Address was delivered by Professor in General Dentistry Dr. Carl McManama. Dr. McManama began his now 39 year dental career at GSDM as a Clinical Instructor in the Department of Operative Dentistry in 1976.  He was later promoted to Clinical Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and Professor. He Chaired the Department of Operative Dentistry from 1986 to 1995.

After Dr. McManama’s speech, Assistant Dean for Admissions and Associate Professor in  Health Policy & Health Services Research Catherine Sarkis took to the podium to present the DMD Class of 2019 and AS Class of 2017 to Dean Hutter.

Five faculty members then stood on the stage to present the pins to the DMD 19 and AS 17 students. The faculty members were: Dr. Calabrese; Dr. Sarkis; Associate Professor in the Department of General Dentistry Dr. Stephen Dulong; Professor in the Department of Periodontology, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Professor in the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology Dr. Cataldo Leone; and Clinical Professor in the Department of General Dentistry and Faculty Liaison for the Advanced Standing Program Dr. Janet Peters.

Each DMD 19 and AS 17 student shook hands with Dean Hutter and Provost Antman before exiting the stage. When each new student had received their pin, the Professional Oath was read.

One paragraph of the Professional Oath reads: “I will conduct myself with the highest ethical and professional behavior in the classroom, the clinic, and in all areas of my life. I will promote the integrity of the profession with honest and respectful relations with other health professionals. I will strive to advance my profession by seeking new knowledge and by reexamining the ideas and practices of the past.”

After Dean Hutter delivered his closing remarks, the students and attendees stayed for a reception under the tent for a reception on the Talbot Green.

“The Professional Ceremony is one of the most important moments in these students’ dental  educations here at GSDM,” said Dean Hutter. “I know that each of the students who received pins today will go on to make me, and everyone else at GSDM, very proud over the next four years.”

Photos from the Professional Ceremony can be found on Facebook and Flickr.

Submitted by GSDM Communications.

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

10th Annual McCahan Day Draws 100+

July 9th, 2015 in Uncategorized


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.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Health Recognizes BUSM for Building Capacity in Hospital Nutrition

June 24th, 2015 in Uncategorized

Lenders-HenryCarine Lenders, MD, MS, ScD, Associate Professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Physician Nutrition Specialist at Boston Medical Center (BMC), and Elizabeth Henry, DrPH, MHS, who will graduate from BU’s School of Public Health (BUSPH) in September, have received the People’s Health Medal from the Social Republic of Vietnam’s Ministry of Health for their work on behalf of the Abbott Fund Institute of Nutrition Science (AFINS).

Lenders and Henry were recognized for advancing hospital nutrition in Vietnam using a three-prong approach based on education, clinical service and research. The commemorative medal is the highest honor awarded to nationals and foreigners who make a major contribution to health care in Vietnam.

Beginning in 2010, Lenders and Henry led AFINS, a unique effort that brings together Vietnamese and U.S. nutrition and global health experts among hospitals, academia, government and foundations.

The program is a partnership between BUSM, Bach Mai Hospital (BMH), Hanoi Medical University (HMU) and the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) in Vietnam and the Abbott Fund to address hospital malnutrition and strengthen hospital nutrition knowledge, attitudes and practices.

These collaborative efforts would not have been possible without the vision and investment from the Abbott Fund, the foundation of the global health care company, Abbott, which awarded more than $4.4 million to implement this multifaceted project, oversee nutrition medicine fellowships for Vietnamese health professionals and provide mentoring.

Additional alliances were formed with experts in dietetics, pharmacy, nutrition medicine, education and global health from BU’s Sargent College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences, Emory University, University of Texas and Boston Children’s Hospital in the United States and with Children’s Hospital 1 (CH1) in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

The AFINS experts provided technical support for the development of nutrition and dietetics degrees at HMU with more than 30 nurse-nutritionist and 50 bachelors in nutrition and dietetics graduates, six research projects with the NIN tracking hospital nutrition, and the training of more than 2,000 Vietnamese health care professionals to improve capacity in nutrition departments. Additionally, AFINS’ partners found that hospitalized patients surveyed in 2013 at BMH were 29 percent less likely to be malnourished compared to those surveyed in 2010.

“It is a tremendous honor to receive the People’s Health Medal from Vietnam’s Ministry of Health,” said Henry, also a former instructor in BUSM’s Department of Family Medicine. “The advances AFINS has made to improve outcomes and educate medical professionals about the importance of nutrition will have a lasting impact on the health care system in Vietnam.”

Lenders accepted the People’s Health Medal on behalf of the AFINS partners on May 27, 2015, in Hanoi. Lenders continues to lead the AFINS project in Vietnam with an extension grant from the Abbott Fund that builds on the initial approach but also focuses on pediatric nutrition training and research in the southern region of Vietnam and provides support for the development and implementation of standards and assessments of provincial hospitals nationwide.

“Higher education and more training are critical to enhance hospital nutrition in Vietnam,” said Lenders. “Moving forward we hope to learn more about the impact of medical nutrition interventions involving a younger patient population in a variety of inpatient and outpatient settings for a sustainable future.”

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

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.