Category: Uncategorized

Online Program for Medical Educators Allows Digital Display of Earned Competency

September 16th, 2014 in Uncategorized

CME-Accredited Course Advances Teaching Skills of Health Care Professionals

Medical educators have an opportunity to participate in a new, first-of-its kind online medical education badge program at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM). The BUSM+ Medical Education Badge Program (BUSM+Program) allows access to online faculty development in medical education and allows course graduates to display and share earned digital competency badges on social media, CVs and portfolio websites. The program is considered to be a form of digital micro-credentialing.

“The BUSM+ Program takes the concept of digital badging and applies it for an audience of health care providers (practicing and retired physicians, fellows, residents, medical students and healthcare teams) who may have missed educational courses in their professional career and are now teaching, or those healthcare providers who want to enhance their existing teaching skills,” explained Gail March, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medical Sciences & Education as well as Director of Instructional Design and Faculty Development at BUSM who founded the program.

According to March, the BUSM+ digital badge program is unique in that it is the first one for medical education faculty development. “There are faculty development programs available, but they are often very expensive and demand the health care provider leave their practice to attend. BUSM+ is available as an open (no application process), online, asynchronous program available 24/7 for a low cost,” she added.

This program is designed for practicing and retired health care professionals who educate other professionals, students and patients. Enrollees in the initial BUSM+Program course will review the fundamentals of teaching and learning. Three additional offerings are planned to follow the Teaching and Learning course including Curriculum Design, Academic Leadership and Medical Education Research.

BUSM+Program was funded earlier this year by an inaugural seed grant for online innovation from the Digital Learning Initiative at Boston University.

Trio of Young Faculty Earn Peter Paul Professorships

September 16th, 2014 in Uncategorized

BU researchers study cancer, HIV, and an aging workforce


Three young BU scholars have earned this year’s Peter Paul Professorships: Ernest Gonzales (from left), an SSW assistant professor of human behavior, Rachel Flynn, a MED assistant professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, and Jacob Bor, an SPH assistant professor of international health at the Center for Global Health & Development. Gonzales and Bor photos by Jackie Ricciardi. Flynn photo by Cydney Scott

Junior faculty arrive at Boston University full of ambition and with a head full of ideas, but they often have relatively little money for research. So being awarded a Peter Paul Career Development Professorship can feel like winning the lottery; winners receive an annual stipend of $40,000 for three years to pursue their research interests.

For some, it can even seem too good to be true.

“Once I received the email, I asked if they had the right Professor Gonzales,” says Ernest Gonzales, a School of Social Work assistant professor of human behavior. Gonzales, who had no idea that he had been nominated for the award, says the reply from the provost’s office was immediate: “Yes, Ernest, it’s you!”

Peter Paul Professorships were also awarded to Rachel Flynn, a School of Medicine assistant professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, and to Jacob Bor, a School of Public Health assistant professor of international health at the Center for Global Health & Development. University trustee Peter Paul (GSM’71) created the professorships named for him in 2006 with a $1.5 million gift, later increased to $2.5 million. Jean Morrison, BU provost, and President Robert A. Brown select recipients from faculty who are holding their first professorship, have arrived within the last two years, and have been recommended by deans and department chairs.

“It is a privilege to witness the development of talented young scholars into outstanding teachers and researchers,” says Morrison. “From the discovery of novel new cancer treatments and effective approaches to the HIV epidemic to improving conditions for an aging workforce, Professors Bor, Flynn, and Gonzales are fulfilling—and in many ways exceeding—the promise we saw in them when they joined the BU community. We are enormously proud of the important work they’re performing and excited to help advance their research careers.”

Gonzales, who earned a doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis, arrived at the University in July 2013. He is still thinking about how to use the award. He currently juggles several interdisciplinary research projects that focus on productive aging, structural discrimination in and outside of the workforce, and “unretirement”—the practice of retirees returning to work.

His initial findings suggest that the groups most vulnerable to ageism are workers under 30 and those 55 and older. Employees who fall within these ranges face social exclusion and questions about their professionalism or competence. Gonzales is also examining how early life experiences can predict difficult work trajectories later in life. Someone who enters the workforce at 17 with a high school diploma will likely work more physically demanding jobs—such as construction and manufacturing—that wear on their bodies and make it difficult to remain in the workforce long-term.

Gonzales also compares US practices to those in European countries, like Germany, where Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government recently enacted a policy that allows people who have worked 45 years to retire with full benefits. He believes these individuals will relax, recuperate, and eventually return to the workforce—a theory he’s calling “Triple R.”

“I think we have a lot to learn from other nations,” says Gonzales, who would like to conduct cross-national research to see how this and other productive aging policies affect workers’ health and economic standing, with the eventual goal of proposing policy and legislation in the United States.

Flynn, who earned a doctoral degree in cancer biology from the University of Massachusetts Medical School, has been at BU since June 2013. She studies the role telomeres, repetitive DNA sequences that cap the ends of chromosomes, play in cancer development. Each time a cell divides, Flynn says, it loses a chunk of telomere instead of more essential genes further upstream. When telomeres get too short, cells either stop growing or die.

“That is the aging process,” she says. But cancer cells have a way to “highjack this mechanism. When a telomere starts to get shorter, cancer outsmarts it” by reactivating the mechanism that keeps it growing forever.

Telomeres maintain their length using two pathways. Flynn’s lab studies the pathway used by osteosarcoma and glioblastoma—rare and lethal cancers of the bone and brain—and hopes to identify novel treatments that would target this highjacked pathway to better manage the cancers.

So far, Flynn has seen promising results. One compound she’s testing in vitro doesn’t just stop cancer cells from growing, but completely obliterates them—and with minimal effects to surrounding healthy cells. The next step is to test the compound in mouse models.

“If it works as well as it does in a dish, it’ll be amazing,” she says.

Flynn will use the award to hire lab personnel and to buy reagents. “It’s a tremendous opportunity to represent Peter Paul and have money to build my lab,” she says, “but the real goal is to raise the bar, to elevate cancer research at BU.”

Bor, who earned a doctorate at the Harvard University School of Public Health, came to BU in September 2013. He applies the tools of microeconomic models and natural experiments to the field of public health.

“Economics puts an emphasis on the individual; each person is making the best decision for themselves,” Bor says. “At least, that’s the theory.” He looks at decision-making and behavior in a larger economic context to determine what effects they have on health.

Across southern Africa, there’s an elevated HIV infection rate for young women. There are also “high levels of transactional sex,” Bor says. “Maybe if we can expand the choice set of young women so that they can make the best decisions for themselves, we can give them economic opportunities to avoid these relationships.”

In Botswana, he says, the government changed the structure of secondary school so that young women were encouraged to attend. The move resulted in a decrease in HIV infections within that population, he says.

With the award, Bor plans to recruit more doctoral students and research assistants to tackle the papers he’s been dreaming of writing, especially on questions related to South Africa’s HIV treatment program.

“The goal is to rigorously turn these out,” Bor says, “and the faster we do so, the better monies are allocated and the more lives can be saved.”

This BU Today article was written by Leslie Friday.

School of Public Health Has a New Dean

September 15th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Sandro Galea’s research has examined the consequences of mass trauma and conflict worldwide, including the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, and the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Sandro Galea

Sandro Galea’s research has examined the consequences of mass trauma and conflict worldwide, including the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, and the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of Sandro Galea

Sandro Galea, an internationally respected physician and epidemiologist known for his research linking health to such social disadvantages as poverty and lack of education, has been appointed the new dean of the School of Public Health. Galea, currently the Anna Cheskis Gelman and Murray Charles Gelman Professor and chair of the department of epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, will assume the BU post on January 1.

“We are delighted to have Professor Galea join us as leader of the Boston University School of Public Health,” says Jean Morrison, BU provost and chief academic officer. “He has an extraordinary track record for research and leadership, and he is well positioned to move the School of Public Health ahead in quality and stature. Given the breadth and depth of his research, we believe that he will be the kind of transformational leader who can help the school redefine its strategic emphasis.”

Galea says he is excited about joining the BU community. “This is a school of public health with a long history of excellence,” he says. “Its work and its reputation have soared in recent decades, and it will be a privilege for me to be part of the next phase of its evolution.”

Galea says he has long admired the faculty, the school, and the leadership of Robert Meenan (MED’72, GSM’89), who announced last year that he would step down after 21 years as dean.

“I am very pleased that Dr. Galea will join us as dean of the School of Public Health,” says President Robert A. Brown. “He brings exceptional experience, distinguished credentials, vision, and energy to this critical role. Public health, especially in urban environments here and around the globe, is vitally important, and our school can be a leader in education and research. I believe we are poised to reach new levels of excellence under Dr. Galea’s leadership.”

Galea, who in 2006 was named one of Time magazine’s epidemiology innovators, serves on the New York City Board of Health and is chair of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Community Services Board. His research has examined many aspects of public health, from the causes of brain disorders to the consequences of mass trauma and conflict worldwide, including the September 11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina, conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, and the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was the lead author on a groundbreaking study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2011 that calculated the number of deaths caused by six social factors. That study, a meta-analysis of 47 earlier studies, concluded that each year 133,000 deaths could be attributed to poverty and 176,000 deaths could be attributed to racial segregation.

Galea has published more than 450 scientific journal articles, 50 book chapters and commentaries, and 9 books. His latest book, coauthored with Katherine Keyes, is the textbook Epidemiology Matters: A New Introduction to Methodological Foundations. He is a past president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research and an elected member of the American Epidemiological Society and of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences. Galea trained as a primary care physician at the University of Toronto and practiced in rural communities in Canada and Somalia. He then returned to academia and earned a master’s degree in public health at Harvard and a DrPH at Columbia.

Brian Jack, a School of Medicine professor and chair of family medicine, who headed the search committee, says Galea was chosen from a large pool of very qualified candidates. “Dr. Galea stood out for his forward-thinking approach to public health and his vast experience at Columbia leading a large department,” says Jack. “I believe he is a once-in-a-generation scholar, teacher, and administrator who will bring a wealth of experience in urban health.”

Karen Antman, dean of the School of Medicine and provost of the BU Medical Campus, says Galea is an outstanding choice.

“We are pleased to welcome such a highly respected epidemiologist as the new dean of SPH,” says Antman. “In addition to welcoming Dr. Galea, I’d like to thank Dr. Meenan for his vision and leadership in positioning SPH as a leader among schools of public health.”

“These are tremendously exciting times in public health,” Galea says. “A great school of public health has the responsibility to produce the scholarship that informs public health action and educates students and leadership for the coming decades. I am thrilled to be part of the community that embraces this responsibility.”

This BU Today story was written by


Events to Celebrate National Postdoc Appreciation Week Sept. 15-19

September 10th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Join in celebrating the contributions and achievements of BUMC postdocs at the fourth annual GMS celebration of National Postdoc Appreciation Week, September 15-19.

Monday, Sept. 15 – Friday, Sept. 19th Take Your Postdoc to Lunch

PIs will have a chance to appreciate their postdoc by taking them to lunch at following participating restaurants:  Roka, Estragon, El-Centro.  By showing your BU ID you will receive 10-20 percent  discount.   Email: for more information.

PhD students and postdocs enjoying ice cream on Talbot Green.

PhD students and postdocs enjoying ice cream on Talbot Green.

Wednesday, Sept. 17 Ice Cream Social

1-3:30 p.m. Talbot Green (Rain location Hiebert Lounge, BUSM Instructional Building)

This event celebrates the contributions and achievements of BUMC postdocs and provides the opportunity to have fun and to meet other members of the BUMC community.
Open to: Postdocs, their Principal Investigators, PhD students and administrative staff.

Friday, Sept. 19 Interactive Workshop: Surviving Academia

Dr. Isabel Dominguez
12:30-1:30 p.m. BUSM Instructional Building, Room L-212 (Email: to register)

Follow your passion, expand your comfort zone, find an advocate, jump at opportunities, hone transferable skills, build name recognition, create a support system, and hope for good luck if academia is where you would like to end up.  These tips and more will be offered by Isabel Dominguez at the interactive workshop. Open to: Postdocs and PhD students.  Lunch will be served.

PhD and Post Doc students are also encouraged to attend the following events:

Saturday, Sept. 20  MASS AWIS 10th Year Anniversary
11:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
Marriott Hotel, Kendall Square, Cambridge
For a decade, MASS AWIS has been providing support, career development and mentorship to many extraordinary women in the STEM fields in Massachusetts. A key event in our chapter’s history — a book club on the book Every Other Thursday — sparked the beginning of the ever-growing MASS AWIS Mentoring Circles Program. Our successful mentoring program has made a profound impact on the lives of our members. Thus, we are truly honored to have the author of the book, Dr. Ellen Daniell, as the keynote speaker at our 10th Anniversary Celebratory Luncheon. The program of the event will also include a video introduction from Massachusetts Senator, Senator Elizabeth Warren, and an Excellence in Mentoring Award presentation to Career Strategist, Sarah Cardozo Duncan. BU GMS is proud to support this event.

Document5Thursday Oct. 2-Friday, Oct. 3 The Future of Research: a Postdoc-Organized Symposium on the Sustainability of the Scientific Endeavor

Boston University, CGS Auditorium, 871 Commonwealth Ave., Boston

The landscape of scientific research and funding is in flux, affected by tight budgets, evolving models of both publishing and evaluation, and questions about training and workforce stability. As future leaders, junior scientists are uniquely poised to shape the culture and practice of science in response to these challenges.  A group of postdocs in the Boston area invested in improving the scientific endeavor. This group represents  eight institutions: Boston University, Brandeis University,  Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Tufts University. The event will include talks and panel discussions on issues affecting the future of science as well as breakout sessions expanding on many topics.


Sept. 11 BUMC Sustainability Festival, Talbot Green

September 9th, 2014 in Uncategorized


Study Shows Complexities of Reducing HIV Rates in Russia

September 8th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Jeffrey Samet

Jeffrey Samet

Results of a new study conducted in St. Petersburg, Russia, show that decreasing HIV transmission among Russian HIV-infected drinkers will require creative and innovative approaches.

While new HIV infections globally have declined, HIV rates remain high in Russia. This is due in large part to injection drug use and spread via heterosexual sex transmission. Alcohol use also has been shown to be related to risky sexual behaviors and STIs.

Published online in Addiction, the study showed that a behavioral intervention did not lead to a reduction of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV risk behaviors in Russian HIV-infected heavy drinkers when compared to the control group. This study was led by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), Boston Medical Center (BMC) and First St. Petersburg Pavlov State Medical University, Russia.

In this study, HIV’s Evolution in Russia – Mitigating Infection Transmission and Alcoholism in a Growing Epidemic (HERMITAGE), the researchers adapted a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-best evidence risk reduction intervention for a Russian clinical setting and assessed its ability to reduce STIs and HIV risk behaviors among 700 HIV-infected heavy drinkers. The intervention stressed disclosure of HIV serostatus and condom use in two individual sessions and three small group sessions. Participants had a laboratory test at a 12-month follow up appointment to determine if they had contracted STIs. They also answered questions about risky behaviors, including unprotected sex, drinking alcohol or injecting drugs.

At the 12-month follow-up assessment, STIs occurred in 20 subjects (8 percent) in the intervention group and 28 subjects (12 percent) in the control group. Both groups, however, reported having decreased their participation in risky behaviors.

“Addressing prevention of HIV transmission from HIV-infected Russian drinkers, a group at particularly high risk for disease transmission, requires creative approaches and aggressive uptake of antiretroviral therapy,” said Jeffrey Samet, MD, MA, MPH, professor of medicine at BUSM and chief of the section of general internal medicine at Boston Medical Center. “This study shows that we need to explore other options to help stem the growing epidemic.”

Funding for this study was provided in part by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism under grant award number R01AA016059.

Should Alcohol Consumption be Encouraged as a Part of a Healthy Lifestyle? A Debate.

September 4th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Bicknell2014Over the past three decades, more than 100 large, long-term prospective studies have shown positive cardiovascular effects from moderate alcohol consumption of one or two drinks per day. Health professionals are increasingly feeling pressure to promote limited alcohol consumption as part of a healthy diet. But do the significant potential risks associated with increased alcohol consumption – higher incidence of dependence, accidents, and overall mortality – outweigh the potential health benefits?

Learn more at

Bicknell Lecture

  • Thursday, Sept. 18
  • 10-11:50 a.m.
  • Bakst Auditorium


In-Utero Methadone or Subutex Exposure Could Alter Gene Expression, Cause Severe Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

August 20th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Pregnant BellySome infants born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) secondary to in-utero opioid exposure have a more difficult time going through withdrawal than others, but the underlying reasons are not well understood. While genetic and epigenetic (when genes are turned on or off) changes have recently been identified as potential factors, researchers at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center (BMC) conducted a first of its kind study to identify some of these epigenetic changes that may influence symptom severity.

The researchers focused on how exposure to opioids such as methadone or subutex may alter expression of the mu-opioid receptor (OPRM1) gene, which is known as a primary site of action for narcotics in the nervous system and plays an important role in opioid dependent adults.

Looking at data from 86 infants whose mothers took either methadone or subutex during pregnancy, the results showed that infants with higher levels of the DNA modification called DNA methylation had more severe NAS symptoms. This meant that they required more medication(s) over a longer period of time to get through withdrawal. The researchers hypothesize that this may be due to a decrease in number of opioid receptors due to the silencing of the OPRM1 gene.

Future research in this area will focus on comparing methylation levels of mothers and infants to evaluate if the epigenetic changes are passed on from mother to child. The implications are that this very early in-utero and neonatal exposure to opioids may lead to lasting epigenetic changes that may alter one’s future sensitivity to opioid and other addictive medications.

“What makes these results so intriguing is that these epigenetic changes could be passed on from mother to child, resulting in these children potentially having future issues and sensitivities around opioid and other addictive substances,” said Elisha Wachman, MD, a staff neonatologist at BMC and assistant professor of pediatrics at BUSM.

This study is published in the Journal of Pediatrics and was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health under notice of grant award numbers DA024806-01A2, R01DA032889-01A1, DA018197-05 and DA026120; the Tufts Medical Center Natalie Zucker and Susan Saltonstall Grants; the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences; the Toomim Family Fund; the Boston University Genome Science Institute; and the Alpert Foundation.

Read the full study in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Boston University/Boston Medical Center CTSI Pilot Funding Awards Announced

August 19th, 2014 in Uncategorized

The recipients of the CTSI pilot grants for 2014 have been announced by BU Medical Campus Provost and BU School of Medicine Dean Karen Antman, MD.

Funding for these grants come entirely from BU, BMC and the VA this year for the first time, without relying on NIH funds, an accomplishment meeting the goals of the NIH’s CTSA program.

Eleven $20,000 grants support School of Medicine faculty, including seven funded by the School of Medicine four of which come from the Wing Tat Lee (WTL) endowment to promote School of Medicine and Chinese university collaborations, three by Boston Medical Center, and one by the VA Boston Healthcare System

Three $20,000 grants were funded by BU Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine and nine grants totaling more than $90,000 were funded by BU School of Public Health.

The CTSI solicits pilot grant applications annually and are reviewed by panels of BU researchers. Between 2008 and 2013 the CTSI pilot award program, in collaboration with other BU/BMC schools, departments and centers, awarded more than $1.3 million to 55 investigators for 57 projects across five schools and 23 departments/sections. These pilot grants have led to 28 additional grants from external funders totaling more than $9.4 million, greater than a seven-fold return on investment-to-date.


BU Researcher Awarded Lupus Foundation Fellowship

August 7th, 2014 in Uncategorized

Recent BU graduate and current researcher Su Shi.

Recent BU GMS graduate and current research assistant Shi Su.

Shi Su, who received her master’s degree from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) Division of Graduate Medical Sciences in May and currently is a research assistant at BUSM’s Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute, was awarded a fellowship from the Lupus Foundation of America to conduct research on lupus, an unpredictable and misunderstood autoimmune disease.

Under the mentorship of Tamar Aprahamian, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine, Su will conduct her study entitled, The Role of Retinaldehyde and Adipogenesis in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus.

“I am honored to receive this fellowship,” says Su. “After working on this topic for my thesis project at BU, I discovered that there was a lot more research to be done. With the help of this fellowship, I will be able to work more on the question of how retinaldehyde impacts lupus.”

Su is among the six 2014 recipients of the Gina M. Finzi Memorial Student Summer Fellowship, which seeks to develop the next generation of lupus scientific thought leaders. The fellowship program was established more than 25 years ago by former foundation president, the late Dr. Sergio Finzi, in memory of his daughter Gina, who passed away from lupus.

Su joins the ranks of more than 200 Finzi Student Fellows that the foundation has supported since the program’s inception.